Since I was a little girl, I have always been the world’s worst saver. If I ever got birthday money or Christmas money, I would spend it the first chance I got. My little sister, on the other hand, would always put hers straight into a saving account. My mum would often joke that I acted like my money was burning a hole in my pocket! Fast forward to when I got my first “big girl’s job” after uni and the situation was still exactly the same. At the end of the month, I’d make a point of spending any money I had left before I got paid again. I never put any money aside and had absolutely no savings. Just like before, money burned a hole in my pocket.
Living in Asia can be a bit of a learning curve and I’ve changed in quite a few ways over these past 2 years. But the most significant change of all is that I now actually save money! During my first year teaching in Korea, I took 3 trips to Japan, 1 trip to China and backpacked around Malaysia, India and Sri Lanka for 2 months afterwards. I changed my ways. I had an opportunity to see places I never had much of a chance to see before. I saw so much more value in using my money to see more places, rather than to have more things.
These are the ways that I have changed my spending habits, to help me travel more!
1) Track Expenses
I am a bit of an excel geek so this one is pure pleasure to me! However, I know that for a lot of people this can be a total chore. I carry around a little money book with me and write down EVERY SINGLE thing that I spend. Every few days I pop this into my saving spreadsheet. I break this all down into three categories: bills, groceries, other. The reason that I only have 3 categories is that these are the three things I need to spend money on- I need to pay bills, I need to buy groceries, and since I’m human I need to spend money on other things. Within these categories, I also have sub-categories and, as you might have guessed, there are a lot of sub-categories within the “other” category. Usually, these are things like new clothes, cosmetics, eating out, going to the cinema, snacks, coffee, going for drinks. At the end of the month, it’s always interesting to see what I spent in each of these areas. From there I can see how my lifestyle is affecting the way I save and make big changes. For example, a few months ago I realised that buying little things like snacks was really adding up. So I decided to make a conscious effort not to go into convenience stores.
Little things like this really make a big difference and your weak area might be something you would never have expected. Tracking your expenses will help you detect where you are spending too much money and encourage you to really nip it in the bud!
2) Set a Budget
Every month I estimate how much my bills will be, then give myself a budget for groceries and other things. Because I only give myself a set amount of money to do other things with, I often have to make decisions like, should I buy some new makeup or should I go and visit another city? Should I buy a coffee every morning or should I go out for dinner with my friends? Having a budget actually helps you realise the things that you value, and makes it easier to start saying yes or no to things. Before, I would have happily bought things I didn’t really need or value or went on a night out I really didn’t want to go on. Now I spend money on the things that I actually want and care about, and best of all, save money for travel.
3) Make a Plan
Another geeky excel thing that I’ve done is make up a plan with my potential savings. I worked out how much I can save each month and added it all together. When you actually see how much you have the potential to save, you are so much less likely to fritter your money away on things that you don’t really need. I have my spreadsheet set up so that whenever I go over my budget, the amount is taken from my potential savings. This encourages me to always stick to my budget as I like to keep that number as high as I can!
4) Put Your Money in a Saving’s Account
After I get paid, the first thing I do is, separate my money. I leave the amount I’ve budgeted for the month, plus a small buffer in my Korean account and transfer the rest back home into my saving’s account. To be honest, the interest that you earn on a saving’s account isn’t going to gain you much money unless you have a lot in there to start this. I use my saving’s account as a more psychological saving tool. I know that this money is my “travel” account so I never touch it! A lot of people like to save what they have left at the end of the month but I don’t have the willpower not to touch that money. Separate your travel money from your day-to-day money at the first opportunity you get.
5) Get a Coin Jar
Throw in all your loose change, take it to the bank when it’s full and see how much you have. Last year I saved about 100,000 won (60GBP) in loose change!
6) Cook Yourself
Eating out used to be one of my biggest monthly expenses- I’d eat out numerous times a week and think that it wasn’t bad because restaurants in Korea are much cheaper than eating at home. When I started to analyse my spending I saw how much this was beginning to add up. I was also adding up a lot of the other pounds- lbs! These days I mainly eat at home and only eat out on special or social occasions.
7) Plan your Meals
The next way to streamline what you save is to start actually making a plan of what you are going to eat that week and making a shopping list. A lot of the time, I get tempted by special offers and things I don’t need at the supermarket When I plan my meals, I can go to the supermarket with my shopping list and buy just those things. A lot of people suggest living on white toast or ramen to help you save for a trip. I think this is unnecessary since it’s easy to eat healthy on a budget- you just need to be creative. Cut out meat, find out what vegetables are in season and look up some recipes on Pinterest and base your meal plans around that. You don’t need to spend a load of money on chia seeds and acai berries to be healthy, and you don’t need to fill your body with highly processed food to save money. Find a middle ground.
8) Make a Visual Board
Where do you want to go? Why are you saving? Remind yourself of this every day! You could change your phone background or put a picture up on the wall. Something that you will see every day to help you stay motivated and remind you that your morning coffee could be a margarita on the beach in Mexico!
9) Become Low Maintenance
I have never been a really high maintenance girl really, but I’ve never been particularly low maintenance either. When I was at uni I used to spend a fair chunk of my student loan getting my hair highlighted, going for spray tans, buying fake tan, expensive makeup and getting my eyebrows waxed every couple of weeks. That definitely added up, and if I had cut those things out, I might have had saved more money for travelling during the holidays. These days I keep my hair natural, do my own eyebrow maintenance and have cut way back on fake tanning- just think, a tan from a bottle or a tan from a beach?
10) Drink Less
This is a pretty difficult one for most people, but it is one of the most effective ways to save money for travel. Big nights out can easily cost 50GBP back home- usually more! If you do that’s every weekend you’ll spend 200GBP, which is 2,400GBP per year!! That money would go so far in a region like South East Asia. Even if you start having one boozy night out a month, or having drinks at home rather than at a bar, you’ll start to see the savings. These days, I sometimes set myself challenges, like not drinking anything for a full month. I always feel much better for it as I’m more inclined to spend my weekend outdoors or doing something productive.
11) Make Wishlists
I separate the things that I buy into “wants” and “essentials.” For me, an essential could be anything from a BB cream to deodorant to an electric blanket in winter! These are things which, realistically, I need day to day. Anything which is not an essential is just a want. If I see something that I want, I put it on a wishlist and think about it. A lot of the time I end up taking these things off the wishlist- I only buy the things that I really, really want. I used to love going for a wander around shops and would always end up buying things impulsively like a top that was on sale or some face masks. I love shopping but I find that staying away from shops, and making wishlists really helps me curb my spending.
12) Sell Things
If you are anything like me then I have no doubt in my mind that you have a lot of crap lying around, and clothes you have never worn hanging in your wardrobe. If you have some nice crap, you can actually make a pretty penny selling it on eBay. Before I came to Korea, I sold almost all of my nice clothes that I wasn’t going to bring and made about 300GBP! It can be difficult because you might feel sentimental about some things, but if you don’t wear it, don’t keep it- be harsh. You are not going to care whether those things are hanging in your wardrobe when you are gallivanting around the globe… and you’re certainly not going to want them in your backpack weighing you down!
Now on Pinterest!
Let me know, are you a spender or a saver? How do you like to save for a big trip?