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!
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.
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!
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!
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!