But it isn’t always easy.
It eats away at your bank account. It leaves you fishing for change at the bottom of an Italian fountain in the middle the night. It makes you stuff your pockets full of the free bread offered every morning by the hostel staff.
Travel doesn’t just set you back a few steps, but it completely wipes you off the Monopoly playing board.
For most people, traveling and saving are two mutually exclusive terms. There is NO such thing as saving money as a traveler.
And, I’m not trying to convince you otherwise. In fact, you might be right.
BUT, the lessons you learn from traveling just might give you some practical money advice for the future. And who doesn’t break out in song and dance at the idea of saving money? Money, which could be used to start planning your NEXT big international trip. Because, while money is not everything, flashy smiles don’t generally buy tickets to exotic locales.
It’s a bit of a bummer, I know.
Fortunately, most of us can pick up a few tips from our international escapades and make lifestyle changes accordingly. For a better comparison, think of dieting. As most experts say, the best way to maintain a healthy weight and smart food choices is to change your lifestyle, not to just latch on to the latest fad that promises a slimmer waistline in 5 days.
While losing a few inches of belly blubber overnight might seem like a sweet fix, it’s generally not sustainable. The most successful and longest lasting health changes occur over time. They require consistent adjustments in the way you think and act.
These aren’t groundbreaking revelations, but some of you might not realize the ways in which your travel experiences have turned you into a money savvy saver. By traveling, you’ve probably adopted some pretty useful saving habits.
1. Stuff is Overrated – Time to De-Clutter
I’m somewhat of an anomaly in that I’m a twenty-something female who despises shopping. Really, I do. I have to be in the right mood to head out to a clothing or shoe store. Shopping, which causes a high of sorts for some people, tends to put me into a funk. I have a difficult time finding clothes that fit my petite yet somewhat curvy figure without making me look like an oomph loompah.
But, like I said, I’m an exception.
Most people like to shop. Whether it’s for clothes or electronics, North Americans pride themselves on the latest 42-inch flatscreen television mounted on their wall or the fancy Coach purse they can show off at some elite social gathering.
But that stuff can’t be brought with us when we’re traveling.
And, most of us don’t even miss those items that much when we’re gone. We learn to recycle our jeans (although hopefully NOT underwear), hand wash items in the hostel sinks and buy durable, not fancy traveling gear. We learn that fewer choices can actually make life easier. One clean sweatshirt? Great! No fussing over what to wear for the day.
You learn to not only do without many of the material possessions, but you appreciate the simplicity as well.
When you return home, hopefully you find the urge to de-clutter your living space. Get rid of the unnecessary junk you’ve accumulated over the years – sell it, give it charity or trash it.
When your next paycheck comes it, you don’t spend it trying to keep up with the Joneses, but you think about what will really satisfy you. Instead of exchanging your money for a shiny toy with little lasting satisfaction, you choose to save it for an experience. Something that may not happen immediately, but will provide you a greater sense of riches than any number of items can do.
2. Get in Tune with Mother Nature
Growing up in the United States, many of us (myself included) tend to take a lot of things for granted. Among these tend to be water and electricity. While many communities around the world go without running water and have shotty electricity, these two items are in abundant supply in the United States.
Long, hot showers? Yes, please. Leave the TV on for background noise? You betcha.
I’m guilty. Electronics are not only plugged in, but all light switches are on and televisions are blasting. Before my first international trip to Italy, I was pretty judicious with my water and electrical usage.
But that quickly changed.
I learned how truly expensive electricity and water can be in some countries. And, frankly, as a backpacker, you don’t always have the luxury of showering every day or plugging into the Internet each night. The truth is, if it’s not in use, there’s no reason for it to be on. As a result, I’m more cognizant of how I consume these resources.
Granted, I can’t say that I’ve become a 2-minute shower taker or that I keep the lights dimmed in the evenings, but I have learned to cut down. And, while it does save money on the monthly water and electric bills, perhaps the biggest benefit is the environmental impact.
So…if you want skip a shower or two here and there, be my guest!
3. Wheelin’, Dealin’ Barginer
Since most of us don’t have billion-dollar bank accounts, we have to be wise with how we spend our hard-earned and even harder-saved money. And, because most of us want to get the biggest bang for our buck, we tend to ditch the five-course meals and beachfront hotel suites. Instead, we take advantage of discount packages, low-cost accommodations and any other money-saving deals that present themselves.
In a nutshell, we turn into wheelin’, dealin’ bargainers.
We look for deals, but we’re not cheap. Quality still matters. But we know the value of a dollar. And, in the future, our ability to look at products with a closer eye will help us make wiser decisions as consumers.
These practices won’t make you a millionaire. But if you adopt just a few of the tactics that you used when you were traveling abroad, you might be able to start saving up for your next overseas excursion. And that is priceless!