How to Save to Travel

I am often asked how I can afford to travel. I worked for a year after graduating from uni, before quitting my job and flying to Cuba.

 United Buddy Bears, Havana, Cuba
At the United Buddy Bears exhibit, Havana, Cuba
 I am not earning while travelling so how to I do it? First of all, I don’t have children, a car, a mortgage, any regular payments or anything remotely grown up, which helps limit spending!

Secondly, I try to bargain whenever I can and I make an effort to save. When I was working in London I rented the cheapest room I could find, in a cheap area. I lived in the same place as my work so I could walk in, rather than paying for transport.

For travelling I moved out of that room so that my only expenses are my accommodation here, food and transport costs. In my day to day life I make an active effort to spend as little as possible on what I buy, and to stop the pointless purchasing. Now of course I like to buy new clothes, to go out to dinner etc! but I try to be strict. Here is what I try to do.

Buy the cheapest! When shopping I buy the shop’s own version of everything, rather than the well-known brands (apart from innocent smoothie. I love that stuff!)
innocent smoothie
Photo from
Tip: look on the bottom shelf where they tend put the cheaper version of the same product.

When shopping for food, only buy what you need. Biscuits, chocolate, pudding in general are unnecessary extras that don’t do you any good either, as are fizzy drinks. Drink water. (I admit that smoothies are not necessary!)

Buy in bulk where possible. Things like pasta and rice last for ages and I eat them all the time, so I buy the biggest pack I can. Consider this for anything that won’t go out of date for a while. It is always better value to buy in a higher volume.
Tip: visit larger stores where they tend to sell products in bigger quantities, rather than the smaller high street version. It is also cost efficient to cook in bulkcook a whole load of food, put it all in tubs and freeze them.

Shop at cheap places: Poundland and Wilkinson are favourites of mine for things like washing powder and cleaning products, while Primark is brilliant for cheap clothes and shoes.

Buy second hand: companies like Amazon and eBay can have great deals, and if you are buying something for yourself, it doesn’t always have to be new. I sell on there too, for example I have sold many books I bought for uni on Amazon.

Bargain: admittedly this is harder in the west, but if the setting is appropriate I always try to haggle. For example, market stalls do not usually have price tags so it is always worth a try, particularly towards the end of the day when the traders will be wanting to shift their stock
market Madrid
At a market stall in Madrid
I generally ask to pay 25% less (in Morocco I offered 75% less because I realised I was being over-charged, and it worked every time.)
Tip: be confident. Offer your price rather than tentatively suggest it, so they know you mean business. Don’t act too interested in the product, otherwise they’ll know you are prepared to pay in full.

Shop aroundIf you are planning to buy an expensive item, such as a laptop, compare the deals available at different shops. If you are spending a lot, ask what freebies the shop can offer you. You could land yourself some extras like a free laptop case. This also applies to things you buy regularly. Keep your eyes open and find out where you can get these items for the best price

 Don’t buy unnecessary things£7 a week on a packet of cigarettes, £2.50 a day on a Starbucks latte, taking a taxi on a Friday night, buying lunch out, all add up.
Smoking is such a pointless waste of money, I know it is hard to stop, but think of how much money you would save!
If you need a coffee everyday to wake yourself up, try going to bed earlier. Drink some water (brought from home) if you are thirsty.
Speaking specifically about London: taxis are ridiculously expensive. In the day use public transport! And at night, get a night bus or stay over at a friend’s house.
Take a packed lunch and a bottle of water with you when you go out or go to work, rather than buying food and drink out all the time.

Borrow things: for example if you need (or more correctly want) a new dress for an event, borrow one from a friend. If there is a book you want to read, borrow it rather than buying it.

Travel (at home):
Get yourself a rail card. As I said, I don’t have a car, so I do all my long-distance travel in the UK by train. I use it enough to make buying a railcard worth it, and I save a third of the price per journey. Tip: link your railcard to your Oyster card and pay less for travel within London.

Car pool: go with a friend that’s driving and split the cost of the petrol.

 Make your money work for youJoin reward schemes, like Boots in the UK, and cash back offers to make money on what you would spend anyway. Open a savings account which pays the best rate of interest you can find (I am yet to shop around for the best rate as do not really understand how it all works, but I know I should get my act together on this.)

Simply put, spend as little as you can, and only on what you need.. You may think that this approach is too strict, and you’d rather spend on things that I class as unnecessary. But that is the choice I make- I would prefer to have cash to travel. So I do!
Not all of these approaches will suit everyone, but try a few that could work for you and see how much you save.

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