I was sitting down to make the budget for our upcoming trip to Europe and I starting reflecting back on some of the ways we saved money to go on three major overseas trips (2 Europe trips totalling 8 weeks and a trip to Mauritius) as well as multiple short trips in the space of one year.
It was not easy. We actually had to learn new tricks and modify our behaviour, but the outcome is that we have succeeded in our aim of travelling more and seeing the world.
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Some things to note:
- We have a mortgage to pay which impacts how much we can save
- We still have all the bills and expenses associated with living in Melbourne
- We are both working full time
- Scott is super thrifty
- Our savings got impacted by our wedding and the purchase of our apartment
Fun Story: Scott has always been the thriftier one but over the years, I have somehow become the budget queen. If I can do it, you can too.
So how did we do it?
1. Changing our lifestyle
This is probably the hardest thing to do. We have both been always quite good at saving, but didn’t always track our expenses. When we embarked on this journey, we quickly realised that in order for us to travel more, we would have to cut down on certain aspects quite quickly. For me, it was buying books. I read extensively and would easily spend over 200 dollars a month on books.
That habit was not sustainable in the long term, so I got a Kindle subscription which gives me unlimited number of books and I only pay 15 dollars a month.
But it was also the little things, like the random coffees or going to the movies.
2. Set a Goal
Saving is very hard if you do not have a goal. Your goal should be personal and realistic. It could be anything from amount saved to travel goals.
Our Goal has never been a specific amount, only because we want to save as much as possible, rather it has always been to have more than one year’s salary for the two of us plus travel money.
We aim to travel internationally once a year and do some mini trips throughout the year.
Last year, we went on two major international trips and will do so again this year. None of which would be possible without setting a goal and saving some serious cash.
3. Minimise Eating out
At one point in time, we used to spend over $800 a month eating out. It was excessive and we were no longer appreciating the special meals, rather we were taking it for granted. Cutting out eating out is what has made the biggest impact on our savings.
Tips for not eating out:
- Meal Plan (see the next point)
- Bring your lunch to work
- Find ways to socialise that do not revolve around food. For example, going on hike/walks with your friends.
- If you must eat out for socialising, catch up for bunch instead of dinner (it’s cheaper)
- And if you do eat out, try to avoid having alcoholic drinks as that can more than double your bill (especially if you love cocktails as much as I do)
4. Meal Plan
Meal Planning changed my life. Gone are the days of coming home and wondering what to cook only to give up and order some takeaway. With meal planning, we really reduce takeaways and eating out and managed to add a decent chunk to our travel funds.
5. Grocery shopping
The trick to save money to grocery shopping (apart from meal planning) is to make a list and to never ever go when you are hungry.
If you have meal planned correctly and made a list, you should find that you are not throwing food away and that your weekly shop is costing less.
FUN FACT: I am not allowed to go grocery shopping (self-ban). Whenever I go grocery shopping, I notice that our weekly shop bill pretty much doubles. It would turn out that I have a natural tendency to overbuy and also to buy premium brands.
Hence Scott goes grocery shopping on his own, to the benefit of our wallet ☺.
6. Stop buying unnecessary items
This is a hard one for me. I love buying pieces for the house and my wardrobe. I have a shoe and skin care product addiction. So I had to learn the hard way to stop spending money on junk.
Having said that, I have never been a big shopper, I still did some damage.
The thing that opened my eyes and made me embrace living with less was when my old flatmate and friend moved interstate. She essentially threw away a large portion of her belongings and that truly opened my eyes in terms of how much we collect over the years and how little we end up using.
So how did I change my shopping habits?
- Do not buy an item straightaway
If I see something that I like, I choose not to buy it on the spot. Rather I go home and let it go for a while. If I still want it in a month, I will do my research for best pricing and so on and buy it after doing a pro and cons
- Bring a neutral party
- Do not automatically believe the opinion of salespeople – salespeople have one job, make sure you do not walk out empty handed
- Make a list
7. Make a budget and stick to it
I have been making a yearly budget for the past 3 years and it has truly revolutionised my life. I tend to create a budget around the end of financial year for the next calendar year and re-evaluate at the start of the year.
In my budget, I list down all the expected bills including holidays and how much I am expecting to have in bank account each month after all the bills.
This is the only way that I can keep myself accountable. Each month, I will check my actual bank balance with the expected one. Most times, I exceed expectations, on the occasions that I do not meet the expectation, I would do a quick analysis of why not and what needs to be improved.
It sounds complicated but it really is not and I have found is one of the best ways for me to save money.
The other aspect to our budget is that we have a weekly and monthly allowance and we measure all our spending by it and make sure that we do not overcome the limit.
8. Trim the fat
By this, I mean get rid of things such as pay-tv or unnecessary subscriptions.
9. Sell your unwanted stuff
We sold a quite a bit of our belongings over the past year, unused furniture, items from storage and even our second car all so that we could raise funds for us to go travelling.
All the sacrifices were totally worth it given that we are slowly but surely fulfilling our dreams of travelling the world.
What are you doing to save money? Do you have any upcoming travel plans?
Let me know in the comments below.