Saving money to travel isn’t about stopping spending.
Let me repeat that, you don’t have to stop spending in order to save money to travel.
In fact, in many ways the most effective method of saving money to travel is to actually spend more. OK, so I don’t mean spend more money overall, that would be madness and probably the worst financial advice ever. I’m talking about spending more money on the things that you genuinely love, the things that truly make you happy. This is the basic principle of spending consciously.
Spending money, in itself, isn’t a bad thing! Spending money without thinking about it is. When we started to save money to travel, this was one of the most valuable lessons that we learnt and it’s a habit that we’ve carried through into our everyday life. But it’s not until recently that we heard the phrase “spending consciously” and realised we finally had a name for what we’ve now been doing for a very long time!
We’re going to show you what spending consciously is, how you can do it and prove to you that it really is the easy way to save money to travel.
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So What Does Spending Consciously Actually Mean?
Have you ever got to the end of a busy week, sat down to relax for what feels like the first time in months and then not been able to remember a single thing that you’ve done over the past 7 days and had no idea where the time has gone?
Well exactly the same thing happens with our spending. Direct debits, wireless payments and credit cards are all cleverly designed to make our lives easier. But they also mean that we never really think about where our money goes. The end result is that it often drifts out of our bank accounts faster than we can accumulate it, and we have absolutely nothing to show for it.
The majority of people’s spending these days is completely mindless, and I mean that in the literal sense. We rarely engage our brains before making a purchase, unless it’s an expensive item that will have a visible impact on our finances like a new TV or a car.
Instead we spend out of boredom, habit, or simply to get a little buzz. This in turn means that we’re not really in control of how and what we spend our money on. And in fact we spend a fortune on things that we don’t really need, and more importantly don’t really want.
Spending consciously is all about ensuring that you are happy with every single penny that you let go of. It’s not about stopping spending money, but instead knowing exactly where your money goes.
Why Do I Need to Start Spending Consciously?
We’ve all got that one friend who’s always complaining about not having any money, but whenever a new iPhone comes out they’re the first person flaunting it on Instagram. Or who goes wild on payday, but is always asking to borrow money come the end of the month. Or that has cupboards full of “bargains” that were too good to pass up but panics when the credit card bills start arriving on their doorstep.
One of those people might actually be you. But even if it’s not, you’re reading this post for a reason, so spending consciously should definitely be something that you implement in your life.
Trust me, it will not only allow you to save money to travel but it will make you a happier person at the same time.
How Can You Start Spending Consciously?
Even though spending consciously isn’t rocket science, it’s also not as simple as just thinking before you make a purchase. It’s about enabling yourself to have choices, and then making the right choice for you, for the right reasons. This takes a bit of planning and preparation which often puts people off.
But if you’re ready to start doing more of what you love while saving more than you ever have before, here are the three main steps to get you on that path.
1. Record Your Outgoings
In many ways, recording your outgoings is the most difficult part of the process because it’s boring, tedious and can be painstaking. But it’s absolutely necessary so you’re gonna have to suck it up and just get it done. It’s best to do this over the period of a whole month to get an accurate snapshot of your finances.
Firstly you need to work out a way to record everything you physically spend on a day to day basis. I mean EVERYTHING, from that packet of chewing gum you bought on the way in to work, to the cheeky beer with your colleagues on a Friday night.
There are apps you can get to help you do this, or you can use a good old fashioned pad and pen. You can record as you go, or sit down at the end of each day to complete it. Find a way that works for you and commit to keeping it up for the entire month. Don’t worry about saving money at this stage, you want an accurate assessment of your current habits.
At the end of that month, sit down with those records and your bank statement and input into a spreadsheet every single thing that has gone out of your account and make sure it tallies up.
Break this down into two areas – “Essential Spends” which will probably be mainly regular outgoings like utilities, phone bills, groceries etc. and “Non Essential Spends” which will more likely be one off purchases, meals out and the like.
There may be the odd thing that you have no clue what it is, thanks to the inventive names that many companies give themselves that are completely unrelated to their trading names. It’s important to figure out at this stage what these are, particularly if they’re recurring payments – I know of people who have paid for all kinds of crazy stuff without realising it, including someone who paid rent on a flat he was no longer living in for two months because he forgot to cancel the standing order!
2. Reduce the Cost of Your Essentials
Now that you have a snapshot of your monthly outgoings, the first thing to focus on is reducing your “Essential Spends”. When we did this we made instant savings on our utilities by using one of those comparison websites and switching to a more suitable tariff. You can even just call your utilities provider up and they will quite often switch you to a better plan more suited to you. These deals change extremely regularly, so even if you did this a while back, try again and see if you can save more.
I made a pretty significant saving on my phone bill – my contract had elapsed without me realising and I was due an upgrade. Rather than upgrade a perfectly good iPhone, I asked them to tell me how many minutes, texts and data I used on average per month and switched to a sim only contract that accommodated those figures. This saved me almost 50% on my bill.
Reducing our spending on groceries was also a great way for us to cut down on our essential costs. I know it’s hard to imagine doing this without reducing the quality of produce that you buy, but actually we managed to increase the quality and still save money on groceries.
The first thing we did was to reduce the amount of meat we ate – meat is expensive and to eat it with every meal as we used to soon adds up. Pound for pound, veg is astoundingly better value than meat.
We also focussed on cutting down the amount of wasted food. A recent survey found that the average household in Britain squanders almost £60 on waste food per month, and though we weren’t anywhere near that we were certainly throwing away far more than we should have. Putting this right is purely down to organisation and forward planning.
We also had a huge cable TV package (mainly my fault as I’m a bit of a sports fanatic) but we weren’t watching even 10% of the channels. Just by reducing the TV side of our phone/internet/cable package we saved straight away and pretty significantly. And we didn’t even notice that half of the channels had disappeared.
These are just a few examples, but you’ll probably be surprised at how much you can save from identifying what your essential spends are and trying to get them as low as possible. Yes it takes a bit of time and effort, but it’s well worth it.
3. Understand What Makes You Happy
Next up in the process is to understand what makes you happy. This may sound strange, particularly if you consider yourself a happy person anyway. But most of us spend our money without really thinking beforehand and then often regret it afterwards when it doesn’t bring us the joy we hoped it would.
Knowing what makes you happy is really one of the most important ways to save money to travel as it will allow you to focus solely on those things and to stop doing the stuff that doesn’t make you happy.
As an example, we love to enjoy a meal and a couple of pints of ale at the pub. Many people would consider going out for a drink and a bit of food frivolous when you’re saving hard to afford to go travelling.
And in fact a lot of the advice you’ll see will suggest you stop going out altogether – no eating out, no drinking out and definitely no eating and drinking out at the same time!
For us, we never saw it like that. Going to a pub is something we genuinely enjoy doing (come on, we’re British) and it allows us to get out of the house, spend some quality time together and indulge ourselves a little bit.
We did, on the other hand, begin to recognise that the money that we were spending on clothes was pretty excessive and wasn’t making us happy. We would regularly go out and buy a new pair of jeans, a few t shirts or a pair of shoes, just because. But we actually didn’t get any enjoyment from it at all, it was just something we did. So we decided to stop buying new clothes altogether.
This may be the opposite for you if you live for fashion and nothing makes you happier than a beautiful new pair of shoes but hate going out to the pub and only do that because your mates do. I’m not telling what should make you happy. I’m just ensuring you think about it properly, so you can make an informed decision on what to cut out and what fun stuff you will be able to do more of on the back of that. Understanding what makes you happy will allow you to significantly lower your “Non Essential Spends”.
Break the Habit
Ok, so now that you know how to begin spending consciously, it’s time to start breaking the old habits. This could mean that you continue recording every penny you spend – for some people, physically getting the notepad out or opening the app will start the thought process on whether they are making the decision that’s right for them.
Maybe a visual reminder could work for you, like putting a bright sticker on your card that you’ll see every time you get it out to make a purchase. This may help you to remember to pause before you go through with it and give you time to consider if it’s really what you want.
For us, we set ourselves an amount of money that we thought was reasonable to spend on things we loved each week.
We called it our “fun budget” (I know, our friends took the piss out of us as well) and we basically paid ourselves a sum of money each week that was dedicated to spending on anything we wanted. This really worked for us because it meant that we would seriously think about how we were going to use it.
We also carried whatever we didn’t spend over to be added to next week’s fun budget. If there was something upcoming that was going to be expensive (like a meal out for a friend’s birthday) we’d save up out of our fun budget to be able to afford it.
However you choose to do it, it’s important to break the habit of purchasing without thinking and equating spending money with happiness. Many of us do this without knowing it and it’s an extremely dangerous mindset to have.
Do More of What You Enjoy
By implementing these steps correctly, you’ll already have far more spare money than you ever have done before. And now you know what makes you happy, you can start to dedicate more money towards those things rather than just watching your cash fly out of your bank account without realising where it’s going.
Don’t beat yourself up about spending on things that are important to you, instead make sure you ONLY spend on those things. Have an overall plan on what you’re going to use your money for and stick to it.
You should have a goal in mind for every single hard earned penny that you let slip through your fists, and ultimately, that goal should be to increase your happiness.
Spending consciously isn’t just an easy way to save money to travel, it’s the best way to save money period. We also think it’s really a effective way to get more out of life, by challenging yourself to be more mindful of the purchases that you make and ensure that you’re making the right choice for you. Regardless of whether you’re a millionaire or don’t have a lot of spare money at the end of the month.
If you’re happier overall, then the sacrifices you have to make in order to save money to travel become far easier and you’ll realise that you can actually have fun and save money at the same time.
So go on, give it a try. Follow our guide, start spending consciously and let us know how it goes.
Drop us a comment down below and tell us if you think spending consciously is something you could benefit from.
Travel lover, professional writer and football (soccer) obsessive, James loves nothing more than getting outside and exploring little known corners of the globe. He’s also very partial to a drop of Guinness.