When I was 18, I wanted to go traveling. I dreamed of living out of the back of a campervan and waking up on beaches. There was only one problem: I was fresh out of high school and completely and utterly broke. But, my mind was made up.
I saved money the hard way. I worked 80-hour weeks. I never went clubbing or to bars. I'd have a bowl of Cheerios for lunch, and I saved every single penny I ever earned. I was able to travel for four months in the end, but the saving part — which lasted a whole lot longer than four months — absolutely sucked.
It's a frustrating truth that traveling can be damn expensive. No one's just going to hand you that backpacking trip across New Zealand or month of island-hopping around Thailand (unfortunately).
However, what I've realized since hitting 25 and going through the whole process again is that saving money doesn't have to suck. It definitely doesn't have to mean scrimping and turning into a hermit.
These 19 (relatively) pain-free saving methods will help you bring that round-the-world trip a little closer. Plus, they're so effective that you'll still be able to enjoy happy hour margaritas in the meantime. It's a win-win.
1. Get rid of what you don't need.
You know what you're not going to need during your round the world trip? Your game consoles, your car and that weird lava lamp in the corner.
Ebay, Facebook groups and selling things to friends and family are all great ways to streamline your belongings in preparation for a round-the-world trip. Depending on what you're selling, you're likely to end up with a nice bit of change, too.
2. Set up standing orders.
If you're worried about your willpower, just don't give yourself the chance to spend. Set up a standing order to take money from your current account to your savings account on the day you get paid.
If you never see the money, you can't spend it. In fact, you're likely to forget you ever set it up in the first place. When the time comes to clear out your savings account, you'll get a rather lovely little surprise.
3. Be savvy when you do spend.
Believe it or not, it's possible to be rewarded based on how and where you spend. There are a number of cash back programs that offer cash back for shopping at certain places. It's not an excuse to go and buy that $500 jacket, but if you need specific things for traveling, these might be a good place to start.
4. Make purchases during out of season sales.
Again, when you simply have to buy something for traveling, do it early. Buy your winter gear in the summer, and vice versa. It sounds simple, but you'd be surprised by how much you'll save.
5. Don't buy everything before you leave.
You really don't need to buy everything for your trip right now. You can spend an absolute fortune on technical gear and that money pouch you're absolutely positive you'll use. (You never will.)
But in reality, you'll end up taking a bursting backpack full of stuff, and ditching half of it when your back can't deal anymore. Take the bare minimum and the absolute essentials, and pick things up as you go (where it's likely to be cheaper, too).
6. Get creative with dinner plans.
One of the common misconceptions about saving is you'll have to be that friend who skips doing things because you can't afford it. You'll think you'll have to be the friend who has to stay in every night playing computer games alone and eating Ramen noodles. Don't be that friend.
Instead of going out for expensive dinners, invite people over for dinner parties. Give the night a travel theme and ask everyone to bring a dish. You'll probably end up with way more food and have way more fun than you would at a fancy restaurant anyway.
7. Make a meal plan.
In a similar way, aim to make your food at home rather than buy pricey lunches at work. You'll save a lot of money, and what you make will probably be a lot healthier, too.
8. During holidays, ask for money instead of gifts.
When it comes to Christmas and birthdays, ask for money toward your travels rather than a gift. If your folks really want to get you a “proper” present, make sure it's something you need for your travels.
9. Get savvy with points cards.
Is your purse or wallet is crammed with an assortment of loyalty cards, and you have no idea how many points you have on each? I know I'm guilty. Checking with each store and cashing in your points in is a great way to save money and lighten up your wallet.
10. Take advantage of your colleagues' generosity.
Host fundraising bake sales, raffles and social events at the office. You'll be surprised at how generous people can be. (Who knew Sue from accounting liked you so much?)
11. Set a target and then treat yourself.
Saving doesn't mean you can't treat yourself every so often. It's hard work, so you deserve rewards now and again for reaching your goals.
Set periodic targets, and then treat yourself when you reach them. We're talking a fancy latte or a night out at the movies, not a giant online shopping haul.
12. Become clever with your banking.
Believe it or not, it's possible to make cash simply by transferring cash between your different accounts each month. Take advantage of each account's interest rate, and you'll be laughing all the way to the bank.
13. Carpool when you can.
Sharing rides with friends or colleagues instead of buying gas or taking public transportation can save you a surprising amount of money. Plus, they'll benefit from your wonderful company and (not so) wonderful singing, right?
14. Look out for free events.
If you still want a night out, try looking for free events. Many cities have cheap movie nights, or you could go to a gallery or museum. You could even do a walking tour and get to know your own town a bit better before exploring elsewhere.
15. Make a realistic budget.
This is the absolute key to making saving easy. If you've set yourself an unachievable target, you'll just beat yourself up for not reaching it and have a miserable time in the meantime.
Make things easier for yourself. Work out what's realistic, and break it into manageable chunks over the time you have available to save.
16. Save the change.
If your bank offers it, definitely check the “save the change” option. It basically means that any spare change on your purchases will automatically be put into your savings account.
So, for example, if you spend $14.50, $0.50 will be put into your savings account. It's a super easy way to save.
17. Work out outside.
Let's get real here: How much does your gym membership cost? How often do you actually go?
Look, we're not judging. But canceling that costly membership and simply going for a run outside will save a substantial amount every month (and more importantly, get rid of that guilt).
18. Take advantage of tax rebates.
Think carefully about when you're going to leave your job. Remember that you've been paying taxes for the entire year.
So, if you leave your job halfway through the year, you should get a pretty sweet tax rebate at some point. That's bound to help your travel fund, and leaving work isn't a bad way to make money, right?
19. Remember what you're doing it for.
If saving ever feels impossible and you're really tempted to buy that $50 T-shirt and follow it up with a $5 hot chocolate, just remember what that cash would get you when you're traveling. It could be a few nights' accommodations in a new, exciting place.
It could be a bowl of hot, steaming soup when you're starving. It could be train ride deep into the unknown. Trust me, at the end of the day, every cent you've worked so hard to save will be completely worth it.