Travel money

How to Save Money so You Can Travel

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Do you dream of a life of travel but feel like you are stuck on a hamster wheel just trying to pay the bills? Unfortunately, this is a normal feeling for many of us.  

Would you like to start checking off destinations on your bucket list? We cover simple changes you can make in your life so you can break the cycle. Let’s explore how to save money so you can travel.

What Makes Us Experts?

Many people ask us how we travel so much. We do not pretend to be financial wizards. To be clear, we are not giving you financial advice. However, Julie and I raised four kids and still managed to take a nice vacation every year.  

Now that our kids are grown, we have left the corporate world for a gap year of travel and adventure. We made some sacrifices in our lives to take these trips.

Travel has always been a priority for us. Accordingly, it impacts how we use our money. Anyone that knows us can tell you that we own very few luxury items. Do I feel worse off for that? Absolutely not.

I would not trade our family vacations for anything in the world. Those experiences and memories are priceless.

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”

– Anonymous

I firmly believe that how much money you make does not matter. It is more about how much you spend and how much you save.  

I can’t promise that these tips will have the same results for you. However, it is feasible that small changes can help you save money so you can travel.

Ways to Save Money

money grows over time

We have many simple ways to help you cut back on spending.  Becoming more frugal through adopting a few of these ideas, you can kickstart your life of travel and adventure.

Pay Yourself First

When you get paid, what do you do? Many of us indulge, then pay bills only to find there is nothing left to save. Some pay bills first, have a little fun, and then try to save what little they have left.  

To get ahead in this game of life, you need to pay yourself first. What exactly does that mean? When you get a paycheck, the first dollars used go directly to you. 

Think of your paycheck as a pie. It does not matter what flavor. Pick your favorite and visualize it.

If you genuinely want to travel more, why would you divvy out all the slices to everything before your travel fund? Everybody will devour your pie. You will not have any crumbs left to put in your travel fund.  

We will turn the tables so you can savor that delicious pie. The first few slices are for you. After cutting initial pieces for your savings and retirement funds, plate one for travel.  

This is for the “near future you.” Trust me, the “near future you” will be more grateful than the “current you” can imagine. Remember, you are making dreams come true.

Do not put that slice in your regular checking account. It is like leaving the pie on the counter next to a glass of cold milk. You are begging yourself or a family member to take a bite.  

This slice of pie is precious. You need to place it in a special account designated only for travel. We must take the temptation off the table.  

Everybody in the household knows not to touch this pie. It will pay you huge dividends in the form of memories that last forever!

There will be plenty of pie left to pay the bills. After a little practice with paying yourself first, you will find there are still some slices of pie for the “current you” to enjoy.

Automate Your Savings

Let’s be honest. As humans, we are weak. The temptation to spend money for instant gratification creeps into our brains daily. It happens to all of us.

We are going to take an extra step to remove that temptation by automating our savings. Make arrangements with your bank to have a set amount or percentage from each paycheck go directly into your travel fund. You will not think about spending it elsewhere by automatically placing the money in the proper account.

Give Yourself a Raise

Whenever you receive a raise or promotion at work, give yourself a raise. An increase in pay means you can save more for travel, general savings and retirement. Increasing these amounts means you can start moving toward bigger vacations or more frequent trips.  

You do not have to devote your entire increase to paying yourself, but do not let the greedy “current you” take every dollar of the pay increase. The “near future you” deserves another slice from the bigger pie.

Lump Sum

Should you receive a lump sum, no matter the amount, designate part of that for your travel fund. A lump sum could be a work bonus, a tax refund, or even birthday money.  

Be intentional with your money. Make sure your dollars are going toward your dreams and not frivolous purchases.

Do Not Carry Debt

Try not to carry any debt other than your home. These monthly obligations with interest take away funds that could be used for retirement, savings, and travel.  

If you currently have debt, work toward paying it off. First, focus on the debt with the highest interest rate. You can use all the methods in this post to channel more funds toward getting out of debt.  

Once your debt is eliminated, it will be like getting a raise. You will have more money to utilize for travel.

Look in the Mirror

We all have our vices. Look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. Do you make routine purchases that can be scaled back? Calculate your monthly spending on things like coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, and lottery tickets.

These things may bring you joy, but do you need to buy them as often or in that quantity? What would a reduction in those expenses mean for your travel fund?  

I personally love coffee. At one time, I drank four to five cups a day. As you can imagine, that quickly adds up. I still enjoy coffee but now have one or two cups a day. That is a significant savings for my family.

If you smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol, consider reducing your consumption. You can improve your health and your bank account.

If you eat out for lunch daily, consider packing your lunch two or three times a week. These are merely a few examples. Take stock of your spending habits and see where you can trim expenses.  

Track Your Expenses

Track your monthly expenses. You may be surprised where your money goes each month.  

It is essential that you know how your dollars are being spent. You will likely discover additional areas to cut expenses. 

Reduce Convenience Purchases

Are you paying for convenience foods like pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? I am not here to judge you. Having four kids ourselves, we fell into this trap for a while. Of course, it is easier. It is also more costly.

Weekly Menu

Grocery shopping is a considerable expense for a family. Plus, it is one of the most dangerous activities you can ever do. Where else can you find this much temptation?  

When it comes to grocery shopping, try these tips:

  • Eat before you go to the store.
  • Plan your meals for the week. 
  • Always have a grocery list and stick to it. 

If I am hungry when grocery shopping, I literally want to grab everything in the store. Be sure to shop on a full belly. 

We spent more money on groceries when we did not have a menu or shopping list. Julie will be the first to admit that she must have any food that displays the word “new” on its packaging. 

We made a rule that everyone could have one special item that was not on the list. Yes, this included mom and dad. A choice had to be made if anybody found more than one special item. This way, we kept our expenses in check.

If you are unable to stick to the list, consider grocery delivery. You will likely save money even by paying for the service and a tip.

Bulk Up

Shop at grocery stores that carry bulk items. By purchasing items in bulk, you receive a price break. Plus, you could save on gas by going to the store less often. 

Think Generic

Some goods, such as food, paper products, cleaning supplies, and medications, are available in generic brands. You can save money by saying no to name brands with fancy logos.

U.S. dollar banknote with map

Mind Your Impulses

Do not make impulse purchases. Make a rule that you will wait two or three days with any purchase. This gives you plenty of time to think:

  • Do I need this?
  • Does it truly bring me joy?

If, after two or three days, you can honestly say you need the item, or it will bring you joy, then make the purchase. Otherwise, you have dodged a bullet inscribed with “buyer’s remorse.”

Dine Out Less

Limit going out to eat and ordering food delivery to once a week or less. Make it a special treat rather than the norm. If you are currently dining out or ordering food frequently, this could save you a lot of money.  

Being a family of six, just going to a fast food restaurant is a big expense. This one made a significant difference for us.

Reduce Entertainment and Miscellaneous Expenses

Going to the movies can be fun. It can also be expensive, especially if you purchase food and drinks.  

When our kids were young, movies came out on DVD a year or more after being in theaters. Today’s world is very different. Movies are often on a streaming service a couple of months after leaving theaters.  

If you pay for streaming services, wait to see movies in the comfort of your home. A small exercise in patience will save you money.

Check your other entertainment and miscellaneous expenses. Dialing it down just a bit can make a difference.

Drop Your Landline

We were slow to drop our landline. It is difficult to break habits for things that are part of your everyday life. If you still have a landline, I implore you to drop it.  

You can survive with only a mobile phone. As scary as it is, you will be ok. In today’s world, this truly is an unnecessary expense.

Cut the Cable 

It is time to explore your options if you subscribe to cable television. There are many streaming services available at competitive rates.  

The danger with streaming services is that none of them are likely to carry everything you want. Do you need more than a couple of streaming services?

Keep your goals in mind. Do you want to get out of the house to travel and explore? If so, go with one or two streaming services and put more money aside for your travel fund.  

Collect Experiences, Not Things

I don’t know what it is about us as Americans. Why are we obsessed with collecting things? Julie and I are guilty of this. We had to buy every book or movie to proudly display on a shelf as part of our grand collection.  

Over time, this costs a lot of money. I began to realize it would not kill me if I borrowed a book from the library. Eventually I got over missing some books in my collection. It saved space in our home and money in our accounts.  

We recognized that we often watched a DVD only once or twice before it became a permanent dust magnet. So, we stopped buying them.  

Take a hard look at your collections. Nobody is trying to steal your joy, but do not let material things keep you from collecting experiences.

Compare Cell Phone Plans

There are many cell phone plan alternatives today. Most of us do not need an intricate plan.

Do a little research to identify affordable options. At the very least, contact your current provider to see if they can reduce your rates. You may be surprised that they are willing to work with you. They do not want to lose customers.

Cut Unnecessary Subscriptions

Do you still subscribe to newspapers or magazines? Cancel those subscriptions. In many cases, you can get the same information online for free. Plus, it’s better for the environment.

Credit Cards

Many people may tell you to cut up your credit cards. In full disclosure, I used to think this way.  

I am debt averse, but my thoughts on credit cards have changed through the years. This is primarily because many credit cards offer reward programs that can save you money for travel.

We live by two steadfast rules when it comes to credit cards:

  1. Only use a credit card for planned expenses. In other words, never purchase additional items just to get points or rewards.
  2. Always pay credit card balances in full every month.

Using a disciplined approach with credit cards, you can use card rewards to help pay for your trips.

If you are unable to follow these two rules, do not use credit cards. They carry high-interest rates. The last thing you want is to be saddled with credit card debt.   

Cancel Gym Memberships

Do you have a gym membership?  Are there more affordable options?  

Your health and social life are essential. We are not asking you to ignore that. However, it does not hurt to explore your options. 

Minimize Vanity Spending

Do you spend much money on manicures, pedicures, designer clothes, expensive makeup, and going to the salon? We all want to look our best and to feel good about ourselves.  

These items are costly. Can you make some minor changes for the sake of living the life you want?

I went through a phase of purchasing expensive clothes. At the end of the day, these things did not make me happy. Even worse, I no longer had the money for other purposes. 

The truth is, I am more comfortable in a flannel shirt any day of the week. Thankfully, I recognized this and now spend less on clothing.

Do Not Pay for Household Services

Do you pay for household services like mowing the lawn or cleaning the house? Consider tackling these chores yourself.  

The savings can be significant, and you will feel better about completing these jobs yourself. You will love the extra money to go toward your dream vacation

Compare and Negotiate

Take a look at all your monthly bills, including utilities and internet services. Do some research. Compare alternatives for your area. Find out what their competitors charge.  

This process takes a little time and effort, but it will be worth it. You may be overpaying on some of your bills. If so, attempt to negotiate with your current providers or switch.  

If you find that you currently have the best rate on each bill, then you will have peace of mind knowing that your hard-earned money is not being wasted.

Wrap Up: How to Save Money so You Can Travel

dream trip - enjoying travel

One of the first financial books that resonated with me is “The Automatic Millionaire” by David Bach. A lot of the concepts I listed above are detailed in his book. David presents everything in a way that is easy to understand.

This book is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It is about simple, systematic approaches that lead to long-term wealth.  

I can’t thank David enough for his book.  It was a game changer for our family.  By utilizing his ideas and making simple changes, we were able to save money and live the life we wanted. You can purchase the book here.

We hope to inspire you to take that trip you talk about. Make your dream a reality. Start saving today:

  • Pay yourself first.  
  • Automate your savings.
  • Make a few minor changes from our list of saving tips.  
  • Book your trip.  

Soon you will be checking destinations off your bucket list.

Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey

Scott And Julie McConkey

After 30 years, Scott and Julie McConkey left the corporate world for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year became a second act, and they are now full-time travel bloggers!