So you've decided you want to hit the road. Now comes the hard bit - where's the money going to come from?
Unless you have an over-sized piggy bank with the past ten years' Christmas money and a novelty smashing hammer, then there's going to have to be some tough decisions and sacrifices.
But, once you're on the plane out to your dream destination, it will make those endless tins of value beans worth every penny.
Here's what you should start doing from tomorrow!
#1 work out how much comes in and how much goes out
Get a piece of paper and start with your salary. Then list all your regular outgoings (rent, travel card/fuel, utility bills, groceries gym membership, mobile contract, subscriptions).
Then all the fun stuff like concerts, drinking, more drinking, the unnecessary pairs of shoes and that dirty kebab after the aforementioned drinking....
It's a very simple thing, but very rarely done. We were amazed when we actually sat down and worked out how little we were saving each month and how much the smalls costs mount up over the course of time.
However, once we realised this and started to take saving seriously, it became a lot easier: don't just work for your salary, make it work for you.
#2 set a monthly saving target
....and grab yourself a red pen; this is the hard bit.
If you're serious about saving, then something has to give. A lot of things will be non-negotiable, but others can be reduced significantly by spending and living smarter.
Set yourself a realistically ambitious monthly savings target (as a rough guide, 20-25% is achievable) and work out how it can be met. It must be said however that we were fortunate when setting our target in not having to take anything such as mortgages, children or monthly clothing splurges on pet pugs into account.
#3 get an expenses app
A lot of people (including us) have become obsessed with quantifying their life via apps. How many miles run, calories burned or consumed and hours slept.
The Moneywise expenses app was a really useful tool to help us understand and control our finances. Very simple in layout and usability, you can categorise and micro-manage spending and generate monthly data-reports, outlining where you're money is going. Recently, ever improving tech has made it even easier to track and manage your spending - we recommend using a Monzo prepaid card which provides an automatic real-time daily breakdown and stats on your spending via its fantastic app so you can see exactly where to make efficiencies. You can also use the Monzo card abroad to save money on the road as it doesn't charge for ATM withdrawals and has great exchange rates (with no commissions). Skip the queue of thousands and sign up for free here (UK readers only).
We continued to track our expenses daily on our two year trip through Latin America to help us live on a combined budget of £30/$50 a day.
#4 set-up another bank account
This is going to be the home for your travel fund and you're not going to touch it are you!?
Set-up a monthly transfer from your main account of around half your monthly target, and add the other half (if you've met the target) at the end of the month.
Never take the card out with you and the sacrifices will feel worthwhile when you see your nest egg grow and grow.
#5 no more starbucks.....
...or Pret or Nero or Costa or flat whites from that ethical independent hipster cafe with fixie-bikes hanging on the wall and baristas with more arm tattoos than a randy sailor.
With a take-away coffee averaging out at £2.50, and a number of office workers having at least a one-a-day habit, the costs of Costa will soon mount up. In fact, a 2013 study put the average spend of a coffee-drinker at £393/year.
There are some easy ways to start your saving fund by cutting down caffeine consumption or seeking out budget alternatives:
- Invest in a travel mug and prepare your coffee before leaving home.
- Many offices provide free drinks to staff, so learn to enjoy the taste of that bland machine stuff. Some also have facilities where you could easily bring in a cafetiere and brew your own.
- Arrange lots of unnecessary meetings at work where coffee is provided for clients.
- If you really can't go without your daily Starbucks fix, consider buying a re-usable cup. For £1 investment, you will save 25p on every store-bought coffee.
#6 pack your own breakfast / lunch
Although few things are better than a greasy bacon sandwich smothered in ketchup the Friday morning after the office drinks party, this is a rare glimmer of culinary satisfaction amongst the array of mediocre and expensive cuisine for those dining 'al desko'.
With a little preparation and a lot of tupperware, you can cook yourself a healthier and happier meal for a fraction of the price. On average, Andrew saved 50% making his own meals/sandwiches, buying snacks in bulk on the weekend shop and preparing snacks of fruit, nuts and other tasty treats to be brought in tupperware.
Here are some suggestions:
- Last night's leftovers often taste better the day after and can be augmented cheaply with some home-made salad or veg.
- Overnight oats provide a quick, easy and delicious breakfast which keep you fuller for longer.
- Bulk-prepare food on Sunday evening which will last you until Wednesday. Whether it's a huge vat of pasta sauce or soup, a rice-cooker full of grains, a dozen boiled eggs or a tray of roasted vegetables, it will save you time and money in the long run.
- Seek out budget cooking blogs to give you some ideas. One of the most successful is A Girl Called Jack.
#7 cut the cost of commuting
This is definitely a more city-dweller centric tip as, for many, the cost of commuting is a cross they simply have to bear. However, every saving helps, so try to identify some alternatives to what may seem the quickest or most convenient option.
Would buying a cheap second-hand bike save you money in the long run, or is taking the bus just as fast as the more expensive train? Can you actually run the few miles in the morning? Even taking the cheapest option one day a week will help you reach that target.
#8 Shop smarter
"About 80 percent of consumer choices are made in store and 60 percent of those are impulse purchases."
Herb Mayers, CEO Gerstman + Mayers, New York
When Andrew was a student, he lived next to the (at the time) only Waitrose in Scotland. This was an exotic land where yummy mummies and the Morningside set debated over how smoked they wanted their salmon and whether the second home was suitably stocked with the finest French cheeses.
However, come 7.45 p.m. every evening, he would saunter in proudly carrying his Lidl bag-for-life and make a bee-line to the yellow-stickered haven of the reduced aisle where for about 1/5 of the regular cost, he would dine like a King.
Supermarkets often manipulate consumers into seeing value where there is none, but shopping smarter allows you to resist their attempts:
- Plan your meals for the week and buy only what you need.
- Only take advantage of BOGOF offers on non-perishable goods.
- Buying fruit and veg loose rather than packaged in any supermarket reduces the cost per kilo dramatically.
- If anywhere offers free samples, then just spend your afternoon here. Perhaps bring a change of clothes or simple disguise to prolong the experience.
- Shop around a few supermarkets to take advantage of different offers and promotions.
#9 give something up and/or find a cheaper alternative
For Emily, it was her Wholefoods habit. For Andrew, his Spotify subscription.
We're not suggesting you give up something you love for the sake of saving a few pounds, but you need to try and find efficiencies wherever you can.
A Spotify subscription of £10/month can easily be replaced by free-streaming apps (8tracks) or rediscovering your old favourites.
- Could you reduce your mobile phone contract?
- Is there a cheaper gym nearby?
- Do you really need to buy five Groupon offers every month (most of which you don't use)?
- Is a Netflix account really necessary when you can stream for free?
#10 cut back on the booze
In Britain, almost any social activity worth getting out of bed for revolves around booze in some way. That quick glass of wine after work or a few with the boys whilst watching the football is the sort of thing that can be a real drain on your finances: you're (sometimes literally) pissing it up against a wall.
Cutting-back can be tough, as it can make you feel left-out or appear anti-social, but it is one of the most surefire ways to start saving smarter. Here are some ideas:
- Go dry for a month; your waistline, skin and bank balance will thank you for it. It will also reveal just how much you spend on booze.
- Try ordering soda-water and lime, nobody can really tell the difference either way.
- Suggest alternatives to the pub for social gatherings.
- Minesweep recently vacated tables and fill your pint glass with a menagerie of the fine ale dregs that others have left behind*
- Set yourself a drinks fund limit for nights-out and leave the credit/debit cards behind.
*Note - this is not however recommended.
#11 the best things in life are free
We often get into a vicious cycle where posting a Facebook status, "checking in" at something and how much you paid for a ticket are more important than your actual enjoyment of an event.
But once you start to look for it, you'll realise your home town actually has so many great things going on for free (unless you live in Slough or Dundee).
You don't always have to spend money to have a great day out.
Museums, galleries, parks, public seminars at universities and markets all provide free entertainment. Or a day out with your camera, a new book from the library or simply re-discovering your city on foot.
Sign up to some mailing lists and find out which websites offer listings and suggestions.
**Editor's note - After living your life like this for a year, you'll be bloody glad to leave!