I don’t think any travel blog is complete without one of those ‘how we saved for our big adventure‘ posts, and while, strictly speaking this isn’t exclusively a travel blog, we have managed to cram in a lot of travel (and international travel) in to our short time in England.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ way to save and at any one point we’re using all, some or none of the tips below and there’s absolutely no way I’m claiming to be the next financial guru; we are a normal couple, on a normal (abysmal) wage, but we still manage to make it work.
You don’t have to do a complete overhaul of your finances, you just need to find those little savers to keep trickling the pennies in, and they’ll soon start to add up!
I think the main thing that keeps us going, is we really want to travel. And I mean, really.
I don’t know how, but I got lucky and found someone who’s as excited about seeing the world as I am.
I don’t think he even realised before we left, he didn’t know he wanted to travel, but the second he stepped on his first International flight, he was hooked.
So he’ll have a strop when I say we can’t go to Macca’s or buy dessert, but by the time we’ve got home he knows end goal is better than immediate gratification.
(Interestingly, a lot of our fitness goals marry perfectly with our penny pinching goals: skipping on dessert, avoiding takeaway, eating more veggies and salads and local produce has saved us a lot of money in the long run, and food is our biggest outlay, by far)
So without further ado, here are my top tips if you want to turn that travel dream to a reality.
Banish Takeaways! Desert Dessert!
Fast food is our guilty pleasure. We both love to eat and when we were in Australia, we would indulge probably more often than we should, but hey it was cheap! We could try something different and it meant I wasn’t having to cook two separate meals when Zac was more of a fusspot.
Motivating myself to cook after work, or a long day frying my brain reading articles about visas and emigrating and researching SE Asia and doing my TEFL course and planning lessons for my actual classes and I feel just as zapped as Zac after a full day at work.
Sometimes the motivation to cook just isn’t there and it’s all too easy to open JustEat and be tempted.
Yes, that takeaway would be nice, we wouldn’t have to cook and we could curl up in front of a movie while the boys at The Rickshaw hook us up with a curry.
Yes, for takeaway it’s very reasonably priced, but we’ve already got ingredients for curry.
If the thought of takeaway goes through our minds and we do the sensible thing and decide to cook, I put the money we would have spent on food into our savings account.
I was surprised how quickly we’d saved a few hundred pounds, which not only put me to shame slightly at our love for fast food, but made me realise how easy it is to save by simply saying ‘NO!’
Cancel Any Subscriptions You Don’t Need and Aren’t Using
This little saving tip is pretty similar to the takeaway one, in that you’re still ‘spending’ but it’s going towards the dream instead.
I was surprised by how many small outgoings we had.
Direct Debits to charities, gym memberships, Graze boxes (my bad). There were some that we needed and others that could be binned – as heartless as it sounds, five different charitable donations a month was an extra £25 towards our savings.
We still make a monthly donation to a charity that takes our fancy, but those DDs were cancelled at the money set up to automatically transfer to our savings account. We were already spending it, already budgeting for it, so why not make it work for us.
If you can do without something, all the bells and whistles on a gym membership, extra data on your phone you never use, weekly Graze boxes, downgrade and put the money you were spending into savings.
You’ll be surprised how quickly it all adds up this way and best of all, you don’t have to do anything. Set the transfers up to go automatically and you’ll get a pleasant surprise the next time you check your savings.
Save The Change
If you’re with Lloyds you can set up your current account to ‘Save the Change’, which basically treats your card like cash.
If you spend £3.99, the penny goes into your savings account.
I’ve always had Save the Change set up on my account and it’s really one of the best things I’ve ever done in terms of saving. Again, you’re not making fortunes, but you’re making your money work for you and it does all add up – it’s another nice little surprise to see how much it contributes towards the total.
The other thing we do is try and only use cash and save the card for emergencies.
This goes down with varying degrees of success, but when we are using cash, any change at the end of the week goes into the money jar. And I mean anything. If we’ve budgeted £40 for the week and only spent £10 (laughing at the thought of this, but it did happen once), then the whole £30 goes into the money jar.
Between us, this is probably where most of our savings come from.
Best of all, despite being unintentionally useless with his money, Zac’s really good with the money jar. I don’t know if it’s because he can physically see the progress we’re making and the savings adding up, but he knows once it’s in the jar, it has to be a damn good reason to dip in to it.
Not literally everything.
But as I mentioned in a previous post, there’s something incredibly cathartic about just getting rid.
Having lived for a year with a minimal wardrobe, fighting the urge to buy homewares and baking supplies and new clothes, it really made me reevaluate what I had when I got home. There were clothes I was glad to be reunited with, but there were clothes I’d not worn in a year, possibly longer that I just didn’t care for any more.
I’ve managed to free up so much more space in my room, which makes me feel calmer and tidier. I’m something of a stress head at the moment and tidy room is definitely a tidy mind. Our room is more of a sanctuary now and there’s space for what’s in it, as apposed to everything being shoved in anywhere, anyhow in a giant real life game of Tetris.
Our mad purge has slowed down somewhat over the months, but we still keep at it – I make the most of those 20 free listings on eBay, and while it varies, you can at least guarantee some extra savings each month.
Now the summer’s slightly better, we’re going to start making the most of it and do car boot sales – it’s an instant way to flog your stuff and anything not sold can be dropped off at the charity shop on the way home!
Try Some Online Surveys
This is by no means a part time job, and don’t be under the illusion you’ll make hundreds overnight, but I’ve been doing online surveys since I went to Uni and I’ve managed to buy all sorts with my earnings from cameras to clothes to visa application fees (perhaps not that much, but some of my earnings went towards the fee!)
It won’t happen immediately, but if you stick at it, you’ll reap the rewards. You can answer as many or as few surveys as you like and more often than not you’ll get screened out, but the more you complete, the better the sites are at matching up surveys you will be eligible for.
I’ve got a few favourites that I’ve stuck with over the years, one because they pay well and two because they’re reliable.
MySurvey and MintVine are the two I use the most: I do get screened out of a lot of surveys with MintVine, but don’t be disheartened the points quickly add up and you can cash out with PayPal as soon as you’ve got $10. MySurvey offer cash payouts from as little as £3, but it’s often better to let the points stack up and cash out at £30 or £40.
You don’t have to be tactical with it, but I tend to cash out MintVine as soon as I have enough and hold on to my points a little longer for the bigger rewards with MySurvey.
If you’re happy with add ons on your browser, Qmee is a brilliant little app that pays you to search the web and they’ve just added surveys too, so there’s even more chances to earn!
It’s incredibly simple, you just use the Internet like you normally would and depending on what you’re searching for, the app will offer sponsored links. Click on the Qmee links (they appear in a bar on the left hand side) to earn money. It’s 7p, 6p a time, but particularly if you’re searching for travel and gadgets, shopping kinds of things, you’ll quickly see your piggybank growing. Best of all you can cash out with PayPal.
Get A Cash In Hand Job
Nothing to do with avoiding taxes – you must make sure that any extra work you take on isn’t going to land you in hot water with HMRC – but having a cash in hand job has given us some regular direct savings.
Unless it’s been a tight week with unforeseen expenditures, my wages go straight into our savings account.
It’s bar work, so nights, which fits around teaching and lifeguarding in the day and while my shifts are increasingly sporadic, I can usually secure us an extra £30 towards savings a week, without affecting my teaching (late nights and early mornings don’t mix when you have to be enthusiastic for 3 year olds).
If you’re one of those super people who can function on no sleep and have a short term savings goal in mind (I’m talking no longer than 6 months for the sake of your health and sanity), then why not think about getting a night shift somewhere a few nights a week. It doesn’t have to be glamorous and you can set up your wages to be transferred straight in to your savings account, so there’s no temptation to spend them!
Just remember, it won’t happen overnight: you need to set realistic savings goals. If you’re trying to save £10k, give yourself at least a year to do it and be prepared to make sacrifices.
We’re incredibly lucky that our main household expenditures are little to nothing at the moment so we can be incredibly strict with our budget and we’ve got a lot (a lot) of support from our families who want us to travel while we’re young, before we finally shake hands with responsibility – although I’ve been running for years…
We still socialise with our friends, but we’ll do it cheap or free. We still do stuff, have days out and go on dates, but we love walking and taking photos as much as we enjoy a meal out: the first is free, the latter an earned treat.
We’ve managed to save a lot quicker than I could have dreamed, but it has felt like a constant battle against time, against the budget, against each other at times.
Compromise has been key and it’s felt like we were never going to make it but we’re on track. The hardest part is staying positive and not depriving yourself of fun, but acknowledging that you do need to make some lifestyle changes.
Personally, I’m happy to swap my 5th takeaway coffee that week for the experience of a lifetime.