This is the most common concern about long-term travelling I hear. To many, it appears travelling is a luxury only afforded to the wealthiest of society. This is just not the case, especially in the 21st century. Most citizens of developed countries have the means to save enough to travel.
You don’t necessarily have to make a lot of money (though it helps), but you do need to take steps to use what you do make wisely.
Make a budget
Before you begin, it is important to take inventory of your current financial status. First, make a monthly budget with how much money you make a month after taxes, as well as monthly expenses. I use an excel spreadsheet, but there if software that can help you, such as YNAB or Mint. If you have never made a budget before, it can be tricky, but make sure you include everything, including recurring monthly expenses (rent, cell phone, car payment, etc.), as well as expenses that may only come up once a year (renewing car registration, etc.).
This will give you an idea of what is happening with your money each month. From this baseline, there are two ways to increase the amount of money you have left over at the end of each month.
Cut your expenses
Take and honest look at your spending and identify places that you are spending too much money. Small amounts of money saved each month add up over time.
Maybe you are paying $900 on rent, and you could be paying $650 with only a minimal drop in quality of life. That would save $250/month, or $3000 a year, more than enough to take a 3-month trip to Latin America or Southeast Asia for one person.
Maybe you are spending $200 eating out at work once a day. If you brought your lunch every day instead, that could save you $150 a month, or $1800 a year.
Many times, I find that I don’t miss a luxury nearly as much as I thought I would.
Take an honest look at where your money is going and see what you could live without. If you can’t find anything to cut, you likely aren’t looking hard enough. For more ideas, check out 10 Ideas to Cut your Expenses
Once you have your expenses in check, we move to the second way to increase your savings.
Make More Money
Some people already spend the absolute bare minimum, but still don’t make enough money to save.
The only thing to do in this scenario is to find a way to increase your income. This can be done by either increasing your income at your main job or starting a side-job.
Is there a possibility at a raise for your main job? If you are an integral part of your workplace, maybe so. If not, you need to find a way to make yourself an integral part, either by learning new skills or taking on more responsibility.
If you still are unable to make more money at your current job, look for new jobs while you are still working. Changing jobs is the quickest way to improve your income. Don’t quit a job unless you have a new one lined up already.
You can also try to start a side-hustle. Personally, I like house-sitting for people, as well as giving the occasional piano lessons. Think about what you are good at, and market yourself. If you do well with a few people, you might start getting referrals. Housesitting is nice for me, as it just requires a responsible person that is able to be physically present.
Set up your paycheck to automatically send money to a savings account each month
“Paying yourself first” is a great way to save money. By automatically routing a set amount of money each month to a separate account, you never even see the money in the main account. By not even considering this as a source of funds available for use, you learn to make do with the rest.
Use a credit card on things you are buying anyway
Credit Cards are a great way to get free plane tickets. Take inventory of your current rewards programs. What are the percentages on miles or cash back for each item? Use the most effective credit card for each situation. For example, I have one credit card with 2x points on travel and no foreign transaction fees. That is my go to card abroad. I also have one that has rotating categories with 5%, so I use that when they are available. If you are in need of a new credit card, check out offers from some of the bigger names. Occasionally there are offers of up to 60,000 miles, which is enough for a one-way trip almost anywhere in the world.
Pay your card off each month, and keep an eye on miles expiration.
Claim your Airline Miles
After you buy your plane tickets, always make sure you have a frequent flyer number attached to it. Even if you forgot to enter the number during check-out, make sure to go back and claim your miles. These are valuable, and could eventually save you hundreds of dollars for just a few extra minutes of work. I have a Notebook in Evernote with all of my frequent flyer numbers for easy access.
There is no quick, magic way to have money for travel. You just have to make travel a priority in your life and save for it.