Travel is not an inexpensive hobby. Although there are plenty of ways to explore the world around us, and I believe that driving even 60 minutes away to discover something new can scratch the travel itch, many people dream of crossing oceans or staying in resorts. Those goals come at a cost. Here are some tips to “hack” your wallet and grow your travel savings fund faster.
How do I save money for travel? Well, I spend less in other areas, like clothes and hobbies. I don’t often buy new clothes for special occasions or even for a new season. And as for hobbies, I don’t have a gym membership nor do I walk into Joann’s or Michael’s and drop serious money on crafting supplies. This lets me trim my budget in other ways and squirrel away money for travel. Importantly, I have taken a few measures to make sure my fund is continuously growing behind the scenes.
Start a special travel account
This is basically what the whole strategy is based on. By creating an intentional space to save for travel, you will be less likely to sneak money out of it and you will enjoy watching it grow. Find out if your bank will let you open a separate savings account for free. By establishing a “travel account” it will be easy to see your savings grow, and if you open it at your normal bank, transferring funds to/from it will be a breeze. Okay, you could also use a piggy bank or a jar, but a separate savings account is better.
Use an app like Acorns
When I was in college, Bank of America had a program called “keep the change” where every purchase was rounded up to the dollar and the excess money was funneled into my savings account.
Example: $24.82 purchase = $0.18 sneaked into savings
I don’t bank at BoA anymore, so I don’t know if this still exists, but Acorns is a popular app that works the exact same way. If you don’t need to squeeze every cent out of your paycheck, use this to build your savings without thinking about it!
Use an app like Ibotta
Rebate apps like Ibotta or Rakuten take a little extra attention, but if you play the game right you can get funds (and bonuses, and referral bonuses) sent to you via PayPal. You won’t get rich doing this but you can certainly earn gas or pocket change money. I am not very diligent but I’ve earned $200 over a couple of years.
Don’t forget airline rewards
I changed my main credit card over to Alaska Airlines 4 years ago, and continued spending as normal. I pay off my full statement balance every month and have never had to pay interest. It’s possible to make airline credit cards work for you without going into debt! Since I’ve been using my Alaska card monthly for 4 years, I was able to book two flights to Europe this fall that only cost me about $500 out of pocket. “Miles,” although they don’t work the same way as cash, can be an overlooked source of travel currency. The key is: don’t let them expire. Use a tool like Award Wallet to track your account expiration dates.
Update your direct deposit
Here’s where things get real. If your budget is working for you right now, see how much you can shave off. $20 a week? What about $100 or $200 per paycheck? Update your direct deposit paperwork with HR and divert some money straight from your paycheck to your travel savings account. Since it’s automated, you won’t even see it, and your savings will grow fast. If you earn a raise, do the calculations on how much more money per month you’ll get, and divert that money, too. You won’t miss it since you were already used to the amount of your prior paycheck!
Use my travel planning sheet to determine how much your dream trip will cost, and work backwards to a monthly savings goal.
Windfalls go into travel account
Lastly, this one is kind of a pain point for me. By windfall, I mean getting cash for a birthday or a holiday, or a random class-action settlement check (am I the only one who gets those like every other year?) or a tax refund. Why not slip this “bonus” money into the travel fund instead of spending it on something more immediately gratifying? If you’re able to use discipline and save even half of your windfall, you can treat yo self now and later.
What are your tried and true methods of saving for travel? Or do you prefer to spend on clothes, hobbies, or something else? Let me know in the comments!
Photos (except the gif) by Staci and Doug Jackson for The Voyageer.