Save Money to Travel
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How to save money for travel (and not go crazy)

Money Money Money Money!! We all need it to do just about anything, and especially to travel. Yes, people say you can travel without a lot of money, but you do need some to get around. So, here’s how to save money to travel without going crazy!

There are a few really great blogs out there that list how to save some good money to travel. One of my favorites is World of Wanderlust.

But what I’m going to tell you is a little bit different. It’s more about a lifestyle than a sprint for a dollar amount in the bank account.

Yes, you can work your butt off and get another job, cut down on the cable and Starbucks, and you can make more meals at home. These are all great ways to save money. If you want to go farther, you can make your own home cleaning supplies, have a garden, and depend on a bike to get around instead of paying for gas (depending on where you live, of course!).

park bike on tree

When we saved up to move across the Atlantic — to live out our dream lives in Amsterdam so we could travel around Europe more, learn a new pace of life, and figure out what a work-life balance really is — we knew we needed a plan. We knew we had to sacrifice, but didn’t want to give up everything we enjoyed while we were saving money to travel and move.

In the end, we didn’t eat out much, opting instead to hang out with friends at their house or ours. We didn’t buy new clothes unless they were needed.  We made work lunches at home. In general there wasn’t a lot we were spending on except bills and groceries. Oh, and we sold things. The typical plan.

The problem with a lot of sacrificing is the bitterness that can arise. It can make you wonder if life is really fun and if it’s worth the time making the money. You can definitely suck it up and not do anything or spend any money, but we figured we still wanted to LIVE, not just work and save money. So, we came up with a new plan–a new way of life.

Save money by understanding how buying something makes you feel

The Library Boat

If you’re a marketing/sales person, you will know the term ROI. It’s your return on investment. This typically means if you get more money out than you invested in, but in our scenario, it’s about how much happiness you get out of it.

Is a $5 Starbucks Vanilla Almond Hot Chocolate with chocolate whipped cream going to give me a lot of happiness, or would saving that $5 towards moving or our next vacation make me happier? This would depend on the moment, but typically no. If you feel like you can say “no”, do it, maybe next time you will really need that hot chocolate. I haven’t given in yet this winter, but that’s not to say I won’t!

Keep having a life while understanding the value of events

The Library Coolest Members

Nobody really wants to stop being social. So, just be smart about it instead!

Is a $100 dinner out with friends better than a potluck at home where everyone brings wine or beer and can relax, have a good time, and without paying a 20% tip at the end of the night?

Sometimes it’s about picking one event over another. If you get to see 15 friends at a wine shop event that’s included in your membership (knowing you’ll probably by a $20 bottle of wine to share), or you could spend $100 at a wine festival (including entrance, and maybe 3 glasses of wine with crazy expensive food prices), which would you choose?

I pick the wine shop! I get wine, support a local business, get to catch up with friends, meet new people, and network at the wine shop. At the wine festival, it might be fun and interesting, but isn’t worth $100 to not get to know the wine and talk to the vendors because it’s so busy, then pay $10 for 2 steamed buns and leave frustrated because of how much we spent. That’s not happiness, and you wouldn’t get a lot of benefit from that event either.

Yes, these are real-life examples!

Birthday Quad


  • Meet friends for breakfast/lunch/tea/drink but not for dinner. The last meal of the day tends to be quite expensive, so enjoy a leisurely brunch on a weekend instead! Less money, but still good quality time with friends
  • Have a good old fashioned game night! Of course you can play whatever you’d like…from video games, darts, card or board games. A favorite of my friends is Cards Against Humanity. It’s certainly a great way to really get to know your friends 🙂
  • Movie day/night! There’s no reason not to have a binge movie or Netflix night at your place. Have people bring some drinks, grab some chips and popcorn and go for it!

Discover free community events


I realize that I’m lucky to live in a city with festivals happening all the time, but there’s probably something near you as well. Even in Virginia, we had a block party, an event for July 4th, holiday events, and more. The best are the ones put on by the municipality, because they might be free. In Amsterdam, we have King’s Day (a crazy awesome party), Gay Pride (another crazy awesome party), National Tulip Day, and random festivals throughout the year. Learn about your city and get the most of it!

If you are a travel blogger, check to see if there is a Travel Massive in your area. They hold (free) events throughout the year and they are worth your time because: there’s usually food/drink, you meet new bloggers, you can build your network, you could learn something, and it could be at a business you’ve never been to before. The ROI on attending a Travel Massive event is high!

Photo from Yelp by Manuela Hugo
Photo from Yelp by Manuela Hugo

If you love to review things, join Yelp! There’s a huge community behind the platform and it’s how I made a lot of my friends in Amsterdam. Yelp sometimes has events open to all members–these can be free or paid. But if you are an Elite member, you have the chance to join free events throughout the year. There is an investment here–you have to be an active and engaged user. But that makes it more fun!

Making the most of the money you have is just another tactic in planning in planning your big move or RTW trip. So, have a drink, toast with friends, and make it last a little longer than you would have before. There’s no need to giving up living your life while you are planning for the rest of it!

What other tips would you have to live your life while saving money to travel? Please share with the rest of us!

17 thoughts on “How to save money for travel (and not go crazy)

  1. I totally agree: if you look at it as a sacrifice, you’ll end up resentful, especially if it takes months and months to save what you need! it’s much better to look at it as an opportunity to do thigs differently – we might end up enjoying this new way of life even more and that would be a great Roi!!

  2. These are all really good ways to save money – it’s really important (at least to me) to not sacrifice the quality of life just to save a few bucks. When I was really saving for a backpacking trip I didn’t really stop doing anything I normally did. I still paid my gym membership, went out to dinners, and enjoyed going out for tasty craft beers. The way I was able to save money was to just be more mindful about what I was spending. I made sure that everything I was spending money on I was doing it for a good reason!

  3. Love this post. I feel the same way it’s always so hard to keep saying no to events and things knowing that you’re saving up for an awesome trip. Sometimes you’ve just got to make sacrifices because it makes it that much more worth it in the end! That’s why I’ve started bringing my lunch to work too. It’s so lame sometimes working right downtown but that saves me at least $30 a week .. that adds up!

  4. Great post! I complexly agree, it’s about the lifestyle not jus saving. I’ve been working as an expat in New Zealand, saving money for my return. I managed to save between 1/3-1/2 of my earnings, but at the same time I didn’t want to not go out and do things while living on the other side of the world! I’d already travelled around New Zealand, which made a big difference, but I still went on weekend trips occasionally. It was all about priorities, I’d go out less, but choose to go to things I really wanted to. Picking cheaper options for social events and looking for free/ cheap things to do is great. I love hiking, and it’s free, so I used my hobby to meet new people and socialise that way. I didn’t buy stuff unless I needed it, and made sure I thought about purchases for a few days (if it was a non-essential item) so I could decide if I really wanted it or not. At the back of my mind, I knew every $ really did count; In central America I stayed in hostels for as little as US$4 a night, so not buying that $30 dress and knowing that was at least 2 nights accommodation in Asia helped make saving on the small purchases easier, as I thought about it in terms of what I could use that money on instead.

  5. Loved this! I think it’s great to factor in your happiness. A lot of times I see this kind of post and think, oh hell no I’m not giving that up! I’m still working on giving up my Starbucks habit, I’ve really cut back which is awesome and saves me lots of money. We also try to do more social events at home where we can spend less, but still make them lots of fun.We also just take a certain portion of our paycheck and put it straight into our travel fund. Most of our tax return goes into that fund too 🙂

    1. Tax return is a great thing to put in that travel fund! Glad you liked the post. I just don’t like the “give up everything mentality”. It’s just not for me.

  6. I love this post. The thing that we save for the most at the moment (now we have the house they way we want it) is travelling. But cutting out everything throughout the year for 3 or 4 holidays a year is going to cause resentment, so I always try to tweak how we save rather than completely cutting things out (unless it is something that we don’t use/need).
    I changed my mindset about eating out a couple of years ago after a particularly expensive meal that was absolutely DIRE. It was no where near as good as what we can cook at home, and as soon as I realised that, I resented paying the bill.
    Ever since then expensive restaurants are a no-go, unless we get a recommendation from a friend that we “must try it” and even then we don’t rush to book because to be honest, I haven’t even missed eating out that much, so the change of mindset definitely helped!

    1. Thank you for your comment! I’m sure other people will find your comment helpful, too 🙂 Resenting a bill is so frustrating!

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