Travel means something different to each of us, but we all share that innate need to explore and experience unknown places. To quote Terry Pratchett, “Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” The ultimate question of whether to get on that plane or add more funds to the security fund is a major dilemma for most travellers. Here are some things that might help you find a middle way to get the best of both.
How to decide: take a trip or save money?
A dread of a question that haunts us all is the decision to take a trip instead of saving more. So how do you decide if this is the right time to take a trip? Sometimes all you need is to ask yourself a few simple questions to get the answers for yourself. Here’s what I ask myself:
1. Do I need to take this trip right now?
Ask yourself, why do you need to take this trip right now? For example, if it is an eclipse that you will never see or a meteor shower, then this investment is worth it.
2. If I take this trip, will I be broke when I return?
When planning a trip, only spend a portion of your monthly income on it. Even if you want to travel full time, your travel costs should make up a part of your total income.
3. Are there any emergency expenses lined up?
If you have any emergency expenses to take care of, for example, renewal of insurance or furniture, then postponing the trip is a better idea.
4. Can I cut down the cost or duration to fit my budget?
You can find a way to cut down the cost of your trip, where you can save a sum and also plan a short trip.
How to Travel without Spending Money
Do you read blogs about how a person travelled with no money and wonder how they did it? Let me tell you, it is possible. You can travel without having to save up for months to take a trip. You can substitute all major expenses such as transport, accommodation and food. Hitchhiking and volunteering are the best ways to do it. But if that is not your travel style, you can travel closer to home, or take day trips to cut down the cost to the minimum.
I once took a 3 week trip to Hampi, one of the cheapest destinations in India, for 3000 INR ($40). I reached out to a traveller hostel to work as a volunteer in exchange for food and accommodation. They were happy to have someone to manage their property for free!
You can find traveller-friendly locations with hostels, cafes and NGOs where you can find volunteering opportunities, on the go jobs or community work. Some of the top destinations to do this in India are Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Auroville, North-East India, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Karnataka.
Creating Travel Experiences at Home to Save Money
If saving money is your priority right now, create experiences at home to relieve the sensation of travel. It is not always possible to travel to exotic places and meet people, in the post-pandemic world it is a lot easier to travel without leaving your couch. Find online experiences, tours, meetups and events to experience that joy of exploring and meeting. Connect with other travellers online, find people who like doing the same things as you, or find the top things to do in your city. There’s so much to experience within our homes and cities when you can’t travel far, explore things within your reach. You may find something very exciting and new.
How Much Should You Spend on a trip?
The primary budget for a trip is determined by the cost of travel, food, accommodation and experiences. The best way to decide how much you want to spend on each is by understanding your travel style and requirements. For example, do you like luxury accommodations or do you prefer spending your money on food?
Allocate 40 per cent to travel cost (not optional in most cases). Set your priority and allocate 30 per cent to your most preferred experience. Cut down costs where you don’t have specific choices. For example, I travel cheap and I don’t spend a lot on accommodation because I’m mostly outdoors but I enjoy exploring cafes. I allocate 40 percent to unique experiences & cafes and about 30 percent to accommodation and transport each.
Is spending money on travel worth it?
The simplest way to discover this is by weighing the pros and cons of travelling and saving. There is no downside to either but at a certain stage in your life, one thing supersedes the other. As individuals who are passionate about travelling the world, travelling is certainly worth it. Every trip you think of may not be worth taking and here’s how I decide whether to take a trip or not.
- Make a list of unique experiences on this trip.
- Calculating how much will it disrupt my saving plan for the year
- Can I recover the money I spent within a set time frame?
- The best and cheapest time to take this trip
- Is there a cheaper alternative that will give me the best of both?
If you’re just starting out and unsure whether traveling is worth your time and money, give it time. Try different travel styles, you may not prefer budget travel but you might enjoy staying in hostels. You may not like volunteering in an NGO but working in a cafe might just be your thing. The best part about travel is that you don’t have to choose it over saving, if you save enough on your trip.
Comparative Analysis: Travel Vs Saving
|Unique global experiences||Secure contingency funds|
|Cross-cultural exposure||Financial freedom|
|A step closer to growth||A step closer to goals|
|You become richer as a person||You are financially richer|
How to save and travel at the same time
You can travel and be financially responsible at the same time. All it takes is some planning. Find a source to generate passive income and create multiple income streams. You can also set goals like income from one source will go to savings and the other for travel. Set priorities and experiment to find ways that work for you.
You can cut down the travel cost or find an income source on your trip. Some people volunteer where they stay to cut down accommodation and food costs. Some travel while working remotely so that they can travel and save at the same time.
Travel and saving are not opposites, they are complimentary. You can save money for your college fund and still take that trip. Some tweaks in your travel style such as a long staycation, and planning a multi-destination itinerary saves a lot of money. Find ways to make it happen and it will.
Travel Vs Saving is an existential question with no right answer. Saving is important but so is travel. Don’t take every trip you think of but don’t save every penny you make. Find a balance, take that trip and find ways to save some cash. Having an emergency fund is appealing but don’t let it hold you back from a plan that will transform you. Save while you travel, save before you travel, or travel before you save, don’t let your must-dos overshadow your passion and don’t let your passion blind you to the other.