Travel is more affordable than you think. Many people assume that traveling is a luxury they can’t have, but if you’re a middle class American, that’s simply not true. Take a close look at your spending habits and see how much disposable income you really have. If you start saving that money instead, your dream trip is well within reach. A million travel bloggers have said it before, and I’m here to join the chorus. It’s all about your priorities.
That said, when you’re saving for a RTW trip on a twentysomething’s income, progress can seem unbearably slow. Sometimes, you need to give your savings a bigger boost to feel motivated. Here are a few ways I made bigger additions to my savings account for RTW travel.
Selling My Car
Getting rid of my car was the first true concrete step I took toward long-term travel. I took a job within walking distance of my apartment in large part because it would allow me to give up the expense of having a vehicle. My ’97 Toyota Camry wasn’t pretty and wasn’t worth much. Nonetheless, that $1,200 breathed new life into my savings account. What’s more, I was then able to save $100 a month on parking, a couple hundred dollars a month on gas, and probably thousands of dollars a year on the maintenance necessary for an older vehicle.
When I started planning my RTW trip in 2013, I thought I wouldn’t have enough to leave for a good five or six years. One of the ways I cut that time in half was by entering contests on Hi Marco.
Hi Marco has unfortunately since folded into Atlas Obscura, but during my travel planning, they were an independent community-drive travel guide. They held weekly themed contests where users could submit their original photo itineraries on topics like “Best Historic Cities,” “Best Trips in California,” and “Best Skiing Trips.” The publishers would pick ten finalists and then users would vote on their favorite.
I won first place for my photo itinerary of a road trip through West Virginia, and added $1,000 to my savings account.
Downsizing My Possessions
I didn’t sign up for BootsnAll’s RTW planning course until pretty late in the game. I just wanted to see what arrows they might be able to add to my quiver. To my surprise, they brought up yard sales less than one week into the 30 day course. I had always assumed that selling stuff would be one of the last things I considered. That was a big mistake.
Between old furniture, clothes, decorations, and books, I aimed to add a solid $2,000 to my savings account. I didn’t start selling things until the month before I left. I wound up making less than half my goal. Consignment stores and used book shops didn’t take as many items as I expected, and didn’t pay much for the things they did want. Friends graduating from college or moving into new homes often wanted to buy their own new things.
With so much else to do in just a few weeks, I wound up taking a huge load of stuff to the Salvation Army. The silver lining, however, is that I can claim that donation on my taxes next year. I also left behind some items with family members so they could decide whether they wanted to keep things for themselves or sell them on my behalf. I’ll likely have some yard sale money coming my way while I travel.
Selling my unnecessary stuff added about $400 to my savings before my departure. I expect to have another $300-400 written off on my taxes for my donation, and I may continue to make money off post-departure sales.
I’m incredibly lucky to have very supportive family and friends. As romantic a notion as it is to say I did this all by myself, that’s not true. It might have been possible for me to travel full-time with no help from anyone, but it would have taken a lot longer. A lot of travel naysayers like to make it sound like if you have to get help from other people to travel, your work somehow doesn’t count. But hell, even Nomadic Matt lived with his parents for six months before hitting the road. I don’t think there’s any shame in accepting help from loved ones if they offer.
In fact, this has been one of the greatest ways travel has changed me. I am much more gracious and willing to accept others’ hospitality than I was in the past.
Many relatives and friends helped me by giving me travel gear as gifts. That cut down on my pre-trip expenses by about $175. A lot of relatives and family friends also made small contributions to my travel fund at my going away party. That added up to about $500 extra in my savings fund. Finally, because I was juggling lots of part-time jobs and freelance work in the year leading up to my trip, I wound up owing about $800-900 in taxes at the end of the year. (In retrospect, I should have asked my primary employer to withhold extra taxes from my paycheck.) My parents asked if I’d rather they cover the cost of my taxes or make a contribution to my savings, which they had apparently been planning on. Since I owed a bit less than they probably would have given me, I accepted their help with my taxes and kept that money in my savings account.
Taking Care of My Home
Finally, I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me sooner that I would get a good chunk of money from my landlord upon moving out. This is the biggest perk to giving up my apartment instead of subletting it. Finding someone to sublet would have taken a lot of time and effort before my trip. And the only real payoff would be the cost of keeping an apartment getting balanced out. Leaving my apartment in good condition means getting an extra boost of $700 near the start of my trip.
Doing things like eating out less and giving up memberships to gyms and wine clubs are important steps to saving for travel. But they accrue slowly. These things helped me save over $5,000 in just a couple years – more if you count the expenses I cut by selling my car. That accounts for a quarter of my budget! Taking more drastic steps like selling my car, many of my belongings, and ending my lease instead of subletting helped me reach my travel goals one to two years ahead of schedule.
If that’s a quarter of my budget, where does the other 75% come from? Find out how I put over $500 a month into savings.