As the day fast approaches to take off on my 2018 European winter escapade, I have been reflecting on how this trip came to be. Sure, one can dream to travel, plan to travel “eventually”, but to bite the bullet and actually DO it? That is another story. Wanting to go on a multi-week trip is a yearning that doesn’t sneak up on you in the dead of night but continually knocks at your door day in and day out. It consumes your thoughts and actions, sometimes without you even realizing it. What I’m trying to get at is, while you can talk about traveling to remote destinations, dream about Christmas markets in Europe, and dream of putting your toes in the soft white sand beaches in the Maldives… to do it; now that takes more. So as I reflect on how this trip came to be, I reflect on how it has become possible that I am actually doing it. And the biggest part of it all is and has been, saving money. You have to save money to travel. So for you dreamers out there, here is how I saved. And if I can do it, you can too. (Trust me… your girl loves a nice pair of shoes).
Part of what I am going to say is obvious… stop eating out, stop taking Uber, DUH. But I hope that I can give you some insight that you might not have thought of otherwise.
How to save money to travel; for an extended period of time…
Give yourself TIME to prepare
You must give yourself TIME to plan and prepare for a multi-week trip. I have been dreaming of taking an extended vacation since I knew what the word “vacation” meant. But the day I decided that I was actually going to do it, my focus shifted. For an ENTIRE YEAR, I started thinking differently about how to spend my money. That is what it took for me, an entire year of savings to finally make the leap to travel. In that year I messed up… a lot. I bought shoes that were entirely too expensive, I paid for cabs when I easily could have walked. Heck, I paid $12/day parking when I could’ve taken the train for $2! But as the days continue to get closer to my departure I continue to hunker down even more. Time is what taught me what was important. Do I want to spend an extra week in Europe weaving my through alleyways down cobblestone streets? Or do I want those jeans that won’t fit in a few years? (Your girl also loves pizza).
For how I made the decision to travel solo, and you can too, click here.
Open a separate SAVINGS account
I started a separate savings account. A separate travel account that wasn’t my original “savings”, and an account that certainly wasn’t my “checking”. Every single paycheck that I got I took 10% and put it into my “original savings” (just in case anything were to happen), and I took 25% and put it into my “travel savings”. Because… priorities. Then, at the end of my pay period, before I got paid again, I transferred the remainder of what was in my “checking” account to my “travel savings” account. Some weeks it grew quickly, some weeks it grew slowly. But I never ever touched it.
EAT-IN MORE THAN YOU EAT OUT
I am being realistic here. Everyone still wants to have a life and enjoy it! And you even deserve it! There is nothing I dislike more than reading an article on how to save and the author writes, “I completely stopped going out to eat and I only bought rice and beans at the grocery store.” Now, is that realistic? For me, no. But I became more conscious about eating out. I stopped splitting meals with friends who ordered more than me. Instead of ordering three drinks, I ordered two. I suggested a happy hour frequently!
BEAUTY – You can cut back, trust me
I believe that where I saved the most money in this past year was in the beauty department. And while it pained me at first, I eventually began to stop noticing that my hands weren’t as soft and that my eyebrows were a bit fluffier than usual (which, apparently, is in). This is EXACTLY how I cut down on spending in the beauty department. (All prices were approximations and varied if I went to different salons, etc).
Eyebrows waxed every six weeks – Stopped waxing my eyebrows, started plucking them on my own
Savings: $40/wax = $344 savings/year
Manicures every twelve weeks – Stopped getting manicures, started painting my own nails
Savings: $45/manicure = $194 savings/year
Lip wax every six weeks – Lip wax every eight weeks
Savings: $12/wax = $25 savings/year
Hair cut/color every seven weeks – Hair cut/color every 14-weeks
Savings: $250/cut/color = $925 savings/year
Facial every four weeks – No facials
Savings: $100/facial = $1,300 savings/year
Pedicure – Only thing I did not cut down on
Total: $2,788 – I highly suggest tracking your spending habits. The only way I knew how to cut down where I most needed it was by making my own spreadsheet. I divide my spending in categories (beauty, restaurants, groceries, etc), and go through my credit card statement each week to see where I am spending the most money. The other point here is that I regularly checked my credit card, every single week if not more.
Be smarter about CLOTHES
Yes. I bought clothes. And no, I don’t regret it. But I started buying clothes SMARTER. I started shopping at H&M, Nordstrom Rack, places I didn’t normally shop. I shopped sales online and used promo codes when possible. And most importantly I started to think long term. Will that benefit me on my trip; or will it sit and collect dust in my closet when I’m gone? I was the type of girl who shopped every time the seasons changed. But when I decided to make the decision to travel, I shopped less. I didn’t quit cold turkey, but I also realized what was truly important.
TRAINS are always a good idea
And for the love of God. Don’t pay $12/day for parking when you can take the train for $2. Now that is just stupid.
The bottom line is that I did the best that I could. Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t beat yourself up. You have a dream… go for it! Spend wisely (or as wisely as you can), and take a leap of faith. You got this. And if you do choose to take the leap, click here for how to pack for a long holiday… cheers!