6 Borderline Ridiculous Ways that I Save Money to Travel

Everyone knows a few tips to save money to travel – make coffee at home instead of buying it at Starbucks, pack your lunch instead of buying one at work, blahblahblah.

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

I’ve been budgeting so long that I’ve come up with a few, well, let’s say… interesting… ideas on ways to save money to travel.

Let’s get weird.

4 Borderline Ridiculous Ways I Used to Save Money to Travel the World (and 2 I Still Use)

Crazy Way I Save Money to Travel #1: I don’t pay for haircuts.

First off, I’ve never dyed, highlighted, lowlighted, ombre-ed, or whatever other new overpriced hair treatment is popular these days, which can easily rack up to a hundred dollars or more every few months. If you want to save a lot of money for travel? Embrace your natural hair!

I haven’t even owned a straightener, curler, or blow dryer in over a year. [edit: I JUST today February 13 2016 bought a straightener and blow dryer. because: engagement photos ]

And maybe most crazy? I’m a girl that doesn’t believe in the investment of a haircut.

My fiance cuts my hair for me, with normal scissors, on a straight line. Let’s be honest, sometimes more straight than others.

Save money to travel by not buying haircuts

[2019 Update: I definitely go to the salon for my twice-yearly haircut now]

Crazy Way I Save Money to Travel #2: I hand wash the majority of my clothes.

I once read an article about a woman who committed to hand washing her clothes for a year. After the year, she continued doing it because she said the process made her more mindful of the crazy amount of clothing that she wears. I thought she was nuts until I tried it. (I wish I could find the article now but I can’t! You’ll just have to take my word for it)

To be honest – hand washing your clothes actually gets them cleaner (if you do it properly) and damages them less.

Most importantly to me, it saves a TON of money for travel. In Brazil, most condos don’t have a washing machine, and coin laundry is still pretty expensive (and you run the risk of someone stealing your stuff), so we end up carrying a bulging sack of clothes a few hundred meters down the street to our favorite laundry guy twice a month. Each load works out to $15 or more. Everytime we do laundry, it costs around $40. That’s real money.

save money to travel by handwashing

[2019 Update: since moving to Mexico, we’ve always had a laundry machine. When we moved to an unfurnished house, we bought both a washer and a dryer, but I only use the washer and air dry, to be better for the environment and for my utility bill]

Crazy Way I Save Money to Travel #3: I don’t go shopping.

At least, not for fun. I’m a woman that truly no longer enjoys shopping because I’d rather save that money for travel.

I only shop if something wears out or I can’t make do with anything else I have. To be honest, after almost 10 years of adult life (wahhhh I’m getting old), I have a pretty solid wardrobe. And its hot AF in the places I choose to live, so most days I’m half melting no matter what I wear anyways.

When I do go shopping, I choose quality over quantity. I own 5 pairs of shoes (casual sandals, fancy sandals, Vibrams, heels, flats) and I could do with a lot less. I used to own more than 50 pairs of shoes, and 80% I’d worn once or not at all.

Stop buying shoes you won’t wear, stop buying clothes you don’t need, even if they are on sale. In fact, stop going to the mall or a shopping center unless you actually need something. Spending money shouldn’t be a hobby, a pastime, or something that you do for fun – at least, it shouldn’t be if you’re trying to save or travel or do anything actually cool and meaningful.

save money to travel by not shopping

[2019 Update: I avoid shopping and love to get my clothes secondhand from ThredUp, mainly because it’s so much better for the environment – though my wallet benefits as well!]

Crazy Way I Save Money to Travel #4: I don’t go to the movies.

Netflix and chill? Hell yes, as long as you’ve got popcorn.

Maybe my second best skill after budgeting is popcorn making. I am ridiculously good at making popcorn on the stove (bonus: you skip all the nasty movie popcorn chemicals). You heard right, I won’t even usually spring for microwave popcorn.

My bed is way more comfy than any theatre seat, and I can watch whatever I want, whenever I want, and maybe even do never ending back to back marathons of How I Met Your Mom… all while I save money to travel.

save money to travel by not going to the movies

[2019 Update: The VIP movies (with lazyboy chairs and seat-side waiter service) are around $5USD. I spring for it about once a month]

Crazy Way I Save Money to Travel #5: I cook everything from scratch.

You know the good old days, when your granny made delicious food from real whole ingredients?

Welcome to my kitchen. Cooking from scratch is healthier, cheaper, and it tastes better. And it’s CHEAPER (it needed to be said twice).

Canned beans? No way, make them from dried.

Vegetable stock? No way, make it yourself from veggie scraps.

Premade soup? No way, the best soup is homemade and you get to use the above mentioned from-scratch broth and formerly-dried beans. Even better if you make a ginormous batch and fill the whole freezer full so that your fiance can’t even fit a beer in for chilling.

I also save money to travel by making my own salad dressing, vegetable burgers, hummus… the list goes on and on. If you make a big batch, it’s really not that hard and it saves a LOT of money over the course of a year.

I only buy fruits, vegetables, legumes mainly. If it is absolutely necessary and I can’t make it myself (I’m not going so far as to press olive oil or grind my own wheat, I tried it once in Israel and it is HARD), I’ll buy it in its simplest form. Meaning, I do buy oil, I do buy flour and oats.

Processed foods have to go through more hands, undergo more messing with, and those labor and transportation costs are passed onto you. Nothing is cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables.

save money to travel by cooking from scratch

[2019 Update: I still do this. It’s more delicious, healthier, and yes: MUCH CHEAPER. I also think knowing where your food came from connects you more]

Crazy Way I Save Money to Travel #6: I don’t and won’t own a car.

Cars cost SO much and most Americans feel so dependent on them. Take a minute, and figure out your monthly car cost. Take into account your monthly car payment if you have a loan (if it’s paid off, take the amount the car cost divided by the rough number of months you expect to own it) + maintenance + insurance + gas + parking fees.

When you consider it, it’s no surprise that Americans don’t travel because they’re throwing away all that potential travel money into a car.

I choose to save money to travel by living in cities with public transportation. I walk and bike, and take the metro. I take a cab if absolutely necessary (or if it’s dark and cold and rainy and I’m wimpy). It’s better for the environment and better for my wallet.

[2019 Update: I got a car for my 30th birthday so I HAVE joined the driving masses. We paid for it in cash though so no loan, and I’m saving money on Uber fees since I live in a neighborhood where public transportation isn’t well-connected. I still do love to walk, and do it more frequently than I drive.]

Pin it for Later: 6 Crazy Ways I Save Money to Travel the World

6 Borderline Ridiculous Ways I Save Money to Travel the World

What weird ways do you save money?


A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

Find me on: Web | Instagram | Facebook


  1. November 9, 2015 / 11:51 am

    While we were paying our mortgage off in order to head off traveling..my husband ate frozen fish paste sandwiches for lunch for nearly two years.. ( supermarkets sell off bread at the end of the day.. Buy it, freeze it, and then buy discount fish paste for your sandwich filling..) it worked. We’ve been traveling for 19 months now..

    • November 9, 2015 / 2:05 pm

      That’s awesome! I think it is all about priorities. It isn’t so hard to give up unimportant “stuff” when you’ve got your eyes set on an important goal. Like traveling!!!

  2. November 10, 2015 / 7:52 pm

    No car and skip eating out are 2 big ones. If you can manage to pilfer wifi from someone, then you can cut that cost. 😀

    • November 11, 2015 / 9:50 am

      Agreed on all those! I used to live walking distance from a McDonald’s with free wifi. I would sit in the parking lot.

  3. November 20, 2015 / 9:44 am

    Haha, I love that your fiance cuts your hair! 😀
    To be honest, going to the hairdressers all the time is a waste of money. I only go every other year or so.

    • November 20, 2015 / 11:19 am

      Haha thanks! Most people think I’m crazy….
      So happy to finally meet another woman who agrees with me!! 🙂

  4. January 2, 2016 / 9:35 pm

    Love your website! HA I could learn a thing or two from you on saving some money 🙂 Always high lighting my hair and spending a fortune… it can be such a pain and expensive!

    • January 4, 2016 / 10:30 am

      Hey Katie thanks so much for coming by! It was a slow and gradual process but I’m adding little tweaks all the time, and it now feels pretty painless and “normal”… though I do sometimes glance at an old photo and miss my nice straight hair with side bangs!

  5. Josh
    January 8, 2016 / 2:15 pm

    I am definitely a culprit of eating out and having a car but my job is the taxi business so that involves having a car but I should cut the eating out out! Especially with my travel abroad for major requirement coming down the pike! Long forward to more good stuff to read! Appreciate it!

    • January 8, 2016 / 5:17 pm

      Yeah if your job requires your car then there is no other way around it! 🙂
      You should check out your eating out budget, even cutting it down by a few times a month can be a substantial savings over a year.
      My biggest college regret is not traveling abroad while at university – I hope you enjoy it!!

  6. July 14, 2016 / 5:38 am

    We’re almost money saving twins. Definitely agree with the no car thing. Way too pricey. I prefer the exercise and ability to travel the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.