50 Creative Ways to Save Money for Travel

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Saving money for travel can seem daunting, but it’s far from impossible. In fact, with a bit of creativity and determination, you can save enough money to take a two-week trip to Europe, travel for months at a time, or even travel full-time around the world.

Living below your means doesn’t suggest you have to live like a pauper, but it does mean being mindful of your spending and ensuring your lifestyle doesn’t exceed your income.

view from an island of Caribbean blue water

Changing our spending habits and learning how to save money for travel helped us stack our savings account and prepared us to live on a smaller budget once we quit our nine-to-five jobs.

Below are 50 creative ways to save money for travel, including how to save on big bills and food expenses. Many of these suggestions will also positively impact your physical and mental health and overall well-being.

Save Money on Food & Groceries

Behind rent or mortgage, food tends to be the second most significant expenditure in the budget. What we eat is also a very personal choice. Take the ideas below and adjust them so you can still eat meals you love while spending less.

close up of groceries stacked in grocery cart

1. MEAL PLAN AND COOK AT HOME. The most obvious way to save on food is to cook at home rather than going out. If you get bored of the same meals, try branching out by learning to cook Japanese or Thai dishes or even make your own pizza. Make it a challenge! If you need ideas, Budget Bytes has many excellent recipes for budget-conscious cooking. If you eat out because it saves time, try batch cooking on the weekends, and you’ll have food for the week. You can even get your friends involved in a potluck-style meal to break up the monotony.

2. GO MEATLESS. Even if you aren’t up for going all the way vegetarian, just cutting out meat for a couple of days a week can make a huge difference in your grocery budget. Try a vegetarian pasta meal or a veggie version of soup or chili to get your feet wet.

3. CUT BACK ON DAIRY PRODUCTS. Not only will cutting back on dairy help save money, but non-dairy milk will keep longer. Cutting back on cheese will trim fat from your diet and keep your budget in check. Try using cheese sparingly to add a little savory bite to your dishes. Reward yourself by indulging in a pizza one night a week. 

4. GROW YOUR FOOD. You can grow potted herbs and vegetables if you have a yard or even a patio. This is a fun way to save on grocery shopping trips since you get to grow something in the process. Get creative with pots by using what you have around the house. You can easily use a bucket with holes cut in the bottom and a few rocks layered in to allow drainage.

5. LIMIT GOING OUT FOR DRINKS. As much fun as grabbing a beer or cocktail with friends can be, it’s also a very expensive way to socialize. Opt for spending time at a friend’s house with homemade margaritas or a bottle of wine instead.

6. MAKE YOUR OWN COFFEE. If you rely on a daily caffeine fix, making your coffee at home can save a lot of money in the long run. Investing in a quality coffee maker and some good beans will go a long way to making a cup of coffee you really enjoy.

7. MAKE THINGS INSTEAD OF BUYING THEM. Make your own vegetable broth, yogurt, bread, and granola to save money and completely control what’s in your food.

8. MAKE YOUR OWN SNACKS. This is a great way to save money and avoid unhealthy preservatives. Try making your own energy bars or balls, trail mix, chocolate bark, popcorn, or chips.

9. ELIMINATE SODAS, JUICE, AND OTHER DRINKS. If you drink a lot of soda or sugary beverages, cutting back can save money and improve your health. These drinks are expensive, create extra waste, and are loaded with sugar and empty calories. Try substituting water or seltzer with fruit for a healthy and refreshing alternative. Tea is another cheap option.

10. LIMIT ALCOHOL. If you’re trying to save money, limiting your alcohol intake is a no-brainer. Not only is alcohol expensive, but it can also lead to unhealthy decision-making and a lot of extra calories. It can be challenging to change this habit, but once you do, it has many incredible benefits in addition to saving money.

11. USE GROCERY PICK-UP SERVICES. By placing your grocery order online, you are more likely to stick to your list and less likely to make impulse purchases of things you don’t really need. You can also easily see your grocery total before checkout, which is helpful when you’re on a budget.

12. GO GREEN IN THE KITCHEN. Ditch paper towels, napkins, plastic bags, and plastic wrap for more sustainable and reusable options. Opt for beeswax wraps, food huggers, unpaper towels, and quality microfiber towels, and avoid single-use product purchases.

13. BUY IN BULK. Wholesale clubs can make a lot of sense for a frugal budget, especially if you have a large family. When you have the room to store extras, buying in bulk can be a great way to save in the long run.

Save Money on Your Bills

Recurring bills, such as electric, gas, and mobile phones, are a constant drag on our bank accounts. Finding ways to cut these will decrease your monthly expenses and save you money month after month.

piles of disorganized paper

14. CUT CABLE. Trade cable for Netflix, HBO Max, or another streaming service. It will be easier on your wallet and less distracting. If you want to go further, try free streaming services like Tubi. If you’re having difficulty parting with your cable subscription, try a step in between. Services such as YouTube TV offer live streaming of channels at a fraction of the cost of traditional cable services, including DVR. Use an Amazon Fire Stick to connect these services to your TV.

15. REEVALUATE STREAMING SERVICES. Although streaming services can be a great way to save, they also tend to get out of hand. Review your services quarterly and ask yourself if you can live without one or two. Try canceling one of your services for a month and see if you miss it. When an app or service is out of sight, it will often be out of mind.

16. SWITCH TO AN ALL-DIGITAL WIRELESS CARRIER. These new-age mobile carriers can be a great way to save money on your cell phone plan. Digital mobile carriers use cell towers provided by other carriers to offer more affordable data plans. Data on these plans is often limited and throttled. However, it’s a great way to save money, especially if you primarily use home WiFi. Some popular carriers include Visible, US Mobile, and Mint Mobile. We’ve used these three carriers without issue, even while traveling without WiFi.

17. BUNDLE CELLULAR PLANS FOR FREE STREAMING SERVICES. Many mobile carriers are beginning to offer their customers benefits in the form of streaming services. T-Mobile currently offers a Netflix subscription with specific mobile plans. US Mobile provides your choice of one or two streaming services depending on the number of lines on your account. We currently bundle our cell plans with our parents. Four lines on US Mobile get us two free streaming services (we chose Netflix and Spotify), plus we only pay $30 for each unlimited plan with 100GB of prioritized data. Not bad!

18. REDUCE HEATING AND AC USAGE. Heating and cooling the air in your home is typically the primary driver of the electric bill. In the winter, dress in layers, bundle up in a cozy blanket, and use a space heater in the room you’re currently occupying. Use fans and open windows to cool your home naturally in the summer. Avoid using the oven on hot days, and cook outside instead.

19. USE COLD WATER. Heating water can cause a significant uptick in your electric bill. Washing clothes in cold water is a great way to save money and is not nearly as rough on your clothing items. Hand-washing dishes in cold water is another easy way to save if you avoid letting dishes pile up in the sink. Taking cold showers is zero fun, and I do not recommend it, but you can opt to reduce your hot shower time to save more.

20. LINE DRY CLOTHES. Although dryers aren’t as power-hungry as air conditioners and water heaters, they’re usually the next in line. Air drying is way better for your clothing than a dryer. Your clothes will last longer, and you’ll save money on your electric bill.

21. SELL YOUR CAR OR LIMIT DRIVING BY BIKING OR CARPOOLING. Selling your car can be one of the best ways to save money for travel. Unless your vehicle is paid for, the payment could be a large part of your monthly budget. The cost of insurance, maintenance, and gas can also be very costly. Of course, living without a car is also a huge decision (especially if you live in the United States). If you are a two-car family, is it reasonable to share one car? Biking is a great way to save and live a healthier lifestyle if you live in a bike-friendly city or town. Can you trade four wheels for two?

22. DOWNSIZE AND MOVE TO A SMALLER HOUSE. Downsizing your living situation can make the most significant impact on your savings. Whether you rent or own, there’s a good bet that living in a smaller space will create a lot more room in your budget. As such, it will also be one of the most challenging changes to make on this list. If you don’t already live in a minimal space, it is worth considering if you really want to save more money. By downsizing, you’ll have less stuff to manage, less space to clean, and more money in your checking account.

Save Money by Learning a New Skill

Learning new things is a great way to exercise your mind while saving money now and in the future. YouTube is an excellent resource for learning many of the things below.

someone cutting someone's hair

23. FIX AND REPURPOSE THINGS. Instead of throwing things away when they break, take the time to research a fix for the item. You can find many answers to how to repair things on YouTube. If it can’t be fixed, can it be repurposed? Being resourceful with stuff you already have is a big part of growing your savings.

24. LEARN TO SEW. Sewing is an excellent skill to have. Not only will you be able to repair your clothes, but you can also feel good about creating or mending something on your own.

25. CUT YOUR OWN HAIR. The last time I had a decent haircut, it cost me $75 with tip – mastering a haircut you love can really help you save – bonus points if you learn to cut everyone in your household’s hair for even more savings.

26. MAKE YOUR OWN CLEANING SUPPLIES. There are many great recipes available for making your own all-natural cleaning products. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also be reducing the number of chemicals in your home.

Save by Managing & Monitoring Your Finances

These tips for understanding and gaining control of your finances can be some of the most helpful steps to get your savings headed in the right direction. 

piggy bank

27. OPEN A HIGH-YIELD SAVINGS ACCOUNT. Ensure you’re getting the most out of your growing savings by putting your money in a savings account with a high-interest rate. Online banks tend to have the highest rates. Check out this article from Nerd Wallet for banks with the highest savings account interest rates in 2023.

28. SAVE YOUR TAX REFUND. This concept is an easy place to grow your travel fund. Instead of blowing your tax refund on something you don’t need, deposit it in your savings account and reap the rewards with a huge savings boost.

29. LIMIT UNINTENTIONAL SHOPPING. Unsubscribe from email lists, don’t browse shopping sites online without intention, and give yourself plenty of time to consider whether you need something before making a purchase.

30. TRY A 30-DAY NO SPEND CHALLENGE. The 30-Day No Spend Challenge can be a fun way to kick off your new goal of saving for travel. Don’t spend money on anything you don’t absolutely need for 30 days. Don’t panic. You can still buy all the necessities. The key is to consider every purchase before you make it. It’s an excellent exercise to train your mind and acknowledge where your money is going.

31. STARY PAYING YOURSELF FIRST. If you follow the advice of any financial gurus, you’ve probably heard them say, “Always pay yourself first.” When you learn to pay yourself before paying anyone else, you prioritize saving money and put yourself on the right track to maximize your savings.

32. AUTOMATE YOUR SAVINGS. Set up a system where money is transferred into savings automatically. If you use direct deposit, have your employer send a percentage of your check to a dedicated savings account for your travel fund. If you work for yourself, have your checking account automatically transfer money weekly.

33. CREATE A MONTHLY BUDGET AND RECORD EVERYTHING. A manual budget will probably seem overkill initially, especially when so many apps out there will track your spending. However, when you manually enter your expenses into a spreadsheet or write them down in a notebook, you are more likely to process them. This also allows you to reevaluate each purchase, make sense of your spending habits, and ultimately make changes.

34. SET A SPECIFIC SAVINGS GOAL. You will likely be more motivated when you save for a specific trip or experience with a certain budget. Have an end goal in mind so you can get excited about the outcome of the goals you are working toward.

35. PUT YOUR GOALS FRONT AND CENTER. Don’t just track your goals. Create a visual aid that puts your progress where you see it daily. Tick off each $100 you save on a whiteboard on your fridge or keep a tracker in your planner that you see each time you open it.

For more on how to start saving by managing your finances, check out our 7 steps to save money to travel full-time.

Save with Rewards, Cashback & Coupons

Credit card benefits, cash back opportunities, and coupons can significantly add even more money to your travel savings.

Although these programs require research, they are a good investment of your time. Once you figure out the best strategy to save the most money, you can continue to save over and over again.

woman online shopping with credit card

36. USE CREDIT CARD REWARDS. Credit card rewards and signup bonuses can really stretch your travel budget. Before you run out and apply for a bunch of credit cards, you should be out of debt. Make getting rid of debt your priority. In the meantime, you can learn about credit card rewards and how to get the most out of signup bonuses. The Credit Shifu has a lot of great information and videos to get started!

37. USE CASH BACK CREDIT CARDS. While you are spending money, you might as well get cash back. Credit cards such as Discover IT and Chase Freedom Flex offer different categories each quarter, allowing you to get 5% cashback up to $1,500. Another quality cash back card is the Amazon Prime Rewards credit card, which gives you 5% back on all Amazon purchases, including Whole Foods. (An Amazon Prime account is required to apply for this card.)

38. USE COUPONS AND CASH BACK APPS IN-STORE. Couponing is an excellent way to save money if you are strategic about it. Only use coupons for items that you were planning to buy anyway. There is no need to buy something just because you have a coupon. A few apps that are good for coupons and cashback are Ibotta and Fetch. Fetch is a good choice if you don’t have time to look for deals. You’ll always get points for scanning receipts with Fetch. With these apps, you collect points and trade them for gift cards to many different retailers.

39. USE CASH BACK APPS WHEN YOU SHOP ONLINE. Many websites will give you cash back on your online purchases. Be Frugal is a popular one. You can always check cash back opportunities for different online stores at Cash Back Monitor.

40. OPT FOR SLOWER SHIPPING ON AMAZON. If you shop on Amazon, you can often select a slower shipping option at checkout to receive $1 toward a digital purchase. These add up quickly and can be used to purchase digital books and movies.

Save Money by Making Money

At some point, you’ll become so skilled at saving money that it will be hard to squeeze any more from your current budget. That’s why making extra money is essential to your savings journey. The more money that’s coming in, the more you can save.

woman holding a fanned out hand of one hundred dollar bills

41. START A SIDE HUSTLE. Starting a part-time business is easier said than done, but exploring your passions outside your day job is a great option to make more money. Consider setting up an Etsy store to sell your own physical or digital products, growing a following as a content creator, or even dipping your toe in the rental real estate market. Researching passive and remote income opportunities can also help set you up to travel longer and even permanently.

42. FREELANCE. You can use websites like Upwork and Fiverr to sell your freelancing services. Do you have experience with social media management, coding, marketing, editing photos, creating graphics, editing copy, writing, voice work, etc.? Set up your profile and start building your portfolio today!

43. SELL STUFF ONLINE THAT YOU DON’T USE. We all have stuff sitting around our house that we don’t need. Set a weekly time to list one or two things for sale online. Make it a chore, like doing laundry or taking out the trash. Whenever you sell something, immediately transfer that money to your travel fund.

44. PLAN A YARD OR GARAGE SALE. A yard sale is a great way to get rid of stuff you don’t need and make some extra cash. Yard sales are the preferred way to get rid of stuff that is not worth the effort to sell online. Make sure to advertise ahead of time!

More Creative Ways to Save Money for Travel

Here are a few more ways to save for travel that we find beneficial. 

45. DONATE YOUR TIME INSTEAD OF MONEY. If you want to support a charity, opt to volunteer your time. Not only is this beneficial to the charity, but it will most likely be a more meaningful and memorable experience for you.

46. MAKE GIFTS INSTEAD OF PURCHASING THEM. Making a gift for someone is one of my favorite ways to save around the holidays. Instead of buying someone something they don’t need, make them something unique and special to them. Pinterest is a great place to find ideas for handmade gifts.

47. GET OFF THE BLEEDING EDGE. Don’t always try and keep up with the Jones. It’s a sure way to deplete your savings in a hurry. When buying electronics, purchase the previous generation and avoid the newest release. Keep items such as mobile phones for as long as possible before upgrading. Sometimes, a new battery or screen repair can extend their life considerably.

48. ADOPT A NATURAL SKINCARE REGIME. It’s no secret that beauty products can drain your bank account. Opt for 2-3 natural products to keep your skin looking healthy without the drag on your wallet.

49. ADOPT A MINIMALIST WARDROBE. Downsizing your closet to a few high-quality clothing items will save you tons of hard-earned money in the long run. You’ll have fewer items to dig through and a sustainable wardrobe that will last you many years with proper care.

50. DON’T BE AFRAID OF USED ITEMS. You can often find amazing deals on lightly used clothing, electronics, furniture, and home goods. Know what you are looking for and shop around. Consignment stores, local Facebook groups, and online apps such as Letgo and Poshmark are great places to get second-hand items.

How Can I Save A Lot of Money to Travel?

If your goal is to stack up a lot of pennies for your travel fund, one of the most eye-opening things you can do is analyze your spending habits.

wide angle of woman laying on California beach

Month after month, where does the majority of your money go? Focus your efforts on that area.

If you eat out seven days a week, use your energy to reduce dining out. If your most considerable expenditure is gas or your car, take a hard look at those costs and see what changes you can make to cut spending. Your time and energy are best used in areas with room for the most improvement. 

It’s not easy living on less, and changing our spending habits can be a real challenge. 

Take it one day at a time by setting small goals. When you achieve those small goals, record them where you can see them and celebrate your efforts!

Saving money for a trip can be very motivating and even life-changing regarding your spending habits. Look at this chance as an opportunity rather than a burden, and you’ll be well on your way to saving for the trip of a lifetime.

Want to learn more about getting ready for full-time travel?

Check out our resource guide for travel tips for saving money, budget travel, gear lists, and more.

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