So, you want to save money for your first backpacking trip? You’ve come to the right place. It can be tough to build up your bank account but fear not. As somebody who has been there, done it and made almost every mistake along the way, I’m here to impart some general wisdom about the best ways you can save money for travel without completely sacrificing your social life to the gods.
Before we launch into this post, there are two things I’d like to say. This guide is filled with general tips, tricks and advice perfect for maximising your cash before you go. It’s also more aimed towards non-US based travel lovers like me as we don’t have the benefit of all these insanely good reward credit cards – or at least, not in my experience anyway! So, if you’re on an ordinary income (I saved on £17K a year!) but still want to fly off around the world, it’s possible!
The second thing I should say is that saving money can be really hard. Sure, it’s so exciting to see your bank balance going up and being able to tick off major milestones like paying for your flight out or visas, for example. But if you’re taking off solo like I did, chances are you’ll want to spend as much time with your loved ones as possible.
While there are plenty of free activities to do – and I suggest you squeeze as much life out of them as possible – socialising can involve going for meals, movie nights and the occasional ‘one drink that turns into a full on night out and hangover feast’. Luckily, my tips should help you to save money even when you find yourself in these situations. Now, with that said, let’s dive in…
How to Save Money for your First Backpacking Adventure!
Initial questions to ask yourself
How long do you have to save?
This is an important one because it’ll determine the rate at which you need to save. If you’ve got a fixed date in mind, this will spur you on to bank those pennies and even if you don’t want to tie yourself in to booking a flight just yet, it’s a good idea to have some sort of idea of when you’d like to travel. It’ll also help to motivate you during times when you’re tempted to blow a chunk in the Topshop sale – yep, I’ve been there.
Where are you planning to travel? And how long for?
This is another key question because the prices in different countries fluctuate a lot. Where £1,000 could get you as little as a couple of weeks living the high life in Western countries, you could easily make that last for two months in some parts of Asia.
How much you want to move around also affects the amount you’ll need to save as flights will almost certainly be your largest expenditure throughout your trip. If you’ve got a large number of countries to tick off your bucket list, it’s definitely worth roughly planning your route to make sure you aren’t costing yourself unnecessary sums of cash by going back on yourself. STA Travel have some great round-the-world flight itineraries that can help you nail down the outline of your trip – although of course, it’s likely to change on the road!
Are you planning to work?
Finally, another thing to consider is whether you want to spend some time working during your trip or whether you want to concentrate purely on travel. Planning to work while you’re abroad can take some of the pressure off and you’ll be able to leave earlier too! If you’re aged 18 – 30, you’re in luck: many countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada, offer Working Holiday Visas for up to two years so that you can save money, gain valuable experience and travel all in one.
I’m not as clued up on the Canadian Working Holiday Visa but Australia and New Zealand both have incredibly easy application processes and they’re a popular choice for many first time backpackers. If you’d like to know more, I found Christianne’s videos (Backpacking Bananas) incredibly helpful when going through the process of applying for my Australia Working Holiday Visa.
Now that we have those important questions out of the way, let’s get into the good stuff: how to save money!
My Top Tips on Saving Money for Travelling – Even on a Low Income!
Work out your current monthly spend
This isn’t always a fun process. Looking through my statements and realising how much I spend on food basically makes me want to hide in a corner with my fingers in my ears. But if you know exactly what your monthly outgoings are, it’s a lot easier to find areas where you can save money. Spend tracking apps can be really helpful here – I like ‘Spending Tracker’ which is available on IOS, although there are tons out there to choose from.
One thing that I was incredibly privileged to have was the opportunity to live at home with my parents. While of course, I was dying to get out and have my independence (still am!), I’m very grateful that it allowed me to save enough to achieve my dream of travelling. If you’re lucky enough to be able to do this too, this can help you to save huge chunks of money – although I appreciate that it’s not a possibility for everyone.
Set up a savings account
Ok, so this may sound stupidly obvious but for the longest time, I kept the majority of my money in one current account. This isn’t great for two reasons. 1 – it’s harder to see your balance going up as you aren’t sure which is ‘saved’ money and which is still left in your spending allowance. And 2 – it’s available to spend at the tap of a card. You don’t want this situation to happen!
The best thing to do is set up a savings account, preferably with a decent interest rate although they’re pretty hard to come by these days in the UK. Then you have all your precious cash squirreled away and believe me, it’s so satisfying to see the numbers climb higher.
Lock in a savings goal
Using the figures you’ve calculated in tip 1, work out how much you can afford to put away each payday after your bills. Don’t forget to leave a little bit for incidentals and having fun because you don’t want to lock yourself away completely in the months leading up to you going!
Cook your meals
This was one thing I really regret not doing more because my eating out habit was bordering on ridiculous. Even just taking a packed lunch to work instead of buying it each day can really add up. Think about it, if you’re spending £5 on lunch every weekday, that’s £100 that could be going into your travel fund if you prepare them at home instead!
Hunt for vouchers
Look, I get it; you don’t want to miss out on every social occasion for the next year or so while you save up. One thing I did get pretty good at was finding vouchers to eat out, go to the cinema and save on any necessary clothing spends. Most restaurants have a well-priced set menu and chains like Pizza Express and Prezzo even offer discounts of up to 50% on certain days of the week. Using Meerkat Movies at the cinema (or even just bringing your own snacks instead of paying the extortionate prices there) makes a huge difference and signing up to newsletters for your favourite shops often delivers exclusive savings straight into your inbox.
Ruthlessly cut out your vices
I’m sorry in advance but this bit is going to hurt. Is it a nightly glass of wine that turns into a bottle more often than not? Smoking? Those fancy Starbucks coffees each morning on the way to work? If we’re being really keen to cut down on your unnecessary expenses, these things should be among the first to go. You can be looking at a lot of money to take away with you and if you can keep it up while you’re away, it’ll even keep you saving on the road!
Sell your stuff
You won’t be able to fit it all in your backpack. Whether it’s curating a selection of clothes for Depop or attending a car boot sale with some of your bigger items, sending your things to a better home is rewarding for both the pocket and the soul. Who doesn’t feel better after a good clear out?
One major thing that can give a huge boost to your finances is getting rid of your car. After all, fuel, insurance and ad-hoc bills can add up to a hefty sum of money each year. Unfortunately, with an hour commute each way, this wasn’t an option for me but I did put it up for sale just before leaving and ended up with a nice £3,000 cheque to supplement my savings.
Ditch the contracts
Cutting out eye-wateringly pricey phone bills or gym memberships may seem like an inconvenience but it’s all extra money into your pocket. There are so many cheap rolling contracts with great data plans these days – with the added bonus of being able to cancel anytime – that there’s really no excuse for paying out £30 or more for a phone contract. Similarly, switch the expensive gym classes for home YouTube workouts or running. Yes, motivation is really tough at home but it’s good practice for when you’re on the move anyway!
Make extra money
This is sometimes easier said than done but being resourceful can land you an extra wedge to add to your savings. While I was settled in Australia for a month, I found freelance writing positions on Upwork.com which earned me an extra £1,000 during my travels. If you can do this before you leave you’ll be in a great position, both starting off and if you want to work whilst out on the road. If there’s something you’re particularly skilled at, take full advantage of it! You’ll be boarding that plane before you know it…
It can be a long slog saving to travel and sometimes, it’ll be really tough. But just remember why you’re doing it and in no time, the excitement for your future will be back with a bang! For many people, a backpacking adventure is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and you’ll appreciate every penny so much when you’re out there living the dream. I did a decent job of saving for my travels but I always wished I’d had more because once you’re there, you’ll want to keep exploring for as long as possible!
Good luck and enjoy the adventures!
Have you found this post helpful? Let me know in the comments 🙂
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