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Saving Money For Travel: 9 Practical Tips

Saving money for travel

We all wish we could we could grow money on trees, or inherit an inheritance we didn’t know we had,  or rub a magic lamp to take care of all expenses for that next dream trip. I can almost hear the excitement in the emails and tweets of people who stumble upon my blog for the first time, because as one of them put it, reading about my travel adventures can make it seem like I’ve discovered the secret of always having enough money to travel! Unfortunately, the truth is far from it, and saving money for travel is a conscious effort I’ve been making for the past many years.

I’ve already talked in detail about how I afford my travels; this time, I’m sharing practical ways to save money for a trip that have led me to my most awesome adventures across India and the rest of the globe.

1. Say goodbye to shopping.

If there is one indulgence that can’t co-exist with travel, it is shopping. You can either spend a day at the mall, adding the latest trend in fashion to your wardrobe, or you can use that money to buy an air ticket to an adventure you’ll never forget. Warning: both are addictive. If you decide that the latter is what you want more badly, stop going to the mall, unsubscribe from all your favorite shopping newsletters and Facebook pages, and refuse to accompany friends for window shopping. Find other free hobbies to bide your time and weekends; you could start by exploring the free sights in the city you live, discovering new neighborhoods and parks, taking your camera for a spin at odd hours, or really anything that will convince you that sacrificing that trip to the mall will soon be worth it.

Bir photos, Bir Billing

Shopping or a sunset like this in the terraced valleys of Bir?

2. Create a savings fund.

I’ll be honest here; I’m not investment savvy or inclined to find complicated ways to grow my money by a wee bit. I opened a simple savings account while I still had a full time job, and authorized an automatic transaction into it for a fourth of my total salary, on the day after pay day. I also refused to use my ATM card for that account, for the simple reason that if I had easy access to it, I would give in to a fleeting desire to buy something expensive. Before I knew it, I had saved enough money for a back-up fund that would allow me to quit my job and travel.

Now that I don’t have a regular monthly income, I create mini saving funds for particular trips. For instance, before my trip to Turkey, I took on freelance writing and social media assignments particularly to channel funds towards my trip; not only did it motivate me to work harder, but having a target in mind helped me prioritize my work.

cide turkey, Black sea turkey, Gilderos bay

A savings fund could mean views like these.

3. Avoid eating out.

Eating out in a metro like Delhi can be terribly expensive. When I first moved here, I was spending most of my time working out of cafes and clocking up bills of INR 500-1000 a day for simple meals and tea / coffee, in the name of a conducive working environment and because I hate cooking. I would’ve become bankrupt at that rate, but I made simple modifications to my “home office” and convinced my house mates to have a part-time cook for us. My expenses went down steeply. If you like cooking, even better. Avoid a night out at a good cafe or restaurant, and instead indulge yourself with a nice home-cooked meal and a movie; you’ll thank yourself when you’re using the same money to indulge in a Chocolate Con Churros in Spain!

Vallee des pretres, mon choix mauritius, mauritius mountains

Expensive meals at home or an open air breakfast in the wilderness of Mauritius?

4. Find work online.

Gone are the days when earning money online was only a thing of scams. Identify your skills; writing, social media, web designing, coding, content development, even poker, and put them to use online. Organizations all over the world are looking for better and cheaper ways to get things done, and if you can prove your credibility and build good search ranking on Google, there’ll be no stopping you. I recommend working online as opposed to getting a part time job offline, because of the flexibility it offers; you could be working in the middle of the night or from an airport halfway across the world, as long as you have internet connectivity. If you can master the art of making an income entirely virtually, believe me, you’ve struck gold. It’s the only kind of gold I know I’ll ever own!

save money to travel, digital nomad

My life as a digital nomad.

5.  Be smart about weddings.

Especially if you’re planning your own. By my very rough estimates, a small wedding in an Indian city could fund my entire travel in Western Europe for a year! That’s right. Yet, many people will choose the former, because that’s what society demands. If you ask me, you can either meet the various demands of society (now get a masters degree, now get married, now have a kid…) or draw a line somewhere and claim your life. It is not impossible to travel for a living when you’re married or even when you have a kid; I know of many travel blogging couples who homeschool their kids on the road, but of course it requires even more guts and rebellion to do it, besides a partner who shares your boundless love for travel. If you must get married, ditch the big fat Indian wedding for a legal registration or an intimate ceremony in a part of the world you love.

While I have radical views about the concept of a marriage, I try to be supportive of friends and family who decide to take the plunge, but only while keeping my expenses at bay. I prefer to borrow wedding clothes and accessories from my mom or aunts (truth is, they can hardly ever be reused), club travelling for a wedding with my own travel plans, and believe that a wedding gift that involves travelling is the best that I could genuinely give someone.

Turkish wedding, Turkey wedding

Crashing a Turkish wedding in Cide!

6. Stop drinking out.

I know it will be criminal to recommend avoiding alcohol altogether! When the going gets tough – when you have an unstoppable urge to go to the mall and buy the new in-thing, when you watch your savings fund dwindle on returning from a trip, when your taste buds wouldn’t feel satiated with anything but a fancy Italian meal at an expensive restaurant, when assignments fall through, when everyone around you is getting married – and it will get tough, you’ll need your favorite wine or whisky to stay strong. Keep your stock at home or drink at a friend’s place if you must; drinking out is the second biggest expenditure for most people after shopping, and you’ll wake up with guilt for having blown precious money on alcohol that could’ve been bought at a fraction of the cost.

Rum tasting, rum mauritius

A nightout at home or rum tasting halfway across the globe?

7. Sell things you don’t need. 

Most of us have a natural inclination towards hoarding. When I got my swanky new Sony Cybershot, I carefully put away my old camera in my cupboard, thinking what if something were to happen to my Cybershot. It sat there for months, slowly depleting in value; I’ve only recently decided to let go and am still cringing about the money I lost because I didn’t sell it sooner. Likewise, raid your cupboards, find things of value that are of no use to you anymore, create a listing on eBay or olx, and make some bucks while you still can. If nothing more, it could buy you a train ride or a meal on your next trip.

When I receive extravagant gifts (however seldom that might be) that I can easily do without, my first instinct is to sell them; the point is, once you’ve set your mind to saving every extra penny for traveling, there will be no stopping you.

flamenco pictures, Cordoba flamenco

Sell things you don’t need so you have experiences you want; a Flamenco performance in Spain.

8. Get rid of your credit card.

When I got my first credit card, it felt a little like a magic lamp that could buy me things I didn’t have the money to buy. I would get a bill shock pretty much every month that I owned that dreaded card, and blow all my money paying for extravagant purchases. Then one day, out of spite, I cut the card in two and called my bank to cancel it. I haven’t owned a credit card since, and it’s the only reason I’ve never travelled with money that I don’t already have, only to struggle to pay it off later. So go, get rid of your credit card, and get control of your expenses. You’ll thank me later.

Black sea turkey, black sea photos, Turkey photos

Don’t spend money you don’t have; the best views are free. At the Black Sea coast in Turkey.

9. Save for budget trips.

I’ve long stopped thinking of travel as a luxurious getaway; to me, travelling is everyday life. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth (and if I was, I probably would’ve sold it to travel), and when I travel, I don’t long for the luxury of a five star resort or roads without potholes or people at my beck and call to plan my itinerary or high end meals at fancy restaurants. Much the opposite in fact; the best adventures are born out of lack of a big travel budget. When you set yourself a saving target for your next trip, look out for cheap flights, factor in public transport rather than hiring a car, a nice but basic place to stay, and local food at small cafes; if you’re going to do this often, you have to start looking at travel not as a break from life, but as life itself.

sunflowers turkey, black sea coast turkey

Sunflowers fields seen during a bus journey in northern Turkey.

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Your turn, what are some ways you save money to travel?

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Also read:

The Story of How I Quit My Job to Travel
How I Afford My Travels and How You Can Too.

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Join The Shooting Star on Facebook and Twitter for more travel inspiration and stories from the road.

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61 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is a very practical list. It makes so much sense, new experinces vs. an evening @ a fancy restaurant. I’ve ditched online shopping, eating out for travel. Keep’em coming Shivya :)

    December 14, 2012
    • Likewise! It’s giving up the small indulgences that can make all the difference.

      December 15, 2012
  2. Madhuri #

    You are such a wise girl! Your parents must be so proud of you :)
    R.E.S.P.E.C.T!

    December 14, 2012
    • Haha, they might think otherwise :p

      December 15, 2012
      • You can’t imagine how big a phenomenon you have become in my life. Taking that leap of faith when you don’t know if you will hit the water or rocks is not everybody’s cup of tea. Your blog makes my day. I go through one entry per day to keep the magic flowing. And soon I should be charged up enough to take the plunge into this adventure called life!

        July 1, 2013
  3. Sonal #

    Thanks Shivya for sharing the list. I plan some of my trips with a friend or two. That way I end up splitting the cost of meals and stay in half. Also, opt for homestays over an expensive hotel, that helped too.

    December 14, 2012
    • That’s great Sonal. I’m thinking of doing a part two of this, to talk about saving money while travelling (this list is only pre-travel saving). Thanks for the idea :)

      December 15, 2012
  4. Nishu #

    Very well said Shivya. Honestly it bugs me when people say they would love to travel but can’t afford to – yet they are booking monthly visits to the salon, own the latest gadget, or designer handbag. It’s all about priorities really.

    December 15, 2012
    • Absolutely agreed! I guess the sooner you take the plunge to say no to such indulgences, the easier it is. Creature comforts are addictive indeed.

      December 15, 2012
  5. Hey Shivya,

    Very pertinent and practical pointers I must say.

    It sure is amusing at times how people give you the “Rich, lucky fella!” look when they learn that you have been travelling for a long duration :). Whilst all it takes is a little financial planning and a few tweaks in you daily lifestyle (not to forget a big bite from the wanderlust bug) to start living out one’s travel dreams.

    Stumbled upon your site recently and I like your posts. Keep Travelling and sharing with us your stories. You are an inspiration for folks like us taking baby steps on travel writing.

    Cheers!

    December 16, 2012
    • Welcome to The Shooting Star :) You’re absolutely right, it is indeed the small things that make the big difference. Hope to run into you on the road sometime!

      December 16, 2012
  6. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?
    Thanks!

    December 16, 2012
    • Hello, it’s a wordpress.com service so I can’t do it from my end. But if you open one of the emails, you’ll see an “unsubscribe” or “manage subscriptions” button at the bottom. That should help.

      December 16, 2012
  7. Shivya, been following your blog since referred by Venkat from SMU. I find your writing very interesting. We would definitely be interested in seeing what we can do together. I’ll try and contact you from the Contact section.

    December 17, 2012
  8. Fantastic tips !! Very practical !
    I need to follow the less eating out and go for basic comforts while travelling more !

    December 17, 2012
    • Thanks Ruchira! I’m swearing by the less eating out too. Worth it in retrospect.

      December 18, 2012
  9. Nice. Wish I had done all these during my bachelor days. I did travel during my bachelor days but it was work related and to all the non-tourist spots of India (Sindhri, Jharia, Jadishpur, Rajgangpur, Jameshdpur etc.)

    My wanderlust started after I had two daughters. I travel with my family so some basic things cannot be compromised on. So a decent resort when I travel to Himachal side is a must but down south, these are generally what I follow so that I spend less and I can travel more:

    1. Try and avoid resorts / homestays whenever and wherever possible. In may places in Western Karnataka and Northern Kerala, hotels are cheaper option. Just find out how clean they are before you book them. Resorts and Homestays are generally costly and many of them are not value for money

    2. If visiting religious places, stay in the accommodation provided by the temples. They cost almost nothing and are generally clean. Eat the lunch / dinner provided at the temple. (This applies to places like Sringer, Horanadu, Darmasthala etc)

    3. I don’t travel to eat great food. So I generally eat the basic food that is available rather than going for anything very fancy.

    That was in Western Ghats of Karnataka and Kerala. In case of trips to Himalayas, I have no choice but to hire a cab with a driver and stay at a decent resort since some amount of comfort and safety is required for the family.

    December 17, 2012
    • Thanks for sharing your tips, Suresh.

      On the contrary, I’ve found homestays in North Kerala to be great value for money, given the warm hospitality and excellent food (even for a vegetarian like me). I’m a foodie that way, love to try good local food!

      December 18, 2012
    • “Wish I had done all these during my bachelor days” Thats something I wanted to avoid. Doing it right now :) 10 years from now, I didn’t want to ask my self why didn’t I do it.

      February 26, 2013
      • Never too late, Suresh! Hope Benjamin’s story will inspire you :)

        February 26, 2013
  10. Madhumita #

    Wonderful ideas shivya.. Things that we already know but need to be reminded about! Love it!

    December 17, 2012
    • Glad you did, Madhumita. To be honest, I wrote these as much as a reminder for myself as for everyone reading :)

      December 18, 2012
  11. Couldn’t agree more with some of the points and have been following many of them. Didn’t buy an S3/i-phone 5 and I could budget my Ladakh travel comfortably with that :). Didn’t apply for a credit card for the same reasons mentioned. Recurring accounts are a good way to save and interest accumulated can sponsor at-least a long week end trip. A trip with a saved money is always a reward for small sacrifices made. I guess put travel on priority and one will find a way to fund it somehow :).

    December 18, 2012
    • Couldn’t have put it better myself, Makrand. Thanks for sharing how that worked out for you!

      December 18, 2012
  12. Dharm #

    Hi Shivya,I wish you a very Happy New Year…really awesome and true written…..I have faced these things and tried when I was on road (before current job)…..You know you have lovely written skills…very easy and wonderful wordings you chose…I fall in love with your every article….Best wishes….

    January 8, 2013
    • Thanks Dharm for the very kind words :)

      January 9, 2013
  13. I just love this article.
    Last year i sold my pen tablet, a fuji film camera and an old iMac to fund my trip to Thailand and Cambodia.
    I did not tell any one why I am selling them because I thought they would find me crazy.

    Ha ha…its heartening to know that there are similar people out there.

    January 31, 2013
  14. Cant agree more with ALL the points.I saving for a lifetime of travel is ofcourse not easy, that too when you’re from a country with a currency disadvantage. I would like to add another point here: save on your vehicle, I would settle for a TATA nano or an Active, instead of a big sedan, I would be able to fund 5-6 more foreign trips for myself. .Unfortunately most of us Indians lack the passion for independent travel,or most of us refuse to look outside India, Ladakh is the most “ultimate” trip for most. I do hope more Indians opt for independent travelling in the future, and not become package tour travellers.

    February 16, 2013
    • And the part about weddings..very well put up, fortunately for most of us, weddings are financed by parents.

      February 16, 2013
    • My3 #

      I really do not have any beef with the packaged travelers. They get to see a different part of the world while eating their own food. Not everybody has the confidence to take off alone or as a small family. I came across a set that insisted on taking pictures in Honolulu and then run off to another spot. The whole thing was a big photo opportunity for them. Chalo, why not? They have gone to a part of the world that many of us rarely get a chance to go to. Watching them became a part of my vacation :-).

      February 25, 2013
      • Fair enough. I know I need to stop judging.

        February 25, 2013
  15. I’m guessing you do not mind me visiting and saying thanks to you for the article – it genuinely helped

    February 23, 2013
  16. My3 #

    I have just discovered your blog. I have been traveling for a long time with my husband and then my two kids. We rarely go out to eat. We reserve that for travel. I love shopping BUT it is window shopping. I rarely use my credit card for anything else but the necessities like groceries and gas. We went to Europe in ’91 when very few Americans even knew where the Scandinavian countries were :-). Many of those visas were free for me as an Indian citizen! I have traveled first class on TGV for a short distance just to see how the rich live and then did the rest of Europe on a regular budget :-). We buy sandwiches in the European train stations and sit in the parks and enjoy them while people-watching.
    Sensible people are the same everywhere in the world. I try and save as much as I can during the year so I can travel to another town in summer even within the US. I have stopped buying momentos. I have a 4 inch Eiffel Tower :-). The rest are in my head and camera.
    It is a lot of fun to go to Beijing and explain that I don’t eat fish, meat or sea food. They all double down with laughter. I try and find as many free tours as I can. When I need to pay for an organized tour, I don’t balk. Then I try not to eat out that day. I recently went to Japan and loved it. I can walk for hours without any complaints. My husband who travels often for conferences says he enjoys a city the most when I am there. I keep track of every single waking hour.
    My children who are now grown have imbibed most of my money sense for which I am very grateful. They also travel but don’t order drinks with their dinner unless it is something local and even then only one. I am happy that I have succeeded in passing on my gypsy genes to the boys.
    Best wishes.

    February 25, 2013
    • Kudos! Hopefully my parents will read this, haha :)

      February 25, 2013
  17. Very useful, practical tips..though I also do not visit the mall till I have to see some good movie or buy something really essential, I do end up buying something online or at kitsch markets (something which catches my fancy then but on deeper thought, I don’t really need it) so have stopped going there too! Loved the tips on alcohol and eating at home! Besides being lighter on the wallet, it also helps in being physically lighter as well :p
    Some rules that I follow:
    – When you feel the desire to buy something fancy (Iphone/ latest gadget on the market/some fancy wear), I give myself a period of a month. If after a month, I still feel it is something I need, then I go ahead and buy it. (99% of the time, I dont end up buying).I have realised that at the end, we desire more because of peer pressure, our whims and fancies but we don’t really need them.

    March 19, 2013
  18. Mitalee #

    Very practical list of tips for budding travelers! Reading your blog is always a pleasure ma’m. You write so well. I was introduced to your blog on the recommendation of a friend. Although I am not much into travelling, but always feel contended to travel virtually by means of your blog. Keep it up & enjoy travelling.

    July 4, 2013
  19. Great ideas Shivya. I am so glad to have read your blog. Eating out is something I must cut down on. I have sacrificed shopping for quite sometime in order to save money for my travel.

    July 18, 2013
  20. Reblogged this on saffronsnake.

    July 26, 2013
  21. Abhay Jain #

    ur article is so helpful in today’s time when people r getting so many ways to spend money,ur tips if anyone starts practising its sure that any common middle class man can travel this world.keep it up.and share ur experience in future also.

    July 26, 2013
  22. Love your tips, and like your Pictures. Nice Article. Would be a dream to do the same.

    August 15, 2013
  23. Superb blog. I have started following!

    Few tips that I have developed over the period of time – probably not duplicating to yours….
    – Do step by step bookings. For example domestic booking in India generally costs low if booked around 3 months prior to journey – be it air or rail. Then arrangement for transport around destination – if required. And lastly, hotel/homestay bookings. The last 2 can be swapped. This approach merely gives feeling like EMIs, though not in reality!!
    – No provision for food in package. This may sound not so easy – but honestly, gives a chance to taste anything local. This helps a lot especially if brunch is in practice with skipping dinner, often! My family has almost developed a habit to have any suitable – and not at all fancy food – just to survive.

    Keep sharing your ideas, and tips on places in your natural way.

    October 5, 2013
  24. Shayan Chakrabarti #

    I was going through another bad day in office..and I was terribly grumpy when I took half an hour off and took a dip in google..for casual time pass..but i had to read your story (particularly i loved ‘how I afford my travels’) with genuine sincerity..knowing that not just someone has taken off after her dream but also takes time to put forth tips so that others can amass courage to follow is refreshing to say the least..thanx google and thank you!

    October 7, 2013
  25. vandita deshpande #

    last 4 or 5 days i joined u & i completely love ur ideas.Some day i also want to join u…….

    November 16, 2013
  26. Vimal Warrier #

    Very Sensible and Practical ideas !

    My 50 cents – Resist the urge to buy a fancy, expensive ( as well as petrol/diesel consuming car) or upgrade to one. If you need a car, settle for a utility hatchback one. The extra few lakhs you save can go a long way to fund a couple of trips.

    To add to it, even if you own a car, make maximum use of the public transport available in your city.

    December 12, 2013
  27. “Saving Money For Travel: 9 Practical Tips | The Shooting Star”
    ended up being a quite excellent blog, . I hope you keep creating and I will keep reading through!
    Thank you -Kattie

    January 23, 2014
  28. Soham Banerjee #

    Shivya: Wow. So many ways U have shown. I hope I will be able to inculcate some of them surely. Thanks.

    February 6, 2014
  29. Sonya Anchan #

    Hi, loved your blog. I , too am a travel freak & also a travel blogger. Plan my own outings across nation. Usually, take along 2-4 ppl for company. I want to try solo travelling because it is quite an headache asking ppl to join and fit their schedule with mine. Just wanted to know about solo travelling, how safe it is?

    March 24, 2014
  30. It’s always inspiring to get tips from a fellow traveller, more so when it’s another girl:) I agree with all except the “no credit cards” part, but it’s funny how all travellers think alike when it comes to what you value. My friend and I have been travelling for the past 12 years and we have always borrowed money from banks(personal loans) and travelled and it’s worked out fine for both of us. And we don’t make much money, I can tell you that. We have even managed to stay in some nice places along the way. Though we haven’t been able to travel full time- that’s something we’re looking at now. Started a travel company to help us along(twoboots.in).

    Thank you for such a great post with such practical tips.

    May 13, 2014
  31. Reblogged this on Unfilled Always and commented:
    Seriously Considering

    May 25, 2014
  32. awesome…..just love the wayu lead your life..its a dream for many of us .. and what you said about saving is extremely true though i know not how much i would be able to adhere to it but believe me u r awfully inspiring and every advise shared by you is practical to the power infinity…

    June 9, 2014
  33. Super stuff. Perhaps the most sound saving advice than most fancy financial newspapers

    July 15, 2014
  34. Archit Agarwal #

    Hii! I deny that one should not use a credit card. Using multiple plastic card smartly, i happen to travel Eastern Europe & Americas. Most all of my flights were free and many of hotels too. Not to mention many of these free hotels are on the Travel & Leisure top 500 hotels list. You can read more on them at flyertalk.com / millionmilesecrets.com.
    You blog is really inspiring to read. ATB.

    August 10, 2014

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