9 Ways To Save Money For Travel (or any big purchase)

Trying to save some travel money? Socking away $$ for your big trip? I saved enough on a teacher's salary to travel for 10 months! Here's how >> yesandyes.org
Dear Sarah,
I’m writing is to ask you about saving money for travelling. You see, I’m off in the beginning of March for three months in New Zealand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. My boyfriend and I bought our ticket on Saturday and I’m getting pretty worried about the money situation – even though we’ve decided to do it on the cheap.
I have a full time job but it pays badly – do you have any tricks to raise money in a fairly short time? Although I’m sure you were sensible and saved up over a long time!
Oh, friend. Yes, I was sensible (and a bit boring) and saved up over a long time. But all is not lost! You can put away a good chunk of money if you’re willing to make some changes.

9 ways to save money for travel (or any big purchase)

Get a Second Job or a side hustle

Blowing your mind with my originality, right? But it’s obviously easier to save money if you’ve got two or three streams of income. And a second job doesn’t have to mean working every evening and weekend at Starbucks. You could tutor the neighborhood kids, house-sit for family friends, babysit your cousins – there are a million options.

Here’s an article with some great ideas for second jobs. I know that working two jobs is a drag of epic proportions. But if you’re doing it for a limited amount of time and to raise money for a very specific reason, it seems exponentially more tolerable. At least that’s what I always tell myself while I’m tutoring poorly behaved fifth graders.

Put Yourself on a Crazy Tight Budget

Again with the mind-blowing, right? Suzy Orman, watch out! Making a budget is wicked easy: look into how much you need to buy your round-the-world ticket/new car/house/Jimmy Choos, look at how much discretionary income you have, do a bit of math and see how long it should take you to save enough to buy said pair of shoes. If you’re not happy with that amount of time: reexamine the way you spend your money.

Surely you can trim a little fat?

*Cancel the cable (that’s what Hulu is for, y’all!)
*Split wi-fi with someone in your building
*Cancel your gym membership and go for walks with friends or workout at home
*Start cooking at home instead of eating out so much
*Go cold turkey on Starbucks
*Don’t drink so much. If you’re going to party, pre-game at home so you’re not spending $40 at the bar every weekend
*Get a flatmate
*If you engage in retail therapy (aka: are human) why not hit up a thrift store or a nice second-hand boutique? You’ll save heaps of money and still feed the hunger for new shoes

My budgeting non-secret

I allot myself a certain amount of ‘fun money’ each week and withdraw that amount in cash from an ATM. Once that money’s gone, I’m stuck at home eating soup and watching library DVDs until Sunday rolls around again.

Realize that every non-essential thing you buy is a step away from your dream

Oh, that’s a bit dire, isn’t it? But it’s true, y’all. Before you buy yet another set of decorative towels, realize that all that terry cloth equates to one night in a Cambodian hostel. Or a can of paint for the house you want to buy. Or two weeks worth of car insurance on that Saab you don’t have yet. If you want to make these things happen, you have to make them a priority, right?

Find Sponsors

If you’re saving up for something remarkable and do-goodery – launching a non-profit,working with an under served population – there might be people willing to help fund your dream. Learn how to write grants proposals, contact your local paper and see if they’re will to write up your story.

If you’re incredibly cheeky (and clever) you could even aim for corporate sponsorship like Dancing Matt of Youtube fame (Stride gum sponsored his trip) or Maggie Mason, whose life list is being sponsored by Intel.

Remind Yourself Why You’re Doing This

No amount of budgeting will help if you’re not in the right mindset and let’s be honest, giving up your Americano habit isn’t particularly easy or fun. But nearly everything in life worth having requires a bit of work and sacrifice, no?

Make an active effort to remind yourself why you’re making these sacrifices.If you’re saving up for a trip to India learn how to make paneer, listen to some punjabi mc and rent some bollywood flicks. If you’re socking away money for a house, make lists of features in your dream house, stop by designsponge and haunt all those real estate open houses. You’ll be more likely to stick to your financial guns when the reason is at the forefront of your mind.

Sell Your Stuff

Granted, this money making scheme is best employed when you’re moving or about to travel, but certainly there are some things sitting around your house, gathering dust. If you’ve upgraded to a flat screen, maybe someone wants your old tv? And if you’ve got a laptop, do you really need a netbook? Craigslist awaits, my friends.

Drastic measures To be utilized only when you are really broke or need to save an huge amount of money

Move Back in with Your Parents

Twin beds, dial-up internet and casseroles every night for dinner. But it’s (probably) rent free. I’m sure you’ll save everyone’s sanity by helping around the house, not bringing boys home from the bar as 2 am and setting some parameters before you move in, right?

Teach ESL in Asia/The Middle East

Drastic? Yes. Effective? Definitely. After the first six months when I spent all my money on Ikea furniture and t-shirts with terrible Engrish, I saved $1,000 a month. Really! With no effort and no impact on my swanky quality of life.

It should be noted that this doesn’t hold true for ESL in all Asian countries – I’d hazard the guess that you’d have the most luck in Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Hong Kong. Correct me if I’m wrong!

Take Part in Medical Studies

My goodness but this is drastic, no? I’ve never done these myself but I have several friends who financed large chunks of college with medical studies – and they still have all their limbs and appear to be fertile! Of course, if you’re going to do these exercise caution, do heaps of research and start small.

P.S. I would be remiss in my role as pseudo-financial advisor is I didn’t make the point that you really shouldn’t buy trips/cars/houses that you can’t afford (I’m looking at you, America’s housing crisis). I know that those shoes are calling your name, but if the choice is between groceries and green cute boots, be a grown up. A human can’t live on patent leather alone.

How do you save up for big ticket items? What’s your relationship with money like?

P.S. How I paid off $50,000 of school debt 5 years ahead of time + How I traveled for 10 months on $5,000

photo by toa heftiba // cc

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  1. Kate @ Tres Lola

    Second jobs will make you totally appreciate all the more the awesomeness of the holiday. In the months before I left for the UK I was legal seccing in the day and being a cleaner at night.. there is nothing like a million dirty toilet bowls to make you appreciate the end reward. & I love your ATM rule, I do that too.

  2. superalzy

    That ATM rule is right on!

    I wrote an article about saving money recently also. One of my best tips is to pie chart your paycheck. I put at least 1/4 of every check into my savings, sometimes more if I'm between cell phone bills or didn't need as much gas that week. Generally 1/4 goes to student loans, 1/4 goes to bills/necessities and 1/4 stays in my checking for when I need gas or for morning coffee and a couple Friday Happy Hour drinks with friends.

  3. The Naked Redhead

    Ha, my relationship with money used to be like a torrid affair. We'd wine and dine each other, be seen in public being wildly inappropriate, then emotionally drain each other. In the end, money left me high and dry with the financial equivalent of a walk of shame.

    Now I'm in a much more stable relationship with money. "Budget" is no longer a dirty word, and it's nice to not be constantly worried about finances.

    Good post, SV.

  4. MP

    Great post Sarah! And one near and dear to the Mr. and my's heart right now. Exciting plans are in the works…

  5. pinkapplecore

    those are really great tips!! thanks!

  6. miss. chief

    I also have the ATM rule. These were all really great tips.

  7. Hip Hip Gin Gin

    All of these tips are really great! Especially the ATM, there is something about seeing actual money trade hands that makes me not want to spend.

    One that I would add is don't waste food. Not only is it just sad when food spoils but any food you buy and don't end up eating is money in the garbage too. Since there are only two of us husband and I used to waste a lot of food by trying not to shop so often. Now we grocery shop every few days and only buy a large quantity of something canned or frozen, it has actually saved us a surprising amount of money.

  8. Stephanie

    I love these kinds of articles. Now if only I had a steady paycheck…;)

    BODA weight loss

  9. lorax

    I'm abroad right now and really starting to worry about money. Even though I can't do a lot of what you listed because I am abroad, it was still a great help!

    The best thing, for me, is to not spend those little things. When I'm tempted to buy some coffee on the way home, I remind myself of how badly I want to visit other countries while I'm here.


  10. Anne (in Reno)

    I am totally instituting that ATM rule just for practical purposes!

    Also, if you like to party, I highly recommend the pre-game at home idea (we used to call it a pre-funk). The music/company is usually better and the booze is always cheaper, so get thee a DD and get a little buzzed and you will suddenly be saving a lot of cash if you can have one drink out instead of four. This was how my roomies and I made it through college without going broke. Just remember the DD part.

  11. Kristie Lynne

    My boyfriend and I are saving for our wedding in July. It's super hard cutting out restaurants, going to movies, etc. but we're finding ways of doing fun, cheap things. We go to dollar movies, make mac n' cheese together, go on walks. Paying for the whole wedding on our small income, seems like a feat, but it's going to happen. Thanks for reminding me.

  12. Danielle

    I'm recently unemployed, and until I found out how much unemployment benefits I was going to get, I just assumed the worst. So I stopped going out to eat, stopped driving (not commuting saves a surprising amount of money!), started biking everywhere, and tried not to spend money unless it was absolutely necessary. I learned how much money I would need to spend on bills and divided that into how much I had saved. It was a sobering thought, so I stopped spending money cold turkey. I also learned the delights of roasting whole chickens. A week's worth of food for $5? Sign me up!

  13. megan

    For me, in addition to spending as little as possible, I think it helps to put a little away each paycheck, even if it's just a small amount like $5 or $10.

    What you said about remembering that buying nonensitial things is going backwards and remembering why you are trying so hard is very important.

    I think it would also help to have someone there to help, encourage (not badger), and remind you of the goal. Even better if you are working towards the same thing. Support helps.

    I would say that my relationship with money is a good one. Right now things are a bit tight, as I'm still recovering from Christmas, had to pay more on my car tires than I thought, etc, but things are looking up.

  14. Jen

    Oh, I needed this post right now. I just withdrew a pretty significant amount from my "wedding" savings to pay off debt and purchase some ski equipment, and now I need to work on replenishing that money. I also need to save more for that "wedding" account and for my "vacation" account so I can go away in May. I already have a second job freelancing for a local newspaper, but I'm considering a third job in a nearby retail store since my 9-5 is working from home now, and the freelance gig is only one night a week. Also working on a budget, and sticking to it!

  15. teresa

    Great tips. Also, I like how you say "flatmate", like a good honorary kiwi 🙂

  16. N

    I am trying to buy my own car right now, pay off two credit cards, and not default on my student loans. On a barista's cash flow! When I had a second job this past summer, I spent all the extra money I made on food and fun! The cherry on top is the Coach heels that I have wanted for SO long, and they finally went on sale, and I used money that I got for Christmas to buy them. I haven't worn them yet because I should really take them back and use the money to pay off debt. It's so hard to be a grown up.

  17. Lovers, Saints and Sailors

    I work in the city surrounded by wonderful stores full of gorgeous things, so the 1 hour lunch break spent wandering around is an exercise in restraint but I came up with this little reward for myself.

    For every day that I don't buy something on my lunch break I put $25 in my savings account. I already automatically put 10% of my wage in savings and this way on good weeks I save an extra $125!

  18. Louise

    I gave up drinking in bars, but I found it hard to keep up with my friends' partying ways so I devised a system;
    I'd drive all my friends to the bar/club/party and home on the condition that they bought me a Red Bull or a cheeseburger or two during the night – I was cheaper and more convenient than a taxi for them and I guaranteed myself a fun but free night out every night.

    Also if you insist on eating out, cut back on the extras. Don't get a large meal, just get the burger. Skip an entree. Go back home for coffee and dessert. Ask for a 6 inch sub with extra salad instead of the usual footlong.

    And lastly, look into a high interest savings account and earn interest when you're saving. The best accounts usually will only give you the interest if you make no withdrawals that month, so there's an extra incentive to not spend that money.

  19. Elizabeth.

    I'm doing this right now, and blogging about it too (sooo 2010, right?)!

    Right now I'm concentrating on paying back debts I amassed last year when I was sick and couldn't work as much and spent a lot of money on doctors and psychs and medicine and retail therapy, but as soon as that's paid off I'll be saving to move to Milan. Who knows when it'll happen, but it's so nice to have something to focus on!


  20. Annie

    The ATM rule is how I live!

    I loved this post sooooo much. Also, Yes and Yes is easily one of my favorite blogs on the web 🙂

  21. Lorena

    This was such a good and fun read !
    Thank you for sharing some great tips….

  22. Katie

    These are just the perfect times I needed at the perfect time! Thank you darlin' X

  23. kathrynoh

    If I'm saving for something big, I chuck most of my pay cheque into a savings account that I've lost the ATM card for. If I need it, I can go into the branch and withdraw it but it gives me a cooling off period for random purchases.

    It's amazing how much crap you can cut out of your life and not even miss.

  24. Liz

    I try to walk away from things that I want but don't really need. If I even remember them the following week I may reconsider buying them. And even then I may decide to give it another week. Usually I forget about them completely. Amazing how many things we buy really are impulse purchases!

    I've also pretty much quit using the credit card in favor of the debit card. The money I'm spending seems much more "real" if it's coming directly out of my bank account – and I really hate to see the balance go down instead of up!

  25. Meghan

    As someone who struggles to adhere to a budget (but yet wants to travel to expensive places), it is always best to have the goal in the front of your mind, as you said. I will put a sweater back on a rack and drive right by Starbucks without stopping if I am thinking "trip to Greece."

    Also cheers to selling unwanted stuff on Craigslist or eBay– a little extra cash and a liberating feeling besides!

  26. lisa

    I still live at home, which goes a looong way in helping me save money. I also put aside a chunk of every paycheck into my savings account and designate that "hands off" money, so I learn to budget around what I have and make do with the remainder of my money. If I'm really scrimping, I'll pack lunch to work everyday. 🙂

  27. dolmadez

    Temp agencies might be able to help in finding a second job, but it depends on the agency and where you live. The bigger the city, the more jobs are out there, the more likely you'll get called to fill in for offices here and there. Usually the pay isn't too bad, either. And of course, the winter holiday season is a great time to pick up a second job for just a month or two. (I worked as Santa's helper once, which was an experience in and of itself!)

  28. Andrea @ Become a Consultant Blog

    Hey, thanks for the link. Second jobs are a great way to save up for big ticket items…and to get out of the hole sometimes dug by life experiences (and also previous big ticket items).

  29. ummmmheyyyy

    Finally, a money-saving blog post that actually has some new ideas (cough Bootsnall/Nomadic Matt..)! 🙂 I like your "crazy tight budget" ideas. I think I spend a lot of money on weekends on going out & eating out, and it cancels my savings on eating in during the week. I just get lazy. :/ haha. This is going to inspire me to cook more on weekends.

    "Once that money's gone, I'm stuck at home eating soup and watching library DVDs until Sunday rolls around again." — well said, well said. Lol.

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