Saving for Long Term Travel

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It’s easy. Just stop going to Starbucks, right? Twelve months ago I read posts about funding long term travel and it inspired me to save.

Nothing I’ve outlined is earth shattering, but hopefully makes saving feel manageable.

I should note that I have a real job. I’m no longer a starving student or an entry level employee just trying to make a living.

I work at an office, people report into me.

I guess you could say I’m a grown up. If I weren’t traveling I’d probably own a condo and some shiny trinkets.  

But that said, the more money you make, the more money you spend and the harder it is to walk away from it all. So the tips below apply even if I earned half my salary.

How I Saved

Paid off debt – After 10 years of chipping away, I finally paid off my massive university debt and set aside the loan payments for travel. As the money was already exiting my account I didn’t miss it.

Committed to a budget – I allocated how much I would put in my savings each pay and it was the first thing I transferred out of the account on pay day.

Under no circumstances could I remove money from savings, even if it meant I carried a credit card balance.

Sold my junk – And I really do mean junk. Kijiji and Craigslist are my BFFs. They took my Ikea collection and found new owners who would pay full price for them. The hardest thing to do was to sell my books, but once they were gone everything fell into place.

Announced I was now broke – The people important to me knew I was saving for the trip and had a budget. There were times I was invited to do things and I had to turn them down because it wasn’t in my budget.

No cable – This was actually easy as I’ve never had cable. I use rabbit ears and watch TV online.

No movies – I’ve never been a mainstream movie goer but I do enjoy rainy day DVDs. For this I “borrowed” movies online from torrents. It also justified my Internet bill; I could not live without home Internet.

No car – Okay cheating again here.  I live in Toronto about a block from my office.

The subway is the fastest way to reach any destination, and despite what Torontonians say, public transportation is a pretty good deal.

No shopping – This was really hard. I didn’t stop shopping all together, but Old Navy was a frequent choice for a cheap wardrobe.

It was heartbreaking not to get new cute boots or the desperately needed black heels for work. Some of my work clothes are pretty scruffy but in the end I got over my vanity and it was worth it.

Prehistoric phone – The plastic coating is peeling off its exterior and it only has 10 minutes of battery life.

It randomly shuts down when I’m in the middle of a conversation. It’s my only phone as I have no landline.

I’m actually not sure if it will survive the remaining 40 days until my trip but I love this phone because it’s free. I received it 5 years ago when I signed up for a two-year plan.

After two years I kept the phone and negotiated a better month to month plan with the carrier. When you’re not sucked into a plan, telcos will do anything to keep you.

Esthetics – I used to get my hair cut, coloured and eyebrows waxed every four weeks. I shifted to every six weeks and started colouring my own hair.

Food – This was tough as I’m a foodie and I love to cook.

I gave myself an ambitious weekly budget of $30. I signed up for a weekly organic food box (they decide what comes each week) and the decision to eat organic meant I could only afford to eat meat once or twice a week.

I learned to love beans, casseroles and my slow cooker.

Eating out – I love food but since I cook I knew I should cut back on it. I didn’t eat out more than once a week and I cut out brunch all together; I can make my own eggs.

Entertainment – My friends are social and I would often go out because I had nothing better to do.

Every time I turned down an event I moved the money I thought I would have spent to my savings account. It really started adding up.

Alcohol – I’m completely unapologetic about my drinking habits and justify it by proclaiming it’s my East Coast heritage.

But I had to acknowledge it accounted for a significant chunk of my spending. I wasn’t about to cut back so I started making wine.

I also researched great wines under $10 bucks because no matter how good you think your homemade wine is, you can’t bring it as a gift to a friend’s party.

How I Spent

I was sacrificing so much, mostly my appearance, for this trip but I wasn’t prepared to cut everything. 

I didn’t want to feel deprived for a year so I decided what was important.

I go to hot yoga, it’s ludicrously expensive but it keeps me sane.

So does going out on Saturday night, but I learned to stop dropping my credit card down for a tab and stuck to a drink budget.

In the end I did everything I really wanted to do and cut out the things I was spending money on but wouldn’t miss.

One Item Most Travellers Miss

One thing that people never discuss is the return fund. I

need a stash of money to make the resettlement a little less stressful as I try to conform to everyday life especially as I won’t be working in one of those cool travel jobs. 

Long term travel is a dream but talking about coming back isn’t much fun. I set money aside so let’s leave it at that.

With 40 days and two more pay cheques to go, I’ve reached my goal. I’d love to hear how others are faring.

Join the Conversation

  1. These are great, concrete and realistic suggestions for how to cut back on spending. My major sacrifice has been moving back home. It sucks sometimes but I put all the money I would have spent on rent directly into savings so it’s well worth it.

    I’m on track to meet my goal in 7 months but I do wish I was saving a little more to put towards my return fund.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Stephanie – My family lives in another province but I would have definitely considered moving back home. The seven months will fly by and be well worth it.

      Joel – I don’t miss having cable at all. Think of it as a warm up for your trip.

      Kyle – I agree saving for the trip made me realize how much money I was wasting, I was astounded by the sum I could accumulate if I worked at it.

      Jeremy – I read your post about how you save and I’m pretty jealous about the stock market approach. I’m just not that savvy and wouldn’t even know where to start. Maybe that can be one of your upcoming blog posts 🙂

      1. What if you just signed a two year contract with you phone company? What did people do. I signed a contract a couple months back before I decided to do this move to South America. I still have student loans but I think I will have to apply to get it deferred while I am gone.

        I also need to cancel my car insurance and health insurance as well. Does anyone have any idea if you can still get fined for not having health insurance even if you don’t live in the country?

        1. Ayngelina Author says:

          I’m not sure what the penalties would be for your contracts, it really depends on the country and the contract you signed. You may have to pay a penalty for the phone company but I would suspect car and health insurance would be ok.

  2. I had the advantage of being a bit of a hoarder and bargain shopper. I’ve had enough cereal, deodorant, toothpaste and toilet paper to last me 6 months without spending an extra dime.

    Not eating out and drinking were my two big cut-back areas. I may kill my cable soon – I only watch a couple shows a week these days.

  3. I was a terrible saver until I saved for my long-term trip. Believe me, these habits will stay with you because now you realize that you can use your money for far greater things than “stuff”.

    I like the “announce to everyone that I’m broke”. I wish I would have thought of that one. Clever 🙂

  4. I’ve had to keep changing the amount that I can save each month due to personal reasons, but it is ok by me. Luckily the stock market seems to be getting my back so far and matching me dollar gained for dollar spent so some how I am still on track.

  5. Great post!

    I’m really feeling the pain of the last few months before we go and it’s great that we can save but I feel like such a Scrooge!

    For me, the biggest non-purchase was my iPhone, I didn’t buy one two years ago when they came out in the UK – because we are going away and I still haven’t bought one. I did get an iPod Touch, but bite me – I can’t possibly have NO comforts.

    I’ve recently downgraded to pay as you go phone contract and feel like I’m a 17 year old.

    But, you know what, even though I have far less money to spend, because I’ve been budgeting for the last 5 months I feel like I have more control over my money than ever before and I’m now spending money on stuff that I need rather than stuff that needs me to spend my money on it!

  6. Sofia - As We Travel says:

    Great advice! It’s nice to see someone so dedicated and focused on their goals that they make sure not to slip.
    Can I ask how much money you think you have saved by doing this?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      In total I saved about $18-20K CDN over a year. Obviously the biggest portion, 60%, was moving my student loan payments of $1000 a month to a savings account.

      Also, I did follow the advice to write down everything I spent for a week and I was shocked by all the little expenses. The remaining 40% was just looking at my daily spending to see where I could cut.

  7. I am saving $4k/month thanks to being childless and with an equal-earning spouse. We still allow ourselves little luxuries, but we’re sticking to a budget for the first time in…well, ever.

  8. Uhhh, how am I only just finding your blog now? Bacon is Magic? You rock.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Keith – wow 4K is great, you must see your savings increasing in leaps and bounds.

      Candice – thanks, you’re too sweet. I’m a frequent reader of your blog and love it as well.

  9. Cornelius Aesop says:

    I love the alcohol aspect I started making my own beer, although that was kind of already on my bucket list of things to do. I eventually want to start making my own wine too. I don’t think I could do the car thing, but my car is so old and already paid off that if I sold it I wouldn’t get much for it so it’s worth more in my possession – or at least that’s what I tell myself.

  10. Nomadic Chick says:

    Super concrete advice. And love the wine making. Great idea!

  11. Suhasini K Bhat says:

    Great post with good suggestions, though not every traveller can follow all these suggestions.

    Regards,
    Suhasini

  12. I´m doing basically everything you mention on this post except cutting down on alcohol, but beer here in Brazil is pretty cheap, so it´s not that bad.

  13. James Cook says:

    We have been budgeting and saving hard for our RTW and have done many of the things you suggested. I found giving up alcohol not to be to hard but I really miss the snack foods!

  14. Escape Hunter says:

    I personally think saving on entertainment, cutting out expensive foods, not buying anything you don’t need, shrinking utility bills helps a lot in saving!

  15. Great advice! It’s nice to see someone so dedicated and focused on their goals that they make sure not to slip.
    Can I ask how much money you think you have saved by doing this?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Of course, I saved 20,000 for travel but you could travel on much less.

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