“The truest axiom of travel is that you will never have both time and money.”
This quote may be one of the most accurate things I’ve ever heard. Is your plan to save money for travel until you have lots of cash stowed away? I encourage you to stop and ask yourself how badly you want it.
If the answer is very, then read on for some tips to make your next trip happen before you have a head full of gray hair. These budgeting tips are not super detailed, down to the dollar advice. They’re 8 little things to consider that I often do in my daily life. It’s helped me save enough money to get moving.
1. Save a Little Every Day
The second I get my paycheck, I set aside a certain amount of money for my travel fund. Whether it’s $10 or $50, it still makes a difference. Of course, set aside money for your bills, first.
And if you are in a boat load of debt, I feel for you. Blessed be Cornell’s financial aid, for I luckily am not. The way I see it is, you will still be in debt if you put $20 in a travel fund. You will just be in debt and also be enjoying your life while you still can 🙂
I get paid every 2 weeks, but if you choose to go the-save-money-everyday-route, a good tip is rounding up to the nearest dollar on your purchases. There’s an app called Acorn that does this; it invests your extra money in small increments. If you don’t think you’re ready for that yet, just do the math yourself. You can slowly put away that extra 40¢ on your $23.60 grocery bill, and 33¢ on a $1.67 can of Sprite, so on and so forth.
2. Jump on Cheap Flights
I am working on writing an exorbitant list of ways to find cheap flights to share with you guys (coming soon!) but let’s say you’ve already found one. If you can afford to buy it, I recommend you do. 9 times out of 10, those deals don’t last very long. And if you keep waiting, you’ll find that same flight will jump up, sometimes by $100s of dollars in a matter of days.
3. Monitor Your Spending
Some people keep Excel spreadsheets. I personally can’t be bothered. My technique is to keep a record of all my spending by using one of two credit cards which are both linked to my bank account.
I also try to rarely keep more than $20 cash on me at all times. Why? Because when you pay with a card, your bank automatically records all your transactions for you. As I gear up for the workweek, I can look back on what I spent and either proudly reflect on a weekend of money well saved, or cringe for taking too many Ubers.
4. Make Your Lunch
Do you really need to spend $12 for a salad every day? That $60 you spent during a work week could’ve gone into your travel fund instead.
Buying all the ingredients and making a salad for yourself every day would cost less than half that amount. Lots of people have shifted to a make-in-bulk mentality, where they spend Sunday evenings cooking up a storm, preparing meals for the week. I don’t do that, personally, but certainly see the appeal.
5. Go Thrift Shopping
Seriously, it’s a trendy thing to wear other people’s clothes these days. It’s fun to sort through the racks, wondering about the story behind the garment. Who wore it last? Where did they go? If you’re patient, you can find some great things. I got a pair of True Religion jeans at a Beacon’s Closet in New Orleans for $8 once. You bet I wore them right out of the store.
I am not about that designer life, but I do believe in quality. There are lots of high-quality clothes at thrift shops. I think it’s worlds better than paying a premium for new things as soon as they hit the shelves. Plus, it’s more thrilling to leave a thrift shop with a good find. It’s like a little game you’ve just won against designers and other shoppers, but mostly just yourself.
6. Skip Out on Extras, but Not on Experiences
I am a big fan of spending money on things like concerts, festivals and fun events so I can make memories with my friends and family. I would never suggest you stop doing that. Unless of course, it’s a band you don’t want to see that much. Or a $600 adult sleepaway camp that you can’t justify throwing all your savings at (yes, that’s a real thing. And it’s actually that expensive).
What I mean by “extras” will depend on the person, but to me, it’s things like a $5 Starbucks latte. I don’t even really like coffee. If you do, you could probably just brew your own at home if you want to save up for a trip. It’ll save you a ton of money.
If you’re going to get a hair cut, do you really need to pay extra for that blow-out? And how often do you honestly need that manicure? Call me low maintenance, but to me, these things are “extras” and just not worth my money.
Switching gear to think from a dude’s perspective for a second, I imagine you guys spend WAY too much money at the bars! Which leads me to my next point.
7. Pregame at Home
To a young-20 something, hell, even to people in their 30’s and beyond, alcohol is the single most wasteful expense you blow all your money on. My philosophy has always been to have a few drinks at home and then head to the bars. Literally, I’ve been that way since the early days of secretly drinking from my parent’s liquor cabinet in high school (whoops).
I know pre-gaming can be hard to do in a place where you have to drive everywhere. Or even if your friends all live far apart. But try to make an effort to meet up at someone’s apartment, split a bottle of wine (or tequila, whatever suits your fancy), blast some music, turn it into a pregame and venture out on the town as a group. Bonus points, if you’re not somewhere with as great a public transport system as NYC, you’ll save even more $$$ if you have a friend who’s willing to be the Designated Driver.
8. Stop Taking Cabs
Really. You don’t need to pay for cabs on your nights out. You can take the subway like any other normal person who would rather get from point A to B for $2.75 instead of $18. Don’t be lazy!
People outside of NYC can relate to this, too. Anywhere and everywhere that there are Ubers, Lyfts, Getts, or whatever other ride-sharing platforms you can think of, usually you won’t need to use it. There are busses, too, people!
If you do go for a ride-share, definitely take a “pool.” It cuts the cost in half sometimes to share with a stranger. (Uber Pool and Lyft Line are basically the same thing, just with different names). Or even better, but again, just a NYC benefit, switch to Via. It’s about $6 a ride for most of the city, so long as you fall within their pick-up zone and are not in a rush to your destination.
The moral of the story is, you don’t have to have a long-term savings plan in place to make this happen. Instead, just make smart decisions. Be a little frugal at times (but not to the point of being stingy, because no one likes that stingy friend). Most importantly, simplify your life in as many ways as you can.
We live in a world of excess. So. Much. Excess. By slowly chipping away at all those unnecessary purchases, you, too, will be able to travel more than you ever thought possible.