47 Things I Have Actually Done to Save Money for Travel (Plus 4 Things I Won’t Do)

When I left my first career to go back to school, I wasn’t willing to compromise on my ability to travel. Overnight, I would go from a strong and reliable salary to zero income. I would need to make some choices.

The math is pretty simple. In order to save money for travel you can either make more money or spend less (or both). Here are 47 things I have done to save money for travel.

I acknowledge upfront that I was in a fortunate position to be able to choose to do some of these things to save money. I know that not everyone has the option to choose. Please take from this post what you find helpful.

Text: How to save money for travel Image: Toy plane, jar of coins and passport on a wood table.

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Table Of Contents
  1. Make More Money
  • Spend Less Money
  • Things I Won’t Do to Save Money for Travel
  • Tips to Save Money for Travel
  • Make More Money

    1 | Take on additional part-time work or income streams.

    During my career transition I worked two part-time jobs to supplement my savings. First, I worked as a brand ambassador for a food company. This work was fun and flexible, allowing me to earn as much as I wanted plus I got boatloads of free product. Second, I worked for a concert and event promotion company, helping out VIP guests. This was also flexible and allowed me to see some pretty amazing concerts! I found both of these opportunities through social media.

    A word of caution: Because you are saving money to travel, you likely don’t want part-time jobs that aren’t flexible enough to allow you to do so which can make it challenging to find the right fit. 

    2 | Rent out a spare room.

    For years, my spare bedroom had been underutilized. I live in a neighborhood where rent can be quite high. Although I didn’t particularly want to share my space, I did want to travel. So, I posted my spare room for rent and found an amazing roommate.

    This was the single biggest thing I did to earn income for travel during my career transition.

    Pro Tip: Always have someone sign a lease before entering a rental agreement. This protects you in case something goes wrong.

    3 | Rent out a parking spot.

    I live in the city where parking is a premium. When I purchased my condo it came with two underground parking spaces. For anyone familiar with Minneapolis, you understand how important this is, especially during the winter months. Renting out my extra parking space has been an easy way to earn extra income for travel.

    4 | Sell clothes you no longer wear.

    Clean out your closet and earn a little cash at the same time. This is not a significant source of income for me, but every little bit adds up!

    For name brand clothes in good condition, I recommend first attempting to sell on Poshmark. If they don’t sell there, try selling at a second-hand store like Clothes Mentor. They likely will only take a few items, so don’t be offended if that’s the case.

    I’ve had success selling bags of similar style and size of clothes on Facebook Marketplace. For instance, I’ll do a bag of jeans or pants all in the same size for $20-40. They almost always sell right away.

    5 | Sell your used outdoor gear

    Putting gear in a box to ship to Geartrade to sell online.
    Geartrade will sell your gear for you! Ship items in the provided box with prepaid shipping and let them do the work.

    Have gear that no longer brings you joy? Sell it online! Geartrade is a great online marketplace for buying and selling used gear without a ton of haggling like you find on some platforms. Here’s my full review of selling used outdoor gear on Geartrade.

    6 | Sell other household items online.

    Once I started looking for household items to sell, I couldn’t stop. I’ve sold an old wireless router, board games, tires for a bike, books, CD’s, DVD’s, the list goes on. I’ve had success on Offer Up and Facebook Marketplace.

    7 | Sell your own products on Etsy.

    A calendar lays flat on a wooden table with a photo of Lake Superior's north shore.
    Photo calendars with themes from my travels for sale on Etsy each holiday season.

    Have a creative hobby or skill? Make products and sell them on Etsy. I sell calendars with photos from my travels each holiday season!

    Spend Less Money

    8 | Understand your expenses and set a budget.

    I know this is basic but there’s a reason why this is always recommended. Until I sat down and reviewed a few months of my expenses, I didn’t understand where I had the most opportunity to save. 

    9 | Take public transit.

    It’s a privilege to own a vehicle and that taking public transit is a cost-cutting measure for me. I take public transit to avoid the cost of using a shared ride app like Uber or Lyft and to save money on parking and gas. 

    10 | Ask a friend for a ride.

    Women driving a car with a friend in the passenger seat and windows down
    Take a break from doing all the driving by asking a friend for a ride.

    Instead of always offering to drive, I started occasionally asking a friend for a ride. This is easiest when you are going to the same place but is also great for airport dropoff and pickup.

    11 | Walk (or bike) instead of drive.

    Whenever possible, I opted to walk or bike to my destination instead of driving or taking public transit. Not only is it good for the environment and my health, it’s good for my bank account! 

    12 | Shop at budget-friendly grocery stores.

    The grocery store closest to me is notoriously more expensive than others. While I can easily walk there, I end up paying more for my groceries. Instead I drive to the next closest grocery store that is more budget-friendly.

    13 | Meal plan and prepare meals in bulk.

    I enjoy cooking and creating meals at home. It’s something I indulge in but all those special ingredients add up in cost. When I’m focused on saving, I plan out my meals for the week and prepare meals in bulk. If possible, I plan my meals around sales or discounts at the grocery store.

    14 | Use samples of makeup and toiletries I have at home.

    For years, I subscribed to a beauty box that came with all sorts of sample size products like shampoo, face wash, mascara, perfume, and more. Unfortunately, many of them were set aside and forgotten about. To avoid buying new toiletries, I first checked my stash before buying anything new.

    15 | Opt for less expensive brands of makeup and toiletries. 

    Toiletries sitting on the shelf in a shower
    Try lower cost alternatives to your favorite toiletries and use any samples you have at home.

    The cost of makeup and toiletries can add up quickly! One of my cost cutting choices was to try less expensive alternatives to the brands I love for things like shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.

    16 | Learn to do your own nails.

    I love getting my nails done, but that’s an expense I couldn’t afford when trying to save money for travel. Instead, I either went without or learned to do them myself!

    17 | Reduce frequency of haircuts and color.

    Ideally, I get my hair done every 8-9 weeks. When I’m saving money for travel, I extend that to 10-12 weeks. Sometimes, this requires me to cut my own bangs or color my roots using an at-home treatment but overall I save money over the course of a year.

    18 | Adjust the thermostat (or turn off the air conditioning).

    I like my home cooler in the summer, but the cost of running A/C is expensive. To be more budget- and environmentally-friendly, I adjusted my thermostat up a few degrees. I also discovered that my energy company offers deep discounts on smart thermostats to better control and monitor my energy use.

    19 | Opt out of Christmas or holiday gift giving.

    Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I love picking out the perfect gift but the cost is significant. One of the hardest decisions I made was to opt out of gift giving for Christmas. I explained to my family in advance, including my reasons why, and they were very supportive. I asked them not to get me any gifts. Honestly, these ended up being some of my favorite holidays. I was less stressed and truly present to enjoy time with family. 

    20 | Stop sending Christmas or holiday cards.

    For years, I either handmade or custom printed Christmas cards and sent them to a long list of people. I loved spreading holiday cheer. But, the cost of purchasing the cards, envelopes and postage became expensive. I stopped mailing Christmas cards for a few years and when I restarted I cut back on the cost.

    21 | Give experiences instead of gifts.

    Gift giving for other special occasions can also be expensive. From weddings and birthdays to graduations and more, it seems like every month there is a gift to purchase. I began giving experiences or making gifts as a budget friendly alternative. For example, I offered to video my friend’s wedding as my gift since she hadn’t booked a videographer. 

    22 | Use points for travel and other deals.

    If you use a credit card and pay it off every month, make sure you are using one that earns you points or miles. I love my Chase Sapphire Reserve card for all of its benefits, but especially using my Chase Rewards points to book travel. I attended a friend’s wedding in Kauai for just 35,000 miles round trip on a direct flight from Minneapolis!

    23 | Cut back on how much you use.

    Think about all of the items you use regularly – soap, shampoo, toilet paper, paper towels, etc. I’m not saying to not be clean, but instead be mindful of how much you use. If there’s an opportunity to cut back, do it!

    24 | Cut back on alcoholic beverages.

    It’s no secret that I love a good cocktail or glass of wine. But the cost, even if you drink at home, adds up quickly! Cutting back on consumption of alcoholic beverages is good for your wallet and your wellbeing.

    25 | Eat at home before going out.

    When reviewing my expenses, a significant amount was going towards food and eating out. I wasn’t going to expensive dinners. It was a culmination of a happy hour here and a brunch there that really added up. Eating a snack or small meal at home before going out to a restaurant kept me from spending as much but still allowed me to spend social time with friends!

    26 | Stick to the specials or happy hour menu.

    A glass of house wine during happy hour can be less than half the normal cost. It’s the same with appetizers! When going out with friends, I stuck to the happy hour menu whenever possible. 

    27 | Say no to going out (at least some of the time).

    Travel mug resting on a wooden surface overlooking a river.
    Skip happy hour or the coffee shop and go for a walk instead!

    Saving money requires us to make choices. Everything is a tradeoff. If my friends were going to an expensive restaurant or event, I opted out. That’s not really my scene anyway and definitely not in alignment with my budget.

    28 | Host potlucks instead of parties.

    I enjoy inviting people into my home and hosting parties, always preparing too much food and buying way too many beverages. To save money, I switched to hosting potlucks instead of parties. 

    29 | Cancel subscriptions.

    When was the last time you took an inventory of all of your subscriptions? Seriously, this is low-hanging fruit. I do this regularly and cancel any that you I’m not using anymore or don’t fit into my budget.

    30 | Get a library card and use it.

    Love reading? Fuel your love of reading but stop buying books by getting a library card. Did you know that most libraries allow you to reserve books via an app or website so they are waiting for you when you arrive? Or that you can download audiobooks to your phone without ever stepping foot in the library? For free! Seriously, get a library card.

    31 | Use your credit card and/ or Amazon Prime benefits.

    One hand holding a credit card and the other resting on a keyboard.
    Be sure to take advantage of any credit card benefits you may have.

    Another way to get free books is to download the Amazon Free Reads each month. Every month you get to choose from a selection of ebooks to download to the Kindle app and there’s no due dates, they’re yours to keep. Similarly, are you using all of your credit card benefits? The Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits include a 1-year subscription to Shipt, a $300 travel credit, a Priority Pass membership and more.

    32 | Stop buying clothes and shoes.

    This may not be a popular choice for many, but I stopped buying clothes and shoes for an entire year. Rediscover the wardrobe you have!

    33 | Buy used.

    Buying used is a great way to save money and be good to the environment. Before buying a new piece of furniture, clothing, or other household items, I look to see if I can find it used. Good places to look are thrift stores, Facebook marketplace, Facebook “buy nothing” groups, and online used gear stores like Geartrade.

    34 | Use coupons or buy on sale.

    When I am focused on saving money for travel, I keep a list of items I want to buy. Before purchasing anything, I search for sales and coupons. When possible, I hold off on any purchases until I can find a discount. 

    35 | Carry snacks and a water bottle at all times.

    Admittedly, this is also to avoid being hangry. Carrying nutrient dense snacks and a water bottle with me, helped avoid temptations for fast food, carryout and other splurges. 

    36 | Re-evaluate your cell phone plan and carrier.

    Cell phones are basically a requirement at this point and, for me, so is unlimited data. By switching from Verizon to T-Mobile (at the time) I saved over $50/month. Yes, T-Mobile coverage is not the best in some areas but the cost savings and global coverage was worth it for me.

    37 | Re-evaluate and negotiate auto insurance coverage.

    I cannot emphasize this enough – if you have a vehicle, do not go without auto insurance coverage in order to save money. But, there is room to shop around for lower cost coverage or to re-evaluate the coverage you have. I found out that I had more coverage than was really necessary so was able to reduce my cost and, in the process, found additional discounts I was eligible for.

    38 | Refinance your mortgage.

    Paper being signed on table with small model of a home and calculator next to it.
    Refinancing a mortgage can significantly reduce your monthly payments.

    I realize that even having a mortgage is an incredible privilege. Refinancing my mortgage saved me several hundred dollars per month. 

    39 | Learn to fix things.

    On one very cold winter day, my furnace stopped working. The repair person informed me it would be $500 to fix and explained the issue, which seemed like a straightforward repair to me. Obviously I needed heat but this seemed ridiculous. I called around and found the part myself for $25. I replaced it in minutes. There are certainly times to call in the experts for a repair but there are many things that, with a little online sleuthing, we can figure out.

    40 | Take advantage of free trial memberships, but be sure to cancel them.

    Many places offer free trial membership to try out a service. This is a great way to see if something is worth the investment for you and fits within your budget. Just be sure to cancel after the trial period! 

    41 | Use punch cards and loyalty discounts.

    If there’s a place I love and it fits within my budget, I check to see if they have a loyalty program. For instance, some grocery stores offer discounts on gas if you fill up at their station.

    42 | Prioritize value-dense expenses.

    What are value-dense expenses? That may be different for each of us. For me, that included things like an annual state park pass, a monthly gym membership and hiking boots. Each of these are things that fit within my budget, I can use regularly and get significant personal value from. 

    43 | Explore local.

    A metal row boat upside down next to a lake in a Minnesota State Park.
    Explore all the adventure close to home, like the Minnesota State Parks.

    There are so many amazing places to see and explore close to home. I saved money on airfare and, instead, went on road trips nearby and staycations!

    Visit my Minnesota travel page for inspiration and destination guides!

    44 | Save on lodging by visiting friends and family.

    When traveling, I prioritize destinations where I have free or low cost lodging by staying with friends or family. An alternative would be to look into housesitting gigs or camping (if you have basic camping gear)!

    45 | Opt for a less convenient route.

    To save money on air travel I have been flexible on travel dates, chosen red eye flights or flights with stopovers. There is a tradeoff of time, but if saving money for travel is the priority, these budget-friendly options are worth considering.

    46 | Look for free things to do.

    Any destination has fun and free things to do! Often, museums and parks will have admission-free days. I enjoy visiting the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum on their free days! 

    47 | Accept help or generosity from friends.

    I don’t like asking for help, but truly that’s what friends are for. If a friend offers to help you out or buy you a coffee, graciously accept and say thank you.

    Things I Won’t Do to Save Money for Travel

    While I’ve done a lot of things to save money, there are a few things I will not do.

    Borrow from my retirement savings.

    This is a core principle for my plans to save money for travel. My retirement savings remains untouchable because borrowing from that now translates to a significant loss in potential income from the investment. 

    Not pay my credit card off each month.

    Computer and documents with credit score visible laying on table next to plant.
    Protect your credit score by paying off your credit card bill on time every month.

    A low credit score impacts so many things and can take years to improve. Paying our credit card bill in full and on time each month is one of the key ways we can strengthen our credit score. 

    Skip essential maintenance on my car or home.

    Essential maintenance like oil changes, tire rotation, furnace filter replacement all help prevent catastrophic failures that are significantly more expensive. 

    Not carry health or auto insurance.

    In an ideal world, we will never need to use our health or auto insurance. But, we don’t live in an ideal world. We are all one accident or diagnosis away from our savings being depleted and that can happen through no fault of our own, completely out of our control. If you want to protect your savings, insurance is a must (in my opinion).

    Tips to Save Money for Travel

    I hope this list gave you some new ideas on how to save money for travel! What would you add to this list? Please share your ideas in the comments!

    Related content to read next:

    15 Essential Things to Do Before Traveling Abroad

    Perfect Beginner Backpacking Trips in the US

    What to Wear for Hiking in Summer: A Prepared Girl’s Guide

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    4 thoughts on “47 Things I Have Actually Done to Save Money for Travel (Plus 4 Things I Won’t Do)

    1. This Big Wild World says:

      What a great list, Linda! It sounds like you’ve been creative in prioritizing how you spend your money so you can enjoy your adventures. A professional pedicure really is a nice treat every now and then though, I agree!

    2. This Big Wild World says:

      Thank you, Rhonda! Yes, our passions fuel our decisions – it’s worth every penny (pun intended) 🙂

    3. Rhonda says:

      When travel is your passion, everything is on the table. You’ve found some pretty creative ways to raise the money to fuel your desire. Well done.

    4. Linda (LD Holland) says:

      We always try to find ways to save some money when travelling. Mostly so we can then splurge on other things we want to see and do. We often try to see things we are no longer using. But find it increasingly difficult and mostly look for places that will take the stuff. I gave up getting gel nails and fancy hair cuts when I was no longer working full time. But I must admit I do love a good professional pedicure. Building points and loyalty as really helped for us. And being frugal when we are at home (almost no drinking or going out to eat), lets us splurge for those treats when we travel. A good list to help people get started.

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