Saving Money for a Big Trip

Money is a major factor that prevents people from travelling, but it is possible to save money for travel with a few tweaks to daily life.  Many travel bloggers and long-term travellers claim to be able to travel on $30 or £20 a day, even on this shoestring travel budget that works out at £7,300 for a year long trip.  That sounds like a lot, and it is, and you may even want to budget more.  We’ll share our budget estimates and actual spend soon, but right now we’ll share how we’ve been saving money for our big trip.

Going Out

Going out is fun but expensive, especially if you live in a big European city.  There’s pretty much a pub on every other street in London and with pints now costing over £4 it has become an expensive hobby.  I used to pop in after work every day and go out for a big night every other weekend.  A conservative estimate puts that at £100 a week on just drinking and I’m a small guy!  I don’t not go out anymore but cutting this back and inviting friends around to your home can have a dramatic effect on your wallet.


Eating out isn’t cheap either, with many mediocre chain restaurants and pubs charging at least £15 a head for food plus drinks and service usually means around £30 a head.

We used to go out eating a lot, and things like Taste Card which gave 50% discount didn’t help either, we just went out more and spent more because it seemed like we were getting a good deal.  What we found was that most of these restaurants were extremely mediocre at best.  Oh yeah and take it from a chef, as tempting as it is to eat out on the weekend or on a special day – don’t, the service and food just won’t be as good as on a quieter midweek day.  Takeout isn’t much of a better option, £10 for a round piece of dough with some tomato sauce , cheese and a bit of “meat” made by a very un-Italian bored person?!

So we made a pact to only go out and eat at places that we really liked or really wanted to try, and we cut down on takeouts reserving them for occasions when we were really tired.  With so many places to eat in London it’s easy to forget the good ones so to keep track we started doing Yelp reviews.  As an added bonus I was made a Yelp Elite and get invited to many cool free events.  If you’re in London and are looking for a place to eat check out my Yelp reviews for places that suit all budgets.  Just please don’t take a taxi there or back, use public transport – as dirty as nightbuses can be, they provide entertainment at a low cost.

Total estimated savings per year based on halving pubs and clubs (£2,600), takeouts (£520), avoiding mediocre restaurants (£1,500) etc.: £4,620

Cooking at Home and Smarter Grocery Shopping

Whilst related to the above cooking deserves its own section because not only does it save you money,  it’s awesome.  Yes I’m biased because I’m a chef right now, but if you have not learnt the art of feeding yourself well as an adult then something is not quite right.  Yes you save money, by spending £5 a head you can cook up a great meal for yourself and others, more than that, food is a great way to discover other cultures and you get to improve a life skill.  Need some inspiration?  Just checkout a few websites like Saveur or some cookbooks.  These examples have a global taste and can be had 2nd hand from Amazon at just 1p! The River Cafe Cook Book, Gordon Ramsay’s World Kitchen: Recipes from “The F Word”, or My Kitchen: Real Food from Near and Far (New Voices in Food).


If you really can’t or don’t want to cook grab yourself a meal for 2 from M&S or Sainsbury’s and get a main, side, dessert for £10 which you just pop in the oven, and you get a bottle of wine included in the deal as well to drown away your guilt of not cooking properly.

Start to get more shopping savvy when it comes to groceries and know the price and value of things, the price per weight value is a good indicator of whether you are getting good value or if the product has been smartly packaged up to look bigger.  And remember that there are more places to buy food than just the big four supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl.  When it comes to meat it often pays to get the best you can afford (not the biggest), not only are cheaper meats less tasty, but many are filled with water and shrink massively when you cook them.  As for vegetables, they have a short shelf life, so does that big bag of potatoes really save you money when you probably won’t even eat half of it.  People in the western world are guilty of throwing away lots of food that has gone past its best before date, the average UK household wastes £470 of food per year .  If you don’t have a big family to feed it often pays to go to your local grocer where you can buy individual items so you don’t waste and you get fresher produce.  As well as shopping at alternative supermarkets and local small grocers, if you are lucky enough to live close to ethnic food stores they often have products at much cheaper prices than the large supermarkets, especially fruit, vegetables, and spices.  Even if you don’t the ethnic aisle of your supermarket will often stock cheaper versions of the same thing in another aisle because it comes in some “weird and unfancy” packaging.

Estimated savings from smarter grocery shopping: £780 per year.


Stop with those fizzy drinks and sugary smoothies.  Water is delicious and healthy.  We’re lucky enough to have drinkable tap water in England, but if you are still a little wary Bobble is a good option.  Instead of buying bottled water you are not only saving money but doing a little bit of good for the environment by reducing the demand for plastic bottles and the shipping of bottled water from other countries.  A Bobble water bottle has a carbon filter that removes chlorine and organic contaminates from tap water, each filter lasts around 2 months, the bottle costs £8 and a filter costs £4-5.

Estimated amount saved per year: £150


Coffee_Pastel_de_nataIf you are a coffee addict and buy one a day from one of those establishments at say £2.50 a day, that’s over £900 a year.  Whilst I wasn’t as hardcore as some of my friends, I popped in twice or thrice a week, but managed to ween myself off and be satisfied with office tea and coffee when I reminded myself how much money I was saving per year.

Estimated savings per pear: £320

Review your direct debits

Direct debits and standing orders silently siphon off your money on a monthly basis and whilst the monthly amounts don’t seem big, they add up to huge amounts over a year.  Are there things you don’t make use of that you can cancel?  E.g gym membership, satellite/cable TV, Spotify premium, or other subscriptions.

There are some things we can’t live without like mobile phones, internet, insurance, electricity, and water.  You could cancel those if you want to live in misery but alternatively you could find cheaper options using price comparison sites such as uswitch to find a new and cheaper utility provider.  With regards to the internet, my cheapest option was to go with Virgin, they offered good fast connections and had no need for a home telephone line which saved me landline rental of £12 per month.  When my two year mobile contract ended I forgo the option to upgrade my phone and went on a sim only deal, reducing my monthly bill from £35 to £12.  Yes I don’t have this year’s latest phone anymore, but it’s not a Motorola flip-phone either.

I started this process a while ago and have made estimated savings of £700 per year.

Cashback Cards and Accounts

Last year we managed to get £100 back each from our credit cards as they gave a 3% introductory cashback rate and 1% thereafter.  Unfortunately they stopped that offer recently but there are other available with annual fees, just calculate the profit you might make after paying the annual fee.  We are still able to get cashback from our 123 Santander account and have gained over £50 in cashback each by setting up utility direct debits on that account and using the credit card for transport, groceries and at department stores.  If you find yourself one of these cards or accounts leave your cash behind and use these cards to pay for absolutely everything and make sure you pay off each month’s bill to avoid paying interest.

Estimated savings last year: £150

Heating and Lights

Obvious but it works, turning down your heating by 1°C can reduce your heating bill by around 10% or about £60 in our case.  Room temperature is about 21°C there really is no need to go higher, if some poltergeist or other nefarious creature has messed up my thermostat settings I’m all over it.  It’s the same story if a door has been left open to let the heat out or a light has been left on in an unused room.  And yes of course we use energy saving light bulbs!  As you can tell I’m the popular guy around our home.

Estimated savings per year each:  £40

eBay Baby

Ok so this isn’t saving money, but it does add to your travel funds.  If you’re going on a long trip you’ll need to downsize anyway.  Go through ALL your items and put them into 4 sections: keep, charity, throw away, and eBay.  You’ll be surprised at what sells (and what doesn’t sell) on eBay.  Clothes which aren’t designer label will generally not sell, shoes sell well as do most electronics and memorabilia.

In the past year we have made £400 from stuff that we just didn’t use or had forgotten about from eBay, so that’s £200 gained each.

Vouchers / Gift Cards

This is a bit of a cheeky one, but quite often we’ll receive vouchers or gift cards for our Birthdays or Christmas.  We really don’t buy much anymore, we have everything we need and we don’t have a massive lust for luxury things anymore.  We had a bunch of gift cards that weren’t being used and were in danger of expiring, so we used them to buy Christmas presents and managed to do a large proportion of our Christmas shopping with them.

Estimated cash saved each: £150

Change Jar

Everyone has a jar of small change just sitting there collecting dust that doesn’t get used.  You could spend it on crap, or you could use one of those Coinstar machines at the supermarket to change those coins into notes that you aren’t embarrassed to use.  However those sneaky Coinstar machines take a small cut, so thank goodness for the self-checkouts at supermarkets.  A machine won’t look at you strangely and judge you as you pour your coppers into it.  Around every  3 months we manage to buy £30 worth of groceries with these unwanted coins (we even overfilled the machine once and broke it – ooops!)

£60 saved each per year.

Hairdresser / Barber

Back when I gave half a crap about my appearance I would spend £25 at a hairdresser every 2 months.  It was nice getting a cup of tea and getting my hair washed by a complete stranger (after the initial awkwardness), but was it worth it?  I now get my hair cut at a barber for £8 and to be honest I can’t tell the difference, except my hair doesn’t smell of fudge when I walk out.

Money saved per year: £100

Total money saved per person: 4,620 + 780 + 150 + 320 + 700 + 150 + 40 + 200 + 150 + 60 + 100 = £7,270

Damn, £30 short of the target, I guess we won’t be going away then! Let us know in the comments if you have any other ways you save money to help us reach the target.

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3 thoughts on “Saving Money for a Big Trip

  1. I like your breakdown here and agree with all of the ideas you have when saving for a trip. I’ve been trying forever to get a better rewards card and my wife always rubs my nose in the fact that she got approved (with worse credit) over me. Lol. Anyway, I’m writing this as I’m about to get a much-needed haircut after 4 months of not doing it. Maybe that’s an option? Just get fewer haircuts as opposed to none?

    • Or try shaving your own hair. Unfortunately it just made my head look like a strange ball, otherwise I’d just buy one of those hair clippers / shavers and skip the barber altogether.

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