The number one question I get asked is, “How do you afford to travel?!” It’s often followed up with a funny remark about how I must have won the lottery or inherited a large sum of money—neither of which are true!
A common misconception is that, no matter what, travel is expensive. When in reality, travel can be very affordable by making mindful money choices. I shared ways to save money during your trip in my post The Best Things In *Travel* Are Free, so this post is all about everyday opportunities to put money in your travel piggy bank!
Whenever I make money decisions, I don’t do it from a mindset of “I can’t afford this”, “I don’t have enough money”, or “I shouldn’t spend money on this". I aim to always make my spending choices from a place of feeling empowered and abundant. I look at how I spend my money and decide if I can spend that money in a way that honors me better. All of these tips are to inspire you to feel empowered in your mindful money choices! It’s not about cutting something out because you can’t afford it or feel like you shouldn’t be spending money; it’s about making a conscious decision to use this money in a way that honors you. Paying $5 for lattes at a coffee shop is ok, but deciding to put that money into something else that honors you more is incredibly empowering—regardless of whether you take your dream trip or do something not even travel related. In this example, you can create a loving ritual out of making your coffee at home, which adds yet another aspect of empowerment.
If you’ve ever had a hard time sticking to a budget or saving money for travel, take a look at your mindset. Were you doing it from a place of lack? Did you feel like you couldn’t afford the things you were cutting out? Saving money from an empowered, abundant mindset makes all the difference in making it easier to stick with a budget or savings plan. So with that in mind, I came up with this list of easy things to swap out that save you money in a beautiful, empowering way.
I personally have done all of the following, so this is all shared from my experience and prices may vary by location and lifestyle. (All prices are in USD.)
What do you get your fix from? Coffee or tea? Whatever it is, it can be replaced with an alternative at home that is cheaper and typically better for you. I love coffee and tea, but buying even just a cup a day at a coffee shop adds up. Instead, I buy a bag of organic coffee at the grocery store for $8.99 per pound, which will make about 48 6-ounce cups of coffee. That puts my per cup cost at only $0.18 for organic coffee, and I’ll even round it up to $0.25 because I sweeten my coffee with a bit of honey and occasionally add a splash of almond milk. There are cheaper coffee options as well, organic is just my personal preference, so you could see an even bigger savings than me. Bonus: I love making coffee at home because I know the quality of the coffee I buy, I control how strongly it’s brewed, and there are no hidden ingredients (like questionable food coloring or artificial sweeteners).
Total savings = $975 per year
What that pays for: An average round-trip flight to your destination, even an international one as long as it’s not a last minute booking.
2. Paper Towels
I was raised in a household where we always had paper towels in the kitchen and regularly used paper towels for cleaning. Naturally, I did the same when I got my own place and it wasn’t until I started RVing that I reevaluated the paper towel situation. It is estimated that a household uses 1.5 to 2 rolls of paper towels per week, and if you like the nice 2-ply paper towels you’re looking at $24 for the bestselling 12-pack of super rolls online. I don’t have the space to store a 12-pack of paper towels in the RV, so I face an even higher expense due to paying more per roll when buying a smaller pack of only two rolls. My replacement? Rags! You can buy a set of cheap washcloths, cut up old t-shirts, or go the microfiber route. Use them for all the things you would use a paper towel, then just throw them in with the laundry you’re already doing. (I do keep a single roll of paper towels on hand for cleaning the toilet though.) If you cut up old t-shirts into rags, you’re putting the full $208 in your travel fund. For this example, let’s assume you don’t have any old t-shirts laying around and you buy a set of cheap washcloths. An 18-pack of washcloths at Walmart is $4 and maybe they fall apart after two years of use and regular washing. Bonus: You will put aside money for travel and do your part to reduce waste! In the US alone, 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year and end up in landfills.
Total savings = $206 per year
What that pays for: This will easily pay for all the sightseeing and tours you could dream of. Estimating that a museum or tour ticket costs $20, that pays for 10 entry fees. Most sightseeing costs less than that and a lot of things are free, so the real number is actually much more.
3. Cleaning Supplies
Let’s talk about cleaning supplies! I went “green” about four years ago and have filled my cleaning arsenal with vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, and club soda. As you can see by the comparisons below, using natural cleaners in your home will actually save you money! **If you haven’t heard about the toxins in most household cleaning supplies, please do some research so you can decide if you want that in your home.**
Total savings = $488 per year (Based on an average household that spends about $700 per year on cleaning supplies and comparing $700 at the total regular rate of $1.43 per ounce versus the total natural cleaning rate of $0.34 per ounce.)
What that pays for: If you estimate on the high end and spend $40 per day on food, that will pay for your food for 12 days of travel. I usually spend less than $20 per day on food, which means I would get 24 days of food out of this savings.
Just over a year ago, a friend introduced me to the magnetic laundry system. It is a set of heavy-duty magnets that you place in the washing machine with your load of laundry. The magnetic force affects the water molecules in the same way that laundry detergent does. The difference though is that the magnets last a lifetime, while the laundry detergent washes down the drain at the end of the cycle! If you want to know more about how it works, you can check out their website because I can’t explain the science behind it all. However, I can tell you that I’ve been washing all of my laundry with magnets for over a year, and it has always come out clean! Prior to this discovery, I was using Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent at $26 per 150 ounces. Even if something happens to the magnets and they don’t last a lifetime, I’m still saving a ton of money.
Total savings = $27 per year
What that pays for: If you like to enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage, this pays for some drinks at the bar on your trip. How many drinks it covers depends on location and your drink of choice! I’ve bought some mind-blowing bottles of wine in the South of France for only $8, so it would buy me three very nice bottles of French wine.
5. Hair Color
It is not cheap to get your hair colored at the salon! I started coloring my hair in high school and have easily spent no less than $100, usually more, for a good quality cut and color ever since then. In my transition to make more mindful health choices, I looked into the detrimental effects of every beauty routine I had—leading me to seek out a natural alternative to chemical hair color. The best discovery of my life happened… I found henna! I had no idea that you could use plant extracts such as henna and indigo to color your hair, and it’s so natural that even pregnant women are safe to use it. That red hair you see in my photos? That’s thanks to henna. **If you choose to try out henna, please make sure you buy it from a reputable source. Some brands have contaminants and additives that make it less effective and just as dangerous as chemical hair color.** I buy mine from Harvest Moon. One packet of henna is $13 and covers a root-touchup on my hair about three times. I have thick hair though, so it could last even longer for you depending on your hair type.
Total Savings = $809.67 per year
What that pays for: This can cover all of your miscellaneous trip expenses such as souvenirs, public transportation costs, taxi rides, baggage fees, and even a special treat like a foot massage for all the walking you’ll do exploring the city.
6. Bottled Water
I don’t drink tap water in the US because the quality of the water is so poor. I prefer to drink purified water that has the fluoride, chlorine, and other chemicals and contaminants filtered out. So, what is the solution? Bottled water? Most people I know buy packs of bottled water but even if you go the less expensive route and refill reusable water jugs at the grocery store, that costs anywhere from $0.25 to $0.39 per gallon. Luckily, there are some amazing home water filters! When I lived in Hawaii for three months, the retreat center had a Berkey water filtration system that I fell in love with. When it came time to move into an RV with my partner, we looked into our water options. Reverse osmosis water filters produce four gallons of waste water for every one gallon of filtered water. We use about two gallons per day of filtered water for drinking and cooking. So, a reverse osmosis system would waste eight gallons to provide us with two gallons, bringing our water usage up to ten gallons per day. The Berkey produces zero gallons of waste water. So, we bought the Big Berkey System. This made the most sense for us considering we want to be very efficient with our water use in the RV.
Total Savings = $1,004.64 per year
What that pays for: That would pay for a $50 per night hotel for 20 days or a $100 per night hotel for 10 days. If you’re traveling to a less expensive destination where you can find great lodging for even $20 per night, that would pay for your hotel for 50 days!
**The links to products in this post are NOT affiliate links. All of the statements are my honest opinion about the product, many of which I have been using for several years.**