There are many reasons why you can’t travel or tell yourself you can’t travel the world, money is indeed one of them. Being broke can squash any ideas you have of an adventure around the globe, but I’m here to help you overcome this predicament because I’ve done myself.
Making Travel A Priority
Several years ago, I decided I wanted to take a year off and travel. I was tired of the corporate rat race. One day, I decided I wanted to live a simple life so I could travel more. I sold everything that would hold me back from travel. One thing I can tell you. It was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. Sure, I just about lost everything. I missed out on the “American Dream,” but I’ve gained something else better in return, something money can never buy. A collection of moments I will have with me for the rest of my life.
Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you rich.
Believe it or not, it can be cheap to travel. Don’t believe all the things you see in commercials; travel doesn’t have to be luxurious and expensive. You’ll have to change your mindset about what comforts are; we are spoiled in America! The rest of the world sleep on the floor and live in mud huts, they’re doing just fine, and you will do fine too!
Several Different Ways To Save Money
There are hundreds of ways to cut expenses of traveling, ranging from accommodations to the food you eat. I’ve met a few travelers in Europe with only 600 Euros to their names that have successfully circled the globe by doing work exchange programs, seasonal jobs.
Some are even lucky enough to have an online-based business and jobs. I will not address how to make money while traveling (that’s for a future article); for now, we’ll cover how to save for travel.
Several ways pare down your expenses, and some are more drastic than others, such as embracing a minimalist lifestyle.
Check out some tips at The Minimalist. Minimalism will de-clutter your life, allowing you to focus on what’s important, like buying experiences, not things. It will make a life of travel accessible.
I’ll start with the most drastic way to feed your wanderlust. These are methods I used to fund my 6-month driving adventure in Europe. Please remember this won’t apply to everyone; if you have dependents, you can’t just dump your responsibilities and go gallivanting on some grand adventure, but then again, you’re reading this so a life of accumulating experiences must be a life you want to pursue.
Don’t Get A Mortgage
While owning a home is the de facto American dream, it is the crux to any traveler’s woes: the proverbial ball and chain. You can’t travel while paying a monthly mortgage, property tax, insurance, utilities you didn’t need while renting, HOA fees, and various maintenance expenses and costs. A mortgage is typically 20 or 30 years and subject housing bubbles and the subprime crisis.
Rather than invest in a dwelling, I challenge you to spend in your life. You can accumulate all the wealth in the world, buy all the fancy cars and houses, but you can NEVER BUY BACK TIME.
Besides, all the things you can do now in your youth you won’t be able to do when you’re too old.
Hey, I’d like to be doing 360 flips off a 40 feet cliff on a snowboard when I’m 80, but the reality is that’s not likely going to happen.
So by the time you’ve paid off your mortgage, you’ll be what? 70 years old? Just check out this guy’s story, it’s enough to make you want to drop everything and follow your dreams!
Don’t Get A Car Unless You Have To
I was paying $450 a month for Jeep Wrangler Rubicon from a lease. While it was a beautiful and awesome ride, it guzzles up gas at 18 mpg with an inflated insurance rate. Take it from me; I dumped a lot of money on this car that I could have used for travel.
If you need a car, buy used and don’t get into a lease agreement. Save the money and buy it outright with cash or unless they have a leasing deal where you can have it without paying interest before you pay it off. Ride a bike or get familiar with your local transit system. To keep it, drive for Uber or Lyft. Put it good use and make extra income.
A car is also like a home that requires maintenance and fees even when you’re not using it. You even have to pay not to operate it while traveling long-term, plus the risks for it to be vandalized and stolen. If you keep your car, drive for Uber or Lyft if it’s available in your city/town, it can easily supplement your income.
I was paying roughly $950 a month for a three-bedroom 2.5 bath in West Sacramento with a $350 a month HOA fee.
Owning the Jeep cost me about $720 a month on a five-year loan, gasoline, registration, and maintenance fees.
That’s $2,020 on monthly expenses on just a car and a home!
I was saving $1,200 a month by just not having a car and a mortgage.
Abandon Cable TV
Unless T.V. and not travel is what gives you joy. There’s no reason to pay monthly fees for TV when you can stream it online. I was lucky enough to have a Verizon Grandfathered unlimited data plan, and I live in a city with modern XLTE towers – my data speeds rival the fastest cable data, averaging nearly 30-40Mbps. I use my phone as a hotspot to connect my desktop and laptop to the internet.
Get on a Friend or Family Member’s Shared Phone Plan
Phone plans are expensive, but if you can have a friend open another line for you, the monthly savings will be significant. I initially had my data and phone plan for almost $100 a month. When I found out that a friend can add an extra line for an additional $25 a month, I jumped on it. It is a very similar plan to my current project, and now I’m paying $75 less!
Get Amazon Prime
This is probably the best $99 per year I’ve ever spent. The benefits are outstanding: The free two-day shipping is both a time and money saver. I buy non-perishable food (such as pasta, canned veggies, and coffee), hygiene essentials (toothpaste, toilet paper, and shampoo), electronics, and even furniture. The money and time saved from not having to drive to from grocery/department stores are a surprising benefit. Prime members have access to Prime Instant Videos, a service that rivals Netflix and Hulu. An added reason to ditch your cable TV.
Most members probably don’t know this, unlimited cloud storage for your photos! I was paying $10/month for unlimited storage to back up my pictures, but with a Prime Membership, I could backup nearly a Terabyte of my graphics files!
Cook Your Meals
If you’re like me and like to eat out, you can drastically save money by cooking your food. I was spending close to $700 a month on just restaurant food alone. You can buy things like pasta, quinoa, and lentils in bulk. Get creative with your cooking, you’ll learn a valuable skill, and you might have fun doing it in the process.
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Get a Second Job
Not only will you earn extra money but you’ll have less time spending it. Drive for Uber or Lyft if you have a decent car you don’t want to get rid of. Lyft and Uber drivers can make $40 or more and work at their leisure. I built websites on the side and did other I.T. related gigs to earn more money from travel. You can find all kinds of other gigs in Upwork.com or the Craigslist via the Gigs section.
Track Your Budget
I use an app called Mint (Mint.com), and it’s very intuitive in tracking your spending. Not only can this help you find where all your money is being spent, but it will also help you with your finances and budgeting.
Cut Back on the Bars and Starbucks
You can purchase coffee and alcohol at the store and consume it at home. If you plan to socialize with friends, pre-drink at home, so you save money on tips and not pay inflated prices. Please drink responsibly!
Buy Used Clothes
I get mine at thrift shops and second-hand stores. It baffles me when somebody’s paying $200 for a pair of jeans, wow! I mean, when’s the last time you’ve looked and someone and told them, “Those are some epic jeans.” You can be stylish and pimp with used clothes. I’ve never paid over $20 for a pair of jeans, and they don’t look used at all. The trick is finding a trendy used clothing shop in your area. A nice place is Crossroads Trading company, which is a reputable shop if you lived on the West Coast.
Put Your Money in a High Yield Account
Try Lending Club or Prosper. Both allow you to invest in notes by $25 increments, you spend wisely and diversify, you can quickly get a 10% – 15% return on your investment. I purchased over 400 notes at $25, each earning a respectable 11.5% rate after all the defaults calculated. The only downside is that it takes a while to sell back your notes if you want the cashback fast, so plan your withdrawals carefully.
Another good way to make a few bucks while your money is to open a high yield checking account. Yes, there is such a thing. I bank with a local credit union bank (Sactocu.org), and they offer 2% APR on their checking account as long as it meets monthly criteria – 12 purchases from the debit card, 1 ACH transaction, and enroll in paperless banking. That’s it. Since I meet the monthly criteria, all the charges from withdrawing from out of network ATMs are waived, and I get a healthy 2% from my checking deposit.
Have more with less and buy experiences, not stuff! After embracing the minimalist lifestyle, I went on a spree to get rid of stuff.
You’ll be surprised at how much better life is without all the clutter.
Minimalism is not just a concept or a fad, it’s a way of life.
Because you’ll be consuming and using less stuff, your carbon footprint will be smaller and therefore also help out on the environment and be “green.”
You’ll want to preserve the planet for our future kids to enjoy!
The less “stuff” you own, the less money spent on keeping and maintaining the stuff, how cool is that?
Drink Tap Water
Don’t buy bottled water! It’s not environmentally friendly, and it’s the most abundant thing on earth, why pay for it? Instead, get a water filter and drink tap water. Tap water is good; your tax money is paying for it. Save your money and help lower your carbon footprint in the process.
Get familiar with Couchsurfing
This is one of the coolest things ever. I stayed in Paris for a week and a half with my room from a generous Couchsurfer and even got into Versailles and the Louvre for free because the host worked for the ministry. Man, you can’t beat that!
Open a Rewards Credit Card
I’ve bought several international flights through points earned from my mileage program. Discover has a good cash back rewards program that has no annual fees have quarterly rewards plan by category that bumps the cashback to 5%. Use it make your everyday purchases and then pay it off before the payment is due. You don’t accrue any interest, and you get all the rewards!
I recently earned $1,235 from a Capital One Spark Visa promotion. Now, there’s a bit of a write up on how to obtain this kind of money from credit cards that I will cover more in detail in the future but suffice it to say, you can practically use your decent/good credit to get you more money. To sum up, how I got $1,235, I had to spend $10,000 in the span of 3 months to get a $1,000 bonus; this is on top of the 2% cash back that’s I receive as a perk on the card on any purchases.
How did I spend 10k in 3 months? Easy, my apartment had a credit processor to take credit card payments. Rent is ridiculous, coming in at $1,850 a month with all other utilities.
I bought all my groceries, dining at restaurants, fuel, and airline tickets for future travel using the credit card. There are’s also nefarious ways to make the spend requirements – some online forums preach it.
It’s called Manufactured Spending, where you do a fake spend like buying gift cards with the Credit Card to meet the spend requirement and then turning around and selling the gift cards for cash or using it to buy Walmart Money Orders to pay off the credit card.
Join a Dining Program
Dining programs are free, and they can rack up your mileage (up to 5x) dining at a participating restaurant. So if you must dine (it’s better if you cook in), do this. I hooked my Discover card to an Advantage Dining, and I’m getting 5% cashback while also getting mileage for the dining program, amazing!
Embracing a minimalist lifestyle and cutting back on expenses will help you become a world-class traveler. These invaluable tips have helped me drive around throughout most of Europe for half a year, and perhaps it will benefit you and either way, happy trails!
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