Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a trust fund to traverse the globe. If you’re often lost in wanderlust but seldom turn those reveries into realities, your less-than-impressive bank account is not to blame. I’m a 20-something writer paying Manhattan rent, in over my head in student loans, and I’ve been able to send myself to more than 30 countries across five continents thus far; my life is no enigma. These are my not-so-secret tricks of the trade.
1. Understand your monthly obligations.
Recognize that you need to pay your rent, utilities, loans, groceries, laundry and transportation costs before all else. Deduct those expenses from your monthly income and set them aside. Then consider how often you extraneously treat yourself each month, and set aside a restricted but realistic portion of your paycheck to cover it, remembering that you want to travel new roads more than you want that Rocky Road.
Take what’s left of your paycheck and put it in your savings where it can grow; don’t touch it. There are apps like Mint to help delineate your budgets and alert you when you’re close to going over, but I find that if you regularly check your accounts and keep mindful of your spending habits, you’ll do just fine on your own.
2. Write down your travel priorities.
Thinking of your wants and having tangible evidence of them are entirely different. When you’re equipped with a palpable written list of your travel goals, you’re more likely to achieve them — instead of inadvertently changing them in your head. Do you want to hit every tour a city has to offer or would you rather chill out at the local watering hole? Is trying new food a large part of travel’s appeal or are you content with the hotel’s free breakfast? If you want to stay at a specific spot in the city’s center, you may need to save more money than the backpacker who’s grabbing a hostel bed or surfing on locals’ couches. Be honest with yourself and rationalize.
3. Schedule a small auto-transfer from your checking to your savings every month.
I put $100 away every month which I don’t even notice anymore. In three or four months, that turns into a round-trip flight to the Caribbean. In a year, it’s a ticket to Europe. Even if you set aside $50, consider it a few more lunches you’ll pack instead of buy, or a few more times you’ll take public transportation instead of an Uber.
4. Apply for a travel credit card.
Use your credit card, and solely this credit card, for all of your travel costs and then some. I use a Capital One Venture Rewards card and was granted 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Then I get two points for every dollar spent on travel — cabs, ride shares, subway tickets, flights, hotels, et cetera — and that equates to a rewards rate of two percent if I choose to redeem for flight miles or hotels. Other notable cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard and the Capital One VentureOne Rewards card.