How I Saved Over $20,000 For Travel

Find out exactly how to save money for travel as a student. I share the 5 tricks I used to save over $20,000 for travel while I was studying full-time.

In the last few years I’ve been on some amazing holidays.

I lived in Montreal for 4 months (which included a lot weekend adventures and a month of travelling after). I backpacked around Europe twice. I travelled to Vietnam, Singapore and Fiji and I’ve also been on a lot of weekend trips around Australia (in the last year I’ve been on 3 weekend trips to north Queensland and my first ever trip to Melbourne).

And while all this travelling has been incredible, it means I’m also pretty familiar with how to save money for travel. 

I saved over $20,000 for my trip to Montreal (which took about 18 months of hard work and was totally worth it). Each trip to Europe cost me just a bit less than $10,000. Weekend trips around Australia aren’t as expensive (thank god) but are still at least a few hundred dollars.

And I was able to save money for travel all of that while living out of home, studying full-time and working either part or full-time hours (depending how desperate I was for cash).

In a month I leave for another big adventure – 10 weeks exploring Peru, Europe and New York City! Being on a graduate accountant’s salary with no annual leave to use, I really had to get on top of my saving situation to make this trip happen – and I did.

So, since I’ve been saving pretty much this whole year, I thought now would be the perfect time to share how I’ve done it.

Before I get started…

But before I get to my tricks to save money for travel I just want to say a couple of things.

Firstly, don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that you should wait until you earn more money before you start travelling. It’s so easy to think that earning more will make it easier to save more (I’ve fallen into this trap way too many times).

Sometimes it can feel really nice to live in this little fantasy land, thinking that we’ll magically have completely different habits in the future to the ones we have now without actually having to change anything. I’m definitely not saying we can’t change our habits, but if we don’t actually do anything to change them then we’ll have the same habits in the future as we do now. I know that sounds obvious, but all this ‘new year new you’ crap can really make it easy to think that things are just going to change.

We all think that we’ll save more when we earn more, but most of us will just spend more unless we actually make an effort to do otherwise.

So I just want to remind you that you don’t need to wait until you earn more money, you just need to start saving some of the money you’re earning now.

And another thing – saving money is as simple or as complicated as you make it.

We all know ‘how’ to save money – we just have to spend less than we earn.  The thing that makes it complicated is what goes on in our minds.

This means that saving really has a lot to do with managing the way we feel and the beliefs we have around money. Whether we believe we have to buy everything on sale. Whether we believe we can’t resist a bargain. Whether we believe we need that mascara our favourite Youtuber wears. Whether we believe we’re bad at saving money.

All of the things I’ve just listed are beliefs, not facts, and they can be changed. I think it’s important to recognise that (for almost all of us) it’s our beliefs, not our income, that stands in the way of travelling.

So on that note, let’s get into the tricks I used to save money for travel!

Update: Since publishing this blog post, I’ve filmed a Youtube video where I go into everything in a bit more detail and give some extra advice as well. Make sure you check it out!

1. I set up automatic savings

Setting up an automatic transfer to my savings account has probably been the best thing I’ve done when it comes to saving money for travel.

I’ve tried to save what’s ‘left over’ at the end of the week SO many times and there’s always nothing left – saving money for travel only works when I make it a priority.

So I set up a bank account that was purely for my travel savings and absolutely nothing else. 

I set up this account with another bank so that it was completely separate to my everyday money and wouldn’t tempt me when doing my online banking. The account I created didn’t have any kind of card attached to it so I couldn’t dip into it directly (and it takes at least one business day to transfer money to my usual bank account so I couldn’t impulse buy that way either).

Then I set up an automatic money transfer (using online banking) to send money out of my main account and into my travel savings account on the day I got paid.

I picked a set amount of money that would get saved out of every pay. At the moment I’m saving $800 from every pay for my upcoming trip (which is over half of what I earn). But I didn’t start by saving this much.

At first I just started with what I knew I could save – maybe $100. Then I start looking at whether I can change a few things here and there to save a bit more and put the auto-transfer amount up a little bit. And then a bit more and a bit more. I slowly got used to living with less and, if I found that when I repeatedly made the decision not to dip into my savings, my spending habits began to change (because it felt like I was earning less than I actually was).

But none of this works without deciding that this money is for travel, not that you ‘hope you won’t dip into your savings to go shopping’. Decide that you’re going to do this no matter what. Decide that you can.

All of the above is easy to set up – just make sure you don’t get caught up too much in researching different bank accounts (which can be used as an excuse to procrastinate on this for months).

Just spend one hour looking up some stuff and then fill out the online forms to get something set up. I just asked a few of my friends if they knew of any good high interest savings accounts and a few of them mentioned the same thing, so I went with that. (In the grand scheme of things, losing 1% interest on your savings isn’t as bad as never saving at all because you couldn’t decide which account to open).

This tip is really all about setting yourself up for success. Do things that will make it easier for you to save money for travel.

2. I didn’t give up shopping

In articles about saving money there’s almost always talk of all the sacrifices we’ll need to make, and I believe that’s one of the reasons we really struggle to save money for travel.

While pinpointing some things that we can ‘give up’ in order to save a little extra cash might be helpful when we’re thinking about the formulaic side of saving (spend less than you earn), it often isn’t that helpful when it comes to the mental/emotional side of saving money. As I mentioned before, we all know ‘how’ to save – it’s what goes on in our brains that is the difference between it being easy to save and it being impossible to save money for travel.

So when I’ve been saving money, I haven’t told myself that I’m not going to go shopping. I haven’t told myself that I’m ‘bad’ if I do. I haven’t made myself feel guilty for it (most of the time – I’m not perfect).

Of course, if you’re a big shopper then you’re probably going to have to reign in the amount of things you’re buying. But if you’re a big shopper there’s also a high chance that you’re buying a lot of things that you don’t really love.

If you can’t even remember what you’ve bought in the last month or you’re already thinking about what you’re going to buy next before the thing you’ve just bought has even made it to your wardrobe, then you can probably afford to buy less stuff. And even with that, you can still buy the things you love.

Don’t give up shopping, don’t create that sense of deprivation or lack.

Give yourself to permission to go shopping and buy things that you love. But just have a look at your spending habits – get curious.

Question whether you’re spending all that money on things that you really love and things that are adding value to your life. Or whether you’re just buying those things because you’re scrolling through instagram and you feel all this not-enoughness and that you would be happier (like the girl in the photo must be) if you just had nicer clothes. But the things you buy don’t make you feel the way you want to feel, so you buy more things.

I’m definitely not any kind of expert with any of this stuff (I’m just sharing what I’ve learned), but in my experience giving up shopping is not the way to go.

I think a good way to approach it is to figure out why you’re buying all of these things in the first place and then getting into the habit of only buying the things that you LOVE. I’ve written a few posts about that kind of stuff already on the blog, so if shopping is something that trips you up then have a read of these:

3. I used social media to my advantage

This one follows on from what I talked about above – not giving up shopping.

So saving money means spending less than we earn. We know that. And we really want to travel and have all of these amazing experiences.

But then we feel like going shopping and buying everything we even remotely like (even though we know we’ll probably be over it and thinking about the next purchase by the time we get home/it arrives in the mail).

I’ve found that trying to save money for travel while following all my favourite brands on insta and getting all their enticing emails makes me feel like I’m on a horrible diet.

It makes me feel like I’m on this diet but for some sick reason I’ve decided to fill my fridge with all of my favourite junk foods and I’m telling myself I can’t eat any of it. I’m relying on ‘will power’ not to have any but then I always crack – how am I meant to resist?!

When I’ve decided that I’m going to go travelling (which means I’ll need to save some serious money), I’ve found that having constant reminders of all the things I ‘can’t’ buy isn’t really helpful.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m definitely not saying we can’t buy anything when we’re saving money, but seeing reminders all the time about sales (which makes us feel like we’re going to miss out unless we buy that new bikini right now) means that we’re probably going to be wasting our travel money on things we don’t even really want.

So when I’m saving money for travel, I make the decision to reduce the number of fashion accounts I follow (and interior design accounts too). I don’t cull them all at once, but I just try to take a lot of them out of my feed (especially the ones that make me immediately want to buy things).

Unfollowing or unsubscribing can really make it feel like we’re going to miss out. But trust me, that feeling soon wears away (after a couple of weeks of staying strong) and you really get used to not having a constant stream of things you ‘want’ always in your face.

If I feel like looking at my online shops, I can search for them – no problem. But having their sales constantly in my face wasn’t helping. And I’ve found that when I don’t have their sales constantly in my place, I don’t remember to look them up nearly as often.

But we all know that the best way to change a habit is to replace it, so I subscribe to heaps of travel accounts and anything that will keep me really excited about what I’m saving for. Some of my favourites are @worldwanderlust, @muradosmann, @emmalucey, @theblondeabroad, @parisinfourmonths and @endlesslyexploring.

Please let me know in the comments below what your favourite travel insta accounts are!

4. I committed 

I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to stick to my saving goals once I’ve actually committed 100% to going on the trip.

One thing I really don’t want to happen when I’m travelling is not having enough money to do all of the amazing things there are to do. I hate the idea of having worked so hard to save enough money for a plane ticket (which is not cheap if you live in Australia and you’re trying to get anywhere other than New Zealand) but having to skimp on things when I’m overseas.

But I’ve found that if I book something (anything) for my trip as soon as I possibly can, I have so much more motivation to get my ass into gear.

So book something for your trip as soon as you can. It doesn’t have to be the flight – just book something.

And tell people that you’re going travelling. It can really create the feeling that you have to actually follow through with it once you’re boasting to everyone about how amazing your trip is going to be.

5. I believed that I could save money for travel

This might be a bit woo-woo for some people, but believing that you’re good at saving money is going to make it a lot easier to do it.

If you think about it, it does make sense – if we’ve spent our whole lives telling ourselves that we’re ‘bad’ at saving, then of course it’s going to be a struggle.

But believing that we’re bad with money doesn’t mean we’re actually bad with money. We only believe it because we’ve focused on all those times that we haven’t done what we ‘wanted’ to do with money and we’ve made them mean something about ourselves. We’ve focused on those times that people have made comments about how ‘bad’ we are with money (or how we couldn’t live without shopping) and believed them to be true.

And we’ve written off all the times we’ve been good with money as a fluke or ‘out of character’. We’ve dismissed it whenever someone has commented about how good we are with money.

But we can start to create the belief that you are good with money (which may seem impossible if you’ve believed the opposite your whole life, but trust me on this one).

In my experience, the easiest way to start cultivating this belief is to look for evidence of it.

Were going to find what you’re looking for, whether it’s evidence that we’re good with money or evidence that we’re bad with it.

Think about all the times that you’ve been able to save money. Have you gone for a big holiday before? That probably means you’ve saved money to do it – that’s evidence that you’re good at saving. Have you bought a gift for someone? Have you saved up for an expensive bag that you’d love?

Have you saved money to pay off your credit card bill? Even that can be evidence that you’re good at saving money.

Saving money for travel is as simple or complicated as you make it, so why not start to create the beliefs that’s going to make it easier?

Saving doesn’t have to be hard

When it comes down to it, this whole post is really just about setting things up to work in your favour.

So often we’re told that saving money is ‘hard’ and so we make it hard (subconsciously of course). We complicate it. We overthink it. But it really doesn’t have to be, just start to set things up that are going to make it easier for you.

Pick one of the things I’ve listed above and decide to actually start doing it.

It’s so easy to read dozens of blog posts about things you want to do, but at some point you actually need to start putting them into action if you want to see any results. I’m definitely guilty of taking ‘passive action’ (thinking that learning about something is the same as applying it, when really it’s not even close) and if you find that you are too then take this opportunity to start applying what you read.

Just pick one thing on this list. Just one. And start doing it today, right now. Put something in motion.

What about you?

Do you struggle to save money for travel? Or do you have any tips you can share? I’d love to chat to you in the comments below!

Sam xx

Find out how to save money in your twenties. Use these tips to save money for travel, no budget necessary!
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Tips to save money without using a budget! Practical life advice for twenty-somethings who want to travel the world and stop stressing about money.
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  • kate_quinn_1

    Great read Sam! The earlier you start changing your spending behavior to save, the better! It’s all about planning and knowing what you want and setting those goals. For example, I had a pretty good feeling I was going to get engaged this year (I did!) and I spent all of last year saving as MUCH as possible for the wedding and travel – and now I am fully prepared. I use mint.com religiously, you can read how I do it here if it helps! http://www.athingortwoblog.com/home/2015/6/9/save-money-using-mint

    Katie
    athingortwoblog.com

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Hey Katie

      Sounds like you’re great when it comes to planning and setting goals! I’m sure your hard work will definitely make being engaged/getting married more enjoyable now that you don’t have to be stressing about cash!

      Sam xx

  • http://gymbagsandjetlags.com Pia S

    These are all such great tips! You make a lot of great points. I love the idea of automatic transfer and letting yourself still shop. You’re the money guru I need in my life <3
    xx, Pia

    http://gymbagsandjetlags.com

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Hey Pia!

      Automatic transfer really is the secret for me haha just the same way that you can quickly adjust to having a much bigger income (and inflating your spending) you can also adjust quite quickly to a smaller one! After a couple of months of automatic transfers you forget that you even had that much disposable income and there are lots of ways to do it without it really affecting how you live.

      Thanks (as always) for your lovely comment!

      Sam xx

  • http://www.candlejunkies.com Trish Stone @ Candle Junkies

    These are some very good tips Sam, thanks for putting this together! I also found setting up automatic deposits to a savings account to be the biggest help for me. I would often have a nice little surprise when I would finally get around to checking out my savings and it doesn’t even feel like that money was missing in the first place!

    Trish
    http://www.candlejunkies.com

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Hey Trish :)

      Thanks so much for your comment! I totally agree that automatic deposits are the easiest way to save money and after a few transfers it really doesn’t feel like there’s any money missing! I think it’s so easy to inflate our spending once we start earning more, and auto-transferring it to a savings account is a really good way to save without sacrificing your quality of life! Glad to know you’ve had a similar experience :)

      Sam xx

  • missgetaway

    That’s an amazing post Sam! And you’re so right. I’ve been saving about 1/3 of my income for the past couple of years and it immensly helped me. While all my other friends went out and spent their money on fashion and drinks I decided to invest in traveling instead and it has been the best decision ever!

    Love, Kerstin
    http://www.missgetaway.com

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Hey Kerstin

      Thanks so much :) I love the way you put it – travel is an investment. I think that that’s often overlooked because the thing you gain isn’t really tangible, but I think that anyone who has travelled would say that it’s definitely worth the money and that it is really an investment. Thanks for your comment!

      Sam xx

  • http://notesfromjoana.blogspot.com/ Joana

    Such a great post Sam! It’s so important to start saving money early in life and creating that habit so that we can support to do/buy things we enjoy, specially traveling. I totally agree with all your tips! I also like to sell clothes/accessories online I don’t wear anymore to make some extra money, I’m actually going to do that this week :) x

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Thanks so much Joana! I definitely agree that it’s important to get into good habits now so that we can take advantage of being young and energetic and healthy!

      And that’s a really good tip as well with selling things online – do you use ebay to do it?

      Sam xx

      • http://notesfromjoana.blogspot.com/ Joana

        No, I don’t use ebay, just because it’s not that popular here. I use Olx, it’s similar to ebay but more used to sell old clothes and things like that in my country :) x

      • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

        Oh that’s awesome! I would love to find a good alternative to selling clothes on eBay in Australia – I don’t do eBay because it’s too much admin! Haha xx

  • http://chocolaterecoveryandcoffee.wordpress.com Heidi

    Hi Sam! I loved this post! I love travelling but it sure can be expensive! These saving tips are great and I am really doing my best to save up so I can travel more. I already went to Barcelona this year and I am going to Amsterdam in December. However, I do think it’s hard to save money when I am a student and I don’t have a very big income. Honestly, my income is just enough to pay rent and food but I am trying to save every penny I possible can! Loved your tips and I will definitely use them!
    What do you actually do? Besides blogging? :)

    http://www.thesparklingdarling.com

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Hey Heidi!

      So glad you loved the post! It can be difficult when you don’t have much disposable income to save but I think just setting some things up (like an auto transfer, even if it’s for $20) can really help to get you in good habits so that once you are earning more you don’t just spend all the extra money you’re earning on stuff you don’t really want!

      I’m a graduate accountant :) (maybe I should update my ‘about me’ page haha but I find it so hard to summarise myself in one page!)

      Sam xx

  • https://www.wonkylauren.com Lauren

    Love this post! I’ve pinned it, thank you x

    http://www.wonkylauren.com

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Thanks so much for sharing this post Lauren :)

      Sam xx

  • http://currentlylovingsimplicity.wordpress.com Currentlylovingsimplicity

    Automatic transfer is the best decision I have ever made. Takes about five minutes and the benefits are through the roof!
    http://currentlylovingsimplicity.wordpress.com/

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      It is SO good and it’s so quick to set up! Definitely my number one tip :)

      Sam xx

  • http://www.lifeloveandbe.com/ Megan

    I absolutely loved this post! I am going to Europe this summer and cannot wait to try these tips. I love the tip about letting yourself buy what you love. I also need to setup automatic transfer!

    Have a wonderful Tuesday // http://www.lifeloveandbe.com

    • Sam Brown

      Hey Megan!

      Thanks so much for your comment! I’d love to hear how you go with saving for your Europe trip – it sounds amazing! Setting up an auto transfer is definitely a great place to start. And one thing at a time – you’re probably like me where you want to change everything all at once so it can be perfect asap, but I think a slower approach is the way to go and the way to make these new spending habits stick!

      Sam xx

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Hey Megan :)

      I’d love to hear how you go with your saving! And I think it’s also great to keep in mind that what works for me might not necessarily work for you – give it a go but if it’s not working/doesn’t feel right then don’t persist with it or create your own take on it.

      Sam xx

  • http://stylebitsandbobsofme.wordpress.com/ Style Bits & Bobs of ME

    I want to plan a trip next year or for my birthday. I will keep these tips in mind. Automatic transfer and letting yourself shop are great tips. It seems like shopping would be a bad thing, but it’s cool how that can actually help. I know a few years back when I turned 24 I decided to be more cautious about shopping, especially finding pieces I actually like and can wear multiple ways. I find that I don’t just shop anymore just because.

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Hey!

      Yeah shopping definitely doesn’t have to be ‘bad’, I think it’s only bad when we do it in excess (which we don’t even enjoy doing anyway because it always leads to regret and guilt). I’m still not perfect when it comes to only buying things I absolutely love but I’m getting a lot better at being honest with myself about whether I actually do love something (or I’m just trying to fit in with everyone else) and I’m getting good at returning things when I don’t.

      Sam xx

  • https://www.vivienekok.blogspot.com Viviene Kok

    I am actually pretty good at saving for travelling. Agree on all of your ideas especailly the social media part. Sometimes seeing something new give us the itch or misperception that we need them in our lifes. In actual fact we don’t. Whenever I have the urge to make a sneaky purchase, I’ll tell myself that it is wiser to spend money on experiences than material items. So ka-ching there goes my money back into my bank account :)

    RLN

    Real Life Nerd // http://www.vivienekok.blogspot.com

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Hey Viviene!

      Yes the social media part is so important! At one point I was trying to save but was still subscribed to/following so many accounts that were pretty much just telling me about sales or had quotes about why you should ‘just buy the shoes’ etc and it was just like torturing myself haha but once I stopped following those accounts and unsubscribed to emails it was so much easier to save and I really didn’t feel like I was missing out.

      And you’re totally right – money is definitely way better spent on experiences than on unnecessary material items!

      Sam xx

  • Tiffany Jones

    I want to travel but I’m not even 100% sure where. I love that you’ve trolled the planet. That’s amazing! I’ve traveled but it was mostly when I was younger. I have been saving but with no real reason. I do the automatic transfer and the money built up pretty quickly. I was surprised when I finally looked in the account and the high interest didn’t hurt either. You’ve totally inspired me to put more away at a time. I hardly miss the money that’s being saved now. What’s a few more dollars? Thanks again for the great advice!

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Hey Tiffany :)

      That’s so good that you don’t even know where you want to travel but you’re doing the automatic transfer thing anyway. I found that once I’d already started it was fairly easy to gradually increase the amount I was putting aside – you start to get used to living off less and barely even notice the extra money is gone (until you look into your savings account and actually have something to show for all your hard work).

      Sam xx

  • http://www.so--hi.blogspot.com rach.

    great tips! literally, i love all of the thought you put into all of this. definitely going to have to bookmark this post so i can save as much as possible! love it!

    and love the blog btw! if you get the chance i would really love it if you could take the time to check out mine and let me know what you think! (or maybe even follow? no pressure though!)

    have a great week, girl!

    love, rach.

    So, hi.

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Hey Rach

      Thanks so much for your comment! I’d love to hear how you go with using it to save some money for travelling

      Sam xx

      P.S. I’ve checked out your blog – it looks great :)

  • http://memoriesofthepacific.blogspot.com.es/ Cristina Gomez

    Great tips, Sam! I’ve always been a really “organized spender”. I like to keep track of all the money that leaves my wallet. I also set money aside for different things like a trip or giving myself a treat. However I’ve never saved such a big amount of money for travelling.

    http://memoriesofthepacific.blogspot.com.es/

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Hi Cristina

      Thanks so much! I think it’s so important to put money aside for ‘treats’ and things that give us the feeling that we’re not missing out on anything – it sounds like you already know everything you need to to save some serious money for travelling!

      Sam xx

  • Astrid

    Hey Sam!

    I have to say, I am quite impressed with how much money you were able to save! Honestly, being the basic student I am, I tend to lean on my parents when it comes to funding my overseas studying/travelling. I do feel like I could do more to be financially independant, I just did not know where to start… Your post gave me such a wake up call (I can’t depend on my parent’s money forever) and a boost to get started! Thank you so much for this!

    I do hope you will have the amazing trips you deserve (and maybe post some photos on this blog?)!

    I wish you all the best,

    Astrid

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Hey Astrid

      Thanks so much :) I know what it’s like to have that feeling of dependence and I think it can be hard to learn to depend on ourselves, if not only because we’re in the habit of asking for money instead of creating it for ourselves (especially when you’re a student it can feel like you don’t have the resources to make that money for yourself). I think the best way to start looking after yourself is to make small changes in the right direction :) maybe start with doing setting up the automatic transfer to a savings account.

      I’ve just put up a post about my trip to Peru (with some photos too!)

      Sam xx

  • Carly Setzer

    DEFINITELY going to utilize this!! Travel is #1 on my bucket list.

    http://smoresandpolaroids.blogspot.com

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Happy to hear that Carly!

      Sam xx

  • https://livinglifefullyalive.wordpress.com/ Ida

    Really nice and helpful post!

    https://livinglifefullyalive.wordpress.com/

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Thanks so much Ida!

      Sam xx

  • http://www.myfruitykitchen.com Kerry-Ann McIntyre

    Great post! Thank you! I’m struggling to save for a house deposit so this is so helpful. Thanks! 😊😊

    Kerry
    http://Www.myfruitykitchen.com

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      Awesome Kerry-Ann! I’m so glad to hear that this will help you :) All the best!

      Sam xx

  • http://atinybitbeautiful.com Martine Skaret

    This was really helpful, thank you x

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Sam Brown

      So glad to hear it Martine!

      Sam xx

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  • Marina Haycroft

    I am in love with your blog. Feels like you are on a mission from some higher divine place to always deliver the perfect message at the most perfect time specifically for me tehe … xoxoxoxo