If you’ve reached this page, it’s probably because you did a search on how to save money for travel. You’ve probably read a dozen posts already that talk about all the things you need to start or stop doing.
Some of them include: eating out, buying expensive coffee, canceling cable and gym memberships, quitting smoking, part-time jobs, and so on.
Some even seriously suggest moving back in with your parents!
Saving money for travel – the numbers
Every one of these recommendations is a good way to save money, of course. Even laying off the $4 latte before work will save you nearly $100 per month.
Let’s put hypothetical numbers on that list above, along with a few other things:
- Stop eating out as much ($30/week)
- Make your own coffee at home ($20/week)
- Instead of buying books, borrow from the library ($30/month)
- Start a travel fund ($100/month)
- Get rid of cable ($50/month)
- Quit smoking ($150/month)
- Cancel the gym membership you don’t use anyway ($40/month)
- Get a part-time job (5 hrs/week, $8/hr = $160/month)
- Watch movies at home instead ($15/movie + $10/food x 2/month = $50/month)
- Even “move back in with your parents!” (low-ball rent = $400/month)
Let’s assume you do everything above. If I have the math correct here, you’ll already be saving over $1000 per month.
Anyone will tell you that if you can save that much for 18 months or so, you can easily spend 6 months on the road. Maybe more if you’re good at finding deals! So why are you spending all your time looking around for ways to do it?
Me, my doctor, and my weight
When I was 21, I was a really large guy. I’m serious, as I remember it, I weighed close to 120 kg! One day, I was at my physician’s office for something unrelated.
At the end of the visit, I asked him, “Doctor, how can I get rid of all this weight?” Dr. Beal asked me about my habits. He asked me what I ate on a daily basis and about the exercise I did. And, for once in my life, I was honest with someone about it.
At the time, my diet sort of looked like this (no joke!):
- At least 2 liters of Coca-Cola a day
- My daily lunch: a Big Mac combo (and probably a hamburger)
- I ate a LOT of peanut butter and my mom’s homemade bread
Not only that, but I didn’t exercise much. Dr. Beal looked at me and just said, “You don’t need me to tell you what you need to do to lose weight.”
I don’t know what it was about that statement. When he responded like that, I sort of felt silly that I even asked him in the first place. Because he was right – I did know. And the thing is, I always knew.
I probably just needed to admit it to myself, and who better to help you do that than your doctor!? But more importantly, I had to commit to it. And no doctor, just like no blogger or travel writer, can make you commit to something.
You know how to save money for travel
Like me and my weight issue, you’ve likely read dozens of articles and blog posts about how to fix the problem. You already know how to save money for travel.
Every one of those suggestions above is a good one. And there are dozens more out there. Your problem is the same as mine was. You always looked for the easy way to do it.
Sorry. But like pills and fad diets, the easy solutions don’t work.
Make a commitment to save money
Saving money to travel full-time requires you to absolutely commit to it. If you want to accomplish your ultimate round the world bucket list – or whatever your travel goal happens to be – you need to make decisions based on that every day.
You need to write down your goal, stick it somewhere in front of you, and commit, commit, commit. You will not be able to travel the way you want to if you don’t do this. It’s as simple as that.
Obviously, you have family obligations. And your pet needs to visit the vet. But other than those two things and very few others, you have to prioritize your travel goal above all else.
If a financial goal is important to you, you will say “no” when friends ask you to go out to a club for the third time this month. If travel is truly your goal, you will cancel cable and not be drawn back in because your co-workers are talking about the latest HBO show around the water cooler.
Don’t tell anyone you’re doing everything you can if you won’t make your own latte at home and you continue to pay $4 for it at Starbucks.
You’re not doing everything you can
A few years ago, Halef and I moved from a very large 3-bedroom/4-bath townhouse that cost us about $1,400 per month in mortgage payments to a 1-bedroom/1 bath condo that is one-third the size.
We paid for it in cash from the proceeds of the sale. Our only expenses now, outside of utilities and food, is our monthly Homeowners Association dues: $230.
We saved over $1,100/month from just one change. One. But it was a massive decision that, for us, required a commitment to living a more frugal life than our friends. It was humbling.
Travel takes priority over everything
Here’s the thing: Most of the posts you’ve read from popular bloggers who’ve been on the road for a year or more are about all the things they did to save money.
And they did nearly every single thing on that list I showed you at the top of this post.
The difference between them and you is that when they searched the web looking for tips to save money for travel, they were looking for OTHER ways to do it because they already exhausted the basic stuff I outlined above.
They understood that the real secret to saving money for travel wasn’t just using the tried and true ways. Those people already did all that. They knew it required a sharp focus. $1000 a month wasn’t enough for them. Each of them wanted that number to be $200 or $500 higher.
Travelers who already know this secret don’t look for ways to save money for travel. They look for new ways to save even more.
Remember my fat kid story? I eventually lost about 35 kg. But it wasn’t just by giving up fast food (I never eat it anymore) or Coca-Cola (I’ve had maybe 5 since 1999) or peanut butter (the only time I eat it is in airport lounges).
Yes, I lost a lot of weight just by making those changes. But I eventually plateaued. I needed to add exercise, so I started running every day at lunch.
Hell, eventually, I lost too much weight and had to gain some weight back. But I did it. I reached my goal.
Do what you know you have to do
Again, I always knew what I had to do to lose weight. All the searching for ways to do it didn’t make it happen. There was nothing easy about it. Just giving up one or two things didn’t work. Giving up the food I was addicted to was very hard. But I knew I would die if I kept on the course I was navigating.
My doctor all but told me so.
With the exception of the dying part, it’s the same with travel. You’ve read dozens of sites about how to save money for travel and all the experts out there have confirmed what you already knew anyway.
Reading the same stuff over and over is not going to make you take the action you need to take. Only your level of commitment to it is going to make that happen.
Start right now. Most importantly, stop trying to find ways to save money that won’t inconvenience you. Whether it’s losing weight or saving money, we all seem to look for ways to do it that won’t impact our lives too much. That’s not how this works. You have to make life-impacting changes if you want life-impacting results.
First, convince yourself that travel is your top priority. Then, tell your friends they’re gonna see some changes. Next, start implementing your plan.
And finally, stop wasting time reading about how to save money for travel and start doing it. Come back to Google ONLY when you’ve exhausted all the obvious stuff and need to find new and unique ways to do more of it.
Oh, and seriously guys, don’t move back in with your parents. They say they miss you, but they really only want to see you on weekends and holidays anyway.
How much did we save?
In the end, we’ve done really well. We are now on the road practically full-time. In just a little over 3 years, we went from a couple with a bit (not a lot) of credit card debt and very little in savings to having over $100,000 in the bank.
Of course, we didn’t need to save nearly that much to travel full-time. But we decided on that $100k number because we figured it would not only allow us to travel stress-free but that we’d also have to save long enough for it to become habit-forming.
We now live a life of travel and blogging about it. We make videos of everything we do. And although we still stress a bit about money, it’s more about how to make money on the road so we can continue this adventure beyond the few years we’ve planned.
Saving money for travel – a checklist
- Write down the financial goal you need to achieve based on the type and length of travel you want to do
- Read blogs and articles about how to save money for travel
- Commit to doing it all
- Spend money only on things you really need
- Watch your bank account balance increase
- Reach your travel savings goal
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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert. Michael has traveled to over 50 countries learning how to experience more for less as he travels.
Thanks for the kick up the backside, Michael! I have felt guilty about my travel addiction for a while now, but no longer!! 😉 It is now a priority.
I am not sure I can sacrifice the purchase of books though….perhaps only buy second hand ones??? 🙂
Thanks again, Mel
Hahaha! No one said you had to give up everything! I think as long as you know you’re doing all you can, you’re good! If you do absolutely everything, then there’s a trade off between practicality and happiness, so that defeats the purpose. If books make you happy, then buy them. If books only made you very temporarily happy, then I would question whether or not it was worth it.
There are things I wouldn’t give up. Halef has things like that too. The key is to give up what you’re spending that only gives you a temporary jolt of happy.
Last night, I watched a documentary called Minimalism on Netflix. I have to admit it was a little boring, but the message was absolutely right!