Travelling is probably the most fun thing anyone can do. But saving for it? That’s the hard part! Unfortunately, without putting in the work to save money for travel, it’s unlikely you will be able to afford to go anywhere. We definitely wouldn’t be where we are today if we hadn’t worked hard to become more savvy with our money. We went from being £45k in debt when we first met to saving over £100k by the time we left on our travels, and have learned some great ways to save huge amounts of money. I’m going to let you know the best ways to get your spending down and boost your income so that you can save for your dream trip.
Before we decided to travel, I had no control over my finances. I didn’t have a credit card, I was constantly overdrawn, and any money that did go into my savings account was withdrawn before my next paycheck. I would be very diligent with money for a week or so, then crack and spend too much one day. Then I would stick my head firmly in the sand and not look at my bank balance because I didn’t want to see the damage. I would stop tracking, keep overspending and make the problem even worse.
It was only once we had set a deadline for our round-the-world trip and we really needed to save that I realised something;
I had never learned how to manage my money!
It’s not that I just didn’t know how to save – I didn’t know anything about managing my finances, setting a budget, creating a savings plan, or any ways I could get my spending habits in check. I was trying to get to the final step; a healthy savings account – without doing any of the work that it took to get there.
I’m going to take you through the ten steps I used to go from constantly in debt, to having 100k in savings.
- Change Your Mindset
- Get On Top Of Your Finances
- Boost Your Income
- Reduce your bills
- Stop Paying Full Price
- Stop Paying Interest
- Use TopCashback
- Socialise at Home
- Bring a packed lunch
- Allow yourself treats
1. Change your mindset
I want you to start thinking of saving like dieting. Any successful personal trainer or dietitian will tell you that crash diets don’t work long term. Well, neither does ‘crash saving’. Trying to stash away as much money as possible each month by avoiding social occasions and living on beans & toast is not sustainable. This approach puts you under unnecessary pressure, which makes it harder to stick to your food or money diet. You will most likely crack under this pressure and binge – undoing lots of the good work you have accomplished.
Instead, look at saving like a lifestyle change. Make minor changes here and there that seem small, but add up to a nice healthy bank balance over time.
Every day, do money-management versions of ‘take the stairs instead of the lift’ .
- Stop buying your daily coffee and invest in a Keep Cup so that you can bring your hot drinks from home.
- Prepare delicious home-cooked lunches instead of eating out.
- Find a happy hour when you’re meeting friends for a drink, or stick to water or soft drinks.
- Find ‘meal deals’ or coupons for restaurants when meeting friends for dinner.
These little efforts don’t make much of a difference to your day, and allow you to remain social, but the impact adds up a lot over time.
Track Your Numbers
Weight loss is basically a numbers game – track your exercise expenditure and calorie intake to ensure you’re burning more calories than you consume. People who have successfully lost a lot of weight have often started by tracking what they eat every day. In the same way, people who save a lot of money start by tracking what they spend. This allows you to get to know your habits and helps you to identify where you can cut back. Spreadsheeting and tracking is a key part of saving money – I’ll explain how to do that in the next step.
For now, I just want you to switch up how you look at saving. Think of it as a number of small, incremental habit changes that will guide you to your ultimate goal. Just like losing weight, consistency is key to saving large sums of money!
Stay on track, and if you fall off the wagon don’t be consumed by guilt, just learn from your mistakes and jump right back on!
2. Get On Top Of Your Finances
They say a goal without a plan is just a dream, and that definitely applies to saving money. You can’t just pick a savings goal and hope you achieve it. You have to have a realistic goal, and a plan for how you’re going to get there.
Saving large amounts of money starts with breaking down your income and outgoings and figuring out how much you can realistically save each month. This ensures that you have a realistic goal to work towards, and accounts for living and enjoying your life – instead of being a slave to your budget.
I have always used spreadsheets to track my finances. I use Google Sheets so that I can share finances spreadsheets with my partner, and can update it on my phone when I’m out and about. I published my savings plan, which is available here, and it has helps so many people save for important purchases or just general financial security. You can purchase it here (it’s only €5.99, so it won’t break the bank).
How to use the StephMyLifeTravel Savings Plan
- Open my ‘StephMyLifeTravel Savings Plan‘ if you are saving solo, or the Couples Saving Plan if you are saving with a partner. Save a copy to your computer or to a Google Sheets account (I always recommend Google Sheets, see above).
- Open the ‘Monthly Income‘ tab (or tabs if you have the couples plan) and enter in your monthly income. Add in any additional streams of income either of you make.
- Open the ‘Monthly Fixed Expenses‘ tab and enter all monthly bills, subscriptions, direct debits & standing orders. I recommend going through your bank statements as you do this, to make sure you have everything accounted for. You may have subscriptions that you have completely forgotten about.
- Open the ‘Annual Fixed Expenses‘ tab, and enter in any large bills that are paid annually – or even irregularly. Often these expenses take us by surprise, wiping out any savings we have accrued – but not anymore! Now you’re going to put away a little money each month for these bills, so there are no surprises when they pop up.
- Next, open the ‘Monthly Budget‘ tab. This is when we’re going to start creating our budget with the money we have leftover after our fixed expenses are removed from our income! I have broken your monthly expenditure down into categories, and I want you to create a realistic monthly budget for each category. Feel free to add a category if you wish, the calculations in the rest of the sheet will reflect these changes.
- Once you have filled out these four tabs, open the ‘Monthly Savings‘ tab. This will show you the full breakdown of your income less your fixed and variable expenses – identifying how much you could potentially save per month. Your ‘Potential Savings Amount‘ (Cell B9) is the key figure you want to focus on as this shows you how much you can put away each month if you stick to your planned budget.
- Take a look at your ‘Potential Savings Amount‘ . Are you happy with this figure? If so, then your next steps are to work hard to stick to the budget you have set yourself in ‘Monthly Budget’. If you’re not happy, then follow the next two steps:
- Go through the ‘Monthly Fixed Expenses’ tab and reduce this total as low as you can. Cancel subscriptions you don’t need, and find cheaper alternatives for ones that you do need. I’ll show you how in Savings Tip #4.
- If your bills are reduced and you’re still not satisfied with your ‘Potential Savings Amount’, then you need to boost your income. There are many ways to earn extra money on the side. I explain how to do this in Savings Tip #5.
If you have entered your income and your fixed bills, then the tab you will spend most on is the ‘Monthly Budget‘ tab. This is where you will be tracking your spending every day / week / month. The first month is the most important for budgeting, as it will highlight bad spending habits and tell you if the budget you have set yourself is realistic and achievable. I have included a ‘Spending Test‘ section where you can enter your actual spend and compare it to your budgeted amount for the first few weeks. This allows you to see how realistic your budgeted goal was, and allow you to make adjustments if you had budgeted too much or too little.
Underneath the monthly budget, I have included a daily budget tracker in green which you can use to track your spending and make sure you’re sticking to the budget.
I recommend using the budgeting spreadsheet with Google Sheets on your work laptop, home laptop, and phone so that you can always have access to it and can keep on track with your finances on the go. If you are sharing with a partner, share this sheet with them so that you can both have live access to it.
3. Open a high interest savings account
Open a high interest savings account and let your money make you even more money. While you may not earn a lot in interest at the start if your savings journey, this will start adding up as your savings grow. There are so many options for savings accounts out there, so shop around for the best one in your country.
- MoneySavingExpert.com explains the best UK high interest savings accounts here.
- Best savings accounts in Ireland
- Here is a version for the USA
- And finally, for Australia
Many banks also offer savings accounts that reward you for not taking money out each month. When I lived in Australia, I had a Commonwealth Bank Goal Saver account which bumped my monthly interest rate from 0.1% to 0.89% if I deposited at least $200 per month and didn’t withdraw any money. This motivated me never to touch my savings, and we ended up saving over $80k in 10 months.
Another tip if you struggle with dipping into your savings is to separate your savings account from your day-to-day banking accounts. When we were saving, I opened an ISA account with an entirely new bank where I put my savings each month. If you’re not familiar with ISA accounts, you can read about them here and find the best one for you. I didn’t have a debit card for the savings account, and I didn’t download the app for the bank so I could only access it using my laptop.
For me, putting these barriers on accessing my savings was what helped me out of the cycle of dipping into them at the end of the month. Having my money with a different bank to my day-to-day bank account meant I couldn’t easily access it, and also that I almost forgot about it because I wasn’t seeing it every time I logged onto my online banking. I highly recommend doing this if you tend to dip into your savings.
4. Boost Your Income
Some people earn a sufficient amount to reach their saving goals, and the issue they have with saving is overspending each month. However, others will need to supplement their primary income in order to reach their savings goal. Here are some ways that you can earn extra money on the side:
– Teach English Online
You don’t need to have an ESL qualification like TEFL to earn up to $25 an hour to teach English online. Companies like DaDa will train you up while you work for them. This Shanghai-based company allows you to teach Chinese students from the comfort of your own home. The time difference often means that it is easy to do so outside of normal working hours. Be aware that many companies do require a Bachelor degree in any field in order to teach with them.
- Click here to apply with Dada.
- Click here for other companies offering the same jobs.
- If you’re in the US or UK, and have a Bachelors degree of any type then apply here.
- If you do not have a bachelors degree then click here.
– Sell your stuff (or someone else’s!)
List your unwanted clothes and other items on resale websites and make money from things you don’t need anymore. This is an easy way to clear out your home, and make some money on the side. There is a time investment in posting your things online, but it’s worth it as there is potentially a lot of money to be made.
You can also visit second hand shops / flea markets and buy cheap items to list online. If you have a good eye, you can net yourself quite a tidy profit!
Popular resale websites are:
– Drive for Uber / Lyft / FreeNow
Sign up to drive for a local taxi app and you can set your own hours and make money on the side. There is a process to becoming a driver with these companies, but once you’re set up, you can log on anytime and be available for pickups.
All around the world we have met drivers who just log on when they’re on their way to and from work. They can make money just by doing their daily commute!
– Deliver food for Deliveroo / Uber Eats
You don’t even need a car to sign up for mobile food delivery, a scooter or bicycle will do! Sign up to local food delivery apps to deliver food during your free hours and make money per hour plus tips!
The signup process is easier than driving for these apps, and again you can just log on whenever you are open to working. It’s a good way to stay fit and earn money at the same time.
– Sign up to Fiverr
Fiverr.com is freelance website where you can sign up and offer your services in any field. From specific skills like graphic design and website building, to transcribing or editing work, you can pretty much find anything on Fiverr.
The pay is notoriously low, so I don’t recommend it if you’re highly skilled. But if you are willing to work and want to make money, sign up and start pitching for work!
– Rent out spare rooms in your home
An easy way to make money on the side is to rent out your spare rooms on Airbnb. Sign up as a host and use your spare rooms to boost your income – and even pay your monthly rent or mortgage.
If you live in an area with any popular festivals or popular events nearby, take advantage of the crowds and list your place when these are happening. To find out how much you could be earning, search Airbnb for similar houses in your area and find out how much they are charging. It might be a lot!
– Rent out your car
Do you have a car that you don’t use all the time? Turo.com is the Airbnb for cars, so you can rent your car out anytime it’s not in use.
Already popular in the US, Turo launched in the UK in 2018 and offers UK-based car owners the opportunity to make a side income with their wheels.
5. Reduce your Bills
Reducing your monthly fixed bills is key to increasing your Potential Savings Amount. Start by putting all of your monthly bills into the ‘Monthly Fixed Expenses’ tab in my StephMyLifeTravel Savings Spreadsheet. Next, go through each entry and ask yourself two questions:
– Do I need this?
Is there anything that you’re paying for that you can cancel right now?
- That gym membership you never use? Cancel it.
- The £10 a month you pay for iCloud storage each month? Buy a portable hard drive for £40 to save your photos and cancel it.
- Your Sky TV subscription that you don’t get full use of? Gone! If you don’t have a smart TV you can buy an Amazon Fire Stick or Google Chromecast and watch Netflix on your home TV.
– Is there a cheaper option?
Many people don’t realise that by shopping around, you can save hundreds on your monthly bills.
- MoneySavingExpert.com gives you all of the tips you need to save money on your gas and electricity.
- Swapping your billing option to monthly direct debits can also save you £85 per year.
- Check if you can find a lower priced mobile phone contract – or go SIM only! We never buy phone contracts anymore as it costs you so much in the long run. Instead we save for new phones and buy them outright. We have SIM only packages that are just £15 a month for unlimited data and we’re not locked into any 24 month contracts.
- Shop around for phone, home and car insurance to see if there are cheaper options out there.
Check out price comparison sites like MoneySavingExpert for all of your fixed bills, and see if you can find a cheaper alternative. Sometimes just calling the company to tell them you’re thinking of moving will prompt them to give you a better deal.
6. Stop Paying Interest
If you have a large amount of debt, you may be paying a lot each month in interest repayments. See if you can do a balance transfer to an interest-free credit card and allow your repayments to go directly into paying off your debt.
Stop wasting money on interest payments, and start putting that money towards being debt-free!
7. Stop Paying Full Price
Smart savers know that being on a budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on doing the things you love, you just have to find ways to fit them into your budget. One thing I realised when I started saving is how easy it is to find cheap ways to do everything I love!
- Stop paying full price for eating out and use websites like OpenTable.com which offer 50% off meals at your favourite restaurants. These sites also offer 2-for-1 deals, free drinks or starters when you book your meal through them. I used OpenTable the entire time I lived in London, and it was so great for social events when I needed to save money. TheDiningRoom.ie, FirstTable.ie and LivingSocial.ie are some excellent Irish equivalents.
- MySupermarket.co.uk compares your weekly shop across a number of different supermarket chains and claims to save you up to 30%. Use it in the same way as you would any online supermarket shop, and it will constantly show you how much your basket would cost at each supermarket. When you’ve finished shopping, it will transfer you to your chosen supermarket – along with your basket – to check out. Or you can print out your shopping list and head to the shop in person. Here is the Irish version.
- Doing a little online shopping? Check online for a live voucher code to save money on your order! Every day brands and websites offer discount codes to their customers, so there may be one out there waiting for you. I never shop on Asos or River Island without checking here first. Check out VoucherCodesUK, MoneySavingHeroes, and VoucherPages.ie. I usually pop a search into Google too!
- CamelCamelCamel.com is available in 10 countries worldwide, and is a godsend if you like to shop on Amazon. Simply paste the link to the item you want on Amazon, and it will notify you when the price drops. Prices of goods on Amazon regularly drop, and you’ll be first to know!
- Another one for Amazon shoppers. Make money by advertising jobs available in your area. Take a photo of a ‘help wanted’ sign in your neighbourhood, submit it to Indeed.com, and once approved you will be awarded points to your online wallet which can be redeemed for Amazon vouchers. The number of points you receive depends on the type of ad you post, but it all can add up to a tidy little sum. You can sign up here.
- If you’re in London, download the Dusk app for free drinks at bars around the city. All you have to do is walk in and show the app to get your drink. This used to be called Drinki, and I used it a lot when I was saving and living in London! Many other bars offer similar loyalty schemes – All Bar One offers a free drink for anyone who shows their loyalty app at the bar.
- TooGoodToGo is an app that helps the earth and also saves you a little money. Think of this like the high-tech version of supermarket dumpster diving. Restaurants, bakeries, and other dining establishments offer food that will otherwise go to waste for very low prices. You can get perfectly edible food that will have to be thrown out at the end of the day. Just log onto the app, search for the food you want, and go pick it up. If you want to be a Waste Warrior and save food, you can sign up to offer your food through the app here.
- Olio is another food waste rescue app that allows users to rehome their fresh food and save it from the garbage heap. They have already saved over 2 million portions of food, which is pretty awesome! Free food and you can help the environment? That’s a major win.
- Want a free hotel stay, luxury meal, or spa treatment? Sign up to be a mystery shopper and indulge yourself for free. Go undercover at selected establishments to test out the services & rate the staff. You usually need to pay up front for this, and the monies are reimbursed after you submit your report of the experience. To apply to be a mystery shopper check out ServiceScan, MarketForce, and GrassRoots. These positions are available all over the world.
Groupon is obviously another way to find items cheaply, but I don’t recommend signing up to their mailing list. Too often you end up spending your money on something you don’t really need! Instead search the website for a specific item.
8. Use TopCashback
If you haven’t heard of, or used, TopCashback then I am about to save you so much money! In a concept that sounds too good to be true, TopCashback allows you to make money from shopping online. Whether you’re booking hotels, flights, a phone, train tickets, clothes or anything else you can buy online, you can earn cashback from your purchase by using this site.
Sign up to TopCashback, search for the site you want to shop on, and it will tell you if you can get cashback from shopping there along with how much. Click through to the site from TopCashback and it will track your purchase and pay your cashback through your TopCashback account. It’s incredibly simple, and although you may not get a huge amount of money back it really does add up. Bookmark it and before you spend any money online, check if they are on TopCashback.
Quidco also offers the same deal – cashback for shopping online. Both offer Irish retailers too.
9. Socialise At Home
Socialising is tricky when you’re living on a budget, as it really eats into your daily allowance. Hopefully by now I have showed you some great ways to get free drinks and cheap meals – but the best way to see your friends and save money is to entertain at home.
Throw a games night, movie night, or invite people around for wine and cheese, and relax and catch up in the comfort of your own home. This saves you a lot of money compared with going out to a pub or restaurant. It doesn’t cost very much, and means you can still spend time with your friends and don’t have to miss out.
10. Bring a packed lunch to work
Every single money-saving blog post contains this piece of advice, and for good reason: eating out is the number 1 reason that people can’t stick to a budget! If you work outside the home, weekly food costs can often be quite high. Your daily meal deal lunch for €5 and coffee for €3.50 add up to €2,200 per year. That’s quite a lot for someone on a budget!
Instead, do a weekly food prep on Sundays and get your lunches ready for the week. This way, you don’t need to have time every day to get things ready. You can buy some great meal prep lunchboxes on Amazon which I have linked below, and there are some incredible meal prep recipes online!
Check out these food prep lunch ideas – and these lunch boxes may be a great investment! Here is a glass option if you would rather not use plastic.
Bonus tip: Budget for treats!
Going back to our dieting analogy – even top athletes have cheat days where they can eat what they like. Saving is hard, and if you don’t allow yourself treats occasionally, you’re going to be at risk of giving up. What I tend to do is break my ultimate savings goal into smaller goals and when I reach these small goals, I plan a treat to celebrate.
From going for dinner to having a night away, or buying myself something nice, I make sure I plan out my treats in advance so that I always have something to look forward to. When Tim and I were saving, we would plan drinks at amazing rooftop bars when we hit a milestone. It was great to have something to look forward to and motivate us to keep going. We would take the money from our savings amount for that week, and spend it doing something that the budget usually wouldn’t allow.
Budgeting and saving takes commitment and determination, so it’s important to recognise that and reward yourself from time to time!
So there you have it! My top 10 tips for saving huge amounts of money and still having a happy life and healthy social life. It’s time to get smart about saving, and put your hard-earned money towards something great. Once you learn how easy it really is to save, you won’t go back to living paycheck to paycheck and will start seeing the opportunity to save money everywhere you go. My StephMyLifeTravel Savings Spreadsheet will help you to kick start your savings plan and keep you on track!