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What can the Buddha teach you about saving for your dream trip? Follow these steps to reach financial nirvana.

Buddha saves / Photo mangu wanders

EVERYDAY WE SEE more and more people who dare to leave it all for a few years of backpacking throughout the earth’s vast terrain.

We hear about the adventures, the misfortunes, the soul-searching, the friends found, the friends lost, the breathtaking sights, the new sensations.

No one ever really mentions the one thing that makes it all happen. The money!

A lot of people have done well in their careers and can easily make the decision to take off. Others have investments (i.e. property) that allow them to travel for very prolonged periods of time without having to worry about working.

But the vast majority of us have to save for months, maybe even years, to start even thinking about quitting everything and flying off to Timbuktu.

And even if we do save up as much as we can, we still have to sign up for the occasional odd job here and there during the way.

Anyone who’s attempted months of serious saving is probably an expert already. But for the inexperienced (yet willing and deeply determined), here are a few Buddha inspired tips on saving money for your trip of a lifetime.

1. Reconsider your living situation

If you are renting a flat then leave it and move in with your folks for a few months, or ask a close friend or relative to house you. Cutting rent is one of the huge contributors to saving money.

I moved into my boyfriend’s parent’s place for 4 months to save up on my rent. I was cooked for, cleaned for and pampered as I’ve never been, and all the while saving hundreds of dollars a month. It’s a tough decision, but worth it. Remember the goal!

Handle your money / Photo Akuppa

2. Practice non-attachment

The Buddha says: you only lose what you cling to. Well it’s time to un-cling! Start selling all your stuff, and by stuff I mean everything. The CD collection, the TV, the DVD, the stereo, the bike, the clothes…it all goes.

What good will it all do to you while it’s sitting back home and you’re rafting down the Great Usutu River?

Get rid of junk you don’t need and turn it into the gold you will later enjoy. Once you start getting rid of stuff and you see the money pour in, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to part with your prized possessions.

3. Abstain from expensive evenings

This is what most people have a hard time with. I call them the three No-Outs: no going out, no eating out, no drinking out. It may sound harsh, but have you ever really calculated the money that you spend in one night out? Or two?

That money could fund your traveling through Central Asia for an entire month. Don’t despair though; your social life will not be over.

There are alternatives: go to house parties instead of nightclubs, rent DVD’s instead of going to the movies, cook meals at home instead of going to the new Latin-Korean fusion place down the road, buy your own cocktail ingredients and make them with friends.

However, it’s best to gradually let these party habits die as you won’t be thinking too much about cocktails or gourmet food on the road.

4. Find a transient weekend job

One or two months prior to your departure day, score a job waitressing, bartending, handing out leaflets on the streets, baby-sitting, etc.

Although the money won’t be much, the additional savings will help you acquire the last minute must-haves for your trip: vaccines, a backpack, trekking boots, sleeping bag, etc. You don’t want to go too cheap with these items as they will need to last you the entire length of the trip.

5. Embrace foreign cultures

A lot of people (like me) have trouble setting money aside. My main problem with saving was that whatever money I had, I’d spend. Keeping it in the bank wasn’t enough sometimes.

Keep it real / Photo A Schultz

I resolved this issue by changing my saved money into another currency: Euros or Pounds Sterling preferably. This way I was already stocking up on the currency I needed for my trip and it kept me from accessing it whilst saving.

Remember that if you exchange your money’s currency more than once, you’re probably losing money.

So there you have it.

There are a million more tips but these, in my humble opinion, are the main ones that will get you to where you want to be. The trick is to always look for the alternative to spending money.

Even if your monthly income is nothing to brag about, you’d be amazed at how much you can earn if you set your mind to your true goal. The sacrifices you make now will bring forth many rewards you most probably will never forget.

And if you’re weak when it comes to finances, (like I was) this will only make you stronger and teach you the value of money and earning. After all, it’s only your dream you’re after.

Do you have any more savings tips? Share in the comments!

Financial Savvy


About The Author

Lucia Byttebier

A native of Argentina,Lucia Byttebier has lived in Mexico, Venezuela, Indonesia, and Singapore. She is now studying travel writing at the London School of Journalism and looks forward to contributing more articles to the Matador network.

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  • Paula

    Excellent Article! I am planning a trip with my soon to be husband to Europe and these tips come in very handy! Keep up the good work! Your writing is better every day!

  • ianmack

    Hi pam – I agree, if you’re going to be saving for longer than a few months, it would be good to invest it and get a little return.

    I think this article applies more towards the “I’m leaving in 6 months, how can I amass as much as possible without being tempted to spend it” category.

    I pulled this off myself back in 2001 on my trip to Australia. I was living at home (#1) had a job I could leave behind (#4) and didn’t go out that much (#3). I had a few thousand for the trip in no time!

  • Lucia

    I understand what you mean about the fixed interest savings account. I only had time to save up in 4 months. Before I left The Argentine Peso was 4 to 1 with the Euro, but I did my homework and it was better to change my Argentine money in Buenos Aires than in Europe, since the exchange rate was better and more flexible in some places.

  • JennDZ

    These are some really great tips. I know this is kind of off the subject, but it is something mentioned. I am having a hard time getting a job in the service industry (waitressing, bartending, cooking, etc) because I have no job experience with that. Anyone can suggest how to promote themselves or get this kind of job?

  • Madeleine

    Hey Jenn, Something that a lot of people suggested to me when I was overseas was simply approaching owners/managers and being honest that you have no experience, but are willing to work for free for a few shifts until you pick it up, and at that point they can decide whether to keep you on or not.
    It worked for quite a few people and is a better use of your time than just wandering around dropping off cv’s places…
    good luck!

  • Lucia

    Showing that you’re enthusiastic and charismatic, and really wanting to learn the trade is the key. I never worked in the service industry but had to go down that path whilst traveling, and without experience I nailed two jobs in less than a month. I hated it but the money helped me move to the next desination.
    This is my travelogue entry on my first waitressing job, might help:

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  • The TravMonkey

    Nice article.

    I remember saving for my first trip round the worl for a year. Sorting out my finances and saving really taught me, for the first time in my life how to control my financial situation. Hence I knew what I was earning and exactly what I was spending.

    It was a priceless excercise really.

    Again, nice article Lucia.

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    Hi folks,
    No i didn’t like 5 steps to save money. It’s not only harsh but highly impractical and unwarranted. One step talks about selling all your possessions like DVD collections, music player, books, clothes, stop goig out for movies, no dining out, etc. I ask what’s the meaning and purpose of life when you don’t have music, knowledge, social networking? Then why only sell those things, sell your house, utensils, don’t travel by bus, taxi or airplane, start walking. Wear only two pairs of clothes, get rid of all your hobbies, interests, dreams. Why not become a saint? I am sure there are much better ways to save than kill your self like this. For ex. Pick a job like home tuitions, part time jobs, freelance jobs like transcriptions, cut down on cigarettes, every weekend outing, small hobbies classes from home, etc. Treat yourself well, life will always treat you likewise.

  • Eva

    My bank has an option to cut off ATM/debit card access to your account – so I opened a second savings account with no frills or features at all (I was also a student at the time – so even the low monthly fee was waived) and put my savings in there… That way I knew I couldn’t touch my travel money without going to see a teller during business hours. It worked really well – no chance to pull out the debit card at a bar…

  • Jennifer

    Excellent article! It’s about time someone posted something like this on the web. Great ideas!

  • Jessica

    That’s a great article! I do have to say, that if you can’t handle #3 – not going out for entertainment, there are still many ways you can go out for less. If you go to the movies during the day for example, you’ll spend less than if you go at night. Going out to dinner with a coupon – and maybe even sharing an entree with a friend can also save you money while having a nice evening out!

  • Rebecca

    Great tips…Another tip for #3 is to go to festivals that are FREE. You do not have to spend a ton of money on food and drink…Another way to save money is to pawn jewelry or other "big ticket items" that are just sitting around in a jewelry box or case.

  • pps

    Good tips! I also suggest to use a personal finance software with a cellphone or PDA phone. This makes recording and tracking expenses much easier. An Excel sheet on a PDA would do very well as a personal finance planner and it can be easily transferred to a PC for expenses tracking and archiving.

  • Bill

    Learn to want less in life. I grew up with the bare minimum/essentials and so now that I’m older I’m pretty content with just having a little…eventhough, I could have more. I just don’t desire it.

  • Neil Hampshire

    Hey all, I just want to know that this is very good. Many of you talk of sacrifice is difficult, but I know a fellow working as a security guard making 12.00/hour who saved up $50,000 CAD in 18 months from scratch. He did some overtime, but all he earned was $35,000 a year gross and managed to save by couch serfing on his friends sofa, eating free food at various soup kitchens and went to the food bank. Now, he has the money tucked away in BMO Monthly Income fund that gives him 6 cents per $8.07 that he invested in his mutual fund. He is getting $371.00/month from it, without having to touch his principal. He sold his DVD’s on craigslist and even sold his books, tapes, etc to his friends in exchange for a place to sleep. His posessions was used to pay rent to his friends for couch surfing, which will get you a much higher price than if you were to sell it via garage sale, since they won’t be a cut throuat. And what is funny is that being a Buddhist, he actually practiced his mantras as a security guard and practiced his Tibetan Buddhist practices while sitting on site. He actually got paid to do very little working, and he has now inspired me to save likewise.

  • Sej

    Great article!

    My boyfriend and I recently started doing all of the above mentioned things plus a few more to save money for travel. And we’re making a trip to Panama from the money we saved by not into eating/drinking out. It’s tough, but totally worth it in the end if your primary goal is to travel!

  • irene

    yes, i agree with exchanging money into other currency becoz i did it last year and it works….i have to exchange my money to other currency to prevent using it for extra expenses….

  • Ellen S.

    The concept of “saving money” is easier said than done for most people. I understand that it is ‘easy and logical’ for some people, but I also understand it can be a difficult habit to break for others.

    If you’re looking to save money or change your lifestyle, my advice is to take it in “baby-steps” because it won’t happen overnight. Here are some tips that helped me out.

    1. Always pay more than the minimum on any credit card payments – if you don’t believe me you can calculate it for yourself (
    2. Use coupons when grocery shopping
    3. Try online shopping – it’s saves on gas & they have bigger markdowns (
    4. Read a book – it’s cheaper than going to a movie (
    5. Know your budget! (

    Good luck and happy savings!

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