Too broke to travel? Think Again.

We’ve all been there. Budgets get tight, and before you know it, the monthly cash has been spent minutes after the paycheck hits. How do you travel when there is no room in the budget?  Are you too broke to travel? Think again.

For most of us, there are a few roadblocks when it comes to traveling:

  1. Don’t have enough money
  2. Don’t have enough time.

Money and time are often opposites..if you work more you may have more money but less time. If you work less, you may have more time, but less money to do fun things.

How to get both more time and more money is a conversation that goes far beyond one post. Let’s tackle how to have enough money to travel. Here are three different strategies, all of which deserve their own post.

  1. How to save more money…to afford to travel. (below)
  2. How to travel without spending much money
  3. How to earn money while traveling 

HOW TO SAVE Money to Travel

If you want to travel for a weekend get-away, you can go pretty far on $500. But how could you afford to? Here are some tips for saving $500 for your next travel adventure.

Some people call it the “Latte Effect,” but saving a few dollars everyday can add up over time.

If you save $10 a week, you can go on a $520 vacation by the end of the year.

Another way is to do something more extreme for short stints. We’ve done a month of “fiscal fasting,” where we spend only $25 a week on food/fun. That’s it.  While the “latte effect” adds up for saving for longer term things like retirement, financial binge dieting can be fun for specific short term goals…like vacations!

Here are some ways to save $10 a week.

Save money on food

1. Make coffee at home

Coffee is one of our favorite morning routines, but buying coffee out can really add up. So one way to save $2-4 a day is to make coffee at home and take it with you in a to-go cup.

2. Pack breakfast

Similar to coffee, it can be tempting at times to grab food on the go, but a little planning ahead can go a long way. Buying croissants, bagels, or instant oatmeal at the grocery store means you can pack food to accompany your coffee. And saving an average of $6 for breakfast easily adds up to $30 a week in savings.

3. Pack lunches.

Planning ahead and packing a lunch can save a lot of money over eating out. Some weeks, we cook a batch of lasagna on Sunday for lunch all week. If the same meal everyday is dull, you can alternate sandwiches:  veggie + humus + sprouts one day, peanut butter and jelly the next, turkey + avocado + tomato the next…you get the picture.

If making lunch seems impractical, buying pre-made lunches at the grocery store can still be more thrifty than buying lunch out. Some grocery stores even have pre-packaged salads for under $5. Packing a lunch may cost $3-$5, but eating out can easily be $8-$16. Packing lunch can save $10 a day right there!

4. For those “I don’t feel like cooking” nights.

Let’s be honest, some nights we come home from work and simply don’t have the energy to cook. Generally those are the nights we order take-out or go out to eat. To anticipate this, plan ahead by buying brainless foods. Get a bake-at-home pizza or dumplings for $4 at Trader Joes to save money on those lazy nights. It’s way cheeper than spending $40 on Grubhub. Healthy? Nope! Convenient, yes! And you save a ton of money.

The key to changing our habits is not always about self discipline. Sometimes its about identifying what emotions or problems those habits help solve. Addressing those needs with an alternative can help change habits over time.

5. Shop coupons.

If you have the time, shopping in multiple grocery stores to get the best deals can be another option for saving more than $10/week. During fiscal fasts we would go to three different grocery stores and save an average of $100 by doing so. That adds up very quickly!

6. Shop at Asian or other local markets.

We eat a lot of vegetables. Unfortunately, buying fresh veggies at the grocery store is often more expensive than pasta. If you live in big towns or cities, sometimes there are asian markets, which often have excellent selection of veggies for better prices than in mainstream grocery stores. We often can save at least $70 a week by buying vegetables in one of these markets.

So, there are lots of ways of saving $10 a week. Doing any one of these tricks can save at least that amount. Doing all 6 things can save nearly $200 a week. Do this for a month, and you may save $800 for a great vacation!

Too broke to travel? Think again.

Save money on Social Activities

Other ways of pinching pennies is getting creative about social activities. Buying drinks out, for instance, really adds up and abstaining from just one alcoholic drink is $10 right there! Getting creative about fun social activities can save a lot of money.

1. Picnic in the park

Because even wine and cheese at the park or beach can be a creative date or cheery gathering for friends.

2. Potluck dinners

Plan a dinner at your place! A small group or even a romantic dinner can be more fun / intimate in one’s home than out at a restaurant and cooking together is also a meaningful time to catch up.

3. Go for a Walk or Hike

Hiking / walking is a great way to spend the afternoon doing something cool for free. Hikes can be as epic as an all day event, or a walk with the dogs can replace a $10 drink after work.

4. Netflix night!

Renting a movie is a cheeper date than going out. Some of our favorite weekends have been spent binge watching a season of Survivor, Game of Thrones, or Orange is the New Black.

5. Go Fishing!

No joke! Cheap fishing poles are $20 and can translate to hours of peaceful fun in nature. Make sure to check your local fishing regulations for licensing.Too broke to travel? Think again.

6. Find Free Things to Do…recently someone gave us a tip that a local newspaper (you know the ones nobody reads?) had a coupon to this amazing spa in town. It had over $150 worth of yoga classes and spa treatments for FREE! Some towns have free days at zoo’s and museums. San Francisco has a few free concerts like Stern Grove Festival and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival throughout the year. Planning ahead helps keep budgets on track.

We often spend money on bonding / social activities. You don’t have to sacrifice your social life just to save money. Instead, getting creative about having meaningful interactions with friends or your partner can help save money. Replacing one night out a week with a cheeper or free alternative can easily save $50 / week. Do that for 10 weeks and boom! You are ready for your $500 get-away.

If you put in the effort ahead of time you’ll be surprised how much you can save by making little tweaks in your everyday life. All you need to do is get creative about how to save money. Happy traveling!

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4 Comments

  1. yesss, survivor!!!!!!!!!! great season.

    have fun, you two! great photos and hope you find some great adventures!

  2. This right here is insightful:
    “The key to changing our habits is not always about self discipline. Sometimes its about identifying what emotions or problems those habits help solve. Addressing those needs with an alternative can help change habits over time.”

    At our house we joke about my “dinner fail” (99.9% of the time this is a failure to cook after staying in front of the computer too late rather than an actual failed attempt at actually cooking) and often then go out for dinner. That’s $40-$65 depending on where we go since we pick places that have healthier options and serve beer/wine, both of which bump the price up.

    I’ve done what you suggest (plan for easy dinners) a few times, but given the big financial impact of a few unplanned meals out, I need to accept that I lose track of time more often than I like and plan for it.

    One thing I *have* learned, though, is reflected in the number of food-related items you included in this post: Food/drink spending is something we can easily spend a lot or a little on. I want to be on the road like yesterday, but we’re still building up our RV purchase kitty.

    I think I’m gonna go ahead and plan for one or two “failures” per week, and save us probably $100 more per month. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    • Awwww! This is the most thoughtful and wonderful comment!!! We’re are so glad you’re saving for your RV and also making little changes for big impact! Yay! Food has, and probably always be, our biggest spending item- You’re not alone 🙂

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