It's a little bit odd to talk about saving money on the blog. I think it's an interesting perspective to see how people save/spend their money. I'm going to Europe in less than 3 weeks. I was also lucky enough to go to Boston, the Caribbean, and Las Vegas recently. If you can't tell, I'm not rich. But I manage to get my butt to Europe once a year as well as take some smaller vacations and still own a home.
Probably the number one question I get on the blog is how I afford to do all of the above. I take it as a compliment because it's fairly obvious that I don't have a lot of money, but I spend it on things that will give me memories. I happened to marry someone that thinks the same way, so that helps. Here are my tips on saving money and planning for vacations.
We saved every penny. Plain and simple, for a year Michael and I broke down our finances to figure out how much money we needed to save up for a trip. We went to Europe the year before and the year before that, so we had a good idea of how much it would take for another trip. But really, we just didn't spend money frivolously. Sometimes it would be nice to have a new bag. But the one I have holds up just fine. I would love to go out to eat but we have leftovers at home. Making small changes like that made a big difference.
Establish a savings goal. We like to have a certain amount of money just in case an accident or emergency occurs (say, someone falling 20 feet while rock climbing).
No cable. We watch movies on netflix or catch shows on Hulu. We also use Redbox to watch movies or download shows online. It doesn't bother us because we don't watch too much TV, maybe once or twice a week.
We don't turn on the AC/Heat. We leave it off until 9pm at night so we can sleep comfortably or unless we have guests over. I rarely notice a difference because I'm used to it. Our electricity bill is $25-$50 a month. This might sound a little extreme but it really makes a huge difference.
We use eMeals. I cannot say enough good things about eMeals– I wrote an entire post about it, but basically it's $7 a month and they give you a meal plan (you can choose gourmet, paleo, low calorie, etc) based on your grocery store sales. Cooking at home is cheaper and generally healthier and I would constantly cook the same stuff over and over without this. It's awesome.
We started a vacation fund. For anything that wasn't going to our savings or monthly payments we put it in our vacation fund. This is to be used strictly on travel. I like seeing it there because it means we have a trip to look forward to.Cut out frivolous spending. When we go out to eat with friends (which is maybe once a week) we will eat before and then split something small. We don't always do it but we try to every so often. We also really try to limit paying for drinks. Why is my rum and diet coke $8? Pricing for drinks is outrageous so we usually go over to our friends house beforehand for beverages.
For saving money on the actual trip, here are a few ideas:
Stay in a hostel. I'm not sure where the stigma is that hostels are scary, because they're great! We use HostelWorld and have had nothing but positive experiences. Check the rating to make sure it's a good place to stay and location. You can even book private rooms if you don't want “dorm style”. It's cheap and easy to book. I've also heard great things about AirBnB, I'll be using that for the first time this weekend in Arkansas.
We don't carry on bags. We have backpacks and pack light which saves for carry on fees.
Use a credit card with points/miles. I try to pay for absolutely everything I can with my credit card. We have a Capital One credit card because we get double the miles for every dollar spent. You can use the miles or points for anything related to travel.
Go to the grocery store. One of my favorite meals of all time was when we bought some cheap wine, cheese and a baguette and plopped ourselves in front of the Eiffel Tower. Not every meal needs to be cheap, but a lot of times your hostel/hotel will offer cheap or even free breakfasts.
Use the same airline. I know this isn't always possible, but when you can use the same airline so you can rack up points for more travel.
Use Public Transportation. When it comes to public transportation, Europe has it down pat. We always look ahead of time on the cheapest deal for the number of days (or weeks) we'll be somewhere.
So there you have it. It isn't extreme couponing or anything, just a lot of saving. Sometimes I get annoyed. I remember a couple years ago Michael told me not to have a Margarita and a threw a fit. Looking back, it was silly, but he was right. We've done a lot of cool things because we spend money on memories.
What are your tips for saving?
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