If you think you are too poor to travel, it’s time to transform your mindset. Traveling used to be exclusively for rich people, but recently, it has become so much more accessible and so much more affordable.
I can’t tell you how many times this year I’ve seen flights to Japan, Thailand, and all across Europe going for $300 roundtrip, which are absolute steals. $300 may seem like a lot of money to some of us, but don’t let that intimidate you. If you are seriously considering taking a trip this year or next, you can set your mind to saving money to travel and begin inching closer to that goal today.
Try out some of my tips below to accelerate your savings–they go well beyond ‘skipping your morning latte’.
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1. Start meal prepping.
Eating out is the number one habit that can easily drain your wallet. If you intend to save for travel, you should start reducing the number of times you eat at restaurants.
Given the number of times we eat in a day, we have the potential to spend a lot of our money on food. Imagine if you ate out for dinner every night for 5 nights out of the 7 in a week. Assuming each meal costs you $20 (and that’s being modest), that’s already $100 spent on food. Now imagine if you could take that $100 and instead of eating out, put it towards your travel fund!
Meal prepping is amazing. It can help you with eating healthy while saving money. It also takes out the guesswork of what to cook mid-week so you can focus on more important things, like planning your upcoming trip!
We also love shopping at our local health food stores and food co-ops because this helps us save even more money on fresh produce and bulk bin items (like rice, quinoa, spices, nuts, granola, etc.) used to prep those meals.
Maybe you hate meal prepping and need to eat something different every day. Maybe you really can’t find a way to eat in. Okay, okay, we hear you. In that case, you should strategically look for meal delivery services like Mealpal (multiple cities) or Everytable (only in Los Angeles) that offer actually affordable meals to subscribers. With services like these, you can buy a bundle of lunches from local spots for less than $6 a meal.
2. Bring snacks with you when you’re out.
This one might be a little weird if you’re new to the game. Say you want to go to the movies or sit at a cafe to get some work done. Instead of buying an overpriced drink and an overpriced food item, why not bring one or the other from home with you? If you’re going to order that $4 cappuccino, skip the $4 muffin and eat your homebaked one instead. You see, that’s $4 saved right there.
This way, you can cut your ‘going out’ food costs in half, while not feeling as guilty for sneaking food into a public establishment. Life hacks.
3. Go through every meal kit subscription once.
Let’s face it, not everyone likes to or has the time to meal prep. But meal subscription kits are way too expensive for regular life. However, there are always first-timer discounts ranging from $25-80 off. Cashing in these new subscriber offers is a great way to each for cheap on a weekly basis until you run through them all. Just remember to cancel your subscription after those discounts have stopped kicking in!
Sites that usually offer new subscriber discounts include:
- Dinnerly – one of the most affordable meal subscription services out there | discount with that link, no code required!
- Freshly – meals that are cooked and delivered fresh, not frozen | discount with that link, no code required!
- Blue Apron – Features delicious, chef-designed recipes with quality ingredients
- Sun Basket – healthy meals made with farm-fresh ingredients and ready in as little as 4 minutes
- Home Chef – whip up tasty dishes in less than 30 minutes
4. Take advantage of grocery delivery discounts too.
Sometimes, you are lazy, too lazy to muster up the energy to grocery shop for your newfound meal-prepping lifestyle. There is good news for you!
There are grocery delivery companies that offer discounts periodically ($X off your order of $X). This is the only time I will order groceries online. Similar to the previous tactic, only do this if the numbers back out for you.
Sites that usually offer new member discounts include:
- Instacart – grocery delivery service | discount with that link
- Hungryroot – weekly boxes of healthy groceries | discount (30% off First Delivery of $99+) with that link
5. Skip paid events, go to the free ones.
Weekends are a notorious time to spend all your hard-earned dollars. It makes sense right? You probably have 48 hours of freedom to do, see, and eat whatever you want! But instead of paying for that movie or going to an expensive theme park or going shopping, keep an eye out for free alternatives.
Weekends are amazing when it comes to free events. There are always free walking tours, cultural events, museum days, outdoor concerts, hiking events, comedy shows, and Meetup groups. Or better yet, spend your time volunteering! It’ll make you feel great and productive, and it’s absolutely free (you might even get some free lunch)!
If you absolutely need live entertainment in your life and don’t like the free options, Goldstar is a really good platform to find steeply discounted tickets to events. There are a lot of comped tickets too, either completely free or only requiring a small service charge.
Looking for more money-saving tips? Read More: 16 Simple Ways To Grow Your Travel Fund
6. Make a list of your ‘luxury’ expenses and reevaluate.
To me, ‘luxury’ = paid subscriptions and pampering services. Think Spotify, Hulu, Netflix, Audible, gym memberships, monthly nail salon trips, blowouts, massages, etc. Do you really need a paid Spotify account when the free version also works pretty well? Or maybe you can join a friend’s family plan instead. Or maybe you can downgrade just for a few months until you’ve saved enough for your travels.
Want free movies, TV shows, books, and even free Udemy courses? Ditch the monthly media subscriptions and get a library card instead—this is one that I discovered a few years ago and the value is like pure gold to me. That’s right, most libraries let you rent ebooks and audiobooks, as well as stream movies and TV shows for free.
With a library card, you can even take courses to further your education or your skills across business, tech, design, and more–completely free. The best part? You never have to step foot inside the actual library! Oh, there’s more. My local library also rents out tools and appliances to use around the home and kitchen. Isn’t that so cool? Yup, it’s all free.
Do you go to a boutique fitness studio that costs an arm and a leg? How about downgrading to a basic gym membership just for a short while, just until you save up enough money to fund your trip.
Pro tip: If you really want to life hack, there are so many gyms and fitness studios that offer free first-time classes or even free week-long trials of their facilities. Search your area for fitness studios and start taking advantage of these (they’ll usually advertise these classes on their websites).
7. Provide your services to others and earn cash.
Help out your network of friends/family and make some cash doing it! Maybe you know someone who is going to be out of town at some point. Do they need petsitting or housesitting services? Ask around; chances are, they’ll be open to it if they trust you to take care of the things they cherish (as opposed to a complete stranger through an app).
If you don’t have a network or if networking is too awkward for you, look into the side gig services such as Trusted Housesitters, Wag Walking / Caregiver, Uber Eats Delivery, Lyft Driving, or TaskRabbit.
Pro tip: Housesitting can actually feel like a vacation or stay-cation in itself; it’s like waking up at an Airbnb rental!)
8. Do something new with friends.
If you and your group of friends love meeting up over dinner and drinks, at the movies, or at music festivals, why not suggest doing something different (but more importantly, something cheaper!).
Offer up your house as the hangout spot and host a movie night, DIY night, a potluck, or a game night. You can avoid overspending on entertainment and also be comfortable as heck in your house. Or on sunnier days, set up a potluck-style picnic at your local park or beach.
We are not huge board game people, but we’ve somehow managed to find so many hours of entertainment with these affordable board games:
- Herd Mentality Udderly Addictive Family Board Game
- Sequence Board Game
- Cards Against Humanity
- Scrawl – Terrible Drawings and Ridiculous Guesses
9. You can find really, really good stuff used.
Do you actually need to buy something? If you do, consider getting it used or secondhand. Whether you are buying clothes, electronics, or cars, think of used items. While secondhand items may not feel as nice and shiny as their new counterparts, you will save a hefty amount of money off the item’s retail price and be that much closer to achieving your savings goals.
I feel like thrift stores have really stepped up their game over the past few years–I’ve been going since I was 16 years old and let me tell you, gone are the days of musty, stained clothing. I’ve been finding some really nice, brand named things lately!
There are also garage sales and secondhand shops, where you’ll find plenty of clothes, furniture, kitchenware, and gadgets for cheap.
Facebook Marketplace, Offer Up, Mercari, eBay, and Craigslist are all great sites to peruse for clothing and non-clothing items.
Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads Trading, Pluto’s Closet, 2nd STREET USA, Thredup, and Poshmark are great for curated secondhand clothing from top brands you recognize. I love these stores because they sell unique items that are hard to find anywhere else.
In fact, I got both of my vacation outfits below from thrift/consignment stores for under $10 each!
10. Check out discounted services.
Maybe you’re not looking for clothes. Do you need services instead, such as dental/eye exams, housecleaning, haircuts, eating out, massages (wow we’re getting pretty luxurious here…) or car tune-ups and any other local deal you can think of?
11. Try some of those money-saving apps.
In order to be more mindful of your budget, you can also try the Mint app—it can help you figure out where you’re spending and how you can improve.
Try Qapital, where you can set rules for yourself (for example, they have the Round Up Rule, where your spare change can be added to your savings goal. Or the Spend Less Rule, where you can save the difference if you end up spending less on some of your favorite expenses).
There’s also the cash-back Ibotta app, where you upload receipts and get cash back on groceries you’re already buying anyway.
12. Automate your savings.
If you’re serious about growing your travel fund, consider creating a savings account dedicated to storing your future travel money. With a savings account, you can easily deposit and track the money that you’re specifically saving for traveling.
Automate your travel savings by transferring money from your checking account every time you receive a paycheck. Saving little by little on a weekly or biweekly basis without even having to think about it will help you to realize your travel dreams sooner!
13. Ditch your car.
Try this, even for small weekly increments. You can save so much money on transportation by opting for a bike ride or taking a train or a bus.
If you don’t have a bike, see if your city has a bike-share program or ask your friends if they have a bike you can borrow on days they aren’t using it.
Riding a bike will give you the exercise you need to stay healthy, and taking the train/bus will free up your time staring at the road so you can do other things like reading, napping, or planning your trip.
14. Try a “no-spend” challenge.
This one is a really fun challenge that I always attempt when I want to save vigorously. The concept of a no-spend challenge is simple–if you want to save money and spend less, turn it into a game!
See if you can go a day, week, or even a month without spending any money except on bills or necessities. That means no morning coffees from the coffee shop, no movie theaters, no eating out, no online shopping, etc. If you’ve made it to the end of the week or the month, then chances are you’ve saved yourself a bunch of money.
This money can now be put towards your travel fund!
And that concludes this post on some of my more advanced ways of saving money. What are some other things you’ve found to be helpful when it comes to saving money to travel? I’d love to hear about your experiences!
For more money saving tips… check out these posts: