I left my job in March 2017 and I have been traveling ever since. My motto was “the more I save the more I can be free to travel”.
Obviously, the most useful way to save money is to reduce all your expenses: the less you spend the more you save, that is a no-brainer.
(Or that’s what I thought. Fast forward three years I have a completely different mindset and priorities. But that will be for another blog. )
The questions are: how do you save money and where do you cut off on expenses? That depends on your priorities of course.
I have a friend who has a specific budget for beer. I don’t like beer, nor drinks in general, therefore my allowance budget would be for example for vegan restaurants, which I like to try not only for me but because I write reviews on my blog about it. Or I would spend more money on a hotel room as I came to realize that I totally hate hostels and love to have my own pretty and clean room.
HOW I SAVED MONEY BEFORE I LEFT FOR MY JOURNEY
The first thing I did right from when I started to grow the idea of traveling full time was to cut off all my “unnecessary” expenses, and here I make a list of what was my unnecessary expenses at the time ( because they have now changed, of course)
- hairdresser – I started to dye my hair by myself, and the result was a silly mix of different shades of brown and grey with blondie endings… but I didn’t care because I was about to be free.
- eating out – or just when I was going out with people who understood my situation and I felt comfortable saying that I was going to pay for just what I was eating. I would certainly choose the cheapest dish. Disclaimer: I hate to do this because I detest looking stingy. And this is one of the things I suffer the most—inability to afford to buy dinner or a drink for a friend. Though it’s probably a good lesson to my ego, and I have to find the humility to accept it. And even more difficult to accept is when somebody buys me something—that was even worse. But, hey, everything is a lesson to learn from.
- fancy clothing — as I didn’t need to dress up anymore, because I wouldn’t really have to go to the office, attend meetings, business dinners or lunch and all the formalities related to that, I could easily cut on clothing (or so I thought). I just bought some “necessary” clothing for hiking and practical stuff, and I was good to go (or so I thought, again). I eventually had a sudden craving for dressing up which I didn’t really expect… but I will tell you later about this.
- waxing — damn, that was hard! I used to wax once every two weeks, and it was really a need. It still is, and I couldn’t do without it. Well, I could, but I don’t like it. Therefore I have reduced it to once every month or two, or, let’s say as needed.
- superfood and organic food — that was a real luxury, and when I had a full-time secure job, I wanted it to be a priority because I loved to eat healthily and prepare raw vegan desserts and various dishes, but that was a considerable portion of my expenses; therefore, cutting them out would have meant saving a lot. Traveling in Mexico thought me how to eat smart healthy and vegan, and here is a link to my full post on that.
- grocery shopping in cheap supermarkets — I actually never done that because I believe that time is money or sometimes even more valuable, as much as health. Therefore I preferred to keep buying my grocery where I was used to and save time. I was just savvier in what I would buy.
- Facial and other spa treatment let’s say I just indulge in it less often.
- Gym and Yoga — I know this is something you should not cut off since it’s all about health; however, you can stay fit without having to pay somebody to tell you what to do. I knew exactly what I needed, and I could easily save some money by cutting the monthly fee to yoga or pole dance (yes I did that too, that was super fun) or cross-fit. What I did was running and doing some exercises on my own. You need a lot of discipline, and I didn’t have much, but enough to do something from time to time. If you can train with a friend, it’s even better so that you keep motivating each other.
Having said that, I really couldn’t be that strict with the regime because I would occasionally treat myself to the extra waxing or a dinner with friends without worrying too much.
At that time, I was working so I didn’t feel the urge to be strict with saving and besides, I could always change idea and not leaving at all.
In fact, at that time I was super insecure about my choice, and I kept changing my mind. It took me two years to actually go for it. But that’s another story. You can find it here.
SETTING UP PRIORITIES
When I resigned from my job, to pursue the digital nomad life I realized that after that one last salary, I wouldn’t be receiving any income for a while. My usual self would have freaked out after day 1 of my freedom, but it didn’t, and I was happy. I knew that I would have been fine for a couple of years and then I would have thought about it.
I had (and I still have) projects in place and dreams to turn into reality. In order to do that, I would have needed just four things:
- time to travel while working on my projects
- peace of mind to be able to travel and working on my projects
- travel to gather experiences and open my horizons
- money to be able to do all the above without stress
I had it all, and I would have been free for at least one year for sure. Now, one year has gone by, and I managed to save so much without being as tight with money because I was planning and I am sure I can keep traveling for another couple of years; easy, if I keep being cautious while still enjoying the journey. Here, I will tell you how I did it.
YOU DON’T NEED TO BEG FOR FOOD
After so many months traveling while counting every penny (more or less), I realized that there is no point in traveling if you have to stay locked up in a shitty hostel, eating from a can, and without being able to explore just for the need to save money.
At least, for me, it doesn’t make any sense at all.
We are all free to live the life that we want, and I am not here to judge anyone. I just want to express my own thoughts and feelings and what works for me. I travel to experience, to know and feel the place where I am going. I realized that I would prefer to travel less and do the things that I enjoy rather than travel forever like a tramp.
I am reading many posts or watching videos about travelers venting how good they are in spending only 1 dollar a day or nothing at all.
I don’t believe this is possible and if it is, it means that you have to rely on people’s goodwill gestures, which means that you go about begging for food or a place to stay.
I would not be able to do that. I wouldn’t be able to beg for food; thus I need to save money for my travels. I find it disrespectful towards people who don’t have the resources to eat every day or to feed their kids. But that’s just my thought.
As long as traveling is amazing and is actually the reason why I am living, it is still not a primary need, and if you cannot afford it, then you either stay at home or find a way to finance your travels like I did the first time I left Italy.
There are so many ways, and I found this very useful post which tells you all about it.
Somebody suggested that I put on my blog the “buy me a coffee’” button. What? Why should a stranger buy me food just because I travel? It’s nice that somebody is so intrigued by my journey and so appreciative of my stories and wishes to contribute to it. That would be really nice, but I just would not feel comfortable to ask for it.
Maybe it’s just my ego talking, again.
However, everybody must be able to afford to travel comfortably, without spending a fortune and here I am sharing what I have been doing so far.
How do I save money while traveling without getting obsessed with it and without begging?
Nowadays, we have access to so much information that I wish I had when I was in my 20s or 30s. I would, indeed, have started to travel earlier. But hey! I am doing it now, and I am happy I am still in time to do it. I have health, some savings, experience, and enthusiasm. I don’t need anything else.
But let’s cut to the chase and share some useful resources so that you can also save money while traveling.
HOUSE AND PET SITTING
This is my number one resource because I get so many benefits from it that I would have never thought this was possible.
How does it work? Basically, you exchange your time and love for pets looking after somebody’s house and pets, in exchange for free accommodation, because you would live in the house while the pet/house owner travel.
Bear in mind that it is not a way to get free accommodation in return for nothing. You need to actually love animals, be comfortable with them, be flexible and adapt to their schedule. If you don’t or are just ok with having pets around and don’t actually love them, then forget about it. This is not for you.
Usually, the houses have internet, and if you work online, this is the perfect situation.
To me it’s more than perfect because I get four benefits out of that:
- I love pets, and I need to have them around, but I can’t have my own while traveling; therefore, this solution is perfect because I get to be around them now and again. I found pets, especially cats and dogs so calming and they are so funny. So what would be considered as work is actually a benefit for me. Sometimes I feel like I should pay the homeowner for letting me enjoy their pets.
Tinkerbelle in La Paz
WORK EXCHANGE EXPERIENCE
This option works like housesitting with the difference that you will be doing different kinds of jobs for 25 hours in exchange for a room (sometimes shared or in a tent) and meals. There are different online platforms that work like a marketplace where business owners and travelers meet.
You pick the region and check the different choices that you have if there is something you like you write through a contact form and explain what you can do for them requesting a specific period. It is better to speak very well about the details and be very specific about your condition and duties. I use a site called Workaway.info. It costs around 36 USD per year. Totally worth it.
I only had one experience which wasn’t very positive, though; just because I wasn’t assigned to specific duties and I felt a little useless, except when I had to cook. I loved to cook for everybody, we were about 4″ workawayers” and we got along very well. That was the nice side of it. I will do more of it in the future but I will choose more carefully and especially something that allows me to learn different skills. I find it interesting experience especially for the young crowd, but for me as well.
You learn to adapt to different situations and possibly new skills. It’s very important though that you talk a lot with the business owner you will be working for, especially if you have special needs or you need to know more what the job will be about.
PREFER LONGER STAY ON RENTALS
I love to use Airbnb because I like the reservation system that allows you to talk to the homeowners before booking and I like the fact that you can use the kitchen ( I almost always select that option). However, the best part is that if you stay longer than 6 nights you normally get a discount or a free night.
If I don’t see the option I always ask the owner and they have always extended to me for a stay of 7 nights. Staying longer in one place allows me to find a good balance between work and travel because I have time to visit the area without rushing and spend some time on my projects.
CHECK WITH HOTEL OR HOSTEL FOR THEIR LATEST OFFER
When I stay in a hotel no matter what category it is I always browse through different sites and check which one has the best offer. Then, as last option, I call the hotel and ask what’s the best price they can do. If it’s higher than any other websites or the same rate I would book with the best offer. I normally check among my favorites:
BOOK YOUR HOTEL VIA MOBILE
I just found out that booking through the above-mentioned sites from a mobile, very often you have better prices than from a laptop.
USE BLA BLA CAR WHEN AVAILABLE
This is a very useful Car sharing system. On the platform, the car owner advertises his/her next trip and let us know the type of car how many people are traveling, how many bags the car can hold and the itinerary. You also have the opportunity to check the reviews of the diver, for your security.
I used it to travel from Veracruz Puerto to Queretaro and I have paid half the price of the bus ticket. Besides the journey was comfortable and pleasant.
BOOK BUSSES ONLINE
I have noticed that for the majority of the bus companies in Mexico if you book your ticket online you get a significant discount, besides securing your place.
CHECK ON COUCHSURFING
Couchsurfing is a platform where people offer a place to stay in their homes at no charge. It’s normally for cultural exchange reasons. It’s normally people who have traveled a lot and love to meet with other travelers and offer them some help.
It’s a good way to meet like-minded people. Sometimes they just offer you a safe space to put your tent and a bathroom.
I have never done it because I don’t really feel very comfortable. For bikers there is another site called warm showers, the concept is the same but it’s specific for bikers.
After all this time on the road, trying my best to save and be wise, I eventually fell into what I have called the ego trap 🙂
I was walking on the streets of Guanajuato in my huge comfortable pants and overused running shoes and I realized how much I felt the need to feel pretty again, more feminine. I am sure if you are a woman you can relate to that.
It was a real urge, very strong, just like the one that pushed me to resign from my job. At that point to buy nice dresses (although not too pricey) became a necessity, more than eating or staying in a comfy place. I didn’t care about saving anymore or actually I still did, but I changed my priorities.
I went to a shop and bought a dress and a blouse. I was happy but I felt that was not enough.
The next week I was in Morelia and I visited a mall to see the sunset from there. Instead of watching the sunset I was shopping like there was no tomorrow.
And I found everything I wanted, so rare for me. I even had to buy an extra suitcase and I thought that I really didn’t care to travel light as any backpackers are so good at. I was going against the trend to travel light and I was going to be dressing the way I wanted and carry my big backpack plus suitcase. I didn’t care. I was happy because I could change my clothes according to the occasion.
Having said that, I know I did it because I could afford it, maybe giving up to 15 days of my travels. I was fine with that, it was worth it.
Now I will keep being cautious about other little expenses when I can. Every time I am about buy something, be it food or drinks or clothes, I ask myself first: Do I really need it? what happens if I don’t buy it? and I will make my decision accordingly.
As I don’t care about clubbing or drinking I can indulge in other stuff.
Bottomline is like I mentioned earlier in the first paragraph, it’s ok to travel light and be cautious about expenses, but you need to know the purpose of your traveling.
If you do it just to say “I have been in 50 countries in 2 months”, you can certainly save more.
But if you love to actually live and experience the country you are visiting, taking tours, try the local food and be comfortable then you will need to raise your budget a little and maybe consider reducing the travel time.
The questions are:
- what are your priorities?
- Do you prefer 2 years of traveling super cheap and be limited in your actions and experience, or “only” 1 year of traveling living it fully and doing all that you want to do?
That was just an example. It all depends on your budget and goals.
I hope to have provided with some food for your thoughts and some useful tips. Should you have any questions I would be happy to answer.
Happy travels my friend!
FOR FURTHER READING
- Digital Nomad Jobs – Interview with an English teacher – freelance writer, blogger, and remote working coach
- Jobs for digital nomads – Interview with a marketing manager
- Jobs for digital nomads – Interview with a video editor
- Photo…Shop from my beautiful travel photos gallery
- How to become a digital nomad – a beginner guide