One of the most commonly asked questions in the travel community is “How do I save money in order to travel more?”.
I often think of ways to reduce wasteful, unnecessary spending. Of course there are some fixed costs which are difficult – or impossible – to reduce, such as your rent / mortgage, school / university fees and bank loans. There are significant changes you can make, like downsizing and moving to a cheaper house or area, or finding loans with better interest rates. However, this post will predominantly focus on small, practical changes you can make to your everyday routine and habits, so you can accumulate more disposable income for your travel fund.
Tracking your spending
Take the time to record your spending, in as much detail as possible. There are several apps & websites which will help you keep track of money coming in & out of your accounts. For example: Mint, GoodBudget, Acorn and Digit. Alternatively, create your own Excel spreadsheet, log and compare your outgoings every month. Or simply use a notebook. The important thing is to write down everything you spend – every coffee, every magazine, every bus ticket, every chocolate bar.
It is worthwhile reviewing how you spend money. Do you pay for most things using your credit or debit card? Do you prefer using coins and notes? Research shows that people spend more when paying on card. The exchange of money is not tangible; we don’t hold the coins or notes in our hands or see the money disappearing from our wallets. It would be better to take out some money at the start of the week – e.g. £100 – and continue to only pay in cash until the £100 is gone.
Inside the house
It is a good idea to review your TV, internet and energy providers (water, gas, electricity). Compare your providers’ rates with their competitors’ then talk to your provider and ask them to match what their competitors offer. You may be able to move to a more economical tariff, without having to register with another company. On this note, you should also analyse your home/health/car and travel insurance policies to check you’re getting best value for money.
Here are some other changes you can make:
- Reduce how much indoor heating and air conditioning you use
- Switch to energy saving light bulbs
- Make sure you turn off your lights when you leave a room
- Unplug your chargers and electronic devices
- Air dry clothes rather than using a tumble dryer
- Take showers instead of baths
- Do your own cleaning instead of employing a weekly cleaner
- Research how to use everyday store cupboard ingredients – like vinegar – to clean your house, rather than buying expensive cleaning products.
You can keep socialising while saving. You don’t need to become a recluse! You just need to adapt how you socialise and be open to trying new activities. I would suggest telling your friends you are trying to spend less so they understand why you might decline invitations to expensive clubs or Michelin-starred restaurants.
Restaurants & bars
- Before going to a bar or club, invite your friends around for pre-drinks. Share a bottle of wine from the supermarket; it’ll probably be around the cost of a single glass of wine in a wine bar.
- Visit Groupon to find out which local restaurants offer discounted meals and special offers.
- See if any of your friends have a Tastecard.
- At dinner, share starters and desserts with friends (or skip them entirely!).
- Ask to only pay for what you ordered, rather than splitting the bill equally. Especially if your friends have ordered more dishes or alcohol than you.
- It is much cheaper to buy coffee to make at home before work. You could buy a thermos / coffee flask to carry it on your commute.
- If your workplace has a coffee machine or a kettle, make use of it.
- In coffee shops, replace your regular frappacino or spiced chai tea latte with an espresso or espresso macchiato (espresso with a splash of milk). The simpler the coffee, the cheaper it’ll be. You will still get your caffeine fix, but for half the price….and a fraction of the calories!
Food & drink
- Have you got into the habit of buying lunch every day for work? It may not seem like much on a daily basis….. but that is at least £15 a week, £60 a month and £720 a year!
- Invite your friends around for lunch or dinner. Take it in turns to cook for each other, or do a potluck where everyone brings a dish. If the weather’s good, head outside for a picnic!
- Don’t order takeaway pizza anymore – make your own at home! It can be a really fun group activity. Although you may learn that one of your friends likes ham & pineapple as a topping combination…
- Cook dinners in bulk at home – large portions mean you can take some to work the next day and freeze the rest. Base your dishes around rice, pasta, beans, cous cous, lentils, potatoes and other cheap staples, then add vegetables and other ingredients.
- Reduce how much alcohol you drink. You could stop mid-week drinking and keep it as a weekend treat.
TV / Films
- See if your local cinema has off-peak days and times where ticket prices are reduced. Matinee performances are often cheaper than evening shows at the cinema (along with the theatre!).
- When you go to the cinema, don’t buy the extortionately overpriced popcorn and other snacks. Make your own popcorn at home – popcorn kernels cost as little as £2 for 500g and take only a few minutes to cook. Or visit a nearby supermarket to buy cheap snacks.
- If you don’t watch live TV very often, consider selling your TV and using your computer/tablet to watch Netflix/Amazon Prime or stream episodes.
- If you have cable or a TV package you aren’t making full use of, contact your provider to change to a cheaper package or cancel it altogether.
- Buy a bike instead of a car. Or use public transport.
- If your colleagues live near you, suggest car sharing / car pooling.
- When visiting friends in different cities, travel by coach instead of train. Companies like Flixbus, Megabus and National Express offer great deals, especially if you book in advance.
- If you have an expensive gym membership that you are not making full use of, change to a cheaper gym or cancel it!
- Buy hand weights and a yoga mat to exercise at home instead.
- Visit Youtube channels like Fitness Blender for free online workouts.
- Think of ways to exercise outside; jogging, bike riding, hiking, swimming at a cheap swimming pool…. or meeting a friend for a long walk & a catchup.
- Set a budget for your weekly food shop – and stick to it! When you enter the shop, put your budget into your phone’s calculator. Every time you put an item in your shopping basket, subtract the price off your total. It will help you prioritise what you buy and encourage you to compare brands to see which product is cheaper.
- Buy own / home brand products instead of well-known brand names.
- Visit the supermarket just before closing time and look out for discounted food. Once you get home, cook or freeze it straight away.
- When buying clothes, visit second-hand / charity / thrift shops.
- Organise a clothes swap with your friends or colleagues and exchange items you don’t like or wear anymore.
- Never pay full price for non-essential items – make use of the sale seasons! These are usually in the summer months and immediately after Christmas.
- Do your own pedicures and manicures. Paint your nails and dye your hair by yourself. Invite a friend to join you for a DIY spa day!
- Make your own face masks rather than buying them.
- If you are paying a lot for your haircuts, ask your friends to recommend a better value salon and reduce the number of haircuts you get.
Selling unwanted items
- Try to sell unwanted items on Ebay, Poshmark, Mercari, MusicMagpie and similar websites.
- Go to a car boot or jumble sale, or hold your own garage sale.
Earn extra income
- Selling handmade arts & crafts products like artwork and jewellery
- Find part-time freelancer work on Upwork, Freelancer or Fiverr.
- Rent a two-bedroomed apartment in a popular area and advertise the second bedroom on Air B&B.
Other money-saving ideas
- Create a separate savings account and directly deposit money into it after payday.
- Whenever you get a £2/€2 coin, take it out your wallet and keep it somewhere safe. You’d be amazed how much money you have after a year of saving these coins!
- Collect all those annoying little 1 and 2 cent/pence coins you receive and when you have a small pile of them, cash them in at the bank.
- Swap books within your friendship group or borrow them from your local library. Alternatively you could join a book club – or start your own!
- If you have an Amazon kindle, download their free books.
- Cancel your magazine subscriptions.
- Don’t buy CDs anymore – get a free Spotify account.
- Carry a reusuable water bottle to avoid buying bottled water from the shops. I use this one from Amazon.
- Invite friends over for board game nights or to play cards.
- See what free events and festivals are being organised by your city council and local organisations.
- Go on free walking tours – it can be a great way to learn more about your city.
- Make homemade birthday and Christmas presents, such as jewellery, artwork or baked goodies.
- If you’ve developed the habit of buying lottery tickets or scratchcards, it’s time to give them up!
- If you’re a smoker, try to quit – it’s a very expensive habit!
Remember, it is not about sacrifice, only reprioritising. Don’t be too restrictive or put too much pressure on yourself. Allow yourself treats in moderation and if there’s an event you really really want to attend, GO! Have a great time! Make sure that you remain focused on saving up for what makes you happy. Changing your spending habits is a marathon, not a sprint, and don’t punish yourself if you stumble along the way.
It’s ok to say “No, thank you”. You don’t have to always show your face at every event, you can miss a dinner or two and still be part of the gang. Politely decline events that are out of your budget or that don’t really excite you. If your friends comment on your absence or complain, reiterate how important travelling is to you. You prioritise travel just as they may choose to spend their money on clothes, makeup, concerts or restaurants.
I hope my ideas and suggestions have been useful. If you have any other money-saving techniques, please add them to the comments below!
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow
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