This post is by David VanArsdale, one of our contributors.
“I want to travel but I don’t have the money.”
I wince a little when I hear someone say that because for the most part, I think it’s a bullshit excuse. Granted there are exceptions (especially considering today’s unemployment rate), but if you have a job and are currently using “I don’t have the money” as an excuse, keep reading.
I think what people really mean is “I want to travel, but it’s not a high priority for me”. I’ve uttered the No Money Excuse before in conversation, but that was before I really made the decision to save. So here it goes, here are 5.5 money-saving tips from a guy who had a salary well below “the overall median personal income for all individuals over the age of 18”. And I won’t go into the tried and true tips like writing down every penny you spend (even though that exercise actually works).
1 — Stop drinking. And I’m not talking about your 8 glasses of water a day. It’s fine to party and buy drinks, but then don’t go complain how you want to travel. Keep the bigger picture in mind—you’re temporarily giving up alcohol for the opportunity to see a new country, to understand a new culture, to meet incredible people, and to experience a new world. I promise you that your favorite drink/beer will still taste the same when you get back from your trip.
2 — Don’t think “This won’t make a difference.” All those little expenses add up—and by little expenses I mean those $4 Starbucks cafe lattes, that new album on iTunes, and those pants that make your butt look cute. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy life’s pleasures, but why not switch to the $2 coffee from the local shop, use Grooveshark to stream (for free) that same album you were going to buy on iTunes, or go out wearing no pants at all. Joking about that last one, but go to a thrift store—you’ll find something to make your butt look cute and you’ll pay 1⁄4 of the price.
3 — Borrow, duh! Backpacks, travel guides, boots, equipment, clothes, etc. Don’t be shy about asking. Most people are than happy to lend you something and backpackers are more than happy to help you out in any way possible. When I went to Southeast Asia, I asked my friend to borrow his backpack (shout out to Dman) and he gave it to me and said that I should keep it. I thought that was so cool. That was my first taste of the whole “pass it along” philosophy. This detachment from material things is just one reason why I love meeting backpackers. And it’s one of the reasons someone else will be so happy when you help them out.
4 — Tell your friends “Sorry, but I’m gonna sit this one out.” Actually, you have nothing to be “Sorry” about because you’re working towards a goal. If anything you deserve congratulations for having a goal and sticking to it. As you know, there’s always something going on and rarely are they cheap: sporting events, movies, eating dinner out, etc. Stay strong. Your friends will understand. Wait, scratch that. Not all of your friends will, but your real friends will. And there’s no doubt that you’ll miss out on some fun nights. Patience is a virtue—it’s alsopain in the ass when you’re friends are out at a concert. But keep in mind the road less traveled— it’s not for everybody and it’s less traveled for a reason.
5 — Prepare, but remember you’re not James Bond. While it’s important to be prepared for the terrain, climate, and environment, remember that you don’t necessarily need the latest and greatest equipment. I could be wrong, but I don’t think your adventure isn’t going to be any better because you bought the most expensive waterproof jacket that has a dedicated pocket for hand sanitizer and slit in the back to make it easier for your flatulence.
5.5 — Stop blaming your J-O-B. This is half a point because it doesn’t deal with saving, but how you make money: saying you have a job isn’t an excuse to not travel either. It’s just a statement that you’d rather have a job than experience/see the world. It’s the sad truth. I know it’s the sad truth because I have a steady job right now and when I think how I’d rather be traveling, I have to remind myself that it’s a choice to wake up and go to work. Plenty of people with little-to-no-savings just head out “there” and go.