I have a lot of people tell me that they would love to travel, but it’s too expensive or they don’t have the money to – therefore, they CAN’T.
I want to tell you that if you really want to make it happen then YES. YOU. CAN.
I’ve self-funded all of my trips, even on a college student’s budget (no handouts from mom and dad here!), and I’m here to share my secret to making it happen!
Make a travel budget in the form of a vacation savings account and treat your payment to the vacation savings account as if it’s a monthly non-negotiable bill.
I know, I know. Your response is probably “I don’t have any money to spare!”. Many of you feel that you simply can’t afford another “monthly bill”. In most cases, that’s absolutely true – if you make absolutely no changes to what you’re doing right now with your finances.
I don’t mean to make this sound easy, but it’s not impossible. It’s all about shifting priorities.
Saving isn’t any fun if you don’t have a goal of what that savings is going towards, but a vacation that is within reach is a very tangible and motivating reason to save, am I right?
How Much Do I Need to Save?
So…just how much are we talking about saving here? The bottom line, the price of a vacation will vary based on your travel style, destination, your location, number of people going, and when you travel.
You can make a trip much cheaper with lower grade lodging, and by avoiding the expensive tourist activities. Your airfare will be more expensive the further you have to fly, or the more remote the destination. Solo travelers can just worry about saving for themselves, but they don’t reap the potential lodging benefits of sharing a room. Traveling to popular destination during peak versus off-peak can also significantly affect the price of a trip.
So even though each trip will need to be looked at individually to determine a reasonable trip budget, I’ve put together some monthly savings estimates to help you get started on your journey to saving for your next journey.
These estimates are based on trip totals for 1 person, based on a moderately luxurious trip. The trip totals include airfare, lodging, domestic transport, activities, and food. The length of the trip gets longer as the destination is further away, simply because travelers tend to take a longer vacation if they lose 1-2 days to travel.
Certainly a 10-day trip to Europe can be both cheaper and more expensive than these estimates show, but they are meant to be a rough guide to get you started saving even if you don’t know where or when you want to go.
Though these are preliminary and generalized estimates, I’ve found that they a good rule of thumb for the average travelers.
- Traveling 5 days to North or Central American destination: save $175/month for 1 year
- Traveling 7 days to South American destination: save $225/month for 1 year
- Traveling 10 days to Europe destination: save $250/month for 1 year
- Traveling 14 days to Asian/Oceania destination: save $300/month for 1 year
And of course, if you have longer to save, then you need to save even less per month!
You can do the math (multiply by 12!) to get an idea of what the total trip price will be. Keep in mind that these estimates are based on the savings for one person. If you are responsible for the trip expenses of other people in your group, you’ll need to adjust your savings accordingly. Likewise, if you plan to stay in a luxury hotel instead of a 3-star hotel, these estimates might be a little low for your travel style.
Spending Less = Savings for Vacation
Now you know how much you need to save, so how do you do it if you don’t have extra cash just laying around? This is going to sound familiar, but it’s the all-too-simple-but-difficult-to-follow rule of budgeting: if you spend less, you can save more. And go on vacation. Whoo!
Here are some ideas – can any be applied to your lifestyle to reach a savings of $175-$300 per month?
Do you have Wi-Fi at your home and work? Then why do you need an unlimited data plan? My husband and I share 10GB of data every month and still use data on-the-go without even thinking about it. Yeah, there are months when our usage gets tight, but we are saving so much by not having the “security blanket” of unlimited data. And did you know that most unlimited data plans go unused?
Cable is out of style, guys – so stop paying a ridiculous amount for it! Cut your cable service and only keep your internet provider. Pick 1 or 2 subscription on-demand services that you can stream to your TV depending on your shows!
Food + Drink
How often do you eat out? Choose a few days each month to treat yourself to a meal out instead of making it a norm. Sorry, eating out for lunch everyday at work is not going to help you meet your savings goals.
What is the average price of your meals when you eat out? If you track this amount over a year, it will likely shock you, if not make you sick to your stomach. Shoot for less than $10/person or $20/couple for sit-down meals. Maybe this means not ordering the appetizer or dessert, having one less beer, or sharing a meal.
Check out 23 Way to Spend Less Money Eating at Restaurants for more ideas on how you can stop throwing away your money at restaurants.
Do you buy a ton of groceries and end up wasting a lot? Plan your meals, simplify your meals, and buy only what you need on a weekly basis.
Ladies, what personal care services and product expenses do you have every month? Hair, nails, waxing, massages, facials, skincare, makeup – all of the above?
Pick your “problem areas”, choose the ones you can’t live without, and cut back on the rest. For me, I have less than ideal skin so I spend quite a bit on skincare every other month, but this in turn has caused me to spend less on makeup. Some more ideas:
- Treat yourself to a pedicure every other month or even more sparingly. You can especially do this in the winter when you aren’t wearing sandals as often.
- Ask for gift certificates to a spa for massages and facials for your birthday, anniversary, or other gift-giving holidays.
- If you have great skin already, maybe you don’t need the most expensive skincare on the market, and some drugstore face wash and exfoliator will do the trick.
- Quit spending so much money on trending makeup from Sephora! I love Sephora, but stick with your essential products that you know you will use.
- Are you paying for a personal trainer or gym and not seeing results? Try something else less expensive – find a group workout class, start working out at home, or find a cheaper gym.
Outside of your bills and extra monthly expenses, what else are you spending your hard-earned cash on?
- Clothing? Get rid of your recurring monthly shipment of clothes or beauty products if you aren’t seeing your bang for the buck. Many of these services try to trick you into thinking that you can’t opt out, but there is always a way. Return items that didn’t work out. Stores offer a return policy in hopes that they can capitalize on our laziness to come back to return something. While an annoying errand to run, tell yourself you are “making money” when you return the item that didn’t work out.
- Alcohol? It’s always going to be cheaper to drink at home instead of at a restaurant or bar. If you find yourself drinking more than on a social occasion, either 1) get your health in check, or 2) join a rewards club at a liquor store to help with the recurring cost. No judgment here.
- Home Decor? Unless you strive to be the hostest with the mostest, keep your seasonal home decor to a handful of inviting pieces that you can reuse every year. Buying new Fall decorations every year adds up quick, and storing all of the seasonal items for the rest of the year isn’t fun either.
- An expensive hobby? There are some hobbies that require a lot of equipment, and that stuff may not be cheap. I am by no means suggesting that you stop a hobby which brings you joy, but if you have more than one expensive hobby, you should consider which one brings you the most fulfillment. You could realize a lot of money in a short time by dropping an occasional hobby that requires expensive equipment.
One final tip: Have a birthday coming up? Tell anyone that might get you a materialistic gift that what you really want is a contribution to an upcoming trip.
The Only Reason You Will FailI’ve given you some ideas for cutting down costs, and hopefully you’ve found at least one area where you can try to save some serious cash for your next vacation! You won’t change your spending in the majority of these areas, but the great news is that you only need to find a few! The point here is to pick one or two that you can work on to save roughly $200/month.
These changes are not necessarily going to be easy. In fact, they can feel monumental if it’s second nature to spend money on these things. Because of this, there’s a chance you will flat out fail at saving any money towards your vacation, but I’m here to tell you that the number one reason that you will not succeed at cutting down on costs in your area of choice is this:
You will still tell yourself “IT’S OKAY” to spend money on those things.
You will rationalize this thought because 1) you work hard and deserve it, 2) you have enough money to pay the bills so what’s the big deal, or 3) what’s the harm if you “cheat” once or twice.
I agree, you DO deserve whatever item you are buying because of your hard work! But bottom line, if you continue to choose those items over saving for your vacation, then a vacation is not an actual priority to you.
I’ve been coached to ask yourself every time you are about to purchase an item to place a value in terms of hours spent at work, and think about if it’s worth that much (in time) to you. Another way to approach this mindset is to think about whether the item you are about to purchase is worth more than your savings towards your vacation.
By continuing to spend thousands of dollars on eating out or on on personal care items you are putting a priority on this type of lifestyle instead of traveling. And if you’re good with that, then you won’t be complaining that you have no money for a vacation!
Now on the flip side, if you absolutely can’t find a way to save the target amount by cutting down on your expenses, then the answer will have to be finding a way to make more money. The good news is that it’s 2019 and the possibilities are nearly endless for how to do this!
A friend introduced me to Chris Guillebeau’s Side Hustle School, which is great place to start your brainstorming sessions for making more money on the side (and beyond!). Listening to Side Hustle School podcasts eventually led to the launch of my business, Wild Hair Travels!
Let’s Plan Your Trip Budget
I am very mindful of the budget for every trip that I plan for my clients and it is a priority that I communicate to my clients at every step of the process. During the consultation for your trip, I learn about your travel style and ask for your trip budget. I can inform you upfront if that budget will work for your destination and travel style and can help you adjust if needed.
Maybe you don’t know your trip budget, because you don’t currently have any money saved for your trip, but you still want to find a way to make it happen. Well, if you’ve read this far, it means you are very committed and eager to figure out a way to fund your trip, and for that reason – I would love to offer you a FREE Travel Budget Planning and Forecasting session with yours truly. There is no commitment required to use my other services, as this is one of my passions! All you have to do to redeem this service is reach out to me directly via Facebook, Instagram, or my website and say that you heard about this from my blog post!
Thanks for reading, y’all! Remember to listen to that WILD HAIR and make that trip happen!