It’s easy to save money.
Really, it is. You just need to learn basic budgeting skills, develop a decent amount of self-control and have a bit of creativity. Sound like a lot? Fear not, for I have five easy steps that’ll help you save money for travel in no time! Now, a lot of what I’m about to tell you might seem like common sense, but when you put it all together, it will really let you build up that savings account quickly.
The key principle is almost stupidly simple: minimize spending while maximizing income.
I work a pretty standard 9-5 in South Florida, one of the more expensive spots to live in the United States, and I’ve been able to save over $4,500 in 6 months while still traveling. If I can do it, so can you.
Step 1: Track your spending
Evaluating opportunities for you to save money should be your first step. I’ve used two methods to figure out my finances, and one is easier than the other. The first (and more time consuming) is manually creating a spreadsheet. You’ll need to get all of your bank statements and plot your recurring monthly expenses. Subtract those from your monthly income and the remainder is what you can stuff in the piggy bank! I broke it down a step further and separated my potential savings on a biweekly basis, that way I knew how much I could save from each paycheck.
Now, you’re probably thinking the same thing I was, “I have to do Math? In spreadsheets? I haven’t thought about that since high school.” Luckily for both of us, there’s a much easier way. That method is using an app called Mint. Mint is a data visualization app that allows you to link your bank accounts and view your spending habits.
After linking up all of your accounts, it’s very easy to set up budgets and view charts that show where your money has been going. It really opened my eyes to how much I was spending on coffee / beer / food (more on that later). They even offer a free credit check within the app too!
Step 2: Autodeposit is your friend
What’s the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind?” It’s the truth. If you set up an automatic deposit from each paycheck, it will go a long way toward building your travel savings fund. There are a few ways to do this, the simplest being setting up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account. I struggled a bit with this method, because it’s incredibly easy to just transfer the money back into your checking account if you see a puppy you want to adopt (and I want to adopt every puppy I see).
An alternative to the usual savings account are automated investing services like Betterment or Wealthfront. Both act similarly to a 401K, where you are able to decide what risk level you want to take based on your stock + bond portfolio ratio. I’m pretty clueless about that sort of thing, but they break it down into bite-sized bits for beginners like me.
I’m a fan of these apps for two reasons. One, it’s a savings account that makes you think it’s a pain to withdraw your money because it’s not as accessible as a savings account. That mentality helps keep your impulse purchases to a minimum. Two, you will most likely earn more money in one of these accounts than a traditional bank savings account (I’ve seen 2%-4% returns vs. 0.1% interest with banks). Now, I’m not a financial advisor by any stretch of the imagination, so definitely do your own research before investing your hard-earned money.
Step 3: Minimize comfort purchases
This one is really difficult for me. I love coffee in every type, shape, and form. Same with beer, tacos, pizza, you name it. Unfortunately for my wallet (but fortunately for my waistline) these all cost money. Each individual purchase might seem negligible on its own – $4 for a coffee, $10 for a pizza – but that adds up really fast. While it’s okay to splurge occasionally, do you really need that Starbucks coffee? (Don’t go with your gut, mine always says yes).
An easy way to have your tacos and eat them too is to do it yourself! I’ve been making my own cold brew for a few months now and a single batch makes 1 gallon of coffee for $8. Crockpot tacos are incredibly easy to make, delicious, and very easy on the wallet. Trust me, it’s always better when you make it yourself. Plus, you can confuse your friends and say homemade burritos paid for your trip to the Grand Canyon!
Step 4: Pay off your credit card debt
According to Nerdwallet, the average American household has $16,883 in debt. That averages out to over $1,200 in interest payments over the course of a year. If you’ve read any of my weekend trip posts, that amount could pay for four or five of those adventures! If you look at paying off credit card debt as an investment, then you’ll earn a 16-25% return just on avoiding those nasty interest payments! Crazy when you think about it, right?
Step 5: Sell stuff
Do you realize how much random stuff you’ve accumulated over the years? I didn’t until I took a good hard look around my room. Did I really need three guitars? Both of those video game systems? All of the clothes I never wear? There are several apps/sites that make selling your loot a breeze: OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, and Craiglist are a few I’ve used successfully. Be careful when using these sites because, of course, people are weird. That being said, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so sell your crap! Speaking of which, if you’re in the South Florida area and want to buy a vintage, Squier ’51 telecaster, I might know a guy…
I told you it would be simple to save money didn’t I? In fact, I’ll bet you’ve probably thought about most of these things on your own. Sometimes, it just takes someone putting it together in an easy-to-read listicle that helps the puzzle pieces fall into place.
Now that you have my five tips to help you save money for traveling, is there anything you would add? Any success stories you’d like to share? Leave a comment below and, if you like my content, subscribe to my email newsletter! You’ll get early access to articles like this, and even some freebies!