Now, I would like to preface this post with this: I don’t have this mastered yet. I’m still working on saving the necessary funds for a long term trip, while still taking some smaller trips in the meantime. In full disclosure, it is going to take me twice as long to save 18-25k to see the world if I don’t stay put, but I’m going to be considering various route options and doing some planning, while saving, to stay focused. The things I want to talk about are not the full extent of things that can be done to save, but they are what I’m working on.
Trimming unnecessary expenses
I am the world’s worst impulse purchaser. I decide that I might enjoy making some video blogs, and within 48 hours I have purchased a $500 digital HD video camera. Problem? Have you see me post a single video blog? No. So then, I replaced my laptop (that I had gotten for free) with a new one with faster processing capabilities (for video editing, of course). $700. Then I had to buy a new HD, 1080p LED TV because my shiny new impulse purchases looked silly next to my second hand clunker. And what better to go with a new TV than a HD Blu Ray something-or-other?
Does this sound exaggerated and contrived?
Because it isn’t. This is my real life. It’s this kind of behavior that is detrimental to saving for travel.When I save, I make a spreadsheet with my total goal, progress toward and how much is left to save. Whenever I make a deposit into my savings account, I update my spreadsheet. I draw one of those obnoxious thermometers (like there was when you had to fund raise in elementary school) and post it on my desk at work. I set weekly alarms on my cell phone’s calendar to remind me to spend thoughtfully, instead of impulsively.
Rent: Now, I’m cheating on this one a bit at the moment, (I moved back to my parents’ home a little more than a year ago, to make it easier to save for a house.) but if I weren’t, I would be renting somewhere that I’m not on the hook for a lease. Subletting a room in a friend’s apartment or house would be my first choice, if living for free wasn’t an option
Eating Out: I eat out as little as possible. Point blank. Eating out is a money suck. I can generally get by on ~$50 in groceries for a week, if I avoid all of those silly impulse items. This week I have been doing really poorly at this, but my general rule is that I will eat out once every two weeks with my coworkers, and once with my family.
Movies: Redbox is incredibly cheap if you return them in 24 hours. Some theater chains have discount days, as well. The Rave chain of theaters in Louisville has $5 Tuesday for showings all day! I’m also not above bringing my own snacks, because it kills me to pay the 1,275% markup at the theater.
Clothes: Honestly? I don’t go clothes shopping. On the rare occasion that I do, I buy on sale or I don’t buy. If I need pants or jeans, I go get some, but I’m tighter than those weird vinyl bottoms that Miley wore at the VMAs. I do my very not to go perusing clothing stores if there isn’t something I need. Also. This girl? Not above second-hand stores.
Cosmetics: I paint my own nails, color my own hair and trim my own ends between 6 month cuts. I buy brands like CoverGirl and N.Y.C. over MAC and O.P.I. HELLO?! One bottle of MAC foundation is enough for a night at a nice hostel in most countries! A mani/pedi: a flight from Sydney to Brisbane. A cut and color: 4 FULL DAYS/NIGHTS in Athens(lodging, transport, meals, a couple of beers, and a standard priced attraction).
Planning ahead: Keeping an eye on fares for a while before going somewhere is going to get you a better deal. If I know that flights from Louisville to Paris are usually $1,100, and I see a flight for $699, I’m going to snap that up. I got my flights from home to Toronto to Jacksonville for <$275 in August by watching the fares.
Mailing Lists: Phenomenal way to watch your fares! I’m planning on going to Vancouver at the end of summer and I know that American just started a new route from Nashvegas to Vancouver for HALF of the price I was expecting to pay! WOOHOO!
Hostels vs Hotels: HOTELS are STUPID! You don’t meet new people in hotels. They don’t have people on staff with inside knowledge of things to do in their city that are off the usual tourist path. They are expensive. Most hostels are clean, have free wifi, cool people to go explore with, inside scoops and discounts for both unique and well known attractions. For the price you will pay at a budget hotel you could get a nice hostel, right in the city center, and they’ll probably have free breakfast, as well!
Some great ways to save that aren’t an option for me at the moment, or that I just don’t want to do:
Cell phones: You don’t really NEED that smart phone with it’s $100/month price tag! Downgrade! Voice and text only will save you about 70% on your phone bill.
Transportation: Public transit is not an option for me. Living on the outskirts of a medium sized city, it just isn’t an option. You had better believe that if I lived in Philly or Boston, I MIGHT own a cheap car, but I would make public transport work for me.
Cut Coupons: A dollar here. 2 dollars there. Money saved adds up quickly, I’m just a bit too disorganized to do it. I am working on it though. Keeping a regular grocery list and meal plan make it easy to cut coupons and avoid impulse buys. If it isn’t on the list, it isn’t in the cart. Suck it end-caps.