“It’s too expensive,” is my least favorite excuse why people don’t travel. I can only think of one good reason not to travel overseas, and that would be the environmental damage caused by air travel. I met a girl in Australia who told me she only travels by boat for this reason.
Whether you sail or fly, traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. You’ll need some money, but saving up for travel isn’t that hard and it doesn’t have to take long either. It also doesn’t have to make your life empty while you’re saving. It just takes some thoughtful budgeting, an open mind, creativity and resourcefulness.
I plan to save up at least $6,000 in the next year, and enjoy each day of it to the fullest. Here’s how:
I’ve got a great gig locked down from now until June as a babysitter for a family in (no surprise) Park Slope, the Brooklyn neighborhood notorious for stroller jokes. I hang out with cute kids who talk about poop a lot and make me laugh.
Nannying isn’t for everyone, but if you want to save money you will need a part-time or full-time job. If you don’t have a job, start looking for one now.
Living at Mom’s, or in a housing collective
Living at home makes it easy to save a large amount of money fast. No rent, no groceries, no bills. That’s easily $800-$1,000 saved per month.
The thing is, I really don’t want to live at home. I’m sure many of you feel the same. Living at your parent’s in your twenties can be boring and isolating. I’d rather live amongst other young, creative people. I’m still debating if I want it bad enough to slow down my savings, but I think I do. It’s a matter of happy now vs. happy later. I believe in being happy now.
In that case, my solution is to seek a room in a housing collective. Housing collectives are awesome. They keep the rent as cheap as possible by splitting big spaces between many roommates, keep food costs down by creating communal funds for quality groceries, and minimize bills by emphasizing resourcefulness and eco-consciousness. The best part is, you get to live with a bunch of people who are intentionally participating because they want to be more than just your roommates. Why would I move out of my parent’s just to feel isolated all over again, living with roommates who never hang out?
25 hours a week as a nanny leaves me plenty of time to make extra money. One way I’m trying to do that is by seeking freelance writing gigs. I don’t want to neglect my passion for writing by doing too many unrelated jobs. So far I’ve created a profile on Elance.com and I search their listings of writing gigs often. I haven’t gotten any yet, but I’ve seen examples of some that could earn me an extra $500 a month. You can do these jobs from anywhere with a computer, so once I’m traveling, I can continue to freelance on the road.
Not Binge Drinking
When I studied abroad in Melbourne, Australia, I watched as many of my peers let alcohol drain their wallets. From day one there, I vowed not to let booze destroy my after-study travel funds. I wouldn’t be surprised if I saved $400 a month by not drinking.
Say a drink averages at about $7. You go out about four times a week (On Friday and Saturday you drink four. On Tuesday and Thursday you drink two, because it’s a week night.)
7 x 4 x 2= 56
7 x 2 x 2= 28
= $84.oo per week
x 4 weeks
= $336.00 per month, spent on getting drunk.
What travel experiences can that same amount of money get us? I did some research and found:
A Eurail pass for four countries costs $340
A one-way flight from NY to London this month is $326
About 2-months in private rooms in Thailand ($5 a night x60 days =$300)
Alcohol makes me act stupid, is bad for my health, and makes me feel sick the next day. Why would I let it also prevent me from traveling the world? I’m perfectly happy going out once or twice a week, having one beer, and drinking water the rest of the night.
If your heart is set on drinking, just think of how much more of it you can do when you get to a country where alcohol is dirt cheap, like Vietnam or Laos.
Exercise is essential for our well-being. Most New Yorkers who work-out go to a gym. I went to the gym in college. I was one of those girls who you’d see at the gym every day, clad in black leggings, Dubstep blasting from her headphones, furiously chasing nothing on the elliptical. Now that I’m living in New York City again, there’s no way I’m paying for a gym. The cheapest one I know of is New York Sports Club, whose most basic membership is $70 a month. That’s $840 a year.
Last week my friend and I were stuck inside for days during hurricane Sandy, and we really wanted to exercise. We decided to put on James Brown and dance wildly around my room. We set a timer and danced for thirty minutes. Then we set a timer for thirty more, and took turns leading strength exercises. We laughed the entire time. It cost us zero dollars, and was more creative, social and fun than the gym.
I’m also passionate about yoga, which can get expensive if you’re not thrifty. The cheapest yoga studio in my neighborhood charges $100 for one month of unlimited classes. This is a great deal if you can afford it, but if you’re broke and trying to save $6,000 dollars (like me) then I can suggest two alternatives.
The first is to find a donation based yoga class. I’ve started commuting to Yoga to the People in Williamsburg for this. I donate $2 per class. If I go five times a week (which realistically, I don’t) I’d pay $10 a week, $40 a month. That’s better. My other suggestion is “karma yoga” or work-exchange for yoga. Most studios offer this opportunity to do light cleaning and laundry a few hours a week in exchange for classes. No money exchanged.
Also, ride your bike everywhere! Free exercise, free fun, and you’ll save money on transportation.
I haven’t bought any new clothes, shoes, or cosmetics in about five months now. The last item I bought were pants for $5USD in Thailand. Anything I bought in the six months before that were from thrift stores and were under $10.
Sadly, consumerism is a defining feature of New York and American culture. People in America often treat shopping like it’s a hobby. I used to be really into fashion and had a bad shopping habit. After backpacking for months, I realize how little I need. Now that I’m home, I’ve decided to separate myself entirely from shopping culture. I refuse to shop just for shopping’s sake, or to buy things I don’t really need.
I’ve accumulated enough clothes over the years that buying anything new would be blatantly materialistic. If I really want something new to express myself through fashion, then there’s plenty of free ways to do it, such as:
- Borrowing or swapping clothes/shoes/stuff with friends.
- Hosting a communal clothes swap (or other stuff swap) party.
- Join or create an online bartering community.
- Visit a Free Market, or start your own.
If you’re serious about saving up for a long-term travel or a round the world trip, you need to be committed to it. Talk about it all the time, with everyone you run into. Create a visual reminder of your goal somewhere you look often. I have a chalkboard in my room with the affirmation I SAVE MONEY EVERY DAY written across it.
Keep written records of your budget and savings. Make sure your budget is realistic and does include a small amount for things like takeout, coffee, alcohol, or whatever it is that you’d pretend to quit buying entirely but are likely to give in to. I’ll write more about budgeting soon. Take your budget seriously. No cheating!
We can do this. We can save up to travel. We can travel around the world. Anything is possible when you want it badly enough. It may seem overwhelming, but just take it one day at a time. Don’t miss the opportunity to travel and see the world. Whatever you do in the next few years, you are likely to spend money. You have the freedom to decide which experiences that money will buy you.
This post was inspired by a post from Mies Flemming’s blog “A Couple Steps Forward.” Click here to read her money-saving tips.
*Featured image photo credit: cat cameron