We all know holidays are expensive. You get a week off work, book a flight, a hotel (or perhaps a cheap hostel), get to your destination where you eat out here and there, indulge in a few activities and once you get back a week later and unwittingly check your bank balance, the shock is so great that you hunt through your bags for any lost debit cards, because surely you couldn’t have spent that much? But unfortunately, you did.
Short holidays come at a cost. A return flight and decent place to stay (and the nights dining and drinking out) add up to a hefty price. And ironically, this is exactly why long-term travel is not so expensive. The biggest chunk is your long-haul flight, but you pay for that once and that’s that. You watch what you spend but fortunately, you travel around continents that are very cheap, so your outgoings are minimum. Of course it is still possible to spend a small (read: big) fortune when travelling. For example, South America is more expensive to travel around than Asia, and of course Europe and Australia significantly more expensive than that. Your choice of transport will have a huge influence. You can fly from country to country, but local buses will always be cheaper (although not necessarily more comfortable, and definitely more time-consuming.) At the same time, travelling slow will save you a lot of money, just as staying in dorms, rather than budget hotels. Haggling and finding your own way, rather than using guides, are also tricks to save during travel. So depending on how you wish to travel, you may spend as low as £20 ($30) a day, or anything up from that.
Then the question begs, how do you save up to get all that cash in the bank before you leave? Depending on where you live, saving money is not always that easy. It definitely isn’t in London. Rent is high, travelcards are a constant burden and just going out for a drink with friends will set you back a lot, most likely, exactly the amount you intended to save up. But it can be done, you just need to be clever, and change you attitude towards your spending.
I am currently trying to save £800 every month, and apart from last month, have been able to. I started six months ago, when I thought I was saving up to buy a house. Now the goal has changed, but the saving has not. It is amazing to think that normally, most of that money would have been spend on all sorts of things, and probably nothing really noteworthy. It is kind of refreshing to find out that you don’t actually need any of that stuff and it is nice to give yourself that challenge and change your life around, for something that is so important to you.
So let me share what I am doing differently in order to make this happen:
◊ Pay less rent. I live in a beautiful little studio apartment that costs me £995 every month. It’s a small fortune, and a price I was willing to pay to have my own little space in the city. But now that I’ve decided to travel, my current living situation suddenly feels awfully fleeting and irrelevant, so I am moving in with a friend for the coming six months, where my rent will only be £650.
◊ Stick to a budget. I am allowing myself £100 to spend per week. This excludes rent, bills and travel costs. In some countries that would be easy, but in London, it means that my budget is pretty much out of the window if I go for drinks or dinner with friends once, so it’s a tight one. I also try and eat healthy, with lots of wholemeal options and fruit, which isn’t cheap either. I make sure to go to a cashpoint at the start of the week and take out the full amount of money in cash, so I know exactly what I am spending and what I have left for the rest of the week. It means that you will think twice about buying something you don’t really need, because you have £20 left in your wallet and no food in the fridge. It also makes you reconsider the brands you are buying, you may choose the cheaper option instead of the fancy one you have been used to getting.
◊ Make your own lunch. Okay, I could be better with this one. You could save a lot of money by making your lunch at home and bring it in to work. I don’t have enough time for that, so I try and keep some food in the fridge at work and make my lunch there. But I do get bored and sometimes splurge on some tomato soup and a tuna baguette from Pret. I am only human, guys.
◊ Stop buying coffee. And croissants. I used to buy coffees all the time. It was my treat if I went somewhere on the weekend, or even on my way to work (despite coffee being free at work.) Add a croissant or a breakfast baguette now and again, and that’s a lot of money spend in just a morning. So I stopped. I drink coffee at work, or I make it at home. Now I feel guilty even thinking of treating myself to a Starbucks coffee on the weekend.
◊ Stop buying everything. £100 a week doesn’t leave you with anything to spend on clothes or shoes. I used to love shopping, I don’t anymore. I have bought three items of clothing that I needed in the past six months. No shoes. No bags. No £30 candles from Anthropology that make your house smell phenomenal. No more.
◊ Sell your stuff. On top of saving money, you could consider making some. Last time I moved, I threw away a copious amount of stuff. Now I think I should have sold it. I still have a lot of things. Too many things. Unfortunately, everything I am now left with, are items that I really want to keep. But when I started to look into storage facilities to store my belonging during my travel, I realised I could never afford to store all my belongings while I’m away. So I will have to be ruthless and sell a large chunk of my beloved books and clothes. Even though this is a difficult one, I think most people in general will benefit from decluttering their lives, and I think it will be quite refreshing (after the anxiety that will undoubtedly paralyse me has begun to subside) once I get going.