5 Legit, Non-Sucky Ways to Save Money for Travel (+10 more good reminders)

5 ways to save money for travel

When it comes to personal finances and saving money for travel, there’s pretty much one tip that I can’t abide by these days…

Give up the lattes.

To that I simply say, no. No, you cannot take away my coffees.

And this is coming from someone who so strongly preached and practiced this very same tip in the past. The same type of minimalistic, shoe-string budget tip that helped me save $23k in a year and a half so I could live out my travel dreams. But…

This saving money tactic, while tried and true, is overdone and pretty unappealing. Am I right?!

Sure, my almost daily $4.50 habit for a small almond cappuccino could set me back over $30 a week, but for me, my coffee experience equates to much, much more than a caffeine hit.

I love walking to my favorite cafes for a morning coffee, and I especially love taking the long stroll home on the waterside bike path with coffee in hand. I love meeting my boyfriend at cafes for casual talks and business planning sessions. And when I’m feeling frustrated with working from home, I love heading to a cafe in the afternoon for a relaxing, chill-out break.

My coffee experience brings both joy and routine to my days, so it’s just not something I’m willing to sacrifice for a bigger travel fund. If you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably hoping for some fresh ideas to spruce up the travel fund while also keeping a hot brew in hand.

Here are some legit, non-sucky ideas for saving money for travel (plus 10 others that are simply good practice to keep in mind).

1 – Utilize AirBnb During Peak Times

My friend lives in a Sydney suburb and easily earns an extra $700+ every year by opening up her small loft apartment to AirBnb guests. But she only does so for a short time around New Year’s when tourists flock to the city to experience the world renowned fireworks display.

During that time, she and her husband stay with family for free, and the extra money pads the travel fund.

Use Airbnb for extra travel money
Utilize apartment rental websites at key times of the year.

Of course, given where you live (and also the logistics of your living situation), you may not be able to have such amazing results. Still, it’s definitely something to think about if you want to take advantage of AirBnb without needing a spare room or being active on the platform on a regular basis.

Think about listing your space for during popular festivals and events, and definitely high traffic holiday periods.

Never used AirBnb before? Get $39 USD off your first stay using this link.

Interested in becoming an AirBnb host? See how much your space is worth.

2 – Buy More Food, But Also Buy Less

Uhm… Yes, I just said that! Let me explain:

Going out for a great meal gives me all the same good vibes as my daily coffee, but the cost of eating out every single day in Sydney would probably bankrupt me. Buying less food at restaurants is a definite tip I follow to save money for travel.

However, I’m not going crazy and eating peanut butter sandwiches for lunch everyday for 6 months like I did when I saved that initial $23k a decade ago. As a food lover whose done it before, that would make me so depressed!

dressed up boring food can save money for travel
Left: French toast made a bit fancy with peanut butter, chia seeds, banana, pecans, and real maple syrup. Right: Veggie/lentil tacos made fresh with avocado and spicy chipotle sauce.

Instead of tired peanut butter sandwiches, I’m toasting up fancy peanut butter, jam, banana, nut and honey sandwiches for lunch.

Instead of a boring pouch of pumpkin soup, I’m plating up pumpkin soup topped with toasted cashew bits and a dollop of sour cream, along with herby garlic bread on the side.

Instead of basic 2-minute noodles, I’m having 2-minute noodles with added stir fried tofu, veggies, and chili flakes for a full meal experience.

Instead of a plain veggie burger, I’m throwing on slices of avocado, shredded carrot, fresh spinach, salsa and jalapenos for a restaurant flavored experience at a fraction of the cost.

So, when I say to buy MORE food to save money, what I mean is to buy more of the additional items – like condiments, sauces, spices, and extras – that can take a rather cheap and unfulfilling meal at home to the next level. Those items tend to last a while, and they can help you partake in other money-saving practices, like: embracing leftovers, zero food waste challenges, and pantry challenges.

There’s nothing more money saving than using what you already have, right?

3 – Put Your Money Where Your Happy Is

I’m gonna tell you a little secret…

I made around $200 in regrettable purchases last month.

Let’s just pause here and let that sink in…

That’s $200 in purchases that didn’t actually bring me happiness or joy, and that could have been avoided had I been better prepared or more knowledgeable about my spending habits.

Two hundred dollars in ONE MONTH. That’s $2400 a year of money that could otherwise be buying me a cruise to somewhere exotic. Or a flight to a far-flung destination.

YUCK, right?! When I made that discovery, I just about fell off my chair!

But it was something I really needed to come to terms with. I knew I was making some purchases here and there that were a bit pointless, but I had no idea the extent.

And I only came to this realization because I signed up for Sarah Von Bargen’s course, Put Your Money Where Your Happy Is.

coffee makes me happy

Sarah is the woman behind the site Yes & Yes, and if you don’t know it yet, I highly recommend rectifying that immediately. Like seriously, grab a coffee and clear your afternoon! It’s smart and funny, and oh-so-motivational.

Her Put Your Money Where Your Happy Is course helps you re-evaluate your relationship with money, essentially by getting to the nitty gritty of how, why, and where you spend it. You might be surprised at how easy it is to free up extra money for travel without needing to earn more money or live unhappily in your current non-travel life.

Or without needing to give up those precious coffees! Winning 🙂

The course is a bit of an investment, so for a less intense course experience, check out her More Money + More Happy Bootcamp instead.

4 – Drive for Rideshare Apps in Your Spare Time

If you own a decent vehicle, there’s probably no easier or more flexible way to make an extra income than by becoming an Uber or Lyft driver.

I know what you’re thinking… but Brooooooke, this is no different than telling someone the same old advice of getting a second job to save money for travel.

woman driving for rideshare apps
Driving for Lyft or Uber can be an extra source of income.

Yes, but also no. While I have a few girlfriends who have dabbled in driving for rideshare apps, it’s not usually a method of extra income sought out by females. And the barrier to entry is just so low! If you own a decent car and have a license, you could very well be flipping the Uber or Lyft apps on whenever you please (although daytime hours are probably best).

Plus, you get to meet several new and interesting people every hour!

So take this is a friendly reminder that rideshare work can be an option for earning and saving extra money, and don’t forget about things like Uber Eats if you live in the right areas.

Never used Uber before? Sign up easily online to get started.

5 – Don’t Sell Your Stuff… Sell OTHER People’s Stuff

Don’t take this as permission to steal your mom’s favorite purse and schlep it on Ebay! Do, however, snatch up free furniture, clothes, and other goods listed on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Gumtree, and community message boards.

Then take these goods and sell them at your convenience.

sell free stuff for travel money
A quick search on Gumtree has brought me to loads of free furniture and housewares that could be resold at my leisure.

I cannot count the times when moving apartments that I have ended up giving away things that could have gone for a bit of cash. But when I was in the mode of moving and super busy, I simply didn’t have the time to focus on selling stuff. Someone taking the items off my hands provided more value.

If you think this is something you could get into for extra cash, keep an eye on moving sales and make a habit of stopping off at garage sales later in the day. Even garage sale type markets (like the Kirribilli Markets here in Sydney) can result in some massive cheap and free clothing scores towards the end of a market day when owners don’t want to take stuff back home.

how to save travel money

10 MORE Ways to Save Money for Travel

They’re just good reminders!

1 – Use tools or apps, like Mint.com, to track your budget and expenses.

A simple spreadsheet will do the trick. It’s all about becoming aware of where the money is going so you can allocate it more wisely. But also check out You Need a Budget, Mvelopes, or Wally.

2 – Set up a ‘save the change’ automatic bank transfer.

Some banks have a system that rounds up your debit card purchases to the nearest dollar, putting the extra change into a separate account. When you pay for something with cash, keep the change and put it in a jar at home.

3 – Set up bank alerts to message you with every purchase you make.

It’s so easy to mindlessly make purchases with our tap and go debit cards. But when you get that text message a few minutes later reminding you that you just spent $10 on a bottle of water and a couple packs of gum, it makes it a bit more real. It’s also a great way to keep on top of potential fraud charges.

4 – Any time you receive a specific cash denomination, put it in a jar.

I don’t shop with cash much, but whenever I receive a $5 note (I live in Australia, btw) it goes into a jar for a future trip. You can try this practice with quarters, single dollars, etc.

5 – Sell unnecessary belongings.

If you do have things that you don’t use anymore, or won’t need once you become a world traveler, sell them for extra cash. Have a good old fashioned garage sale.

6 – Move to a cheaper place, or take up house sitting.

Can you downsize your living situation, move into a house share, or even back with your parents for a while? If you’re okay with moving around a bit, why not look into what it takes to be a house (or pet) sitter where you can often live rent-free.

7 – Make early morning plans on weekends.

Want to make sure you don’t have a crazy late night out spending too much money on booze? Make plans you can’t easily miss for weekend mornings. Or sign up for a community sports team that has practices on weekends.

8 – Keep a busy calendar with free or low-cost activities.

You can’t spend money if you’re busy with life and work. Tackle a project you’ve always been meaning to but never had the time. Take up a new hobby, like drawing or knitting. Hit the gym more. Volunteer at an animal shelter or a soup kitchen. Have a weekly movie night with girlfriends. There are so many things you can add to your calendar that doesn’t involve spending heaps of money.

9 – Take a second job.

If you make more money, you can save more money, right? Look for casual, part-time work, or utilize a skill for freelance projects.

10 – Make your goal and progress visual.

Pick a savings goal and write it down. Put it on the wall in BIG, FAT LETTERS so you can see it every single day and stay motivated. And also track your progress. Be sure to celebrate all the little wins along the way – they add up!

>> Further reading – How to Create a Travel Budget

What other tips can you give for saving money for your travels? Share them in the comments below!

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Written by Brooke

Brooke Schoenman runs the show at Her Packing List. Inspired from years of travel experience, Brooke decided there needed to be a travel gear site focused on the needs of a wandering female.

Add your voice & leave a comment!

Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. A says

    I work full time, but my jobs usually only last 6-8 months. When I’m working, I put aside a set percentage of my weekly paycheck into two savings accounts – one for emergencies, and one for travel. Because I have a separate emergency fund, my travel fund isn’t cleaned out if I have to go on hiatus for a few weeks. Also, if I pick up freelance, all of the income I receive (or at least a percentage of it, if I’m not working full time) goes towards travel.

    I shop at thrift stores, bring my own lunch, make my own coffee, etc.

    Also, my husband and I applied for an airline mileage credit card, onto which we put all of our regular expenses. This way, we’re not spending any more than we usually do, and we earn miles that can help pay for tickets (or extra leg room!)

  2. Diana says

    I’ve got a job where I get cash tips (I own a pet grooming salon) so we decided that all cash tips are put into travel savings. It’s a few hundred a month, but we’ve put away almost $3000 so far and are traveling to Italy in Sept for 2 weeks. We also save $ with our family, everyone puts away a set amount on everyone else’s birthday and Christmas so we will eventually have enough to cover a family vacation. So far so good!

    One thing that has helped me, a once chronic shopper, save $$$ for travel has been to literally think about every unneccessary purchase and weigh it out. Do I really need that new pair of shoes when I already have 40 in my closet or would I be happier spending that money on a trip? Once I started thinking like that it spread to our other buying and we’ve become quite frugal. Me…frugal, I never would have thought! People are often so quick to shell out money on daily luxuries but then say they could never afford a trip like the ones we are planning. It’s all in your approach! Great info on saving for travel. Once you get the bug, you’ll do anything to be able to spend more time out in the world, I know we will.

  3. Sandy says

    I am retired, so it’s much harder to save money! So I save all coins and $5 bills in a zippered pouch in a dresser drawer. When full, I deposit them into a separate savings account. That’s my “fun” account! Since I don’t like carrying coins, it’s easy to empty my wallet at the end of the day. Our credit union has a no-fee coin counter, just dump the coins and take the receipt to the teller. You would be surprised at how quickly and painlessly this adds up!

  4. Viktoria Urbanek says

    I now leave my credit and debit cards at home so I can only spend the money I take in cash, which is not too much 🙂 It really helps me, and if I really find something interessting and worth buying, I still have some extra time to think about the necessity and mostly I don’t really need it anyways 😛

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