I get a lot of emails from readers asking me questions about specific destinations, traveling as a woman by myself, or practical information like how I deal with proof of onward travel requirements. But the question I get the most? How I afford my travels, and how I saved up for my trip before I left the UK. What I realize is that most people don’t want to save up for years and years, but want to fulfill their dream of traveling the world as quickly as possible. I only saved money for about 3 months before leaving on my journey, which back then I thought would last a year, and not six years (so far!). I met a traveler in Colombia last month who saved up only €6,000 Euros – in only three months, through work and selling his car. And he’s been traveling for nearly a year now, on that little money! A friend of mine from the US saved up $8,000 in only 4 months for a trip to Asia. You see that it is possible to save money for quickly in a short period of time.If you are really determined to make it happen, you can save up money in a few short months – and here are some tips how to do it:
Make a budget & set saving goals
How do you know how much you can actually save if you don’t know how much you’re spending? Or what you’re wasting money on? Start with an overview of your daily and monthly expenses. Then see where you can cut down costs. Which bills are really necessary? Take cable for example, which averages $100 a month. Do you really need it? Maybe you can get by with Netflix for a while, which is less than $10 a month. You can watch almost anything for free online these days anyway.
Or your phone plan – some of my friends pay $80 a month for their cell phone, which is a lot of money! My phone plan in the US with T-mobile costs me $30 a month and includes unlimited text, 100 minutes talk time, and most importantly: unlimited web.
Do you really make good use of your gym membership or can you do yoga at home instead or run outside?
And then there are your daily expenses. Do you really need a $5 Latte every day or can you do without one for a while, knowing that $5 will buy you 3 meals in India? Or do you have an expensive juice habit like me? I couldn’t afford the $7 or $8 green smoothies every day, and so I bought a small blender that is a take-away cup at the same time. The blender was $15, and now I spend about $10 a week on spinach and veggies instead of $50 a week on smoothies from a juice bar. I started bringing packed lunches instead of wasting money on overpriced sandwiches or salads. Other things I stopped buying: clothes, books, magazines, cake (another expensive habit of mine – coffee shops that serve good cake!). I limited myself to restaurant visits a couple of times a week, and looked for groupons or cheap lunch deals. Cooking more often will save you so much money. I love going to the movies, but I found a movie theater with a special £3 admission day – what a difference to the usual admission of £12 or more!
Make a spreadsheet and list all your expenses, see which costs you can cut down, set realistic savings goals and make sure to transfer every dollar you save in a separate savings account right away. The key to successful money saving is to actually monitor your spending and to be willing to make changes in your spending habits.
Depending on your current job, you might be able to pick up a seasonal job – for example in the service industry if you live in a touristy spot like Florida or California or even New Jersey where a lot of summer jobs open up along the beaches during the summer months. Check Craigslist for jobs in your area, ask on Facebook if anyone in your circle of friends knows of a suitable job.
If you have a knack for picking good investment opportunities, you might want to try your luck in trading or day trading, which can be a way to earn an extra income quickly, and keep making extra money while on the road. You don’t have to be a genius to trade stocks and I’ve met quite a few travelers who were trading stocks online while on the road – most recently a girl from the UK who didn’t have a finance background whatsoever and told me she learned the basics of trading through Youtube tutorials and by reading up on it on the internet. Websites like Binary Uno let you trade options and also offer a variety of online trading courses and strategies.
If you don’t feel comfortable trading options or stocks and don’t have any possibilities to pick up an extra job in your area, you could also ask around in your circle of family and friends if anybody needs help cleaning out their garage, doing yard work, walking the dog, or other simple tasks.
And then there are jobs you can do online – when I started out freelancing, I uploaded my CV and skill set on all kinds of online freelance websites such as PeoplePerHour, eLance and UpWork. If you have creative / design / writing skills like online marketing, copy writing, translating, graphic design or web design, to name just a few, you should look into giving these sites a try – I’ve also used them while traveling to maintain a steady income.
You don’t even have to invest hours of work time to make an extra income – you could also have a passive income, thanks to the booming sharing economy. Got a spare room? Rent it out on AirBnb. Don’t need your car? Sign up for Flightcar and let other people use it (no worries, it is insured!). Or invest some of your time to make a few extra dollars – become an Uber driver if you feel comfortable chauffeuring people around your city, cook a meal for strangers if you enjoy cooking and get paid for it, thanks to websites like EatWith. There are so many options now to make money thanks to the sharing economy, and I used to rent out my extra room in London, using the money I earned that way for travel.
Start travel hacking
The most expensive aspect of traveling is usually the flight – but wouldn’t it be great if you could fly for free? Well, you actually can! I’ve talked about how to get started with travel hacking before but I can’t stress it enough: apply for a rewards credit card and use it for all your purchases. You earn at least 1 point per dollar, and for certain purchases even 2 points per dollar, and trust me – these points add up quickly! The best part about these reward credit cards? The sign-up bonus! Make sure to read up on the various cards and the benefits of each one, and most importantly: how many points you get for signing up for them. The sign-up bonus is usually between 30,000 and 50,000 points and with that many points, you can easily pay for your flights. The sign-up bonus will be credited into your account after spending a certain amount – around $3,000 – within three months of signing up. If this number seems high to you – when you think about all your bills and expenses, it’s actually not hard at all to spend that kind of money.
To find out more about rewards credit cards, check out ThePointsGuy or Nerdwallet, where you find the best current credit card offers and a ton of tips on how to use them in the most effective way.
Sell stuff you don’t need
Everybody has stuff in their house that they don’t use or need – but most people are too lazy to sell it. A couple of yard sales can add a good chunk of cash to your travel fund, however, so use the time that you have now thanks to going out less (to save money) to get rid of some of your belongings. If you don’t want to / can’t do a yard sale, put your stuff on eBay or Craigslist. Clothes you don’t wear anymore? Bring them to a thrift shop. CDs you don’t listen to anymore? eBay. Jewelry you are not attached to? Sell it. Since these are all things you’ve got laying around your house already, this is basically free money!
Do you have any tips on how to save money quickly? Add them in the comments below!