Do you long to hike up to Machu Picchu?
Take a slow boat down the Amazon River?
Eat a chocolate filled croissant in the park in front of the Eiffel Tower?
Don’t let money stand in the way of your dreams.
The opportunity to travel is one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself. And, as we all know, very few gifts are free!
Checking places and experiences off your bucket list is priceless, though.
Traveling the world is not reserved for the rich, the famous or the trustafarian! The wonders of the world are accessible to anyone who is willing to make a few sacrifices to save up enough money to get there.
Even though 78% of full-time workers in the United States are living paycheck to paycheck, there are still ways to save money for a trip when money is already tight.
While saving money for a trip requires dedication and discipline, the reward will be all that much sweeter because you worked hard to earn it.
Where there is a will, there is always a way. Let these 20 savvy steps show you the way!
Travel at All Costs! How to Save Money for a Trip
Preliminary Steps to Start Saving Money for a Trip
1. Evaluate your current monthly spending
Before you can develop a budget that is conducive to saving money for a trip, you must first determine what you are actually spending on a month-to-month basis.
Start with the items that are consistent, such as your rent or mortgage, car payment, insurance and internet, cable and phone bills.
If you have children or pets, make sure you include those types of expenses, as well. How much money do you spend to take your shaggy dog to the groomer each month? How much is the monthly payment for your daughter’s dance classes?
Don’t forget about small monthly charges for Netflix, Dropbox, Spotify and other online services you might subscribe to.
Then evaluate the items that fluctuate from month to month. This includes groceries, dining out, gas, entertainment and miscellaneous purchases.
You can look at your bank statements for the past six months to a year to calculate these expenses and come up with a monthly average.
2. Analyze your needs versus your wants
Once you have honestly cataloged your monthly expenses, it is time to analyze those expenses.
While certain living costs are inevitable, it is important to take a closer look at what you are really spending money on. Little expenses add up quickly and even sometimes completely under your radar.
If you are serious about saving money for a trip, you need to figure out where you can cut costs and reallocate that money into a savings fund versus a spending one.
Train your brain to place potential purchases into the category of needs or wants. This strategy will help you save more money by not spending it on unnecessary things.
You need to eat… but do you need to eat at restaurants three times per week?
One way to save money is to decrease or eliminate spending on wants. (More on that later!)
3. Bring your dream trip to light
Where do you want to go?
What do you want to do?
What do you want to see?
Visualize your end goal: the trip. You can even write it down or create a vision board of your trip. This goal will help you motivate yourself to save money for it.
Saving money is not easy, and it takes a real commitment to save up enough money to take a big trip.
Really take the time to think about your dream trip. Look at photographs, do some research and read about the place or places you want to explore. Actual objectives will inspire and strengthen your commitment.
4. Set a monetary goal
How much money do you need to take the trip of your dreams?
It is always better to round up when you are devising a monetary goal. It is better to have too much money in the end than not enough!
Make sure you include the estimated cost of airfare, luggage fees, visas, vaccines, ground transportation, accommodations, travel insurance, tours, entrance fees, meals, any specific trip gear, clothing or supplies. And an emergency surplus in case something unexpected takes place.
If you have pets, make sure you also include the cost of a pet sitter.
Setting a monetary goal is one of the most important objectives to set in order to efficiently and effectively save money for a trip. It is also one of the most time consuming, as this goal requires quite a bit of research.
5. Pick a trip date goal
Setting a trip date goal will help streamline your money saving efforts.
As with any type of goal setting, it is often helpful to have an end date. Knowing how much time you have to achieve your monetary goal will help keep you on track.
6. Set up a travel fund account
Keep the money you are saving for a trip separate from your spending account.
This will ensure that you do not accidentally spend money you should not be spending. It will also make it easier to keep track of your monthly savings.
You can set up a savings account through your bank and manage this account online.
7. Create a monthly budget
You now know where your money is being spent every month, what your wants versus needs are, how much money you need to save and how much time you have to save it.
So it is time to create a budget.
If you want to save money for a trip, you must stick to a strict budget.
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Substitutions and Sacrifices to Save Money for Your Trip
8. Make your morning coffee at home
You might not think too much about spending $3 or so for a cup of coffee from a coffee shop.
But if you buy coffee once or twice per day several times a week, that expense starts to add up.
On the lower end, if you spend $3 per day five days a week, that’s $15 a week.
Now, multiply that by 52 weeks and you’ve just spent $780 in a year just on coffee!
If you are into specialty coffees and sometimes like to enjoy a baked good or other breakfast item on the go, you could be looking at a far heftier annual total.
Making your morning brew at home can save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars to put toward your travel fund.
9. Start cooking at home
The cost of eating out is not necessarily budget friendly.
While it might take a little more effort to plan out your meals, go grocery shopping and meal prep, it is far cheaper than choosing the more convenient, zero-effort option.
Cooking at home is also an opportunity to use healthier ingredients and eat more reasonably portioned meals.
According to Forbes, it is almost fives time more expensive to eat out or order in than it is to cook at home!
There are so many inspiring websites and blogs that are filled with easy, cost-effective and healthy recipes. Pinterest is an excellent resource for recipes.
Not only are you going to save a ton of money for your trip by cooking your meals, but you are also going to be healthier. And you definitely want to be healthy for your trip abroad! After all, you will be doing a lot of walking when you sightsee.
10. Shop at less expensive grocery stores
Avoiding high-end, specialty markets during this time of strict budgeting will help you cut down on your grocery bill.
This does not mean you have to eat cheap food. But you are likely to find lower prices at your general grocery store.
Shopping at the farmer’s market is also a cost-effective way to load up on fresh produce and other healthy items.
11. Use coupons and seek sales
There are constantly sales and two-for-one deals at nearly all grocery stores.
You can also find coupons online and at the grocery store itself. Don’t be surprise if you find some unexpected joy when coupon cutting and redeeming. Saving money feels good!
Remember, as you are saving money for your trip, every penny counts!
12. Cut back on entertainment costs
The cost of regularly going to bars, clubs, restaurants, concerts and even the movie theater can break your budget overnight.
In this time of saving, sacrificing pricey means of entertainment is necessary. In the end, it will be completely worth it!
You will definitely remember and cherish your trip far more than a $100 night out on the town.
13. Socialize in versus out
Saving for a trip does not mean that you have to become a recluse. It just means that you have to change the ways you socialize.
Instead of racking up bar bills, invite your friends over for a more meaningful and budget-friendly gathering at your house.
14. Exercise for free
There are so many ways to exercise for free!
A good way to save a little extra dough is to give up your gym or studio membership during this period of saving. The average cost of a gym membership is $58 per month.
Over the course of a year, you are looking at spending roughly $700 on your gym membership. That’s a plane ticket!
There are hundreds of free online yoga and fitness classes, and there are plenty of possibilities to move and get your heart rate up outdoors. If you already have the necessary equipment, activities like biking, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, kayaking and even weight lifting are free.
Activities like walking, running and hiking are also free.
Spending time outdoors comes with its own inherent benefits too. We could all use a little more fresh air and nature in our lives.
15. Find ways to reduce your gas expenses
In 2017, the average American spent about $1,400 filling up their car’s gas tanks. Yikes!
If the option is available to you, use public transportation to get to and from work and around town. This could potentially add hundreds of dollars to your travel fund over the course of a year.
Carpooling is also an environmentally and budget-friendly way to cut gas costs. If you have a bicycle, this is another free and eco-friendly way to get around.
16. Sell what you do not need
We all have stuff that we do not use or do not really need.
Selling those items is not only a liberating way to declutter your space, but also an easy way to make some extra money for your trip.
Maybe you have a guitar that you never learned to play. Or a video game console that you have not turned on in years. Perhaps you have some sporting equipment that is collecting dust in your garage.
A garage sale or listing your items for sale on Ebay is a simple way to sell off that stuff that no longer has meaning or purpose to you.
Resources to Help You Save Money for a Trip
17. Manage your money with Mint
Mint is an app that allows you to create a budget and track your spending and savings.
With Mint, you can easily create a budget with personalized categories, such as a travel category!
You can also set financial goals. Mint can help you manage all of your finances, too, not just your travel fund.
This intuitive app makes managing your money simple. It is also really nice to be able to check and analyze all your finances in one convenient place.
Download Mint to your iOS or Android device to start saving money for your travels.
18. Treat your travel fund with Tip Yourself
Tip Yourself is a fantastic app for saving money!
The basic premise is that you reward yourself for certain achievements by tipping yourself. Your tip jar is securely connected to your bank account.
For example, if you answered all of the work emails in your inbox, you might tip yourself $10. Or every time you exercise, you tip yourself $5. You can choose to tip yourself for whatever fits your needs or schedule.
These little tips will start to add up.
Since the tips are small, you won’t even really miss them from your spending account. But you will definitely appreciate them when it is time to travel!
Download Tip Yourself at the Apple store or Google Play store.
19. Save big bucks with RetailMeNot
RetailMeNot is basically a coupon and sales app.
The app shows you thousands of the best cash back offers, online promo codes and in-store coupons. You can narrow down your search based on categories such as food, accessories, gifts, shoes, travel and beauty.
All the big box stores and popular brands can be found on this app.
You can download the Android app or iOS app and redeem the offers right from your phone. It does not get any easier than that!
This amazing and easy-to-use app could save you thousands of dollars on shopping expenses.
20. Make some extra money using Upwork
Upwork is a place where you can find short-term and long-term online freelance work.
If you have experience as a writer, designer, accountant, consultant, marketer, web developer, customer service agent or virtual assistant, you might be able to find some extra work.
If you are planning on long-term traveling, you could even try to find a gig on Upwork that you can do while on the move. This is a great way to make some money while you are in transit from one place to the next or in between your adventures.
Who knows, this could even spark a career change. You might decide to become a full-blown digital nomad!
Upwork requires you to complete and submit a detailed profile. Your profile is basically a deconstructed resume and cover letter.
They also take a percentage of your earnings as a service charge for making it easier to connect with reputable companies who are searching for qualified freelance workers.
You now have the know-how, tools and resources to save the money that you need to take the trip that you have long been dreaming about.
There is no time like the present to start saving for that trip.
If you do not start now, then a week, a month or a year from now, you will wish that you had started today.
Jenn Parker is a native Floridian who has been living in Costa Rica since 2010. She is an avid writer, traveler and nature lover on a mission to surf the earth and share her stories. You can check out some of her published work on her website Jenn Parker.