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)!
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!
1. 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.
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.
5. 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.
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.
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!
Welcome to the Traveling Spud! I’m Katie, a 29-year-old from Idaho who quit her marketing job in San Francisco, California to travel the world for a year. After a trip around the world, my heart chose Idaho. 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.