In these uncertain times, many people are wondering how they can afford a trip. We titled this article, in part ‘The Hard Truths‘ because as difficult as it may seem, there has never been a better time to learn how to save money. Take a hard look at your life right now. What does it look like? If you really want to travel, there are ways to make it happen.
You can go online and look for side hustles that make you money, or jobs that would bring you a bigger income, but are is your income really the issue? If you’re being totally honest with yourself- no amount of side hustles or a new job is going to make your savings account bigger. You can’t save the money that you’re spending in the first place. The biggest piece of the puzzle is sacrifice. There are 1000 things we want right now, but 0 things we actually need.
This is where many people falter in learning how to save money. They have a goal and may put aside some money, but when it comes to making significant changes in their life to live with less and have more later? Too hard. Here’s how you can save money now and in the future as the world slowly re-emerges.
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The biggest and perhaps most umbrella tips for how to save money for travel or any other expense is lifestyle changes. From big to small, your life is a series of choices that you can control if you want to save money. How often do you see something and flippantly decide you just ‘have to have it!‘..? I use the example of shopping for clothes because it’s one of my personal biggest struggles. I love shopping for new clothes. That’s a mindset I had to drastically change in order to travel more. My mindset shifted from ‘ooh that would look pretty on date night!’ to ‘The dress I have at home would look even better on a pretty night in Spain.’ See the difference?
Learning how to save money is really an exercise in self-discipline, and learning what you value in life. Does discipline mean you can never enjoy drinks with friends? No – but let’s break down a cost analysis of going out vs. staying at home:
That’s a $60 savings. $60 is the cost of an Airbnb for a night in some places! Think about what you’re buying, put it into perspective for what you could have during your travels. If you really want to travel – the choices will become much easier. Your savings account will grow much quicker as well! The next time you want to hang out with some friends just dress up, hang out, and drink homemade margaritas over a game of Avengers Monopoly!!
P.S. This also means when you travel – sometimes choosing more budget-friendly restaurants! We have an entire section dedicated to the best cheap eats in Morgantown, West Virginia for college students and budget travelers!
Monitor where you grocery shop
The next tip I have for how to save money? Monitor your grocery shopping. Do you regularly purchase Cokes, kombucha, and sparkling water? While yes all of these things are delicious – they add up quickly. Focus on shopping for food with a meal prepping mindset also keeps you from buying junk food which is expensive!
Where you shop can also have a huge impact on your grocery budget. Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe’s and Aldi’s are all pretty different in terms of cost, but you can buy organic, gluten-free nutritious groceries from all three. We also use Imperfect Foods food delivery. They discount a large majority of their products simply because they look weird, (hence the ‘imperfections’). For more information on Imperfect Foods, see here.
Disposable / Non-Reuseable Items
Disposable laundry and kitchen supplies are a big waste of money. If you want to know how to save money by not having to buy these things anymore: look no further. Not only is being re-usable and eco-friendly better for the planet, but they’re also incredibly cost-effective! The top 3 things we’ve purchased for the home that I never catch myself buying more:
- Disposable paper towels – click here for a reusable/washable/durable pack of kitchen cloths
- Disposable Sponges – Click here for compostable, biodegradable, + washable sponges
- Dryer Sheets – Click here for Wool Dryer balls (Cut your drying time in half!!! – $$ utility bill savings too!)
With anything disposable in your home – there’s probably a more cost-effective way to do it!
Car Payments + Car Insurance
Ahh, car payments. This is such a big factor in how to save money. The average car payment according to Experian is $391 USD. That doesn’t include car insurance! I do not advocate driving a car that’s unreliable or unsafe. .there are plenty of used good condition vehicles that would be just fine. My car payment on my used 2017 Ford Fusion is less than $200 and Evan doesn’t have a payment at all. While we don’t drive fancy cars – they are just fine. They get us where we need to go and we’ve accomplished a lot with Evans truck. Have you ever heard the idea that a car loses 10% of its value as soon as you drive it off the lot? That’s not an exaggeration. Used cars can still be great vehicles, and lower your monthly payments/ insurance costs.
Cable + Other Recurring Expenses
For reference, the average cable bill cost is roughly $217 bucks a month. $217! That’s half a roundtrip light to Mexico??? Again, if you’re truly focused on learning how to save money: find joy in things that cost you no or little money. Let’s make a list of a few things you probably have in your home to do for free/cost less than $20!
- Kindle Unlimited is $11 a month (that’s $1 a book for me because I read a TON and so worth it!)
- The free public library.
- Card games/board games
- Free online classes / (YouTube University is how Evan and I learn just about everything!)
- Listen to podcasts
- Research your travel destinations
- Write in a gratitude journal
The possibilities are truly endless when you start thinking about what you could do with the money you put aside. Enrich your brain, save the money, downsize to a smaller subscription service and wifi, etc.
P.S. If you just have to watch TV- but still want to be productive – check out our guide here for how to be productive while you watch TV!
Nails, Hair, Tanning + Makeup
This one is a biggie for us gals. Personal beauty budgets are such a dicey subject and fully ingrained into our mentality for many of us. After all, people have been augmenting their appearances for thousands of years? While I personally don’t think I could live without my skincare regimen, others can’t live without their hair being colored. One of the biggest beauty expenses you can incur is hair extensions. While I can’t personally say that I have a desire for hair extensions, I do understand that hair can be such a large part of our identity as women.
Deciding what you put a value on the most in terms of budgeting is how you’ll start saving money for traveling. If you must have good skincare and facials, but your beauty budget is $200 – then lay off the manicures, tanning, etc. Learning how to save money is about sacrifice and discipline. Not only will it help your savings grow, but you’ll also stress less about all the maintenance. I can tell you from personal experience that while you travel – you do NOT want to have to upkeep nails, tanning, hair coloring, etc. A month-long backpacking trip through Europe would be less than pleasant if you had to constantly stop and find somewhere to get a new manicure!
Cut Out Your Vices
It’s not really an opinion at this point.. smoking is expensive and bad for your health. If the fun cancer warnings and labels all over them haven’t scared you away yet, look up lung cancer. You’ll be stuck with that image, and all of your dreams of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro are over before they begin? Other than being carcinogenic (cancer-causing), it’s just incredibly expensive. The average cigarette smoker spends $2000 a year on cigarettes. The average JUUL smoker can spend almost $5000 a year on the pods!
This is a crazy amount of money to spend on a vice that doesn’t make your life better in any way? Not to mention that if you’re trying to learn how to save money – look no further than vices like these. Reading will never give you lung cancer and keep you from seeing the world…
Get Paid to Shop
Looking for websites and apps that help us save money or find good deals is so fun. Not quite as fun as finding buried treasure – but definitely close? Anyways – when learning how to save money – the more you’re not spending the more you can save! Apps like Ibotta help you when you submit grocery lists, and places like Rakuten give you cashback for shopping through their site, (at no additional cost to you!)
Another one of my favorites is Wikibuy. This is a browser extension that scans the web for codes off of whatever you’re buying! When online shopping for anything – try to use one of these resources. You’ll thank us when you’re not spending that extra $20 at Sephora on your skincare.
P.S. You’ll probably need gear? So when you’re buying that new GoPro, make sure you get the best deal!!
When Eating Out..
There’s no denying that eating at home saves you money. We’re not going to profess to be able to do it all the time either, but we do try our absolute best when we can but life happens. It’s just not the reality for most busy folks!! But does it have to cost you fifty bucks a pop every time you’re running late? There are things we do when we eat out to keep us from spending too much.
- Don’t order non-alcoholic beverages. As previous servers, we can tell you it’s great for servers and restaurants because beverages are a racket. They cost very little for the company and add $1.50 to your bill. (Not to mention roughly $6 a pop for each alcoholic beverage.) Stop doing this frivolously! Does this mean we never order a restaurant’s signature flight of mimosas? NO. But it’s a treat, not an every time situation. (You’ll also not spend money on extra clothes after you stop drinking because it makes everyone gain weight!)
- When we order dinner – we try to order one entree and a few extra sides of veggies. This usually ends up being more than enough food and keeps us from overeating.
**Side note: When we do eat out, we try to make sure we’re always eating somewhere new and local to support local tourism. We live in Louisville’s foodie scene and are proud to support our city! Saving money doesn’t mean you can’t have little mini-adventures close to home.
You’re always going to see ads for the latest and greatest iPhone. Someone next to you will always have a new Apple Watch than you. That’s just the way it is sometimes when you’re learning the discipline of how to save money for travel. Not having the latest and greatest upgraded technology doesn’t mean however that what you’ve already had isn’t functional.
The best way to be content with the technology you have is to find joy in other things. For Evan and I- we don’t take joy in new cell phones or new laptops. Our current laptops, iPads, and phones are all over 2 years old and they’re working for us just fine. Until our tech isn’t satisfying our needs anymore – there really is no need to update.
In an article from Medium.com, Robert Rittmuller makes a few good points to consider upgrading your tech:
- If your tech is no longer supported by the manufacturer: time to upgrade.
- How often do you use the device? In the case of our iPhone XS Max: it’s 2 years old and still working great. However, if it started having problems we would go ahead and upgrade it because we use them constantly!
- How fast has the technology changed around your device? When it comes to laptops and desktops: processors and other tech is rapidly evolving. If you are spending more time trying to fix it than use it, then it’s time to upgrade.
Stop impulse buying
With Instagram instituting native shopping in the app and Amazon packages showing up within a day- it’s pretty easy to get anything you want on impulse. I think the worst impulse purchases I buy are clothes. While I’m trying to curb that habit – trendy clothes are wastes of money. (Especially now when no ones going anywhere.. your clothes from last year will be just fine in the summer of no one seeing you!) If you’re asking how to save money when it comes to your clothes – my best recommendation is to buy quality staples. You buy so much less when you have a few great go to outfits!
When it comes to all of the other small purchases that are impulse buys, (fast food, lipstick, random kitchen gadgets), keep in mind the money you could be saving. In an article from CNBC, Americans spend an average of $5400 a year. That’s an entire trip to Thailand for a week!!!
Until next time friends,