Let’s state the obvious, first. The easiest way to save money is to make more money. When we are trying to save, we jump right to thinking about getting a second job or starting a side hustle. Are you really that excited about the prospect of working another 20+ hours/week? Adding another job is a great way to save money, but it can also leave you with very little free time for socializing and relaxation. Another option is to find ways to spend less money.
We will admit, this is probably the harder way for a lot of people, but it will help you prepare for your ultimate goal without being over worked. You won’t be able to cut all of your expenses immediately. Many of our monthly bills are locked into 1 or 2 year service contracts. Some expenses are fixed and there is nothing you can do (water service, rent, etc.). But within a budget there is always wiggle room, if you have self-discipline.
The examples that we use may not work for your lifestyle and the things that you value. That’s fine. Our tips are not meant as gospel or an exact blueprint to follow, but they did help us reach our travel goals. The best way to make sure your budget succeeds is to have your own goal for the money saved. Whatever you are saving for; a european tour, a down payment on a home, a new pair of shoes; it’s easier to make the sacrifice if you have a dream for your savings.
Once we decided to make our travel dream a reality, it was apparent that our finances needed to be examined. We used a free phone app to get a better understanding of our financial situation and spending habits each month. We were surprised at how much money we were throwing away on things we did not need.
We were paying $130/month for our unlimited data phone service with AT&T. When our 2-year agreement was about to end, we shopped around for a cheaper option. Don’t be afraid to go with smaller cell service providers. If you live in/near a metropolitan area you're almost guaranteed to have coverage. We ended up choosing to go with Metro PCS, because they offered unlimited (but slowed) data and no annual contracts for only $70/month for 2 phones. Look back through your past bills and see how much data you ACTUALLY use on a monthly basis. Most people are connected to wifi at home and work, so you may be using less than you think.
Another option is cutting cable television, which is becoming more popular with easy access to thousands of shows and movies through Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, and Youtube. It became harder for us to justify spending $75/month to watch cable TV, plus $18/month for our different streaming services. When our cable contract was ending, we chose to go without cable TV and only pay for streaming services. We don’t miss big cable, because most of our favorite shows are streaming on one platform or another. It’s also nice to have an extra $684 in our pocket at the end of the year by removing our cable bill.
Food for thought; the average American eats out 4-5 times a week. Let’s be ultra-conservative and say that we only spend $8.00 on every meal we eat out. The average person is spending somewhere between $1,660-$2,100 on fast-food or restaurant purchases, yearly. Yikes! This seems like a great place to trim the fat from your budget, but make sure to set realistic goals. What if you only went out for food once or twice a week? You’d have an extra $1,250.00 at the end of the year to do whatever you’d like with. Saving money doesn’t mean you have to suffer and become a hermit, just be mindful of how often you are eating out and use moderation. Learn to cook a few basic meals for dinner and bring a homemade lunch to work to keep yourself from spending money out. You can also set aside a certain amount of money to eat out each month, and not go over your budget. Remember what your financial goal is when you feel the urge to go visit a restaurant.
An invisible way you are losing money each month is through your debt. The interest that you are paying for builds up and can stop a lot of people from doing the things they want to do. Many Americans have debt, and a lot of it. When you are considering long term traveling, debt is a nightmare to your budget. If you travel while in debt, your budget must include money to pay your bills or else you’ll be cutting your trip much shorter than you had planned. After following the ways we listed above; switching phone providers, cutting cable TV, and eating out less; we are saving $2,654.00/year on expenses. If you followed the simple steps above, you should use a large chunk of the money you saved, towards paying off your credit cards and student loans. You will cut down the time it takes to pay off your debt, which will also cut down on the extra money that goes towards your interest payment. This is great for future trips and your own financial stability. By paying off a credit card with the saved money, we are eliminating a bill from being delivered each month. Use the money you saved to save more money for you. Imagine your VISA bill showing up and the ‘Minimum Payment” box says ‘$0.00’. Take a moment if you need.
Most of us don’t have the time for a second job. Most people don’t have a skill they can turn into a side hustle for extra money. Saving for a vacation or retirement can feel daunting, until you change