Life is filled with choices and consequences. Good and bad. Facebook-safe or otherwise. When asking questions like: Why can’t I afford to travel? How do people afford vacations if they have no money to travel? What can I do differently so I can stop the cycle of having no money to travel.
Solutions vary person to person, but let’s try to get to the bottom of it today with a few examples with complimentary solutions.
But first, some reflection.
So how do people afford to travel?
Travel bloggers (myself included) make it seem so easy.
However, any working adult KNOWS that there’s a never-ending laundry list of expenses to pay for and new responsibilities to own. Because being a grown-ass woman ain’t easy.
Life will always be throwing curve balls at any given time so looking for ‘the perfect time to travel’ will potentially never come. Instead, you should focus on budgeting for travel instead.
Budgeting for travel is all about measuring the value of certain experiences. Wanderers always “find” the money to travel because we make it a priority.
Some may say “I want to travel, but I have no money.” But let’s have a look at the list of things you can control below before giving up on your dream of traveling.
9 Reasons You Can’t Afford to Travel
1. You Drink Too Much Alcohol
Far be it from me to criticise how people spend their money, but hear me out. If you’re Googling ‘how do travel bloggers afford to travel’ then you’ll likely find that it’s their budgeting style that makes all the difference.
For example, I don’t know too many seasoned travel bloggers or long-term travelers that party and drink heavily.
You won’t find us buying bottles at the club, because we need to be up at 5am to get the best sunrise photos.
Alcohol drains not only our bank accounts and our free time, but also our professional careers.
Think about the amount of money you spend during an average night out… that’s $20-$30 on cover to just get inside, $10-$16 USD per beverage, and if you meet someone you want to make out with, you might as well just throw your wallet/purse out the window.
In comparison, a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong is roughly $300-$500 USD.
This is not rocket science, it’s math; and if you love going out and throwing back a few, you’ll need to make serious cutbacks in other parts of your budget to afford travel.
Stop asking me how I afford to travel and instead, look inward at your spending habits versus what you really want to do.
2. You are dating too regularly
Whether you’re male, female, or non-binary – courting is expensive. Let’s say you’re going to an outdoor event and dinner. You’ll need to pay for entry tickets, transportation to and from, and then the meal afterwards. In expensive cities like New York, that could easily be $100 per person.
In comparison, $100 could easily cover a 3 star hotel in Beijing for 4 nights.
Getting married definitely helped me keep more money in the bank. I had no money to travel whenever I was actively dating because I would go through make-up, outfits, and cabs home recklessly.
For those who enjoy make-up and skincare, just think about how much money it takes to maintain your basic aesthetic? When you’re trying to make a good impression, that’s when we break-out the expensive stuff.
If you have no money to travel, perhaps it’s because you’re actively dating too frequently? Here’s how you can tell if you are.
Sit down and have a look at the charges on your card to get a rough idea of how much money you spend in a month on dating.
This should include: food, beverages, tickets, event items, transportation to/from, and any clothing or accessories that you might have bought to prepare for the event.
Feel free to have a small cry; we all get sucked into the dating scene eventually and love is not a cheap hobby.
Once you have a guesstimation, try to split that number in half to start with and reallocate the money to your ‘travel fund’ instead.
As a general rule, if you’re truly stumped about how to afford traveling, start by looking inward at what your most common ‘nice-to-have’ expenses are and deduct savings from that.
3. You’re a home owner
Traditional personal finance would have you believe that home-ownership is the only way forward because renting is ‘throwing away money.’
Actually – there are a lot of legitimate reasons to stay as a renter and one of those reasons is affordability.
What most ‘get rich through property gurus’ don’t tell you is that home ownership is a huge cash pit. Not only do you have annual property taxes that eat away at earnings, but you also have the financial responsibility of repair and management.
As a renter, you only need to cover the cost of your rent and utilities. If something breaks, you can call your landlord. Plus you aren’t responsible for the taxes and fees associated with the property unless specifically notified.
Now this isn’t the time nor article to get into the deep mathematics behind WHY owning a home is potentially a lacklustre investment vehicle (try this article instead)… but I will say this.
Not only is the cost of maintaining a home eating away at your perceived profits, but it’s also locking up valuable cashflow that could be used for traveling.
Instead, why not consider renting in a more affordable location while pursuing your career abroad or remotely?
Rent in NYC has become STUPID expensive and tiny flats can range from 2k-5k USD a month! Airbnb in Shanghai runs from $600-$1300 USD a month for a decent apartment.
4. You own a car or love to take taxis
I believe in public transportation. I will never (again) live in a city where I have to own a car to go anywhere because it’s harmful to the environment and I’m already blowing my carbon footprint to hell with all the flying I do.
I don’t have to pay for insurance, car payments, repairs, or find a buyer for when I inevitably move on to the next location.
In comparison, buying a car (used/new) will put you out for $5,000-$30,000 USD and if you have a lease, your monthly payments will vary based on your unique contract.
I would guesstimate that it will end up somewhere between $400-$1,000 a month for the lease so that’s a minimum of $4,800 a year WITHOUT counting insurance, maintenance, and add-ons.
Beijing Subway is $0.33 USD a ride from point A to point B, anywhere in the city. If you take the subway twice a day (to and from work), you’ll spend $20 USD a month on transportation.
If you cycle everywhere (like me), then you’ll avoid traffic, pay nothing, and hate humanity less!
Now that I’m in Germany, I try to work remotely whenever possible and avoid cabs (even when I’m feeling lazy).
These fleeting moments of happiness when I’m in a warm UBER don’t outweigh the joy I feel when traveling on my own dime.
If you’re STILL wondering ‘how do I afford to travel,’ you need to be willing to reallocate part of your budget to travel instead of one-off luxuries like a private car or cab.
5. Definitly Avoid Buying Luxury Items
Now that I’m an adult woman doing adult things, this has become a more difficult budget buster.
It’s not that I am obsessed with luxury items, but luxury items do communicate status and maturity that my CrossFit shorts just can’t replicate.
As a professional woman in tech, there’s a certain level of professionalism that I need to adhere to in order to be taken seriously. For that reason, I have a helpful tip in order to empower you to afford traveling while still enjoying luxury brands.
My Top Tip: I would recommend that you only buy used luxury accessories. This gives the same essence of luxury and wealth without the possibility of fitting poorly due to purchasing it on a second-hand site.
For example, I purchased my fall 2019 Tod’s crossbody bag in Feb 2022 from the reputable reseller – Rebelle. The original retail price was somewhere between $1,400 and $1,600…. I purchased it during a Valentines sale and with a coupon for $480 USD.
Now I have a classic luxury bag that other professionals can recognise and appreciate… without the steep costs normally associated with luxury goods.
In comparison, a flight from Beijing to Russia is $238. This also hurts me to think about how I traded a bag in exchange for an international flight, but I have different priorities now.
6. Your student loan payments are too high
There is no one right strategy to tackle your student loans with. It feels like the whole system has us by the nape of our necks with student loans.
In America, it’s we often have a Catch 22 situation where you can’t get the same access to better paying jobs or connections if we didn’t shell out $200,000 for a prestigious university.
Crushing student debt is for sure a legitimate reason you have no money to travel and you’re not alone.
Here’s how I tackle it.
Student loans traditionally have lower interest rates than most loans; especially outside of America. For me, paying down my annual interest and some of the principle is enough for me to feel comfortable with the speed of my repayments.
The reason I focus on this leisurely repayment strategy is because I am also heavily investing at the same time. The rate of return from my index funds outweighs the interest of my student loans and I don’t want to miss out on the compound interest overtime for a low interest student loan.
If you’re curious about how quickly you can pay off any credit card debt or student loans, check out my Debt Smasher Calculator on Etsy. You’ll be able to compare the rate of repayment of different strategies in one easy tool. The results might surprise you!
7. You attend too many festivals or party too hard
I know I’m going to experience some backlash on this one, but I still can’t fathom spending upwards of a grand on a three-day experience that’s only a few hundred miles away from where I live.
I get that Coachella is a wonderful weekend, but general admission tickets cost over $500 a piece. This doesn’t include fees, shuttle costs, food, drinks, or anything else outside of the entry.
If you choose a luxury safari ‘glamping’ package, you might spend close to $10,000 for two people for a weekend at Coachella.
For $10,000 USD, I will PERSONALLY take you on a luxury tour of South-East Asia filled with lux resorts, free-flow booze, pandas, whale shark diving, sailing, hiking, cliff diving, and there would STILL be money left over.
I understand that music festivals bring a certain sense of community and belonging so it’s just a matter or prioritisation.
If you’re asking yourself ‘how do people afford vacations,’ the answer seems rather obvious at this point. Long-term travellers are opting out of large festivals in exchange for trips in foreign countries.
I think people would stop asking me how I afford to travel if they just took a scroll through my Instagram. I clearly do local things, stay in local accommodation, and budget based on my values.
If your values include Coachella – then so be it.
8. Your health problems are costing you too significantly
Healthcare use to take up a significant portion of my budget because costs were so high in the United States for literally everything.
From co-pays to abstract fees, whatever a hospital CAN charge you for – they will.
Now that I’m in Europe, my healthcare costs have significantly lowered thanks to universal healthcare. I am forever grateful that I moved abroad.
While I was still in the US, I noticed that the more money I spent on my food, wellness, and peace of mind, the lower my healthcare costs were.
Yes eating sweet snacks and fast-food is cheap and cheerful at first. However, the impact poor food has on your body creates more expensive situations in the future.
For example, it seemed like I had a never-ending dentist bill every 6 months or so because my teeth were literally decaying from my poor diet.
I had my first root canal at age 18. I was told it ‘could be’ genetic, but I knew that my choices had consequences.
Today, I basically make everything I consume, which is a real privilege. I have the mental capacity to cook after work. I have the financial flexibility to buy top-quality meats and veggies.
Plus I don’t have any family members that I need to care for after hours.
Putting myself first on a more consistent basis has released my income from healthcare hell. I no longer need to have my cavities filled every 6 months and instead, that money can be reallocated to travel.
You’ll need to spend money to save money in order to afford traveling.
9. You Live In The “Western World”
Living in the western world can be expensive. The cost of living is FAR higher than in developing countries and this makes it difficult to save for traveling.
I genuinely can’t believe the outrageous prices they are charging for a flight from New York to Los Angeles. I can literally fly to another country for the same price of your checked luggage.
Let’s compare my budget in Los Angeles versus what I spend in Germany as an example.
In Los Angeles, cheap rent is few and far between so for a 1 bedroom in downtown LA, I would probably be paying about $1800 per month for a small apartment or studio (300 square feet) based on my quick Google search.
There’s no chance I WOULDN’T have a car in Los Angeles, so I’ll need to factor in the cost of buying the car, insuring it, and then keeping up with rising repair and parking costs. According to CarMax, a mid-range car from 2016 until 2020 will cost anywhere from $15,000-$23,000!
Food in Los Angeles is notoriously expensive. My average shopping and going out budget typically ranges from $500-$700 thanks to Trade Joes and take-away.
In comparison, I pay $2000 for my 1,110 square foot apartment in the posh side of Berlin, my grocery budget is less than €400 a month, and I don’t need a car!
In China, I lived on $1,200 a month for all of my expenses!
If you TRULY want to travel, then you’ll need to lower your cost of living to reallocate those funds to traveling. This is the only way to afford traveling.
This might mean you’ll need to live your current place of living in the interest of a more affordable location.
Don’t be scared of a pay cut either! More often than not, a more affordable environment will enable you to save MORE even if you are earning less.
Stop asking me how I afford to travel
Because now you all of my best answers! These are all the tips and tricks that I do everyday.
Your budgeting skills is what will impact your ability to travel MOST in the grand scheme of things.
Yes having a higher income is important too, but Europeans are able to travel regularly all year-round with much lower salaries than Americans.
If you want to make the most out of this article and my advice, pick one thing on this list to focus on and use the excess savings for travel!
This way, you’re actively working towards your travel goals without complete sacrificing everything that makes you happy.
Good luck and keep at it! I just know you’re going to see the world <3
Friday 5th of September 2014
Totally! My friends are always telling me, "I thought you love travel, why won't you go to Vegas?" and this explains it. I DO like to travel, but I could spend $1000 in 5 days in San Francisco, or spend $3000 in Southeast Asia for a month or more. THAT'S why I don't want to go to Vegas. I can also relate to owning a home. I get anxious just thinking about owning a home. Plus all that money you spent at Ikea could have been spent on a trip to Spain or somewhere else awesome.
Monday 8th of September 2014
I so agree! I LOVE travel, which is why I have to prioritise which destinations I go to. I do occasionally splurge and go on a crazy bender, but I'm learning just how counterproductive that is to my overall wish to travel the world!
Thursday 4th of September 2014
As a college student approaching her sophomore year in college, this really puts things into perspective.... I could spend $15 on alcohol and go to a party or I could spend $10 on a pizza to split with my friends. Or even better, I could spend nothing and go on a night hike with some buddies. The latter sounds the most fun.
I'm almost done saving up for my study abroad trip but this really made me think about how easy it would be to not spend all my income until then.