When student debt is your reality, it’s easy to justify putting all the things that make you happy on hold—and travel is often first to get the axe. But student loans don’t need to hold you back from exploring the world. Here are a few steps you can take to change your perspective and set yourself up to travel well while still staying on your journey to financial freedom.
Step 1: First Thing’s First…Get Organized
If you haven’t already set your loans on autopay, this is a must to reduce stress around your student debt. It’s all about perspective. You pay things like rent, car insurance, and cable monthly, so why not view your loans as just another monthly expense? Seeing your debt in this light will help you start to feel more in control and easily stay on track with payments.
Step 2: Set Up a Travel Fund
Open a new bank account that will be solely dedicated to travel and figure out how much per month you can safely transfer out of your checking account and into said travel fund. Similar to paying your loans, setting this up as a monthly automatic transfer will keep your savings growing without the temptation to spend your newfound cash on things you don’t need in the present.
Step 3: Go Into Short Burst Savings Mode
Cutting back on spending can feel torturous when there’s no end in sight, so try and set a specific timeframe (let’s say, three months), and go into savings mode leading up to your departure. Instead of eliminating everything fun and setting yourself up for failure, focus on how you can still do the things you love at a lower cost. Is there a coffee shop where your daily cup would be $1 cheaper? Rather than ban yourself from shopping, can you limit purchases to the sales rack? With more awareness, you can still do the things you love while saving.
Step 4: Hold Yourself Accountable
Sticking to a weekly budget is nearly impossible if you don’t have the right monitoring tools. Enlist an app or use a mind trick to help you stay on track. TrailWallet and Mint are two great apps that monitor your daily spending. If you don’t want to manually record, withdraw the amount of money you have allotted to spend per week and only put that cash in your wallet. This will force you be more aware of how fast your money is disappearing.
Step 5: Be Flexible With When and Where You Travel
As the savings roll in, it’s time to start trip planning! The cheapest way to travel is to be flexible on destination and timing. Instead of having your heart set on one locale, run searches based on your closest airport hub and choose a place that’s inexpensive from your city of origin. Some tools that find great flight deals are Secretflying.com, the Hopper App, and Kayak’s “Everywhere” search tool that allows you to search from your local airport to anywhere in the world.
Step 6: Score Free Flights and Accommodation
In the U.S., chances are your daily living expenses are similar if not more expensive than daily needs in many other countries. That means that your two main trip costs are flights and accommodations. By scoring free flights with credit card points (The Points Guy is a great resource) and utilizing sites like couchsurfing.com, trustedhousesitters.com, or staying with a friend, you need only to budget a little more than your normal daily expenses for the rest of your trip for meals out and activities.
Step 7: Save On Monthly Bills When Away
Are there bills you pay at home that you can save on while away? Look into freezing your phone bill and getting an inexpensive local SIM card at your new destination instead. Sublet your apartment or rent it out on Airbnb to even make a profit. Will you be saving on parking and gas while out of town? Take these expenses into consideration and put them straight into your travel fund.
With these steps, you’ll no longer have to view travel as some far off pipe dream reserved for the date you’re debt free.