How To Save Money for Travel on Minimum Wage
Updated: Jul 9
If you're reading this right now and happen to be working a minimum wage job, you probably don't have much hope for saving money for a big world adventure, or even a small Europe break.
But you clicked here anyway, and you'll be glad you did! We have been in crap minimum wage jobs for our whole working lives and we managed to go on city breaks WHILE saving for our big backpacking adventure, so have no fear!
In the words of the late, great Biggie Smalls and the not so late but still pretty great Method Man:
“Everything you get you gotta work hard for it”.
It’s hard to save money without making a few sacrifices.
Chances are there are some unnecessary things you are spending your money on. Money that could be much, much better utilised while travelling.
Once you get accustomed to a certain sort of lifestyle, the excess is not always easy to see but there’s a powerful tool available at everyone’s fingertips to help you get your moolah in order.
You just need a pen and paper…
1) Write It Down
By writing everything down it’s easier to see where we might be spending a little (or a lot) too much.
Especially in an age of credit cards and digital money where spending money has been reduced to a mere click of a button, writing it down makes our spending more real and we are more likely to think twice about our transactions.
First write down your weekly earnings and then write down how much you are spending on everything each week.
Food, bills, rent, nights out, hobbies, sneaky micro-transactions, anything and, most importantly, everything.
Now add all of those things up and take it away from your weekly earnings and you are left with…
Well… probably not an awe-inspiring number.
“Oh no!” I hear you say. “I’m spending 100 bucks a week on extra lives in candy destroyer!” or whatever it is.
But now your excess expenditure is a little clearer and now it’s time to decide on what you can…
2) Get Some Perspective on Money
It’s not easy, no, and for some it can be like pulling teeth out with rusty vice grips but;
It’s an important step you need to take if your will is set upon travel.
It can be anything from shopping every payday to heading out getting crunk up at the club every weekend, whatever it is it should now be clear to you after writing your expenses down and having a good hard look at what can be trimmed back.
At first it may seem like you can never give up white chocolate frappe mochachinno jaeger bombs but once you start to compare what eleven of those can get you at home vs what they can get you in, say, SE Asia, then it might seem a little easier.
Let me throw you an example.
For most people it’s a cheap way to get the ol’ engines started for whatever the new day may bring, but (apart from frying your adrenal glands… but that’s another article) it’s a rather costly habit.
Let’s say the average person spends maybe $5 on coffee a day ($2.50 in the morning and $2.50 at lunch).
That’s $25 a week. That’s $100 a month! That is $1200 a year!!
$1200 dollars can get you a whooole lot of time in SE Asia.
Even if you look at it per week, $25 is food, accommodation and transport for a whole day there! (It can vary more or less depending on country but not by much).
And that’s just by eliminating coffee.
$25 for a day in paradise! You can do it, you just need some motivation!
I know a lot of people who’d say they couldn’t survive a day without coffee. Unthinkable!
But let me tell you something; sufficient hydration, a nutritious diet and a good night sleep will do more for your energy levels and your general wellbeing than any amount of coffee.
And your wallet will be much better off for it.
... or you could just buy a thermal flask and make it at home yourself, whatever's good.
That’s just one example. Try and think of more money saving alternatives for other areas of your life you are spending too much money on.
And while you’re on a roll, you should try…
3) Making A Budget
I can hear you shudder and shy away at the mere mention of the word.
But it’s really not so complicated, give it a try, it won't bite!
Once you’ve decided on what you can cut back on then it is time to figure out how much you can actually, definitely put away per week.
But before you can do that you need to set your budget.
Set exactly how much money you need to spend on necessities (food, bills, rent etc.) plus your spending money, y’know, your “you” money, bearing in mind your cut backs.
Now that’s done, take your newly revised expenses from your weekly earnings and I bet the figure in front of you now is more encouraging.
So now you have freed up more of your money you can start putting it away, but there are things you can do to make and save even more money…
4) Minimise And Capitalise
Minimalism is a good thing.
Not just because it frees up some space around the place but also because it’s good for your mental health.
Also if you plan to be travelling for a significant period of time you will probably be carrying everything you own on your back, therefore, it is definitely something worth considering.
But you can also profit from the minimisation of your life.
Like, do you really need that 4ft tall plastic replica of Chewbacca? Do you even like that slightly loud wall piece your strange cousin Roderick got you for Christmas 3 years ago but you’re too afraid he’ll be offended if you take down because he still visits semi-regularly?
If not then you probably have some junk you’d be better off selling and using the money for travel.
So do that.
Just like you did when you were deciding what habits and hobbies you could cut back on. It can be hard as well but just think how much better the money can serve you abroad and it should come easier.
So that’s pretty much it. Follow these steps and you will be saving much more effectively and efficiently and the dream of travel will seem that much more real, that much more attainable (and indeed it is)…
But we believe life is about living, so that’s why we want to tell you…
5) How We Did It
It’s really easy to tell someone the best way to save money.
It’s mostly just a little bit of common sense and a little bit of actually thinking about it.
But it’s another thing, entirely, to put it into practice.
So while we put most of these things into practice, we realised pretty quickly that if you were to follow everything to the letter then life would be almost unbearably boring (for us anyway).
-We wrote our expenses down and it was infinitely helpful.
-We wrote up a budget but we clung loosely too it as opposed to sticking tight to it.
-We adopted a healthy lifestyle cutting out expensive takeaways and eating cheap whole foods and fruit.
-We didn’t smoke and nights out drinking were few and far between and replaced with games nights and staying mostly sober (and, to be honest, that was a lot more fun). We even went on a couple of short city trips in our country and in nearby countries.
If we didn’t have fun while waiting we would have cracked up, big shtyle.
But, because of our lifestyle choices and changes, we still put that money away every week and now our dream has become a reality and it’s possible for you too.
I guess the point we’re trying to get across can be summarised thus:
In order to make travel a reality, you must make it your main priority. But be careful not to make it your only priority.
Otherwise you’ll be waiting to live instead of living while you wait.
(Disclaimer; we're both fortunate enough to be living in Ireland, so our minimum wage may be higher or lower than yours. Our living costs in Ireland may be higher or lower than yours too, every country is different, as are people's situations. But these tips still apply to everyone!)
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