When people hear that I on a student budget managed to travel 12 times a year their jaws hit the floor. I say jaws open ready to absorb how I afford to travel every month of the year*. To be honest once I figured out exactly what I needed to do to make it happen it has been super easy. I’m not going to lie, creating a travel budget and having it grow every month while still taking money out of it is perhaps one of my best tricks. Yes, you read between the lines correctly! I have changed my entire life to incorporate a travel fund that I use to travel every month with while also successfully changing my life. Let me show you how.
*This post is being published in the middle of a pandemic. Traveling right now is something I do not encourage, nor am I traveling at the moment. However saving for future travels I do encourage and am still doing myself. Follow your local guidelines as to what the best precautions are in regard to travel. Stay safe!
1. Travel Fund vs. Travel Budget
The first thing I think is important that you need to realize is the difference between a travel budget and a travel fund. I have to preface this by saying this is completely subjective on my part but it helped tremendously in making sure that I can afford to travel every month.
Travel budget to me is the money used for my travels. So let’s say I am planning on going to Marbella, Spain for 5 days. All the things I need to pay for to make the trip happen is part of my travel budget. The first thing you think of are the classic plane tickets, hotel, transportation but actually even ordering ice cream on a Marbella beach is part of my travel budget.
Travel fund is the money I am talking about now that enables me to afford to travel every month. My travel fund is what most people would call their travel budget when they are saving for their yearly trip or next vacation. They, perhaps even you too, save up, spend the money on the vacation and then save again. I don’t do that. That’s why I can’t call it a travel budget, I have a travel fund with money in it that I use to fund my travel budget. Consider it money going from one pot to the other.
I know when most people hear the word ‘’fund’’ they think of someone else giving money that they have accumulated in some sort of way to someone else. In my case that is not what is happening. I have continuously and carefully put money aside, without cancelling my lifestyle not unimportant to mention, to build up my travel fund.
2. Control Your Money
Now I know it sounds super easy to say just put money aside when you have some and then you too can save up to afford to travel every month. How many times have you been told that?!
I am not going to tell you that. Believe me, as much as I love looking at the clouds that’s not where my brain is. I know the reality of life is much different. Did I mention I started traveling every month on a student budget? Don’t think that means I was staying in hostels and such. Nope, I always stayed in a minimum of three star hotels. The longer the stay the higher the stars. Nothing against hostels as they are very cost friendly, I just did it once for a college trip didn’t like it and never looked back.
Now that we have gotten the disclaimer out of the way onto showing you how I afford to travel every month by controlling my budget. Yes, that is indeed the gist of it. You need to learn to control your budget. There’s a reason why so many of the finance guru’s talk about financial literacy. The reason is that it helps you afford the things you want without having to live a life you don’t like.
2.1 Purposeful Spending
In order to make sure that you actually still like your life when saving to travel you have to start spending money with purpose. Not to worry, you actually are already doing that. You are taking money out of your spendings account and putting it somewhere safe to save up for your upcoming travels, right?!
Your rent and/or mortgage is also purposeful spending. Would you take that money and just for example spend it all on the latest fashion? I sincerely hope you won’t because that money already has a purpose and not to mention the troubles it could bring you.
You need to develop the same mindset with your budget for travel. It can not under any circumstance be looped in with your rainy day fund or just general savings. Doing this will ensure that you will just be able to continue building a travel budget and not a travel fund.
When you separate the travel fund from your general savings you get control over a few things. You at all times will know how much money there is in your travel fund because you don’t have to do an entire math quiz to figure out what budget is for travel and what for a new washer dryer for example.
By separating you also get control over how the money is actually spent. Only for travels or also for day trips that’s up to you to decide. Either way you get to see exactly how much money is coming in and how much you are spending again without having to do mental math gymnastics because of the separation.
2.2 Secret Travel Savings Tip🤫
This last point is so super important in terms of purposeful spending that I am going to include a tip that completely shouldn’t be in this post but I believe is super handy to know now.
For the love of yourself start labeling your transactions.
Why burden yourself with having to remember what amount went to where when you can just add a note with the transaction so you know what you spend the money on. Of all the things I do to be able to afford to travel but also my entire happy lifestyle I think this is one of the most important ones.
I know when you transfer money to a company you can see the company name and then perhaps remember. However it has happened multiple times that I do remember the amount but because of company structure the name that shows up on my bank statements is different thus shooting your sure-fire argument in the foot.
Honestly, make your life much easier by starting to label your transactions.
3. Financial Literacy For Travel
I just spoke about the importance of financial literacy. However I have come to believe that there is also something to say for having financial literacy for travel. I mentioned the Marbella Icecream for a reason and this is it. When you are making a travel budget most people include the big ticket items and ‘’spending money’’. Well that spending money is often calculated completely wrong for several reasons.
I’ll walk you through two of the worst offenders. Offender number one, and a big reason why there is no travel fund, is making sure that the big ticket items are covered and using the rest of the travel budget as spending money forever. First on vacation and then what is left at home as fun money. Travel fund is thus gone when you spend it all. It doesn’t matter if you spend it all on vacation as planned but it does matter when it was spend at home as fun money during your resting days after your vacation for example. Money spent is money gone.
The second offender helping you not being able to afford to travel as much is deciding on a budget for everything without prior research. Just going ‘’this is what we have’’ and the vacation has to fit in that budget. Do I understand the reasoning for it? Yes absolutely! However trying to push a basketball into a child size sock is very hard. So is what you are trying to do.
These two offenders can easily be resolved by research. This is what I mean by financial literacy for travel. You don’t have to go all in like I do by keeping taps on flight prices and pricing schemes etc., but you do have to start researching properly. Thus beyond flight prices and/or hotel prices. I made a post about all the things to check before booking which is a very good place to start.
Wondering how this research grows my travel fund and passport stamps? Well when you know what you are spending you know what you have to put in. Eliminating one of the biggest offenders of using all the money because of not knowing what everything would cost at the destination means money is left in the account. Money left in the account while having just taken a trip is growth.
I don’t know whether it was completely clear but the other way to grow your travel fund is not spending the money you have left at the end of your travels. If and when I have money left over, I often do, I put it right back into my travel fund. This money had a purpose and that purpose is travel if it’s not being used for travel then it’s not being used at all. Adopting this mindset will grow your account even when you are monthly traveling.
3.1 You Are Not A Cheapskate
When you start controlling your travel money and hopefully all of your money too, you might run into people calling you a cheapskate for only purposefully spending your money. You very much are not. The definition of a cheapskate is someone who actively tries to avoid paying for things. That is not what I am telling you to do. I am simply showing you how to spend your money with purpose and to do that you need to know how much money you are going to spend and on what. So it is not avoiding to pay, it is clearly knowing what it is you are paying. It literally is that simple.
The other reason why you are not a cheapskate is because you are simply prioritizing. Prioritizing means making decisions what you value and what you don’t. If what other people are suggesting you use your travel fund for doesn’t match with the plans you had, let that simply be the reality of life. You are not a cheapskate for not spending your money how other people dictate.
4. How Much Money Do You Really Have
Before you can divide your money, you need to know how much money you actually have. Meaning that you need to know what your living budget is. Where is all your money coming from and where all is it going? Important question to answer and personally to have answered at all times.
You have to stop counting on money that you don’t actually have. I know this sounds bad, but it’s true. Making plans, not just plans that involve money, on unsure grounds is very often a bad idea.
When you are making plans for your travel fund that have the word ‘’probably’’ in them you are walking on dirty grounds. Even though I hope that you do receive the funds that are stated after ‘’probably’’ it is not wise to incorporate it in your travel savings, ever.
Being realistic about how much money you actually have either in cash or at the bank is what enables you to realistically start creating a travel fund. In my book money that is not in my hands or at the bank in my account is monopoly money that I can’t do anything with. Harsh but true.
When you know how much money is effectively coming in and what it is spent on you can slowly start figuring out what part of your daily spending money you can afford to put into your travel fund every month. It is of crucial importance to never miss a month, in order to build the habit of building up your travel fund.
The money you are going to be putting in your travel fund should be money you can afford to miss. What I mean by that is money that you either are not spending every month so you lever it over to the next month or money that you are already saving. Instead of putting this money into your general savings account like you used to do. I think I can say that now, right?! Decide what amount or percentage of those saving is always allocated for your travel fund.
5. Make Affording To Travel A Lifestyle
If you truly want to be able to always have money for travel you can’t just start saving when you know the how, when, what of your travels. You have to get into the mindset of not just saving for a vacation but saving for your vacations. I have said it already but the habit of saving money for just your next vacation and using it all is not doing you any favors in the long term.
Make your travel fund as much of a priority as paying your water bill or mortgage. Of course there are if’s and but’s here. As much as consistency is one of the keys to building a habit going hungry or being evicted is not worth being able to have your next meal in Curaçao for example. So do not do that. When following your heart take your brain with you, always.
Because that is true I decided actually to completely overhaul my budget. I had to do it anyways because in the process of changing my life I realized I was spending money on things I didn’t want to but did have obligations towards.
I started looking in depth at my spending habits and spending mindset, my financial mindset, everything. Completely to the point of finessing (have never used that word before but honestly so fitting right now) my budget that I can take money out of my travel fund and still put money in and this all in the same month. Still my best trick, so proud of me for this.
To get to that being honest about what you make and how you spend is super needed. Honesty with yourself is the name of the game to change your ways. By critically looking at my spending I started being able to save €75,- in the first month and then after doing my deep dive it doubled to €150,-. Over the years I have been able to grow that steadily. Of course always depending on my income but believe me, my travel fund has never hit zero.
Critically looking means staying on top of your credit card usage, bank card usage and income. I took a look at all my statements to see where *exactly* my money was going. Talked to the people my money was going to, looked at contracts that I was paying for. When I say I did a deep dive, I mean to the bottom of the ocean, further than the titanic. I went in hard and you should too. Do it once properly and the rest is smooth sailing, perhaps even on your vacation?
Before you even ask if I have adopted a minimalist lifestyle I’ll tell you the answer. The answer is no. I have adopted a lifestyle that makes me happy to a T. I happen to have been bitten by the travel bug and thus wanted travel to be part of my lifestyle so I did what I had to do in order to afford to travel as much as I like.
If you, like me, want to do this deep dive so you always have money to travel I recommend you my eBook Saving Effortlessly. In it I go over every teensy step that you have to do in order to completely overhaul your finances so you can easily incorporate your travel fund into your lifestyle forever. Just to be perfectly clear I got to a €150,- in travel savings a month on a student budget, while still steadily going to the movies and dinners every week simply by doing the exact steps I go over in my eBook. Honestly had I not learned how to improve my finances to better incorporate savings I don’t think my passport would look the way it does now. Beautifully stamped.
The steps to take in order to be able to afford to travel every month are realizing the difference between a travel budget and travel fund. Starting to control your money and make sure to purposefully spend your money. Take good care of how you deposit your travel savings, become financially literate for travel. Start being honest with yourself about how much you have and most important of all make sure to make having a travel fund a lifestyle. The best way to do that is to evaluate where you are now by doing a deep dive into your savings and spending habits. The eBook ‘’Saving Effortlessly’’ can guide you through your deep dive as it shows you exactly what steps I took to be able to afford to travel every single month.
Getting to know the world allowed me to get to know myself in ways greater than I could have ever imagined thus traveling every month is something I would not give up, ever.
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