How I Afford To Travel.. And How To Stretch Your Money So You Can Too!

Afford Travel

It’s no secret – I love to travel – as far and for as long as possible (within the constrains of having a full time job!) – and over the years I have mastered some tips and tricks to help maximize that goal. I’m not rich. I don’t have a trust fund. My parents do not contribute to my travel fund and I have not secretly won the lottery and never told anyone. Believe me, if I had, I would be long gone – and would certainly not spouting on about how great it is to work full time and travel. For me, it’s all about making choices and assessing priorities – and I’d like to share my tips with you, in the hope they will help you travel more/better/longer. I have both saving and spending tips – the former I can guarantee you will have probably read before (they’re not rocket science! – but one is pretty clever!) but the latter – and what I consider my secret weapon – is an absolute gem! You’re intrigued aren’t you.. well read on: all will be revealed… Afford travel

How Afford Travel

How I Afford to Travel. Afford travel.

1. I work full time. afford travel

There is no denying that having a full time job is a great source of regular income – and it doesn’t mean that you have to be chained to an office desk. When I first left to UK at aged 21ย  to go and live in the USA, I did so on the back of getting a 6 month contract role at Walt Disney World in Florida. The pay was barely above minimum wage – but the perks were awesome! (Free access to the parks on days off – yes please!) Whilst I was there, the program covered the cost of my accommodation and in taking extra shifts, or extending a shift (overtime – ching ching) I was able to rack up enough cash to pay for a month long trip across the States. Afford Travel.

How Afford Travel

Me and my Disney homies… super cool, right?!

RELATED: If you haven’t read about my Coast to Coast USA Roadtrip you can find all the details here

If you’d like more information about the opportunities at Disney World – UK folks head to Yummy Jobs – for the rest of the world, head to Disney Careers. You can be sure that if your country is represented in the Epcot World Showcase – there will be a job opportunity for you.

Other Jobs that allow you to work & travel include Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL); working as a nannyย  or getting a working holiday visa in various other countries.

When I had finished in the USA – and with a real aversion to a ‘regular 9-5’ life – I got another full time job running hotels in the European Alps for the winter season (UK folks click here for the Natives website which will introduce you to a variety of winter operators looking for staff – most of which have summer programs too. For those in the US – you know where your ski resorts are!) Again, the pay is not good, but (working from the UK at least) your accommodation and food are covered in the employment package. Plus you get free ski/snowboard equipment for the seasons and a lift pass. This means that you’re only expenses are if you want a nice meal out – or if you are going out drinking…

…this leads me to point 2:

2. I only drink at home afford travel

I’m not a saint. Alcohol is a (necessary) expense – for me at least. If you don’t drink – good for you – the amount of money you will save over a lifetime is astronomical. However, for us lesser mere mortals – I can totally understand that Friday afternoon feeling where only a glass of wine – or a (well deserved) beer – will hit the spot. I have never hidden the fact that I am partial to a glass (sometime a bottle!) of wine. My saving grace here is that I ensure that 90% of the time, I only drink at home. I buy wine in bulk – from the supermarkets in the UK, US and Europe or, now that I am in Aus, from a wonderful alcohol soaked place called Dan Murphy’s. I refuse to pay the jacked up bar prices by going out to drink. Afford Travel

How Afford Travel

3. I Give Myself An Allowance. Afford Travel.

You heard me right – and no, I’m not a 12, living at home and doing chores for pocket money. But money – albeit the root of all evil – is the thing that pays for my travel and so instead of allowing funds for various things – I restrict funds. My partner and I have bought a house together, we have bills – which is something we largely have little control over – and so instead of working out what we need to afford we transfer all of our wages (with the exception of $100) into a joint account – and have $100 a week as spending money. This pays for my Friday afternoon pub lunch each week (I know, I’m terrible, right?! back to the alcohol again!) and any clothes/handbags that I just have to have. I’ll be honest I never really got over the internet shopping habit of my younger days but I am more savvy with my shopping practices and so now… Afford Travel.

How Afford Travel

4. I only buy things on sale how Afford Travel

Living on a few continents – particularly where the season are the opposite to what you expect – it came as a happy surprise to discover that what is on sale at the end of one season in one country is absolutely perfect for the upcoming season in the country you are in! This is really beneficial where you have embraced internet shopping (as I have ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) My favorite example of this is ASOS – which have sites and distributors in various countries – but it is all the same stock. So if you can think ahead and shop for winter in summer and summer in winter, there are epic savings to be had. Add that to a quick google search for the latest ‘ASOS discount code’ and you have sale items with a minimum of an extra 10% off whenever you buy. Winning!

5. We Don’t Eat Out – and I learned to cook

Back on the budget front, we don’t eat out. I know, boring, right?! We don’t eat take out, we pack a lunch everyday (except Fridays, I mentioned a pub lunch before yes?!)ย  and if we are going to a restaurant, we make it a super nice one. But at a maximum, only every 3 months – and usually it’s more like every 6 months. On that occasion, we spend a few hundred bucks – out of the joint account – and have a lovely, lovely meal. My partner’s a chef and after 8 years with him, I’ve become a bit of a foodie myself. So if we are paying for food – forgetting the fact that we can cook amazing meals ourselves at home, I want to it be at one of the best restaurant in whatever city we are in. And we are never disappointed. It’s a luxury that we allow ourselves every now and again and really appreciate it when we do.

How Afford Travel

So there you have it, my tips, tricks and recommendations for saving money but what about spending it?

How I Stretch My Money how afford travel

After taking on all of the above, we don’t just book thinks willy-nilly. We travel off season – where possible – and use sites like SkyScanner to book the best deals. I’ve read all the literature at when is the best time to book, and I’m sorry – but I just can’t go with it. I’m a planner and once I have decided where I am going, I book and have done with it. I book within a few weeks of the flights being released and always get a good ‘introductory’ type rate and yes I see the prices rise and fall in the months between booking and traveling, but I don’t care. I am a much happier traveler knowing that I’m booked, done and going. It also suits my hyper organised personality. I’ve had our upcoming 11 week extravaganza (Aus to UK-Turkey-Zimbabwe-Botswana-Namibia-South Africa-Mauritius-UK and back to Aus) booked for 18 months and now I’m 5 weeks out, I’m still planning the substance of the trip like a crazy woman! Afford Travel.

But How Can I Book & Pay for These extended trips up front?!

Well, this is the good part. I make my credit cards work for me.

How to Make Credit Cards Work For You: afford travel

So, when I have a huge – and expensive – upcoming trip to book. I make sure I have a high enough limit on my credit card to book everything in one hit (this is where the whole working full time come in again – you work full time, the banks will give you a fair amount of credit) and off I go. I scour the various comparison websites for flights and book any activities that are a must. I then apply for another credit card that has a 0% balance transfer option. (In order to do this, you need to have a good credit history/rating – and again, working full time helps so much with this).ย  I look for those that offer the longest interest free period and have no transfer fees. Once I have found the best one and I have been accepted, I transfer the balance (for the upcoming trip it was $10k) and set up an automatic payment for more than the minimum balance – to come out each and every month – and make a note of when the interest free period ends.

How Afford Travel

When I get the card for the balance transfer account I CUT IT UP. Do not touch this card. Do not think it is another source of credit. The minute you make a purchase on the card you lose the 0% interest fee period – and it would be a waste of effort for everything you just did.

I use the 0% balance transfer cards as a ‘buy now – holiday later’ option – but it requires discipline. You MUST make the minimum repayments (and ideally more!) and budget to pay off the entire amount before the end of the interest free period. You do have the option to re-transfer this balance to another 0% card – but I have never done it, and so cannot tell you how easy/hard this would be (and I would try an avoid multiple transfers in a short space of time – it can adversely affect your credit in some countries.) Either way – I am of the firm belief that giving yourself an extra 12-18 months to pay off a holiday is fine – but don’t screw yourself overย – budget to pay it off and take advantage of the ‘free overdraft’ you would not otherwise have had.

Credit Cards with Points: afford travel

I’ve included these as a afterthought, as they have been mentioned by a few readers, but I haveย mixed thoughts. We have a credit card linked to a frequent flyer program – and make all our purchases on that card and pay it off every month – and yes the points can rack up quickly. But we have never spent them. It may be that I am in the habit of searching for the cheapest fare and booking – regardless of the airline (although I do have my preferences – Long haul: Royal Brunei; Emirates and Qatar; Budget: AirAsia, JetStar (Aus) & Easyjet, Jet2 (UK)). I think that we may as well collect the points on every purchase. But understand that we will get the most value from these when we are travelling internally in Australia (as although we have points, they don’t stretch to international excursions!)

As for the USA – it’s a whole different ball game. There are so many cards/points offers and for travelling interstate they can be amazing – and from other blogs I read by American’s – they are one of the best ways to save money and maximize your travel. However I’m not convinced the same applies in the UK. With so many budget airlines and easy access to anywhere in Europe – I wouldn’t be so hasty to pick an airline and stick to it. The competition is so fierce for short haul routes that I don’t really believe that Frequent Flyer programs – particularly when they are run solely as ‘reward programs’ rather than jointly with a credit card (as they are more often than not in the UK) are worth the effort.

As an example – we were part of a reward program with Qatar (when we were flying backwards and forwards between the UK & Aus) and over 2 years collected enough points for one short haul flight within the middle east – which we never had the opportunity to use. These points have now expired and so the membership was largely a waste of time. The same thing happened to us in Asia – we were members of AirAsia’s BIG program and collected lots of points throughout our travels – but again, neverย had the opportunity to use them – and of course, they too have now expired.

In summary, I think Point & Miles are: A great initiative in the USA, and perfect for those who travel a lot interstate. Are of average benefit to those in Australia. And are pretty worthless for those in the UK! But don’t feel bad UK readers – you have the best access to practically all of Europe (and beyond!) at knock down prices – so what are you waiting for – get out there and explore! ๐Ÿ™‚

So there you have it – my hits and tips to saving money – and the smartest way to stretch your money – that I know of!

Now that you’ve read my hints and tips – please let me know what yours are – I’m always interested in hearing new tips and trip to help to save for travel!

And if you liked this article, please pin and share it – I’d really appreciate it!

How Afford Travel

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ย  MakeTimeToSeeTheWorld

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**Please note that I am not a financial advisor and any advice offered here is general and not tailored to your particular situation. Please ensure you can afford any credit card debt you take on before it is incurred** Afford Travel

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108 thoughts on “How I Afford To Travel.. And How To Stretch Your Money So You Can Too!

  1. Stefan says:

    Some very clever and interesting tips – pinned to our favourite travel tips board. Then of course once you’re on the road, the best way to make your money go further is to travel slowly, moving slowly from each destination – you not only spend less, but you experience it much better then just passing through.

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    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Stefan and you’re so right that it is actually cheaper to travel for longer – if only that pesky full time job didn’t get in the way so much!

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  2. Brooke of Passport Couture says:

    Budgeting so you save money but allow yourself a few fun expenses during the week can be tricky, but it gives you the freedom to take on bigger things you love, like travel. Cooking and drinking at home instead of going out can save tons of money and help you realize that you can enjoy the things you want to enjoy.
    Brooke of Passport Couture recently posted…May 2016 Book ListMy Profile

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  3. Anda says:

    Great advice, Vicki! Drinking alcohol beverages at the restaurants can almost double your bill. Besides, you pay so much more than when you drink at home. We eat at home 99% of the time, but when we travel we love to eat out. However, we choose more moderate restaurants. Great post!

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  4. Hugo Cura says:

    This is pretty much what I do. People usually think that one needs to be rich in order to travel. From my point of view, it’s only a matter of getting the priorities right.

    Working full time and with a generous time-off package is the perfect balance I look for when changing jobs. My current company is the ideal place for that. Also, don’t eat out much and rarely drink – this is a lot of money saved.

    Cheers!
    Hugo Cura recently posted…Valle de Viรฑales: a Cuban gemMy Profile

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  5. annette charlton says:

    Fantastic post! I totally agree that it is the choices we make, and the priorities we set, that differentiate people and the achieving of their goals. I too make choices all the time to afford travel and our holiday home in France. I wouldn’t change the sacrifices we make though for ANYTHING! Annette

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  6. Jim | ReflectionsEnroute says:

    I’ll still have a beer or glass of wine at a restaurant, but only one. It is so hard to justify the high cost! Another good thing to look for in a credit card is miles. I make the big purchases on a card that collects miles for a popular Star Alliance airline and have had several free trips over the years. #wkendtravelinspiration
    Jim | ReflectionsEnroute recently posted…Experiencing Eastern EuropeMy Profile

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    • Vicki says:

      I know how hard it is with the wine at dinner Jim – I actually had 4 glasses when we were out the other night – and it came to almost half the food bill ๐Ÿ™
      We’re also just getting started on credit cards with miles – we have had one set up for 2 years now – but we have just never spent the points! I’ve always found they take so long to accrue and with so many great/cheap airline options available I’m yet to decide if it is worth it!

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  7. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie says:

    Just goes to show when you prioritize what you want in life, you can make it happen. Spending on experiences is so much better than stuff. I love making my credit cards work for me, but I accumulate miles and points for award travel. Be careful with too many balance transfers. At least in the U.S., that can be seen as knock on your credit report.
    Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie recently posted…The Ultimate Beginnerโ€™s Guide to Travel Hacking: Getting StartedMy Profile

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    • Vicki says:

      That’s true here too Jackie – I only do these transfers every 2-3 years (about the frequency of my big trips!) – I’ll edit the post to reflect that, thanks for the reminder!

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  8. Sarah Twain says:

    I must agree with you about the food. I travel a lot and find that many get into the habit of always eating out and it ends up being the biggest expense they have! It’s an incredible way to save money!

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  9. Elena says:

    Some very interesting tips. I appreciated reading through all of them. Since we are perpetual travelers, some things are applicable in our situation too. I would add one more tip that is mostly for slow travelers(i.e. people who stay in one location for an extended period of time and, pardon for the cliche, live like locals): buy everything in small mom-and-pop shops. Local food is infinitely cheaper and a dress or pants sewn by locals would cost less than what you find in bigger stores in touristy areas of any city. BTW, Italian and Portuguese seamstresses are very creative, and I found amazing clothes there.
    Elena recently posted…Wombat, Koalas and Co.My Profile

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    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Elena, I agree with you that slow travel is definitely cheaper! It’s just not always an option for those who can only take a certain amount of time off. I do love having clothes made locally tho and have managed it in a few spots!

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    • Vicki says:

      So true Jen! We live a fair way of out the city so we don’t drive if we are going out – and we won’t pay the $90 cab ride home! We always get the train – which saves a few $$ too ๐Ÿ™‚

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  10. Lotte says:

    I love this post because I can relate to pretty much everything you wrote down;-). I also work a fulltime job and try to discover as much of the world as I can at the same time. It can be challenging to balance but having a stable income does definitely help pay the bills and pay for great trips. I try to minimize drinking at bars too because the prices are crazy, particularly in Amsterdam where I work. Love the post, thanks for sharing it!
    Lotte recently posted…Tried And Tested: The Lowa Lady Light GTXMy Profile

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  11. eileen g says:

    One of the best things you can do is to find a credit card with a partnership to an airline you like and then rack up miles for all your spending, not just your flying. Put everything you charge on that one card and pay it off promptly each month (you can forfeit points if you carry a balance). It’s amazing how quickly you can rack points, plus you get the benefits of being in their airlines Frequent Flyer club as well, such as no luggage fees, access to the lounge, etc.
    eileen g recently posted…Yes! You Can Visit FallingWater With KidsMy Profile

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    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Eileen – we actually have our credit cards linked to a Qantas Frequent Flyer account and yes the points mount up, but in 2 years we haven’t used them! We prefer just get the cheapest flights with airlines with trust rather than being tied to the one airline which may not offer the best flight times/destinations.

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  12. Nancie Lee says:

    Great tips Vicki! I’m still a work in progress on the budgeting thing. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I prefer to pay as much of a trip off before I go also. I haven’t used the 0 interest card method, but know about it. I definitely try and avoid interest wherever possible. I’m going to check out SkyScanner for future trips. Thanks for that tip. I’m looking to increase my travel in the next couple years, so I appreciate your insights!

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  13. Christopher says:

    Great post Vicki.
    It’s funny how each of us travellers have our little ways of saving and spending money in order to finance our trips. These are very great tips. No matter how hard I try I always mess up my credit cards….

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    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Sara – and it’s definitely all about balance for me. Or that could be greed also – wanting the best of both the ‘real’ world and the ‘travel’ world! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  14. Mar Pages says:

    These are relevant tips even for people who don’t use the extra cash to travel. Great that you included the part on credit cards, I know many who get sucked in by them and land in heavy debt. Your clear explanation is really useful!

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    • Vicki says:

      Thank you Mar – I was really hesitant about putting it in the post – but the balance transfers are really great if you use the correctly – so I’m really pleased to hear you found my explanation helpful ๐Ÿ™‚

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  15. Kat says:

    Wow some really amazing tips for travel here! I don’t really have any top tips as such, it’s just we choose to have two lovely holidays every year rather than moving into a nicer area! We love to cruise as well which I think is great value for money and gets you seeing lots of places in one hit. #mondayescapes

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  16. Ava @ My Meena Life says:

    Drinking and eating at home are simple ways to save money that I think a lot of people don’t take seriously enough when they want to travel more (me included!). Good tips here, although I don’t know if I would be disciplined enough to handle the credit card idea, but I definitely use my card rewards to travel more.

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    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Ava – I agree eating in and less alcohol can save so much money! And the credit card is a awesome trick if your disciplined, which can be hard! -but its great that you are using rewards and miles to travel!

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  17. mark wyld says:

    We also have similar methods Vicki both my wife and i have a weekly allowance after bills and food and that what we live off. I always layby stuff i want that way it comes out of my allowance, if we want to go away for a weekend i start putting money aside weeks in advance. We know people who assume we borrow money to go on holiday you should see the looks on their faces when i tell them we saved 20 grand cash

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    • Vicki says:

      Awesome Mark – the figures sound incredible – but it is totally do-able! We’ve saved that 20k too for our upcoming trip – and once you get into these kind of habits you just see the money mounting up!

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  18. Winederlust says:

    This is a fantastic, very well thought out article. I can relate to pretty much everything you’ve said, and I too work full time in order to maximize my travel experience. These are all fantastic tips, especially for those of us who enjoy drinking (hint, hint, the name of my blog). Buying wine in bulk or through clubs you trust and enjoy can save you thousands over time. I especially liked point number three, by giving yourself an allowance. This essentially boils down to the “pay yourself first” philosophy, and has helped me achieve my travel dreams. Also, all good notes on credit cards. I talk about travel hacking frequently on my blog, and it’s especially refreshing to see someone discuss the often overlooked power of a balance transfer card. Really nice write up Vicki!

    Greig
    Winederlust recently posted…Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier 2014 ReviewMy Profile

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  19. melody pittman says:

    Very good suggestions. I like the drinking at home, it is crazy how much drinks add up to in hotels and bars and such. I like following a budget for how much I can spend on food and incidentals while out or even just at home. Saves a lot that way. I am even that way with sodas and bottled water., drinking tap as often as possible. I need to get more savvy with the credit cards and reward programs.
    melody pittman recently posted…San Luis Obispo- A California TreasureMy Profile

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    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Melody! I also don’t like to buy water in Western countries – and try to always drink tap – but some places in the world it’s just not possible ๐Ÿ™

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  20. Yvonne says:

    I am definitely bookmarking this article. At the moment I am a digital nomad so I usually earn while I travel. But the thing is that all the other things, I just don’t do them. I eat out here in Sao Paulo all the time because my kitchen is so small and horrible and I tend to splurge when I want to [which includes when I go out with my friends.] I still get to travel but I think that I really need to start being a little more smart about my money. Thanks for the great article.

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  21. Vicky and Buddy says:

    Eating out is a big thing for me. Not because I really like it, but because I hate cooking for just one person. So I end up just grabbing something on my way home from work. I need to get better about it though because I know I could save a lot by eating at home.

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    • Vicki says:

      Hi Vicky – Its hard to get motivated to cook for one – so I tend to cook up a whole heap of things and freeze them – then I always have back ups for when I really can’t be bothered cooking!

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  22. Issa says:

    All good points, Vicki!
    So far, I’ve been trying the tricks “CB” and “MMM”. You hit both on this post.

    P.S. CB means “Cut Back” and MMM stands for “Make More Money”. I’m sure you’ve heard of it from Confessions of a Shopaholic. ๐Ÿ˜€

    You’ve got a wonderful blog! Hope to see you on the road!

    Cheers,
    Issa

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  23. Nisha Jha says:

    A cool set of tips to make your money go farther. Just shows how proper planning can do the trick. In India balance transfer is almost always at a fee and not worth t. I just have 2 credit cards with due dates wit staggered due dates. And of course, once in a while the banks will give you one-time extra credit limit if you ask for it.

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  24. Ashley Hubbard says:

    Excellent suggestions – some of which I actually hadn’t heard of before. Drinking at home only is a great tip – drinking out is so ridiculously expensive. I think I’ve finally gotten my boyfriend to understand this haha. We started using a delivery meal service – partly to save money, partly because I’m a new Vegan and its easier than having to plan out all my meals or try to eat out and partly because we’re so busy. Only $80 a week and we get 10 meals out of (each!) – has seriously reduced the amount of money we spend eating out.
    Ashley Hubbard recently posted…Meet the Gypsies | Erika of Erika’s Travels @erikastravelsMy Profile

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    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Ashley – and that’s great you’ve got a meal service that is working for you (and sounds super healthy too!) And imagine the extra time you will have now when not cooking/going out to eat ๐Ÿ™‚

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  25. Dean says:

    Pauline and I also follow the same type of plan (and get the same assumptions from our friends as many of those above about borrowing or being rich).
    I am too undisciplined to actually create a budget and stick to it, I tend to then try to come up with ways to bend the rules. Instead I find it easier to think seriously about the need to spend on a case by case basis and never buy on the spur of the moment.
    My daughter just finished High School and saved $5000 from working part time while studying. She is now traveling for 3 months with no financial help from us. So anyone can do it!

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  26. revolvingcompass says:

    very useful tips indeed Vicki. We are like you in the sense that we have full time jobs and we love to travel, we love to meticulously plan out our journey and get done with the bookings in advance. We follow some of things that you mentioned like booking in one shot on cc and paying off before interest period, searching for a good deal etc. Many a times, we try to cut off the middle men while booking our stay. We directly shoot mails to hotels and homestay and get a better deal most of the time than booking through agencies. Learnt some more of the tips from here..

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