It’s a an odd scenario to explain to people, traveling actually saves us money. Not only does it save us money, but the life experiences and relationship strengthening we gain is priceless.
You save money by taking more trips, huh?
Now, before your head starts tilting to the left or right, understand that 90% + of our travel is fueled by points/miles. When I speak about travel in a broad sense, I am referring to airfare, lodging, transportation, and even some activities. (not food or drink)
I am by no means suggesting that you go spend thousands out-of-pocket on travel in pursuit of “saving money”. There is a method to our madness, or so we think.
In a 12 month period covering parts of 2015 and 2016, we visited Europe four separate times. In those four visits, we managed to step-foot in over 10 total countries. We were busy with planning to say the least. (And we managed to squeeze in a 5th visit there in Spring 2017 on our way around the world)
All airfare and hotels were covered during these trips to Europe. Most often we used airfare/hotel points, other times we used cards like the Barclay Arrival Plus or the Capital One Venture card to erase travel purchases. The key to saving the most on travel is having a very diverse accumulation of points and miles.
Enough about traveling, here is how it saves us money
When we are not traveling, which is about 35~ weekends of the year, we don’t have overwhelming desires to spend money. Many people who I’ve spoken with regarding our travels say they don’t bother saving because a getaway seems out of reach. This creates a perpetual problem for some, not only do they have no goals to save money, they also make many “impulsive buys” since they feel their dreams are not obtainable.
They [people who I’ve spoken with] spend a large sum of money eating out 1-2 times per day and on expensive coffee/snacks. When you feel like a dream vacation is not ‘in the stars’, you may as well make everyday a bit better by rewarding yourself. With most incomes, including ours, those little things can add up BIG TIME.
If you and a spouse each spent $15 a day eating out and buying snacks/coffee, that is $450 a month, PER PERSON. If you cut that down to $5 a day, per person, you’d save $600 per month combined.
$750 for a trip to Europe?
On one trip to Europe, our total amount spent was under $750. Granted it was just six nights in that example, but still, better than no nights in Europe! And besides, those points aren’t doing any good sitting in an account unused.
This $750 figure was possible with all airfare, bag fees, hotels, and Ubers being covered by points. After that, you just need to cover food, drinks, souvenirs, bike rentals, airport parking, etc. If you drink like a fish and dine like a king, I don’t expect you to come near that “$750” number. If you travel like you want to have money in your bank account when you get home, it is certainly doable!
That’s the other thing that helps us save when we’re abroad, “this isn’t a once in a lifetime trip”. For many people paying cash and heading to Europe, they certainly want to make the most of it and spare no expense, I get it. For us redeeming points, we can go back to Europe when we want (and you can too if you start racking up miles). Knowing that we can come back at any time thanks to miles, it helps to keep our spending down when in Rome. [lame, I know]
Planning to save
The reason that we can save up even faster for our next trip is this; travel is fulfilling. When you travel often and are always planning your next trip, your desire to spend money on little “feel goods” like a fancy coffee or new shoes goes down dramatically. Well it did for us.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting or purchasing feel-good items, I am just saying my desire has decreased as my traveling has increased. [Though I could go for a DB iced coffee right about now..]
If you can eat out and buy fancy coffees every day AND travel often, well that is good for you. (seriously) For the rest of us, myself included, we likely have to choose between one or the other.
This year alone, we’ve accumulated over 330,000 miles, which are easily worth over $4,500 towards travel. The majority of the points are earned by signing up for multiple credit cards and reselling goods on eBay. And no, just because you have a credit card [or 20 *cough*] does not mean you are in debt.
We pay all our credit cards off in FULL each month, avoiding interest charges while racking up a huge amount of points. The trick is to pay off your cards to zero before the statement closes to avoid a balance reporting to the bureaus.
It is beautiful
That is the beautiful thing, 90% of our travel is covered by points. With all that next-to-free-travel we don’t have the same desire to spend money on optional “fun” expenses everyday. Our mindset has switched from, what is tasty that we can buy in the next hour/day to where are we going to go this month.
If you can start accumulating miles and traveling for almost-free, you too might find yourself saving money by becoming fixated on planning your next getaway. Again, there is nothing wrong with buying whatever you want to buy, I just wanted to share the shift in mindset we’ve experienced. And of course to urge you to start earning points regardless of your spending/saving goals.