How to save before you travel

  • The slow burn – put away as much as you can each month, into an ISA or regular savings account. Earn as much interest as you can, and be brutal. I found doing it at the start of each month helps me be as disciplined as possible, once I had a good idea of what my outgoings would be each month. Plan ahead for things like holidays and festivals, so you don’t end up putting too much away and having to take it out again, which means you’ll lose some of your annual allowance (with an ISA).
  • Instant cash injection – if you’re lucky enough to get an annual bonus, birthday money or come into money somehow, instead of splurging on a holiday or shopping trip, put it straight into your savings. Think of the long term goal! Over the years, these big sums really add up into a potentially life changing amount.
  • Cut all the unnecessary stuff out – everyone’s different in what they prioritise, and if going to the gym is a big part of your life, don’t quit it. But take time to think about where you can trim things down. Some examples…
    • Join the cheapest gym you can find on a rolling monthly contract so you can quit any time, or start running around the park instead
    • Get rid of your expensive mobile contract and get a SIMO deal with an affordable basic, older, or even your current handset. This will save you hundreds over the course of a year.
    • Limit the amount of new things you buy, or just buy bargain clothes/products – shopping in sales and cheap shops will still give you that ‘new things’ buzz without denting your wallet. Ask yourself what you really need vs. what you already have already that you can re-purpose, up-cycle, or fall in love with again. Wear your winter boots for one more winter; sew up that holey top you love; try that jacket with some different outfits and see if you can make it work.
    • Avoid buying things that have a huge mark-up and create a work-around instead. I’m looking at you, takeaway coffee. £3/day = nearly £100/month. Buy a keep-cup and bring nice coffee from home instead!
    • Sell your old stuff you don’t want! Old uni textbooks, electronics, old DVDs, clothes that are still in good condition… easier now than ever before with Marketplace apps like Shpock that don’t even charge to list! People will literally come to your home and pay you for your old stuff.
    • DIY grooming: paint your own nails, cut each other’s hair (me and Sam have been doing this for years – just buy a trimmer, some professional scissors, watch a few YouTube videos and away you go!), shave yourself… you get the picture!
  • Day to day, there are a few things that I (still) swear by to keep spending down, and I’m lucky enough to have a frugal boyfriend and frugal friends who feel similarly so it doesn’t feel like a chore:
    • Hanging out a lot at friends’ houses – for drinking, meals, parties. This saves serious dollar vs. spending a ton of money in bars and restaurants
    • Bringing packed lunch/snacks everywhere – you can save an insane amount of money by preparing lunch at home and bringing it into work, or even out and about at the weekends if you’re hanging out in a park, at museums etc. You also have time to think about tasty and (usually a bit healthier) food you can enjoy preparing and eating. It doesn’t have to be a chore! Similarly, carrying a reusable water bottle helps cut costs.
    • Meal plan when you do food shopping – not only is this better for the environment (you throw less away) and saves you serious cash, but it’s also really rewarding! Planning meals and batch cooking over the weekend makes life easier, and means you have tasty food to look forward to all week. You can also look out for deals when you do a ‘big shop’ (in bigger stores or online), and you’ll spend less than if you shop most days after work in pricier smaller stores and be drawn into more impulse buys. I found food shopping mainly online (and topping up on fresh) was a good way of controlling spend.
    • Go to cheaper food shops, and buy lots of fresh stuff (loose fruit and veg) and scratch-cook huge meals (curries, chilli, stew, pastas) rather than buying lots of single-serve fast-food like pizzas. Cut back on meat (if you can) as this is a huge money saver!
    • Travel as cheaply as you can. This might mean riding a bike (if you’re not too scared, as I am!), walking more, or buying an upfront travel card the cheapest way you can. You can save by taking buses or walking a travel zone further into town in London, for example.
  • Easier said than done in some cities (especially London!) but living in an affordable rental property also really helps. I was lucky enough to have my rent pretty much frozen for a couple of years (and stuck it out, despite living with my ex for a brief period!) If you’re spending more than about a third of your income on rent, it’ll be a lot harder to save. Search around for a more competitive deal, split a good deal with friends, move a bit further out of town, or in the short-term moving in with parents can really help you save fast, if this is possible.
  • You still need to go on holidays and trips whilst you save, but be frugal about it. Look out for sales on flights (set Skyscanner alerts; look out for regular Easyjet or Ryanair sales); buy cut-price train tickets online; and stay at Airbnbs or even hostels rather than hotels. Not only is the accommodation cheaper but you’ll get to cook for some of your meals, hang out/drink in the apartment (rather than always in cafés or restaurants), and have access to essentials like drinking water and whatever food you fancy!
  • Sometimes long haul holidays (like India or other parts of Asia) can actually work out pretty cheap if you go for a few weeks, as the main cost is the flight. A short term solution to wanderlust!