Let’s face it, the holidays were brutal on your bank account. This may be an annual occurrence, but do not despair — you can still reach your travel dreams in 2015. It will require sacrifices, but more than that, it will require planning. I never recommend going into debt for leisure travel. It’s much better to save, then travel. Follow these eight easy steps and start traveling!
Set Reasonable Travel Goals
Sure, you may be longing for a romantic shopping trip to Paris, but you could also have just as much fun somewhere cheaper, like Bali! Adjusting your expectations is part of being a budget traveler. Budget travel doesn’t always mean roughing it though — more often it means doing your homework. Find a less expensive destination and stay a shorter time — surveys show that longer vacations aren’t always more enjoyable. Now that gas prices in the U.S. have plummeted, why not plan a road trip with friends? You can obviously save money on the type of accommodation you choose. If you’re going to be sightseeing the whole time, who cares about room service and luxury bedding anyway? Choose a motel over a hotel and a hostel over a B&B if you’re on a really tight budget.
Read my 8 Ways to Get Free Travel.
Analyze your spending
The first step to budgeting is always to find out how much you’re spending and on what. You may be surprised how many little things add up at the end of the month or just how many non-essentials have made their way into your spending habits. Download your credit card statement, upload to Google Sheets, then sort by transaction type (food, utilities, transportation, clothes, etc.). Highlight any non-essential purchases and add them up. That’s how much you could be saving for travel!
Cut, cut, cut spending on wants
Then again, you knew that. The hard part is implementing your budget. Don’t overlook little purchases like iTunes downloads, impulse buys at the checkout counter, and that second round of cocktails. To motivate yourself to spend less, put a picture of your destination on your fridge or as your screensaver. Once you sift your needs from your wants, make a new budget spreadsheet (yay! spreadsheets!) in Google Sheets or use a budget app. Carry your budget with you at all times and record every purchase for the month — tedious, but necessary to keep yourself on track. Keep a running total of each category and if you go over budget, borrow from another category to keep your overall budget balanced.
I always recommend earning miles with credit card purchases, but if you and your credit card have an abusive relationship, it’s time to use cash. In fact, use cash for everything. Based on your budget, separate cash into envelopes for each category of spending — rent, utilities, food, household items, phone, etc. Find a loan for bad credit and use that to consolidate your debt and reduce interest. Close credit accounts or put your cards in a safety deposit box so you won’t be tempted to use them.
Don’t be so vain
Ladies, I’m sure you’ll agree that beauty routines get very expensive. You’ll have to make sacrifices if you want to save money for travel. Can you schedule beauty services like haircuts less often? Skip two weeks each time and that’s at least two less haircuts a year. Better yet, get your hair cut at a beauty school or do your color at home! There are some beauty rituals that we can just do without like tanning, manicures, threading, and waxing. Skip it and travel instead!
Save on needs
So, you’re spending less on wants, but you still have needs. Think of ways to conserve rather than consume to save money on things like phone and utilities. Could you downgrade your cellphone plan? Do you really need cable and Netflix? How about canceling your gym membership and working out at home? Can you adjust your thermostat one degree up or down to use less energy? Can you carpool to work or make fewer trips to the grocery store to save gas? Can you repair items instead of buying new ones?
You’re not prepared to live in complete abstinence, but when it comes time to buy something you can still shop smarter. This is where you have to do your homework. Make a list of things you need to buy and watch for sales, not purchasing until your item is at the right price. Do you need organic everything when it comes to groceries? Have you considered buying used or refurbished electronics? For example, I’m a die-hard Apple user, but I rarely ever buy a new iMac, iPhone, or iPad — I shop Apple’s refurbished sales, saving up to 22%. I also look for rebates from reputable online retailers.
Sell your junk
Now that you’re saving money, it’s time to make some money. Look around your house. Perhaps you see functional electronics, lightly used handbags, or even furniture that’s not in use. Take some beauty pics of your stuff (good lighting, a bit of styling) and post to Craigslist, Facebook, and even Instagram. You could also pawn jewelry or put clothes on consignment. Make it your goal to sell at least one item per month until you meet your savings goal.