If someone handed you $5,000 to spend on your next trip, where would you go? A remote island in Fiji? Maybe a food tour of Italy? If taking your fantasy trip seems impossible without a cash windfall, check out these easy ways to grow your travel fund.
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There are only two methods to build your travel fund: spend less and earn more. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to accomplish both of these things without obsessively clipping coupons or asking for a raise.
I chose these strategies because they offer immediate financial rewards without a huge time investment. That’s why suggestions like “complete online surveys” or “open an Etsy shop” didn’t make this list.
If you’re ready to turn your travel vision board ideas into real adventures, try these super effective ways to save for a vacation!
Spend Less to Grow Your Travel Fund
Turn subscription spending into travel savings
Do you know how much you spend every month in subscription fees? The answer may surprise you. These recurring expenses fly under the radar because they come out of our bank accounts automatically.
Take a few minutes and list out every single subscription you have. Then, write down how much use you actually get out of that subscription.
Are you spending $50/month on a gym membership and only going once every few weeks? Do you listen to enough music on Spotify to justify a premium subscription?
Cancel any subscriptions that you aren’t using frequently, and put that money towards saving for travel.
Cut the cord
Television bills have gotten out of control. Sure, that introductory offer for 800 channels and HBO seems affordable at the time, but when the price doubles after six months, your budget will take a serious hit.
Today, there are dozens of streaming options that deliver TV programs for less. Sling TV (available in the US) is a good option for those who cannot do without live sports. If you’re afraid of missing Game of Thrones, sign up for HBO Go while the show airs and then cancel after the season finale.
For most people, a Netflix subscription will provide enough TV entertainment, making a la carte streaming unnecessary.
Cook a low-cost, multi-serving meal every week
As a food lover living in an expensive city, I know first-hand how difficult it is to curb restaurant and delivery spending. While it’s fun (and less work) to go out to eat, the experience of dining out doesn’t always justify the cost.
Replacing just one or two meals a week with a low-cost, homemade option can save you upwards of $500 a year. And you don’t need to be a skilled cook in order to do it!
Know when to buy in bulk
When it comes to spending less, people seem to think buying everything in bulk is a magic bullet. Unfortunately, not all bulk items are priced for savings.
Knowing what items to buy in large quantities, and which to skip, will save you time and money. Here are a few items that give you the biggest bang for your buck when purchased in bulk:
- Pet food – Use a large, resealable container to keep it fresh.
- Shampoo and conditioner – I buy huge bottles of these products and squeeze them into travel size containers for the shower.
- Hand soap – Buy a large refill bag instead of replacing individual dispensers
- Paper towels and toilet paper – This hanging rack is a low-cost, perfect way to store bulky paper products
Re-evaluate your daily expenses
Do you commute to work? Do you hit the vending machine for a diet soda at 2pm? Are you still buying a latte every morning despite everyone telling you to “just make it at home”?
Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to give up all of your daily pleasures. I’m a firm believer in spending where it makes you happy. But you should take a close look at your routine expenses and make cuts where you can.
You might realize that a 10-minute walk could save you £45 a month in public transit costs. Or that the reason you love your £2 soda is actually because you enjoy taking a work break at 2pm.
Whatever you decide to change or cut, don’t do it all at once. Give yourself time to build new habits so that they stick. Otherwise, you’ll go right back to buying that uninspiring yet pricey lunch from across the street.
Shop around for better deals on recurring bills
Not every country makes it easy to compare prices for utilities and other recurring bills (the UK’s uSwitch is a revelation for us Americans). But there are some easy ways to grow your travel fund if you spend a few hours shopping around for better deals.
In particular, look closely at your cell phone, car insurance, and renter’s/homeowner’s insurance costs. Many times, you can get the exact same services for 10-20% less just by switching providers.
And if you’re paying extra for things you don’t need, like a big data plan, you can reduce your service for even more savings.
Just be sure to research the companies before making the switch. Sacrificing a reputable insurance company and quality phone service for your travel fund could backfire.
Consider buying secondhand when making large purchases
When my husband and I sold our home before moving abroad, some lucky family got our gently used, $1,200 Crate and Barrel sofa for $200. If you’re in the market for expensive items like a car, a smartphone, or furniture items, buying used can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Estate sales and online marketplaces (ex. Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace) are great sources of local, secondhand items. For electronics and gear, like a DSLR camera, I’ve found peer-to-peer marketplaces less than reliable sources. Instead, look for speciality shops that have a used section.
Compare in-store and online prices to get the best deal
In the age of smartphones, there’s no excuse to skip this strategy. If you’re looking to purchase something in a brick and mortar store that costs more than $20, do a quick online search to see if there’s a better deal elsewhere.
I used this tip last week and saved myself £250 on a mirrorless camera! Even if you did you price comparison ahead of time (like I did), you should still check online right before making the in-store purchase. Do a quick Google search of the item’s name, and also check the store’s online page.
Most stores will honor their online price when buying in-person, and many will also price match with competitors.
Do a quick Google search for online discount codes before checkout
Online discount codes are incredibly easy to find. Before you click that checkout button, do a search for “[store name] discount code”.
Depending on your location, sites like RetailMeNot and Daily Mail will surface with dozens of options to save your money. Sometimes these codes will be for specific scenarios, like 70% off clearance items, but you can also find a real score like $10 off a purchase of $50+.
When I worked this strategy into my online shopping routine, it paid serious dividends. I saved over £300 when buying furniture and household items for our new London flat! Rather than buying an extra £300 of stuff, I put 100% of the savings into my vacation fund.
Turn your favorite night out into a night in
A little creativity goes a long way when reducing expenses to travel. If you love going to the movies with your friends or trying new restaurants with your partner, try your hand at re-creating these experiences at home.
Skip the $100 date night and invite your partner over for a candlelit evening of drinking wine and making pasta. Host a movie premier potluck in your living room, complete with authentic popcorn (Flavacol, clarified butter, and coconut oil are the secret ingredients).
You’ll have to put in more effort, but the memories you’ll create will more than make up for it.
Check out the free things to do in your city
Saving money doesn’t always mean staying in the house. No matter where you live, there are bound to be multiple free activities that you’ll enjoy.
Websites like DoStuff and Meetup are great for finding new, free events ranging from ticket-free concerts to board game competitions. And a quick Google search for “free things to do in [city]” will likely yield local websites with lists of admission-free museums, parks, galleries, and other fun excursions.
Curb your personal care expenses
Health and beauty spending flies under the budget radar because it’s routine. Once you start adding services and expensive products into your life, the costs become normalized. After all, when’s the last time you told the receptionist at the hair salon that you didn’t need another appointment in six weeks?
Cutting back how many haircuts, manicures, facials, etc. you get each year can translate into hundreds of dollars you can save for vacation. If you’re sporting fringe/bangs, many salons will offer a free touch up, which can tide you over until the rest of your hair needs cutting.
You can also reduce how much you spend on individual services and products. Look online for beauty schools in your area for a low-cost manicure or hair styling appointment. Swap your pricey skin and hair products for cheaper but equally effective options.
Despite what marketers want you to believe, plenty of $10 face washes perform just as well as $40 options.
Make travel savings a part of your monthly budget
It’s easier to spend money on immediate wants than save it for future goals. That’s why you should treat your travel fund like you would any other financial obligation.
Create a monthly travel “bill” and pay yourself consistently. You can even create a separate savings account to house your travel fund if you’re afraid you’ll spend it on something else.
Automate your savings
This tip goes hand in hand with the latter one. Once you decide on a monthly savings number to grow your travel fund, set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your travel fund. This will keep you from accidentally spending the money you’d budgeted for your next trip.
For even more automatic savings, see if you bank offers a round up program. This service “rounds up” your purchases to the next whole number and deposits the difference into your savings account.
There are also popular round up apps like Digit, which saves your change in an online savings account, and Acorns, which invests your change into low-risk funds. However, I’m not a fan of either of these apps for the purpose of growing a travel fund.
Both apps charge monthly fees that will eat into your savings. And when you’re ready to tap your vacation fund, you’ll likely owe capital gains tax on your Acorns investments. Plus, it’s rarely a good idea to invest money you’d like to access within five years.
Protect yourself from lifestyle inflation
Imagine your take-home pay was just increased by $200 per month. How would your life change? Would you trade in your car for a new lease? Start shopping at Whole Foods? Go out for brunch every Sunday? Put it towards your retirement and savings goals?
If you answer was anything except for the last option, you’ve fallen victim to lifestyle inflation.
Instead of spending every last cent of your salary increase, put at least 80% directly towards your savings goals (assuming all of your basic needs are being met). Your future self will thank you.
Use a budgeting app to track your spending
Closely monitoring your income and expenses is a surefire way to save more for travel. When I was living in the US, Mint was my budgeting app of choice. Once I moved to the UK and had to manage multiple currencies, I started using Wallet.
Both of these apps/websites have great reporting features and trackers to help slice and dice your spending and alert you if you’re off track.
Pro tip: if you aren’t going to sync your accounts with the apps, you must get in the habit of entering your expenses as soon as they happen. Never leave a store or restaurant without creating an expense record.
Otherwise, you’ll have to spend hours reconciling your accounts with the app, which is enough to put anyone off of budgeting!
Don’t forget these easy ways to grow your travel fund!
How to Save for a Vacation by Earning More
Pay for everything using a quality cash back card
This strategy helped me save more money for travel than anything else.
In the past year, I earned over $1,500 in cash back rewards. And it was as simple as finding a quality rewards card and using it in lieu of my debit card whenever possible.
Now, there are two major caveats to this strategy. First, you must pay off the balance in full every month. Otherwise, there’s simply no point, as interest charges will devour your cash rewards (and hurt your credit score).
Pool your savings in a high-yield savings account
Hopefully, you have more money saved than what’s earmarked for vacation. Rather than keep your emergency fund, vacation fund, and extra savings separate, pool the money together into a high-yield savings account.
Depending on your bank, you could earn anywhere from 1-2% interest on the balance of your high-yield account. Every institution has their own rules for minimum balances and maximum number of withdrawals, so check into your bank’s policy before opening up an account.
Auction off your old collectibles on eBay
During our quest to downsize before moving abroad, I made a tidy little profit from selling some vintage Game Boy games on eBay. Although I associated many happy memories with the cartridges, it simply didn’t make sense to hold onto them. After all, I looked at them maybe once every few years, and I had access to all of the games via Nintendo’s virtual store.
Do you have a collection of baseball cards, comic books, or figurines sitting in a storage bin? Unless there’s a serious chance of your items increasing in value and staying in good shape, bite the bullet and sell them.
I mentioned eBay specifically for this task because I’ve found that collectibles fetch a better price on the platform than on Craigslist or even a speciality store. However, it’s always worth checking to see what you can get in person before fiddling with shipping.
Sell your stuff on Craigslist/Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace
For any non-collectible items, Craigslist (Gumtree in the UK) and Facebook Marketplace work well for turning unwanted stuff into fuel for your vacation fund. I’ve sold everything from Christmas decorations to a gently used mattress on Craigslist, and found the process to be (mostly) painless.
Spend an afternoon walking through your closets, opening storage bins, and evaluating everything in your residence with a keen eye. Gather anything you haven’t used in the past three months (minus seasonal items). Take photos of each item (use a neutral backdrop and good lighting), write up a short description, and start selling.
Craigslist is rife with scammers, so I recommend you read this guide before you put up your first listing.
Offer bloggers part-time virtual assistant support
Virtual assistants (VA’s) are more popular than ever. Freelancers and small businesses are realizing how much time they could save by outsourcing tasks to capable people around the world.
Though you could try using a site like UpWork or Elance to find work, these spaces are highly competitive. Also, most employers are looking for at least 10-15 hours per week from their VA’s.
Instead, try marketing yourself specifically to bloggers. If you have basic social media and word processing experience, there are plenty of bloggers out there who could use your help.
For example, a VA might manage a blog’s Pinterest account and format WordPress posts. These are simple tasks that only take a few hours a week, but could grow your travel fund by $100+ each month.
Provide tutoring services online and at local schools
Tutoring is another lucrative side hustle that doesn’t take up much time.
I once worked with a woman who made $35/hour tutoring a middle school student in math via Skype. As a former educator, every school district I worked in recruited after-school tutors for the months leading up to state testing.
Reach out to your local schools and community networks to find opportunities.
Sign up for a dog care service
I can’t think of a better way to make money than spending a weekend playing with someone’s dog. With services like Rover, you can sign up to be a dog walker or at-home sitter.
If you work from home, either of these options could net you plenty of cash to build your travel fund. But even if weekends are your only available time, there are plenty of people looking to take a weekend break that need a dog-sitter.
Profit from your skills with Taskrabbit and Fiverr
Taskrabbit is the platform for local, in-person services, whether that be mounting a flat-screen TV or transporting a tortoise to the vet. Fiverr is for online/remote jobs, like designing a website logo or formatting an e-book.
The trick to succeeding on either platform is to be active and responsive. Users are more likely to hire someone who has multiple positive reviews than someone with no task history.
Dedicate a set amount of time on evenings and weekends to build up your reputation, and it should get easier from there.
Be a strategic Uber/Lyft driver
Ride-sharing services seem like a super simple way to make cash. But after chatting with a number of Uber and Lyft drivers across the US, it can be a waste of time if you aren’t strategic about when and where you drive.
If you live near an airport, check out the arrivals schedule for the day before you log in to drive. This way, you can time your drive to maximize the number of rides. Also, if you work near an area with a lot of business travelers (such as a financial district or office complex), you can pick up a passenger or two on your commute home.
Rent out your spare room on Airbnb
This strategy is last on the list because it’s not for everybody. But if you can get past the legal legwork and list your space on Airbnb, the potential for passive income makes up for the challenges.
Typically, renting out a room is far easier on the legal side than renting out an entire place. However, even if you’re open to sharing your space with a stranger, your local zoning laws and property agreements may not be Airbnb-friendly.
Be sure to review your city’s zoning laws, your HOA rules, and your mortgage policy before publishing your listing.
There’s no perfect combination of strategies that will grow your travel fund overnight. Start with the ideas that fit your current situation, and add others into the mix over time.
If you work 60+ hours a week, skip the side hustles and start with the “spend less” list. If all of your extra cash is going towards student loan payments, selling your stuff might be the best path to do some career break travel.
Whatever you decide to do, remember the why behind your efforts. Envisioning yourself on that ideal vacation will give you the motivation to save.