People frequently ask me how I afford to travel as much as I do. They're surprised to learn that my annual income has never once reached the average per-capita GDP of the U.S. -- yet I have taken 11 overseas trips, all of them self-funded.
If I can afford travel, you can probably afford to travel. Although becoming location-independent like I have allows you to travel more frequently, you need not uproot yourself to save for travel.
In fact, if you're willing to adjust your lifestyle, you can save $12,000 (or more!) for travel in just one year. And I'm about to tell you exactly how.
1. Turn off the TV
Wouldn't you rather be the Discovery Channel than watch the Discovery Channel? Assuming your cable bill is around the national average of $135 per month, getting rid of it will save you $1,620 per year. Not only will you save money, you'll have more time and energy to plot and plan your trip!
2. Ditch the car
People laugh at me when I tell them this one. "But Robert," they say, after the giggling stops, "I don't have a choice -- you have to drive in America." Not true! I have been a pedestrian/cyclist for more than two years, in Texas of all places.
Even if you're a two (or more) person household and just eliminate one car, you can save -- assuming a modest car note of $250, insurance at $100 per month and gas at $150 per month -- a whopping $6,000 per year by getting rid of your car. And you'll be in better shape for travel, too!
3. Go out less
Wouldn't you rather drink on idyllic beaches in Colombia or Thailand than at your local watering hole? Assuming, conservatively, that you spend $30 each time you go out for dinner or cocktails, skipping even one happy hour per week will save you a whopping $1,560 over the course of a year.
4. Adjust your living situation
Live alone? Get a roommate. Live far from work? Move closer, even if you have to settle for a slightly less-nice home to stay in the same price range. The ability to travel is strongly correlated to your ability to live smart, and having a home that makes financial and logistical sense is a key part of this.
When I was living by myself in Austin, I paid a whopping $1,200 per month for rent and utilities (which didn't include cable TV). When I moved into a three-bedroom house with two girls, I was down to just $600 per month all-in. Even if you save only half of what I saved (that would be $300 per month), you can easily save $3,600 per year by living smarter.
5. Go prepaid
I have no idea why prepaid cellphone service has become so taboo in the United States -- it's the standard in much of the rest of the world! So my advice to you is this: Cancel your contract, even if it means having to pay a termination fee. Get your phone unlocked, and get a prepaid SIM card to put in it.
Even if you lose $250 when you cancel and spend $50 unlocking your phone, the savings of having prepaid service -- I went from $130 per month with AT&T to just $40 per month with T-Mobile -- will offset it. (That's $780 per year if you're keeping track).
Adding it all up, we have $13,560 worth of savings in just one year -- and I haven't even listed all the ways you can travel-size your life! Even if you save only half of this, you're still in for a pretty rockin' trip, particularly if you read my advice on the cheapest places to travel.