12 Things You Can Do Right Now to Start Saving $$$
People always ask how I can afford to travel the way I do. I've only ever had one "real job" with an annual salary, I only worked for 6.5 months last year, and I don't have a trust fund paying for my flights. So how do I do it? 🤷🏼♀️
Saving money has always seemed really easy for me. It all comes down to one simple concept: EVERY. DOLLAR. COUNTS. But I realize this might not be the case for everyone, so I wanted to put together a short list of 12 easy things YOU can start doing NOW to keep money in your pocket:
- Stop buying food during the week. Ground breaking, I know. But if I had a dollar for every time a friend complained to me about being poor while eating a $20 salad and drinking a $5 nonfat organic matcha late, I'd be a millionaire. Lets say lunch costs around $10 and a normal coffee costs around $4 (prices based on personal experience living in San Francisco). Lets also say you know you shouldn't buy coffee every day, so you only treat yourself 3 days a week, because you're responsible. You're spending $62 a work week (at least, lets be honest). Thats's a week's worth of accommodation in Vietnam my friend! Pack your lunch. Make your own coffee.
- Shop smarter. I love looking good, and I know it comes at a price. So my rule of thumb is to buy clothes that are timeless and simple. My closet is fifty shades of grey. But the beauty is that everything matches and I can keep articles of clothing for years without worrying about them going out of style. If I can't resist a trend or statement piece, I head to shops like H&M, Forever21, or Brandy Melville where I can indulge without spending too much.
- Cook. It's really expensive to pay other people to make your food. Just learn a few great recipes, locate your nearest Trader Joes, dust off your frying pan, and stir fry the shit out of some veggies.
- Get a Travel Card. You will spend so much money on foreign transaction and ATM fees it's not even funny. Find a bank that waives those fees and hold on tight. You'll find you might even save enough to add another week to your holiday! I personally use First Republic, and couldn't recommend them enough.
- Open a Separate Checking Account. This was the #1 way I saved for my first big trip. I knew roughly how much the trip would cost and I knew when I wanted to quit my job, so I figured out how much I would have to take out of each pay check to reach that budget and put it directly into my freshly opened travel account. Quick maths. The BEST thing about this strategy was that before my trip, I didn't have to worry about overspending and dipping into my travel fund because that money wasn't even accessible. Then, while traveling, I used my travel card and didn't have to worry about overspending because literally everything in that account was for that holiday.
- Pack Lightly. This means 1 carry on suitcase ladies. This will allow you to fly on budget airlines and not have to check bags on those more expensive flights. Budget airlines make their money by people not reading the fine print. Checking bags, and even heavy carry ons always cost extra, and when you can get a flight from London to Norway for $10, why would you not want take the budget airline?
- Swallow Your Pride. Money is money and every dollar counts, so who cares where it comes from?! I'll admit, I've struggled with this concept myself. But I've also sucked it up and driven for Uber, done door-to-door sales, mucked horse shit out of stalls, washed dishes, cooked food, and made coffees. None of those were my dream job and none of them paid well, but they paid. Period.
- Work Somewhere Where You Want the Discount. Desperate times man. If you're super low on cash, work at a grocery store so at least you get a discount on the necessities. If you're planning an outdoorsy trip, work at REI. DO NOT work at Ralph Lauren. You get the idea.
- Use the Tools at Your Disposal. I'm not a huge travel hack enthusiast. I am also really impressed by people like The Points Guy and that other guy who makes a living cheating the airlines, so don't get too excited. I do, however, have a couple tricks up my sleeve for scoring cheap flights. My formula for a good deal on transportation is this: 1 travel app + 4 search engines + 1 bottle of wine + all of the patience (you know, good things come to those who wait and all that).
- Do yourself a favor and download the Hopper app. It tracks flights and tells you the best time to buy. More often than not, you can save over $100 by waiting to book. They also send you push notifications, so once you're tracking a flight you don't have to monitor it!
- My go-to search engines are: SkyScanner, Kayak, Expedia, and Cheapo-Air. Cheapo-Air has saved me thousands of dollars over the years and their customer service is impeccable. ALSO, they have a button on the bottom of the search box for "students, 16-25 years of age." Click that button, there are good deals in there.
- The wine is optional, but highly recommended. The patience is mandatory.
- Take the long way home. A lot of times, the cheap flights are the annoying flights. We're talking multiple stops and long layovers. A lot of other times, busses are cheaper than flights, and busses suck. Trust me, I know. But the way I see it, I'm young, I'm resilient, I'm on a budget and not necessarily a timeline. So more often than not, I'd rather take the long way home and save the hundreds of dollars.
- Make Friends and Keep in Touch with Them. The BEST way to see a city (and save money) is to go out with a local and avoid the tourist traps! The more people you meet, the more friends you have around the world. I've gained (and saved) so much by keeping in touch with the people I've met traveling. Sometimes there's even a couch or spare bed to crash on! And of course it's a 2 way street. My home (when I have one) is always open to my foreign friends and giving local tips is my favorite!
- Splurge. Yes, that's right. I saved money by splurging ONCE IN A WHILE. You hear so many stories about people dropping literally everything (no brunches, no Netflix, etc.) and saving tons of money. I think that's great for those people. But that's not me, and that's probably not you either! I like mimosas way too much to just cut them out cold turkey. So instead of buying little things throughout the week like lunch, coffee, and take out, I would live like a miser, staying in and hoarding pennies, 80% of the time. But that meant, when it came to an event I was really excited for like a holiday or birthday, I could go all out without feeling guilty. Spending money all at once is always a little daunting, but I always felt like I was actually saving money by spending a lot of it one night a week, instead of a little here and there throughout the week. Plus I felt like I was really treating myself, so the incentive to save during the week kept me frugal AND happy.
- According to an observational study (done by me in the last 5 seconds), people who feel like they don't have a lot of money tend buy little things here and there. They don't go out on the weekend because they can't afford it, and since they're saving so much money staying in on Friday, they can have one cocktail with a friend on Tuesday and small coffees on the way to work twice a week. These little expenses are justified because you're never going to notice them disappearing from your bank account. But as this study found, you're going to continue to feel like you're struggling financially because these little treats are just that: little. They don't give you the same rewarding feeling that a big splurge gives, and they still drain the bank account! This leads to the purchasing of more little treats, in hopes of feeling rewarded. And if you were to add these little purchases up, you might find that you actually had enough to go to two really nice bottomless brunches this month for the same price. Little splurges: big FOMO. #science
I know none of these tips are revolutionary; in fact, they probably seem really obvious. But this is ALL I do to save for trips. I just wanted to share these really easy tips to prove that anyone can save money and it's not as complicated as you might think. Really, you just have to lower your standards.