People ask me how I take “so many” trips and I can never sum up how I save money to travel because I do so in MANY ways. Here it is, the no BS guide to EXACTLY what I do to save money to travel. Just this year I was able to visit Canada, Cuba, Costa Rica and travel around the US to Florida, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts & more. And yes, I feature some CRAZY ways I save money!
- Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full Affiliate Link Disclosure here.
Let’s start with the BORING STUFF FIRST:
Always Prepare Ahead of Time
There have been times when I have all the trips ready for the following year by November. Allowing to plan ahead of time, instead of on a whim, lets me search through different flight options, packages and accommodations.
I keep an Excel sheet with monthly costs that I HAVE to make: car payment, rent, insurance, etc. And I also take into consideration what my “entertainment” budget is. There are times when I have my budget all laid out for the next three months. If you aren’t savvy with Excel, there are a bunch of apps that can do it for you, such as Mint. I stoped using it when it could no longer access my Bank of America account, though. Not all bank accounts allow it due to security concerns. Therefore, I personally use a combination of an Excel Spreadhseet and my Bank of America app. The app automatically shows me what I speand on every month in pie charts and I can determine what I need to spend less money on.
Become a CRAZY COUPON PERSON
I check the coupons that arrive by mail, and at times I use them to buy groceries. Have in mind that many companies indicate they will recognize competitor’s coupons. NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THIS, BUT IT’S IN THE SMALL PRINT. All you have to do is take the coupons with you and shop with them!
Buy in Bulk
There are some things that I just buy in bulk and keep in a safe, dry place: paper towels, napkins, olive oil for cooking, spices, etc. It’s very simple, but buying in bulk saves you a ton of money and you also save gas on trips to the grocery store.
Now it’s getting a bit interesting:
Online Rebates & Cash Back Programs
My Bank of America debit card has monthly cash back programs from various companies. I pick the ones I usually shop at. All you have to do is press a little button that says you’re in. There are also various online rebate/cash back companies, such as Ebates & CouponCabin. My favorite one is CouponCabin. I’m not going to say more but show you what I’ve gotten in cash back by shopping online for a year (have in mind sometimes I totally forget to shop through them and then realize I missed out on some $$):
They pay me by transferring the money to my PayPal. You can ask for a check if that works better for you. CouponCabin is not an affiliate, I just truly love them. I get paid for shopping for what I was going to buy anyway.
Another example of how I saved money with a cash back program: I’m going to be basic and tell you that I LOVE a caramel frappucino, but I save this as a very special treat once every few months. My Bank of America app had a cash back program for Starbucks and I went on a Thursday when they had a rare “Happy Hour.” I ended up just spending $1 on my Grande Caramel Frap when I used my debit card. I HAVE NO SHAME.
Google Flights in Incognito Mode
Incognito Mode is key for when searching for flights. The thing about Google Flights is that it will show you different airlines to choose from and then direct you to their website. Still, sometimes I’ve gotten excited and then the price has gone up when they redirect me to the airline site. But if you’re wondering where to look for flights, this is one place you should definitely be checking out.
Check out Social Media
I once waltzed into a MAC Store and got my favorite lipstick for free. It was a special that MAC had going on at my local store. And how did I find out? Social media. How did I find out about Starbuck’s happy hour? Someone spilled the beans on social media. How did I find out that there are free yoga classes every Wednesday at a nearby park during the summer? Social media.
Social Media is key to finding out about free events.
Here’s how to use social media to your benefit:
*Follow local news or other organizations that are willing to inform the public on local free events in your town. This helps you save locally.
*Follow influencers, magazines, organizations that live in places you plan on visiting in the near future. This will save you money when traveling in a location.
*Follow Skyscanner on Twitter. This will help you when booking for flights and more.
Thrift Shops & Garage Sales
As you can tell about now, I am pobre pero con gustos de rica (I’m going to make you google that one). Thrift stores are the place that I love the most. You recycle, get cute stuff and save money. I only go to the mall or big stores when there is a MEGA SALE.
Cost Breakdown for the following outfit I wore to explore NYC:
If you do not get your period, skip this one! I know this is a weird one, and trust me, I’m not that crazy JUST to use a menstrual cup for money-saving purposes. (Hello, heavy flow). But I realized after I began using a menstrual cup how much money it saved me when I stopped buying tampons, pads & overnight pads each month. Did you know that women spend around $100 a year just on pads and tampons? This isn’t including medicine for cramps, panties, etc… You can bring that price down by a lot if you get a menstrual cup. Guys have it so easy sometimes, I swear…
Rewards Credit Card
I’m not going to lie, I don’t always pay my credit cards off at the end of the month, but I try. When you have a rewards credit card, you get money right back in your pocket to use on flights, accommodation, etc. I personally use the Bank of America Travel Rewards, but I’ve heard many through the grapevine suggest the Chase Sapphire card. The perks of these credit cards is that you get points for traveling to use in the future, access to airport lounges, auto and travel insurance, and much more. Do your own research to see which one is the best for you and read the fine print!
Shop Where There is a Price-Match Guarantee
Now let me tell you a story. Recently, I noticed my 4-year-old laptop was hella slow and I knew it was time to shell out money for a new one. I searched and searched and searched and decided on buying it through Best Buy. Why? I have a rewards card that lets me buy something with no interest for 18 months (but if you need 18 months, you’re not following the monthly budget tip from the top) and they also have price-math guarantee. I waltzed in and showed them the laptop I wanted was cheaper somewhere else and they price-matched it. YAY! But I’m not done. After you buy something that is this pricey & important, keep on checking their website. Most companies have a policy that if their price goes down within 2 weeks after you buy it, they will match the price AGAIN. Sure enough, the price went down two days after I bought it. I went right back in there to get back my money. And that’s how I saved $200 on a new MacBook. I’m not kidding, I can show you the receipts, hun.
Dollar Store for Decorations
Decorations are just the result of a capitalistic society that resorts to emphasizing the products hung up on a home as a measure of wealth. Yup, come at me…
I’m just kidding. This is my favorite, and probably most expensive ornament at a discount of $5.79:
Anyways, I do prefer to spend money on travel rather than on decorations. That’s me. If decorating your house is a priority for you, that’s cool too. But instead of spending money on ludicrously priced Christmas decorations that will be up for a month, I go to the dollar store and buy decorations there. Or I buy Christmas decorations right after Christmas when they are extremely cheap and stores want to get rid of them. Same for all other holidays!
Sell Your Photos
My husband and I sell our photos on Twenty20. He’s the one behind many of the photos on this blog. Check out his profile here! There are many other websites where you can sell your photos at, and I recommend you look at the percentage you receive and the FINE PRINT! Good luck.
Visit the Library/Buy books at The Library
If they sold wine at libraries, I’d be there every day. I still take books out of the library because I love to read and, hey, it’s free. Many libraries also have a a “Friends of the ______ Library” store where you can buy donated books for CHEAP and the funds go to preserving the main library. And when I mean cheap, I mean that mostly all the books are $1, $2 or $3. My local library also sells vinyl records, dvds, magazines, etc…
The first time I used AirBnb I was solo traveling in Ireland. I stayed in the heart of Dublin for $60 a night when all the hotels around the area cost a minimum of $300 per night. The lady I stayed with gave me a rundown of locations I should avoid, restaurants I definitely had to go to and general recommendations. I’ve used AirBnb many times since then, and I have not had a bad experience. Yes, there are horror stories out there, but my tip is to read the most recent reviews and be a decent guest.
This is the big one. I went to Dubai for a week and the following cost me $1,200: Roundtrip direct flights from NYC to Dubai on Emirates, 6-day hotel stay, transportation to and from the Dubai airport and hotel, daily buffet breakfast, desert party, dhow dinner cruise. And all this was because of a getaway I bought on Groupon! I was skeptical at first, but it was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. Have in mind to always check the fine print, and read about the hotel and company that is marketing the promotion.
Check out photos from my trip to Dubai, and that one time I zip lined in front of the tallest building in the world:
Limit Outings to Eat & Drink
Sometimes I wonder how people get Starbucks or fast-food for lunch everyday. If you spend $10 a day eating at the deli down the street for lunch= $50 a week, $200 a month, $2, 400 a year. I would rather use that to book flights, thank you very much. I hate cooking, but hey, a gal’s got to do what a gal has to do to suppress that wanderlust.
We no longer need 300 channels like our parents did in the early 2000s. I only pay for wifi in my home. And I log onto my brother’s Netflix account. Thanks, bro!
Hair & Nails
I only do my hair and nails at a salon twice a year: once for my birthday and then right before Christmas. My husband cuts his own hair, and sometimes I help him too. I know that not all women and men can limit their amount of visits to the hair salon, but this is what I do to save money.
Don’t Keep Things Plugged In
I plug everything off when I’m not home except for the WiFi and fridge. It’ll help tons with the electricity bill. I know others who refuse to charge things at home and do it all at work. That’s a little bit too much for me, but hey…
Stop Paying a Crazy Fee for Your Phone Plan
If you tell your current carrier you’re thinking of switching plans, they will most likely bend over backwards to keep you as a customer. If not, switch to a cheaper phone plan!
Cancel Memberships You Don’t Use
If three months go by and you don’t use that gym membership, cancel it. Write down a list of subscriptions you have and whatever you can live without, CANCEL!
Rethink Current Transportation
If I could bike to work, I would. When I moved to the United States in 2012, I walked to work in order to avoid paying the bus fee. It took me about half an hour and I had to do this smack-dab in the middle of winter. Now I have a fuel economy-car because biking or walking to work would take me hours. My husband only uses his motorcycle during the summer because gas for an entire week is only $10.
The Side Jobs
I currently have a full-time job, but if that’s all I relied on, I don’t think I could get out much. Side jobs are key! There are the following side jobs I have:
Is it easy? NO. There are times when I go to my job and then go babysit from 7 pm to midnight. But it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
Could I ever work at a restaurant? No. I would spill food on people and probably get fired the first day.
Could I ever work for a night parking cars at a party? No, but my husband does this from time to time. He also does freelance photography and is a graphic designer.
One of my co-worker’s is in a band and teaches others how to play the guitar.
Another co-worker bakes amazing cakes.
I know that my parents shelled out money for math tutors when I was younger.
There are many ways that you can make extra money! Hope this guide will help you to travel or, at least, to save some bucks for whatever you need:
How I Save Money to Travel