HOW I AFFORD TO TRAVEL... AND HOW TO STRETCH YOUR MONEY SO YOU CAN TOO!

It’s no secret – I love to travel – as far and for as long as possible (within the constrains of having a full time job!) – and over the years I have mastered some tips and tricks to help maximize that goal. I’m not rich. I don’t have a trust fund. My parents do not contribute to my travel fund and I have not secretly won the lottery and never told anyone. Believe me, if I had, I would be long gone – and would certainly not spouting on about how great it is to work full time and travel. For me, it’s all about making choices and assessing priorities – and I’d like to share my tips with you, in the hope they will help you travel more/better/longer. I have both saving and spending tips – the former I can guarantee you will have probably read before (they’re not rocket science! – but one is pretty clever!) but the latter – and what I consider my secret weapon – is an absolute gem! You’re intrigued aren’t you.. well read on: all will be revealed…

1. I WORK FULL TIME
There is no denying that having a full time job is a great source of regular income – and it doesn’t mean that you have to be chained to an office desk. When I first left to UK at aged 21  to go and live in the USA, I did so on the back of getting a 6 month contract role at Walt Disney World in Florida. The pay was barely above minimum wage – but the perks were awesome! (Free access to the parks on days off – yes please!) Whilst I was there, the program covered the cost of my accommodation and in taking extra shifts, or extending a shift (overtime – ching ching) I was able to rack up enough cash to pay for a month long trip across the States.

2. I ONLY DRINK AT HOME HOW AFFORD TRAVEL
I’m not a saint. Alcohol is a (necessary) expense – for me at least. If you don’t drink – good for you – the amount of money you will save over a lifetime is astronomical, however, for us lesser mere mortals – I can totally understand that Friday afternoon feeling where only a glass of wine – or a (well deserved) beer – will hit the spot. I have never hidden the fact that I am partial to a glass (sometime a bottle!) of wine. My saving grace here is that I ensure that 90% of the time, I only drink at home. I buy wine in bulk – from the supermarkets in the UK, US and Europe or, now that I am in Aus, from a wonderful alcohol ladened place called Dan Murphy’s. I refuse to pay the jacked up bar prices by going out to drink.

3. I GIVE MYSELF AN ALLOWANCE
You heard me right – and no, I’m not a 12, living at home and doing chores for pocket money. But money – albeit the root of all evil – is the thing that pays for my travel and so instead ofallowing funds for various things – I restrict funds. My partner and I have bought a house together, we have bills – which is something we largely have little control over – and so instead of working out what we need to afford we transfer all of our wages (with the exception of $100) into a joint account – and have $100 a week as spending money. This pays for my Friday afternoon pub lunch each week (I know, I’m terrible, right?! back to the alcohol again!) and any clothes/handbags that I just have to have. I’ll be honest I never really got over the internet shopping habit of my younger days but I am more savvy with my shopping practices and so now…

4. I ONLY BUY THINGS ON SALE HOW AFFORD TRAVEL
Living on a few continents – particularly where the season are the opposite to what you expect – it came as a happy surprise to discover that what is on sale at the end of one season in one country is absolutely perfect for the upcoming season in the country you are in! This is really beneficial where you have embraced internet shopping (as I have  ) My favorite example of this is ASOS – which have sites and distributors in various countries – but it is all the same stock. So if you can think ahead and shop for winter in summer and summer in winter, there are epic savings to be had. Add that to a quick google search for the latest ‘ASOS discount code’ and you have sale items with a minimum of an extra 10% off whenever you buy. Winning!

5. WE DON’T EAT OUT – AND I LEARNED TO COOK
Back on the budget front, we don’t eat out. I know, boring, right?! We don’t eat take out, we pack a lunch everyday (except Fridays, I mentioned a pub lunch before yes?!)  and if we are going to a restaurant, we make it a super nice one, but at a maximum, only every 3 months – and usually it’s more like every 6 months. On that occasion, we spend a few hundred bucks – out of the joint account – and have a lovely, lovely meal. My partner’s a chef and after 8 years with him, I’ve become a bit of a foodie myself – and so if we are paying for food – forgetting the fact that we can cook amazing meals ourselves at home, I want to it be at one of the best restaurant in whatever city we are in. And we are never disappointed. It’s a luxury that we allow ourselves every now and again and really appreciate it when we do.

So there you have it, my tips, tricks and recommendations for saving money but what about spending it?

HOW I STRETCH MY MONEY HOW AFFORD TRAVEL

After taking on all of the above, we don’t just book thinks willy-nilly. We travel off season – where possible – and use sites like SkyScanner to book the best deals. I’ve read all the literature at when is the best time to book, and I’m sorry – but I just can’t go with it. I’m a planner and once I have decided where I am going, I book and have done with it. I book within a few weeks of the flights being released and always get a good ‘introductory’ type rate and yes I see the prices rise and fall in the months between booking and traveling, but I don’t care. I am a much happier traveler knowing that I’m booked, done and going. It also suits my hyper organised personality. I’ve had our upcoming 11 week extravaganza (Aus to UK-Turkey-Zimbabwe-Botswana-Namibia-South Africa-Mauritius-UK and back to Aus) booked for 18 months and now I’m 5 weeks out, I’m still planning the substance of the trip like a crazy woman!

BUT HOW CAN I BOOK & PAY FOR THESE EXTENDED TRIPS UP FRONT?!
Well, this is the good part. I make my credit cards work for me.

HOW TO MAKE CREDIT CARDS WORK FOR YOU

So, when I have a huge – and expensive – upcoming trip to book. I make sure I have a high enough limit on my credit card to book everything in one hit (this is where the whole working full time come in again – you work full time, the banks will give you a fair amount of credit) and off I go. I scour the various comparison websites for flights and book any activities that are a must. I then apply for another credit card that has a 0% balance transfer option. (In order to do this, you need to have a good credit history/rating – and again, working full time helps so much with this).  I look for those that offer the longest interest free period and have no transfer fees. Once I have found the best one and I have been accepted, I transfer the balance (for the upcoming trip it was $10k) and set up an automatic payment for more than the minimum balance – to come out each and every month – and make a note of when the interest free period ends.

When I get the card for the balance transfer account I CUT IT UP. Do not touch this card. Do notthink it is another source of credit. The minute you make a purchase on the card you lose the 0% interest fee period – and it would be a waste of effort for everything you just did.

I use the 0% balance transfer cards as a ‘buy now – holiday later’ option – but it requiresdiscipline. You MUST make the minimum repayments (and ideally more!) and budget to pay off the entire amount before the end of the interest free period. You do have the option to re-transfer this balance to another 0% card – but I have never done it, and so cannot tell you how easy/hard this would be (and I would try an avoid multiple transfers in a short space of time – it can adversely affect your credit in some countries.) Either way – I am of the firm belief that giving yourself an extra 12-18 months to pay off a holiday is fine – but don’t screw yourself over – budget to pay it off and take advantage of the ‘free overdraft’ you would not otherwise have had.

CREDIT CARDS WITH POINTS:
I’ve included these as a afterthought, as they have been mentioned by a few readers, but I have mixed thoughts. We have a credit card linked to a frequent flyer program – and make all our purchases on that card and pay it off every month – and yes the points can rack up quickly. But we have never spent them. It may be that I am in the habit of searching for the cheapest fare and booking – regardless of the airline (although I do have my preferences – Long haul: Royal Brunei; Emirates and Qatar; Budget: AirAsia, JetStar (Aus) & Easyjet, Jet2 (UK)). I think that we may as well collect the points on every purchase, but that we will get the most value from these when we are travelling internally in Australia (as although we have points, they don’t stretch to international excursions!)

As for the USA – it’s a whole different ball game. There are so many cards/points offers and for travelling interstate they can be amazing – and from other blogs I read by American’s – they are one of the best ways to save money and maximize your travel. However I’m not convinced the same applies in the UK. With so many budget airlines and easy access to anywhere in Europe – I wouldn’t be so hasty to pick an airline and stick to it. The competition is so fierce for short haul routes that I don’t really believe that Frequent Flyer programs – particularly when they are run solely as ‘reward programs’ rather than jointly with a credit card (as they are more often than not in the UK) are worth the effort.

As an example – we were part of a reward program with Qatar (when we were flying backwards and forwards between the UK & Aus) and over 2 years collected enough points for one short haul flight within the middle east – which we never had the opportunity to use. These points have now expired and so the membership was largely a waste of time. The same thing happened to us in Asia – we were members of AirAsia’s BIG program and collected lots of points throughout our travels – but again, never had the opportunity to use them – and of course, they too have now expired.

In summary, I think Point & Miles are a great initiative in the USA, and perfect for those who travel a lot interstate; are of average benefit to those in Australia – and are pretty worthless for those in the UK! But don’t feel bad UK readers – you have the best access to practically all of Europe (and beyond!) at knock down prices – so what are you waiting for – get out there and explore! 

So there you have it – my hits and tips to saving money – and the smartest way to stretch your money – that I know of!

Now that you’ve read my hints and tips – please let me know what yours are – I’m always interested in hearing new tips and trip to help to save for travel!

Source: Make Time To See The World
By Vicky

http://maketimetoseetheworld.com/2016/06/05/afford-travel-stretch-money

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