Figuring out how to fund your next adventure
Whether you're a jerky-and-jalopy weekend road-tripper or a luxury-loving thrill-seeker planning a trip around the world, you can probably use all the extra money you can find to fund your travels. After all, you don't want to cut your European adventure short because you run out of money before making it to Paris. So, long before you plan to jet off, start a money-saving mission with realistic expectations.
First: estimate expenses
If you have a specific trip in mind, figure out how much you need to save by calculating how much you'll need to spend. Use a spreadsheet, or just stick to pen and paper. Go through your itinerary one day at a time, writing down all the things you plan to do and the estimated costs associated with them. Include everything: cab fare to the airport, snacks during your layover, celebratory drinks on your first night and so on. Spend time checking admission fees at museums and other attractions in your destination city and look at local restaurant menus online to get a sense of what you can expect to pay for meals out.
Even in the planning stages, look for opportunities to save money on upcoming road trips. Consider eating just one restaurant meal per day; getting by on granola bars, prepared salads and fruit from grocery stores in between; and carrying a refillable water bottle so you never have to pay for drinks. Check out hostels as a way to save money on lodging. Many rent out individual rooms more private than dorm-style rooms that have the security of a locking door – at prices much lower than hotel rates.
Next: analyze your spending
Tracking every penny you spend will possibly annoy you (don't forget to write down that 25-cent gum ball!), but realizing how much money is saved by making minor changes can be amazing. Download a money-tracking app and update it every time you spend a single cent. After a week or two, you should be able to spot expenditures that you can cut.
For example, canceling your Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Showtime accounts could save you upwards of $50 a month, which adds up to $600 per year. If you take out DVDs from the library and borrow a friend's login info occasionally, you won't even miss these services. Use a grocery-shopping app to compare prices between stores and find coupons. You may even decide to cancel your gym membership and get exercise by walking and doing yoga at home.
A great way to save money without missing it is to set up an automatic money transfer out of your regular checking or savings account and into a dedicated travel account. If you transfer just $20 each week, you'll save $1,040 in a year's time, plus interest.
Then: earn extra cash
If you already watch pennies and live on a strict budget, you're going to have to bring in some extra income in order to boost your travel fund.
Consider getting a part-time job bartending or waiting tables. Working just one or two nights a week can net a few hundred dollars, which adds up quickly. You may also be able to housesit on weekends, teach English to foreign students, take on consulting work within your field or couch surf with friends while you rent out your place on Airbnb. Selling your old clothing and jewelry to consignment shops might be feasible if you have a packed closet full of like-new pieces. Make enough money and clear out enough shelf space, and you may even decide to reward yourself by bringing back a beautiful new item as a souvenir.