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.

Pennies and Cents - How To Get Your Travel Funds Together - Chicago cityscape

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?

Pennies and Cents - How To Get Your Travel Funds Together - ocean

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!

Pennies and Cents - How To Get Your Travel Funds Together - Hartland Quay

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.

Pennies and Cents - How To Get Your Travel Funds Together - Railroad

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 - Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer

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.

Author: Bernie

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45 thoughts on “Pennies and Cents: How To Get Your Travel Funds Together

  1. Great advice! I might have try to challenge myself to have more non spending days.

    Posted on January 15, 2018 at 12:33 am
    1. It’s surprising how much fun it is as a personal challenge. And most of the time, I don’t have a real craving for the things I might have bought had I been spending. I’m out today, so just off to dredge up something that might constitute lunch for a non-spending day… 😉

      Posted on January 15, 2018 at 7:20 am
  2. I’m all for selling things I no longer want or need. I like to use Poshmark and eBay 🙂 This was also a good reminder for me to get rid of subscriptions I no longer need.

    Posted on January 15, 2018 at 1:07 am
    1. I’ve not yet tried Poshmark, although eBay has taken me over 1600 miles. 🙂 I’ll definitely have a look at that.

      Posted on January 15, 2018 at 7:18 am
  3. These are such excellent tips! We follow much the same rules when saving for travel. I think the most important of all is simply to quit spending on things other than travel. I mean, obviously you need to eat, so I’m not talking about necessities, but pretty much everything else deserves a hard look at whether it should make the cut.

    Because I have an accountant husband who likes to track these sorts of things, I know for a fact we’ve actually SAVED more money during these past five years of traveling than we ever did before. We just spent on so many unnecessary things. Traveling has made us much better budgeters! 🙂

    Posted on January 15, 2018 at 6:29 am
    1. It focuses the mind wonderfully, doesn’t it. (I guess my inner accountant has been coming out to play on the tracking too, although it’s been many years since I had an accountancy job. 😀 ) I like what you say about taking a hard look at spending; that has really helped me too.

      Posted on January 15, 2018 at 7:17 am
  4. “When I go for a takeout coffee, I ponder whether I’d rather drink it here, or in a little cafe in Ghent” – I love this attitude and will be my mantra whenever I’m spending needlessly! Unfortunately with a house move on the horizon, this may change slightly to “When I go for a takeout coffee, I ponder whether I’d rather drink it here, or in a new city centre apartment in Birmingham…”

    Posted on January 16, 2018 at 12:08 pm
    1. Oooh – chic apartment? 🙂 Sounds like a very good reason to pass up on that coffee. Happy New Home to be!

      Posted on January 16, 2018 at 8:30 pm
  5. Some great points here. How often and how long one chooses to travel is certainly dependent on the life choices one makes while one is not travelling. Every small decision counts. It is a challenge to stay conscious about priorities, but once it becomes a habit, its easy.

    Posted on January 16, 2018 at 1:52 pm
    1. That’s a great point about habits. I’ve been in the city centre for training the past two days. A few years back that would have meant a wander around the shops, but I don’t even think of doing that now. It definitely gets easier.

      Posted on January 16, 2018 at 8:28 pm
  6. Great ideas to save money . I liked the coffee part .. I feel that simple joys are quadrupled when we do it in a new place 🙂 So worth saving it!

    Posted on January 17, 2018 at 7:49 am
    1. That’s so true about simple joys in a new place. All those little differences from home: the view, the norms of the place you visit, the subtle differences, they all make simple joys a delight.

      Posted on January 17, 2018 at 8:53 am
  7. I love that you break the budget down by mileage! A great idea to keep the end goal in mind, and to keep the momentum moving forward as a constant. I’m getting better at focusing on the idea of experiences rather than things, which helps with the overspending on unnecessary items. As a family of four, we have to save in order to enjoy travel, but it is so worth all the budgeting and necessary steps!

    Posted on January 17, 2018 at 4:53 pm
    1. I think that sometimes the more I need to save in order to travel, the more I enjoy it. It’s that sense that I’ve worked hard to enjoy the pleasures of new places. And you’re making such brilliant memories for your family; that must be a great incentive.

      Posted on January 17, 2018 at 8:04 pm
  8. Wow! Ths is one of the most practical and useful posts for budget travel, Bernie! I have learned so much from your tips!

    Posted on January 17, 2018 at 5:09 pm
    1. Ah, thank you. 🙂 I love to make my travel funds stretch as far as they possibly can, so I’m always eager to learn more.

      Posted on January 17, 2018 at 8:03 pm
  9. Really useful advice on how to save for travel! I’m the worst about breaking my budget (both while traveling and after I return). Your tip to write everything down is definitely something to think about!

    Posted on January 18, 2018 at 11:11 am
    1. The writing things down was a bit of an eyeopener. 🙂 I learned just how much caffeine I like, and my bad stationery habits.

      Posted on January 18, 2018 at 11:24 am
  10. I really need to get my act together when it comes to saving! Both my husband and I are hopeless at budgeting. You’ve got some great practical tips here – definitely going to start writing my expenses down. I’ve not heard of Money Magpie so I’m going to take a look! Here’s to a better budgeted 2018.

    Posted on January 18, 2018 at 7:18 pm
    1. That sounds great, and I hope it works for you. I think we all have different things that help us budget better, and for me it’s twofold: being able to see where I’m shedding cash, and being able to see instantly where I can go with my savings.

      Posted on January 19, 2018 at 6:31 pm
  11. Love these tips. I often get asked how I can “afford” to travel so much, and it really is a mindset people have to get into before they can understand it and apply it to themselves. Thanks for sharing!

    Posted on January 18, 2018 at 9:58 pm
    1. It’s all about the priorities, isn’t it? I’m grateful to have seen many, many wonderful places.

      Posted on January 19, 2018 at 6:29 pm
  12. ‘Experiences and not things’ is so true. A lot of people that i used to work with complained about how much I travelled, yet they would be buying new TVs, phones, cars and numerous streaming subscriptions! I dont even own a TV. And yet some still failed to see 🙁

    Posted on January 19, 2018 at 2:07 pm
    1. Ah, I get you. 🙂 The “things” I wholeheartedly enjoy are books, and to me, they’re really experiences as well. So many miles to travel within those pages.

      Posted on January 19, 2018 at 6:28 pm
  13. I needed to read this. Thank you for giving me focus, I have too much stuff in storage which needs to go. Happy New Year & Safe travels!

    Posted on January 20, 2018 at 6:02 am
    1. And a very Happy New Year to you two too! You’re making me think about all our stuff too – we have space for it, but I’m sure it would be better sold and turned into miles. With the exception of the books… I’ve pared down quite a lot and replaced on Kindle, but I’d have to talk sternly to myself about the remainder. 😀

      Posted on January 20, 2018 at 7:38 am
  14. We try to focus our money on what we enjoy. Because of that, we do not spend on things that are not necessary. For example, we do not have cable, a land line or expensive cars. We like to go out on the weekends but we try to keep it simple during the week (pack a lunch, cook dinner, etc.). On that way, we are able to travel quite often (and we do not get on debt to do that).

    Posted on January 20, 2018 at 6:14 am
    1. Those are some really useful additions to the list – thanks. 🙂 We pack our lunches and cook from scratch (a bit of a necessity if, like me you have food allergies), so that’s an accidental saving on our part. We’ve been talking about whether to get rid of our cable, but my slight addiction to travel tv needs addressing first…

      Posted on January 20, 2018 at 7:35 am
  15. Starting today I’m going to use some of your advices. For the big trips I will to make smaller milestones in saving money. And I need to sell my things too. 🙂 Great tips!

    Posted on January 20, 2018 at 8:16 am
    1. Ah, good luck with it! I’m doing well on the savings this month; there are definitely some miles in those savings! 🙂

      Posted on January 20, 2018 at 9:06 am
  16. This is brilliant advice (I admit that I’m bad at the ‘not spending’ part) that I’ll be following – I’m currently working as much as I can to get some travel funds together. Thank you for sharing this!

    Posted on January 20, 2018 at 10:07 am
    1. Some months are definitely better than others on the not spending. 😉 So far, January’s a good one here…aided by things like the sleet that’s currently falling here.

      Posted on January 20, 2018 at 1:30 pm
  17. Great tips! Finding money for travel is easy if it is truly a priority for you. Thank you so much for posting!

    Posted on January 20, 2018 at 3:09 pm
    1. That’s very true about the priorities. We’re away in a couple of weeks, and I’m definitely targeting my pennies for that and our next trip.

      Posted on January 20, 2018 at 4:25 pm
  18. Great tips. I am going to try more the would I rather be drinking this in Ghent approach and also will check out those finance blogs you recommend. Thank you.

    Posted on January 20, 2018 at 3:18 pm
    1. The offers on the blogs will be Brit-centric, but the advice on economies and the forum challenges are definitely widely applicable. Hope it’s useful. 🙂

      Posted on January 20, 2018 at 4:24 pm
  19. These tips are amazing! I didn’t know you could scan household items for cash! I’ll totally be implementing some of these tips!

    Posted on January 20, 2018 at 4:23 pm
  20. The small budget for fun stuff is a great idea! Sometimes it can make you a little bit sad when you can’t spend money. But yes, I think it’s not necessarily about earning more but spending less. The idea of having a wallpaper of your bucket list destination is also a great idea to keep motivated. It’s not always easy to stay strong but in the end, when you can travel, you realize how much worth it every Cent not spent was. Great guide! Thank you for sharing!

    Posted on January 20, 2018 at 5:06 pm
    1. South America for next year is my wallpaper at the moment. 🙂 I’ve got interim plans, but that’s currently what we’re looking at for our next Big Trip. I hope it keeps me strong and focused.

      Posted on January 20, 2018 at 8:16 pm
  21. Ahh I tend to overspend at times, this post was for me 😀 An adventure awaits me soon, I’ll sit and write everything down this time! Thank you for the wonderful advice, Bernie! And I completely agree on the experiences part – I don’t regret any money spent on those <3

    Posted on January 20, 2018 at 5:25 pm
    1. We’ve all got an overspender in us; I just like to hold the hand of mine, so she can’t put it in her wallet. 😉 And experiences, they’re definitely the treasures.

      Posted on January 20, 2018 at 5:47 pm
  22. Traveling is worth all of the money pinching!

    Posted on January 21, 2018 at 3:10 am
    1. It so very is. 🙂

      Posted on January 21, 2018 at 6:42 am
  23. Such a comprehensive post! So much great advice, thanks!

    Posted on January 22, 2018 at 2:35 am
    1. Thanks. 🙂 I love that there are so many ways to get my travel funds together.

      Posted on January 22, 2018 at 7:43 am