How I saved $35,000 to travel for a year

The most common question I get about my trip around the world is “How did you save up the money?”

Anddd the second most common question I get is, “How much did you save and spend?”

I actually don’t mind answering these questions at all because these are the main questions I was asking people before taking off on my trip.

So, how did I save $35,000 to travel the world for a year?

I’ll get to all the details on that below! As for the question of how much I spent? Well, I spent all of it.

Every single penny. After 14 months on the road, I really don’t have anything left. Let me explain…

Before my travels, I researched many different blogs and articles to see what the perfect amount would be for a year-long trip.  Most of them recommended somewhere between $14K and $25K for the year. After returning from my travels and having met many amazing people, I’ve learned you don’t even need that much! I met a lot of people who were traveling for longer than a year on $10-14K. It can be done peeps!

I knew I wanted to splurge a bit more on this trip and never wanted to feel super penny pinched, so I saved up more than what was recommended in all the articles and blogs I read. This is because I know myself and I didn’t want to be strapped for cash if something cool came up (and a lot of cool things came up)! 🙂

German Castle

At the time of saving up to travel, I was living in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the USA. If I factor in what I would have spent living in the city for one year, it far exceeds what I spent for 1 year of travel. It’s sometimes nice to put that into perspective! You may actually save money (sort of) when traveling the world!

READ MORE: FAQ: I Quit My Job to Travel for a Year

Some people may be thinking HOLY SHIT that’s a lot of money to save up. Others may think that $35K is chump change. It actually took me about two-ish years age (25-27ish) to save up the $35K.

READ MORE: 100 Things I Learned and Experienced from 1 Year of Travel 

Here’s how I did it.

Italy1. When I started saving up money, I didn’t have any student loans or debt to my name.

I was lucky enough to not have student loans after going to college and also didn’t have debt on any credit cards or to any people. I’ve always been pretty good at never spending more than I have, so starting to save with a clean slate definitely made things a lot easier.

2. I didn’t own a car while living in San Francisco.

For the entire 5+ years I lived in San Francisco I didn’t have a car or car payment. I would use Zipcar (here’s a $25 off coupon) or borrow my friend Carly’s car when I needed a car, but I honestly haven’t owned a car since high school which has saved up a ton of money!

3. I lived in a rent-controlled apartment with roommates and a shared bathroom.

Living in an apartment with roommates is super common in San Francisco, but it’s expensive to even share a place! My apartment was rent-controlled, meaning the rent hadn’t gone up in 8 years since the original leaseholder moved in. I got super lucky and had a great apartment paying $1300 a month for my room, not including utilities which is really good for San Francisco standards.

4. In the 2 years I started saving, my salary went from 80K to $100K+ a year at my marketing job.

When I started saving for this trip I was making about $80K a year and right before I quit my job, I was making $100K+. I was debating on putting my salary into this post, but I wanted you to get the full picture of how I saved up. I’m not going to lie, this salary definitely helped, but San Francisco is still an expensive city, so I still had to make a budget and focus on my priority of long-term travel. If you’re looking at this and thinking “Well shit, I don’t make that much money so I can’t save that up” then you’re incorrect! (I’m saying that in the nicest way).

I met tons of people who were making way less money than me when they started saving and ended up traveling the world longer than me. It really all depends on your dedication to saving and your priorities! But, like I mentioned above, you don’t need $35K to do what I did. You can do it on far less! Honestly, I’d say the sweet spot is somewhere between $15-$25K.

Sailing the San Francisco Bay5. I figured out my monthly expenses and where I could cut back.

I looked at what the bare minimum I needed to live on was after looking at my expenses per month. Then I gave myself a cushion to make sure my life didn’t completely suck…haha. Then I put the difference into my new travel account (next step).

6. I set up a new bank account called “My RTW Trip” in my Wells Fargo and watched it religiously.

After setting up this account I got serious about saving.  I would transfer any extra money I had for the month into this account and could slowly see it start to add up. My rule for this account was that I could never touch it or take out of it.  It was easy to have it in the same bank as my checking because I could easily transfer money over from my checking into this account.

7. I set up a payment system and auto deposit.

This was key to my saving goal! I got paid twice a month and each time I got paid I set my bank account up so that it automatically transferred $250 out of my checking to my savings. This was nice because I didn’t necessarily notice it was missing and it was a great hands-off way to save. I just pretended like my paycheck was $250 less each month. I also have my bank set up so that everything I buy on my debit card will add a $1 to it and that $1 will go into my savings. So if I bought something that was $5.25 it would charge $6.25 and put the extra dollar in savings. This is a small thing, but it over time it actually helped!


8. I stopped buying new clothes for a LONG TIME!

So I kind of told myself in the first year of saving that I would cut back on shopping which I ended up doing, but then once I was about a year out of finally getting to my goal, I stopped buying new clothes altogether. Yes, I would sometimes get a new item if it was cheap, but mostly I cut back on new clothes and accessories. This saved me a TON of money. Plus, I knew I wouldn’t be able to bring all of these new clothing pieces with me traveling anyway so it wasn’t as hard as it would have been had I not had a big trip planned in my future.

9. I took a few steps to simplify my life.

Besides not shopping for clothes anymore, I did a few other things to simplify my life. One big one was cutting back on eating out and learning to cook at home instead. In SF there are always new restaurants popping up that you HAVE to go try, or old ones you want to go back to cause they are awesome. If you get a drink and food at most places in SF you’re probably looking at spending $50+ per person. I really tried to cut out how often I was eating out and I honestly think this helped a lot.

I also cut back on going to get my morning avocado toast and juice that I was obsessed with. I’m not a big coffee drinker, but that was my equivalent to cutting out my daily coffee. Going out drinking is another big thing in San Francisco and I used to go out 2-3x a week including happy hours! This got super costly, so I cut back to going out only 1 or 2x a week and pre-gaming my big nights out more at my apartment. 

I cut back on getting my nails done, cut my gym membership and stopped getting my hair done as well. I would get my nails done religiously every 2 weeks and started to do my own instead. It sucked but getting my nails done twice ($100) allowed me to live a few extra days abroad. Same with getting my hair done!

10. I got clear about my priorities.

Everyone’s got different priorities, but mine is TRAVEL TRAVEL TRAVEL. I’d have friends who would go blow $500 on a few new outfits one weekend, but I’d never do that cause I knew $500 could buy me a roundtrip flight to Europe! Once I started focusing on travel being my top priority it made saving that much easier.

Vang Vieng, Laos

READ MORE: 100 Things I Experienced and Learned From 1 Year of Travel

11. I planned to travel to cheap-ish places. 

When I made my original travel budget, I first tried to figure out where I wanted to travel. I quickly realized that I needed to go to cheap places if I wanted my money to last. I mixed up my trip with Europe, the Middle East, and Asia and I’d say I did about 70% cheap countries and 30% expensive. Here’s what I spent after 3 months in Europe!

12. I sold all of my stuff. 

Yes, right before I left I sold all of my furniture, my bedding, some clothes, my DSLR camera and anything else I thought I could make money from.

13. Think positive.

I don’t want to get all hippy-dippy on you all, but I do strongly believe in the power of the mind and positive thinking. I’ve read many books about attracting what you want and manifesting it into your life. For this particular trip and for getting the money I needed, I visualized my trip a lot in my mind, I pictured having the money in my bank account, and I pictured myself traveling to all of these countries.

On the last day before my trip I was so close to my goal of $35K, but still $1,000 short. Then, I got $1,000 from an unexpected source on the last day! Many of you may think this is just a coincidence, but I’m telling you, thinking positive is powerful! Again sorry if you think I’m a loony bin and disagree with me, but I wanted to be honest with you all about how I believe I got to this point. Here are some books that made me get more into the positive thinking mode about money in case you’re even a bit interested.  The Secret, You Are a BadassBig Magic,  The Law of Attraction, Think and Grow Rich, Money and the Law of Attraction: Learning to Attract Wealth, Health and Happiness,

Okay, guys! That’s how I did it and I’m really hoping it helps any of you trying to do this same thing! I’d love to hear how you budget for your travels and if you have any great tips, because I’m currently saving again and could use more tips to try!


How I saved $35,000 to travel for a year

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By | 2018-01-20T21:14:06+00:00 January 14th, 2018|Travel Tips|32 Comments

About the Author:

The Traveling Spud
Welcome to the Traveling Spud! I’m Katie, a 28-year-old from Idaho who quit her marketing job in San Francisco, California to travel the world for a year. I'm addicted to outdoor adventures, photography and inspiring others to get out of their comfort zones and cross experiences off of their bucket lists. Let's explore together! Read more here.


  1. Jessica January 14, 2018 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    This was great! Thank you for this post. It’s always great to see how people save up for their travels. I am totally into the Law of Attraction, I know I need to be more precise with where I am wanting to travel and what that will look like and the cost of it as well.
    Jessica recently posted…A perspective of 2017My Profile

  2. Josephine January 20, 2018 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Hi, what an awesome post! Thank you for the tips on saving money for traveling – just what I always need 😉 My biggest problem is to not look at my bank account savings and go: “oh I have all this money to spent now”.. 😉

  3. Michelle January 20, 2018 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    Oh love it! Especially cutting things like getting your nails done and going out can help you save SO much. My friends are always asking me how I travel so much and I tell them I make travel a priority. I only go out once a week, if that! I live in Miami where everything is crazy expensive similar to San Fran. I never get my nails done anymore. I don’t spend $150++ to get my hair done. They say they “need” those things. Different people, different priorities. Travel is my number 1! lol

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud January 20, 2018 at 5:48 pm - Reply

      It’s sooo true! Your priorities help a lot! If travel is it then it will be!! 🙂

  4. Bejal January 20, 2018 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    These are excellent tips showing that small sacrifices can lead to such fantastic experiences. Thanks for sharing this it was a great read.

  5. April January 20, 2018 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    This is so amazing! I just have a couple of questions as I need to sell a whole bunch of stuff before I move to Mexico. How did you sell everything? Did you mostly sell online or have a garage sale? I have some of my stuff on VarageSale but it’s not selling. I’m going to have a big yard sale in the spring but I’m not sure all my stuff will sell… Also I love the idea of getting charged an extra dollar on everything that automatically goes into savings. How did you set that up? Can you set that up with any bank account? Oh and one more thing haha sorry for all the questions, do you have a travel credit card that you earn points with? Did you get any really good deals with something like this? I just got one and I’m hoping to gain lots of points on it (of course with paying it off every time I spend money from my Debit).

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud January 20, 2018 at 5:47 pm - Reply

      I sold a lot of stuff on Craigslist and then to my manager who wanted to buy all of my room stuff for her daughter. I sent an email out at work. Yard sales is a great job! I set up my savings plan in Wells Fargo it’s super easy! I do use a Chase Sapphire to get all of my points and I get lots of free flights from doing this! I love it. 🙂

  6. Mayuri January 20, 2018 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    This is such a detailed post! And very inspiring. I will be implementing a lot of it
    Love how you believe in power of positivity!

  7. Michelle January 20, 2018 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    Great job on saving so much money!
    Michelle recently posted…How To Make $1,000 Extra In Your Spare Time With FacebookMy Profile

  8. Farah January 20, 2018 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    This has encouraged me to save more 🙂 Some really good tips.

  9. NZ Muse January 20, 2018 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    I saved a similar amount (a little less) for my own RTW trip (though a much shorter one – wanted to travel to some specific, not-cheap places as part of it!) I was making $52k in one of the most expensive cities in the world, but I hustled hard doing a lot of freelancing in order to bring in as much as possible and saved all of that extra income. I left slightly short of my goal but kept making money online while on the road, and what do you know, in the end it worked out just about perfectly – it all wound up adding up to the original amount. The universe is funny that way.

    My fave book on this has gotta be Jen Sinceros You Are A Badass At Making Money (I’m a total personal finance nerd so preferred this to the original Badass)
    NZ Muse recently posted…Productive worrying vs pointless spiralling: How I stop myself from freaking out about moneyMy Profile

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud January 20, 2018 at 5:43 pm - Reply

      YAY that’s so cool. I need to figure out some freelancing gigs cause I’d love to work more on the road! Also, yesss i love that book as well!

  10. Kirstin January 20, 2018 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    So inspirational! $35k is also my goal, however that’s for myself and my partner. I can’t remember the last time I bought new clothes, but it’s so worth it to reach that goal and start our world trip in just 6 short months! My friends complain that I’m ‘no fun’ anymore because I refuse to blow $100’s on a night out. ‘Oh come on, one night won’t kill your RTW savings’ they say, but it’s so good to find posts like this to keep me going and know that it will all be worth it in the end. Thank you.

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud January 20, 2018 at 5:40 pm - Reply

      OMG It’s soooo worth it!! Congrats for working on it. You’ll have a blast!

  11. Janice January 20, 2018 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    I live in a 3rd world country and saving up to travel long-term is quite hard for me. I work in the corporate world but I think I still don’t get enough compared to other countries. But that didn’t stop me from traveling anywhere I wanted. I’d save up and fly, come back home, work my ass off and fly again. It’s a matter of how badly you want it 🙂

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud February 2, 2018 at 9:16 am - Reply

      See?! It can be done! I love hearing stories like this because it really is based on your priorities and what you want from life! Love that 🙂

  12. Avery January 21, 2018 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    Hey I’m planning a 3 month trip to Europe myself and wondered what’s the best way to get cheap flights? I’ve heard Ryanair is the best, but it looks kinda sketchy. Do you have any tips for flying to and around Europe?

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud February 2, 2018 at 9:14 am - Reply

      I use the site, Skyscanner or to find the cheap flights! RyanAir is great to get around in Europe for cheap! I used it all the time. I honestly also took busses a lot and found a lot of trains for pretty cheap as well. HOpe this helps! 🙂

  13. Lis January 22, 2018 at 11:06 am - Reply

    This is awesome! This is my top priority as well! Thank you for the inspiring post! Buuut I have a question, sorry if it’s too personal and I completely understand if you prefer not to share this, but… what happened once you traveling year was over? You said you spent every penny on it… you returned to San Francisco, to your old home and job? What are the next plans? Thank you so much!

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud February 2, 2018 at 9:13 am - Reply

      Yeah I did spend everything on it and then had to move home with my parents! I’m now living in Idaho and am working as a bartender to get money! I might move back at some point to California, but as of now I’m just trying to hustle and make money 😉

  14. Stefanie January 26, 2018 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    These are some great tips! Thank you for sharing, but did you ever go back to your job or planning to go back? Or are you now a digital nomad?

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud February 2, 2018 at 9:12 am - Reply

      Thank you! I don’t plan on going back and am working on becoming a digital nomad! 🙂

  15. Melissa February 9, 2018 at 8:54 am - Reply

    It’s so impressive that you saved this much in 2 years! I’ve managed to do about the same but in 3 years instead. A major help is asking only for gift cards for holidays & birthdays. I often get gas cards, grocery cards, Target, etc so that way I can go a month or two without spending money on the usual stuff. Yes, it’s kind of boring but at the same time I know I can’t take a bunch of new stuff traveling with me anyway.

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud February 10, 2018 at 11:19 am - Reply

      Thank you!! That’s so smart. I love the idea of asking for gift cxards. Then you literally don’t feel like you’re spending money on anything!

  16. Sydney February 9, 2018 at 11:05 am - Reply

    I am so inspired by your travels! I hope to go for a year after college within the next 5 years. I was wondering if you went with anyone or if you went solo? Which do you think is best?

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud February 10, 2018 at 11:19 am - Reply

      Awesome I’m so glad! I went alone and think it was the best decision I’ve ever made because I could do whatever I wanted.

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