It’s a cold grey January as I’m writing this, and the call of the horizon is loud and clear. It makes me think of what we have already planned for our travels, and what awaits us, as yet undiscovered. It also makes me think how we’re going to get our travel funds together.
“Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be.” – Anon
Back in the mists of time when I had a Big Job, travel was just something I factored into my monthly spends. That’s not to say that it didn’t come with some degree of juggling in other areas, but generally speaking, it wasn’t such a big deal. Now that I work for myself and my income is less predictable, I’ve had to think long and hard about how to prioritise my travel funds. Here’s how it works for me.
How To get your travel funds together: Mindset and motivation
“Begin with the end in mind.”
This may have been something I picked up at work, but it surely applies just as much to getting your travel funds together. I know that it’s a real motivator for me to have a sense of where I want to go and what I want to do, Whether it’s a bucket list road trip, or simply a couple of nights with the sand between my toes, a sense of the pleasures that await makes it a lot easier to knuckle down to generate the funds that make it happen.
For big trips, I love to break the whole budget down by mileage. So I can think that today has taken me to Lisbon, or flown me part way across the Atlantic, or driven me down the I40 from Nashville to the Mississippi delta. Every time I generate or save cash, I’m anorak enough to note that, so I can see the progress. It works a dream for me. You might have something similar that works for you.
I try to keep focused on spending priorities. When I go for a takeout coffee, I ponder whether I’d rather drink it here, or in a little cafe in Ghent. Those spends matter, and all tot up.
How to get your Travel Funds together: working
Like many of us, my normal work is what keeps my non-travelling roof over my head, the power on, and the cupboards stocked. So for my love of travel, I’m happy to do extra work to top up my travel budget. I’ve been delighted to find some new sources of freelance contract work that are available to me on ad hoc days and often over the weekends. It’s not the best paid work I’ve ever done, nor the easiest. Often it involves getting cold and wet for twelve hour stretches. But as I’m standing there, wondering how many layers I can add and still fit my work jacket over my coat, my mind is on the destinations ahead.
Are there extras you can do, or additional shifts, or other work for which you have the necessary skills?
How to get your travel funds together: Earning
Faced with the challenge of saving up for big holidays before, I’ve begun to explore all those things that are possible to generate a little cash. Included in that are:
- selling things I no longer want or need. I’ve previously sold off enough stuff to fund two weeks away including spending money. I’ll have a similar target this year.
- doing occasional surveys and market research. This funds overnights and weekenders, although it’s really unpredictable.
- scanning our household shopping each week. This doesn’t earn lots, but it’s definitely a night away plus spends. Well worth it in my book!
How to get your travel funds together: Not Spending
Probably like most of us, I have a few small vices that make me happy on less sunny days. Whether it’s coffees, magazines, stationery or clothes, I have as many temptations as the next person. I try to keep some kind of self discipline over those spends. These are the things I do each month to help keep my travel budget buoyant:
- Write down everything I spend. Yes, it’s a pain, and yet it’s worth it. Here I can see where I’m leaking money that neither deals with necessities nor makes me happier.
- I have a small budget for fun stuff. It motivates me not to spend silly money on comforting myself on bad days, and means that there are little treats to be had. Being “allowed” to spend something makes me better at not over-spending significantly.
- Remind myself of why I want to use those funds elsewhere. I have wallpaper on my phone and laptop of places that are on my bucket list. I keep that chart of progress made towards the next destination.
- I try to have non-spending days each month. If I plan to not use cash on specific days, even if I’m out of the house, that’s actually the kind of challenge that fires me up to achieve it. I’ll take lunch when I’m working offsite, and use my Kindle rather than buy magazines. Those non-spending days (I try to aim for 20 a month) really add up.
Using these tips, I’ve more than halved my personal spending each month, but I don’t feel the squeeze. I still get to have some fun, but I’m not spending just for the sake of it.
How To get your travel funds together: Experiences not things
I’ve noticed that my spending pattern has moved to experiences rather than things. I’d sooner go and hear Ray Mears speak about the big outdoors than buy more clothes. I’d rather have a night away than a new planner. Those changes seem to have happened to a lot of us of late. With 50 years of travel under my belt, I can tell you that memories are way, way more treasured than any things we have about the house.
How to get your travel funds together: Economising
Over the last few years, I’ve continued to purge unnecessary spends from my budget. Unless your budget is very tight at the outset, then, like me, you can probably find that there are economies to be made, whether it’s
- changing your tariff for utilities
- getting rid of subscriptions you no longer need
- making sure you claim all discounts and reduced rates to which you are entitled
- evaluating each bill that passes through your house to see if it can be reduced or even eliminated
- making some economies on your food shop, and reducing or if possible eliminating your food waste. This is good practice in any case.
There are many, many websites out there to help you achieve all of the above. My favourite here in the UK is Money Saving Expert, which will take you through all sorts of strategies for generating and saving money. The forums are also great for challenges, like the no spending days. There are plenty of other sites such as Money Magpie which have great information to help you squeeze everything you can out of your budget. They are also great at identifying travel offers and discounts to help you with those travel plans.
How To Get Your Travel Funds Together: What’s Your Plan?
Our home has two more visual cues to remind us to save spare cash. My husband’s change goes into a miniature beach hut, while mine goes into a pair of ceramic frog princes, brought back with great care on the Eurostar from Ghent. Every time I look at my grenouilles – dredged from my memory of school French to describe to the shopkeeper what I had seen in her window – I remember how much I love to travel.
What can you share with us about how you get your travel funds together? I’m eager to learn how to fund even more travel this coming year, so please let me in on your secrets!
For more about making your travel plans, check out our post here.