One of the biggest myths about backpacking, or traveling in general, is that it’s expensive, and you need to have a lot of money in order to do it. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Need an example? Look no further than the bearded 30-year-old man talking to you right now..
I watch my friends and family planning their next vacations, and I scoff at how much they’re budgeting: $1,200 for an all-inclusive 5 days/4 nights at a resort in Punta Cana; $1,100 for a weeklong stay in Los Angeles; $900 for another week in a Floridian hotel – and this is before the flights, food, or fun! Of course traveling long-term at this rate is unsustainable for the average person – but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. What if I told you that by making some small sacrifices, you could make that same week’s budget last for months? Even years?
Crazy like a fox! What I am (besides crazy), is a student of this lifestyle. I’ve put in a lot of time, effort, thought, work, and research toward improving each and every day. Today, the student becomes the teacher. I want to share my own techniques, as well as some nifty tips and tricks that I’ve learned from a few wonderfully helpful travelers along the way. Whether you’re going on a week-long vacation, or planning to backpack for a year, this list will help you get started toward saving for your next adventure(s).
>> Piggy Bank: The most important realization that you need to come to is how strong the US dollar can be in other countries. A few dollars here can be worth substantially more in other countries (I’ve lived on under $10/day in certain areas). The piggy bank is the perfect introduction to our newly-found think small attitude. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a small glass pink pig – but nothing is too big or too small. Go into your kitchen and find a mason jar, a two-liter soda bottle, or a five gallon water jug. Bring it back to your room and starting right now, put all of that “useless” change toward something great. It may not seem like much today, or even a few weeks from now, but it will eventually add up. Before you know it, that spare change will add up to $50, $100, even $500 towards days, weeks, or months on that private island you’ve been dreaming of.
>> Get a Second (or Third) Job: This one is easy. Take a look at your current school/work schedule, find the available times, and find a role that suits you. The more often you’re working, the more often you’re saving. In fact, the more often you’re working, the more often you’re saving and not spending – which I consider a win win. There are millions of opportunities out there, and since this whole internet thing seems to be taking off, it’s easier than ever to find them. I’ve even managed to find ways to tailor my side jobs towards activities I enjoy (mostly sports). Some examples of part-time jobs I’ve held:
>> Scorekeeping Hockey Games
>> Refereeing Flag Football Games
>> Refereeing Bubble Soccer Games
>> Working in Restaurants (Bartending, Waiting, & Food Prep)
>> Being a Brand Ambassador*
>> Many companies are in need of respectful and professional people to represent their brand at remote events. Many of these companies are also willing to pay $20-$30/hour for said people. Search “Brand Ambassador” in your local Craigslist, and get paid to speak to people about beer, wine, sports, food, or whatever industry your heart desires.
>> Get Rid of Cable: I wouldn’t exactly describe myself as “with it” when it comes to technology, but even I can tell you that cable is a thing of the past. Between Netflix, Hulu, HBOGO, or just owning a computer – you can find pretty much anything you want (or need) with ease. Most of all these services also offer family plans, in which you can share your account with a few family or friends, cutting down the costs for each person. If needing sports is an issue (like it is for me), then Sony’s Playstation Network for sports and news can also be purchased at a reasonable cost. There are plenty of options, so cut out that ridiculous cable bill and pay for the channels you actually watch (It costs around $20/month to have all of these options).
>>Learn to Cook: In a world where people are constantly taking pictures of their breakfast, and trying to explain that they “Like food more than I do,” somehow the majority of us cannot cook. I used to laugh at the people in my office, questioning how I made my paleo meals as they heated up their Hot Pockets in the microwave. “Don’t you have kids to feed?” I would think. Not only will learning to cook your own meals save you a lot of money, but you will now have a great skill that is applicable for the rest of your life. It will open your mind to new food, open doors for job opportunities, and maybe even “spice” things up with your significant other
>> Mint.com: This free application comes highly recommended for the lazy budgeter, like myself. Within moments of completing your sign up at Mint.com, your bank accounts and credit cards will be synced, and you will begin receiving analysis and reports of your current financial habits. Every month, Mint will break down your current spendings into categories and percentages, showing you how much of your spending on going out to eat, drinking, etc. is completely unnecessary. It also tracks your credit score, to ensure you aren’t creating bad payment habits. If you need more detail in your reporting, or you want a more hands-on approach to your budgeting, check out the You Need a Budget app instead.
>> Cut Your Own Hair: This suggestion is tailored more towards men, but I have been cutting my own hair since I was 16. Sure, I have had my share of mishaps over that span – but it’s just hair, and it has thankfully always grown back. If I save myself $15/month on haircuts (this is probably on the low end for some people), I have $180 left over at that year’s end. Multiply that by my past 14 years, and there is $2,520 that I have maintained in my bank account. It’s all about the Benjamin’s, baby.
>> Having a decent buzzer can also negate the need for expensive razors, but if you still feel the need for razors, Dollar Shave Club is always a good option (and a good present around Christmas).
>> An electric razor costs about $15-$20, and there is actually minimal risk involved. Start paying attention to your barber over your next few haircuts, or simply search YouTube for some recommendations. Although style and hair are clearly not priorities of mine, I do follow the videos of Aaron Marino at IAmAlphaM for haircutting advice (He also offers lots of advice for men’s style, and is pretty funny too): How to Cut, Trim, and Shape Your Own Hair.
>> Cut Out (or Back on) Coffee: I wanted to put this in the Beginner category, but I feel like a hypocrite as I sit here finishing my second cup of the morning. Coffee (although amazing) is a huge money drainer. I understand that your Caramel Low-Fat Honey Soy Eggnog Deluxe Latte is an important part of your morning routine, but that $3/day at 5 days/week totals $780 at the end of the calendar year. If you must buy at Starbucks, register for a card and you can get a free refill in-house on brewed or iced regular coffee. Don’t have the strength to cut it out entirely? Try brewing your own at home or switching to tea.
>> “Making a quality cup of coffee within your own home or on the road does not have to be expensive. If the latter, I use a Jetboil, Hario grinder, Aeropress, and any decent bean. A normal bag of coffee might have 350 grams. A 10 gram scoop for 8 oz leaves you with 35 servings from alcohol a $7 bag (about $.20 cents per cup)” – Contributed by: Travis Parks @ pahhksy
>> Drink Less Alcohol: Now I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t like a nice cold beer.. or a nice gin & tonic, a nice whiskey, a nice red wine, or a nice anything else put in front of me – but alcohol is probably the biggest money drainer of all, and is very easy to overlook. At the end of the day, that $7 IPA could be room, board and breakfast in another country (most hostels include free breakfast). If you are rolling your eyes at this suggestion (I’m rolling my eyes at myself), go buy a flask, and save yourself some money. Your wallet, and liver will thank you later.
>> Be Flexible with Flights: Statistically speaking, the best time to buy flights is late Tuesday and/or Wednesday nights. I have (on occasion) spent months watching flights before making a purchase – studying the trends and waiting for the right deal. However, If you don’t want to put in that sort of effort, there are also many apps that you can use that will monitor the flights for you.
>> Hopper: Enter your approximate dates and locations into Hopper, and let the app do all of the work. You will receive notifications every few days alerting you whether now is time to wait or buy your flight(s).
>> SkyScanner: My personal favorite option is SkyScanner. Just like Hopper, you enter your approximate dates and locations, and you will receive daily emails and notifications notifying you of the price changes. I have found cheaper flights here more often than Hopper.
>> Google Flights: Google does everything well. Google Flights can perform the same “price watch” that SkyScanner and Hopper provide, but also offers more opportunities for the impromptu traveler. On Google Flights, you can simply enter your ideal dates, and the best prices of flights will be displayed from all over the world. Feeling adventurous, but can’t decided where you want to go? Problem solved.
>> Ditch the Gym Membership: Fitness is important, and staying active leads to a healthier, longer life. With that being said, I have not paid for a gym membership in over three years, and prefer stretching / bodyweight workouts to my heavy lifting days of college. Unless you’re a member of a budget gym like Planet Fitness($10/month), then you’re likely spending around $30/month ($360/year) on something that can be done in your yard, basement, or a playground (just keep your shirt on if you choose a playground). For a minimal price, you can practice yoga ($0), purchase a resistance band ($10<), a jump rope ($10<), a few kettlebells ($100<), make your own pull-up bar, or purchase a TRX training program. The start-up cost may seem like a lot, but in the long run you will save thousands and have more than enough equipment to complete all your workouts.
>> Planet Fitness can actually be a very useful gym if traveling within the country. The overall cost is low, and you can use their gyms all over for your workouts, or simply a shower and shave.
>> A simple YouTube search can provide you with hundreds of at-home yoga, bodyweight exercises, or combinations of both that can change your life and routine. You may even come across upcoming entrepreneurs such as the Boston-based Tone It Up girls, or my personal friend Eliza Shirazi at Kick It By Eliza – combining mindfulness, stretching, yoga, and strength training into all of their workouts.
>> “Check out your local YMCA for membership deals. Around the New Year, some will offer as low as $1 sign ups for a month.” – Contributed by: Travis Parks @pahhksy
>> My homie (and ex-roommate) Justin Miller, at Limitless365, offers many free bodyweight and kettle bell workouts that can be done within your own home:
>> High Interest Bank Accounts: This is actually pretty easy, but requires a little work. Open a new checking/savings account that can be considered your “Travel Fund.” Set up your direct deposit so that a set amount or percentage of every check goes directly here. Don’t touch this account, and let the savings and interest grow. You will adapt, will not miss the money in your everyday life, and it will be well worth the investment when you’re gone!
>> Extreme Couponing: This is something you will never find me doing, but people out there are saving money, so it needs to be addressed! Save your coupons, and start taking advantage of your local deals. Here is a top website with helpful insight on How to Begin Your Life as an Extreme Couponer.
>> Travel Hacking: Take advantage of credit card mileage specials. It is very common to find credit cards offering 40,000 – 50,000 free miles to new customers. Typically, you will need to spend $2,000 – $3,000 in the first 3 months on the card – but between gas, cars, groceries, food, and the rest of your normal life – this usually isn’t too hard of a goal to reach. Put everything on your card, and pay it off monthly to ensure your credit score stays high. I currently use the Capital One Venture card. The professional mileage hackers are able to get their flights for free all around the globe by monitoring their cards, and opening and closing new ones at the most opportune moments. I am no expert on this, but I have been able to obtain many free flights thanks to Travel Hacking.
Check the links below for more information on this unique, and very feasible way to travel:
>> The Points Guy: Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards
>> “Chase Preferred Sapphire is the creme de la creme for travellers and intro to the points world. It has the best IMO, depending on what the user is searching for: flights, hotels, etc. They have recently applied the 5/24 rule, prohibiting people from receiving a Chase card if they have opened 5 credit cards within the past 24 months – so you should start here. For a more detailed look on the 5/24 rule, check out the Cards for Travel article: What is the Chase 5/24 rule?” – Contributed by: Travis Parks @pahhksy
>> Nomadic Matt: Nomadic Matt is an entrepreneur and visionary for those of us trying to get paid to travel. I hesitate to put him on here because I’m afraid you’ll never come back, but I have to give credit where it’s due. Check out Matt’s informational post at: How I Earn 1 Million Frequent Flier Miles Each Year. Have a safe flight(s)!
>> Matt’s book: How to Travel the World on $50 A Day is considered a “Bible for Budget Travelers.” This detailed account gives stories, budgets and recommendations for destinations all over the world.
>> Rent Your Home: If you plan to travel for an extended period of time, but don’t feel like giving up your home in the process, options such as AirBnB and VRBO use customer reviews and background checks to incoming travelers, in an opportunity to spend their time in somewhere more personal than a hotel. There are obvious risks involved, but there are plenty of benefits as well, and the extra money will come in handy on your travels.
>> Rent Your Car: If you choose not to sell your car (this is one thing I have held onto), then renting it in your absence is a good option to consider. In the same style of AirBnB or VRBO, companies such as Turo offer opportunities to privately rent your vehicle to those looking outside of the typical Enterprise and Hertz options. They offer competitive insurance packages, background checks, and rental reviews to ensure a safe and secure rental.
>> As a side note, the cost of purchasing, driving, and maintaining a vehicle can be far higher than we all realise. For an interesting read and perspective on the use of cars vs. the benefit of walking or riding a bicycle once in a while, check out Mr. Money Mustache’s article: The True Cost of Commuting. – Contributed by: Travis Parks @ pahhksy
>> Move Home: I initially had this in the Novice section, as it is (on paper) pretty easy to get rid of your apartment and move in with your parents – but this move requires a lot more drive than you would think. It is an enormous step backwards in your life to move back home. Living under the same roof, with the same rules as you once had in a previous life, can be mentally draining. As I write this, I am sitting in the same house, and working at the same restaurant as when I was 15 years old. I feel like I have time-traveled back to a much quieter, shyer, more nervous version of myself – but with my goals and focus being shifted entirely towards traveling, I am willing to face the consequences (and wrath of my parents when I’m being an idiot).
>> Sell All Your Shit: Welcome Young Mogwai, to the final chapter of your training. Look around you right now – the couches, the television, the tables, the bed, even your car. All of our lives we have been surrounded by these items, and they seemingly mean a lot to us because they imply safety, security and comfort. Like a dog in his cage, we have a place where we are encompassed with familiarity, and convenience. Remember – all of these items are luxuries, not necessities. We don’t need any of this in order to be happy, and we certainly don’t need them to travel. By selling all of your belongings (EBay, Craigslist, friends, friends of friends), you can easily earn a few hundred, or even thousand extra toward your trip – and in return you’ll receive irreplaceable scenery, countries, experiences, and friends. You will stimulate your mind and senses in ways that you could not have even dreamt of, until you are there. After selling all of my belongings and moving three times in the past three years, I can assure you that the memories you will have will far outweigh any of the material items you let go. Now get out there, Daniel-san. You are finally ready..
I understand these tips are not for everybody. Some require great amounts of research, effort and dedication to complete – but it’s well worth it, and saving your hard-earned money should be a priority. Even if you don’t feel like going through these processes, simply rethinking how you budget your next vacation could save you plenty. Be open to using AirBnB‘s over hotels, Uber or Lyft over taxis, and breaking down your budgets into categories: lodging, transportation, food, recreation, etc. You will start to find the savings all over!
This reaches the end of How to Save Money Before Traveling.. for now! My goal is to keep this list updated at all times, adding and removing items as necessary. If you have a travel-hacking tip that you’d like to share with our community, please do not hesitate to contact me! No idea is too small, and I will be happy to credit you on the post! Thank you so much for being here. Until next time..
I wish you the best in your day, year, travels, and life 🙂
If you wish to see more of Nick Bode’s amazing work, or to check out the original article please visit: http://www.bodedotcom.com/how-to-save-money-before-traveling/
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