Banknotes of several currencies in a pile

How to Save Money [for Travel]

Mark Stewart Travel Planning 3 Comments

A question we’re regularly asked: how did we save up the money for a journey like this? It certainly didn’t come easy, or without sacrifice, but it wasn’t nearly as difficult as some imagine.

First of all, we worked.

Often jobs we didn’t like and often for long hours. When things began to become mentally straining, we simply reminded ourselves of the long-term goal. While this never really made working outside in -30 bearable, it did help to pacify the inevitable “Why the fuck am I doing this to myself?”. Or at times when that know-it-all (but doesn’t really have a clue) boss pushes that one step too far. Instead of going full Michael Douglass in Falling-Down, it’s much easier to calm yourself knowing there is a positive end game on the horizon.

Having a job with plenty of hours and a decent wage is incredibly beneficial to making a goal like this come to life, but improper spending is the biggest enemy. Having a good budget is always helpful, however that’s not what we did. Quite simply, we just lived as cheaply as possible; frugality pays off in the long run.

Save Money, Embrace the Rust

Neither Kylee or myself have ever been the types to drive a shiny new car, so being already in that mindset helped considerably with the biggest expense of all. Not being concerned with what people thought of our vehicles literally saved us thousands of dollars. I drove an old Mazda that I bought used in 2010, drove it right to the bitter end. Kylee an old Volkswagen. Sure, maintenance costs might be a little higher with an older vehicle, and you’ll get the odd jabs in the parking lot about the “Sweet rust colour paint job bro”; but compared to the often $800/month payments my coworkers had, I’ll take my old beater any day.

A rusty old blue car on the hitch of a tow truck

Until the bitter end. This is literally the evening before we left.

Get yer Hair Did… or Don’t

Alright, so while we might have been planning a backpacking trip, it didn’t mean we were going to show up at work looking like we’d already left. That being said, you don’t need to be fancy all the time. Kylee never worried about $300 hair appointments, and while this might come as a bit of a surprise to you: neither did I. Same goes for clothes, you can easily dress well without spending a pile of money on the latest fashion trends. If you’ve got a decent wardrobe already, keep it the way it is. Why add more? You’re leaving anyway!

Restaurants are the Killer

Knowing how to cook is a benefit as well, both on the road and at home. You’ll notice over time a common theme on this blog where I voice my opinion of how stunned I am that the majority of people can’t cook themselves a basic meal. Not even a simple omelette…

I’ll save that rant for another time.

Restaurants are expensive, even cheap fast food three meals a day will destroy your budget faster than your waistline. Sure, it might be overwhelming to cook at home, but take a bit of time and learn. Skip the daily Buzzfeed article and read a recipe or two instead. We cooked for ourselves almost always, leaving ‘going out’ to special occasions whenever we could.

Need some help? Check out our Recipe section for foods we’ve discovered around the world!

Leftovers! Our society has us demanding fresh and new everything always. Trade in your perfectly good vehicle for the next years model. Get a new 46” TV last year? Sell it and buy the 50” this year! The same goes with meals, I don’t know what the reason, but people rarely seem to utilize leftovers anymore. Make more food for a meal, eat that meal more than once in a week. Sure, maybe it won’t be as exciting eating the same dish three days in a row, but it’ll save you buying more groceries or heading out for another meal.

A bowl of mashed root vegetable with crispy pieces of pork and a carrot slaw

Vigoron that we made ourselves while living in Colombia, click here for the recipe

What about Coffee and Beer?

Instead of heading out with the crew for a few weekend pints, get together at your place instead. Not only will you save money by buying a case of beer or some wine, but you won’t have to yell over the music at the bar. And brew your own coffee! Sure your Triple Venti Half-Sweet Non-Fat Caramel Macchiato might be good from time to time, but $6 a day for a coffee? Treat yourself, just don’t overdo it.

We Still Travelled!

Finally, travel. This whole blog revolves around the theme, it’s what we do. So how did we save up for a trip like this and keep feeding our hunger for the road? That was quite possibly the most difficult part of all. Our last real trip was back in the March of 2015 when we spent three weeks in Nicaragua. With our plan in place, that gave us a window of over two years without travel, a span of time we hadn’t gone without travel since we began back in 2007. We couldn’t stop. That just wasn’t an option.

Instead, we simply took smaller trips, local adventures around Canada. Several road-trips out to the west coast, another out to Manitoba; driving both times, to save that little extra from airfare. Semi-regular visits to the mountains when the time allowed, Canmore, Banff, Revelstoke, Jasper… They might not be as exotic as other places we’ve been, but they’re still great places to go to break up ones routine. Even writing this I feel nostalgic for that clean mountain air.

Mark overlooking the town of Jasper in the Canadian Rockies

Mark enjoying the beautiful scenery of Jasper, a short drive from Home.

Small Changes, Big Results

So there you are, no surprises, right? It’s all very simple things that you probably already know. It all really comes down to a motivating factor, what is the goal? Whether saving money for a trip or even a major upcoming purchase, small changes can lead to huge savings over time. Setting yourself up and getting into a routine, that is the most difficult step. Check out this weekly budget planner to help you as well. Reading my often incoherent ramblings are probably more difficult for you than saving a little extra money, once you’ve got a system in place at least.

A beautiful beach on the coast of Sardina in the Mediterranean, motivation to save up for a trip.

The right motivation can push you through anything.

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2 years ago

Good tips guys. You’re right that most of us have been brought up to worship and crave ‘objects’ and wealth. But in truth, that latest Xbox, Ford Taurus and Rolex aren’t going to give us much comfort or warm memories later on in life. So much better ways to spend our time and money.

1 year ago

We like this post! We often get the question ”how can you Travel that much?” Well, No car, No expensive habits (eating out of course – but that’s a choice) or other costly hobbies, we share rent and other living costs and are blessed with a flexible schedule. Then weekend trips or just three-four days away isn’t that hard to manage. We rather be Un-Paid for a period of time and work harder when not Travelling too. Goal is to Travel at least five or six times a year, both shorter and longer trips. We have done that so far… Read more »