How does one afford to travel?
I’m not going to fob you off with lies, I don’t get hundreds or even tens of emails a week asking me how I can afford to travel. Truth be told I’m lucky if I get one email. Woe is me I know! I do however get asked occasionally in person and when I thought about it I realised that my answers might just be that bit different to others you may have read on the web owing to my situation of living and working in London and only travelling when my annual leave allows. Most articles I have read focus on saving for RTW travels, but what about saving for those two week and weekend breaks? Some of the below will be applicable to both, but the aim of this post is to show I how I can and have been travelling whilst also crunching numbers in an office for the last 7 years.
The Usual Methods to be able to afford to travel
Saving cash and budgeting spending money when on the road is pretty well covered on the net. Google it and you’ll probably find any combination of …
- Fly during the week/non peak times
- Take routes that include stop overs
- Couchsurf or house sitting
- Cook your own food in hostel kitchens
- Sell everything you own on ebay or at yard sales
- Don’t buy anything unless you really NEED it.
Now they’re all good idea’s, great ideas in fact Some are more obvious than others, and some may result in bigger savings than others, but any extra cash in your pocket is welcome right?
You may have tried some of the above already in an effort to be able to afford to travel, and they may have worked wonders for you, but I reckon there are a couple of other methods you could add to that list, some a little dependent on circumstance and some a little more exciting than others I grant you.
How I can afford to travel
So to me and how I can (sometimes) afford to travel.
Being careful with money is in my blood. My dad taught me from an early age that you should always have a little spare en case of a disaster, or maybe just a rainy day. In my teens I bought a whole heap of junk that I didn’t really need whilst handing £20’s over the bar for drinks that I really didn’t need either.
Lesson learnt, when I hit my twenties and discovered travel things changed. Now on the verge of the big three-zero I’d like to think I have my finances in order, owing a lot to what I have written about below. I’ll be the first to admit that some are not particularly exciting, in fact they may make me look like a damp squib, but they work, plain and simple, and have allowed me to visit some incredible places. See what you think.
1. I lived with my parents for much of my twenties
Yep, my parents have been graced with my presence for much of the last ten years. Apart from 18 months living with mates, my gap year, and the last 12 months living with my girlfriend, I have lived the majority of my life with my mum and dad in their home in west London. Now it’s not always been plain sailing (mainly due to my behavior) and there were times when I would have quite liked to have gone out and got my own place in an effort to at least feel a little more grown up, but when I think about it my rents have been seriously good to me in allowing me to stay and save up a nice little sum to invest in travel instead of p*ssing away all my money on renting some crappy apartment somewhere.
2. I don’t own a car
There is a certain amount of freedom that comes with owning your own wheels, but there is also insurance costs, MOT’s, road tax, maintenance and of course petrol to consider and invariably fork out for. Whilst I have a driving licence and actually quite enjoy driving, I don’t actually know an awful lot about cars. Either way, if you check the latest AA Car running costs 2013/14 guide you’ll see figures with three zero’s on the end. POW! .. expensive.
On public transports I would estimate I spend around £10 a week making £520 for the year. It’s a fair wedge of money, but not bad when compared to the thousands necessary to keep a car running. Yes there are delays, nutters on the night bus, armpits in your face on the train, but it’s worth it in the long run, plus in a car you could just as easily get stuck in a jam or break down at the side of a wet and miserable motorway.
3. I don’t smoke and rarely (ish) drink … I even forced my partner to give up smoking
I have and will never smoke and I (now) rarely drink (ish). Don’t get me wrong, once upon a time when I could stay up past midnight and thought I understood rhythm, I would hit bars and nightclubs on weekends and happily splash out £50-£100 on a single night. Now however I am of the mindset where I know I would rather be out drinking a beer in say Luang Prabang, than in some dingy London night club which just happens to be considered the ‘in’ place at the time because some Z lister was spotted there.
Smoking wise I can’t imagine how tough it is to stop smoking, but as per above I have managed to get the mrs to stop and although she admits she still has the odd craving, she prefers the extra £££ in her purse than tar in her lungs.
4. I use cashback schemes, codes and vouchers
Their TV and radio adverts piss me off no end, but cashback websites do actually work. Its only a couple of quid at a time (depending upon size of purchase), but for the sake of a few extra clicks on your mouse it’s not that tough or time consuming. Cashback sites don’t just cover material items either, they extend to things like insurance. £20 cashback on my annual contents insurance, tar very much.
Codes/vouchers wise I also do a quick Google for money off codes before purchasing anything online. Again it takes seconds and even if I find a voucher code for nothing more than free delivery, at least I have saved a penny or two. 241 vouchers for the cinema is a personal save, especially as a single ticket is now close to £15.
5. I use a credit card to pay for almost everything
Once upon a time I vowed never to get a credit card. Once I finally gave in and filled out the necessary forms I vowed only to use it for emergencies. Now I have a second card and use it for anything I can. Why the change in attitude towards the plastic devil? Points, and what do points mean? Prizes … or in this case travel.
Tesco’s credit card is my answer here, a humble supermarket where I do my weekly shop. For years I have had their club card and collected enough points to get £2 or so off my basket of shopping. On occasion I might have collected enough points to qualify for a £5 voucher which in turn I might have exchanged for £10 worth of restaurant vouchers. Now however their points can be exchanged for airmiles, and I get points for not only using my clubcard in store, but also when I use my credit card anywhere. I have to be careful managing my money, but shopping doesn’t seem so bad now that I know each purchase gets me a few miles closer to another awesome destination.
6. I purposely live close to where I work
Once I took the plunge and decided to move in with my better half in the autumn of last year, we decided that to cut transports costs would look to move somewhere close to where we both work. Ideally somewhere within walking distance so that we wouldn’t have to pay for a car/bus/tube. As a result my commuting costs for the past year have been £0.00. I simply walk 10 minutes through the park to and from work.
7. Pack lunches
Yes I am that guy, sat at my desk or in the park at lunch with a sandwich or batch of pasta I made the night before. Ask me to go to the canteen or for a walk up the shops to buy lunch and I shall refuse. The odd treat is OK, but to habitually buy lunch at roughly £5 a day will eat (pun most certainly intended) into your bank account most swiftly. If you spend £5 a day, that’s £25 total for the week. In turn that is £1300 per year. Are those pre-packed sandwiches and pasta packs from the supermarket really worth that amount? I go to the supermarket, pick up everything I need per week for a weeks worth of lunches for around £10 (using my credit card to get the points). £10 a week over the course of the year equals £520. That’s a pretty big difference from £1300, and it all goes towards my travel fund … tastes nicer too.
You’ve got to be in it to win it. There is no methodology behind this one, just pure luck. Whats the harm in chancing your arm though and entering a few travel related competitions. Even if a prize only covers a part of a travel experience you’ve still saved on something you might have originally paid for, like insurance or a bus journey. Every little helps right?
I shall attempt to post as many competitions on my facebook page as possible so why not like my page (cheap, but worthy plug).
9. I set up a travel fund bank account
It seems so simple, but opening up a second account with my bank and setting up a direct debit which moves £100 per month to the travel fund account really does work. £1200 a year to travel won’t get me around the world, but it’s not a bad start. It’s especially handy if I need to shell out a considerable amount for a flight. Rather taking a huge hit to my current account on any particular month and as a result having to stay in every weekend for that month, the travel fund takes the hit and I can still afford to go out and have a pint with my mates. Like I said, this isn’t rocket science, but it works!
p.s. I also set up an xmas account too so that December is much more manageable. Not travel related, but a handy tip none the less.
10. Coppers jar
Do you ever actually use 1p and 2p coins to pay for anything? Thought not, nobody does. Collect them in a jar over the course of 12 months and then go change them up at the bank, you’ll be surprised at just how much they add up to. Boring yes, effective … yes. You’re welcome.
Money in the bank
Like many of you I’m sure that whilst my salary remains the same, my monthly bills are increasing. Or is it just me? Anyway, it’s a bitch, and the reality is that sacrifices of luxuries have to be made, but I’m determined that travel will not be one of those sacrifices. The above are relatively simple, if you’re not collecting airmiles or you haven’t set up a second ‘travel fund’ bank account, it might be worth looking in to.