How to stretch your travel funds

Travel funds can often run out faster than we think. Being on the road for a long time can certainly be challenging if one doesn’t have a plan, or a foreseeable end to the trip. Many travelers travel with a timeframe and a pre-booked return flight. But there are also many travellers who keep going until they feel like going home, or if their bank account starts to run dry.

The question I get so very often is this – “How do you do it?”. No doubt I’ve quit my job and have no stable income to sustain this sort of nomadic lifestyle, but there are many ways to stretch travel funds without having to find a job on the go like what many are doing. Of course that would be a wise option, given that you’re a freelance writer or someone who strives to be a digital nomad. But what about those who are just traveling after working and saving up for years? There isn’t exactly a real secret to stretching your travel funds. Obvious as it may be, most people don’t see it but it’s primarily common sense and logical to NOT splurge on the unnecessary things. Luxury no longer comes in the form of materialism whilst attempting to allocate months or years of life savings into an unpredictable journey that could potentially last longer than expected.

So here are a list of things that could help in stretching your travel funds.
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New budget, new lifestyle
Understanding that a life on the road also means a new kind of lifestyle where old habits and comfort shouldn’t follow, especially those that are not too friendly for your wallet. I can’t stress enough that it’s important to be thrifty. That being said, don’t lose the fundamental principles of being human and make a gain at other’s loss.

Making the best value out of what you pay
One of the crucial points on keeping the moolah flowing is to make everything worth it. The ability to be frugal and not wasting money on something that only contributes to a ‘one-time’ pleasure is really important.

Finding remarkable deals
I’m not ashamed to say that I LOVE deals. Supermarket food price cuts in the evenings, 50% off a second hand goods at flea markets, end of season sale, finding something I need in the hostel free/exchange box – there’s plenty of ways to find deals that can help in saving for the rest of your trip! Say if I moved from a tropical country to one that’s suddenly chilly and don’t have sufficient outerwear, buying a brand new/expensive one isn’t practical since I may potentially exchange/donate it once I don’t need it anymore (also to drop the weight of my backpack). In most cities, supermarket deals after 7/8pm are the best. You get a cooked meal that still tastes great, the only downside is that it isn’t the freshest, but who cares? Your belly’s filled.

Taking opportunities that cost nothing
Free walking tours, communities like couchsurfing, free food giveaways at bakeries, work exchange opportunities, events that promote language or cultural exchange. There are countless activities and opportunities that one can take while on the road. However, it’s completely up to your travellers ingenuity to find it. Talking with other travellers about such experiences instead of sharing places to get drunk is definitely a better way to broaden these free-yet-fulfilling opportunities.

Separate your money.
I always separate my money, even putting a little in places that are so obvious and unlocked (of course, just a little bit in case it really does get discovered). Knowing how to manage your current travel funds helps in case of unfortunate encounters of robbers, pickpockets or muggers can help in preventing a huge loss. A little can go a long way

The forgotten emergency stash cash
Have an emergency stash cash that you don’t even remember having. It’s like discovering that unopened and neglected packet of homemade cookies, still sealed, sitting in the bottom of your 60 litre backpack-of-a-home. When you forget about a little bag of cash that’s stashed away (or a rolled up $50 note), it could come in handy one day when you suddenly remember its existence. It could be on a hidden compartment in your backpack, in a little zip lock folded in your shower bag, rolled up and hidden in a pen, or underneath the inner soles of your trusty hiking boots. Get creative with your hiding spots !

Avoid the little “add-ons” 
I often withdraw the maximum amount possible when visiting a cash machine to avoid multiple transactions that could add up to a bulk of extra charges. Bank charges when withdrawing cash from a machine are often marked up, and depending on your bank, sometimes there’s double charge from the foreign bank AND your home bank. You may think, “it’s just 5%” but any amount saved no matter how small adds up in the long run. The best way to avoid these small percentages is to get hold of a card from an international bank. it helps to do prior research to identify what banks these are. Research then applying for a card from major banks that have machines worldwide would be recommended.

Sharing the (financial) load with a travel companion
Traveling solo may be fun but once in a while, splitting finances by sharing food/transport/accommodation costs with a travel buddy can often make more sense. Where food is concerned, it also allows you to taste more varieties of food! Some places also have cheaper deals for double rooms as compared to hostels. If the hostel vibe is what you’re seeking, common areas are often not restricted to purely hostel guests so chilling out there is still an option.

Know your currencies and make the best out of it
There are always euros and US dollars in my travel pouch, mainly because they are used, recognised and exchanged in most countries. some places are have exchange rates that would be an advantage to you. Also consider exchanging money with fellow travellers instead of doing cash backs, or going to money changers (be it government/black market), it could save you a lot more with honest rates!

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If all that is listed above still isn’t working and if anyone wanted to know the truth, and the real truth…

The real secret to stretching your travel funds is simply this;
Be a cheapskate at every cost with no conscience whatsoever.

There, it’s out on the table now. Cheapskates have all the answers to life.

Ok I kid. It sometimes pains me to see that some travellers resort to over-bargaining and doing things that are downright low just to save a penny or two. All that time wasted is actually not worth the few cents saved, so I guess knowing the limit and value of time vs money is also the key here.

Ultimately, living like a king is a definite no-go. Those who aren’t prepared to give up their lavish city life style and go out of their comfort zone would not be able to stretch their travel funds the way they hoped. That’s why whenever somebody asks how much I spent on a particular trip, I’ll tell them my budget and they immediately think wow that’s a reasonable amount of money, and that they can do the same too. But no – being frugal takes adjustment; it takes sacrifice, and not many people are ready for that even if they think they are.

Dara

Wanderer of lands, searcher of souls. Last seen tree hugging and running wild into the mountains. Might have eaten all the ice cream in the tub.

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