Having enough money to travel is a matter of priorities. Do you want a late-model car, or a trip to Brazil? Would you rather hit the mall twice a month or walk on the Great Wall of China? Live in a trendy neighborhood or explore the markets of Indonesia? No matter how poor you think you are, you can save up and take an amazing adventure to the destination of your choice. The trick is to make saving money painless and easy. Establish a system for saving, and you won’t have to agonize over simple money decisions.
1. Create a dedicated travel savings account. You should be able to set this up free via your existing bank where you have a checking account. If you aren’t already banking online, set this up as well. Label your account TRAVEL or VACATION or HIMALAYAS.
2. Now set up automatic transfers from your checking to your savings account. Create one daily transfer and one monthly transfer, starting with little steps – $1 per day and perhaps $25 per month. Every month, try to bump up these levels a little bit.
3. Establish an unbreakable new rule: any money that goes into this savings account can ONLY be used for travel expenses. If you hit a rough financial spot, you can reduce your automatic transfers, but otherwise regard this money as your sacred travel fund – not to be touched!
4. Wash out an old pickle jar, cut a slit in the lid and plaster the outside with pictures of your new destination. Into this jar goes all your spare change and any spare bills you can part with. Ask yourself on a daily basis if you can donate some of the dollars in your wallet – and do so. Sneak money into this jar whenever you can. Decide to put all of your $5 or $1 bills into the jar, or follow a looser system – whatever works for you.
5. Sneak money into your online savings jar as well. Whenever you look at your checking account balance, slide a little money over to your travel savings. Have $98.57 in your checking account? Add $3.57 to your travel savings. Or $8.57, $10 or $25. Check your accounts regularly and sneak over money on a routine basis. On paydays when you’re feeling flush, be sure to add a little extra.
6. Set up another no-brainer rule: all unexpected money you receive goes right into your travel savings. Received a rebate check? Given birthday money from Grandma? Found $20 in your coat pocket? Treated with a holiday bonus? Returned an ill-fitting item to the store for a refund? Add it to your travel savings. With saving rules established, you won’t have to decide where to spend these little windfalls. You don’t have to decide whether to spend it on lunch or a new shirt or your trip, because it’s already been decided. The easier you make it to save for travel, the more money you will save!
7. Brainstorm where you can find hidden cash. Do you have any old electronics you can sell? Collections you no longer care about? What about sports gear, clothes, books or furniture? Do you have enough for a yard sale? Your travel savings account can be a new impetus to make the effort to sale that stuff you’ve been meaning to.
8. Pick one area of your budget where you can cut back and create concrete savings strategies. Planning to reduce your overall spending is a vague goal that’s hard to follow. Instead, pick one area of your budget that would be the easiest to cut back – and where you know you need to. Popular options include eating out, new clothes/accessories/shoes, cocktails, coffee drinks and makeup. Whenever you resist the urge to buy a new nail polish, second round of margaritas or venti latte, put that money (or a smaller set amount) into your travel savings account instead – immediately. Hop online and make a quick transfer. Pat yourself on the back and remember that your upcoming trip will make you far happier than a nail polish ever will.
9. Keep track of your progress. Every month, count out the money in your jar and add the amount to your online savings account. Keep a list (or even a visual graph) of the amount that you save each month, as well as the grand total. Once you see a little momentum, you’ll be even more encouraged to put every penny that you can towards your travel dreams.
10. Celebrate your success! Cutting back on cocktails, coffee, nail polish and other small luxuries might make you feel deprived. To counter this effect, plan to treat yourself every month or two by spending a little of your savings on a travel-related expense. Order that colorful guidebook, buy the backpack you’ll need for the mountain, or stock up on small containers for your toiletries. Don’t go crazy with the cost, and be honest about what you truly need for travel. Soon you’ll be purchasing the plane ticket to Kathmandu!