How I saved £8,000 to travel – The reality behind saving to travel

How I saved £8,000 to travel“Quit your job and travel the world!”

Ahh, it’s the dream isn’t it? The pipe dream that everyone is aspiring to.

But it doesn’t have to be a pipe dream and today I’d like to show that it is achievable – even if you’re a student, on minimum wage or simply think it’s impossible

Before the age of 21, I managed to save £8,000 to travel for two years. I know what you’re thinking, £8,000 isn’t enough to travel for 2 years but it was enough to travel for 5 months before heading to Australia where I worked and travelled. It also gave me a constant safety net of savings while I was in Australia that I knew I could fall back on if I needed to.

But how does a full time student, working crummy jobs on minimum wage manage to save £8,000?

I’d like to point out now that while my parents are awesome, loving and supportive, they didn’t give me a single penny to travel. They’re all about ‘encouraging independence’ and I have to admit that it’s worked.

I should also point out that, like most students in the UK, I had a student loan which covered my university fees and the cost of rent and food. This is a low interest loan that I’ll probably pay off when I’m about 110.

Today I’d like to tell you about how I saved the money to take my first ‘big trip’. I left the UK in 2009 with £8,000 in my bank account. A lot of money for a 21 year old fresh out of uni. Unfortunately there’s no secret formula to saving money, particularly when you’re a student and you don’t have any specialist skills to sell for lots of money!

Here’s how I did it.

 

I had a bank account where it was difficult to remove money

I started my first job in a hotel when I was 14 and my wages were paid into my bank account. At 14 I only had a child’s account which required my mum to be with me to withdraw any money. This meant I had to go into town with my mum whenever I wanted any cash.

First of all, my mum is not the kind of woman who wanted to spend her weekends running errands in town so persuading her to come to the bank with me was virtually impossible.

Secondly, I was 14 and way too cool to be seen in town with my mum! (Why is that so embarrassing for teenagers!?)

So basically, I never withdrew any of the wages I earned at the hotel. I didn’t earn a lot. I was on minimum wage and worked about 10-15 hours a week and maybe 20 hours during the school holidays but over two years I was sitting on more that £5,000. Not bad for a 16 year old.

I also had a baby sitting job which paid about £25 a week – more than enough for a 14 year old to get by.

I cannot recommend this method of saving enough.

Saving Tip: I know most of us no longer require our mums to be with us to withdraw our money so set up an ISA or similar savings account where it’s either impossible or difficult to withdraw money.

If it’s impossible to get to your money, it’s impossible to spend it!

The Travel Hack Mackerel Islands

I had a job that perfectly slotted into my life

In my second and third years at university I worked 20 hours a week in a deli café. 30 hours a week seems like a lot when you’re meant to be studying (and you’re also out clubbing until 3am at least 4 nights a week!)

I was very lucky and managed to find a job that slotted into my uni life and my social life perfectly.

I worked 3 days a week from 8am-3pm. The deli was across the road from my lecture hall so if I had any lectures I was often allowed to pop across for the hour long lecture and then pop back into work. They’d even give me a cup of coffee and a snack to take with me!

I studied English Language and Literature and we actually only had 4-6 hours of lectures per week so it was really easy to work around these hours.

I’d then be home to have dinner with my housemates and get ready for a big night out. It was perfect.

I rarely worked weekends so this was when I got my uni work done and caught up on some much needed sleep.

This was also a surprisingly physical job so there was no need for expensive gym memberships as it kept me in tip top shape. I got a uniform and my meals were included in most shifts so I saved money on work clothes and food.

Saving tip: Find a job that works for you. It probably won’t be a normal 9-5 but a job that slots into other commitments and means you don’t miss out on a social life.

monica stott in Thailand

I worked solidly during the holidays

During the university holidays I’d easily work 50-60 hours per week. I worked in pubs and restaurants doing 12 hour days. Restaurants often do ‘split shifts’ which means you do the breakfast/lunch shift. You then go home and go back for the evening shift.

And if you’re a good waitress you can make a fairly decent amount in tips which meant I often didn’t need to spend my wages. I could spend the entire summer living off my tips.

Saving tip: Jobs that allow you to work long hours and over time can often help you save more money than a slightly better paid job.

 

I sold EVERYTHING

This was more because my mum gave me strict instructions not to leave too much of my junk in their house when I left to go travelling. I sold most of my books, CDs, DVDs, clothes, shoes and, most importantly, my car! OK, I only got £400 for my clapped out banger of a car but £400 goes a long way when you’re travelling.

 

I booked my flights early

I booked my flights out to Australia almost a year in advance. I don’t think I saved much money booking so early but getting things booked gives you a kick up the arse to save. There’s no turning back now!

 

Sharing clothes

I love buying new clothes but I new I had to give up my shopaholic tendencies when I was saving for travel. I lived with lots of girls and we all shared clothes to make the budget stretch a bit further. This is loads of fun and saves you a fortune and you’d be amazed how different a dress can look on different people. The trick is to find friends with different hair colours and different heights but all roughly the same size!

 

As you can see, I basically just worked A LOT. A hell of a lot.

The thing about working a lot is that you don’t have much time to spend all that hard earned money, making it much easier to save it. I don’t think you should deprive yourself of things. It’s important to take time off, buy yourself pretty things and spend time with your family and friends. You just have to do everything in moderation and make sure you’re earning a lot more than you’re spending.

There is no real secret to saving money to travel. You don’t need to have a high paid job. You don’t need to know every travel hack in the book. You don’t need to get x-amount of credit cards to collect x-amount of points. Just work really, really hard!


What kind of saver are you?

More info about saving for travel

Don’t forget that I’m co-hosting a Twitter chat with TrekAmerica on March 5th and it’s all about saving for travel.

If you need some saving inspiration, take a look at TrekAmerica’s infographic all about amazing ways young people save to go travelling. Apparently, 2/3 of young people spend their cash on travelling and save for travel for 14 months.

Oh, and 10% of lads would consider stripping for some extra cash. Go boys!

Trek America also have a cute quiz, ‘What kind of saver are you?’ and there’s a chance to win a £250 Trek voucher. Every little helps!

 

 

TheTravelHack

Monica is the founder and editor of The Travel Hack. She began the blog in 2009 when she left the UK to travel around Asia and Australia for two years. She's now a professional blogger and has travelled around the world in search of stylish adventure travel. Monica has recently had her second baby and is determined to prove that travelling with a baby is possible!

SHOWHIDE Comments (21)
  1. Really excellent tips! You should feel proud of your parents, truly! That’s such an important life experience. I wasn’t aloud to work before I was 16. But if I wanted something had to work and save for it. I always worked since age 16 on the summer holidays and as I was living with my parents I saved all of it. My sister did the same. I would not be able to travel at that time simply because of wage differences. I think working 2 months 40m I did £200! Ahahah but the teaching stays for life. Understand what your priorities are and work for it. Learn to save as you will need it forever and learn to have fun along the way 🙂

  2. I wish I hadn’t had such easy access to my bank account when I was 14, I really frittered away money. When I finally got round to deciding I want to do a gap year before uni, I worked two years in a chippy – much to the amusement of my friends. Yes, it wasn’t the most glamorous job and I did have to deal with drunk locals on Saturday nights all wanting doner kebabs, but it served its purpose and I was paid well over the minimum wage for my age. There’s not really many magic tricks to saving money. It’s mainly a case of self-discipline and graft and you’ll see the results!

  3. Thanks for sharing your ideas. I’ve just saved enough to go travelling for 7 months. It’s hard a first but once you get into the swing of things, it was fun. My mentality now is actually that £5 I’m going to spend on my lunch, is one nights stay in Thailand. It’s crazy but it’s all the little things that add up. I also cook most of my lunches and even took the bus to be more economical.
    It will be all worth it in the end XD

  4. I love that your savings tips really involved a lot of hard work, determination, and prioritization. That’s really the only way to achieve life’s big goals! And I love that you were disciplined enough to do so at such a young age. I started working at age 15 but honestly I would pretty much take my paycheck and head straight to the mall. I wish I’d saved more and had something to show for my hard work! 🙂 Your story is such good inspiration though – not just for travel but pretty much anything that you really, really want in life!
    Jessica
    http://www.thebellevoyage.com

  5. Wow! This is incredible! I have just about saved that much money working full-time for two and a half years! So juggling your degree, student loan and a few cheeky nights out whilst saving for travels shows you’ve got the willpower of a saint! Some great tips, goes to show it can be done!

  6. Great Post! Some fantastic tips and it is great to see how you went around saving up the money. I have been considering saving up in order to go travelling, but I do not know where to start or how to go about getting there, so this is a brilliant start for me.

    Thank you.
    Maff.x

    http://www.teatomorrow.com

  7. Great tips! Incredible that you were able to save so much while in school. What I tell people who want to travel is to track their spending and then start saving. Many younger people have no idea where there money is going so it’s impossible to start saving. Once you know where your money is going, you can budget properly for the things you want, like travel.

  8. You were such a disciplined kid! I worked my butt off when I was in high school and didn’t save a dime. Sometimes I wonder what I spent all that money on at such a young age. Anyway, these are all great tips. I do think the secret to saving for long-term travel is working hard and saving like a crazy person. I saved up over $15,000 for my year-long trip. I didn’t have the highest paying job, but I managed to create a doable budget and I stuck to it. I saved enough to travel for a year and still have a large chunk of it leftover at the end.

    1. I’m sure I would have spent most of it if I could have got to it! That’s awesome that you still had some money left over after 1 year of travelling, I don’t know many people who’ve managed that!

  9. All great tips. It really shows it’s more about perseverance than earning a lot of money! I often get told (not asked, but told,) I must make a lot of money to travel as much as I do. Er… no. I just don’t spend it on anything BUT travel!

    1. Exactly. The more money you earn, the more ‘stuff’ you end up buying. You just pay more for your car or mortgage or rent and don’t really end up with much more disposable income so having a low wage shouldn’t stop anyone from saving.

  10. It really is about working hard and being strict with spending! I had 2 jobs throughout uni and for about 6 months in my second year I was working 7 days a week. So many people I knew said they didn’t have the time to work around their studies or that they didn’t want to sacrifice their grades (I got a first for my degree in the end so I think choosing not to work is a bit of a cop out). And you’re absolutely right – working so much means you barely have the time to spend the money you save!

    1. Good on you Lizzie, and congrats on that first! I agree that not working while you’re studying is usually a cop out, it’s not like you can study 24/7! I think it’s often parents who stop their kids from working while they’re in uni which is a shame.

  11. Great post! I read a lot of similar posts but I found them not realistic. Some travellers or have high paid jobs , so they manage to save a lot, or their parents provide them housing, food ecc. I liked the fact that you did you it all by your own 🙂 Did you have also another bank account for emergencies?

    1. Thanks Dina, that’s why I wrote this. I’d read lots of guides too from people with great jobs and people would comment saying, ‘I have a low paid job so I could never save any money’, but you can!

      I have a savings account and a current account – that’s what most banks give you in the UK – so I’d keep some aside in my savings account. I didn’t have an emergencies account – at the time I didn’t really have any emergencies I’d need to pay for as I was in rented accommodation and had a really old car so if it broke down I would have scrapped it.

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The Travel Hack

The Travel Hack is a blog about stylish adventure travel and affordable luxury.

We believe luxurious travel can be affordable and isn't just for the rich. Follow along with our worldwide adventures as we share our trips and tips for incredible travel experiences on a modest budget.