How to save money for a long term trip
Disclaimer: This page may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of those links, I may earn a commission at zero cost for you. Please see my disclaimer policy here. Boundless Roads is by no means liable for any purchase of tours, tickets, and any other online reservation that are made with any third-party provider.
If you are looking for a way to leave everything behind and set off for an adventure but you have no idea on how to save for a long-term trip, this post will help you.
I will tell you from my own experience the best way I found that save me money and allowed me to travel for 2 years without an income if not from a few random gigs as a freelancer until I found a way to support my travels for an undetermined time. If you want to do the same read on.
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, obviously.
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.
Read also: 10 reasons why the backpacker’s style is not for you.
How I saved money before I left for my journey through the world
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 about what I would buy.
Facial and other spa treatments let’s say I just indulge in them 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 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 ideas and not leave 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.
Deciding your 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 and live 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 wouldn’t be able to beg for food when there are people that don’t even have the means for mere survival. I find it disrespectful towards people who don’t have the resources to eat every day or to feed their kids. It would feel unfair to beg for the luxury of travel. Thus I need to save money for my travels.
Although 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 asking 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, houses have WIFI, and if you work online, this is the perfect situation.
For me, it’s more than perfect for many reasons. 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.
I want to write a dedicated post about being a housesitter but in the meantime, if you want to start off and find some assignments Trustedhousesitter is the biggest and most reputable site. If you use my link you get 25% off the subscription rate and I get 2 free months of subscription
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 find it an 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 requirements or you need to know more what the job will be about.
Prefer longer stay on rentals
I love to use Airbnb or VRBO 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 a place with 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 spending some time on my projects.
CHECK WITH THE 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 the 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.
Booking.com is one of the most popular booking platforms where you can find amazing deals for hotels and home rentals.
Deals & Discounts for Hotel Reservations from Luxury Hotels to Budget Accommodations
Browse among amazing homes for rent in the top destinations.
Book your hotel via mobile
I just found out that booking through the above-mentioned sites from a mobile, very often you find better prices than from a laptop.
Use Bla Bla Car when available
Bla Bla Car is a very useful Car sharing system. On the platform, the car owner advertises his/her next trip and lets 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 bus trips 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.
Before setting off for a long-term travel adventure, make sure you know yourself and your priorities. Know what you need to feel good about what you are doing and make sure you take decision based on what you love rather than what people are expecting from you.
Be realistic but allow yourself to dare. The Universe works in many mysterious ways and sometimes if we feel a strong genuine drive towards something that seems impossible there is a good chance we will get it, be it a job, a lifestyle a personal achievement. But we need to dare and that’s what I have been repeating myself and what has worked for me so far.
After 5 years on the road, I have now fulfilled my dream to live on my blog, after so much sweat and tears, I finally made an income out of it and I can live my dream.
I still have to hustle but I love what I am doing and when I work it feels like fun. I can work from anywhere I want and I choose my schedule according to my own priorities which feels amazing.
The digital nomad life has its pros and cons but the perks are way more important to me than the disadvantages. And that goes back to what I was talking about before, you need to know yourself and what you want. Even if the only thing you want is to travel and you don’t have any idea on what you want to do with your life besides that.
Just make sure you have the money to support that and go for an adventure. You have no idea of how many paths open when you take the first step toward your dreams. It seems cheesy but it worked for me. So I don’t see why it wouldn’t do it for you as well.
If you only want to travel long term for a sabbatical or a break you need to ask yourself these two questions:
- 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 been provided with some food for your thoughts and some useful tips. Should you have any questions I would be happy to answer.
If you want to learn more about the Digital Nomad life and how you can travel while you work or work while your travel, check out my dedicates section with lots of free content and advice.
Happy travels my friend!