Budgeting and saving money is hard. It’s REALLY hard. It feels like there’s always something that needs to be paid for and you can’t save because something else (like getting your car fixed) becomes a priority over travel funds.
This is a set of guidelines for anyone that is solely responsible for themselves; in the future when I have kids and travel with them I’ll be sure to post a family-friendly savings plan, too!
The most important first step you can make in successfully funding a trip is understanding that sacrifices will have to be made.
When things pop up that “need to be taken care of”, you’ll see how far you’re really willing to go to make your trip a reality. The reason I put that in quotes is because you’d be surprised with how little you can get by and for how long you can make things stretch.
Before I started saving to move abroad, I always needed a new pair of shoes, I always needed a new candle, and I always needed that pack of Oreos.
Then it hit me. I did the math and realized I needed to earn $13,000 in seven months being a server while also providing for myself. I realized I was going to have to hustle. Even more, I was going to have to skimp like I’ve never skimped before.
Come the time of my move, I had $13,600 in my bank account, enough to get me by for four years while paying back student loans from the university I attended in the US and paying for my schooling here in Italy. The feeling when I looked at that final amount as I deposited my final paycheck was indescribable.
Was I lucky to have a good serving job? Absolutely. But if I can get there, you can, too. Below are a few tips that I’ve tried, tested, and found make a significant difference in your saving journey.
1. Sell your car (yes, really!)
If you are serious enough about saving significant amounts of money, sell your car. This was the biggest thing that ate away at my savings while I was working on building the amount up. First you’ve got the actual car payment, then gas, then insurance, then repairs, and the list goes on.
The year before I sold my car, I spend $2,200 on repairs. I then sold my car for $1,800; it was old and wasn’t worth much so in retrospect I wish I had gotten rid of it much sooner. Not only does selling your car save you money, it helps you feel a little better about your personal carbon footprint.
If you don’t live close to where you need to be, don’t be afraid to take public transportation! It’s easy and it’s actually really fun going on rides. It’s insanely relaxing. If you do live close like I did, walk or take a bike! You’ll get exercise, save money, and feel better in the long run (physically and mentally!) The freedom I feel not owning a car is truly liberating. I doubt I’ll ever want to own a car again, and maybe neither will you!
2. Seriously, you don’t need those cookies.
This applies to literally any and all snacks that don’t have nutritional value. They’re expensive and they’re bad for you. If you kick these things out of your diet, you’ll feel so much healthier and suddenly those cravings for those sweets and snacks will go away (it’s like quitting cigarettes.)
If you look close and plan ahead, you’ll walk away from the grocery store with a much lighter bill. There are simple, healthy things you can buy in bulk that are just damn delicious! If you’re just feeding yourself, it’s very easy to feed yourself sufficiently and healthily on very little.
Although my work did give me a bowl of pasta every day (yay me!), all other food I covered. I spent about $30/month on groceries, which sounds really crazy to some but is actually very doable. It’s all about being flexible and making veggies a bigger part of your diet.
One thing I always found to be cheap and healthy as breakfast or lunch is yogurt, granola, and whatever fruit is cheap that day! (Hint on buying granola: you’ll save an insane amount if you buy the cereal that looks like granola, because it’s literally granola but way cheaper.)
It’s also super important to note that so many vegetables cost literally less than a dollar for a huge amount. My adive? Cook up some rice, sautée some veggies, and add yourself a can of beans for a really healthy, really yummy, and really cheap meal (less than $1.00)!
Bottom line is skip out on those sweetened, unhealthy foods that you don’t need. There are cheaper and better options. But also don’t forget to treat yourself to some ice cream every now and again!
3. Drink less alcohol
This is a tall order for a lot of people. It’s things like this that will decide how dedicated you really want to be to make your trip a reality. If traveling is your priority, this is the time to prove it.
Alcohol is SO expensive, like really really expensive. If you go out and spend money on a drink, that’s going to be that much less you’ll have to spend on your experience. If you feel like you’re missing out, have a wine night with your girls; it still is money you don’t NEED to spend, but sometimes you have to spurge a little.
I noticed pretty quickly when I started saving that my friends were up to doing things that were cheaper, too! Things like having tea on a Saturday morning is so much more rewarding than not remembering what happened the night before.
Some other good ideas include hiking, painting together (sounds super cheesy but is actually really fun and provides endless laughs), and just making a dinner together. Substitution is the answer, not elimination!
4. Work your booty off and work it off HARD
This seems obvious, but when I say work your booty off, I mean you really need to work your booty off. There will be days when you feel like you have absolutely no desire of going to work, but you have to keep your priorities intact.
Although I know this isn’t a lot for professions like nursing, I was working 15 hour shifts all the time. I wasn’t used to it and it was hard. Every night I pretty much just fell into my bed, sometimes I fell asleep without even putting my pajamas on. Then they next day I’d wake up and do it all over.
Of course you need to listen to your body as it will always speak louder than your will when it needs something; but know the difference between your body speaking and you speaking. Desires have an awfully big influence on what we do, so remembering priorities daily help you keep on track
5. Go through your stuff and sell what you don’t need
Social media has this cool way of not only distracting us, but making our lives just that much easier! In some places, you can find Yard Sale pages for your neighborhood/city on Facebook and sell things FAST.
I sold everything from shoes, to lights, desks, a television, and so much more. They are so many things we store that we really don’t need and haven’t used in a really long time. I think I made around $200 with this, which is a good amount for just collecting some things you don’t use anymore!
6. UserTesting, all the way!
Now everyone has their own experience, but mine was so positive. In short, you can sign up to test websites for usability. You get assigned a website based on your profile (age, gender, etc.), go through the website and think out loud, giving clients an idea on what their potential customers will be thinking going through that same website. Not only is this easy, it brings in really good money!
Normal tests pay $10, and they usually take 10-20 minutes. If you do enough of those and have satisfied clients, you will be invited to be a webcam tester. These tests pay very handsomely. One time I was paid $90 for 45 minutes of work!
What’s the catch? The catch is that there’s already a good amount of tester so availability of tests is limited. You pretty much just have to sit at your computer and be really quick about selecting it, or it’ll slip through your fingers! I made about $300 with this, with about $200 of that being in one week when I spent a lot of time focusing on it. I’m not even an affiliate of UserTesting; I just think it’s a really great way for normal people to make a little extra cash to make their life a little easier!
7. Track your finances like a maniac
Some might call this excessive, but I call it savvy. Writing down your expenditures every day and reflecting back on what those were gives you a chance to understand where your money is going and where you can save more and spend less. It’s a simple visualization that helps put your spending into perspective and helps adjust your spending accordingly.
Saving can actually be really fun! You just have to have the right mind set about it. I always like to make it a little competition with myself and try to spend as little as possible; it adds a little excitement to an otherwise draining task. Remember that this will bring you not only on your dream trip you’ve “never been able to afford”, but it will set up good habits so you can travel more and more and more! Happy saving!
Think your friends will find this helpful? Share away and like us on Facebook!