Saving that vacation $$

Most of us know that travelling is one of the best experiences you can have. It allows you to immerse yourself in new cultures, learn more about other parts of the world, gain independence, and have a lot of fun. However, it is not usually the cheapest thing to do, and as a broke girl sometimes the thought of affording a trip seems unrealistic. I’m going to share with you guys how this broke girl saved her butt off to afford a 2 week trip through Europe with her girls. This is going to be a documentation of personal experience, but hopefully you can relate it to yourself and use some of the tricks I used.

To begin, you should know at this point I had already saved the money and had paid for my flights. This was just money I had saved from working over the last while, and what I am saving for in this piece is the rest of the trip (accommodations, food, shopping, fun, emergency money etc). The trip was on May 24th, and I finished my last year of university on April 30th, with about 100 dollars to my name, meaning I had a lot to save and very little time to do it. I also was working a minimum wage job at the time, with only about 10-15 hours a week. It didn’t really make sense to get a new job, as most places won’t hire you to work less than a month before leaving for vacation, so this was it.

The first thing I did was calculate exactly how much I would be spending on accommodations. To make sure we were prepared, my friends and I booked our hostels and air b&b’s in advance, meaning I knew the total amount of money I needed to make sure I had a place to sleep at night, which was about $600. Next, I spoke to some friends and relatives who had done the backpacking trips before, and just vacationing in general. I asked about the cost of food, and fun, and how much they would say they spent on average throughout the trip. It may seem easy to say you just won’t really spend much, but even when you do it frugally, you have to eat, and many of the attractions you will see cost money. Also, while travelling you may want to buy something nice you see a long the way and have some general spending money. Finally, and this is a tip I HIGHLY recommend, I went to a banker and asked their thoughts on budgeting. I told them approximately how much I thought I would be spending and they talked me through saving tips, and how to take your money farther. They told me I would be smart to start with $300.00 in cash to begin with, and only take a little bit with me out at a time, leaving the rest of it in my bag in the hostel. They also told me a smart tip to save as you travel is to use debit when you are at restaurants or stores. This is because it costs a lot of money to take cash out from an atm machine in another country, and places like this will not charge you to use your debit. Saving cash is key. Finally, when I went to them with the total amount of money I had saved, they helped me come up with a budget for food and fun to try and stick to, to ensure I didn’t run out. The best part of speaking to a banker, was the fact that they were accounting for the exchange rate I did not think of when I was doing my own calculations, because 5 euro’s is approximately $7.50 Canadian, which really adds up.

Once I had calculated the average cost of spending money, and added it to my $600 I needed for accommodations, I knew I had 24 days to get about $1500.00 This meant I was left with 900 dollars for spending money, which seemed like a lot at the time but really isn’t a ton.

The key for me over the next 24 days, was to make as much money as I could, and save every penny. Let me break down how I managed to save 1500 in less than a month.

  1. My part time job. Although this didn’t pay a lot, I was making about $300.00 a pay cheque, and in this time period I received 2 pay cheques. However, this was not the only thing I had to pay for. My first pay cheque had to cover some of my credit card, and paying back a friend for some flights. So I ended up with about $300 from work.
  2. Graduation presents. Now I was lucky, and was going right after I graduated, so as a present from my mum, I asked for a bit of money. She ended up giving me 200 dollars which was very generous, but even 100 would have been great. I was also given 100 from my grandparents, and 150 from my aunt, which was extremely kind and helpful.
  3. Odd jobs. Again family and friends blessed me hard here. I used my spare time to offer my services and help family and friends. My best friend’s dad was starting a business, and had me come in a few times to do some clerical work for him, formatting documents and what not. He paid me hourly, and after working for him a few times I had about 200 dollars. After this, I had my 600 for accommodations, plus an extra $50. I was also paid $500.00 for cleaning and organizing my house top to bottom (including the basement which was a huge mess of garbage and bins)
  4. Taxes. I was travelling around the time that taxes were due, and I ended up with money back. I thought I was getting 300 dollars, however when the cheque came in the mail (the DAY I was leaving) it was only for 150, because I had owed money I didn’t know about.
  5. Empty bottles. I collected all the empties I could from my student house, my friends and my family, and brought it all in to LCBO, giving me about 30 extra dollars.
  6. Government cheques. I get government cheques for approximately 50 dollars every month, so this months cheque went straight to the savings.

After this I ended up with 1680 dollars. Which worked out quite well with the exchange rate added in, but here was the struggle; not spending any of the money before the trip. That first 2 weeks I sparingly used the 100 dollars I had when I started the summer, and a bit of my first work paycheque. For the last week and a half before the trip I did not spend 1 single dollar. This was not easy, but worth it for me. Here’s how I did it, it’s quite a simple concept really.

  1.  I did not spend money with friends, instead I suggested we did fun things outside, or made food as a group at home. When the group wanted to go to a bar, I offered to be DD so I wouldn’t buy a drink, and opted for just water.
  2.  I made sure I brought all my meals and ate them at home instead of going out to eat and buying food (which I have a terrible habit of). I also brought my tea and coffee in travel mugs whenever I thought I would be tempted to buy one.
  3. I avoided malls. I LOVE to shop, and I knew I would spend money easily if given the opportunity, I was going on a trip, I had to look my very best right?! Instead, I went through my whole closet, and put together outfits I liked with clothes I already had.
  4. I didn’t drive far. Luckily I worked close by, and many of my friends were close, but I didn’t have the money to spend on gas, so I would walk everywhere I could. If I had to drive I would, (like I mentioned before, I was DD when we went out) but I avoided going too far without having someone else who was willing to drive. This wasn’t bad considering many of my friends had cars, and I did feel bad not offering to drive, but in the span of a week and a half no one was going too far anyway.
  5. I had (almost) all my money in cash and cheques. The cash I had is what I used to change to Euros and hold in cash. The cheques I didn’t deposit until the day before I left, and I asked anyone e-transferring me to wait until the few days before I left. It makes it really easy to not spend money when it seems as though you have none to spend.
  6. Finally, on the day I left (my flight was at 10 pm) I broke out the change jar. This is something I recommend for everyone to do, keep lose change in a jar. You will be SHOCKED by how fast it adds up. I have a bad habit of spending the money, or forgetting to add my spare change, but I ended up with about 30 dollars in change. That morning I went to the bank and asked for it to be made into bills, and used that money to buy the last things for my trip. This included a new tooth brush, travel toiletries, and snacks for the plane.

Good luck saving and happy travels!!

Love always,

Nic

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