There are plenty of articles available online that offer great ideas on how to save money for travel. But many of them expect you to pretty much sit in your room and do zilch, zip and nada for the next few months while you wait for the big day.
So instead I’ve compiled a list of some more creative ways you can tighten the purse strings if you are planning a big overseas trip. I used every single one of these at some point in the 6 months before I left Australia and I’m still abroad after 10 months. Hopefully that’s proof enough – all I ask is that you be prepared to shift your perspective a bit about what dictates a good time. You don’t need a $50 bottle of wine and a 3 course dinner to have some fun!
1. Buy a hip flask and actually use it!
If you plan a boozy night out then buy a bottle of spirits, fill up a hipflask and then take this with you when you go out clubbing. If you can sneak a flask in with you then you just have to buy a soda water or coke and top up in the bathroom. I’m aware this is very naughty, but I think drinks are incredibly overpriced in many nightclubs. Your ability to carry out this tip is dependent on your moral compass and sense of mischievousness. I’ll let you decide your ethics on this one. But my philosophy is pre-drink, flask-it, and save some big bucks.
2. Research happy hour specials in your area
Whilst on the topic of drinking, most major cities and some towns in different parts of the world have at least one bar or restaurant with great happy-hour specials, you just have to find it. This could include 2-for-1 offers, student discounts and half-price specials at certain hours of the day. You might have to reign in your classiness and settle for something a bit dingy, but with the right company a drink and a good chat is always the same no matter where you are.
3. Find weekly pub-grub
It’s common for pubs to have a different special for each day of the week. Treat yourself to a $12 steak or a $10 schnitzel during the week. This will break the week up a bit and will make you feel like you’re not just living in the 9-5 Monday to Friday grind (if that’s what you do).
4. Buy your risk-free basics online
When it comes to replacing your ‘staples’ like makeup and body products, or even something like your favourite runners – buy online. If you know exactly what you want, the brand, the size etc – it is very risk-free and can save you quite a bit compared to buying at a retail outlet.
5. Shop at your local ethnic grocer
Groceries at the supermarket can be twice the price of groceries in a small Asian or ethnic grocer. You just have to learn about the quality of the produce at your local and what sort of grocery needs they best cater for. For example they may have great fresh fruit but terrible rotten vegetables, lots of rice but only a small range of pastas. You will usually find tinned food and spices very cheap. Learn what they do well and cut your grocery bill by adding a visit to your weekly routine.
6. Be thorough with travel planning
Perhaps you want to visit a friend in another city for the weekend before you go away. Check over the many different ways of getting there with a fine-tooth comb and work out the cheapest possible option. Is it less costly to get a train halfway and then swap onto the bus? So you want to go camping for the weekend, don’t just settle on the first caravan park you see, research! Is there a beautiful secluded spot you can wild-camp instead and perhaps have an even greater experience? Research properly and you can save hundreds on small trips throughout the saving period.
7. Plan your weekly meals
If you have a good plan of what you will be eating for the week ahead, you can save costs. Alternatively if you plan your meals at the last minute you’re more likely to grab something quick and easy, or pay for convenience food, which is basically just paying for unnecessary packaging. Cook large wholesome meals with cheap ingredients like rice and lentils and eat them over a few days, or freeze them for the following week. You’re less likely to grab a kebab on the way home if you have some curry sitting there from last night. If you cook wholesome meals you will also stay full and snack a lot less.
8. Buy good quality travel gear on sale
Sign up early to all the outdoor retailer’s newsletters and wait for sales. Buy 1 or 2 items that you need every time a sale is on. You can save a lot of money on things like sleeping bags, travel packs and rain jackets if you buy them when on sale. New Zealand brand Macpac became my obsession before I left home – in my opinion they’re one of the best in Australasia for quality and their sales are amazing (sometimes more than 50% off). Make sure you do your research and focus on the best value you can get on quality items. When you’re travelling you will often wear and use the same things day after day, so your gear needs to be durable and long-lasting or else you’ll be forking out for replacements in no time.
9. Sign up to airline email lists
Sign up to all of the airline newsletters and wait for great deals. Again, be creative in working out how to get from A to B. When I travelled to the UK this time I paid just $260AUD to fly with Air Asia from Melbourne to KL, and then later in my trip I paid just 340AUD to get from KL to London on Malaysia Air. That’s just $600 from Melbourne to London, including bags and everything. Don’t ever just settle for what a travel agent can find you!
10. Don’t buy anything you don’t ABSOLUTELY need
This may go against your ideal ‘lifestyle’ but you really can still enjoy your life without buying much. Research shows that humans get a thrill out of desiring and purchasing something. It makes us feel good if we work all week and then reward ourselves with something material. Instead, shift into treating yourself to (low-cost) experiences rather than more stuff. If you’re planning on travelling for a while you will have to store everything and the less you have, the happier you will be. Think long-term. If the purchase is just going to sit in storage and become outdated while you’re away, you probably don’t need it right now.
11. If you have a car, use it less
I won’t tell you to get rid of it altogether (although the planet would be incredibly grateful) because this post is about maintaining your current lifestyle while saving. But I didn’t have a car when saving for my trip and it was probably the best thing I could do. If you need your car for travelling to and from work that’s fine, but it’s easy to get into the habit of using it all weekend as well, instead of looking at public transport options to get around (or riding your bike if you have one). You will find that public transport often works out cheaper in the long run than paying for petrol, insurance, registration etc. Try walking more too, the extra fitness will come in handy when you’re exploring new places.
12. Reduce your phone plan to only what you need
Many of us get suckered into a phone plan that gives us far more usage than we actually need. Do some research and find a basic, no frills plan that will get you by until you go away. Make use of services like Viber to text and call friends instead of using phone credit. The same goes for your other services. Have a look at what you’re paying for and make sure you’re not paying for anything you don’t need.
13. Move your savings into a high-interest bank account
As you earn money, make sure a certain amount of it is moved automatically or manually into a high-interest bank account straight away, where it will be saved for your trip. Leave yourself with only what you will need until you get paid again and this will minimise the chance of a spending blowout. There are many companies out there that can do this – you just have to do your research and work out who is offering the best deal right now. Read the fine print, and avoid the big banks who usually only offer accounts with fancy extras that you won’t need.
Hopefully this list makes it clear that there’s no need to spend all your time and energy being the ‘tight-arse’ and saying no to everything. It’s about cutting a few corners here and there so that you can maintain your current lifestyle, and still save money for travel. Is there anything you can add to this list?