How I saved $10,000 in less than 5 months

Four-and-a-half months ago I wrote this:

“September 5, 2012 I fly into Dublin, Ireland.

As of today (March 5, 2012) I don’t have all of the necessary funds. I have no idea where I want to go or what I want to see. I don’t understand the transit system, and I’ve heard an overwhelming amount of advice which is informative and sometimes scary (what the hell is couch surfing!?). But, I made myself a promise, and this time I’m going to follow through.”

Well, I have successfully saved my $10,000 in less than 5 months, and I’m ecstatic! My flight to Dublin is already paid for (awesome!) so really I’ve saved $10,700 for my trip so far!

Want to know how I did it?

Tips for saving $10,000

1. Work a job that allows you to save money. I worked full-time as a server because it was a job I knew I could leave and come back to (if need be) and that I could still make awesome money. Have a goal? Stop working your cushy 9-5 office job that pays less than $18 an hour and get yourself a job that makes easy, and quick, money.

2. Give up your vices. I used to have a Grande soy-chai-latte ($4.96) from Starbuckseveryday.I cut back considerably and only had my Starbucks once a week. If I cheated (I’m addicted) I would opt for a tall instead, or choose to have an ameriano-misto (considerably cheaper than a latte) with two-pumps of toffee-nut. I also signed up for a Starbucks card which gives me soy milk and added syrupsfor free!Result: I saved approximately $30 a week by cutting out Starbucks.

3. Stop shopping. I have a lot of friends who tell me that they can’t save money. Yet, every time I see them they seem to have a new top, dress or purse. If you are saving money, give up your wants. I sat on my bed sulking yesterday because the society-trained-shopper inside of me realized I hadn’t purchased any new clothing in a long while, and therefore had nothing to wear. If you are saving money for a trip, or a house, or whatever it may be, the reward of saving the money sooner is way more satisfying than spending $50 at The Gap. If you need something, then of course go buy it, but do yourself a favor and find a bargain.

4. Find free entertainment. Going to a movie once a week can cost you upwards of $12. That’s $48 a month (more if you grab goodies) that you are spending. Instead, look in your local Zines/Newspapers for information regarding local events that are free or cost little. Here in Edmonton there are always festivals going on, so when a friend suggests a movie or drinks on a patio I always suggest going to the park to check out the festivals. You end up saving money and come to appreciate your community more. If you’re really craving a movie try getting Netflix ($7.99/month) and stream movies, or rent a movie at a local rental shop (if one still exists in your area); The Movie Studio in Edmonton rents a movie for $5 and gives free popcorn!

5. Talk to a financial adviser. This one is very important! You may think that merely putting aside “X” amount of dollars in a savings account is enough. But, if you go in and talk to someone about it they will probably have a more efficient way for you to save money. Although I’m not seeing the benefits right away, with my new TD Travel Visa I get a lot of perks that will save me money during my travels, which means my $10,000 will last longer!

6. BUDGET. If you’re super organized, or know how to use a spreadsheet, this should be very simple. But, if you’re like me, this probably seems really daunting. I don’t have some great formula to share with you, but rather a very easy way to roughly budget your money. Write down your fixed expenses. Write down how much you roughly make a month (if you are a server this will be a very rough estimate, always assume you’ll make less). Then, figure out how much that leaves left over for saving/entertainment/food/gas etc. For example, I had roughly $2500 extra a month. I made a goal to put aside $1000 every two weeks for Europe. There are better ways to budget, and I highly recommend being very strict on a budget if your income is more fixed than mine.

7. Constantly look at your savings. Like most people, I like immediate gratification. In other words, I want to have my money now so that I can go on my trip yesterday. Saving money is hard because there are always temptations getting in the way: a trip with friends, a cute dress at H&M or an awesome bedroom set on sale for just $800. So, to keep myself from buying into temptation, I looked at my account everyday and counted my tip money everyday.To some this may seem ridiculous and unneeded. But seriously, seeing my money grow (and sometimes deplete, ouch!) I was able to keep my eye on the goal. I knew that if I didn’t buy my Starbucks everyday, I would be able to see my money grow faster.

I wish I had some other advice, but this is all I really have. I guess the only other motivating factor is this: it feels amazing when you reach your goal! The point of this blog is for other aspiring travelers to have inspiration and knowledge about the process of traveling: the money saving & anxiety filled pre-trip planning as well as the adventure that awaits. So, take my advice to heart. You will feel so proud of yourself when you look at your bank account one day and realize that you, and nobody else, saved the cash.

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