Saving money for a big trip feels like a daunting task. Sure, there’s the obvious mandate — stop spending money on frivolities and squirrel away enough cash to make your travel dreams come true. That’s something much easier said than done, though. The siren’s call of a new restaurant or even brewery opening in your home town are hard to ignore. Then there’s the world of planned obsolescence wherein we’re almost forced into an endless cycle buying new tech — especially phones — every damn year.
All of this makes it hard to save for that dream vacation, is what we’re saying. But not impossible. There are definite ways to set money aside for travel. One of the easiest is to simply apply a tax return or some other short-term windfall straight to your travel account. The average tax return is $2,700. That’s enough to book and pay for a trip pretty much anywhere these days. Or maybe save this year’s tax return and combine it with 2021’s return. That’ll give over $5,000 to spend on a higher-end vacay that can touch on the Antarctic and other harder to reach corners of the globe.
The point here is, yes, it takes money to travel. But with a few small life adjustments and a little forward-thinking, you too can indulge in that vagabond life … even if only for two weeks a year. The six ideas for saving money to travel listed below are tried, tested, and true. In fact, I personally use all of these tactics to travel every single year. Let’s dive in and find a way to get you out on that open road!
Skip A Tech Upgrade
There have been 24 iPhone releases since 2007. That’s close to two new phones per year. Let’s say you’re updating every year, that’s an average of $750 out of pocket yearly (if you’re using a 24-month contract, the price of that phone skyrockets to $2,700 over that period). And, let’s be honest, unless there’s a monumental jump in technology (like cameras), you really don’t need a new phone that often. Not even close.
Let’s keep this simple. If you skip spending that $750 one year and, say, combine it with a tax return, you’d have around $3,500 to play with for a trip. That’s a rad vacation to the Sereghetti or through Italy’s wine country or across Russia by train. Hell, even $750 on its own is a great trip somewhere in your own backyard — small-town America awaits!
Stop Buying Seasonal Clothes
This one is a little tougher. Clothes wear out and you need to deal with that. Still, even the Hollywood awards circuit has realized that buying new clothes constantly (especially if you have plenty already) is massively wasteful, environmentally detrimental, and sucks your bank account dry.
According to the math, the average American spends $1,800 a year on clothes. That’s … a lot. Even if you halved that number, you’d be saving $900 per year. $900 can cover a vacation with youth-focused travel groups like Contiki or EF Ultimate Break quite easily. And, again, combine that with a tax refund, and you’ll be ballin’.
The point is, if you’re on your sixth Target or Nordstrom’s run this year, ask yourself if that extra pair of shoes or whatever is worth not going somewhere cool this year. Hint: It’s probably not.
Stop Buying Imported Booze
This is another tough one. You need to drink varied beers, wines, and spirits to build a palate. That being said, drinking those tipples outside of their home countries is often a shell of the larger, more cultured experience.
Look at it this way, the average price of a decent bottle of single malt scotch is $50 per bottle. A perfectly decent bottle of Kentucky bourbon is closer to $10 per bottle. Let’s say you buy two bottles of booze per month (conservatively), buying Scotch over bourbon means $100 per month compared to $20. That’s $1,200 per year compared to $240. That’s $960 I just put in your pocket to sip American made spirits. That’s nearly $1,000 you can spend actually going to Scotland and touring distilleries.
And, not to beat a dead horse here, but combine that with a tax return to spend while you’re there, and you have an experience that you can carry with you for the rest of life. Plus, you’ll have built your palate with the masters in a way you just can’t do at home.
Stick To A Tight Budget For A Year
This all leads us to: Tighten those purse strings and make better decisions with your money. We’re not saying don’t buy a new phone ever or never update your wardrobe or stop drinking. Do all those things. Just recognize the places where you actually can cut costs.
Our advice, open a savings account and funnel money you don’t spend into it for a year. Don’t skip anything. If you decide to not order takeout one night and instead cook some ramen, put that unspent cash into your savings account. If you decide to skip buying another pair of sneakers just because they were released, put that money into that account. Hell, even if you decide to skip going to the cinema and wait for the movie to drop on streaming, put that $15 in your savings account.
It will add up. Trust us.
Get The Right Credit Card
Lastly, chances are you’re leaving free flights, free hotel rooms, and even cash on the table by not having the right credit card. We can’t stress this enough — get a travel, hotel, or airline reward card right now. Use that card for your monthly expenses and pay it off every month with your paycheck. The points you’ll build along with the massive amount of points you’ll get for just signing up will equal free flights, hotel rooms, car rentals, and even cashback within a year.
Case in point, I’ve booked four free (domestic) one-way flights over the last 24 months by simply having a Delta AMEX. That’s a game-changer. Look at it this way, if you know you have a free flight thanks to points, it’s much easier to spend your yearly savings or tax refund on actually having fun on the trip.
The play here is to find an airline, hotel group, or bank that offers a great travel reward program that suits where you live and what brands you use and go with it. You literally have nothing to lose by signing up. But you will lose free travel opportunities if you don’t.