Going on a trip typically involves a certain amount of planning, research, and budgeting. In fact, year after year, a lot of Americans don’t end up using all of their vacation time, many of them citing money and cost being the main issues holding them back. Saving up money for a trip—particularly an international one—is understandably a challenge, but it’s not an insurmountable challenge. Despite what you might think, travel is not just for people with a lot of money who can easily afford it. In fact, being able to travel may be easier to accomplish than you think!
Today, I’d like to share my five favorite tricks and tips for budgeting for a big trip. Everyone on our Global Gals Team has different tricks they use to help save for a trip and find the best deals, so we’ll be sure to share more of them in the future. But for now, I hope that the following tips and tricks—that I personally like to use—will help you conquer the money challenge that’s often associated with travel!
“Go-To Global Gal” Alyce’s Five Favorite Budgeting Tips & Tricks:
1. Decide where you want to go.
Whatever you do, keep it in mind. Look at pictures of the destination, put images up on your wall—anything you can do to help keep that specific goal and destination front and center in your mind. Remind yourself what it will be like, how amazing, fun, or relaxing it will be. Keeping the excitement and anticipation alive will help you resist splurge purchases, and consequently help with the planning part of your trip. Who knows what kind of cool things you’ll discover about your destination in the process?!
2. Create a separate account.
Try creating either a designated money jar or a separate account at your bank—whichever one works best for you. This collection of your savings is a place for you to put money into regularly—whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly. Even if it’s a dollar here, ten dollars there, it will start to add up. The key is that you put money in regularly (don’t neglect it) and that you stay disciplined: once the money is in that account or that jar, it’s untouchable. Pretend it doesn’t exist so you won’t be tempted to dip into those funds for anything else.
3. Figure out your monthly expenditures and sort them into categories: want vs. need.
Once you’ve sorted your costs and expenditures, it’s time for the next step! Try to start whittling away at the costs that fall into the “want” category by reminding yourself of your goal: your awesome dream trip!
A new shirt to add to your already brimming closet? A daily venti caramel macchiato at the coffee shop? The most expensive dish on the menu? Some new DVD releases at full price? We all have things that we want, that we sometimes convince ourselves we need. I’m a bit of shopaholic—I will freely admit this, so this budgeting tip is probably the hardest one for me to follow. But, if I can do it, I’m pretty sure you can! And the best thing is, the more I’ve done it, the easier it’s gotten: the more trips I go on, the more determined I get. So just know that it might be hard in the beginning, but it does get better!
Also, if you’re like me, coffee is crucial. But I’ve found ways to lower my costs, while still getting the caffeine that I need to function. And not be a zombie. The truth is that if you want to save for a trip you need to take a hard look at your choices and pick out the things that you can live without, or at least find ways to decrease the cost amount. Sometimes, it’s better to cut down on the amount, as opposed to cutting it out of your life altogether (or all of a sudden). Example: instead of getting a coffee at the shop every day, get a coffee there once or twice a week. Then after a while maybe you’ll be able to cut out that cost altogether.
Think of it this way, cutting out the “wants” from your monthly costs is a lot like going on a diet, or trying to eat healthy. So often when we try to follow a diet that’s super strict, it’s really easy to “fall off the wagon” and slip back into our old habits. Same thing with this budgeting technique—if you’re anything like me, gradually cutting down on your extraneous expenses will probably go a lot better overall and be easier to maintain. Remember the tortoise and the hare: be the tortoise and get your trip!
4. Limit how often you’re eating out.
Remind yourself you’re saving money to eat at an awesome authentic restaurant during your dream trip. Try putting it into perspective: do you want to eat at a local Italian restaurant in your hometown or eat at an awesome cafe while you’re in Rome? I don’t know about you, but I’d pick the cafe in Rome! Thinking about things this way can really help with the day-to-day temptations we face (especially for us “foodies” out there, this is a hard one!). And remember, when you do go out, try to find ways to cut down on your overall cost. Instead of a soda, order water. Or get the more economical items on the menu. It’ll add up quickly—trust me!
5. Plan with a budget in mind.
This may seem like it’s just plain old “common sense,” and while it is, it’s honestly one of the most important things that I can do when I’m creating my budget and planning my trip. I usually don’t have a lot of extra money lying around—the joys of being a millennial with college debt means that any trip I plan is going to have to be “budget.” This mindset forces me to get creative when picking out my destination and when picking out activities that I’ll do while I’m there, which in turn helps me create a more realistic budget for myself.
As an example, while I was living in Seoul, South Korea, I had a four-day vacation from school in the summer, but not a whole lot of money available. Two of my friends and co-workers were in the same boat as me, so I sold them on the idea of a “budget backpack” style trip that I did all the planning and research for. While the rest of our co-workers were going to the Philippines or Moscow—and coming back totally broke—we saved our money and the three of us went on an incredibly fun four-day trip around South Korea that cost between $200-$250 (per person). Because I knew I didn’t want to spend money, while I was planning I found activities that were free or inexpensive, and chose destinations that had a lot of free outdoor activities that we could enjoy. With this approach, my budgeting and my planning were interconnected and helped support one another. If I hadn’t planned with my budget in mind, you bet I could have made the trip a lot more expensive and extravagant. But in my mind, our experience showed that you can still have a wonderful time, or design an incredible trip, on a shoe-string budget!
I hope these 5 tips help you as you begin budgeting for a big trip! Best of luck and happy, happy travels!
Post by “Go-To Global Gal” Alyce Howard