The Small Things: 9 Little Ways to Sock Away Travel Money

Spending Diet update! You can track how my own savings are progressing here.

In last month’s money update I wrote about major life changes you could make to save money. While incredibly effective, I know those aren’t always the easiest things to implement, so today I wanted to go in the opposite direction and round up some small things you can do to help build your travel fund.

None of the things I’ve listed below are huge sacrifices, but over time they can add up to be fairly significant sources of money:

  • Stop Buying Food- Not all food obviously (you still need to live) but you can save a bundle in the long run by brown bagging your lunches and cutting back on coffee breaks. That $3 Starbucks latte every morning is going to run you over $1000 a year.
  • Start Stockpiling Change– Any time I get change back from a purchase I pour it directly into my large glass change jar.
    Once it’s full I head on over to coin-star and convert it back into lovely dollars. It’s inspiring to watch the jar fill up and I know from experience that once my jar is full it’s probably holding at least $100.

    money in jar

    Creative Commons License photo credit: sciondriver

  • Stop paying for entertainment- There’s this really amazing place called the library, where you can borrow all the books and movies you want for free! It’s kind of amazing when you think about it.
  • Buy Generic– Now is not the time to be all snobby. It is the SAME STUFF, I swear. Save yourself the $2 and pick up the store brand shampoo, Advil, Tostitos, whatever.
  • Quit impulse buying– this has saved me a bundle. I used to spend a lot of money online (clothes) shopping. When I started my Spending Diet the very first thing I did was impose a 24-hour waiting period between putting anything in my online cart and pressing buy. The difference is incredible- I very rarely buy anything online these days. And I don’t really feel any worse off for it.
  • Quit the Gym– You’re leaving soon hopefully anyways, so now is as good a time as ever to start learning to live without your gym. Easy for me to say, as I’m only vaguely familiar with the idea of a workout room, but I DO know that those memberships are expensive.  Make the sacrifice and start working out at home or jogging.
  • Become a Little Lamer– Last month we determined that the biggest money suck for twenty-somethings is nightlife. If you can find free things to do or start staying home even one weekend night month you can save yourself a bundle. One suggestion for ruining your social life? Start a blog! I’m writing this on a Saturday night right now.
  • Sell stuff– I’m going to be talking about this in more detail in future columns, but it’s always a good time to start looking around your house and thinking about what’s expendable. I guarantee you probably have some junk that you could pass along to another grateful owner in exchange for a few bucks.
  • Push yourself with a Savings Challenge these little things add up over time, but sometimes you need a surge to keep you going. If you are feeling ambitious you might try Ramit Sethi’s “Save $1000 in 30 Days” challenge, which includes a lot of great tips for how to squeeze every last cent. Or the Untemplater 30-Day “No Spend” Challenge.

In addition to padding your bank account, I think that doing these things has a positive psychological component. Just like World War Two home front efforts, making these small daily sacrifices reminds you that you’re working towards something bigger. Every day you put away a little change and bring yourself a little bit closer to reaching your travel goals.

For lots of money saving tips check out:

Dumb Little Man


What small things do you do to save money?

65 Responses to The Small Things: 9 Little Ways to Sock Away Travel Money

  1. Abbey Hesser March 7, 2010 at 2:13 PM #

    Great post Steph. I do the coin jar thing as well and coinstar is GREAT! Banks charge way more to count your coins for you. I’d be interested to see you rewrite this from a #rtwnow perspective once you get on the road. I have a REALLY hard time saving money while I travel (I’m a spending machine, to be perfectly honest) and would appreciate any tips you can muster up!
    .-= Abbey Hesser´s last blog ..A Walking Tour of the Western Irish Countryside =-.

    • Becs March 8, 2010 at 3:37 PM #

      or save even more and count the coins yourself! a great way to keep busy while watching tv.

      • Tracey October 13, 2011 at 3:08 PM #

        We start saving coins when we get back from our cruise. When the next year’s cruise comes we roll our coins and have enough for dinner on the way to the ship and parking. We even got to valet park this year with the money we collected just by saving our coins. We bought a simple coin counter (less than $20.00) so all we have to do in slip on the roll and take it to the bank.

        • Steph October 16, 2011 at 9:57 PM #

          it adds up surprisingly fast!

    • J Miller October 14, 2011 at 10:30 AM #

      WOW! save all that money after your cruse! So of us can’t afford a cruse, gym membership,weekend out. already doing the generic drug and store brand thing, cash in all the money in the jar.still find it hard to make it. Trying to save money for a houm on St. John USVI. but will need about 1.6 mil for the down payment. what’s a poor boy to do ?

      • Steph October 14, 2011 at 10:37 AM #

        The article is about saving money to travel- therefor the comment is appropriate. Please be civil.

  2. Steph March 7, 2010 at 2:56 PM #

    That’s a great idea Abbey- I will file it away for later. Saving before a trip is easier to regulate than being frugal on the unpredictable road for sure.

  3. sherry ott March 7, 2010 at 5:43 PM #

    Great advice for all ages! Totally agree with you about the library. I got a card for the first time in my adult life and felt like I had discovered the moon…I could hardly believe what they all had there – for free! Yes, buy generic – especially when it comes to drugs…really – they are the same – ask to any pharmacist! Plus I like your advice about quit the gym – when traveling you have to figure out ways to motivate yourself outside the gym. Take up running – it’s the cheapest sport there is and no real equipment is needed except shoes – and you were packing those anyway!
    .-= sherry ott´s last blog ..porters-9 =-.

    • Steph March 7, 2010 at 8:49 PM #

      Yes, I really love the library it can be such an amazing resource that people don’t take advantage of.

  4. Keith March 7, 2010 at 7:44 PM #

    Stop paying for entertainment is a good tip that my wife and I have found useful. There have been so many times we’ve bought books unnecessarily. If we could have all that money back we’d probably have saved many hundreds of dollars. Before you buy a book, think: are you the type to re-read it? If not, hit the library instead.
    .-= Keith´s last blog ..The Drink Taxonomy of Guys =-.

    • Steph March 7, 2010 at 8:50 PM #

      yup, books and movies are killer because $10 doesn’t seem much- but it adds up!

    • Joel March 7, 2010 at 10:28 PM #

      This was one of my worst indulgences for many years. Hundreds of DVDs, hundreds of books I’ve never read (and 500+ that I had).

      I can’t even imagine how much money that would have been, even if I only bought ones that I read. Buying DVDs is screwy – how many do I watch more than once?

  5. Poi March 8, 2010 at 8:16 AM #

    I am doing all of those at the moment apart from the one that costs me the most, the nightlife. I live we three friends and its so hard to say no when they are all drinking at home and getting excited about a night out. Luckily (for me anyway) they are all in debt and not going out as much anymore. Not buying books is tough as well but I have a friend whos into the classics as well so we just trade.

    • Steph March 8, 2010 at 7:58 PM #

      yea nightlife is killer and hard for me as well! Taking it weekend by weekend.

  6. Suzy March 8, 2010 at 12:08 PM #

    Good tips here! I completely forgot about the giant jar of change I have currently in my closet. Thanks for the reminder!
    .-= Suzy´s last blog ..To Travel or Not To Travel? That is the Question =-.

    • Steph March 8, 2010 at 7:58 PM #

      awesome! found money!

    • Barbara Lorenz October 13, 2011 at 1:45 PM #

      Take your change to your bank! Most have machines that count it all for you – just bring the receipt to the counter and they change it to cash. Coin Star charges at least 7% of your total to do what the banks will do for free.

      • Steph October 16, 2011 at 9:58 PM #

        good point!

  7. Christine March 8, 2010 at 12:15 PM #

    Even better than Coinstar- roll the coins yourself! Get the coin roll wrappers for free from your bank, borrow a movie from the library on a rainy day and roll coins while you watch the movie.

    In terms of selling stuff, stores like Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange are a great way to make some money on your clothes that will surely not be in style by the time you return.

    Yay for saving!

    • Steph March 8, 2010 at 7:59 PM #

      I’ve been looking for a consignment shop in the DC area to unload some stuff. No luck so far!

  8. Gray March 8, 2010 at 12:16 PM #

    Great advice, Steph. I have used every one of these at some point in my life, except the last one.
    .-= Gray´s last blog ..Recommended Reads, March 7, 2010 =-.

    • Steph March 8, 2010 at 7:59 PM #

      Right now I feel like my life is one big money challenge.

  9. Laura March 8, 2010 at 7:17 PM #

    Great article! I already do lots of these but I do like the idea of a Savings Challenge. One thing I’ve completely stopped doing is buying books and DVDs – I can’t even bring myself to buy guidebooks anymore. And, I’ve become lamer as well! I’d rather spend my money going out while traveling than going out at home. It helps that some of my friends want to save money too so we can plan cheap things like hiking or movie nights at home instead of going out to the bars!
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Istanbul (or, My First Trip Abroad) =-.

    • Steph March 8, 2010 at 8:06 PM #

      Starting a blog has been the key to destroying my social life!

  10. Abhi March 9, 2010 at 12:50 AM #

    I think, going tough on food/drinks related luxuries (like icecream/chocolates for me, alcohol for a whole lot of people) can help save a lot!
    .-= Abhi´s last blog ..Why you should not travel the way a travel-writer would suggest. =-.

    • Steph March 9, 2010 at 12:37 PM #

      It can save a lot of money but it’s also the hardest thing to do!

  11. Heather March 9, 2010 at 1:25 AM #

    We had a budget, and every month we were spending no more than we were earning. Pretty good, right? But then we totalled up how much money we earned that *didn’t* go to basic bills/debts (mortgage, phone, electricity, his car, my student loans), and were aghast!

    So we cut the number in half, divided it by 4 (weeks in a month, roughly). We take that much cash out at the beginning of the week (Sunday, the day we buy food for the week) and that’s what we have to spend. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Anything under $50 comes from the fund, including doc copays and those annoying kinds of things. Things like new tires go on the credit card, which is paid online as soon as we get home, so there’s never even a bill, much less a balance.

    It has worked wonderfully!!

    • Steph March 9, 2010 at 12:46 PM #

      I give myself a monthly allowance (after I pay my bills) and force myself to stick with it. Very sobering!

  12. Courtney March 9, 2010 at 9:11 AM #

    My tip: Coupons. You can buy lots of the food you like for little to no money and with pharmacy loyalty programs like CVS’s extracare bucks you can get make up, shampoo, etc for free. There are tons of blogs and websites that help like and It does take extra time and effort, but if you want to completely cut that out of your budget it is worth it. I would also recommend using your local supermarkets loyalty programs to catch all their sales and to use the supermarket that doubles manufacturer coupons.

    • Steph March 9, 2010 at 12:44 PM #

      My problem with coupons is that they sometimes trick me into spending money on something I wouldn’t have before because it’s a “deal.”

      I do however love my Safeway club card.

  13. Laura March 9, 2010 at 12:36 PM #

    Great tips Steph! Especially the one about becoming a little lamer…nightlife is so expensive, and they’ll be plenty of that once you get abroad!

    • Steph March 9, 2010 at 12:41 PM #

      Yup, it makes people laugh but it’s true! I’ve been trying to find cheaper nights out.

  14. Akila March 9, 2010 at 9:47 PM #

    I think buying generic is a big one. We used to always buy “brand” name in the U.S., but when we started traveling, we couldn’t necessarily find those brands and are willing to use generic or equivalent alternates. They work just as well.
    .-= Akila´s last blog ..just another city: bangkok =-.

    • Steph March 9, 2010 at 9:59 PM #

      I’m trying to get better about it. Shampoo I can do, toothpaste I need the real stuff!

  15. Cornelius Aesop March 11, 2010 at 10:29 AM #

    I can never do the saving up change because I never use cash. When I use my card I’m apprehensive about every purchase, but with cash that stuff just flies away. I should see if my bank does that round up bit where they send the ‘change’ into a savings account.
    .-= Cornelius Aesop´s last blog ..2012 A New Beginning =-.

    • Steph March 11, 2010 at 10:39 AM #

      It’s definitely different for everyone. I find myself more cautious with cash because I can physically see it dwindling away, where as plastic money just seems imaginary to me.

  16. Monica March 12, 2010 at 9:15 PM #

    Great list! My secret to saving on entertainment is but shhhh, you didn’t hear it from me. 😉

  17. Michael March 13, 2010 at 10:31 AM #

    Great list, but why does everyone always pick on coffee? I’m a coffee shop owner and if people followed your advice here (and the advice of ever other financial consultant to cut out coffee shop spending), I would be put out of business . . . not complaining, just sayin.
    .-= Michael´s last blog ..Simplicity =-.

    • Steph March 13, 2010 at 11:01 AM #

      ahh fair point- nobody ever things of the coffee shop owners! I think that coffee gets picked on but it’s really just representational of something people pay premium for when they could make their own for cheaper (same with smoothies, sandwiches, mixed drinks). Of course hanging out at a coffee shop has certain less tangible rewards that can’t be recreated in your kitchen.

  18. Ashley March 26, 2010 at 10:15 AM #

    I’m on a spending diet so I can comfortably move to Australia. I’ve started many of these things already – but love some of the things you suggest that I’m not currently doing. I have a mean impulse online spending habit that I need to curb!
    .-= Ashley´s last blog ..Passport Day in the USA =-.

    • Steph March 26, 2010 at 11:49 AM #

      now that spring is kicking in I have to work hard to fight the urge to spring for a new wardrobe. I’m practicing a “just dont look” policy.

  19. Emily August 2, 2010 at 2:27 PM #

    I’m not wild about the idea of staying home on a Saturday night or giving up my gym membership….but you are spot on with the library thing, generics, and waiting period! I try really hard to do the waiting period thing and give myself time before making a purchase on clothes or bags. Doesn’t always help, but I’m overall less impulsive for sure. I think I’ve mentioned this in a comment in the past, but one of my big tricks is setting up an automatic savings account at an online bank like ING and having it set up to deduct a small amount from your regular checking to that savings account each week. You barely notice it disappearing and you forget it’s there since it’s at a different bank, but it adds up so fast!

    • Steph August 2, 2010 at 4:20 PM #

      Definitely a great tactic. Personally I like the boost I get from transferring the money myself every payday. Once it goes in the savings account I do NOT touch it for non-trip related things.

  20. Kimberly August 6, 2010 at 8:31 AM #

    I collect change, save a set amount each paycheck and whatever cash I have left over from that pay period, I dump into my travel fund. I’m excellent at saving money but knowing I have an actual goal makes it that much easier.

    • Steph August 6, 2010 at 11:53 AM #

      I just cashed in my jar of change and made $106! It really does add up.

  21. Voyance par mail September 9, 2010 at 4:09 AM #

    It’s a very good tactic to do that. Dumping travel fund !

  22. Jeffrey Revell Reade October 1, 2010 at 9:20 AM #

    I think buying generic is key. Alot of generic or no brands dothe same job as the expensive brands. It will save alot.

  23. eewrewr October 27, 2010 at 6:17 AM #

    Budget. Everyone is in a different situation, but budgeting and planning will enable almost anyone to travel. It may take a few months or a few years to reach your goals, but if you are careful and methodical you will get there. I once planned a trip for three years! Three years of scrimping and saving in order to take

  24. China Deals | Stan November 8, 2010 at 5:37 AM #

    Great tips there. I think that I’m wasting my money on Saturday nights as well. I consider myself being reasonable spender overall. I’m always looking for a better deal and all. But if you are outside and drinking that will be expensive and there is really nothing you can do about it. So yeah, thanks for pointing that out. More blogging, less nights out, roger that.

  25. Jess October 13, 2011 at 5:04 AM #

    Yes, yes, and yes! On the “be lamer” note… I find that when you cut back on going out, your alcohol tolerance ends up plummeting. Where it would take me 5-6 beers to feel giggly in college, now it takes only 2-3… which leads to additional savings. 🙂

    • Steph October 16, 2011 at 10:02 PM #

      Haha, an unexpected bonus!

  26. james October 13, 2011 at 10:14 AM #

    yes changing ones structure of perspectives and way of living, brings great oppertunity and joy.

  27. nancy nurse October 13, 2011 at 3:23 PM #

    i never give change, breaking a dollar helps save. I make my own coffee in the morning and take it in the car with me. I watch movies with netflix, I shop at tj max and marshalls, i try and use coupons

    • Steph October 16, 2011 at 9:57 PM #

      Love tj maxx and marshalls as well!

  28. Jetzt October 13, 2011 at 7:57 PM #

    Honestly I am doing all of the above, and it doesn’t make much of a difference, if the savings is being attacked by substantial cuts in income, a massive debt load, or a combination of both. As it stands I barely eat much of anything, and I’m a college student working as close to full time as my boss allows.

    • Steph October 16, 2011 at 9:56 PM #

      I’m sorry, with the economy right now things are just really tough out there aren’t they. Hopefully things will get better and eventually you will be able to start a travel fund!

  29. Mickey October 13, 2011 at 8:53 PM #

    Everyone talked about saving money. They STRESS over this and STRESS over that. When you drink and if you do this, you do a lot more of it when you’re drinking. This thing has so many triggers to make you want it. No matter where you go they’re not cheap. How about quiting CIGAERETTES or tobacco? I used to pay $4.50 a pack in Columbus Ohio, moved to Honolulu Hawaii 6 weeks ago, cigarettes here in Hawaii are anywhere from $8 a pack to $14 a pack. I took the money from a pack a day and put in a jar then added the occasional extra pack and in 6 weeks ive saved $460. I based it on the store across the street where they are $10 a pack. Also I can breathe better, smell stuff better,my clothes are smelling better, food taste different. So im saving money and getting healthier and can do more than I used to. I just had to watch what I ate because the first 2 weeks I started to gain weight. Now that I can run 10 miles on the treadmill in the free gym at where i live or if I really want to sweat, run 10 miles on the beach here in Waikiki, the area in Honolulu that I live now. What helped quit smoking too was that Hawaii offers free help to anyone who wants to quit. hey provide the gum or the patch for free, plus a counsoler.

    • Steph October 16, 2011 at 9:51 PM #

      Vices are expensive, it’s the truth!

  30. yet another tim October 14, 2011 at 11:05 AM #

    My library also has magazines (about 100) and cds of music of several types.

    On the change thing– Shop around. My grocerie store and my credit union both use a machine that cost 10%. One of the banks in the area doesn’t charge anything for sorting and countinig your change if you have an account with them. So I opened a small account just to get my change counted. Then I started depositing it to that account and with in a year had over $1,000.00 in the account which started with only $25.00. But I didn’t stop there. I didn’t like haveing money only making half a percent; So I invested the money in a REIT that was paying 18%.

    • Steph October 16, 2011 at 9:48 PM #

      Brilliant! I wish I was better with investing because I think it’s a great way to grow your money.

  31. Gayla~ November 16, 2012 at 3:48 AM #

    These are all great tips, even those in the comments. I’m a big fan of libraries, coupons and even buying stuff from second-hand stores to help keep cash in hand. In addtion, one of the things that helped me afford to travel, was to put the majority of my essential purchases on my credit card and earn Air Miles. Gasing up the car and buying groceries were the main things that at the end of the year gave me a good start on airline tickets that were practicaly free. Of course, it helps to be diligent about saving money in other areas to be able to afford to pay off 100% of the card balace before the due date to avoid exorbitant c.c. penalty fees.

  32. Nicole @ Suitcase Stories March 25, 2013 at 12:34 PM #

    We did a lot of these during the time we were saving to leave. Its amazing how much you can save when you put your mind to it!

    Thats why I get so frustrated when people use money as an excuse not to travel! They are usually spending money on all of the above and more, so its not that they don’t HAVE the money, its that they use it on less important things.

    I have a friend who wants to travel long term (she hears all the stories we have and wants the same… which is great! Thats why I blog about it!)… But she tells me she has no money to do it. However, she is still buying the designer clothes and handbags, eating lunch and diner out most days and drives around in a very expensive car!

    I just don’t get it. If you are working full time and can afford to live an affluent lifestyle, you can well afford to live a lifestyle of travel. Why do they keep on making excuses when the answers are clearly there!!! (Sorry, that may be a little anger at my friend coming out there lol)

    • Steph March 25, 2013 at 12:49 PM #

      What I’ve found is that a lot of people like the idea of long term travel but they aren’t actually interested in the reality of it. If they were those excuses would dissappear fast.

      • Nicole @ Suitcase Stories March 25, 2013 at 1:53 PM #

        Yeah you are probably very right Steph. That in itself is infuriating! Oh well, I wont waste time worrying about those people, Ill just make sure Im living the life I want 🙂


  1. Weekend Intelligence: September 11, 2010 – - December 18, 2015

    […] My main constraints are time and money. Fortunately, Stephanie at TwentySomething Travel offers “9 Little Ways to Sock Away Travel Money.” Her tips have helped her save over $20,000 over the past 2 years or so, enough to take her on a […]

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