There must by now be a million different blogs, articles and books about how to afford to travel I am no expert but I generally get incredibly shocked faces when I tell people just how much I spend on day trips and even on trips like Disneyland Paris. Twelve months ago, these trips didn’t exist. Even though they cost me very little this year (as I share in my budget posts), I couldn’t afford them last year when I did the same tutoring job with roughly the same number of clients. So, what changed?
The first thing that changed was my attitude. At the start of this year I decided that the little bug that had been situated in my mind for many years would be fed: this year, I would travel. And I have. It’s not as simple as just going, though. Like many people my age, I’m not earning a great deal and there’s more often month left at the end of the money than money at the end of the month. Being self-employed means my income has proven incredibly changeable. Just four weeks before I sat down to write this my income was double what it is today. That is the nature of private tuition, you have to go with the seasons. That said, I seem to be doing okay.
If, like me, your income is changeable and you experience a period where you earn less you may want to create a “squirrel fund” as well as a travel fund. Like a squirrel puts away his nuts for the winter, I put away some money for the summer. It’s not an exact science and I think this is the first year that I won’t have to completely stress about the cost of things and spend most of my days off at home or just locally.
So, here’s how I put my squirrel fund together:
Work out if you will be earning anything in the down period. In my case, I “earn my bills” and nothing more. I won’t miss a rent payment and I can keep my Netflix and Disneylife privileges but I won’t be going very far from Wigan with the money I’ll make.
- Work out how much extra you’ll need and how many weeks this will be needed for. My simple maths is that my down period is for 10 weeks and I want £50 per week to go visit my nephews and niece and to travel to a few museums if I can. Simply put, to save up my “pocket money” – because let’s face it that’s what this is – I need to find £500 that I can put aside and take my weekly allowance from during the summer months.
- If you don’t have two bank accounts, now is your time. As well as my regular current/ checking account, I also use Monzo which is what I use for my day to day outgoings.
- Are you making the most of your loyalty schemes? I swipe my Starbucks and Costa cards on every visit throughout the year. Some of these visits I’m socialising, others I’m using the coffee shop to do work in peace (which, thanks to the cat, I can’t find at home!). As a Gold member, every time I buy a coffee I top up the amount of the drink at normal price and then when I swipe it takes off the cost of the syrup and almond milk. Essentially every trip to Starbucks is 90p towards my summer drinking habit.
If you don’t need a squirrel fund, your travel fund will be much, much easier to build than changeable workers like myself. The first step is to set yourself a goal. I set myself the goal of £1000 in the six months from mid-January to mid-July (end of school year!). If you asked me in December even if I had £40 spare each week, I would have called you insane! There is no way I could save and afford a holiday, or even an extended period off work. So, £1000 would be impossible, right?
It started with a fox. For Christmas, I received a fox money box to save up for my travels in. Well, a fox and some discipline. I deal with cash mainly, and at the end of every day I would come home and go through my purse and any change that was in the purse found its way into the fox. Within about four weeks, the fox was practically full and so I needed another solution. The solution was Vimto.
Actually, I employed a four-point strategy at this point.
- I bought a Disney Princess tin (you know the ones you can’t get in?) for 79p at Home Bargains. In this lives all my 1, 2 and 5 pence pieces I have encountered since January. I estimate there’s a whole £12 in there (well, there may be more but I won’t hold my breath!). This was initially going to be towards my July Disneyland Paris trip, but instead it is now the spending money for my nephews Oscar and Alex when I take them to Disneyland on another trip, so there’s still time to save! Knowing it’s for the boys makes me get less annoyed when the self-scan machine at Tesco gives me my change all in coppers!
- The next one was a tin with transport images on it, again 79p at Home Bargains so I can’t complain. I started with putting notes in this and opened it in early May to reveal that I had saved £435 in notes. This booked my transport and hotels (both mine and my travel buddy’s share) for my July trip and I used the remaining money to treat myself and go in my “grown up” savings account which I tell myself is for a house but in truth it’s to go to Anaheim! The open tin has now been re-purposed to collect £5 notes in and this money will be my spending money for my trip.
- This is when Vimto come in. Just before Christmas, Iceland had these huge plastic jars filled with Vimto lollies and boiled sweets which I bought to combat the dairy chocolate mentality that we have in our house still. I prefer lollies to anything most days anyway, so they didn’t last long and I used quite a lot of them for my Christmas goody bags I give to all my younger students and their siblings. This is for the general loose change and will be used as my spending money also. I’ve set myself the hefty budget of 100 euros per park day and 40 euros for the days I won’t be in the park and will be staying in hotels without a kitchenette facility.
- The last jar is the truly magical jar! This was once a Strippd protein jar and it is where my £1 coins make their way at the end of each day and these will be going towards my Annual Park Pass. I am hoping to purchase the Infinity pass simply because of the dates being unrestricted, the PhotoPass perk and the discounts which I am sure I will benefit from by the end of my first trip!
It’s not an exact science, but I have already smashed my savings goal and as a result I have been able to “upgrade” – so to speak – my trip to enjoy a few luxuries (without having to sacrifice at home thanks to the squirrel fund!).
I think whatever your budget you can afford to travel, but don’t expect to be able to book an entire trip out of a single paycheck, you won’t get far. Day trips, staycations and further afield: there’s something for everyone!
Have a favourite way to save? Let me know in the comments.
If you want more personalised information then get in touch via the comments or my Facebook page and I’ll help you find the perfect holiday for you within your budget.
Don’t forget: the exact breakdown of my costs of the Disneyland Paris trip will be available to read on my blog from the first week in August.