19 ways to trick yourself into saving money for travel
Creative, easy, and practical tips for ways to trick yourself into saving more money for travel so that you'll be boarding your next plane sooner.
Jul 16, 2019
Allyson quit her corporate marketing job in July 2018 and has been traveling the world through work exchange ever since. The highlight reel include...
We all wish that we had more money to travel. There are a lot of articles on ways to save money out there, but if you're reading this, you need one that is more travel specific.
After all, we travelers are a special breed (and we often don't like boring things like budgets and rules).
I'm not a financial advisor, but I have saved $40,000 towards a year of travel. I'm still on that trip 13 months later, and that's largely due to the mental tricks that I used to learn how to make myself save money for travel.
I've personally used each of the 19 saving money tips and tricks below. Some of these savings tips may work better for you than others. Be sure to adjust them to your personal financial comfort zone.
5 easy ways to save money for travel
There are many ways to save money while traveling, but if you want a quick start guide to learn how to force yourself to save money for travel, this section is for your viewing pleasure. If you don't want to get too creative with your savings, these 5 easy ways to save money will get you a little closer to takeoff.
- Do monthly financial reviews
- Create a separate travel savings account
- Automate your travel savings
- There's an app for that
- Get visual
1. Do monthly financial reviews
It's hard to save what you don't know you have.
I know reviewing your finances can be a little painful sometimes, but it's an important first step for anyone who wants to seriously save money. Go through every single account you have and get a snapshot. You might notice that you spend more on some things that you thought.
You might even find that you already have some spare change you can devote to travel.
2. Create a separate travel savings account
Start a separate travel savings account so that you can really separate your other expenses from your travel goals.
You'll be less likely to dip into this account for unnecessary reasons and you'll be able to track your savings progress easier. From personal experience, I'll tell you that it's truly addicting to see your dedicated travel account climb as you get better at saving money for travel.
Some financial advisors suggest housing your travel savings account in a completely separate bank in order to "hide" the funds for yourself. Personally, I found it more motivating to keep my account with the same bank. That way, I could easily transfer into the account and was motivated by watching that account increase over time.
3. Automate your travel savings
Don't trust yourself when it comes to aggressively saving money.
Set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your travel account. This is exactly how to hide money from yourself in the name of epic future travel.
The tips in this article will help you get better at tricking yourself into saving money, but sometimes it's still easier to take ourselves out of the equation altogether.
4. There's an app for that
There are literally dozens of personal finances apps dedicated to help you save. Some of them may work better for you than others.
For automated savings, try Digit. Digit is essentially a pocket financial advisor, adjusting how aggressive it saves for you based on upcoming expenses and trends. I personally used Digit to save nearly $30,000 towards travel and loved how it texted me daily updates on my progress.
Acorns is another unique savings app that rounds up the change from your purchases and saves it on your behalf. To give an example, your coffee costs $4.29. Acorns would save $0.71 into a savings account for you. It may seem minor, but you'll be surprised how quickly and effortlessly you'll save.
5. Get visual
If you're anything like me, you focus on what's right in front of you. Make sure your travel and savings goals are front and center.
When I was aggressively saving money to travel full-time, I created a savings worksheet for myself. I colored in a box for every $500 saved into my travel fund. I made these boxes the first page in my daily planner, and attribute a lot of my financial savings success to this simple visual trick.
I also know friends who have used stickers and paper chain links in similar ways.
Another, equally motivating, way to "get visual" is to create a vision board. You can make a literal vision board and keep it located somewhere prominent in your home.
I personally create digital vision boards using Pinterest. They help me picture the travel lifestyle I want and motivate me to save every time I log on.
Savings tricks for shopping
So you've tackled those 5 tips to save money for travel. Now what? Shopping is probably the first thing you think of. You aren't wrong.
Many of us mindlessly spend too much on shopping (myself included!), so adjusting this category of spending can be an easy way to save money for travel.
- Put a 48-hour waiting period on purchases
- Use the stranger test (money in one hand, sweater in the other)
- Think of cost per use instead of price
- Go on a shopping freeze
1. Put a 48-hour waiting period on purchases
This is a particularly useful tip for online purchases, but it can apply to almost anything. This trick to save money for travel is pretty simple.
Take anything you want to buy and put it into your shopping cart (digitally or figuratively). Then, wait at least 48 hours to actually make the purchase.
One of two things will happen. Either you'll have realized that your purchase isn't necessary and won’t go through with it or you'll have thought the purchase through very thoroughly and be much happier with your purchase.
2. Use the stranger test
This is an amazing psychological trick to help you learn how to make yourself save money. The idea is simple.
When you're deciding on a purchase, imagine a stranger is in front of you.
For the sake of example, let's say it's a $20 tee shirt. On one hand, the stranger hold the purchase you are considering (the tee shirt). On the other, they're holding the cash you’d need to purchase it ($20).
If you find that you'd choose the cash over the goods, it's probably best to pass on the purchase.
3. Think of the cost per use instead of price
Sometimes brands and sales blind us to true value while shopping. When you're trying tricks to save money, it's helpful to think in "cost per use."
Sometimes, a purchase that you'll use every single day but costs more up front might be more valuable than one that you use once a month but costs less. It's an amazing way for how to trick yourself into saving money.
4. Go on a shopping freeze
Of course, the best savings tips and tricks involve not spending any money at all. Give yourself a challenge and curb unnecessary shopping for one month (or one year, if you're ambitious!).
That means no clothing shopping. No Amazon. No Target runs. No "well, it's on sale" purchases.
It's a great way to retrain your brain and trick yourself into spending less. For more on the topic, let me refer you to a brilliant book, The Year of Less by Cait Flanders.
Savings tips and tricks for food and drink
After rent or a mortgage, food and drink often eats up the most part of your budget (especially when you have a takeout habit). These savings tricks will help you trick yourself into spending less on your daily bread.
- Learn to make your favorite takeout meals at home
- Bring your own snacks/drink with you on outings
- Buy the cheaper generic brand
1. Learn to make your favorite takeout meals at home
I'm not going to tell you to cut pizza out of your diet, but consider learning how to make it at home instead. It will save your budget and cultivate a great skill for when you travel and want to save money while you travel too.
If you have a particular takeout habit, do a quick Google or Pinterest search for the food and "make at home." You may not be the first to attempt to recreate it in your own kitchen.
2. Bring your own snacks/drink with you on outings
It's exponentially cheaper to buy your snacks and drinks at a grocery store instead of at events.
Bring a to-go mug of coffee to peruse your local bookstore instead of stopping by the Starbucks next door. Pack a picnic to the park instead of hitting up the food trucks preying on hungry park patrons.
It's a simple adjustment to your mindset that will teach you how to force yourself to save money.
3. Buy the cheaper generic brand
It's a quick switch, but choosing to buy the cheaper generic brand of food or drink might save you a lot over time.
You probably won't notice a difference, but if you do just go back to the brand you know and love for a few select items that are really valuable to you personally.
Tricks to do with money for your lifestyle
When it comes to your lifestyle, it might seem like you have to give up a lot to save money for travel. I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be that way.
There are many mental tips and tricks you can use to alter your lifestyle and make tricking yourself into saving money for travel an enjoyable process.
- Think in "cans" instead of "can'ts"
- Make your online passwords motivating
- Look for free activities in your area
- Adjust a costly habit
- Downsize your pad
- Plan a trip (just don't book it)
- Splurge strategically
1. Think in "cans" instead of "can'ts"
It's easy to feel like you're restricting yourself from anything fun when you're learning how to force yourself to save money. Rewire your brain to think in positives instead of negatives.
Your friends are having an expensive night out? It would be easy to think that you "can't" do it, but what can you do? You can have a movie marathon with a close friend. You can make it a pizza night with your family. You can recharge your batteries with a good book (rented from the local library of course).
When I was learning how to make myself save money for travel, I also reframed my financial life in a positive light. Instead of not spending money, I was saving money for my dream life.
A simple flip of the negative/positive switch and you'll have a much easier time saving money for your next adventure.
2. Make your online passwords motivating
I'm sure you have had the same password sequence for a while, but consider giving them a savings focused twist. Remind yourself of your goals every time you login to, well, anything with a travel-themed or savings themed password.
Consider combining your financial dollar goal with your next departure date or dream destination. It's a fun way to keep these saving money tips and tricks top of mind.
3. Look for free activities in your area
It's easy to let your social life fade away when you're aggressively saving money for travel.
Don't isolate yourself because of your bank account.
Find free local events and invite your friends to tag along. Get into a library habit. Become a frequent park person.
There are so many free things you can do to get your social fill without spending an arm and a leg. This is just one of many easy tricks to save money for travel up my sleeve.
4. Adjust a costly habit
Note that I didn't say "cut a costly habit." Even when you're learning how to hide money from yourself, it's important to do the things that make you who you are.
A yoga fanatic? Skip the costly yoga studio membership for a cheaper online membership or Youtube videos. A frequent movie goer? Start going to matinees and skipping the popcorn.
5. Downsize your pad
The is probably the most extreme of ways to put money away.
I said earlier that food and drink usually make up the second biggest chunk of most budgets. Well, number one on that list? Housing.
Where you live makes the most impact on how much you'll be able to spend. If you're able to lower your monthly rent, it might be worth the move if you're serious about aggressively saving money for travel.
Consider downsizing your space by adding a roommate to the mix or moving to a smaller or less central house or apartment.
6. Plan a trip (just don't book it)
If you're anything like me, you find a lot of joy in planning trips. Satisfy your wanderlust without spending a fortune and "fake plan" a trip.
Decide where you'd stay. Set your itinerary. Look at flight options. Maybe even figure out how much you'd spend on the trip. Just don’t book a thing.
You may realize that you've already saved enough for the trip you want to take (wishful thinking?). You'll then be able to keep your spending at bay because you have something more concrete to dream about.
7. Splurge strategically
It's unrealistic to think that you'll never slip up on your journey in how to trick yourself into saving money.
Acknowledge that reality and give yourself permission to slip up every so often. For some, that mean a small, dedicated line in your monthly budget for impulse buys. For others, it might mean a day that you can do whatever you want with.
When I was personally aggressively saving money for travel, I gave myself a weekend trip every three months. Those quick trips, often to visit friends and family, kept me motivated to save for future travel.