Saving Money for Travel (or to pay off your debt)


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  We find the money for what we really want.

I hear the same people saying they are having trouble saving money or can't afford to travel also talking about their new smart phone or new clothes or new front yard fountain or new dirt bike that they will rarely ride.

If you really want to travel, you will find the money to do it. You will fund your travel through making different choices for the next six months - or even a year or two. It really won't be any huge sacrifice on your part - just as a proper diet to lose weight doesn't cause you to starve, your different financial choices won't have you sitting in a dark studio apartment eating brown rice for months.

If you really want to do it, you will.

If you pay for any of the following, you can save money for travel:

  • gas for your car
  • cable, satellite or any subscription services for your TV
  • movies at movie theatres
  • buying DVDs or Blue Ray disks
  • landline phone service
  • coffee or meals you don't make yourself
  • food from Whole Foods, Trader Joe's or any other high-end grocery
  • manicures and pedicures
  • new books
  • house cleaning or yard maintenance services
  • bottled water
  • cigarettes
You don't have to give everything up entirely - it's just a matter of scaling back temporarily. Consider: In 12 months, you've saved at least $1000. Probably much more.

Throw in even more ambitious savings activities for even more money:

Now you are saving thousands of dollars in just one year. Couldn't you live this way for just six months or a year for that kind of money?!? Isn't your dream trip worth that kind of ambitious savings plan, for just six months or a year

You can get truly aggressive in your savings for a year or two, if you are looking to take a year or more off for travel and need to save $20,000 or more:

The key: set a savings goal for your travel. Is it $1000? $5000? $20,000? You will know how much you need to save by creating a budget for your trip or trips. It doesn't work to just save as much money as you can: set a goal. And to set a goal, you have to set a budget: how much will air fare, train fare, car rental, bike rental, accommodations, daily food, entrance fees, costs of activities (like skiing), speciality luggage (backpack - consider buying USED), health insurance, and travel insurance cost? If this is a long-term trip abroad, will you need language classes, and storage and insurance costs for your things back home?, Are you going to bring back any souvenirs?

Once you set your budget, set up a savings account at a credit union or small, community-owned bank (big banks will eat up your funds in fees) and figure out how much money you are going to pay into that account every month to get to your goal. Make your monthly deposits into that account just as you pay all of your monthly bills. Your credit union may be able to help you set up an account that will gather more interest than a traditional savings account (it will require a minimal balance and you will have to have the money in it for at least nine-months).

Also key in saving for travel (or anything) is really knowing where your expenses are going. If you aren't tracking your expenses on a spread sheet or in a budgeting software program, then you do NOT know where your money is going. If you haven't saved every receipt for three months and then typed all of these expenses into a spreadsheet or budgeting software program and then analyzed them, then you do NOT know where your money is going. And don't say you don't have time to do this - give up one entire night of watching TV or being on the Internet and, ta da, you have the time!

Saying No

Your friends and family may not understand your new, albeit temporary, lifestyle, particularly when you say no to their movie, spa, sporting event or shopping invitations. If you feel like you are depriving yourself of company and social activities, invite your friends over for a cookout, to a picnic or over for supper, but as a potluck, and encourage them to bring over movies they already own, for a group viewing night or afternoon. If someone has lawn darts or corn hole, host a game at your house. True friends will respect your priorities, make sure you aren't isolating yourself, and be happy to accommodate your restricted budget without making you feel bad.

Here's some bad news: you might lose friends over this. There are family members and friends that may say insensitive things to you about the choices you are making, or ask questions that demonstrate their disapproval for your priorities. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who think travel is frivolous, a waste of time and money. But if you really are determined to save money and make travel a priority, you have to be ready to say "No, thank you" to certain invitations, and ready to deal with the consequences.

What About Debt?

If you have credit card debt, are paying off a student loan, or have any other debts, you have to include those costs in your budget - a percentage of your income or savings needs to go to those, to get them paid off or paid down substantially. If you are looking to take off for more than six months, you need to pay credit card debts off entirely first - and you do that through setting a target for saving and engaging in the aforementioned activities.

Making Money While You Travel?

If you are going to be gone for three months or more, and you are going to keep your house or don't want to break your lease, then consider renting out your property. There are plenty of sample rental agreements online you can use. You may need to hire a property management company who will handle problems with renters while you are gone - asking neighbors or family members to handle this is a HUGE request, and they may not be able to deal with such. Whomever handles your property while you are gone, you need all agreements in writing, even with family members or dear friends.

To find renters, start with family and friends: post to your Facebook page, your Twitter account and your blog saying you are looking for someone to rent your house or sublet your apartment for three months, six months, nine months or a year. Post a notice on a bulletin board at work. Be clear about what you are offering: cable or satellite TV? Internet access? bedding? washer and dryer? garage use? Will the person have to mow your lawn? There is a LOT of information / advice online about what you need to do to rent your house or sublet your apartment if some of your property will still be onsite (like putting all of your important items in a locked room, making this space off-limits to renters). My advice: always, always, always have a written agreement, even with family, and always interview prospective tenants - if they can't come onsite and meet you, do a video interview on Skype.

You are not going to get paid to write or edit, or write code, or do graphic design while you are traveling unless you have strong relationships with companies that hire writers and editors or IT folks or designers for contract work, these companies know your work, and you have successfully completed assignments for these companies previously. Such a working arrangement will require you to check your email at least three times a day, respond to emails from employers within 24 hours, and to budget hours, days and weeks to dedicate to working, NOT to sight-see or travel. See more advice for telecommuting.

Some people stop for a few months in one place and work "under the table" at bars or restaurants. I've met people living at camp sites in Belgium and France who were doing this. The best place to look for jobs abroad, IMO, are Irish pubs. Restaurants or bars are not going to want to hire you for just a few weeks - you need to commit to at least three months of working. Just before high-season is the best time to ask around. Finding affordable long-term accommodation can be difficult; camp sites offer NO security, so you might come back to your site and find everything gone.

Also see


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