“How the heck do you do it, Mitch?”
“Are you rich or something?”
“I’d love to do what you do…but I could never afford it.”
When I was traveling around the world, I got messages like this all the time from old friends I’d lost touch with.
They saw my Instagram pictures and just couldn’t wrap their minds around how it was possible.
How can someone travel for 3 months, 6 months, or even 1 year without running out of money (or working a “normal” job)?
It’s actually not as hard as you think.
Most people believe travel has to be expensive. But that’s simply not true.
Don’t believe me?
During my 10-month trip through Central and South America, I spent around $1000/month. That’s $33/day (on average) for accommodation, food, transportation, and activities.
In other words, I went on the adventure of a lifetime for half of what it costed me to live a normal, boring life in the US.
How is that possible?
It’s called budget traveling. And before being introduced to the world of “backpacking”, I had no clue it existed.
Most people don’t.
That’s because all the travel ads you see on TV and the internet are for expensive cruises, resorts, and tour packages.
That’s not the travel I’m talking about here.
If you want to take a long trip (and you’re not rich), you need to figure out how to stretch your money.
That means choosing cheaper countries, traveling slowly, taking public transportation, eating local food, staying in budget accommodations, etc.
I always had my budget in mind while traveling, but that doesn’t mean I was penny-pinching.
I did every activity on my list — sailing from Panama to Colombia, taking a cruise around the Galapagos Islands, scuba diving caves in Mexico, paragliding in Guatemala, trekking through the Peruvian mountains, etc.
These activities obviously costed more than $33/day, but that was my average (over 10 months).
So, let’s say you want to do a 3-month trip in Central America. You’ll need to save about $3000.
For some, that may sound easy. For others, impossible.
Here’s the thing:
You might actually need to make some changes in your life. Money isn’t just going to magically appear in your bank account.
Want to know what all those world travelers you see on Instagram have in common?
At some point, they all made some sort of sacrifice to be able to do what they do. They made the decision to make travel a priority.
To them, a life-changing experience was more important than material objects. More important than driving a fancy car, snapchatting on the latest iPhone, or buying that 10th pair of shoes (God-forbid you leave the house with shoes that don’t match your outfit, right?).
So, the more you’re willing to adjust your lifestyle, the faster your savings will grow.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to quickly boost your travel fund without sacrificing your quality of life.
Here’s 9 of them you can start today:
1. Donate your body fluids
Bet you didn’t know your body was a magical ATM machine, did you?
And it’s not as gross as it sounds.
Donating your bio-matter comes in many forms varying in difficulty, discomfort, and payout. But the easiest and most popular option is to donate plasma.
It’s similar to donating blood. Each donation takes around an hour, and you can donate 2 times per week.
And get this…
You can earn up to $300–400 per month!
If you’re itching to generate even more cash with your body (in a non-prostitutey way), you could also donate your sperm, eggs, or breastmilk.
Heck, I’m sure you could even find people to buy clean pee from you (careful with this one if you don’t like jail).
Donating sperm and eggs can have huge payouts (1 egg = $6000-$10,000), but the time, effort, and risk involved is much greater.
Also, they’re picky with who they accept into their donation programs. Sorry short people and redheads. (For the record, I think you guys rock).
2. Rent out your place
Have an extra room in your house or apartment?
Consider renting it out on either a nightly basis (Airbnb) or with a monthly contract.
Fire up the Google-machine and start investigating how much you could earn each way (based on your location).
No matter where you live, you can probably count on AT LEAST a few hundred extra dollars per month (per room). And possibly much more.
Don’t have any extra rooms, you say? There’s still hope!
How about building one?
My brother put up a wall to split his basement in half. Now one side is an extra bedroom, and the other a cozy TV room. The investment to put up the wall paid for itself with the first month’s rent.
Key takeaway: Extra space = Extra money. You just need to get creative!
3. Downsize your vehicle
Cars are effing expensive.
Before I sold mine, I didn’t realize how much it was draining my bank account.
Obviously, selling your vehicle may not be a viable option for everyone. But if you can swing it, you’ll save a ton.
By a ton, we’re talking over $9000/year in ownership costs according to AAA Auto Club.
And if you absolutely need a car, why not trade it for something more economical?
Switching from a $6000 car to a $3000 car would give you enough for a 3-month trip just like that. Who cares if it has some rust spots? Like my dad always used to say, “As long as it gets you from A to B…that’s all that matters.”
Or what about a moped…or even a bicycle? (Slim your body while fattening your travel fund!)
You’re friends may laugh watching you scooter around town, topped out at 35mph. But you’ll be the one laughing when your savings account blows up and you can go off traveling the world.
What an easy way to keep earning while you’re off on your adventure. And we’re talking good money here. HyreCar claims their clients earn an average of $14,000/year!
4. Turn your car into a billboard
Selling and renting aren’t the only ways to make money with your car. You can also get paid to cover it with advertisements.
Wrapify claims you can earn up to $250–450/month with their advertisements.
Carvertise reports paying a bit less — $100/month on average. However, they also offer $30/hour to park your car in certain places at certain times.
Yes, your precious car might look cheesy wrapped in ads. But who cares?
As far as making extra cash without changing your lifestyle goes, this is about as easy and effortless as it gets.
5. Take advantage of credit card rewards “hacking”
This one’s a game-changer.
Plane tickets are normally one of the biggest travel expenses. But they don’t have to be!
I’ve personally saved thousands of dollars on flights with very minimal effort.
Here’s what I do.
(Note: Offers/rules vary by country)
Many rewards credit cards offer significant sign-up bonuses. To receive these bonuses, all you have to do is open the card and spend a certain amount of money within a specified amount of time.
For example, one popular card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. If you spend $4000 in the first 3 months, you’ll receive a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points.
Those 50,000 points are redeemable for $625 in flights.
After you receive the sign-up bonus, simply find another card with a good offer, and repeat the process. It’s that easy.
And if done appropriately, it should have a minimal impact on your credit score.
The idea is to try to meet the “minimum spend” amount by using the card to pay for all your normal living expenses and purchases you were going to make anyway.
So, if you’re able to “churn” one card every three months, and each card earns you around 50,000 points…that’s well over $2000 worth of free flights each year.
If you’re not taking advantage this, you’re missing out on some easy money!
(Note: Nick Loper’s Credit Card Rewards 101 Guide breaks down everything you need to know to get started)
6. Slash your cell phone bills
How much do you pay for your cell phone bill?
At the time of writing, the average unlimited plan in the US costed $80/month. (That’s almost $1000/year in case you left your calculator at home).
But if we live in a world with wifi all over the place, why are we paying for so much data?
Downgrading to a “pay as you go” plan can save you big bucks. All you need to do is train yourself to save your data-draining activities for when you have wifi.
Want to watch a Youtube video? Wait for wifi.
Stream music? Download songs to your phone using wifi.
Addicted to Instagram? Be addicted when you have wifi.
And the best data-saving strategy of all? Putting away the phone altogether and engaging with real life. 🙂
Sure, going on a data diet might seem inconvenient. But it’s a habit. And just like any other habit, once you get used to it (and see the money you’re saving each month), it’s not so bad.
A small sacrifice for the travel fund.
As for me, I practice what I preach. I’m currently on a strict 400mb/month diet and have never felt better!
(Screentime-related side note: Still paying an expensive cable bill? It might be time to reevaluate priorities. What about Netflix? Or…books? *gasp*)
7. Don’t be wasteful
Ok, I know I promised not to cramp on your lifestyle.
But by working to eliminate general wastefulness from your life, you’ll not only cut your costs each month, but also help the environment.
I never realized how wasteful I was until I started traveling. I think in our culture, it’s just the norm.
Here’s an example.
I used to LOVE long hot showers.
When I was a kid, I’d wash myself in two minutes, then sit down and relax until the hot water ran out.
After a while, my too-smart-for-his-own-good father got fed up paying for all that water (and energy), so he built a clever little device called the shower contraption. (Welcome to my childhood)
Every time I wanted a shower, I had to type my “shower code” into this little device to turn on my “water timer” for the day. After 10 minutes, the water would shut off until the next day. Grrrrr…
As you can imagine, suffering through a shower-deprived childhood was rough.
Somehow, I survived with no lasting psychological issues.
That being said, as an adult — freed from the chains of the shower contraption — I started taking my sweet time again.
That is, until I started traveling to 3rd world countries.
I was surprised to learn hot water is actually a luxury most people don’t have access to. Crazy, right?
And I thought I had it bad.
Needless to say, with ice cold water, my shower time cut down to about 90 seconds per day.
Now, when I go back to visit the US, I don’t even use hot water. I like cold now. It’s quick, refreshing, healthy for my skin, and good for the environment.
You’re not going to save thousands per month here. But if you’re using 80% less water and not wasting energy heating it up, you’re bound to cut some costs. (You’ll also have an extra 20 minutes in your schedule to work on #8).
At first, it’s hard. But in a couple weeks, you’ll adapt. I promise.
8. Start a side hustle
So, you’ve taken my advice and disconnected your expensive cable TV.
Now that you’re not wasting hours a day in front of the tube, you’re going to have tons of free time and not know what to do with it all.
I’ll tell you what you can do with it all.
Start a side hustle.
A side hustle is a project you do in your free time to earn extra cash.
The possibilities for earning extra money are limited only by your imagination.
For example, you could find free stuff on craigslist and flip it for a profit. People are making several hundred dollars doing this in their spare time…per week!
Having trouble coming up with other ideas? Check out this list of 60+ creative side hustles.
And for even more inspiration, Chris Guillebeau has an amazing daily podcast called Side Hustle School, where he shares 10-minute success stories of ordinary people who’ve created thriving side hustles based on their passions.
I used to listen to this at breakfast every morning to get my entrepreneurial juices flowing.
9. Sell your crap
It’s purging time, baby!
If you’re like most Americans (and other first-worlders), you probably own a lot of stuff you don’t need.
If you don’t need it now, you’re definitely not going to need it while traveling.
For most of us (myself included), it’s emotionally difficult to part with our possessions — even if we never use them. (We might need it someday, right?)
But here’s the thing.
When you get back from traveling after a few months, you’re not even going to remember all the stuff you had.
Before leaving on my trip, I packed all my things into boxes. Everything I couldn’t bring myself to part with. My most prized possessions.
Then, after my trip when I came home and opened everything up, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Seeing all the clothes, gadgets, and other do-dads…it literally felt like Christmas had come early. I had completely forgotten about all my stuff.
Just goes to show how much I needed it all.
So, before you leave: Sell your clothes, sell your furniture, sell your video games…sell it all!
Once you part with it, I bet you’ll actually feel relieved.
You probably won’t earn back the full value of everything, but I’m sure it’ll be enough to buy some sweet souvenirs on your trip.
So, to all who claim they’d love to travel like I do, but just don’t have the money…
Here’s how to get it.
But it won’t work unless you’ve consciously chosen what your priorities are in life.
Is it going to the bars with your friends every weekend, using free time after work to watch TV, and taking long hot showers?
Or is it having money to pay for life-changing experiences around the world?
The first step is deciding what’s most important and what you’re willing to sacrifice to have it.
Once you make that decision, your mindset shifts from what you’re giving up, to what you’re going to get.
And then the way forward is simple.
You have 9 money-saving hacks right in front of you.
Pick some (or all), and get started today.
Before you know it, you’ll be off surfing and sipping piña coladas on a secret beach in Central America.