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How To Save Money For Travel In 15 Easy Steps

Need some tips on how to save money for travel? We have many realistic, down-to-earth advice for you.

One of the reasons you probably think you can’t travel as much as you wanted is money. Maybe an international vacation once a year if your bills don’t completely suck your bank account, and that’s it.

After all, traveling to Europe is costly, especially if you’re traveling to western countries, which happen to be very expensive.

Well, saving money isn’t that easy. We give up present satisfaction for future rewards.

That can be pretty difficult for some people, especially if they’re used to splurge every once in a while because they “deserve” it.

The thing is you deserve the whole world, but life isn’t fair and you can’t have everything you want.

Unless you have a lot of money, of course, then it actually makes no sense for you to be reading this anyway, but if you’re anything like us, middle-class folks (the largest class in the US), chances are you could travel more if you knew how to save a little more money for it.

Don’t save what is left after spending; spend what is left after saving.

Warren Buffett

For that reason, we decided to tell you exactly how you can change your mindset and what actionable things you can do today to save money.

That’s what we do when we want to travel. In other words, what we do all year long because we’re always going somewhere.

Granted, we don’t follow all these tips 100% of the time, but the cost of living in a small city in the Netherlands isn’t very high, and we share the expenses.

We’ll also share with you a detailed Google spreadsheet where you can have an excellent overview of your personal expenses. To have access to this spreadsheet, sign up for Maps ‘N Bags newsletter here.

Dollars being planted on the ground
Unfortunately, this method doesn’t really work

6 tips for having a saving-money mindset:

Set an apart savings account for your travel

By opening dedicated savings account for your travel you’ll have a clear overview of your progress because all the money you have there is only for your trip. Period.

Also, you won’t risk using that money to pay for something or buying that clothe/ gadget you’ve just seen and would love to have, but you don’t necessarily need it.

Put your monthly expenses on paper and figure out how much you can cut back

How can you save for travel if you don’t know how much you can save at all?

First of all, put all of your monthly expenses on paper (or in a free spreadsheet you can find in our library, click here to have access to it), then analyze where you’re spending more money on and if that is really necessary.

Chances are you probably have lots of unnecessary expenses that you don’t even know about because they are all small. But at the end of the month, they all sum up, and your money is gone.

Well, finally, cut them back. But continue reading because we’ll give you some tips below on how to do it.

Piles of coins and jar full of coins topped by little plants.
Little by little your savings will start growing

Have a clear idea of the budget you need

Now that you know approximately how much you can save, think about your trip. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do there? Are you going on a 7-day trip around Ireland or on a 3-month backpacking trip in South America?

How much money do you need to do this trip? At our library, we also have a spreadsheet to calculate approximately what you’d spend on your trip, just fill the file with values.

With this overview in hands, ask yourself if that is realistic given the monthly amount you could actually save.

If it’s not, time to think about another more affordable trip. If it’s realistic, it’s time to set goals and work backward.

That’s what we always do when we plan anything: working at the blog, saving for a trip, saving for a house, etc.

Let’s say you need $3000 for that 3-month backpacking trip in South America.

It’s April and you want to travel in January to get familiarized with the region before carnival because then you want to party in Rio de Janeiro. Who wouldn’t? It’s amazing.

Anyway, with this in mind, you have nine months to save $3000, so your monthly goal is $333. See?

Because you’re breaking it down into smaller parts, it’s much clearer what you have to do every month to achieve your goal.

Book open on a map page with a vintage camera, compass and money on it.
Oh, the places you can go…if you have money!

Transfer your money right away

Is it payday? Then religiously transfer the money to your dedicated savings account. No discussion. Better yet, set up an automatic withdrawal, and if you ever forget to transfer it yourself, it’s already taken care of.

Do I need this vs Do I want this

Discipline is essential to achieve any goal in life, and it’s no different when you have to save money.

On the way to work, you saw a beautiful jacket that would look amazing on you? Think again, how many jackets do you already have? Is that necessary or it something that you want?

If you answered yes to the second question, forget about that jacket. You don’t need it.

You’re a strong and independent man/ woman who can survive without spending more than necessary. Besides, it’s only for a short period. Discipline, guys.

Think about your reward

An excellent way to keep you motivated is by having a vivid, shiny and beautiful image of the place you’re going to visit. Print it and hang it on the wall or put it in a little frame on your office desk.

The constant memory of what expects you in a few months will work as a fuel to bring you a step closer to your goal.

Oh, and very important: tell your friends and family about your plans! I love sharing my ambitions with them because this way they’ll also think twice before suggesting going out for dinner when we can go for a coffee only.

Red drink on the white sand in front of the blue sea
Think of your goal when you see any temptation in the stores

How to save money for travel in 15 easy steps

Yes, we know it: There’re lots of expenses that we just can’t cut, but on the other hand, there’re a few actionable steps you take today to grow your travel savings faster, and maybe probably enjoy more your holidays. Here are some effective ways to do it:

1. Get rid of cable

Instead of spending $50 per month on cable television, purchase the most basic plan of Netflix which costs around $9, and has lots of excellent titles.

Besides, many channels have a free & legal online stream, and you don’t watch that much television anyway, do you? If you do, find a new hobby.

2. Read more

Change watching television by reading books and blogs. Reading is excellent for your memory, helps against stress, helps sleeping better, and makes you smarter.

Note that I’m only mentioning a few benefits of it, this list is much longer.

On top of that, reading blogs (like this one) is free, and there’s a lot of good content on the internet to help you get to know the world better, or even your holiday destination.

And if you have a kindle, Amazon has lots of intriguing free books available.

Woman with thorn pants reading a book on bed
Reading is excellent for so many things

3. Spend less on lunch

Instead of going for that packed sandwich from the grocery store, bring your own wraps, yogurt, and fruits.

This way you’re not only saving money but also (hopefully) being much healthier by eating more natural stuff. Google is your friend, and the internet is jam-packed with decent recipes. Two birds, one stone.

Oh, and now you can use your lunch break to go for a walk in the park.

4. Replace your light bulbs

Energy is among the most costly monthly bills we have, so make yourself a favor and change your incandescent light bulbs to CFL or LED – they can cut off at least $100 a year from your energy bill.

We know $100 a year doesn’t seem much, but costs can quickly stack up, and every little helps.

5. Quit smoking

It smells bad, it makes your teeth yellow, and it costs a lot of money. Not to mention your health, which you already know by now.

Spending $10 a day on a pack would cost you $3,650 a year. With that money, you can travel for a month in South America or in our beloved Ireland.

Honestly, that’s the best thing you can do for your life. In fact, after doing this little math, Frank stopped smoking himself. A few months later we went to Brazil, and it was awesome.

We know it’s much easier said than done, but you must want it, otherwise you’ll never stop with it, and usually, financial motivations work pretty well.

Ashtray filled with coins and a cigarrete
Stop smoking is the best way to save money for travel

6. No gifts, please

Is your birthday around the corner? Let your parents and friends know that you rather receive money instead of a gift.

Make it clear that you would be happy with whatever amount that is, but you can definitely use some extra cash to achieve your goal a tad faster.

7. Buy second hand

Many times we can save a lot by simply buying 2nd hand stuff. Think of books, electronics, furniture, decoration, anything.

Stop by that hip second-hand store for clothes, next time you (really) need something. You might surprise yourself with your findings.

8. Cut back fancy coffee

We all love Starbucks. Their brownies are delicious. True. But it’s just too expensive. That doesn’t mean you should skip caffeine at all, just change that $5 vanilla latte for a $2 simple coffee from an unbranded shop.

This way you can seriously save at least $500~ a year.

9. Change your supermarket

Here in the Netherlands, we have an excellent supermarket store in every corner called Albert Heijn (AH).

They often have everything you need, and the quality of their products is good. However, that’s the most expensive store by far in the country.

You can cut back a lot every month by simply going to a cheaper grocery store. To demonstrate, we used to buy a teeny tiny pepper mill every couple of months at AH.

It costs around $2.50. Not a big deal. But one day, Frank stopped by a tiny grocery store in our street and bought a 32oz peppercorns bag for $2. We didn’t have to buy pepper again for over a year.

Supermarket cart next to shelves. Tips on how to save money for travel.
Or purchase lesser known brands

10. Eat out less often

Restaurants – fast food or not – are getting more and more expensive. So, go eating out less often and enjoy a bigger savings account.

Seriously, learn to cook, and you’ll save much more at home, but it’ll possibly save you also during your travels too.

On top of that, unprocessed food has a positive impact on your health and pocket at the same time. Again, two birds, one stone.

11. Ditch your landline

Who still has a landline anyway? Ditch your landline and only use your smartphone to make calls. Besides, you can also make calls through WhatsApp or Skype using WiFi. Seriously, stop spending money on it.

12. Cancel your gym membership

We have only told you to stay healthy so far, and now we want you to cancel your gym membership? What the heck?

Yes, that’s exactly what we’re saying. The only difference now is that you’ll exercise in the park, see wildlife, and breathe fresh air.

Seriously, put your headphones on, wear your athletic clothing as usual and go running outdoors.

You’ll notice that going for a morning jog outdoors is a kick-ass way to begin your day. Oh, and you don’t pay for that.

13. Use less or sell your car

This is a difficult one, especially if you live in the United States – it’s a vast country, and public transportation isn’t extensive outside the biggest cities.

We live in the Netherlands, so we basically use the train to visit other towns, or ride our bikes there (the Netherlands is quite flat).

So for us, it’s a tad easier to save money by doing this, but if you can, try using Uber shared rides or ride a bike yourself.

It’s good for your health and pocket – win-win. Oh, and don’t be afraid to go walking. Just wear proper shoes and start slowly while listening to some music.

Foot of a man cycling to save money for travel
Ride a bike!

14. Stop going out

Don’t worry, you don’t need to cut out your social life, but instead of going out and spending a lot of money in bars, clubs, and movies stay at home and invite your friends over for a movie-night for example.

A bottle of a $10 wine, some snacks, Netflix (remember: the basic plan), and you’re set for the night at much lower expenses than at the movies itself.

Agree with your friends to do it in each other’s place every week you’d go out with them.

15. Cut your own hair

Okay, this might be more difficult for guys, but ladies, look, you can totally cut your own hair at home. It might seem scary at first, but if you start slowly, you won’t ruin your look.

On YouTube, you can find lots and lots of tutorials teaching you how to simply cut your hair to cut a specific look.

That’s how I learned how to cut my hair at home, and I have been doing this for years now. The first time, it wasn’t so nice, but I managed to learn enough to look good. You can do it too!

Wrapping up on how to save money for travel

By following these tips, you can grow your travel savings account at least $6,400 a year! Impressive, right?

And these are only 15 tips from among many things you can do to save more money. Have some advice yourself?

Comment below your tips, this way you can help other readers too. And, of course, we’d love to hear from you!

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Our best travel tips & resources:

Here're our all-time favorite travel tips & resources so that you can save money and plan your travel logistics hassle-free! For more travel resources, check out our travel tips.
  • Saving money: Fly on offseason, winter (not Xmas or NYE), Tuesday, or Wednesday! According to experts, these are the cheapest days to fly.
  • Travel insurance: Before you leave for your trip, make sure you have a valid travel insurance policy because accidents happen on the road. We have been paying for Safety Wing travel insurance for a little over a year now, and we happily recommend them to our family and friends.
  • Accommodation: We usually stay in mid-range comfy hotels or private rooms in hostels. These are the sites we use to book accommodation: for hotels (excellent flexible cancellation policy) and Hostelworld for hostels (low deposit and easy cancellation).
  • Tours:We absolutely love booking guided tours with locals to get a history lesson while sight-seeing, especially food tours and walking tours! We book all of our tours using Viator and GetYourGuide.
  • Transportation: We use Google Maps to figure out how to get around a place using public transport. When we book a rental car, we always use Discover Cars to find the best deal.