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Saving For Travel & Making It Fun

· 6 min read ·

How I made small life changes to save for travel

I should not be one to offer financial advice. Budgets stress me out, I only started investing in the stock market this year, and I don’t care about my credit score. Most of my life I’ve adhered to an internal dial for my financial status and I’ve taught myself little ways to pivot from a spending state to a savings state. At a young age my mom (perhaps unintentionally) drilled into me to never be above being thrifty. Although at some points of my life this thriftiness has actually been the butt of a joke, it’s what has gotten me to where I am today — and today I am literally on the road, traveling Europe, and feeling free from financial burden. Yes … I’m definitely in a spending state, not a saving state. Yes, I am happy to be here. In the end it’s a bunch of little choices we have the opportunity to make and, as long as we are in control, there is no wrong way to do it.

I won’t pretend to be a financial guru, nor recommend that you follow my ideas. I’ll share what worked for me and my hope is that some of it lands. What I can assure you of is that if you’re not doing anything to save, you’re likely not saving anything.

Get out of debt

This is rule #1. Visit a financial adviser, or talk to a friend that did it and will tell you how, no frills. Even if you adhere to other money-saving techniques, leaving this box unchecked will only stall your full potential savings.

Is that the sun on the horizon or your sneaky travel savings? Feels goooood
Is that the sun on the horizon or your sneaky travel savings? Feels goooood

Dinner in is the shit

Right around September/October James and I got into “dinner parties.” This wasn’t anything as extensive as the name may suggest but rather a fun name for a dinner in. Dinner out is pricey. Dinner out in Boston is expensive. Dinner out in Boston with friends is a burdensome financial hobby. This is not sustainable, especially not as we were attempting to save for a trip.
We found that having friends over was fluffing awesome. We got to cook favorites or experimental meals, there was no waitstaff to interrupt conversation, and there was no fight over the bill. Plus if we did a good job, we might even get invited to someone else’s spot!

One of the many awesome dinner-in nights with our friends Max & Brigid
One of the many awesome dinner-in nights with our friends Max & Brigid

Don’t buy “that”

No really — is it nice or necessary? When it comes to clothing, I rarely acquire a new item. When I do, it is typically thrifted or recycled from a friend/sister. Nowadays the purchases I do make are investments. I’d rather spend $75 on a jacket that is ethically & sustainably produced, and that will last, over one that shorts any of these categories. What also helped me was staying off Amazon and away from stores like Target, because somehow places like that cause you to black out and you checkout with a bunch of things you never knew you needed.

I bought this backpack in 2011 and here I am with it in 2018.   It was around $60 (more than I had ever spent on a backpack) and I wore it into the ground.
I bought this backpack in 2011 and here I am with it in 2018. It was around $60 (more than I had ever spent on a backpack) and I wore it into the ground.

Sign up for an airline credit card

If you haven’t already taken advantage of this, it may be worth a try. I signed up for an American Express card a little over a year ago. At the time (and I know they do this frequently) there was a 60,000 mile sign-on bonus when you spent $3,000 in the first 3 months. Other airlines have similar offers. A great time to do this is right before you’re about to make a big purchase anyway (IE. do not use this as motivation to spend because you feel like you have to). Get creative! Offer to put things on your card — your family’s new dishwasher, your cousin’s car insurance, your friend’s birthday dinner. Get reimbursed, pay it off, then cancel that shit.

See Sarah’s Scribbles for laughs about “adulting”
See Sarah’s Scribbles for laughs about “adulting”

Take stock of your monthlies

What kind of subscriptions are you paying for? Can you take a hiatus from Spotify Premium? Netflix? Subscription-based products/clothing? The other day I realized I was paying $3 a month to The Skimm app and, though I believe they have some interesting content, I am definitely not taking advantage of the service I’m paying for. That $3 could be getting me some luxury espresso or supplementing my postcard expenses! Moving forward in life, can you look for an apartment that costs less than the one you’re in? I know… it’s not glamorous. Keep in mind that just because you are moving up in years, your career, or getting a raise, does not mean you need to pay more money to a landlord.
How about your commute? Do you have the gumption to drop the bus/train pass and ride-share excuse and test out walking, biking, or even running to work? Who knows, maybe you can write about it some day or inspire a group of friends to do it with you.

While living in Boston I made it a priority to walk or bike to work, even if that meant a 45 minute walking commute that could have taken 15 minutes in a car/bus.  It’s all about building a routine around your goals.
While living in Boston I made it a priority to walk or bike to work, even if that meant a 45 minute walking commute that could have taken 15 minutes in a car/bus. It’s all about building a routine around your goals.

Side hustle like a bada$$

Baby sitting, catering, pet care, bar-tending… there’s a wide world for alternative sources of income. Before I left for this trip I started hunting down brand ambassador jobs (there’s a Facebook group!), I walked a dog ~2 times/week, and I taught a couple of yoga classes. The key is to put the money away somewhere you can’t see it, instead of labeling it “fun money” or “beer money.”

Side hustles don’t have to be a drag!  Do some soul searching and dig around for opportunities that are exciting.
Side hustles don’t have to be a drag! Do some soul searching and dig around for opportunities that are exciting.

Make meal prep a priority

James and I would spend endless hours in the kitchen. First making dinner, then breakfast and lunch for the next day, and this was a daily cycle. Making lunch for the week on Sundays has never worked for me because I eat so much and like variety. So I knew I needed to set aside time during the week to put together food. Cooking with someone else (who follows a similar diet) has made a world of difference for me as well. Is there someone you can share responsibilities and grocery costs with? Going out for coffee also became a treat. Waking up at 5AM and working next to Starbucks (not my thang) encouraged me to prep a coffee/tea so that I was not tempted to spend the $2-$3, which adds up day-after-day.

So go ahead and flex those creative cooking muscles, and discover how great of a gift it is to yourself to prioritize time for food you enjoy.

Prepping and packing travel snacks saves you $ and is the bomb
Prepping and packing travel snacks saves you $ and is the bomb

Take inventory of your hobbies

This one is a toughy. How do you spend your time? How do you spend time with your friends? If you boiled down the numbers, are you seeing spending spikes with the way you spend your free time? If you are frequently grabbing catch-up drinks, paying for individual workout classes, and buying tickets for shows, you might want to focus your attention here. What’s tricky is that we are social by nature (I certainly am!) and coming up with a game plan that doesn’t involve a financial commitment, big or small, is not a part of most US city cultures. You have to be creative, and your friends have to be flexible too.

If you want to change your life, you can every day, but you have to get out of your comfort zone: research and hit up free activities and workouts (again, not above thrifty); go for a walk with a friend with DIY smoothies or mug-of-wine (yeah, I said it); or try preparing a picnic (lame I know… or is it?). It doesn’t mean that you need to hard-stop all things that involve paying a price, but it does mean that there are other options, and you have the opportunity to create them!

The sunrise with friends? Free!
The sunrise with friends? Free!

So what do you think? Do any of these sound like things you can get on board with and start incorporating? The reality is that spending money can be as comfortable as it is uncomfortable. Perhaps now isn’t the time for you to make a change. Perhaps you’re not planning to save up for anything. Perhaps you’re still making extensive payments to get past rule #1. In any case, these are some thoughts to toss on the back burner and experiment with one day. It’s worked for me (for now) and I look forward to the opportunity to try and fail at more money-saving techniques.

What’s your favorite way to sneaky-save?

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Adventure travel blog by James Simone & Sheila Murray. Travel along with them on their backpacking trip(s) as they actively explore the American West, Europe and beyond:

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