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There are hundreds of posts out there telling you how to afford travel, but what they’re really telling you is, how to afford travel once you already have some money. But what if you don’t?
I guess the real question should be: “How do I save up the money to buy those cheap flights I keep reading about?” That’s what I want to help you do.
The key is to have money management strategies that work for you. I am a believer that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to budgeting and saving, but the following strategies have made travel possible for me. I am confident that with a little dedication, they can work for you as well.
Do you ever stare at your bank account and wonder how your paycheck evaporated into thin air? Most people ask themselves that question week after week. I’ve been there too, until I realized that the less I kept track of my money, the easier it was to spend it all. Now, you may be wondering, “Why is this girl giving me financial advice on a travel blog?” The truth is, if it weren’t for my money managing habits, I would’ve never left the tri-state area.
I’m a twenty-two year old full-time student, and I work as a server in a restaurant. Yet last year I managed to save $10,000 to spend 4 months studying abroad in Rome. I have only been back in the U.S. for 3 months, and I’ve already booked a trip to Cuba. So, how do I do it? Below are the strategies I’ve implemented over the years. Give them a try, and see if they work for you.
Know where your money is going.
Create A Weekly Budget:
Begin by buying yourself a small notebook, or use the Notes app, or Excel - whatever works for you. Personally, I prefer to write things down with pen and paper, and keep everything in one place. As soon as that direct deposit hits, write down how much you got paid, and make a list of all of your expenses for that week. Feel free to adjust the time frame if you get paid biweekly, monthly, or you freelance.
Tip: Make sure you include both necessary expenses like food, transportation, and bills, as well as extras like drinks, dinners out, and even your weed.
Tip: Include a miscellaneous expense in your budget, for flexibility; this way, making a random purchase will not put you over your budget.
If you would prefer to use apps to manage your money, below are my top two suggestions. Both of these services allow you to create budgets, track your spending, set saving goals, receive easy-to-read, visual spending reports, and more. They’re both free, and super easy to use.
Keep Track of Your Spending:
Follow up with your budget, by writing down how much you spent at the end of each day. Whether it is planned or not, we tend to have our money in separate places (i.e. multiple checking accounts, credit cards, and cash). Although this is very wise, especially for saving purposes, it’s important to keep track of which accounts you are spending on. The way I do this, is by simply writing down which account I used to pay for something.
Make Travel a Priority In Your Life
Cut Down On Extra Costs:
One of the benefits of keeping track of your money, is that you can look back and see what are some of the things you regularly overspend on. If you believe you don’t make enough money to afford travel, it is likely that travel is low on your spending priority list. With travel seeming like such a distant dream, we tend to spend our extra cash on other things, and saving for travel - or saving at all, doesn’t cross our minds.
Think about what are some of the non-essential things you tend to spend the most on, and which of those you’d be willing to cut down on. Do you go out every weekend? Take too many cabs? Order too much Seamless? Shop too much? Consider trading in some of these extras for the travel experience of a lifetime.
Personally, I was spending too much on eating take-out, and treating myself to too many impromptu brunches. In order to cut down on these expenses, I started buying groceries, meal prepping, having breakfast at home, and taking snacks with me to school. I also set a limit on the amount of times per month that I could go to brunch, and how much I could spend on take-out for the week. After implementing this, I was able to save $50 to $90 per week - which went straight into my travel savings.
Start Your Travel Fund:
Now that you have created a budget, stuck to it by keeping track of your spending, and figured out where you can cut down, create a travel savings, or “travel fund”, as I like to call it. Feel free to pick any of your existing checking accounts, open a savings account, or even save in cash if you’d like. The objective is to have your travel savings separate, and in a place where you won’t touch it.
After creating your budget for the week, add up all of your expenses, and subtract that from your current balance. Whatever is left over, you can either choose to put all, or a portion of it in your travel fund. Every little bit of money that you put away for travel, counts. Even if you are saving in small amounts, it’ll add up to the cost of your next trip before you know it.
Tip: Transfer the funds out of your main account (or withdraw if saving in cash), ASAP! If you leave it with the rest of your money, you will spend it.
Tip: At the end of the week, if you spent less than you thought you would, throw the leftover money into your travel fund.
Save For Your Bills:
Notice how in the image above, I took my remaining money and divided it between my travel fund, and my bill savings. Our bills don’t change much every month, yet every time due dates come around, we scramble for the money to make ends meet. I’ve discovered that saving for my bills, makes them less overwhelming, and puts me in control of my finances.
There are two ways to go about this:
You can set a goal for how much you want to put towards rent/bills every week - works best if your paycheck amounts are mostly consistent
You can put money aside as you go, while keeping in mind the total amount you need to raise - works best if you are like me, and get paid different amounts every week
Set Travel Goals:
It’s a lot easier to dedicate your time and effort to something when you have a clear purpose in mind. Set a travel goal by deciding where you’d like to go and when. Do a little bit of research to gauge about how much it will cost you. For example, I’d like to spend 5 weeks backpacking after the holidays this year (the location is a surprise), and according to my research, it will cost me about $2,000. Now I have up to 8 months to save up the money, without paying it all in one shot.
I recently discovered a really amazing website called, https://www.airfordable.com. Airfordable allows you to pay for a flight of your choice in installments. All you have to do is, submit the flight you want, secure it with a deposit, then make your monthly payments. After you’ve paid the total amount of the flight, you’ll receive your e-ticket. The best part is, there aren’t any interest rates or credit checks.
Here is a sample search I made to test out the site:
I searched for flights from New York to Montego Bay for a week in October, then entered the dates and flight price on Airfordable. This is the payment plan I got:
I believe in the law of attraction, and speaking the things you desire into existence. Setting travel goals, and believing that you can make them happen, is a strong force that will propel you towards your next adventure. My personal mantra is, “I don’t know how it’s going to happen, I just know that it will happen.” Adopt this attitude about anything in life, especially travel, and watch your dreams manifest before your eyes.
Did you find these money management strategies helpful? Comment below if you have any questions, or you'd like additional tips!