In 2018 I was privileged enough to visit 12 different countries, where I had so many unique and wonderful experiences. In addition to these trips I managed to save over 10,000€ (16,000 AUD) for future travels– more than 30% of my net pay. Below I share 10 changes I’ve made over the last two years that enabled me to save so much whilst also not compromising on my short term travel.
Before jumping into these tips I want to emphasise that everyone’s lifestyle, income and situations are different. I have no dependents or debt that I’m required to pay back, so I am very free to divert my money to travel and savings and make drastic changes to my budget and lifestyle. I also did not implement all these changes at once. Instead, I focused on one habit every few months and over time they have added up to make a big difference.
10 things I do to save travel money
1. Track spending and set a budget
Before you can make radical changes to your travel savings, it’s important to see where you are spending your money. If you’re anything like me you’ll be shocked at how much you actually spend in certain areas. It took me a few months to figure out the best system of tracking my spending. I now keep a google sheet that I can access from my phone or laptop, which I update weekly with everything I’ve spent that week. I go through my bank app and list all my expenses under certain categories. This works for me in Finland because I rarely use cash- instead I use my debit card for all purchases. When I travel, I often use cash, so I write my expenses in a notebook each day.
After tracking my spending for a few months I was able to identify areas where I was spending a lot and areas where I thought I could cut down my spending. I then planned a monthly budget based on this, with a certain amount dedicated to food, rent, entertainment, sport etc. Each week when I tally my expenses I check in on my budget to make sure I’m on track for the month. There are a bunch of apps available that can help you budget and track expenses, or you can come up with your own system as I did.
2. Choose Second Hand
Making switches for material possessions (clothes, books, household items) from new to second-hand will not only save you a ridiculous amount of money but also helps save the planet. You can save even more money by making your own beauty products like deodorant, moisturizer and even mascara.
3. Go on a spending ban for a month
Once you’ve transitioned from buying new to buying second hand the next step is to stop buying things all together. I started with a one month “spending ban” which I found easier to approach mentally. Likely this mindset and habit will trickle down to other months. Cait Flanders book The Year of Less provides some great inspiration.
4. Cook more and eat out less
Eating out in Australia and Finland is extremely expensive and there’s a big mark up on alcohol in bars and restaurants. Cooking and sharing meals at home with family and friends not only saves me so much money but also makes me feel healthier and happier. You can find some of my favourite budget recipes here and how I spend 30€ per week on groceries whilst maintaining a healthy diet.
5. Cut paid subscriptions
Next I cut out monthly subscriptions like Netflix and Spotify. This can be inconvenient to start with but as I gradually replaced binge watching TV shows with more meaningful, free habits I became grateful for more than just the monetary savings. Four new habits that I formed once I stopped watching Netflix are:
Blinkist– Everyday I listen to a free 10-15 minute “blink” on this app- it’s basically an actionable summary of a popular non-fiction book.
Library Books– Helsinki has some beautiful libraries and I love that I can borrow a huge range of books for free and spend more time reading.
6. Increase your net pay
Below are three ways that I was able to increase my take-home pay. While they may not be practical for everyone, you might get some ideas on how you can increase your pay.
1. My last six months of work in Australia finished halfway through the financial year, so I received a hefty refund in my following tax return. In Finland, tax is calculated in a different way and the financial year aligns with the calendar year. This meant that during my first eight months I paid less tax than normal and in my final three months I paid no tax at all. This has been huge in allowing me to save. While this is not something you can readily control if you are not moving between countries, it definitely pays to be on top of your finances and check exactly what you owe to the tax department. If I had not manually adjusted my tax card several times I would not have received the money back in Finland for two years.
2. In Scandinavian and Nordic countries jobs often pay extra ‘holiday pay’ where you get a hefty bonus during annual leave. You also get 5-7 weeks of annual leave a year. Again, not something you can readily change in the short term but when it comes to long term decisions and switches it’s worth keeping in mind when applying for new jobs and negotiating salaries.
3. One thing that you can do in the short term is ask for a raise. This page from Forbes provides tips from eight managers on how you can put a case forward to your boss to demonstrate why you are worth an increase in salary.
7. Move to a cheaper apartment
This is obviously not an option for everyone but if your lease expires or you’re on a month to month contract then look for something cheaper. Five months ago I moved apartments and chose a place with 150€ cheaper monthly rent. As the apartment also includes all furniture and utilities I actually save over 200€ a month. Furthermore, the move has allowed me to save money on transport because I can now easily walk to work.
This apartment was initially a considerable sacrifice for me, as I now have three housemates and ideally I wanted a place on my own. However, it’s been an amazing exercise in compromise and shared living and the rent alone is 300€ a month less than what I would have paid if I’d moved into a studio apartment.
8. Take Public Transport Instead of Driving, Walk Instead of Public Transport
This depends where you live- rural areas vs cities and what the public transport network is like in your country. When I moved to Finland I sold my car and did not purchase a new one. Not only did this save in the actual cost of the car but also saved me thousands in insurance, maintenance, registration and petrol.
While public transport is very affordable in Helsinki (55€ a month for unlimited use of trains, metro, trams and buses in the CBD), when I moved to my new place I opted to save this money and walk the vast majority of the time. I am obsessed with walking wherever and whenever I can- it feels good to be moving, I notice more around me and it’s a great time to think and practice mindfulness.
If you can’t walk or use public transport then perhaps car pooling would be the best option.
9. Use free WiFi only on your phone
Since returning from a recent overseas trip where I got into the habit of using only free WiFi, I now predominantly only use my phone with WiFi at home and work. This is possible because I rarely use my phone for calls or text messages, instead I use WhatsApp and Facebook messenger to keep in contact with people. I save 30€ a month this way and as I’m not on my phone as much I feel more present in the moment.
10. Sell unwanted items
Selling things you no longer need is a great way to make a little extra cash, maintain minimalism and help the environment. I sell items on Gumtree when in Australia and on Facebook’s marketplace and specific neighborhood Facebook groups in Helsinki. Thrift markets are also a great place to sell your clothes.
I use the cash I make from selling unwanted clothes, furniture and plants as spending money for treats like weekend brunches with friends.