When I first started traveling, sticking to a budget was definitely not one of my strong points. I was a sucker for tourist junk and had that dangerous “but it’s only a dollar” mentality.
Yes, it was only a dollar, but all those odd dollars add up and if I hadn’t wasted them on novelty llama hats and fancy restaurants I wouldn’t have found myself in so many financial pickles.
It took me a while to stop spending like a corporate London lawyer and to start living like a frugal backpacker. I swapped hotels for hostels, taxis for tuk-tuks and steak for street food. But, at the end of the day, my change in spending habits has allowed me to travel for longer and has been the basis for a number of anecdotes that I will never be able to tell my family.
Now, without further ado, allow me to present you with my top tips for making your travel budget go further.
1. Remember You Are Not on Holiday
Backpacking and long-term travel are very different to going on holiday – especially when it comes to your budget. Holidays last a couple of weeks maximum and usually fall under the category of “paid leave”. This means that unrestrained spending is perfectly acceptable.
Long-term travel is different. You may well not have a return date and you are probably not being paid either. Thus, all the money you have is all the money you have.
2. Don’t Waste Money on Expensive Gear
Generally speaking, the more expensive something is, the better it will be. But, that doesn’t mean that cheap things are bad. For example, you could spend $300 on a pair of Tom Ford sunglasses that will break your heart when they inevitably get bent out of shape or lost.
Alternatively, you could spend $15 on a pair of men's sunglasses that will do exactly the same thing. These cheaper sunglasses won’t cost a fortune to replace if anything happens to them and all of a sudden you have a lot more beer money at your disposal. The concept is simple: do more, spend less.
3. Live Like a Local
Back home you wouldn’t eat in nice restaurants every day – so don't do it while you travel. Get used to either cooking your own food or eating street food from the markets. If you’re planning on staying a while then consider renting an apartment rather than paying for a hostel.
Basically, treat each place you visit as though you live there. Give the public transport a go, find the cheap cafés with the great coffee, and buy beers from the store instead of the bar.
4. You Don’t Need Souvenirs
There’s nothing wrong with buying the odd thing here and there to remind you of your travels but if this becomes a habit then you will quickly deplete your travel budget.
You will also add unnecessary weight to your backpack, which is a big no-no. Your photos and memories will be far better souvenirs than some that you found in a market somewhere anyway.
5. Consider Volunteering
You will be amazed at how many hostels will let you stay there for free in return for you helping make some beds or working a check-in desk for a few hours each day. This a fantastic way to save money, make some friends and get to grips with the local scene.
It’s hardly the dream job but it can be good fun if you pick the right hostel in a decent city. You might not be thrilled at the idea of spending part of your trip changing sheets but your travel budget will love you for it.