When money is an obvious necessity, it may be difficult to imagine being able to somehow gather enough spare cash to take the step to go away for a while.
The truth is, I simply don’t have enough money to go to all of the places that I want to go, and I still have to work my a-s off to pay my rent, my bills and for the everyday expenses of living and working in New York City. (READ: So You Want To Quit Your Job To Travel The World?)
But I promise you that traveling is every bit possible. I took my very first international trip when I was 25, and I paid for it all by myself. Here’s how.
1. Plan ahead.
I started preparing for at least 6 months before I took my first trip to Iceland. It took months of daydreaming at work, drooling through photographs, researching travel blogs, reading articles about specific destinations, browsing flight prices on Kayak and Google Flights – before I even thought about booking a flight.
Budget out your trip beforehand. Find out where you want to go, and how much money you need to get there. This is the very first step.
Once you know where you want to go, research hotel/hostel prices, food prices, local transportation prices, and of course – flight prices. Google absolutely everything. The more you know, the smarter you’ll be. (READ: 10 of the Cheapest Countries to Travel To)
I know it’s frustrating to want to go somewhere so badly and not be able to go right away, but if you stay patient and start preparing for your trip, you’ll be smarter about your decisions and most likely get better deals – making your trip less of a silly dream, and more of an attainable goal. Just know that it will take time, but at least you’ll have something absolutely amazing to look forward to and work towards.
2. Re-prioritize your spending.
Before I started traveling, I spent too much money – on dinners, on clothes, on furniture, on a luxury apartment – the list goes on. Because I didn’t prioritize travel, I never felt like I had enough money for it.
If I had 300 extra dollars one month, I’d buy a pair of shoes at a department store. I never thought to book a flight somewhere or save it for an upcoming trip. When I started planning for my trip after making the decision to prioritize travel, I started to cut out all of the unnecessary spending that wouldn’t allow me to make my dream trip a reality.
That meant no more eating out during the week, and buying groceries to cook dinner instead. Instead of going out to get drinks and paying $14 a cocktail at a bar, I bought a $10 bottle of wine and enjoyed a quiet night inside with a friend. It was still just as much fun, I promise.
I stopped buying clothes that weren’t comfortable. I actually stopped buying clothes period. I realized I spent way too much money on taxi cabs, and started walking more and taking the train instead. No more $5 lattes at Starbucks every morning – I decided to make coffee at home and take it with me to work.
Take a deep look at how and where you spend your money on a weekly and/or monthly basis. Do you go out to eat often? If so, how often? Is there a way to decrease that number? (The answer is yes.) Do you spend a lot of money on clothing? Electronics? Do you really need that cable plan? Can you remember the last time you left on the lights before leaving the house, and can you remember to prevent that from happening? Shave off your expenses, little by little, and track your spending. Hold yourself responsible for your unnecessary expenses, and save little by little. Over time, you’ll turn that $5 here and there, into hundreds of dollars.
There are always going to be ways to save money – you have to re-prioritize what you spend your money on, and every time you stop spending on the things that you don’t really need, you’ll be able to save up for your trip.
3. Sell the stuff you don’t need.
I was a hoarder. Actually, that’s an understatement. If you would have seen my closet, you would have freaked. It was the size of a bedroom – tiny, but it could have fit a twin-size mattress. It was filled with so many ridiculously unnecessary things – shoes I couldn’t walk in, chairs I didn’t sit in, makeup I didn’t use, and clothes that I had bought only to wear “when I lost those last 10 pounds.” Ha. Yeah right.
I did, however, realize that there were items that could hold value for other people.
I had furniture, jewelry, and lots and lots of clothes. I started using online resources to sell back some of my things. Sell your gently worn clothing and accessories on Threadflip or Poshmark. Take the time to try to sell your extra electronics or furniture on Craigslist and eBay. You can use Diamond Lighthouse to sell diamonds that you don’t wear or want anymore.
Over the span of 4 to 5 months, I made over $3,000 selling my unwanted clothes, furniture and jewelry. All of that went to my travel fund, and helped make my dream trip possible.
4. Find a different and/or additional source of income.
Have a career? Do you like it? If the answer is no, update your resume and try to find a new job. And when you are looking for a new job, place higher value on your experience and ask for a higher salary. If you want to stay at your company, and have been there for at least a year, it’s time to request a review and ask for a raise.
Yes, I know it sounds easier than it really is – and you might be sitting at the computer saying, “Ha, already tried” or “There’s no way I’m getting a raise.” Well if that’s the case, maybe it’s time for you to try to find a different job at a similar company, or work towards a career that will pay you a higher salary. And remember: the answer is always no if you never ask. It never hurts to ask.
If you have a skill or trade (mine was photography or graphic and web design), build up a portfolio and try getting freelance work. I helped redesign blogs, and offered to take headshots for a few hundred dollars here and there. This was all additional income that went straight into my travel fund.
Use your network and ask people around you – friends, family, family friends, your coffeeshop barista or your professor.
Browse through the ‘gig’ offerings on Craigslist – you’d be surprised at how many different jobs there are, and even if it’s for $20-30 an hour, it’s still additional money that you wouldn’t have had before. Fiverr is a place where you can buy or sell creative gigs, starting at just $5. You can draw someone’s logo, or sing someone a song for $5. If you are a great writer, you can offer to write a press release, or maybe you can do a voiceover for their new commercial – it might only be $5 at first, but if you grow your network and get better reviews, you’ll be able to charge an additional amount to make more money. TaskRabbit is a site where you can offer your services to help around the home.
If you have the time and the energy (and don’t think you have a specific skill or trade), I would recommend picking up a part-time job to help you make a little more money for your trip. Because if you do, it will most definitely speed up the process. Can you waitress on the weekend, or bartend at nights? Maybe you can try tutoring, or ask your neighbors if they need help with their lawn. There is always going to be someone who needs a babysitter.
When I came to New York City, I worked a full time 40-50 hrs/week job during the day as a sales assistant, and served cocktail waitresses at a rooftop bar at night. I would wake up at 7 AM, go to work by 8 AM, get off of work at 5:30 PM, go into my other job at 6 PM, and get off at 3 AM. Then I’d go home to sleep for 4 or 5 hours, and do it all over again the next day. I did that five days a week for three whole months.
I took on as much work as I could to make additional income. It was hard, exhausting and it took a long time to save enough money, but it was every bit worth it. I just kept my eye on the prize – that trip to Europe – and I made sure that every dollar counted.
Do you have any recommendations/tips on how to save money or make extra money to travel? Please share your story in the comments section below for not only myself, but everyone else in our community reading this article! Thank you so much for reading.