On Making Travel a (Financial) Priority


Sometimes when I’m out for dinner and drinks with my friends, they ask in awe, “How can you travel so much?  Isn’t it expensive?”

Sure, hitting the road for eight weeks each year is expensive.  But so is going out for dinner and drinks!  A typically twenty-something Western lifestyle is full of unnecessary extravagances that we’ve come to view as “essential”, and by cutting out a lot of them (starting with dinner and drinks!) you can find a lot of room in your budget for travel.  So how do I save money?

First, you need to open a bank account just for future travel.  You don’t have to have a specific destination or time frame in mind, but know that one day, in the future, you’ll want to take a trip, so you need to be putting money aside all the time.  I have some friends who travel first and pay later (thanks to Visa and Mastercard), but I believe a holiday should be relaxing, and worrying about how I’ll later pay for a trip (with added interest) is not relaxing.

Second, consider the opportunity cost of some of the money you’re spending.  Remember, every dollar you spend back home is a dollar you can’t spend abroad.  Not sure what I mean?  Let me give you some examples from my real life.

What You’re Buying True Travel Cost
Dining out: A daily Starbucks and daily fast-food lunch, plus going out to a restaurant once a week costs about $5720
more than making those meals at home over the course of a year.
With $5720 you could fly from a major North American airport to Barcelona or Amsterdam, and backpack comfortably (ensuites!) through several Western European cities (skipping costly London and Paris) for a month.  Hmmm… Burger King or Gaudi?
Transportation: I recently learned that the average person in my city pays $750 a year just in tax on their gasoline! That doesn’t even include the cost of the gasoline itself! By choosing to live walking distance from my workplace and access nearby services I keep my total gas (and public transit) expenses to $350 per year. My savings? $2600 annually. If it looks like you’ll work somewhere for a long time, or are in a position to choose between jobs, living walking distance from work can put $2600 into your bank account- enough for a flight from North America to Mexico, plus ten days at an all-inclusive resort or, my personal preference, a month of budget backpacking.
Entertainment: Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z are coming to town. My friends are so excited! What an amazing opportunity to spend $273 on a four-hour musical extravaganza! $273? $273!  If you put that money in your bank account you could add some amazing extras to a Turkish holiday.  How about sea kayaking over the sunken city of Kekova, canyoning through the Saklikent Gorge and paragliding off a cliff with views of nearby Greek Islands?
Fashion: It’s the denim version of Sophie’s Choice.  $180 for a pair of 7 for All Mankind bootcut jeans, or $25 for Old Navy’s bootcut version?  It’s only $155 difference, right? $155 would buy you a durable, comfortable, ergonomically-correct 70-litre backpack, putting you on the path to travel bliss!

I am absolutely not saying there is anything wrong with Starbucks, two-hour commutes, concert tickets or designer jeans.  However, there is something wrong with not understanding why we can’t afford the things we want most.   Unless you’re a Russian oligarch (in which case, call me… really!) you probably don’t have enough money for every single thing you’ve ever wanted, and each purchase is a trade-off.  Just make sure that the things you end up spending money on are actually the things that will make you happiest.


6 responses to “On Making Travel a (Financial) Priority

  1. It is definitely important to take into all of the seemingly small expenses when trying to save for travel. Great post!

  2. Pingback: Mealtime Monday: Money-Saving Meals | Lipgloss and a Backpack

  3. Pingback: Hamam at Home | Lipgloss and a Backpack

  4. This is so true! Exactly how I feel when people ask how I afford to travel – this is why I don’t have a car!

  5. Pingback: Mealtime Monday: Money-Saving Meals | Lipgloss and a Backpack

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