Everyone has different financial situations, as well as different travel goals.
Many people think they can’t afford to travel. I’m a huge believer that many of those people can afford it—sometimes, it’s just a matter of convincing yourself that you can do it. If you really want to travel, you can probably make it happen.
More blog posts about budget travel:
Granted, maybe you can’t afford a round-trip flight from L.A. to Sydney, staying in quality hotels and eating out every meal. Maybe you can afford to spend a long weekend in a nearby big city you’ve never been to before, though. For example, if you live in Georgia, you could take a road trip to Asheville, North Carolina.
Or maybe you’re thinking, “No, I want to take the plunge! I want to move abroad. I want to backpack around Europe. I want to snorkel in Hawaii.”
I’m going to share a few strategies I’ve used to pay for my trips over the years. Depending on your finances and goals, some of these will work for you, and some of these probably won’t. I hope you get some good ideas and motivation from this list, though.
1. Held a Garage Sale
I lived with my parents for six months between graduating college and moving to New Zealand. When I moved back in, I discovered their garage was a mess … to say the least.
So we made a deal.
I cleaned out their garage for them. They agreed I could sell anything they didn’t want at a yard sale, then keep the earnings.
Cleaning out their garage took me months. I don’t even want to think about how many hours I spent in there, sorting through boxes. But it was worth it, because the day of the sale, I ended up with an extra $700. That money went straight into my New Zealand fund. (More on that later.)
Reach out to neighbors, relatives, friends, etc., to see if they’d like your help cleaning out their houses. If they’re not willing to let you keep all the money, negotiate. See if you can keep a certain percentage of the earnings.
Holding a garage sale is no picnic, so you can read the guide to a successful yard sale I wrote for The Penny Hoarder here.
Last time I visited my parents, their garage looked just as gnarly as before. Maybe it’s time for another sale.
2. Opened a Travel Bank Account
Any other compartmentalizers out there? How about any fellow goal-driven homies?
Creating separate bank accounts for my goals has made my life so much easier. It drives The Husband crazy, which is really just icing on the cake.
I like to have one bank account just for travel. Then I deposit either a certain amount per week/month into the account, or I put in a certain percentage from each paycheck. (Setting up automatic withdrawals makes this a cinch, by the way!) This money can be used either while I’m on my trip or to buy things to prepare for the trip.
This way, I don’t spend money I meant to use on a trip on concert tickets or a new dress, then regret it later.
Bonus! In my mind, this money is already set aside for travel. So I don’t feel guilty spending any money from this account on local food markets, restaurants, or … well, yeah, I pretty much just buy food when I travel.
I love guilt-free spending!
3. Asked Family Members for Loans
This is a tricky subject.
When The Husband and I moved to China, we had a few financial surprises our agency had failed to warn us about.
When we confronted the agency about why we hadn’t been informed of certain costs, one employee actually said, “Oh, you’ve both traveled a lot, so I just assumed you already knew how much things would cost.” What?! I will never let that go!
We had to make a couple of phone calls to our parents to ask for money. Talk about a major blow to our egos.
While we specifically asked both sets of parents for loans, it didn’t quite work out that way with my parents. This ordeal occurred in November. My parents were planning on giving us a few hundred dollars for Christmas, so they just gave us the money early. We didn’t have to pay it back. The in-laws gave us a loan.
Of course, you may not be in the position to ask relatives for loans. Maybe you don’t have a great relationship with your parents, or maybe no one in your family is financially stable enough to give you a loan.
Don’t forget, you can always take out a loan from the bank if you think it’s worth it. Asking from relatives is just easier, because the terms might be more lax. For example, they might charge little to no interest and be more forgiving about the amount of time it takes to pay back the money.
4. Picked Up Extra Shifts
I worked in restaurants for four years. Inevitably, once or twice per week, my manager would call me saying a server called in sick, and they needed someone to cover the shift.
Giving up a night of watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix was painful. But I gave myself a little extra motivation.
Whenever I picked up an extra shift, I put the money I made into my travel fund. This strategy actually made me excited to pick up hours!
5. Started a Side Gig
In June 2016, I sat down and started a plan. A plan to become a freelance writer on the side.
Now, I am slowly moving toward becoming a full-time writer. But that’s beside the point.
While I’ve lived in China, I’ve been working as an English teacher 40 hours per week. I’ve also made money freelance writing, and that extra money goes into my American bank account. As a result, I use my writing money to pay off credit cards, The Husband’s students loans, etc. That way, all the money I make here goes solely toward life in China and travel expenses. Now I can fully enjoy living abroad, without sending money home to cover debts.
The Husband and I have also picked up extra tutoring gigs since we moved here. There are always Chinese parents who want their kids to learn English from a native speaker! Together, we bring in an extra $775 per month through these teaching jobs.
Thanks to working a few extra hours per week, we can now afford to spend five days in Tokyo at the end of May!
Fellow budget travelers—How have you earned extra money for your trips? Comment below!