I have written before about what I say when people ask me how I afford to travel, and although I still mean everything that I said in that post, I wasn’t very specific about just how I manage to save so much money whilst maintaining a social life in one of the most expensive countries in Europe (and the world?).
See, most travel bloggers will say that they forgo a social life in their home countries in order to save money to travel. And that’s admirable. But I don’t want to do that. I don’t spend a lot of time here in England, and so I want to enjoy my time here! I don’t want to get back from a 12 month trip and say ‘sorry friends, I can’t see you when I’m in Manchester because I’m saving up to travel again!’
I don’t think I’d have many friends left if I did that.
Not only that but it is possible to have an active social life on your home turf while still managing to save money to travel. In the last two weeks alone, I’ve been to various pubs (perhaps too many), been on two drinks dates and eaten out at least four times. I’ve probably only had three days in the last two weeks where I haven’t left my house to go and meet up with friends.
Despite all this, I’ve managed to save quite a lot. In just under 4 months, I’ve saved over £4000 (and within that 4 months, I had a 4 day trip to Berlin which cost around £450).
So how do I manage it?
I Don’t ‘Treat’ Myself
For Christmas, I got around £300 cash from my family. Now, most people see Christmas money as ‘free money,’ and an excuse to go crazy in the sales. Usually I do too. But this year, for the first year ever, I cancelled my sales shopping date with my friend and kept the money safe. The only things I bought with it were a set of £6 hair extensions and a pirate hat for a fancy dress party.
It goes without saying that I don’t buy clothes, books, shoes etc. unless I really need to (as in, my toes are poking out of my shoes). My mum dyes my hair at home, I don’t pay someone to pluck my eyebrows and I don’t buy £3.50 iced coffees from Starbucks when I can get them at Aldi for 50p. Retail therapy is, unfortunately, a thing of the past when you’re saving money to travel.
My problem is that I’m a borderline alcoholic (joking, but not really), and I love eating out. Even when I’m travelling, I refuse to eat 7/11 toasties for every meal when I can go to a restaurant and get an amazing meal for $8. Maybe that makes me a diva but it’s just my thing.
Obviously, it’s a little more difficult to eat out all the time and go to bars regularly in England than it is in, say, Vietnam, where you can get a beer for 10p.
However, it can be done. You just have to be smart and source out the best deals. For example, did you know that Revolution offer 50% off food on Mondays? Or that you can buy a bottle of wine for £10 at The Garrett pub in Manchester (which is insanely cheap for central Manchester)? Or that Walrus has an insanely good happy hour?
This is how I manage to go out so frequently while spending a fraction of what I would usually. Even if I’m eating somewhere that doesn’t have any special offers, I will always choose carefully in order to avoid overspending. I will order tap water, I’ll always see if the restaurant has a lunch menu, and if all else fails then I’ll opt for one of the cheapest options such as a panini or side dish (sweet potato fries anyone?).
When it comes to drinks, I’ll order a pint of lager (because it lasts me the longest) rather than choosing a £9 cocktail that will be gone in minutes. I’ll also pre-drink with my friends if we’re having a night out.
So what about splitting the bill?
Most people think that it’s stingy to want to pay for what you’ve eaten individually, and I agree that if the difference is only a couple of pounds then it makes sense to split the bill equally. However, if I’ve ordered a panini and a tap water and my dinner partner has eaten a fillet steak and three cocktails, then I’ll be damned if I’m going to split the bill down the middle! Any true friend will understand you wanting to pay for what you’ve ordered if they know that you’re on a budget, and if they don’t understand that, then I think that they’re being very unfair, which is even more reason not to pay double what you should be paying!
Find free/cheap events in your hometown!
One of my favourite things to do in Manchester is to go and see stand-up comedy, but with weekend shows being around £20, it can get quite expensive. However, the Frog & Bucket has a show called Beat the Frog on Mondays, where budding comedians can test out their new material, and entry is only £5! If you’re more into your arty-farty stuff, then Home always has free exhibitions on, and pretty much every city centre has a tonne of free museums and galleries to check out – my friend Liam and I had a lot of fun wandering around Manchester Art Gallery and imagining old paintings as memes!
It’s even easier in summer, when all you have to do to is put a picnic together and head to your local park to enjoy it in the sun! Heaton Park is great for that in Manchester, as well as Holcombe Hill. If, like me, being back home makes you miss petting all the stray cats and dogs that you come across in Asia, then head down to an animal sanctuary such as Bleakholt, where you can pet cats, walk dogs and see lots of other animals, all for free!
I take public transport everywhere and it saves me so much money. Just last week, I met my friend Heather for lunch and it was raining. She asked me if I was going to order a taxi from the tram stop near my house rather than walk the 20 minutes in the rain. I considered it, momentarily, but then decided against it. Sure, a taxi may only be £2.50, but I’d rather walk and get a bit wet instead of spending the extra money.
Usually I’ll get the bus to Manchester, as the stop is only 5 minutes from my house. It takes longer than a taxi, obviously, but I can get to Manchester and back for £4.50, whereas a taxi one way would set me back £20. Obviously this means my nights out have to end earlier, but I just go out earlier! If I’m desperate for a big night out then I’ll just crash at a friend’s place and take the bus in the morning.
And what else?
I do so much more to save money to travel when I’m in the UK. I invite friends over for drinks at mine, rather than going out to bar, I moved back home and sacrificed my gorgeous apartment in Salford Quays for a single bed at my parent’s house and I never learnt to drive. I take my money out in cash at the start of the week to avoid paying on card all the time (which often leads to overspending), and I sell things on Shpock.
I stopped buying magazines and newspapers and began getting all my news from the internet, I learnt to eat whatever is in the fridge instead of satisfying my cravings by ordering takeout, I only go to the cinema when I get a 241 deal and I use my friend’s Netflix account.
I cut my phone plan to £5 a month and I rely on wifi rather than 4G. When I DID live away from home, I did everything I could to save on bills – I never had baths, never turned the lights on if it wasn’t dark out, and never turned on the heating. When I was trying to save money in Cambodia, I only allowed myself to turn the A/C on in 10 minute bursts and I never watched TV. I stopped getting tattoos, preferring to get them on the road, where they’re cheaper anyway, and for Christmas/birthdays, if people want to buy me a gift instead of money then I’ll ask for things that will come in useful when I travel such as headphones, bikinis and journals.
Obviously, I’m not saying that everyone can save money to travel this easily. I’m lucky to have a freelance job with no shortage of paying customers, and being able to live with my parents while I save money has helped me a lot. I’m more fortunate than a lot of people. However, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth and my parents haven’t funded my travels or paid my university debts. I just happen to be very good with my money and I’ve been brought up to be frugal.
What are your tips on how to save money to travel? Have I missed something? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to share this article if you found it useful!