I’ve already written a little bit about saving money for travel, but with all the posts on this topic going around these days, I wanted to write something a little more about my own experience.
There is so much overlap in these ideas, just a warning that it’s not the easiest to organize. I’ve tried my best, let’s see how it goes!
Bulk Barn: I guess this is a Canadian franchise, but I’m sure similar places exist in every country: large stores of plastic barrels and containers filled with sugar, flour, candy, mixes, spices, teas… too much to list. I’m always surprised by the selection and amount of health foods–and it’s cheap. I’m amazed by how much I can get for under $10 (food in Canada is normally not the cheapest).
Buy what’s on sale: I may not have the best diet, but I’m a little obsessed with making sure it’s filled with lots of vegetables. Vegetables usually aren’t that expensive, but saving a couple of bucks is never bad. Buying what’s on sale most of the time allows me to switch up my diet and avoid sticking with the same stuff over and over again.
Always have rice and packets of soup stock: Buy a big box of rice and some low-sodium veg soup stock. This will keep forever and you’ll always have something on hand for those days when you come home and can’t be bothered to put in an effort. Season the rice with soup stock and throw in whatever veggies you have around. Too easy.
TV and Movies: No one has cable these days, right? I think this is an obvious one, but it needs to be included. Free and cheap options are available for all your viewing purchases. I still go to a movie now and then, but a lot of the time Netflix has me covered.
Library: You have a local library card? I got one the day I signed my lease agreement (you need proof of residency). I love the library. I rarely buy books anymore, and these days libraries carry DVDs, CDs, and video games. My library card also gives me access to online resources that allow me to listen to free audiobooks, read e-books and e-magazines, stream music and movies, and access online language courses.
I don’t have a car. Luckily, I live close enough to walk to my work. Also, my staff card gives me free access to the subway between certain central stations (not that Edmonton’s one-line system is extensive). If you aren’t living central, here are a couple of options:
Ride sharing: Ride sharing means you are hooking up with someone that has a car and could use another passenger to chip in on gas on the daily commute. If you are a student, it might be worthwhile to check your school’s sustainability site–usually they will promote online services to connect students travelling the same route. Or else, just Google it.
Car sharing: Not really an everyday thing, but this might be a good option for those days when you’re overdue for a grocery haul or picking up apartment stuff. Car sharing started in Europe, but is now expanding throughout North America. It works similar to a car rental service, but on an annual membership basis that covers gas, insurance, and parking fees. You use apps on your phone to locate a car in your area and access it, and pay hourly. When you’re finished, you drop it off in a designated parking space, and your card is automatically charged for the time used.
Bicycling: I live in a pretty flat city with plenty of bike trails, so cycling in the summer is just the best. I got my bike for free second hand, but there are plenty of cheap ones available on Kijiji and at bike shops. Depending on where you live, it can be very easy to rent a bike. I also feel that investing in a bike rack is a good idea for those weekends away. You save gas money and get to enjoy a new area by bicycle.
Sure, you save money for a big trip. But, that doesn’t mean you won’t want to have a road trip out of town for the weekend. Here are a few of my key things:
Travel Credit Card: They aren’t just for reward points. I have a Visa Avion Platinum card that covers my insurance on rental cars. This means that I can easily rent a car for around $20/day without any added fees (aside from gas). If I am planning on taking a quick flight, this card also covers my travel insurance to a certain extent.
Camping: A tent is a good investment, but another option is renting a vehicle that allows you to fold down the backseats and lay a sleeping mat on top. Bringing along a stove and food means you’ve saved money on accommodations and meals.
Couchsurfing and Airbnb: If you’re not too into privacy and alone time, couchsurfing may work for you. Most people don’t want to be treated as hotels, so keep that in mind. But, if you are into meeting new people and sleeping in living rooms, it’s an awesome free option. Airbnb (and any similar service) is more suitable if you want your own space and are willing to pay a bit for it. You’re likely to get a much nicer place to stay compared to paying the same price for a hotel or hostel.
Clothing and makeup
I grew up in a rural town with no sisters or friends who were overly high maintenance, so I never really got the hang of clothes, makeup, and hair. In that way, I’m still very minimal when it comes to these things. But, I’m still a girl and I still can stand to spend less on it.
Choose your colours: A confession: most of my clothing is black, white, or grey. I feel comfortable in monochrome and it’s easy to wear–most of my clothes match. I think it’s important to acknowledge things about your own style: why buy colourful clothes if I am rarely going to feel comfortable choosing to wear them? Choose a colour scheme that you like and allows you to mix things up.
Makeup and skincare: I guess I already went over my standard products here, but here I’ll let you know what I actually buy. I still use Korean products, and usually find them cheaper on eBay than anything I would buy here. I know what I like, I stick to it. For skincare, I use mostly Body Shop products, which I stock up on during sales (except for eye cream, where I opt for Korean brands). Aside from a few drugstore products now and then, I also have an Ipsy glam bag subscription. Every month, I get a bag in my mail with a few products. It’s $15 per month ($10 for Americans), but worth much more and satisfies my urge to try new products.
My biggest spending vice in university was going out: to dinner, drinking, dancing–spending way too much in one night that went by in a flash. I still go out, but I’m much more conscious of my spending these days. I’d rather bring a bottle of wine to a friend’s place than go pay the same price for a glass in a bar. If you do go out, try a place with good drink specials, don’t drink at all, or prime beforehand (so is the standard in NL).
Embrace the Saving Mindset
Saving money comes down to motivation and willpower: how much are you willing to change your lifestyle? Think of each dollar in terms of work: this restaurant meal is worth over an hour’s pay, a drugstore trip might cost you two hours.
Make it a challenge: What is the minimal amount you can spend this weekend? This can be a fun challenge that inspires you to check out free options in your area and engage your creativity. It’s also a good thing to do on the road. Can you handle sharing a room with other people for a free place to sleep? Or saving for a nice meal out just once a week? It can be fun to see how much you can really break down your expenses.
Consider your income: Right now, I’m living and working in Canada and saving for my next backpacking trip (later this year). I don’t make that much, but I still manage to travel the area, pay for my own health insurance, and contribute a little to my retirement savings. Once you step back and look at your take-home income, it’s easy to feel weighed down by the things you spend money on. Remember to consider what is necessary for you to live comfortably, but be picky about it. Every dollar you spend at home is a dollar you won’t have to spend later while travelling.
How do you save money for travel? Any new tips to add?