Unless you’re lucky enough to have a substantial trust fund or a job that facilitates travel, chances are you’re going to have to save some cash before you can get going. How much you’re going to need to save really depends on how you like to travel, but as a rough guide I would suggest $1,000USD a month for South East Asia and $2,000USD a month for South America and Europe. This will be enough to backpack around, eating out sparingly and with minimal shopping. If you’re careful with your spending, you’ll be able to sit well under budget, but those are rough estimates that are good starting points. I would advise getting in touch with people who have been to the specific countries you’re interested in visiting and ask them how much they spent daily – it’s a great way to find out how much it really costs.
How to Save Enough to Travel for a Long Time
If you’re planning to be away for a few months to a few years, I think it’s a lot easier to save up the cash that you need. This is because you’re less likely to be worried about all your possessions and more inclined to sell them. Sometimes selling things can be hard, looking through a bunch of things you’ve collected and knowing that you’re not going to get anywhere near as much as you paid for them. But, at the end of the day, it’s just stuff and they can be sold in order to provide yourself with a lifetime of memories. So, anything you can’t take with you on your trip and you don’t think is worth storing, sell. You’ll be surprised by how much bits and pieces add up to. Start listing things on EBay, Craigslist and Trademe well before you intend to leave, that way you’ll be able to settle for a good price. Store things with family and friends to cut back on costs while you are away.
Ditch Your Car
It might not be possible sell your car, but, if you can, do it as soon as possible. For many people a car is a luxury: a money gobbling insurance draining luxury. If you’re paying for insurance, maintenance, petrol and car repayments, you’re probably spending a few hundred dollars a month. That money could instead be going into your savings account, making your dream trip a little closer. It might be frustrating not having a car, but it’s only a temporary inconvenience. Opt to take public transport, or better yet by a bike and use that – that would be the ultimate way to save as much as possible on transport, while getting fit. Saving for a trip is like as a snowball: it starts out small, and it’s hard pack more snow into it, but the bigger it gets, the more snow it collects and before long it’s huge. The exact same applies with savings, the faster you plump up your account, the more motivation you’ll have to keep exceeding your saving goals.
Set Your Goals Higher Than You Can Achieve
This is the whole “reach for the moon and if you fail you’ll land in the stars” business. Chances are you can probably save more than you think. So, map out a budget and figure out how much you can save per month. Say you set your goal for $500 a month, try to put away $600 at the beginning of your pay cycle (or set aside a proportionate amount if you’re paid weekly or fortnightly). Tell yourself you’re going to try to get by without that extra hundred, but if you do need it don’t be afraid to take it out. I always employed this technique with savings and some months I found myself taking out some of the extra money to cover expenses, but for the most part I was really resistant to taking it out, even though it wasn’t my original savings goal. This little trick helped me save way more than I ever expected I could.
Coffee is Your Enemy
Well, maybe I’m being dramatic, but it is an expensive, but delicious, habit. If you’re drinking a starbucks coffee a day, that could be setting you back $5USD – which is enough to get you a private budget room in Phnom Penh for the night, or a couple of meals from a street vender in Thailand. Is that coffee really worth handing over that bill for? I really enjoy coffee and cutting it out was something that I found really hard, but it does drain your bank balance way too fast. Save coffee for a social treat with friends. It’s fine to enjoy one once and a while, but if you’re having one per day, that could be $140 a month you could be putting towards your adventures – which option is more meaningful? While we’re on the expensive, overpriced liquids conversation it’s little surprise that a night out on the town can deplete your bank balance. Try having pre drinks at home or a friends to cut down on costs, or just going out once a weekend instead of both nights. It can be a bit hard cutting down your social life a notch, but these changes will really make a difference to your savings!
Move Home or Downsize
If at all possible, take this option. I know that being independent is awesome and there’s a bit of a kick to your pride if you decide to go home but the difference this can make to your travel fund is incredible. What you’re spending monthly in rent now, could finance your accommodation for two months in South East Asia! If your parents are willing to take you, seize this option – you will be thankful when you can stretch out your travels even further. Maybe you don’t want to move home or maybe it’s just not a possibility for you. Depending on your living situation you could look at living in a cheaper place or if you’re renting alone you could consider getting a housemate/roommate to bring your costs down. So much of our incomes go towards rent, so try to cut this down as much as possible.
Make Yourself Lunch
And dinner too. Falling behind your property costs, food is probably the next biggest weekly spend. The best way to cut this down is to prepare your meals at home – whether that’s eating dinner at home or taking a packed lunch to work. I have numerous friends who eat out almost every night for dinner, not only is it very expensive, but it’s not particularly good for you either. If this sounds like you, do yourself and your bank balance a favor and start cooking at home.
Curb Your Shopping
Stop buying new clothes. Or at least cut down on buying new clothes. Those cute $300 shoes aren’t going to be that much use to you when you’re walking around Cambodia during the monsoon, feet covered in mud while you’re trying to get a good photo of Angkor Wat. You will wish you left them at home and had a pair of $3 flipflops instead. You can pick up some plain t shirts for a couple of dollars and Thailand is a shopping haven. Most of my nice clothes I took to Asia were either destroyed by the activities I was doing or the laundry services I used. I wish I’d left them at home and bought things locally to wear and donate while there. When you decide to go on a world trip, it’s probably a good idea to curb all unnecessary spending. There’s no point buying furnishings for your flat, even if you’re leaving in six months. Just be practical, if you’re not taking it with you on your trip think twice before buying it!
As cliche as it is: small changes can make a big difference. Start saving now!