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 accessible and so affordable. I can’t tell you how many times this year I’ve seen flights to Japan or 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.
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1. Start meal prepping.
Given the number of times we eat in a day, we spend a lot of our money on food. 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! Also, check out local health food store or food co-ops to save money on the fresh produce and bulk bin items you use to prep those meals.
Maybe you hate meal prepping and need to eat something different every day. Look into a service like Mealpal (multiple cities) or Everytable (only in Los Angeles). 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’s 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. That way, you can cut your ‘going out’ food costs in half and not feel 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 too expensive for regular life. However, there’s always a first-timer discount ranging from $25-60 off. This 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.
Pro tip: Dinnerly is hands-down the cheapest meal subscription service on the market ($4.99 per portion). It is the first subscription meal kit service to offer 50% off all the time, so maybe you can actually keep this subscription past the first box! Definitely beats the other boxes, which often start at $10 per portion.
4. Take advantage of grocery delivery discounts too.
Sometimes, you are lazy. Lazy and poor. Good news! There are grocery delivery companies that offer discounts periodically ($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. If you’re looking for an option, try Instacart.
5. Skip paid events, go to the free ones.
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.
Read More: 16 Simple Ways To Grow Your Travel Fund
6. Make a list of your ‘luxury’ expenses and reevaluate.
Think Spotify, Hulu, Netflix, Audible, gym memberships, monthly nail salon trips, blowouts, etc. Do you really need a paid Spotify account when the free one also works extremely well? Or maybe you can join a friend’s family plan instead. Ditch the monthly media subscriptions and get a library card instead—most libraries let you rent ebooks and audiobooks, as well as stream movies and TV shows. Do you go to a boutique fitness studio that costs an arm and a leg? How about downgrading to a basic gym 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 (they usually advertise these classes on their websites) and start taking advantage of these.
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 this is too awkward, look into the side gig services such as Trusted Housesitters, Wag, Postmates, Lyft, or TaskRabbit.
Pro tip: Housesitting actually feels 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.
9. You can find really, really good stuff used.
Do you actually need to buy something? If you do, consider getting it used. I feel like thrift stores have really stepped up their game over the past few years (I’ve been going since I was 16 and let me tell you, gone are the days of musty, stained clothing. I’ve been finding some really nice 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 and Craigslist are great for non-clothing items. Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads Trading, Pluto’s Closet, Thredup, and Poshmark are great for curated secondhand clothing from brands you recognize.
10. Check out discounted services.
Maybe you’re not looking for clothes. Do you need services instead (dental/eye exams, housecleaning, haircuts, eating out, massages, wow we’re getting pretty luxurious here…)? Try searching for what you need via Groupon or LivingSocial.
11. Try some of those money-saving apps.
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. 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 read, nap or plan your trip.
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!