How I Saved Money to Go Travelling (Interrail) Through Europe
The waiter walked towards us and placed the bill on the table. I had just polished off a plate of the most mouthwateringly delicious seafood linguine of my life in Rome, as the glow from the sun illuminated the Colosseum only ten feet away. But this trip wouldn’t have been possible without a few money-saving techniques I've learned over the last year.
So you want to travel the world and satisfy your lust for adventure? You want to have new experiences that will not only change the way you view the world, and view people, but most importantly change you for the better?
But wait, there is only one problem. You have no money (you're poorer than a church mouse as my granny use to say).
No worries, I got you. I know the struggles of seeing beautiful faraway places in magazines and on TV and vowing one day to visit. I would see my friends travel to places like Mexico, Italy, Portugal and Spain and think ... one day, God one day. I will see these places. I still haven't seen 'Mexico, Spain or Portugal,' but don't worry I'll get around to them.
I didn't go on holiday until after university and landing my first job. I wasn't making tons of money, but I knew that coming from a small island I wanted to travel.
I wanted to see the world.
I plotted with a friend to see as many countries in Europe as we could fit into our three weeks annual leave. This was not easy but definitely worth it.
I knew that by interrailing (using trains to travel throughout Europe) we could visit 10 countries in three weeks.
The only thing left after selecting the countries and dates we wanted to travel: the cost.
I sat down and looked at what this whole 'interrailing Europe' adventure would cost.
I calculated that £1700 would cover the cost of the: interrailing pass, hotels, hostels, excursions and spending money. This was my goal and I was determined to achieve it.
Now, this might not seem like a lot of money to many people but back then, as a new graduate, that was more than half of my monthly salary. The struggle was real!
So, here’s how I saved up to go travelling (interrail) through Europe
I prioritise travel over all else
I got on a budget, yes a budget. I know it's not sexy or glamorous but if followed, it can allow you to achieve your dreams of travelling.
What's a budget, and why do you need one?
Do you know how much your income vs expenses is from month to month? If the answer is no, then you need a budget.
A budget is a plan which divides your income so that it meets your expenses for a set period of time, whether monthly or yearly.
We all need a budget, and here’s why: a budget tells your money where to go, it means you have a plan for your money.
The most common misconception some people have about a budget is that it's restrictive. This couldn't be further from the truth, everyone needs a budget.
My budget allowed me to track my expenses and income. When something is tracked it can be measured, refined and improved. Being on a budget showed me how much I spent on dining out with friends, Starbucks coffee, as well as pointless magazine and box subscriptions. It showed me how much I could save per month to go towards my 'interrailing trip'.
For my income, I included money I received from my salary as well as items I sold on eBay.
I took three months bank statements to get a true picture of how much I was spending. We all believe we are spending less than we really are. Track everything - even that drunken £45 Uber ride you want to pretend didn't happen.
You can find your bank statements in your mail or if you have gone paperless go online and review your bank statements for the last three months. This made me aware of all my monthly direct debits and standing orders, along with the dates when they were due.
Some banks can show you a monthly spending analysis for your account. This gives you a visual breakdown of the areas where you spend or overspend money.
Everyone’s monthly expenses are different, but common monthly expenses include rent, utility bills, council tax, mobile phone, transport, TV package and food.
Keeping a track of my spending was important. It showed me how my daily spending was adding up over time and how this was affecting my ability to save up enough money towards my travel goals.
Like my favourite soy caramel cappuccino at £3.10. I would get one every morning on my way to work which initially is not much.
But after carefully tracking my spending, this coffee habit worked out to £67 per month and £802 a year!
I love me some coffee but that had to go!
Now I make my own coffee and take it to work every day.
I also cancelled all non-essential monthly expenses. I now read magazines while standing in WH Smith, and only sign up to Netflix 30 day free trials (just remember to cancel after the 30 days).
Financial goals are the key to success when sticking to your budget. A set goal with a specific deadline motivated me to be innovative with my spending because I was working towards something.
I knew that setting aside a set amount every month, along with all my other expense-cutting methods, would help me to achieve my goal of saving up £1700 for my interrailing trip.
I broke this down into small actionable steps. By saving £250 a month it would take me seven months to save up £1700.
I also automated the payment of £250 every month into a separate bank account. This was to prevent me from spending it. I also saved the money I made from selling my old computer and phone on eBay.
I had booked my holiday for mid-July/August. My aim was to save up all the money by June. Below is a graph of how I saved on a monthly basis (fancy I know!). I achieved my goal ahead of schedule.
Monthly Saving Goals
As the Eurostar pulled into St. Pancreas and I rummage through my bag to find my ticket. I pulled out the Venetian mask I had brought near the canal in Venice as a gondola passed by and looked at it, caressing the feathers with my fingers. At that moment I knew that my interrailing through Europe would not have been possible without budgeting.
How has budgeting helped you saved up to travel?
all photos by @thewanderingjam