Alex Adams | January 15th, 2020
It's 2020 and we're all knee deep in new year's resolutions (if you're into them), and finances are always a popular subject. I know that is true for me, and I always go into a new year with the goal of saving more money. Nevertheless, before I sit down and get real about it, I already have a few big trips on the 2020 books. This seems contradictory, I know, and I often get the question- how do you travel so much? You must be broke/not saving/etc. etc. You get the picture.
The amazing thing is that even though I spend much of my time traveling - I still put saving money first. Every month, some of my paycheck goes directly into my 401k, some into short term savings and some into a long term investment account. That's not to say that I'm not stretched thin- let's be real, I live in Miami where the average price of a drink is like $18 and I don't always follow my own advice. Regardless, there is a common misconception that you can't travel all the time and still save money. I'm here to debunk this myth and share some of my tips and tricks for staying budget savvy while at home and on the road.
1. Stop eating out
I think this is one we all know, so I won't harp on it long. I know it's hard, but I promise those friends you see all the time won't care if you miss out on a bottomless brunch or two. Make it up to them by hosting a movie or game night where you can enjoy that 2 buck chuck and some quality time. And if you're eating out during the week, I am going to tell you to stop being lazy and go to the grocery store. Then refer to #2 below.
2. Be price sensitive when grocery shopping
We all love a nice steak dinner but even when cooking at home, this can get expensive. Try to eat meals that stretch the dollar. Here's an example: a loaf of bread is around $2 and a pack of deli meat is around $5. I used to eat that every day for lunch or dinner (either or) for almost two weeks. That means I spent $7 TOTAL on almost 2 weeks' worth of a meal. I can no longer do that or I may end up single… but you get the idea. There are plenty of foods that are very cheap (and still healthy if that's your thing). I just meal prepped a healthy lunch for the week with canned chickpeas that were 70 cents each. Look at prices- stock up on meat to freeze when it's on sale, buy the store brand instead of that beloved brand that tastes exactly the same, plan meals that don't break the bank.
3. Cleanse your Instagram of the temptations
Unfollow those fashion bloggers, boutiques, brands, etc. You probably followed half of them to try to win a giveaway, and it didn't pay off anyways. I find myself buying more when I see all of the new trends of the season and my closet is already full of clothes. We don't need it. Out of sight out of mind, so reduce the temptation and hit that unfollow button.
4. Clean out your closet (and make some money while you're at it)
We all have too much stuff and the beauty of it is that there are so many resell apps that make it really easy to get rid of extra things and earn some money. Poshmark is great for clothes, eBay for those old phones laying around, Facebook marketplace or OfferUp for household items. Do a deep cleaning, open that bin of seasonal clothes that never get worn and see if anything could be useful to others. Don't expect a fortune but maybe it will at least cover a few drinks here and there.
5. Maximize credit card rewards
Credit can be a scary one, but as long as you treat it no differently than a debit card, they're great. The beauty is that they come with what I like to call "free money". Be smart about the cards you have and do some research or talk to friends about which ones are the best for you. They can probably even refer you and then you both will get extra rewards from this. (If you're persuasive, you can rack in serious points on referrals.) I personally use three cards simultaneously. One gives me 3% & 2% cash back, respectively, on basic necessities like groceries and gas (with no annual fee), one gives me 3 points on all restaurants and travel expenses and $300 in travel credit every year (hello Chase Reserve), and the last gives me 1.5% cash back on everything- no restrictions (also no annual fee). I make sure to use the right card for the right expense and the beauty of it is that this is all money I was already going to spend- now I just get cash/points back for it aka "free money". Personally, I like having the mix of quick cash back and also earning miles, but you may prefer all of one or the other- the options are endless. The important part is to stay on top of it. I keep all of my cards on autopay, so I have that pressure not to spend more than I have. Credit card debt is no joke.
1. Play around with flight scenarios & be flexible
Are you traveling to Europe? Check out the Google flights map or even just a site like Norwegian and see what the cheapest entry point is from your city. From Miami, I can get to Barcelona or Amsterdam (one way) sometimes for $200 or less and then travel within Europe is so much cheaper. One way flights are your friend and have saved me hundreds on most trips. A round trip ticket to Europe can be upwards of $1000 or more. I have flown to 4 different countries and home before on one trip for a total of $800. This isn't always an option if your dates or itinerary is static but with this method, you get to see more, do more and save money while you're at it. Oh, and if you plan ahead, TRACK FLIGHT PRICES. They will fluctuate and you can catch a random sale if you have them tracked ahead of time.
2. Do your homework and weigh accommodation options
Some of us like hotels, some of us always jump for Airbnbs and some of us are braver than others and can stand shared hostels (this used to be me when I was younger and full of life… but at some point we hit our limits). Regardless if you are one or the other, research both options. Airbnb is usually cheaper, but I have also been to places with more and cheaper hotel options. If you are worried about not having the service a hotel can offer, I have found some Airbnbs to be more accommodating and safer than a hotel could be, just read the reviews before booking. If you like hostels and prefer to be social then you are already killing the budget friendly travel game and I applaud you.
3. Don't over pack
Bag fees can rack up, especially when flying a budget airline. Most of us know someone who has had to pay that extra $100 at the gate because their bag was overweight. Weigh your bag before you go. A scale from Target is like $10 if you don’t have one. Flying budget airlines have gotten me around the world just fine and I don't plan to change this anytime soon (unless I win the lottery or get that nonexistent raise I've been dreaming of- you never know) but this means I can't pack those 10 dresses and 20 shirts for when I want to change 4 times a day. We know this is not realistic/just unnecessary, so leave it at home. You won't even miss it. Pro tip- if you're traveling with friends, borrow each other's clothes to make more outfit options (you're basically family anyways if you're putting up with each other in other countries). Also, Airbnbs and hostels often have laundry, so take advantage if needed.
4. Maximize & then cash in credit card and travel rewards
I gave some details above on how to maximize credit card rewards, but the fun part is when you get to cash in. Some cards have their own booking portal where your points will go farther or for the exact same flight, the airline website might be offering the route for less. Be sure to check both. There are other options too for getting those extra airline miles:
If you have random hotel points here and there, you can transfer them into airline points- sometimes 1 for 1 or even more if there is a promotional offer at the time, just keep an eye out for these.
American Airlines also has a dining program where you earn airline miles when you eat at certain restaurants (a ton around me are an option).
Another great one is Lyft, which has partnerships with both Delta and Hilton, so you earn a point for every mile to both accounts and double when the ride is to the airport or a Hilton. Pretty nice perk.
Beware, points can expire, so I recommend keeping up with them in an app like AwardWallet where you can see all of your points and their expiration dates in one place.
I am no expert, but I try to be as money savvy as possible because traveling is my #1 priority. The best part is that you don't have to have a lot of money to do it. However, it's also important to stay secure and save for the future, so with these tips and tricks, I have been able to do both and it is so incredibly rewarding. I hope this helps you save for that next trip too and if you need any guidance, I am here to answer any questions. Did I miss anything? Let me know! We always love learning more tricks of the trade.
Happy traveling (and saving)!