[updated Apr 2020]
Want some top ideas on how to save money for travel? I’ve been traveling full time and part time for the last 15 years and I’ve learned some great tips to share with you!
We really don’t need as much money as we’ve been made to think!
So many ask me how I can afford my current life and how I save money for travel. But so many don’t realize how much less money I make and also LESS money I need to live.
Living a ‘traveling’ lifestyle to me means not only saving money to be able to travel, but really, just saving money to live simpler and easier to begin with. After I returned from 3 years of traveling, I was happy to change the way I did things and even more importantly, the way I think about things. Now, to me, saving money is making money and it is what has lead me down the path to financial independence.
Let’s face, it being a freelance writer and photographer will not make me rich. In fact, I earn about a third of what I used to when I worked as a TV producer for ABC in Chicago. So, now I’ve found ways to save money when I’m home and simply living life. Of course there are the regular ol’ “save money” tips like cook more at home and don’t buy a $5 Starbucks coffee everyday, here are some other tips that are hopefully new to you.
Health & Beauty
I’m a pretty low maintenance girl…at least in my outward appearance. I don’t maintain any expensive or time-consuming beauty regimens. I use simple drugstore cosmetics (hello Maybelline) and hair products.
I don’t get caught up in the expensive salon shampoos, oils, gels, and creams. Many women pay $100+ on haircuts and styling every couple months. I do not. I don’t get my haircut that often, but when I do, I use SalonApprentice.com.
It’s basically a website offering free or very cheap cuts/colors/styling from newer beauticians who have completed their training but are now getting practical, on-the-job training. You are helping them out by being a hair “model” for the day and you get a free cut! I love it.
Plus, despite some worrying that it won’t be good, I think that the extra care they take, plus the fact that a manager is overseeing and approving the entire session, makes it often a better cut with more attention to detail than normal. The only caveat, they are mostly in big American cities.
Dental Visits, Massages, etc.
I do have my own individual health insurance, but when it comes to getting my teeth cleaned, I simply visit Groupon.com and find a half off deal for cleaning and x-rays. Yes, that means that each time I go to a different dentist, but I really don’t mind. Plus I get to try out different ones and when I did have to return for more work, I went to my favorite of the bunch…who still gave me a discount for being a “Groupon customer!”
I also use Groupon to find deals on half-price massages, something I do treat myself every few months. As someone who sits at her laptop for hours, these shoulders knead it (see what I did there?)!
My healthcare plan no longer covers prescriptions, and gives me not very good discounts instead. I’ve since found and used Good RX to get better discounts. You simply go to their site and type in the drug you need and it spits out the prices and coupon codes at each of the most popular pharmacies. Also, always check Wal-mart. They have a long list of pretty standard meds that are offered at a great rate.
When traveling a lot and saving money for travel, it wouldn’t make sense to pay for a pricey health club. I either workout at home with weights and videos, go outside on runs and bike rides and when I want to join a class somewhere I find deals for first time free offers at gyms.
My local Athleta store (owned by the same company as the Gap) offers weekly free yoga and pilates classes right in their store. Other stores like Lululemon do the same thing. Or I sometimes buy a Groupon or deal for a set of classes. Lastly, I’ve also used the gyms the Chicago Park District which cost something like $2 or $3 per visit.
Free Passport Photos
I wrote about taking your own free passport photo. There are online tools that allow you to upload, size, and print out near-free passport photos. NO need to pay $15-20 at your local CVS or Walgreens for one tiny photo.
I’ve written about Airbnb before as a great way to travel and stay with locals or in local apartments. I have also personally used it to make money by renting out my own apartment when I’m away.
Click here to try it out and get $40 off your first rental!
Comcast Vacation Hold
Did you know that the sometimes greedy cable/internet companies do help you out by having a vacation hold service that allows you to keep your services but turn them off while you’re away and not using them. With my provider, Comcast, they just charge a small fee. Better than paying for phone, cable and Internet that no one is using!
Cut the Cord
Since writing this, I’ve mostly cut the cord and no longer have cable. I share Netflix and Prime memberships with my partner. Woo hoo!
Heat and Air
I keep me heat and air turned up and down as much as possible. I get cold easily so I often keep the thermostat around 79ºF in the summer! And of course when gone for any longer periods of time, I turn it off or way down.
I also stay aware of all that’s plugged in in my home. I try not to have a ton of things plugged in. When not in use I unplug or switch off the outlet strips to avoid the use of phantom power.
While I’m covering all the ways to save money for travel, here are some unique ways to make money for travel.
I’ve also gone on and on about my NO mobile contract in past posts. I still don’t have a contract and just do pay as you go. I have no data (just use wifi when available or I use my cool Karma Hotspot) and save hundreds of dollars on cell phone use each year (it only costs me about $100/year).
It goes without saying that when you are trying to save money to travel, you need to eat at home most of the time. If you do go out, lunch is typically cheaper than dinner. Avoid alcohol as it can be super expensive. I highly recommend BYOB restaurants, where you can bring your own bottle of wine (store bought wine is so much cheaper!). Also, for health and budget reasons, I always take home at least half of my meal. Bonus points if you bring your own container like I do to help reduce single use plastics.
When I returned from my long term travels, I didn’t need or want a car anymore. Living in a city like Chicago means I really don’t need a car.
I walk, bike or take public transportation. Therefore, I save a ton each year since I don’t have to pay for fuel, parking, car insurance, or costly maintenance and repairs that come with car ownership. Plus it’s good for me and the environment.
The odd times I can’t take a train or walk, I sparingly use car sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
For the full picture of how I save money check out my full guide to financial independence!
For even more budgeting and travel tips be sure to check out my book on Amazon.com!
What did I miss? What cool ideas, sites, tips do you have to save money so we don’t have to worry so much about making money?? Please leave a comment below!! I’d love to hear from you.
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Thanks for all of the great tips! I am always trying to find things to “give up” to travel instead. Great post! 🙂
True, these are the amazing tips to save money, I like it. Some days I was planning to go tour with my family, But I don’t have sufficient budget. Please share some low budget family travel tips, if you have any idea.
Hi Jessi! Thanks so much! Glad you found the post useful. I love finding ways to make life simpler and save money for the things I care about. Plus it makes me worry less about having to “make” a lot of money and work all the time doing something I don’t love!
Good advices,thank you
Chanel | Cultural Xplorer
Wow Lisa this is a great list 😀 I will definitely be looking into some of these services 😀 Thanks!
Thanks Chanel! I’d love to hear any other ways you find too!
Great tips re: dental and prescriptions – who’da thunk it!
THanks Wynne! What tips can you share? I’m always looking for new tricks!
Mike | VagabondingMike
I recently wrote about the $5 Starbucks Latte myself. If people just added up that one expense (over the course of a year) they would easily be able to buy a ticket anywhere in the world.
Keep up the good tips!
So true Mike! Got any other unique tips to share?
Damon and Jo
Girl YES. We are two travel bloggers/travel youtubers and even WE can cut down on a few things! We actually do cut our own hair (most times it comes out halfways decent…most times – hehe) and we even share a studio apartment to save on NYC rent!
Thanks for the tips!
Thanks guys! There are so many things everyone can do that they don’t even realize! I’d love to hear more of your special tips!
Stephanie - The Travel Chica
Great tips! I also have chosen to not own a car, use a no-contract $45/ month cell phone provider (it does include unlimited data), and I go to a great salon that only charges $40 for a haircut. Great tips on the Comcast Vacation Hold… will have to see if my internet provider does that.
All solid tips … hope your book sales do well!
Thank you for your sharing. It’s really helpful. I could reduce several items too. I’ll keep trying. Yes, I also have no car when I was in Beijing, although I also have 4 wheels. That belonged to two bikes, one at home, one at the university.
The traveller sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.