I used to think I could never budget in travel (especially out of the country) into my life. But I have come to realize even the tightest budget usually has some wiggle room. This of course doesn't apply to everyone's circumstance, but I assume if you are reading this you are like me and have an income and financial responsibilities that seem to leave you with little space for much else, but chances are you do. Here is how I found that extra space and why you can probably afford to travel after all.
Those new shoes in your cart are probably not essential.
My favorite trick when saving up for a trip is the "those boots are 3 nice dinners in Rome" trick. Imagining myself in Rome eating fresh pasta wins out over another pair of black ankle boots every time. Once I got serious about my travel goals my impulse to buy a new coat every season or own four slightly different black blazers felt frivolous. And it expanded past my closet, my late night Amazon orders became more methodical and I felt more in control of my wallet. I didn't feel like I was sacrificing either (my biggest fear in budgeting) I felt like I was investing in something much bigger. And in the end could see that cutting back on shopping made space in my life for experiences and true value.
There is cash in your closet.
There is probably cash in your closet, or garage or under you bed. When I am saving for a trip I take the opportunity to purge the excess in my life. As I am spending less on the miscellaneous I am also auditing anything "extra" that I don't use or need anymore. I try to sell these "extras" online (usually clothing), and what I don't sell I donate because after all I just recognized that I don't need it. I would never recommend booking a trip and then selling all of your material belongings, not for a casual vacation anyway, but I have always been refreshed to come home after an amazing trip to a decluttered home. It has served me as a blank slate on which to implement all of my new post-vacation inspiration.
Your Seamless app is overused.
I have found the only truly maleable part of my budget is what I spend on food. In part, because of where I live (New York City) and my lifestyle (fairly busy and on the go) my food budget has tended to go uncalculated and as a result be very inflated. Once I started tracking my food purchases I realized that I eat out a lot more than I thought, I eat way more candy and desserts than I knew, and my groceries often go unused and wasted (totally unacceptable). It took a lot of planning, but I have been able to slash my take-out/order-in habit by more than half and barely throw away anything in my fridge anymore. Do the math yourself, that $5 coffee everyday if cut down to just a few days a week is almost a $1000 plane ticket each year. Or your $12 work-day lunch is $240 for the month, pack a lunch every other day and you have a night in a nice hotel or a few days in an airbnb. Makes a home brew and bagged lunch seem more appealing right?
Travel isn't as expensive as you think.
You may not believe me, but it really is not. All things are relative. I used to think in order to go abroad I would need loads of cash, I mean just having hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars upfront for a ticket is pretty intimidating. But getting there is often the most expensive part of travel, I assure you. Of course it all depends on the type of trip you are looking for. I tend to travel like a local for shorter periods of time. I don't like to leave the country if I don't have at least a week to spare, but never travel for more than a month (by week three I am usually missing my routine at home). By "traveling like a local" I mean that I eat out but not at expensive touristy places every night. I visit attractions but avoid touristy package deals and opt for curating my own experience. And I don't shop for souvenirs or the like while away. When keeping to these rules I tend to stay at or under my daily budget at home so that lodging and my flight are my only additional expenses.