How to Save Money for Solo Travel
By now you’ve read my first three steps in starting to solo travel: Planning Your First Solo Trip, How to Choose Your First Solo Travel Destination, and How to Create a Solo Travel Budget and thinking, this is great information, Gwen, but how am I going to actually pay for my solo trip? Stick with me because I’ve got your back. Here I’ll outline tried and true tips and tricks (that I have even used) on how to save money for solo travel so you can get underway!
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Solo Travel Step 4:
How to Save Money for Solo Travel
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One of the biggest barriers to start traveling solo is being able to afford it. It’s hard enough to work a job (or two) that makes enough money just to pay your bills, let alone have extra for travel. Don’t fret. You are not alone. You also have many ways to come up with extra funds at your fingertips. You just may not know it.
Before we dive into those ways to drum up extra funds, let’s take a few important steps first so you can get a better understanding of how to save money for your solo travel.
If you do not have a money management system already in place to manage your expenses, now is the time to start. It doesn’t have to be on Quicken, per say, but I do recommend a solid and nimble way of monitoring all of your expenses against your income. Perhaps use a spreadsheet or a saving money app.
Make sure all of your monthly expenses are written down. Don’t leave out things that may not be a monthly expense, like a doctor’s appointment or getting your car inspected. Also, don’t leave out all of those little extras you give yourself, like your morning Starbucks coffee, weekly girls’ night out, or monthly mani/pedi.
Once you have your money management system in front of you, you identify areas where you can scale back.
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Wants vs Needs
So, you have a trip in mind a year from now. Great! Here is the time to reassess what you want to do in the next twelve months compared to what you need to do.
Do you really need that Starbucks coffee every morning before work? The average cost of a tall Starbucks coffee in the U.S. is $2.75. And that’s just a coffee, not a Frappuccino or double cappuccino. One of those coffees five times a week will cost you $715 for the year! For coffee! Crazy, huh?
What about the weekly girl’s (or boy’s) night out? Being very conservative, let’s say you’re spending $15 for dinner and $10 for drinks, which comes to $100 a month. That’s $1200 a year. Now I know I can buy a nice round trip ticket to Europe for $1200.
You get the gist. So, do some soul searching to see where you can start to cut back your spending. Make your coffee home. Pack your lunch. Don’t buy bottled water and use your own reusable water bottle instead, which honestly you should be doing anyway to cut down on plastic waste. But I digress…
While you’re reassessing your expenses for your new budget, make sure to take a peek at your credit score as well.
Now that you have a handle on where you are financially and how to track your expenses, next you can find ways to realign your expenses for those extra bucks to roll in every month for your solo trip.
1 - Stop Spending on Extras
Yep, you saw it coming. The number one way to save money for travel is to simply cut back on spending money on all of those “extras”. You may be saying, “Gwen, I need my weekly night out.” Ok, but does it have to be at a restaurant or bar? Why not have friends over? Do a potluck dinner. Play cards or have a movie night.
There are so many ways these days to have fun without footing a large bill.
2 - Quit Subscriptions and Memberships
One area where people spend the most in their every day lives without realizing it is in their subscriptions and memberships.
For example, is that monthly People magazine your guilty pleasure? Well, that $5 a week guilty pleasure is costing you $260 a year. That’s two days of scuba diving in Belize.
How about your gym membership? Even if you pay a reasonable $10 a month, that’s another $120 a year that could go towards your solo travel fund. That’s a wine tasting excursion in Austria.
How about that YouTube music streaming service you pay $11.99 a month for? You get the picture.
To realign these expenses, you could read a free downloaded book, go for walks and hikes outside, and listen to the radio. All. For. Free. After all, you’re only giving them up for a year so you can go on your awesome trip, right?
Some may say give up Amazon Prime because that costs $119 a year. Yet, if you’re already giving up your night out at the movies, hang on to it. The goal is to not torture yourself for your travel. Do what works best for you. I’m just throwing out ideas to get you thinking where you can save up a lot of money.
3 - Live More Eco-Friendly
Do you own a car? Do you really need it on a daily basis? You’d be surprised how much money you can save on gas, parking fees and monthly auto insurance if you decide to walk, bike and/or take public transportation to work and run errands. How about a using a Lyft to supplement?
Plus, it’s eco-friendly and reduces your contribution to air pollution and global warming.
For example, if your monthly gas, auto insurance and parking expenses are $80, $50 and $50, respectively, that’s a savings of $1560 in one year. That’s not including a car loan payment, if you have one.
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Another way to be eco-friendly is to cut back on your energy usage for savings on your energy bills. By just replacing incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs in the most used rooms of your home, you could save approximately $44 a year on your energy bill. And that’s just light bulbs!
There are many, easy energy-saving tips out there that can add up to savings long after your solo trip. Check out these 12 energy saving tips that could get you started.
4 - Do Free Things
Yes, this goes with what I wrote above, but staying at home is not the only way to do something free (or cheap).
Look into your community papers. Check out the MeetUp groups online to see what they are doing. There are hiking groups, community plays, movies in the park, volunteer opportunities, and more!
Whether or not you live in a major metropolitan area or in a rural district should not matter. And if you can’t find something free to do, then just create your own!
As you will see on this post, being creative is the key. Think outside the box. Once you get your brain going to the possible ways to save money, you’ll start seeing that money add up in your bank account. Trust me.
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5 - Set Up Your Travel Fund
Speaking of bank accounts, now is a good time to set aside one (or set one up) solely for the purpose of your solo trip.
Once you designate this account, label it the “Do Not Touch” account or “For Solo Trip Only” or whatever you want. Have fun with it. Then, treat it like it were a monthly bill you had to pay every month. Do not skimp. Remember, this solo trip is for you so if you don’t put money into it, you’re only cheating yourself.
Personally, I don’t have a hard time paying into my travel fund regularly. I have to get my travel fix! Travel is not an “extra” for me.
However, if you’re not as dedicated (no judgement from me!), try setting up a direct deposit into this account from your paycheck. I have heard of several people doing this. That way, they don’t have to make the effort monthly – it’s setup and done!
How much to set aside? That is up to you and your monthly budget. I’ve heard of people taking out of their paychecks the total amount for all of their monthly “extras” so they know they can’t spend a thing outside of the necessities. Now, that’s dedication!
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Some people just take half of their monthly “extras” from their paycheck. Some people set a certain dollar amount – $2/day or $100/mo – into their travel fund. Again, it is up to you.
The point is to pick a realistic amount you can set aside monthly (or weekly) you know you won’t dip into.
Now that you’ve learned how to realign your budget and cut back your expenses to save money for solo travel, now let’s discuss ways to add onto your income!
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1 - Apply for a Travel Credit Card
Remember when I said look at your credit score? So, how is yours? If you have good credit and don’t mind applying, I recommend considering applying for a credit card that provides travel benefits like those listed by Nerd Wallet.
Being able to qualify for a credit card that gives you travel miles or cash back rewards for travel that you can put towards your travel fund can help big time!
If you get a travel credit card, try to put as much of your every day expenses on your travel card and pay it off monthly so you can capitalize on the airline miles for future trips without incurring the monthly interest fee.
Review the travel credit cards carefully so you won’t take on annual fees you cannot afford, yet also receive the travel bennies best suited for you.
2 - Get a New Job
Have you been considering looking for a higher paying job? Good for you! An increased salary, of course, is an easier way to save money faster for your trip. And I wish you all the best in your new endeavors!
Just a note: when you get that fabulous new position, make sure they are giving you the vacation time – and any other benefits – you may need so you can go on your fantabulous trip you’ve been saving up for.
3 - Get a Second Job
By all means, I am not advocating you work yourself to death for your solo trip. Yet, do you have some extra time on your hands? Do you find you have an extra night or two that could be used to make some extra cash instead of sitting on the couch?
I have definitely picked up extra part-time gigs for my past travel funds. If the travel is a priority for you, like it is me, then take that available waitressing, barista or bartender job! Drive an Uber or pick up an online graphic or virtual assistant contract job.
These days, the skies are the limit on ways to earn some extra cash – legally, of course. Even if you only earned an extra twenty-five bucks one night a week, that part-time gig just earned you $1300 in a year! Not too shabby.
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4 - Get Rid of Your Junk
No, I’m not saying your stuff is junk, but stuff is….well, stuff.
Do you have a lot of it lying around that you don’t use? Or need? How about those clothes you haven’t worn in over a year?
Again, multiple possibilities abound in the land of the internet. You could have a yard sale, the old fashion way, or you could sell things on eBay, Craigslist or even Amazon! Didn’t I say extra money was at your fingertips?
Take a look around. What could you get rid of? Minimalism can be freeing! If you can’t sell it, perhaps just donate it. It could be a tax write-off.
5 - Make Things to Sell
Are you an artist? Do you make jewelry for fun that your friends just love? Put your talents to work to see what you can sell on Etsy, Craigslist or eBay.
6 - Consider Moving
This may seem extreme to you, but many people do use this method to save money for travel. Some people move in with a friend who has an extra room or move in with their folks.
I backpacked Europe for two months in 1995 as my first overseas trip. To afford this trip that I planned for over a year, I had to quit my job, put my stuff in storage, and move from fabulous Boulder, Colorado (where I was having the time of my life, I might add) to move cross country and live with my sister and brother-in-law in Jackson, Mississippi for six months (for free).
Yes, they were kind enough to do that for me, but it was also quite an adjustment. No offense Jackson, but Boulder you are not. Still, this sacrifice was totally worth it. I made two friends for life, and the experience just made me want to travel more.
So, don’t knock the idea of temporarily changing your living situation. The payback could be endless.
To summarize, if your solo trip is a high priority, then be creative on ways you can save money. Think outside the box.
Review your current situation and realign your monthly expenses to see what extra funds you can save. If you need more money, figure out ways to earn extra funds.
Is your plan realistic? Great! Then put your money management skills in action so you can save for that trip! Don’t rush it. Be patient. The more you stick to it, the more you will make it happen.
Don’t let other’s opinions of your new money saving actions deter you. Trust me, I know what it’s like to get nagged by friends when you decline to go out for dinner and drinks or to a concert. I’ve been there! Yet, I always looked at passing up those opportunities as temporary.
There will always be another chance for dinner and drinks. Bands will not stop touring (or we hope they won’t). But a trip of a lifetime may not come again. So, I ask you, what are you willing to do to save up for that amazing, solo trip?