If you have read the article: “My 5 Steps to Starting a Life of Travel“, you will see that in step #4, I gave out some guidelines on how you can start saving up for your travel fund while you are still in your job. But indeed, they were brief, and I understand that there’s a need for a more detailed discussion; that’s why in this post, I will be sharing with you the money saving tips that I have done in the past so that I could quit my corporate career and travel the world.
It’s important to note that I wasn’t a rich kid, I wasn’t even earning a huge salary from my corporate job — I was a fresh graduate anyways who started working at the age of 19. During those years, I earned just about enough to live by myself every month (at that point I was living alone, separate from my parents). So when I decided to quit my job at 21, I did a LOT of changes in order to have sufficient cash when I do finally leave my corporate career to start travelling.
On the other hand, if you haven’t seen the “5 Steps to Start a Life of Travel” article yet, I suggest that you check it out first before reading the rest of this post because in order for you to start a travel lifestyle, you first need to know how much you would need — your travel fund. And in that article, I have written out in detail the things that you need to consider in order to arrive at a total sum that you would have to work for.
NOTE: It’s important to mention that there are travelers who don’t save up or plan at all — it’s the highest level of spontaneity! But I don’t recommend doing this especially if you don’t have savings, if you don’t know what you’re doing, or if you have no experience travelling before (you still and always need to at least be informed about the places you’re going to). Besides, this predicament usually just happens for those who live in a big continent wherein they can just cross borders, hitchhike, etc. because if you have to cross seas, you evidently would need a plane or boat ticket for that. You should also be knowledgeable about available accommodations, working options, foreign exchange rates, cost of living, language barriers, and so on.
Once you have a travel fund in mind, set with a firm mindset on making this your priority, here are the 4 things that you need to reflect on! Obviously, each of these sections would appear as ‘common concepts‘ but I have included detailed money saving tips, ideas, or steps for every heading so that you could better achieve your saving goals! (These tips would also apply if you generally just want to save).
Identify & Cut All Unnecessary Expenses
I perfectly know that this is a common advice and you’ve probably heard it over and over again; but you have to realize how effective it is and how HUGE the positive effects could be if you do this step earnestly.
I did mention above that when I was still working at a company: “I earned just about enough to live by myself every month” and that’s true. However! Once I analyzed in detail my spending habits, it was INSANE when I realized how much money I would still have left if I really put in some serious discipline!
To help you get started in identifying and cutting the non-essential splurging that you’re doing, remember these:
Transportation If you don’t have a company car (that your work pays for), do consider using public transportation instead of using your personal car so you can conserve on gas fees — with the traffic and rush hour, you’re probably just wasting away a lot of your wage as you sit in your car for hours. (Another alternative: carpool, maybe you have co-workers or friends who are going through your same travel route to the office).
If you’re already using public transportation, try to avoid taxis at all costs! It may seem cheap at first but examine this: let’s say you pay Php 200 ($5) for every one-way trip to your office — oooh, it might not seem a lot, right? But if you multiply that by 20 working days plus 20 more instances (when you use a cab again to go back home) then that would all total to Php 8,000 ($180+) in a month! Imagine saving that!
I had this dilemma before because given my long-standing habit of sleeping and waking up late, I am often forced to take cabs to reach the office on time. This took a huge chunk off of my paycheck that’s why I changed my habits: I conditioned myself to sleep earlier (skipping on my late-night internet sprees) so that I can still take the early AM public transportation on the next day without being faced by the rush hour.
Utilities If you live separate from your parents like me (this might be a common thing overseas, but in Asia, not so) there are lot of things that you could look into.
Your Rent: Why not take a roommate to share the rent? Or change locations to somewhere closer to work? (So you can slash off more from your public transportation costs). Or why not move back in to your parents house? (If you do this, all the other utility expenses will be off your bill list).
Your Electricity: Recall all the energy-saving tips that you’ve learned over the years: turn off the lights when not in use, unplug unused devices, etc. etc.
Your Landline & Cable: Do you really need that landline? I bet you already have your mobile phone and your internet connection, so why don’t you just cancel it? And while you’re at it, take away your cable too. I don’t watch TV at all, but for you, if you do watch TV from time to time, it’s possible that you’re not actually using your cable as much because you’re at work most of the time. To still catch your favorite TV shows, think about watching them online like Netflix; or maybe, your TV antenna can already get the basic channels that you want — that should be fine!
All of Your Bills: Pay them on time. Avoid the extra fees if you fail to pay before the deadline.
Shopping I’m not a shopaholic but I still shop. In the past, I realized a ‘trend’ in my shopping habits wherein every Friday, I would go to the mall with friends. By the end of the night, I find myself with a bag of bought clothes… that I eventually never wore. I restrained myself from doing that and I always end up saving P3,000 ($67+) every week!
So imagine, if you’re a shopaholic, I bet you’ll be able to save more than me if you take control of your expenditures! Should you ever have the urge to buy, ask yourself these kinds of questions:
“Will I need these heels / shoes when I go backpacking around Asia?”
“Where can the value of this dress / suit take me if I rather put it in my travel fund?”
At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re a make-up addict, ask yourself the same questions. Besides, you really won’t need your whole big make-up kit when you go travelling around the world; it will just be extra baggage. Moreover, I’m pretty sure you can live with just one item from each type of cosmetics. Those would even stay good for long (6 months to a year) so you really don’t need to overhaul 10 different shades of lipsticks, for example. If a life of travel really is a priority for you, it should be easy to sacrifice these; or better yet, sell them off so you can reach your fund goal faster.
Social Spending Do you like to party? In the past, my answer to that would always be a resounding YES. I was a party girl before… I was that kind of person because it was my way of celebrating the end of a (hell) week at work. Ask my friends and they would testify to this. (Well of course, today, I still like to party but not so much as before).
This habit was obviously lavish so I decided to go for other options: I invited my friends over at my apartment to have a cocktail or drinking party (wherein everyone has to bring their own or contributed booze). And guess what? It was still fun! Or actually, I had more fun because we didn’t have music blasting our ears apart nor sweaty drunk strangers around. But if you really can’t avoid partying, consider going for guest lists that will cut you back on the entrance fee, let others buy drinks for you, or just don’t drink. Yes, you really don’t need that hangover the next day — you can still have fun without liquor. Yes. Really.
Do you like going to the cinema with friends? Minimize it or skip it altogether. Just wait and watch for the movies online. To still bond with your friends, invite them over for a movie night so all of you could also avoid the ridiculously-priced snacks in the movies! (Or do a food/cooking night!)
Phone Plans I actually never had these because I’m the kind of person who almost have no use of their phone since I usually just contact my friends through the internet. But if you’re one of those people who have a huge bill ongoing every month due to their phone postpaid plans, let me tell you this important word: re-evaluate.
Do you really need that Php 1,000+ plan? Maybe you can get by with a lower plan. Go and downgrade! In case you ever need to contact people or use the internet, just use your computer/laptop/phone in the office. To put this into numbers, if you have a plan of Php 1,500 per month, in a year you’re spending Php 18,000 ($400+)! That amount can already buy you a round-trip ticket and a month’s-worth of living expenses in another cheap country in Asia.
Subscriptions Do you really need that magazine subscription? Probably not.
Do you really need to keep that gym membership? I don’t think you do. I say this because you can still keep your healthy habit without spending that much on fees! How? By just taking your workout outdoors! Though, if you’re not the kind who loves running, opt to try home exercises!
I once had a membership with Fitness First, but after realizing that I barely have the time to make it to the gym anyway before closing time, I decided to cancel my ties with them and just do home exercises like Hip Hop Abs. (The icing to the cake was that other than saving more of my cash, I lost more pounds than when I was in the fitness center!)
Food You can stash away a LOT of moolah if you choose to cook your own meals at home as an alternative to getting your meals from restaurants or fast food places. (With this, you can eat healthier too!)
You don’t know how to cook? Don’t worry, you don’t need to be skilled like a chef to be able to come up with a decent meal in your kitchen. There is a wide range of resources online that can teach you to cook fast, simple, and healthy meals. (TIP: Plan out your meals before you go grocery shopping so you can avoid making unnecessary purchases).
What’s more to this is that: are you a coffee-lover? Bear in mind that for every cup you steer clear off, the closer you get to reaching the amount on your travel fund! If you really need a cup of jo, avoid the big brands like Starbucks because you’re mostly paying for the name. I bet that there are a lot of cafes in your area that are cheaper but with the same or better quality. (Or just make your own cup! At least then, you can control how much sugar or cream you’d like.)
Vanity Nails done, hair done… now look at the total charge. Yep, you could have avoided shelling out that much money if you opted to do it yourself. I guess the locks trimming can’t be avoided especially if you don’t trust your hair-cutting skills, but for coloring? This is something that you can do without the help of professionals (surely it takes some care especially if you’re going to do bleaching, but it can always be learned and you can always ask a friend to help you out).
Others This section is up to you since you probably have other kinds of expenses that I’ve missed out on — so please, do yourself a favor and scrutinize every single payments you regularly make because every coin that you can keep, COUNTS!
If I can add more tips, if you’re the kind of person who happens to get involved in a lot of events: birthdays, weddings, etc. then look into the possibility of making a DIY gift instead of buying stuff from the store. It’s a lot more thoughtful and the sender will know how much effort you put into it. What’s more: let’s talk about habits. Do you occasionally smoke? Reward yourself by giving it up. I know that it can be hard but if you muster some strength and discipline, the end result would be that you’ll be healthier and ‘wealthier’.
Budget & Save
After you identify the expenses that you can cut back on and figuring out the minimum amount that you need to live with, you’ll have a better idea now about the cash that you will have left after every monthly paycheck. I suggest that the bigger percentage of it should be contributed to your travel fund, whereas the remaining percentage should be kept for emergencies (your ‘safety net fund’).
You can use mobile applications like Expensify or Dollarbird (or just use good ol’ Excel so you have better control on what you want to take note of) to stay on track with your spending habits. And in order to stay focused on your saving routine and have more ideas on how you can get more cash, I suggest the following things:
‘Travel Fund’ Savings Account Establish a savings account for your travel fund and make a promise NOT to touch nor use it until you actually start your travel lifestyle. But before opening a new savings account, I suggest that you take note of these things:
- Better to have a savings account that can be accessed online and can be used for international transactions since you will be travelling around a lot
- If you’re not a U.S. citizen and dollar is not your country’s main currency, get a dollar savings account
There is the also the question whether you would need to have a debit or credit card, each has its own advantages and disadvantages but personally, I opt to choose a debit card (still, I can’t ignore the fact that a credit card can be more secure and has a lot of perks). Like what my readers have pointed out, credit cards can be quite handy especially if you convert your reward points into miles! This actually made me remember how some of my fellow travel bloggers have used their CCs to book for their tickets. Therefore, I leave it up to you to pick the best kind of card that will suit your lifestyle!
So since I don’t go for CCs at first, I used to own a BDO (debit) account but afterwards, I decided to transfer my money to Skrill — it’s much like PayPal but it provides me with a Prepaid MasterCard that acts like a debit card and can be used online and offline anywhere. (Currently, I’m planning to set up a new account with a Belgian bank where I can keep most of my savings while still keeping a percentage on my Skrill, which would mostly be for travel).
Savings Buddy Some of us would often need motivation or an additional ‘watchful eye’ to make sure that we stay focused on a savings routine. I didn’t need this before since I can already be pretty brutal in disciplining myself (haha) but some of my friends have set up a ‘savings buddy’ to help them out, and it proved very helpful!
Basically, you can choose to:
- Have a trusted friend/family member who keeps your card to ensure that you don’t touch it and to also ensure that you continue putting money on it; or,
- Have a savings buddy who will join you on your journey. Each of you will keep tabs on one another, making sure that the both of you are actually working towards your travel fund
Coin Jar Every coin helps! Especially if you’re someone who lives with currencies like Euros or British Pounds.
Moonlight ‘Moonlight’ means having a second job which is in addition to your regular employment. Obviously, you would need more cash if you want to reach your travelling goals faster and to escape your 9 to 5 job.
You can do what I did, which is to establish myself as a digital nomad wherein I offer my services online (like graphic + web design, marketing SEO, etc.) or you can try to work on sideline jobs like being a part-timer at a restaurant or cafe on the weekends. The possibilities are endless! But certainly, I know that it will be tiring. Yet again, the keyword to all of this: sacrifice. In life, we often have to make sacrifices in order to get what we absolutely want and I swear to you, once it’s all done with it will be worth it.
The Switch This is already in relation to the 1st section above wherein you cut your expenses. Basically, ‘The Switch’ simply entails switching from expensive brands to cheaper brands. It can be on your groceries, your coffee preference, your phone plans, etc.
Ultimately, you go frugal; you choose to be thrifty with all of your consumption. Even that simple switch of picking a generic brand for your toilet tissues can make a difference!
Fundraising I haven’t done this myself, but there are people who are successful in doing so and there are two ways to do it:
Other than putting up your own website where you ask people to donate to your travel goals, let’s talk about crowdfunding. If you haven’t heard of this term before, it’s a new thing wherein people post their project or venture online and strangers of the internet will help fund it if they’re interested in supporting you. There are several websites wherein you can try to set up your fundraising, however it’s important to note that this mostly only works if you have a very good reason or selfless cause.
- and more! Just search Google.
Staying in Belgium for a while made me learn one of their ‘customs’ wherein for example, during birthdays or weddings, they put up a list of things that they would want their guests to gift them. So if you’re ever about to get married, why not put on your list requests of funding for your trip rather than physical gifts? For a more direct approach, organize your project and pitch it to your friends and family.
Sell & Rent
Sell If you’re going to start travelling the world, you wouldn’t need those 10 pairs of high heels. Nope, you really won’t. Let’s also talk about your clothes: there’s a chance that you’ll probably let them stay (rot) in your apartment or your parents’ house… I advise that you don’t do that. If they are (1) items that you won’t be bringing with you once you travel and (2) items that you haven’t used for months, SELL them off.
This does not only apply to clothing and shoes, because if you have appliances that you won’t be needing later on then those are stuff that can go. Furthermore, if you’re really serious about developing a lifelong travelling lifestyle, you can do what other travelers have done: they have sold off their house/apartment and their car. If you do this, you’ll most certainly have already achieved your travel fund and you will have a lot more extra cash on hand.
Rent If you can’t see yourself selling your house/apartment yet, then rent it! If you haven’t signed up for the famous rental website, AirBnB, try signing through my link (wherein I’ll be giving you free Php 1,105 ($25) — you can use this when you want to rent other properties while you’re on another country). NOTE: You can even rent your car to others.
BONUS: Money Saving Tips to Continue Living a Life of Travel
I like the concept of ‘following through’, so even after attaining your travel fund, you need to continue thinking of ways to save and earn while overseas.
- Find work that you can do abroad. This might not matter if you’re one of those travelers who have a lot of money; but for those who have just about enough, there should always be that lingering question of “How can I continue doing a life of travel?” For my case, I’ve managed to mix career and travel by rendering services online that I am interested and in love with: marketing, graphic + web design etc. That today, I have even come up with an idea for my own business (it has been up and running and it’s called Adalid Gear!) For ideas on other jobs that you can do while on the road:
- Go to cheaper countries and cities first. These can be countries in Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe. For a more comprehensive list of places and their cost of living, check out Nomad List. Now when you do get to pick a country, the next step you should do is to stay away from cities — go to the smaller towns since those would be even more cheaper (BONUS: you might even end up finding a hidden ‘gem’ of an area!)
- Travel slow. It will save you lots of cash! Stay in a place longer and you’ll have a fuller experience too. Besides, there’s no rush right?
- Set alerts for flight deals. Sign up to the newsletters of local and international airlines so that you’re always updated of any huge sales! This will help lower the amount you’ll have to pay for your plane tickets if you’re planning to go somewhere very far or even near (if you don’t want to travel by land).
- If you can, always go for land travel. Because it’s cheaper than doing every country hop by air, of course. TIP: Check if a round trip train/bus ticket is cheaper than a one-way one (because most of the time, it is!)
- Walk more. When you’re in a new country, try to walk more; refrain from jumping into a taxi, train, tram or bus the moment you see one. You’ll get to see and experience more things this way without giving away your moolah.
- Book tickets or go during low season. Other than the fact that it’s usually less crowded during low season, costs are usually lower too.
- Pick cheap food or cook your own food. TIP: Other than going to the day or night markets, you can find cheaper food in areas that are near schools. And if you’re going to stay longer, always make it a point to cook your own food; don’t dine out all the time. (This is the same habit that you’ve developed during your ‘saving’ period so it’s great if you could continue it).
- Never exchange money at airport kiosks. They usually have higher rates because they have little competition (it’s an airport!) so if you want to secure a better deal, if you have time, it’s better to go and look around for other places that can give you a better quote. You can also order currencies online in advance through your bank or you can just withdraw money from an ATM.
- Haggle like a pro. Recognize the huge power of negotiations!
- Try to aim for free accommodations. I’ve discussed this in my 5 Steps article wherein there are a lot of options that can score you free lodging: couchsurfing, home stay, volunteering, etc. (If you’re a travel blogger like me, ask if a hotel/hostel will be interested in taking you in exchange for exposure online). Otherwise, if you have a friend or relative in the place you’re going to, ask if you could stay with them for a while.
» NOTE: Know that typical volunteering jobs like hostel work, fruit-picking, etc. are technically considered illegal if you don’t have a work visa or permit on you; so try to ensure that you have one to be completely safe. However, it’s still possible to volunteer even without a work visa — though risky — some travelers have done it as long as they don’t mention it at the immigration or attract the attention of the authorities. Still and the same, remember that if you take a paid volunteering job, it’s highly risky without a work permit; but if you take a job that would offer you accommodation and/or food in return, it’s generally considered a gray area, thus very doable.
It all boils down to three things: sacrifice, prioritization, and discipline. Once you get into these habits/routines, being frugal can easily become ‘second nature’ to you. Achieving your dreams of travelling will become very obtainable!
If I have made this lifestyle happen, then so can you! It really involves a LOT of hard work, yet I believe that you can make it. But remember not to do too many sacrifices that you end up sickly and unhappy; strive to always find the perfect balance — which I hope you will because I still found happiness despite living simpler.
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I am Aileen Adalid. At 21, I quit my corporate job in the Philippines to travel the world. Today, I am a digital nomad (entrepreneur & travel writer) living a sustainable travel lifestyle.
My mission? To show you how it is absolutely possible to create a life of travel, and I will help you achieve that through my detailed travel guides, resources, and tips!
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CURRENTLY BASED IN: The Philippines
NEXT: Vietnam, Guam, South Korea, Taiwan, Europe
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