Nine Tips for Finding the Money for Long Term Travel

Passport Pages: The Passport of a Traveler barely has empty spots left.Passport Pages: The Passport of a Traveler barely has empty spots left.“I’m barely getting by on what I make now. How can I possibly save enough to travel for more than a couple of weeks a year? How could I ever stop working, even temporarily? No way.“ Accumulating the money is usually the most difficult part of getting ready for long term travel.

For some it is easy. They have stock they can sell, or they can rent their house or apartment and make enough to support them while they travel. Some people inherit the money. Some sell their house or condo, and travel on those funds. It may be possible to downsize, selling one home, buying a smaller one with a maximum mortgage, then renting it out while traveling on the price difference between the two properties. Most would-be travelers, however, must save most of the money. To do that they will need to cut their expenses, increase their income, and perhaps sell a few favorite possessions.

When people say they can’t save, they really mean they can’t save without giving something up, without making sacrifices, without changing their lifestyle at all. They want a couple of lattes every day, a really nice and fairly new car, and regular manicures. Their hair must be done by an expensive stylist, and they expect to eat lunch out every work day, dinner out several times a week, and meet friends for drinks at least that often. Most of that will have to go. If you really want to travel, it’s time for sacrifice.

Setting Up for Sacrifice

1) Find out what your sacrifices will buy you when you are on the road.

Pick a country on your itinerary, perhaps Thailand, and look up the price of a hostel bed or inexpensive room. Check the cost of a meal at a local restaurant. You’ll find that in Chiang Mai you can get a room with private bath for about $7, a bowl of noodle soup for $1.50, and a bottle of local beer for less than $2.

Now you can look at your expenses in terms of their impact on your trip. You can decide whether you want to spend four dollars for a latte now or have a couple of beers on the road. Do you want drinks and dinner at an expensive restaurant, or a week’s accommodation?

2) You should keep your goal in front of you at all times.

Seed your life with reminders of your travel plans and your savings goal. Start with your wallet. Write the numbers from your cost research on a piece of paper and put it in you wallet with your money. Tuck a second reminder in front of your credit cards with the costs facing out. No folding allowed. Use bright colored paper.

Cut pictures out of travel brochures and post them around your home. A beautiful tropical beach by the mirror, so you can start your day remembering your goals. Put more pictures by your computer, to make you think before you place an on-line order. If you still pay bills by check, paste another picture to the front of your checkbook.

Try to have a reminder pop up every conceivable place where you might spend money. Because we tend not to notice things once they become familiar, change your reminders once in a while. Replace the beach with a temple, and the cost of food in Cuzco with the price of a dorm bed in Sydney.

Major changes are needed, and you can‘t just give up things that don‘t matter much to you. That‘s a good place to start, but it won‘t be enough. The more major the cuts, the more it hurts, the sooner you can leave or the longer you can travel.

3) Open a separate travel savings account.

Put the money you save into a new savings account, dedicated to your trip. Get the highest interest rate possible, of course. Watching your stash grow will be more satisfying. You will also be less tempted to use it for another purpose if it isn’t mixed in with other funds.

4) Set aside the money you don’t spend every day, and put it in the bank every week.

Make a change jar, or box, or envelope to store the money you are accumulating. Put a picture of the Great Wall on it. At the end of each day, calculate what expenses you avoided, take that money out of your wallet, and set it aside. If you took a sandwich and fruit to work, and skipped the $10.00 lunch, and skipped one $4.00 coffee, put $14.00 in your change jar.

At the end of the week, put that money in the bank. With on-line banking this may be more figurative than physical. Count the money, transfer exactly that much from your checking account to your travel account, then return the money to your wallet to use the next week.

Making Sacrifices

5) Downsize.

Sell your car and walk or bus to work. Give up the two-bedroom apartment and move into a tiny studio.

6) Cut recurring expenses.

If you reduce a monthly expense, you save that amount every month. List all the bills that you pay every month, and all the recurring services you pay for, then look for ways to reduce the monthly cost. Are you paying for extras that you don’t really need? If you have a cell phone, maybe you don’t need long-distance on you land line. Are there cheaper alternatives? You could use a free computer-based long distance service. Do you need the product at all? Many people have given up their land line altogether.

Be sure to include all your recurring costs, not just the ones that issue monthly bills. Consider haircuts, manicures, dry cleaning, laundry, and gasoline as well as utilitees and insurance.

7) Get drastic.

Consider the unthinkable. Move back in with your parents or get a roommate. Stop dating. Give up drinking. Stop smoking. Use cheap toiletries.

Celebrate Success

8) Enjoy the progress you are making.

Keep a chart that visually illustrates how much progress you have made. When you have enough money for a month in Argentina, mark that milestone. Have an inexpensive glass of wine, do a little celebratory dance.

9) Start acquiring travel necessities.

As you get close to your goal, start buying some of the travel gear that is in your budget. Buy your backpack or wheelie. Keep it out, of course, as yet another reminder. Watch for a sale and upgrade your camera. Pick up a money belt and a cable lock. Physical manifestations of the coming trip will make you more determined as you get to the end of a long, hard road.


One day you will walk out of a door, check that you have your ticket, your passport, your money, and your bag, and start your travels. You’ll won’t regret missing a single latte.


This article was written by Cindy, who has lived this lifestyle for many years.

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