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First Steps

Now that we’ve covered what to pack when traveling, let’s take a look at some intangible things you may want to bring with you as well. I’ve put together a list of services that I have used every time I’ve traveled out of the country.

 
Travel Insurance

It is an unfortunate truth, but at some point in your life, you are going to get sick or be injured. If you’re particularly unlucky, it will happen while you’re off seeing the world. Be it food poisoning from bad sushi or a gash from falling down at the running of the bulls, you very well might need to visit a doctor during your travels. In the event your condition is more serious, you could end up paying a lot of money out of pocket for medical services. Trust me when I say that is not the way you want your trip to end.

Travel insurance is an oft overlooked part of the packing and planning stage. If you’re going to be traveling for an extended amount of time, I can’t possibly recommend this service enough. My go-to travel insurance for the last three years has been World Nomads. What I love about them is that they cover not only medical treatment; but trip cancellation, emergency evacuation, rental car coverage and more, all under one policy.  

My experience with them has been nothing but great. In the summer of 2015, I was visiting Thailand for the first time. On the day I arrived in Bangkok, there was a bombing at a popular shrine, just down the street from where I was staying. Unsure of what I should do, I called World Nomads. After explaining the situation, the representative first made sure I was somewhere safe, then asked if I wanted her to get me on a flight out of the country. Not ready to give up on Thailand just yet, I told her I would wait to see how things played out. Over the next three days, she called back every afternoon to see how I was doing and if I still felt comfortable staying in the country. That kind of customer service and genuine concern are rare, and because of it, I will always recommend World Nomads to any traveler.


World nomads travel insurance

 
Cell Phone Plan

I know what you’re thinking; “Isn’t it really expensive to use your cell phone in another country”? Normally, you would be right, but T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plan gives you unlimited texting and 2G data almost anywhere in the world at no additional cost, and calls while out of the country are just 20 cents per minute. I had already been a T-Mobile customer for years before they introduced this feature, so you can imagine my excitement when it debuted. Granted, the data isn’t lightning fast when you’re outside the United States, but 2G speed is more than enough to send emails and use GPS. While I’m all for getting lost every so often, it’s great to know you can find your way back no matter where you are. You can check out a list of the 140 countries they offer service in here.

 
Credit Card

Finding the perfect travel credit card can be tricky. It’s easy to tempted by the lure of high miles and seemingly great perks. In my opinion, the most important thing to watch out for is global transaction fees; or rather, the lack there of. While many card companies will offer fantastic benefits on the surface, what lies beneath is an additional fee for using your credit card outside of the country; typically around 3% of your total purchase. That can add up quickly.

My favorite card to travel with is the Capital One Venture. There are no global transaction fees, every dollar you spend earns you 2X the bonus miles, and the annual fee is much lower than that of most other competing cards. Sure, there are cards that offer greater mile bonuses, but in many cases, these have to be redeemed through their website and are only applicable to a limited number of airlines. With Capital One, your miles can be redeemed for any travel related purchase, including train or bus tickets.

 
Debit Card

I’m not a fan of using cash while traveling. In fact, whenever possible to use your card, I suggest doing so. However, there will be situations when cash is the only option; such as riding a city bus or grabbing a drink at a little hole in the wall bar in the middle of nowhere that doesn’t have a credit card reader. In these situations, you’re going to need to have some cash on hand.

Your first thought might be to bring a stash of money from home and exchange that for the local currency wherever you go. DO NOT DO THIS. It’s a terrible idea, but more on that in another post. What you need is a good debit card. You probably already have one at home, but like the credit card issue above, most will charge you a fee for using it outside of the country.

The best choice, hands down, is the Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account. Much like the Capital One card I recommended, there are no global transaction fees with Charles Schwab, meaning you can use any ATM in the world without the fear of being charged extra. As an added bonus, you know the $2-3 charge most ATMs will charge you for using another bank’s card? Charles Schwab will refund any of those fees you may accrue at the end of each month. To top it all off, there are no account minimums and no annual fee, so you have no reason NOT to get this card.

 
Protecting Your Gear

We’ve already discussed insuring yourself, but what about any expensive equipment you may be traveling with? In my case, I’m typically carrying a tablet and a good deal of camera equipment. If any of it were to break or be stolen, replacing them out of pocket would mean having to end my trip early.

The best camera and electronics insurance I’ve found to date is Worth Ave Group. Their policies cover pretty much anything that could happen to your gear; from water damage, to loss and theft and beyond. They also process claims from anywhere in the world, which is a huge plus if you’re going to be traveling for months at a time. Their prices are some of the cheapest I’ve seen around as well.

I thankfully haven’t needed to use their services yet, but I came close once. I clumsily dropped a camera lens in Rome and it landed on a cobblestone street, shattering the protective filter. I immediately contacted Worth Ave Group and was told all they needed on my end was a repair estimate from a camera shop. That’s it. No hassle, no list of “certified repair technicians” I had to go through; just “get an estimate and we’ll take care of the rest”. In the end, the lens ended up being fine, but seeing how they handled my claim has made me a lifelong customer.

 
Accommodations

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, hotels are not only a waste of money; they keep you from meeting other people as well by isolating yourself in your own little bubble. There are cheaper, better alternatives out there. These are two of my favorites that I suggest signing up for before you leave.

 
Hostelworld

Without a doubt, Hostelworld is my most frequently used accommodation booking website. Hostels are not only an inexpensive place to sleep, but they serve as an invaluable resource for backpackers as well. Apart from the knowledgable staff providing tips for what to see and do in the area, you’ll find that most of your fellow hostel guests are backpacking nomads like yourself. As a result, they’ll have tons of information and advice to share with you about your upcoming destinations, or maybe even some you had never considered!

 
Couch Surfing

While it may seem uncomfortable at first, Couch Surfing is a fantastic way to see a city though the eyes of a local. After making a profile, you can search for hosts wherever you may be traveling and contact them with a little information about who you are and what brings you to town. If they’re available, they can invite you to come stay with them. Oh, it’s also completely free.

My favorite part about Couch Surfing, aside from the obvious savings, is the interaction you get to have with someone who lives in the area and knows it well. If you’re fortunate enough to have them show you around, you’re guaranteed to see parts of the city you never would have known existed otherwise.

These suggestions should get you well on your way to traveling smarter! As always, if you have any questions about my recommendations, feel free to contact me!

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First Steps

If you’ve read my previous post on what to pack for your trip, you should already have a pretty good idea of what to take with you on your travels. If you’re anything like me, you’ll now spend hours researching different products to find the ones that best suit your needs. You absolutely should. There are lots of options out there and some will undoubtedly work better for your situation than others. To help you get started, I’ve put together a list with some of my go-to gear.

 
Clothing

Despite my impressive array of single-colored t-shirts, you will be shocked to learn that I am by no means a fashion expert. I’ll leave the trendy portion of your outfit up to you, but I do have a few suggestions for the less flashy aspects of your travel wardrobe.

 
Socks

Two years ago while researching gear for my own trip, I came across Wigwam socks. I should mention, I’ve never been the type of guy to buy anything other than the 6 pack of socks you find in the department store bargain bin for a few dollars. I didn’t realize other options existed. The day I got my first pair of Wigwams, however, I was a changed man. Seriously. These socks are super comfortable AND they breathe well, which is vital, because you are going to be putting a lot of miles on them. They dry very quickly too; an important factor if you’re going to be sink washing your clothes.

 
Boots

If you don’t think you’ll be doing any hiking, you can probably just stick to comfortable walking shoes. If you plan on hitting the trails though, you’re going to want a good pair of waterproof hiking boots with a bit of ankle support. I can’t stress the word waterproof enough here. There is nothing more miserable than walking around for hours in wet socks. I have a pair of Merrell Moab boots that I’ve owned for 3 years now and are still holding up great in spite of how much I’ve put them through. They’re highly cushioned for long hikes and you can splash through all the puddles you’d like without fear of water getting in.

 
Underwear

Embarrassing to talk about, I know, but if you’re going to rotating the same few pairs for months on end, it pays to make a smart choice. There are a couple different brands of underwear out there that I’ve used and enjoyed while on long backpacking trips. The biggest thing I can recommend is looking for ones made with a breathable microfiber. It’s highly moisture wicking, which is great not only while you’re wearing them, but for air drying them after a wash as well. Check out ExOfficio for a very lightweight feel and Pair of Thieves for something a bit more fashionable.

 
Gear
 
Water bottle

Where space is at a premium when traveling longterm, I like for things to take up as little as possible when considering what to bring with me. That’s why I like Platypus water bottles. They’re incredibly durable soft bottles that hold up to one liter of water but fold down to practically nothing when empty.

 
Soap

This may seem like a silly recommendation. I mean, soap is soap, right? Wrong. Dr Bronner’s Castile Soap is a miracle in a bottle. I use this stuff for everything; shampoo, body wash, laundry detergent, insect repellant… you can even brush your teeth with it! I always keep a bottle on hand because of how versatile it is. The best part is that you don’t need much. A few drops goes a long way. I recommend the peppermint scent if you’re going to use it to keep bugs away, as they’re naturally deterred by the peppermint oil.

 
Electronics
Camera

This is the one product category that I can’t recommend copying what I do. I’m big into photography, so I carry a massive DSLR with me everywhere. Trust me; if you don’t need it, don’t bring it. Big cameras weigh a ton and will most likely require their own separate bag. That’s why I would recommend something like this Canon Powershot. It’s compact, lightweight, and as an added bonus, it’s waterproof too. It’s the same company I use, and it should cover every situation from city sightseeing to seaside cliff diving.
 

Power strip

As I’ve mentioned before, when staying in hostels, empty outlets can be hard to come by. If you have multiple devices to charge, this is especially difficult. I found a great solution to be a mini power strip. It fits easily into any bag and will save you a bunch of time by charging multiple things at once.

 

Wrap-up

Hopefully that helps to narrow down your choices a bit when you start choosing what to bring with you. If you have questions about any of my recommendations, feel free to contact me! In my next post, I’ll be discussing several services I suggest signing up for before you leave.

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First Steps

One of the biggest obstacles I faced when first preparing to travel was deciding what to pack. If you’re planning to be out for an extended amount of time, it can be difficult to fight the urge to overpack. It’s important to always keep weight in mind, however, as you’ll not only be lugging that bag around with you for the foreseeable future, but paying a hefty price tag for it at the airport as well.


 
Clothing

This will be a difficult thing for some people to accept, but if you’re going to travel longterm, forget about being fashionable. No backpack in the world is going to accommodate your entire wardrobe plus whatever else you decide to bring with you. You’ll end up wearing the same outfit often. On the plus side, with every new location you visit, you’ll meet a whole new group of people who have never seen you in it, so you can take solace in that at least.


shelves of clothing

Assuming warm to mild weather, I typically pack:

• T-shirts – 4-5
• Shorts – 1-2 pairs
• Jeans – 1 pair
• Socks – 5 pairs of everyday socks, 1 pair of hiking socks
• Underwear – 4-5 pairs
• Button-down shirt – 1 shirt in case you go somewhere somewhat fancy
• Sweatshirt – 1 light to medium weight sweatshirt
• Jacket – 1 lightweight waterproof jacket
• Shoes – 1 pair of comfortable sneakers, 1 pair of waterproof hiking boots, 1 pair of sandals
• Hat – 1 baseball cap
• Bathing suit – 1 pair of swim trunks
• Sunglasses – 1 cheap pair that you’re not afraid to lose

That should cover pretty much all your everyday needs. Five days worth of clothes might not seem like much if you’re planning to travel for several months at a time, but most hostels you’ll stay in will have washing machines available (or you can sink wash if you really want to save your money. That’s what I did!).

If you’re going somewhere cooler or plan to travel into the colder seasons, the trick is to layer up. Don’t waste precious backpack space packing bulky outwear that you may not even need or could acquire later. Worst case scenario, you could always leave a box of warmer clothes with a family member or good friend and have them mail them to you should you need them!

Also, trust me on the sunglasses. I made the mistake of bringing an expensive pair of RayBans with me once and while diving to photobomb a group of girls in Paris, they flew off my shirt without my noticing. By the time I realized they were missing, someone else had found them and claimed them as their own… But I’m sure the photobomb was totally worth it. Group of girls, if you’re reading this, send me that picture!

 
Gear

This depends largely on what sort of traveling you intend to do (mainly cities vs camping). However, backpack camping could be a post of its own, so for this one, I’ll focus on basic city traveling.


an overhead photo of a map and laptop

Here is what I recommend bringing:

• Combination lock –  Almost every hostel will have lockers available to store your backpack while you’re out exploring. While I’ve never had an issue with theft, it doesn’t hurt to lock up your belongings. I highly recommend a combination lock over a key lock in the not-so-rare event that the tiny key is misplaced.

• Rainfly – I’ve previously discussed picking a backpack made with water-resistant materials in another post, but it never hurts to be over prepared. A rainfly is a large nylon cover that fits securely over your backpack to keep out all moisture. If you’re carrying all of your belongings in that bag, it’s well worth the inexpensive purchase to keep them dry.

• Small medical kit –  You don’t need anything too extravagant for city backpacking, as you can always find a hospital for any serious conditions. That being said, it’s a good idea to have some basic supplies on hand such as bandaids, aspirin and burn cream in the event of minor injuries. Most outdoor retailers like EMS will have portable, prepackaged kits available to purchase.

• Small flashlight – This is a great tool to keep somewhere handy, like a keyring, so that if you come back to your hostel late at night, you can manage to find your way to bed without disturbing everyone. Trust me, you don’t want to be that person that turns on the overhead lights after stumbling in drunk from a night on the town… Not if you want to make friends at least.

• Water bottle – A good water bottle is an absolute necessity while traveling. You would not believe how many people I came across who were throwing away money by buying bottled water after bottled water. You know places give that stuff away for free, right? Having a quality reusable bottle with you will save you a ton of money in the long run and ensure you remain properly hydrated at all times.  


Electronics

There are some backpacking purists who will tell you to leave all electronics behind and get off the grid while traveling. While I totally get it and respect them for it, it’s just not for everyone. Personally, I like having my phone’s GPS at times, and it’s always nice to keep in touch with family and friends back home.

Here’s what I bring with me:

• Unlocked cellphone – Having an unlocked cellphone means you’ll be able to use sim cards from anywhere in the world in your device to get internet and phone access. Most places will have relatively inexpensive short-term data plans available for tourists. Use this in conjunction with apps like Viber or WhatsApp and you have a cheap way to talk to people back home.

• Small camera – I’ll admit, this is one area where I don’t practice what I preach. I’m big into photography, so I lug around my clunky DSLR with me everywhere I go. I wish it weren’t the case though, as it’s heavy and requires its own bag. If you’re not an aspiring professional photographer however, I would strongly recommend a tiny point and shoot digital camera. If you’re feeling fancy and want some action shots as well, look into a waterproof version for underwater photos and video.

• Tablet – I used to travel with my laptop, but have recently switched to a tablet. It’s lighter, has all the same features I would need from a computer, and is far more practical for traveling and performing basic tasks like reading. Remember, backpack space is extremely limited, so if you don’t need a full laptop, don’t bother with it.

• Universal adapter – Many people incorrectly believe that you need to buy a power converter for your electronics, otherwise you run the risk of overloading them, and *poof*, boom goes the cellphone. Thankfully, most modern electronics have made this a non-issue. Check the label carefully on your device’s plug, but you’ll find that most are capable of handling 100-240 volts. This is considered a universal range and you will be able to use your device safely in just about every country. What you will need, however, is an adapter. One of the many joys of traveling is the ever-changing electrical outlets you will encounter around the world. A good universal adapter should fit most any outlet you will come across in your travels.

• Travel power strip – Don’t forget, you’ll need to charge your electronics as well. You may find open outlets tough to come by, especially in places like hostels where other travelers are looking to charge up their phones and tablets too. A travel power strip is immensely helpful in this situation, as it will allow you to charge multiple devices at once while needing just one outlet.

 

Miscellaneous

These last few items are what I like to call “worst case scenario” supplies. You probably won’t need them, but it’s good to have them in case you do.

• A copy of your passport – Whenever I travel, I take a scanned paper copy of my passport to keep tucked away in my bag. If my actual one happens to get lost or stolen, I at least have some way of verifying my identity at an embassy so that I can get a replacement. I also like to keep the scanned image uploaded to a cloud server like Google Drive so that no matter what, I am always able to access a copy.

• $100 cash USD – Obviously, this one only applies to Americans, but I always like to keep some cash with me in the event that my wallet is stolen. Most card companies will be able to express deliver you a replacement to anywhere in the world, but until they arrive, you’ll at least have something to get by with. I’m sure it goes without saying, but keep this secret stash well hidden in your backpack in a place that thieves wouldn’t think to check. I’d tell you my hiding place, but that sort of defeats the purpose.

• Snacks – Okay, admittedly, this isn’t a real worst case scenario item, but getting hungry on a cross-country bus ride can certainly feel like the end of the world. I always try to keep a few granola bars on hand when traveling. Don’t go overboard packing these. The rest of the world has snacks as well, and you can try something different everywhere you go!

That’s it for my basic packing list. If you have questions about what to bring or if you think I left something off the list, contact me!   Now that you know what type of things to bring, it’s time to choose the actual items. If you need some suggestions, take a look at my gear recommendations!

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First Steps

A common point of contention between people who travel often is whether to use a backpack or rolling suitcase to carry your belongings. Both certainly have their merits. I can certainly appreciate the ease of pulling a suitcase on wheels behind me as opposed to carrying the weight on my back, but that being said, the moment you encounter stairs, everything changes. Have you ever tried carrying a 50 pound suitcase up three stories? It doesn’t look fun.

In my opinion, backpacks are for travelers and suitcases are for vacationers. Suitcases are typically heavier, don’t travel well over unpaved surfaces, and their rigid shape limits what you can put in it. On the other hand, a good hiking backpack is typically much lighter, can go anywhere, and is able to compress down or expand depending on what you need to bring. On top of that, if you get your pack properly fitted to you, the weight of the bag is spread evenly across your hips, minimizing any strain felt on your back or shoulders.


What to Look for In a Backpack

The first thing to consider when looking for a hiking backpack is size. If you intend to be out for over a month, I would not recommend looking at anything under 50 liters. There are some backpackers who swear by the ultralight lifestyle and travel with far smaller packs, but personally, I like to change my clothes once in a while (just kidding, you ultralighers out there). On the other end of the spectrum, some bags are too monstrously huge. Anything over 80 liters and you risk being vilified by strangers on the overcrowded bus you’re bound to take at some point.   Next, you should consider features. When searching for the perfect backpack, you should look for a bag with the following:

 
• LIGHTWEIGHT

The contents of your bag are going to be heavy enough without the backpack itself weighing you down. When you also consider that most airlines charge for your luggage on a sliding scale of weight, it becomes increasingly important to shed some pounds wherever you can. Many modern hiking bags are built with an internal aluminum frame for a solid construction with minimal overall weight. Keep in mind, however, it’s important not to skimp on materials in the quest for weight reduction. A featherweight bag is no good to you if its paper-thin fabric tears in the first week of using it. A well-made backpack should strike a balance between the two.

 
• WATER-RESISTANT

Inevitably, you are going to get caught in the rain at some point in your travels. In everyday life, this isn’t a terribly big deal, but when you’re carrying all of your worldly possessions in a backpack, it’s very much akin to living in a house with a cloth roof. In addition to using a rainfly, it’s important to find a backpack made with water-resistant materials. Cordura or any other ripstop nylon is a safe bet for lightweight water protection.

 
• SEPARATE COMPARTMENTS

There is nothing worse than looking for one small item in your backpack and needing to unpack the entire bag to find it. Having separate compartments makes organizing and finding your belongings much easier. For instance, you can keep emergency items that require immediate access, such as a medkit, in the hood. Meanwhile, things like your sleeping bag can be kept in a compartment at the bottom of the bag, as there are very few emergency situations that require you to deploy a sleeping back in seconds. Also, while not entirely necessary, having a backpack with bottom access is a nice convenience feature that can save you precious unpacking and repacking time when you need to grab something from the bottom of the pack.

 
• COMFORT

You’re going to be carrying this bag around for the better part of the foreseeable future. Better make sure it’s comfortable. As I mentioned earlier, a properly fitted bag should have the majority of the weight sitting on your hips, so it’s important to make sure those hip straps are well-padded. Discovering that the straps dig into your sides a few days into your trip will undoubtedly make the rest of it seem long and miserable.

While your hips will be doing the majority of the work, it’s important to not neglect your back and shoulders either. Just like the hip straps, the shoulder straps should have plenty of padding as well. I would also recommend finding a bag with a well ventilated back surface. Until you experience it, you would not believe how much heat builds up between your back and the bag, especially during those hot summer days. Being able to get some airflow between the two makes a world of difference when it comes to your overall comfort.

 
My Recommendation

After all that, you’re probably wondering what bag I personally recommend. My go-to backpack for the past 3 years has been the Deuter ACT Lite 65 + 10. I’ve gone around the world with this bag and it’s held up perfectly in every situation from mountain camping to urban exploring. Aside from having the features I listed above, I love the fact that it’s scalable. Packing light? Use the built-in compression straps to shrink it down and save space. Bought a ton of souvenirs while traveling? The lid adjusts heights to give you an extra 10 liters of space.  

Of course, everybody is different and every situation is unique, so there is no one size fits all answer to which backpack you should buy. I highly recommend stopping into an outdoors store such as EMS or REI and talking to a professional before committing to any one bag. Once you’ve found the perfect backpack for you, you can start figuring out what to pack. And as always, should you want any more advice from me on the subject, don’t hesitate to contact me!

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First Steps

So you’ve made the decision to travel longterm. Fantastic! Now what? Now it’s time to prepare, starting with saving some money. You don’t need to be wealthy to travel for an extended amount of time, and it can certainly be done on the cheap, but that being said, you will need SOME money to your name to fund your adventures. Luckily, saving doesn’t need to be difficult. I’ve gathered some of my favorite tips here to help you get started.

 
1. Know your savings goal

 

Without a doubt, the question I’m asked most often about traveling is, “How much money do I need”, to which I answer, “Well, that depends on a lot of different factors”. This typically leads to my second most often asked question, which is, “Ok, but roughly speaking, how much”.


piggy bank with change                                                                                              


There is no one answer to this question. It all comes down to how you want to travel. If your dream travel experience is to stay at a hotel with a balcony overlooking La Seine and eat at the finest restaurants Paris has to offer, you’re going to need quite a bit of money. However, since you’re reading this blog, it’s most likely because you want to travel for as long as possible and really stretch that budget as far as it will go. What it will cost you is entirely unique to your situation.

The amount you’ll spend per day is also highly variable based on where in the world you are. A sandwich on the Champs-Elysées could cost you $30 whereas a full meal in southeast Asia will run you less than $1. What I would recommend is to do a bit of research on where you intend to visit. Read through my location guides and do a hefty bit of googling to determine the average costs in that area, and use that to estimate what you’ll need. Whatever total you end up with, I’d suggest rounding up a bit in case of unforeseen expenses (you also don’t want to come home broke!).


 
2. Make a list of your expenses

Once you’ve determined how much you need to save, it’s time to figure out how to do the actual saving. This next exercise is a tough one and it requires you to be brutally honest with yourself. I want you to keep a running list of everything you spend over the course of a day. Now, repeat this over a few more days to get a rough idea of your typical spending patterns.

From this number, you can estimate how much you would spend in an average month. Finally, add on your fixed monthly expenditures such as rent, utilities, food, etc., and add up these totals. Let me guess; it’s a pretty scary number, right? If you were to take your average monthly take-home pay and subtract this number, how long would it take you to reach your savings goal? Probably longer than you were hoping. Don’t panic. We’re about to fix that.


a person making a list

Look over that list again. This is where the honesty comes in. How many of the things on that list are necessities and how many are merely wants? Ask yourself, do I need that venti latte in the morning before work? Do I need to go out to dinner every weekend with friends? Once you see it written out in front of you, you’ll be amazed at how quickly seemingly inconsequential purchases can add up. That coffee you buy everyday may only cost $3, but that adds up to almost $1,100 over the course of a year!

Imagine how much faster you could reach your goal by adding that back into your savings. Sure, it will be difficult to cut some of these things out of your routine, but always keep that end goal in mind. Just think, would you rather go to the movies to see another film you’ll forget all about in a week, or watch the sunset from a far-off foreign shore? Remembering what you’re saving for makes the sacrifices that much easier.


 
3. Master the art of grocery shopping

One of the easiest necessary spending categories to get under control is food. If you’ve never given it much consideration, you’re most likely spending more money than you need to be. First things first, if you go out to eat or order takeaway often, it’s time to embrace the art of cooking for yourself at home.




The average monthly cost of groceries for one person in the United States is about $300. Let’s assume the average cost of takeaway is $10 per meal. At that rate, your monthly grocery budget is spent in just 10 days. Meal prepping doesn’t have to be difficult either. Buy a slow cooker, throw your ingredients in before you leave for school or work, and by the time you get home, you have dinner ready for a week.

When it comes to the actual shopping, be a bargain hunter! Ditch the brand names in favor of the generic alternatives. It won’t kill you, I promise, and those savings add up quickly. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the meat specials. Grocery stores will drastically cut the price of meat when the sell-by date is approaching. Don’t let that date deter you. Buy it when it’s cheap and freeze it until you need it. You’ll save a bunch of money and it will be just as fresh as the day you bought it once it’s been thawed.

 
4. Kick the habit

If you’re a smoker or heavy drinker, here’s that reason you’ve been looking for to quit. Aside from the obvious health implications, the average smoker will spend between $2,000 to $5,000 per year on cigarettes depending on where they live. You could live comfortably in Thailand for over six months with that amount of money! Let that sink in for a moment.


A no smoking sign

The same goes for drinking. If your regular Friday night activities include hitting the bar with friends, consider cheaper social alternatives, or practice restraint and limit the amount of drinks you would typically order in a night. If that seems hard to do, keep this in mind; in Prague, beer is cheaper than water. You just need to get there first.


 
5. Cut the cable

If you’re still paying for cable, it’s time to embrace the present, call your provider, and cancel. Online streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu have more content than you could ever hope to watch, and regularly offer current TV programming the day after it airs. The best part? You could get a yearly membership with any of these services for the cost of just one month of cable. Of course, you could always go completely TV free, but hey, I’m not here to ask the impossible of you.

 
6. Ditch the car

Driving isn’t cheap. Once you add the cost of monthly car payments, insurance and regular maintenance to your weekly fill-up, it becomes downright expensive. If you live in an area with public transportation, try commuting via bus or train rather than driving everywhere. In Boston, a monthly MBTA card will run you about $70, which is much less than you’d be paying for your car.


a photo of bus seats

If you don’t live in an area with a public transportation system or if your car is absolutely necessary, consider driving for a ride sharing company such as Uber or Lyft in your free time. Not only will you offset the cost of your car, you’ll make some extra money on the side as well!

 
7. Sell what you don’t need

This one is simple. If you have things of value sitting around that you aren’t using anymore, what’s the use of hanging on to it? Besides, if you’re planning to travel longterm, you’ll already be pretty limited as to what you can take with you. Before I left for my first trip, I sold a bunch of things I no longer had need of, such as my TV, guitar amp, and various furniture. If nothing else, cutting down on your material possessions is incredibly freeing and will act as one less tether holding you back.

 
8. Deposit diligently

When I used to bartend, I had a great system in place for saving money. At the end of the night, I would take all the cash I had made and change it into the largest bills I could. Then, I would take everything $20 and higher and immediately deposit it at the nearest ATM. Everything smaller than a $20 became my spending money for the week. By doing this, I limited the amount of cash immediately available to me, thus reducing the urge to spend it. Additionally, having that set amount of small bills on hand made it easy for me to budget for the week.

If you’re paid via check rather than cash, look into setting up direct deposit. Typically, you can set it up to deposit into multiple accounts. By doing so, you can put the majority into a savings account, and keep only what you need for the week into checking. My general rule of thumb for money is “out of sight, out of mind”, by which I mean if I don’t see it, I won’t be tempted to spend it.

Currently, I use the Barclay Dream Account for savings. They have one of the highest interest rates I’ve found in a bank, plus they give you a bonus for every six months you complete a direct deposit and don’t withdraw. It’s free to open an account and there are no minimums, which is a huge plus.

For checking, I’m using Capital One 360. I’ve liked Capital One ever since I got their Venture credit card for traveling (but more on that in another post), so I decided to give their checking account a try. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary so far, but no complaints either! Like the Barclay account, it has a higher than average interest rate as far as checking accounts go, and there are no startup fees or minimums.

(Full disclosure, I do get a referral bonus if you sign up for Capital One through that link. That is actually the account I use though! I’ll never recommend anything to you that I don’t genuinely use and enjoy.)

 

That about does it! The sooner you start implementing these rules, the closer you’ll be to taking off on your next adventure. As always, if you have any questions about saving money or traveling in general, don’t hesitate to contact me!

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