How to Realistically Save Money for Travel

If I had a dollar for the amount of messages I’ve received from dear friends, college homies, professional colleagues, acquaintances,  the postman and probably your Mom about how I managed to save enough money to travel for a year, I could probably extend my trip another month or two.

Seriously though, you should see the amount of people who have slid into my DM’s since this journey has started. It takes me ages to respond to everyone (deepest apologies to folks I’ve left on read). But let’s be real, I love your messages. Keep asking me how you can get out there and explore this big ole world of ours. It makes me feel like a little travel guru. 

On the road I’m constantly learning. I’m learning about myself, the world and from other travelers far more experienced than I. So to answer some of the questions I receive most often,  I’ve decided to start a series on *drumroll please* HOW TO TRAVEL THE WORLD FOR A YEAR. Let’s goooo! 

Without further adieu, I present the first part of the series: 

37 Frugal Tips & Tricks to Keep your Travel Piggy Bank Plump

1. cut your own hair.

Yes, I really did this and still do. I haven’t had a proper haircut in almost 3 years now. While to some this may seem cringeworthy, but if you take into account how much money I’ve saved doing this you may reconsider: $60/haircut at a good salon X 3 times a year X 3 years = $540!

While I do realize this doesn’t work for all hair types, it’s a great tactic for those like me who prefer the natural wavy look. A layered cut works best for this so if you mess up on a section, it’ll go unnoticed. Check out this YouTube video below that I used to learn how to cut layers. 

2. Only buy BOGO wine at the grocery store.

Not drinking wine to save for the trip was out of the question. But you CAN have your nice glass of wine after work, frugally, by only allowing yourself to purchase the bottles in the Buy One Get One Free section at your local grocery store. Plus this tactic helped me learn my preferred taste of wines (Sauvangion Blanc and Cab Sav for me if you’re wondering).

 

3. Join a cash back online portal like TopCashBack.com

So this one is new to me and wow do I wish I would have known about it sooner. It literally gives you free money for making purchases online that you would have bought anyway.

For example, say you need to purchase a gift for someone from Target.All you have to do is create an account on TopCashback.com, click on the Target portal which will take you directly to the Target website. Purchase your item and wait 1-2 days for you to get a small percentage of that money back. And this works for purchasing gift cards at well! No strings, no small print. It’s that easy.

 

4. Never turn down a
co-workers leftover lunch.

Like wine, my love for food is very well known. So well known that my coworkers quickly picked up that I’m a human garbage disposal and will eat anything given to me. This resulted in being the recipient of my coworkers leftovers for lunch. Shout out to my wonderful coworkers for generously feeding me while unknowingly helping me save for my trip. 

5. That said, I also basically became Uber Eats for my roommates & coworkers.

In the office we had a saying, “You ride, I’ll buy.” which translates to ‘you if you go pick up the food then I’ll buy your lunch’. Cha chinggg! Another free lunch.

Same goes for my roommates, whenever they wanted food but were feeling too lazy to pick it up themselves, I’d offer my services and baam! There’s dinner.

 

6. Speaking of roommates, get some.

When you get to a certain age, you may prefer to live on your own. But when you’re saving money for a year of travel, having roommates could make or break your travel fund.

Thankfully, I lucked out and was able to find a great (cc: cheap), 3 bedroom apartment close to work with two of my very good guy friends. It was honestly one of the best living situations I’ve had – and not just because I wrangled my way into getting the master bedroom with walk-in closet. Man I miss that closet…

Besides a lower rent cost, it’s super beneficial to have roomies to split the cost of utilities and internet with.

 

7. & also, move closer to work.

While I know this isn’t always feasible, but when my roommates and I were looking for an apartment, my only requirement was that I didn’t have to pay tolls to get to work.

I worked in downtown Orlando and traffic can be nuts during rush hour, as it is with most metropolitan areas. We lived just far enough away where our rent was low but close enough where I could take backroads, avoiding the highway and costly tolls. And the shorter distance saved on gas.

 

8. Buy used camera gear.

I know of some travelers who’ve literally gone into debt by purchasing outrageously expensive camera gear on their credit cards. To each their own, but if you really know how to use the camera’s settings, expensive doesn’t always mean better.

Instead, hit up your local hobby or camera shop and browse their pre-owned goodies. By doing so you’ll be saving thousands (seriously) on the same quality camera or lens.

I would be hesitant to purchase used gear online though. When you go to a local shop, professionals look over the gear to ensure all pieces are in working order before putting it on the shelf for customers.

9. Get a Google Chromecast to stream TV and watch movies in the living room.

Like many others, we ditched cable. It’s the 21st century and tons of streaming services exist nowadays. But our Google Chromecast was key to still being able to enjoy our living room TV together.

Alternatively, a simple HDMI cord works too but I liked being able to still work on my computer with the Google Chromecast. Plus you can stream videos from your phone with a Google Chromecast.

10. stop buying junk food.

This is for all my fellow junk-foodholics out there. I f-ing love junk food. Potato chips and cookies just get me. One of my favorite pastimes is to sit on the couch watching a movie while devouring an entire (family sized) bag of chips. It was impossible to ration myself to just a handful at a time. I was on the track to heart disease by 30.

So my solution was to stop buying junk food. Period. If it wasn’t in the house then I couldn’t be tempted. Also my body thanked me and I actually lost some weight doing this.

 

11. Sell your stuff via garage sale / Craigslist / Facebook Marketplace.

Honestly, I love hosting garage sales. Even as a kid I would get super excited and always help my Mom out with ours. When it came time to start selling my own stuff for the trip, I began by listing big ticket items like the TV and couches through online platforms such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

Then a week before our move-out date, I held a garage sale at my parents house. Ask your friends and family if they have anything they’re trying to get rid and sell it at the garage sale. My Mom let me sell a bunch of her stuff and gave me a cut of her profits for organizing and running it. Total revenue: almost $800!

Tip: Having trouble letting stuff go? Watch Minimalist on Netflix.

12. Put a few eye drops in mascara when it’s getting low to make it last longer.

Seriously this works wonders.

 

13. Tear your makeup remover wipes in half.

Or be like me and go even further, tearing them into thin strips. Just enough to get the eyeliner and mascara off. Then use your normal face scrub in the shower to fully clean the rest of your face.

 

14. Or better yet, wear less makeup altogether.

I’ve never been one to wear lots of makeup but it was especially true while I was saving up for the trip. Makeup is expensive, by cutting down on my makeup usage it saved me from having to re-up as often. Show that natural beauty to the world!

 

15. Put all the change you receive in a piggy bank.

Seems like an obvious tip, but make sure the piggy bank is a solid color. That way you can’t see inside and be tempted to take anything out. When I finally cracked open my savings piggy bank, I had stashed a few $20 bills in there that I had completely forgotten about.

Then whenever I had change in my wallet, I would immediately put it in the piggy bank each day. Final savings outcome? $294!

 

16. Buy produce from farmers market.

Not only does this help support local businesses and farmers, the produce is usually fresher and cheaper than what you’d find in a standard grocery store.

17. Use less toilet paper & paper towels.

This one usually makes people LOL. But it’s something I really did to save for my travels. Being more cognizant of the amount of paper you use on the reg not only keeps costs low, but it also cuts down on waste and helps the environment.

 

18. negotiate lower rates on bills.

This doesn’t always work but the 5 minutes it takes to try could save you some serious bucks. A good tactic I was told to say to companies is something like, “My friend is also with you guys and they’re only paying X, how can I get my rate lowered?”

 

19. Get on a group cell phone plan.

Are all your friends or family on different phone plans? Do you have people you trust enough to get together and go in on a group plan? 

Then for this trip, I went on a Google Fi international phone plan with two other travelers. This plan has been wonderful and a huge savings break for all three of us. Look out for post on more of that coming to the Walrus soon!

 

20. Ask for practical gifts.

During the holidays and for birthdays, ask for things you may need for the trip instead of frivolous gifts. Some items I asked for before my trip were: an electronics organizer, compression cubes, SD cards for my camera, new Vans, quick drying microfiber towel and a universal outlet adapter.

A full list of everything I packed for my year long backpacking trip coming soon!

 

21. Shower at the gym to cut down on your water bill.

Let’s be real, I don’t gym so this isn’t one of my personal tips. But a good friend and essentially a professional traveler said he saved a ton on his water bills by showering at the gym after a workout session rather than at home.

 

22. Find a side hustle to supplement your income.

After accidentally falling in love with writing in college, I picked up a few freelance projects here and there. It wasn’t until I was saving up for my first Europe trip did I take my freelance work seriously, optimized my portfolio website and taught myself enough on the Adobe Creative Suite to add graphic design jobs into my services.

Insert shameless plug here: Head on over to the Work With Me page to see how you can help fund my adventures by throwing some work my way!

Although helpful, don’t think you must obtain technical skills to make extra money. Besides my freelance biz, I would pick up any extra work I could manage which included anything from pet sitting, cleaning out storage units and working random events to save for my trip. 

23. Got hobbies? Find a way to do them for free.

Because life is short, I don’t think you should stop living to save money for travel. What are your hobbies? Is there a way to do them for free or for a discounted price? For example, if you play tennis ask your local tennis association if you can blow off courts in exchange for free or cheaper court rates.

I love music and music festivals. A few years ago I had the amazing opportunity to connect with the founder of MusicFestivalWizard.com during my travels who offered me the job of covering music festivals for the website in exchange for free tickets. Although I do have to work while I’m there taking notes and photos as press, I haven’t paid for a music festival in 3 years. With festivals ranging in price from $150-400, I can’t tell you how much money this has saved me while still being able to do something I love.

 

24. Never buy bottled water.

This is another common sense one, but one I’m still including none-the-less. If you live in a developed country where the tap water is safe to drink STOP CONSUMING BOTTLED WATER. I can’t tell you how many people at home have said they won’t fill up a reusable water bottle because the “tap water tastes funny” Ugh.

If you have the privilege to access clean drinking water (29% of the world’s population does not!), do your part and actually use it instead of adding more plastic waste to our landfills. If you’re one of those “it tastes funny” folks, then buy a filtered water bottle like this Lifestraw water bottle that takes out any of the bad stuff you may think is in your clean drinking water.

 

25. Add flavor to water in lieu of soda or juices.

Personally I find nothing more refreshing that a cold glass of water. But for those who like the taste of soda or fruit drinks, try spicing up your water or cheap soda water with fresh ingredients like lime, mint, lemon or cucumber. 

26. Use both sides of Swiffer pads & buy off-brand products.

Honestly I don’t think I’ve ever mopped in my life. I’m lazy and loved my Swiffer. That said, Swiffer wet pads are expensive. Buy off-brand, they’re exactly the same and use both sides of the pad for extra use while cutting down on waste.

 

27. Rent out your apartment on weekends or holidays through airbnb.

If it’s allowed in your area, renting out your apartment or room on weekends or holidays is a fantastic source of additional revenue to help save for your travels. By crashing at a family or friend’s house for the weekend or by listing your place while you’re out of town can sometimes pay for a whole months rent in just one weekend.

Some of the best areas to do this in are:

  • Tourist hotspots close to amusement parks
  • Beaches, mountains or other natural landmarks that bring in visitors
  • Areas close to universities for visiting families, student tours or gamedays
  • Near convention centers or other locations hosting annual events

 

28. ReplacE expensive face cream with aloe & olive oil.

After spending a month in Greece, I’m convinced that olive oil is key to having incredibly beautiful skin. Supplement face lotion with extra-virgin olive oil. Word is, it may also help reduce the appearance of pesky wrinkles. Still working to see if that’s true. I’ll report back.

Then instead of buying aloe from stores, I bought a cute plant for my apartment. When my skin felt damaged from the sun, I’d cut a small part off and spread the gel on the affected area. Aloe is a fantastic natural remedy with antioxidants, enzymes, Vitamins A and C, and is highly anti-inflammatory aiding in burns, acne and dry skin.

29. Make your own handwritten cards.

This may sound kinda cheesy but with prices up to $5 for just one card, getting crafty and making your own with colored paper can save you tons around the holidays or on birthdays. Not the crafty type? Write a handwritten note in lieu of an unoriginal Hallmark card. I love getting handwritten notes, they’re more sincere and come from the heart rather than the wallet.

 

30. Eat less meat.

Many of my friends are vegetarians now either for ethical or environmental reasons. More power to them but I don’t think I’ll ever cut meat completely out of my diet. That said, I have cut back quite a bit on the amount of meat I eat on a weekly basis. While I love animals, my initial cutting back was for environmental reasons.

Did you know that the meat industry is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States? By cutting back, you’ll save money on the grocery bill by eating a more plant based diet while also decreasing your carbon footprint.

Check out these meatless dinner options! 

 

31. Always keep your receipts.

In case something stops working before the warranty is up, you can replace it for free. This works for more products than you’d think. 

 

32. Grow your own herbs.

This is one of my favorite things to do when I’m living somewhere. Not only aesthetically pleasing, small herb plants can be super inexpensive at $1-2 per plant, or even less. Maintaining your own herb garden can cut costs of getting store bought herbs every time you cook. Plus there’s nothing better than some fresh basil or rosemary in your cooking!

33. Always get a second opinion on high cost home or car repairs.

By getting a second professional opinion, you can rest assured you’re getting the best price before spending unnecessary mula.

 

34. Ride in the car with the windows down instead of turning on the A/c.

Same goes for the heat during winter. Keep your jacket on instead of blasting the heat to reduce the amount of extra gas you’re using to control the temperature of the inside of your vehicle. 

 

35. Use more blankets during wintertime to cut down on heating costs.

Just like the A/C and heater in your car, use more blankets or throw on a sweatshirt during the colder winter months to prevent having to turn your heater way up in your home.

 

36. Obsessively check your budget and savings goals.

First, figure out your budget for the trip. This will take awhile but once done, create a workable spreadsheet with equations that automatically calculate your monthly expenditures (before the trip), trip savings and how much more you need in order to reach your trip saving goals.

Don’t procrastinate on this, the sooner you can visualize the money obstacles the better. In the initial savings stages, I would obsessively check my budget spreadsheet 3-5 times a week. By doing so, I was able to gauge my spending better and determine if I could cut back in some categories to save more for the trip. 

Stay tuned for all my budget tip and tricks posts as well as a DIY budget spreadsheet template coming soon to The Walrus!

 

37. Compared everything you think you want to buy to something travel related.

Once you start comparing everything to the incredible adventures that await, saving money for travel gets easier.

Say you saw a pair of super cute earrings that cost $14. Not expensive, but do you really need those earrings? Probably not. And with that $14 you could buy an entire dinner in Greece with that amount. 

Although I love clothes and shopping, my spending for unnecessary things has drastically decreased since I started traveling. Memories and adventures across the globe will always be more important than material things in my book.

How do you save money for travel? Leave your money saving tips & tricks below in the comments!

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About The Walrus

Hi, I’m Alex. My travel tales are a little quirky, a little awkward and a little bit wayward. Welcome to the Wayward Walrus. Read more about me here.

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