How to Save Money for Travel (on Autopilot!) in 6 Easy Steps
It’s 2018 (wooo!), which means you have a whole new year to knock a few destinations off your bucket lists. Don’t let “I don’t have the money” be an excuse this year! Use these six easy steps to save money for travel, and put your savings on autopilot.
Even if you don’t have much of an income you can always find a way to build a savings, if your prioritize it. If you are saving for travel – even better! By stashing cash away for travel you are ultimately investing in yourself, which is a great use of your hard-earned dough.
Why should you save money for travel?
Things will come and go as time passes. Things inevitably break and get lost, and eventually are thrown away. But you’ll carry your experiences and adventures with you for the rest of your life.
Finding extra money can be tough, but with these six steps below you can basically trick yourself into saving a lot of money. The key is prioritizing your savings, and trusting that it will grow with time.
Over time, your savings will grow faster than you’d expect. I recommend only looking at your account once a month so you’ll get extra excited about how fast it’s growing – without you doing anything.
In the example below, I outline how you should be able to put away $1000 – or more – in 2 months. Enough to take a week off and explore a new country comfortably, or take advantage of one of these super-affordable Groupon deals.
1. Open a Dedicated Bank Account
This is my tried-and-true secret to save money for travel (and in general) – and your mandatory STEP 1 in maximizing your travel funds.
Open a separate bank account at a different bank than where you currently do your banking. I love the Ally high-yield savings account, which pays you much more interest on your savings than a normal bank account and doesn’t have any fees. Plus, their online-only interface is amazingly easy to use!
Note that you do not want to open a checking account with this second bank (this is the key!) – ONLY get a savings account. You do not want to be able to easily access this cash. Making it as hard as possible to touch your savings means you are much much less likely to spend it, unless you have a real emergency – or when it’s time to spend it on your travel goal!
2. Eliminate Excess Spending
Understand what you honestly NEED to spend money on, and what you don’t. This is a great article fro Nerd Wallet that can help. This part is critical to reaching your savings goals as quickly as possible. First, write down all your bills – then see where you can cut or reduce your spending. By prioritizing and editing your spending habits, you’ll free up cash for your travel fund. Divide your spending into mandatory spending (food, heat, shelter, debt) and non-mandatory, such as eating out, drinks, entertainment, daily coffees, or cigarettes.
Spoiler alert: All your spending needs to be scrutinized, edited, or eliminated immediately to maximize your available savings. If you don’t know where to start, here are some things to consider:
- Are you overpaying for your cell phone, cable or internet? Scope out your bill and call up your providers.
- Do you really need to pay for Spotify premium? Can you live with the free version?
- Maybe you can split the Netflix bill with a friend and share the account.
- Stop smoking, immediately. Not only will you save $10-$20+ per week ($40-$80+/month), you’ll save thousands of dollars in medical bills and insurance premiums down the road.
- Reduce the heat or A/C use while you’re out of the house.
- Pre-packaged and frozen foods tend to be more costly than fresh produce, bakery bread, and meats.
- Are you paying too much for rent?
- Cut back on grocery spending and shop at discount stores like Aldi’s and Market Basket.
- Can you refinance your student loans or other debt for a lower interest rate? (Pay off the loan with the highest interest rate first to minimize excess spending on interest!)
Figure out how much money you are able to cut from your monthly spending and write down that number – you’ll need it for STEP 3.
3. Paycheck Diversion
This is my savings-secret-sauce that has yielded the most success of any other method I’ve tried. First, you need to complete STEP 1, above: Open a separate savings account through a new bank. This must be an account that you do not have debit cards, checks, a checking account or a credit card linked to. Then, you need to figure out how much spending you can cut from your current habits. Then it’s time to set up your automated paycheck diversion.
Once your new account is open, you can immediately begin diverting a portion of your paycheck directly into that account via direct deposit. Ask your HR department to put this portion of your check as a direct deposit into your new savings account – they can set it up so it’s automatic with every paycheck and you wont have to lift a finger.
This paycheck diversion should be a minimum of $100, but can be as much as you’re comfortable with. The remainder of your paycheck will continue to go into your regular bank account(s) to cover your bills and any necessary spending. At a rate of $100 per paycheck, it will take you 10 paychecks to save $1000 in your new account. Ideally, you’ll contribute as much as you can into this savings account from your paycheck.
How much should you be diverting? Go back to the amount you were able to save in STEP 2 – divide this number by 2 (assuming you’re paid twice per month), to find the dollars-per-paycheck. You should contribute this dollar amount to your new savings account, plus any additional funds that aren’t going toward necessities.
If you were able to cut $300/month of spending in STEP 2 — that’s $150 per paycheck that you can now contribute to your travel savings.
You can contribute an additional $100 from each paycheck to your savings account.
You’ll be saving $500 per month: $150 + $100 = $250/paycheck = $500/month!
Let your HR person know how much to divert into your new account based on this total. Then, send the remainder to your regular bank account for bills and necessary spending. At this rate, you’re saving $500 per month on autopilot, and it will only take you 2 months to reach your travel goal of $1000! Isn’t that amazing?! It’s like finding free money.
Note: You can use this savings method for anything, not just for travel. You can even open multiple accounts to save for different things, like a house, wedding, new car, filling a swimming pool is $1 bills, or taking a year off and traveling the world!
4. Monthly Extra Savings
Here’s where you can trick yourself into saving even more money! Up until this step we’ve been saving from paycheck to paycheck. But you can set up automatic transfers between accounts to transfer money whenever you want.
I recommend starting with an extra transfer of $50 per month from your regular checking account (the one you use to pay off your credit card and buy movie tickets and beer) into your new savings account on a set day every month. By transferring out of this checking account, you probably won’t even notice it’s gone, and you’ll be giving your travel fund an extra boost.
Note that you’ll need to make sure you always have above this amount ($50 in this case) in that checking account so you don’t accidentally overdraw*. This step essentially compensates for your inevitable oversights in STEP 2. 🙂 We’re all human! If you find you can afford to transfer more per month out of your checking account, you can adjust the monthly transfer to fit your budget. Make sure to set this transfer through your bank so it’s recurring monthly, and it’s on autopilot.
At a rate of $50/month, you’ll give yourself an extra $600 per year, which means you can splurge on a private tour when you travel, stay in a nicer hotel/AirBnB/hostel, or travel for a few days longer! Bump up your monthly transfer to $100/month and that’s an extra $1200 per year!
5. Sell your Stuff
We all have things lying around the house that we rarely use use and could live without. These things are just taking up space – physically, mentally, financially. Hop on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or LetGo and sell all of it! That extra cash can help boost your savings significantly.
Plus, if your goal is to travel, you won’t need these things while you’re out having adventures. If you don’t end up selling something you should probably just donate it and [potentially] write it off on your tax return, instead of keeping something that is simply cluttering up your life.
You typically can’t get much profit when you sell clothing yourself, but if you find a consignment store with good merchandising, you can actually make decent money for your lightly-worn clothes, shoes and accessories. Ebay is sometimes a good option for used clothes as well.
When you sell your things, make sure you deposit your earnings directly into that new savings account!
6. DIY and Repair Things
This is often overlooked, but by avoiding spending unnecessary money, you are able to keep more of it in your pocket – and thus contribute more to your savings (and avoid having to dip into your savings fro emergencies).
You can DIY simple things to save money – like making homemade cleaners from inexpensive ingredients, or making your own non-toxic face scrubs. Or you can take-on a project or a repair yourself, instead of hiring a professional or buying a replacement.
For example, Donald and I needed to get rid of a small pile of asphalt after we tore up an old walkway in our backyard. All the contractors we called wanted to charge $300-$400 to remove it! I called a local “contractor waste facility” and asked about dropping off this pile of asphalt myself. They told me it would cost $30, minimum. So I loaded up my trunk and a few 5-gallon buckets with all this asphalt (I drive a very small car), and drove (very slowly) to the facility. They took one look at my car and only charged me $10 to dump it. I basically “made” $290-$390 (meaning, I didn’t unnecessarily lose this money) just by taking an hour out of my day to do it myself!
The New England proverb below is one of my favorites. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” It really captures what I’m going for with STEP 6. Once you get in the mindset of saving money by avoiding extra costs, you can eliminate a lot of things that you might have unnecessarily paid for out of habit, or because you hadn’t done something before. A little resourcefulness goes a long way – and can help you save a lot of money.
Do you have other ways to save money for travel? Share in the comments below!
Thanks for reading! 🙂
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