A little disclaimer first
I’d like to start this discussion putting out a little disclaimer. This is a delicate topic and we shall treat it as such. It doesn’t matter if it’s a beautiful influencer working for a fishy MLM or a close friend. If someone says that you’re not making it because “you’re not trying hard enough” without considering your personal circumstances, ignore it. Yes, many aren’t willing to make little sacrifices or complain without giving it a go. But many others simply can’t afford to even think of traveling. The belief that “anyone can travel” is a myth.
Much of it starts with luck rather than the right mindset. I was extremely lucky that my family brought me along on their travels since I was baby, that I didn’t have to ask for a loan to pursue my studies and that I own a powerful passport. It was a mere chance to be born here and in such circumstances. But many of us didn’t have it that easy and still don’t. So when bloggers and Instagrammers showcase their best lives blaming people who struggle to make ends meet for their “negative attitude”, my blood boils.
If you’re out there voicing your opinion, stop fooling others: not anyone can afford to travel. Let’s acknowledge that putting spare money on a side is already a luxury on itself for some. Each situation is different, and you should always analyze what place in your life you’re in.
Now, if you feel like this disclaimer doesn’t apply to you and you think you can spare some money without taking desperate measures, let’s proceed with some tips.
Open a savings account
At first, it will be difficult to part from a portion of your earnings. When you get your paycheck, that god-like adrenaline overtakes you. Picture this: you’re blissfully jumping across the room, waving the cash in your hands, and suddenly a tiny oompa-loompa bursts in and steals some of that sweet cash. My brain may be too chaotic, but what I mean is: I get the feeling. However, you need to remember your goal and take a little step today so you’ll be ready for a big jump tomorrow. (I feel like I should stop talking like a car ad?)
Anyway, having an extra place – be it virtual or physical – to store some money is of great help. You can either open an online account or get some guidance from your trusted brick-and-mortar bank. Alternatively, dig up an old jar, put a label saying “tRavEls” and throw in some cash. I’ll warn you, though: a piggy bank is extremely cute, but it might be tempting to scoop out a handful of coins with daily eye contact.
Regardless of the method, it’s a practice that will get easier with time. Make a small sacrifice once a month and watch your stash grow. Patience is key.
Cut on non-essential expenses
You don’t have to live on pre-cooked ramen and canned beans for months. It’s not about being strict, rather, it’s about being conscious. Consider adjusting your lifestyle for a while, if you really want to save some money. Here’s some examples:
- Say no to dinners out and yes to earthy meals at home (maybe you’ll discover your hidden culinary talent!)
- Postpone any unnecessary shopping: those shoes are cute, but you have bigger goals now!
- Reinvent your hangouts with friends: how about board games or a movie night at someone’s place?
- Save on gasoline, or even on public transportation if you have the option to walk to your destination!
- In case of birthdays and holidays, consider crafting your own gifts instead of spending a fortune – handmade presents are way more wholesome anyway!
These are just a few ideas, but you can definitely cut corners without being too strict on yourself.
Help yourself with a budgeting app
Savings apps come in handy, whether you’re trying to be more organized or track every little thing. While it may be triggering to look at your finances fluctuating, it really boosts your awareness. Yes, facing the harsh reality is never easy: I, more than once, cowardly postponed checking my balance. But you shall be braver than me: help yourself avoiding missteps and get a budgeting app. Mint is my personal favorite, but there’s tons out there so go find the right match for you.
Start a tiny, side business
Maybe your schedule isn’t totally overpacked, maybe you’re rolling your thumbs more hours than you know and your friends have a tendency to cancel on you. Then, why not turn those empty moments into extra cash. And please, don’t fall for those scamming business inviting you to ditch your 9-5 job only to sell shampoo and recruit people beneath you. Maybe someone in your block needs a babysitter for a weekend? Or an old lady can’t walk her dog anymore? Or you can speak fluent Polish and that kid online would love to learn it? There’s tons of little things you can implement to your current life without going too crazy. My favorite side “hassle” is selling stuff online. Opening an online shop – on Depop, for instance – is as easy as breathing, and it’s a great excuse to declutter my closet and inventory. Freeing my life from unnecessary objects and making money out of it – what a wonder.
Focus on your goal: traveling is your mantra
Saving money can be a difficult and long process, and you need to stay motivated. It’s 2020 and temptation is all over social media: it’s hard to resist. I’m no puritan: I won’t come and hit your knuckles if you slip and indulge. My philosophy leans more on moderation than restriction. It’s up to your own judgment whether you can allow yourself an extra expense or not!
Sometimes, we’re hit by unfortunate accidents and we’re forced to spend all our savings to fix them. And that’s alright: life is unpredictable! Don’t get discouraged if you’re back to square zero. Your goal may seem more distant, but it’s still there.
Help your motivation with a diary or a visual board of your future travels. Talk about your dream goal with your friends and ask them to help you stay on track with your expenses. Notice your progress and share your hard work with the people you love. It will 100% keep your spirit up and help you progress towards your final destination.
Can you compromise?
Time to think of what kind of traveler you are. There’s no wrong answer, relax. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with longing for luxurious hotels and fancy restaurants. But if you keep thinking that traveling is too expensive because the high-end way is the only way, I’ll stop you there.
Organizing a pleasurable and cheap escape is totally doable. You can do some research and book a trip during low seasons, when prices are lower than usual. You can opt for hostels or standard hotels instead of burning all your budget on a fancy room. You can shop at supermarkets and make your own meal while abroad, or choose street food over expensive restaurants. Tons of solutions would render your travel way more affordable than you think. But it all comes down to what type of vacation you envision and if it’d be too much of a compromise. If you’re not up for an adventurous experience at all, you can still work for your goal, but of course, it will take you more time to save up that amount of money.
Another quick note: if you think that traveling only means flying to the other side of the world, think again. Of course, it might be your dream to go far, far away – and in this case, I’ll shush. But if you’re eager to travel as soon as you can, take a look at your neighbor countries without underestimating them! There may be amazing things to see all around you, and it could be way cheaper to reach those places than to take a 3 days flight. Keep your options open!