When I announced I was going on my 30b430 trip one of the first things a friend who earned considerably more than me asked was: “How are you affording it?” I remember looking at her and wondering whether she actually noticed that I was wearing the same winter jacket I’d been wearing for the past five years, hadn’t cut my hair for months and this was the first time I’d been seen out in weeks.
Having worked in the glamourous* (*please read that ironically) world of regional journalism for almost six years I was used to being on a lower salary than most of my friends from university. However, while there were times when I really felt this (such as when everyone was quite happily chucking in 20 quid for a cab ride home in London while I was crying inside), I also learnt how to look after my money. Although I was careful about spending – and things like walking instead of taking the car and making a packed lunch for work were quite natural to me – I did like going out with my friends and buying new clothes. So when I started thinking about saving for my career break it was a case of looking at things I could cut back on, which for me meant going out a bit less and staying at a distance of 50m away from all shops at all times.
Thanks to some good lessons from my parents when I was younger and a dose of the old Yorkshire stinginess (we hate to admit it, but sometimes it’s true!) I’ve always been ok at saving, especially if I knew I was planning for a trip. So at the end of each month I’d take what was left of my salary and put it into a savings account which I then didn’t touch no matter what. Although it wasn’t always easy to walk away from that perfect pair of shoes I would ask myself what I would spend that £60 on when I was travelling and that soon helps to put things in perspective.
If you’re about to start saving for your own career break or sabbatical, here are my five top tips to get you started:
1. Save regularly
It doesn’t matter how much (or how little) but start saving regular amounts every month. If you’re worried that you’ll spend all of your pay packet a good way is to get something automatically transferred at the beginning of the month, along with all of your other bills. Then (hopefully) after a few months you won’t notice it being taken. Even if you can only afford to do a little bit each month it soon adds up and once you see that bank balance increasing, it gives you a bigger incentive to save more.
Just think: £20 x 12 months = £240 = a return flight from the UK to Morocco
2. Count the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves* (*please feel free to change to cents/dollars; cents/euros etc as appropriate – the lesson is still the same!)
You know all those little things that you don’t even think about buying? Like a quick coffee in town, a sandwich for lunch or a takeaway as a Friday treat? Well I hate to sound like your dad, but they all add up. If you skip the drinks and take your own lunch to work you’ll end up saving yourself a small fortune.
Just think: A £3 sandwich x 5 days = £15 (a week) x 52 = £780 a year = a return flight from the UK to Australia
When you look at it that way it suddenly doesn’t feel like too much of an effort to make yourself a sandwich for lunch the next day.
3. Take advantage of freebies/vouchers/money saving offers
Ok, I’m obviously not saying you have to put your entire life on hold for a year or more in order to save for your trip, but there are plenty of ways to go out and still be able to save money. Restaurants always have buy-one-get-one-free vouchers you can find on the Internet, especially at this time of year and (as long as you remember to use them) sites like GroupOn often offer good deals on days out or special treats. Also I’ve a big fan of the supermarket offers. If you know it’s something you like and you’re going to use it, then stock up – just make sure it will get eaten otherwise you’re wasting your time and your money.
Just think: Saving £10 on dinner once a month = £120 a year = a return flight from the UK to Sweden
4. Make sure you’re on the best tariffs
I know stuff like this is really boring, but come on guys – we’re grown ups now! Making sure you’re on the best energy tariffs or moving to a cheaper deal when your mobile phone or car insurance comes up for renewal can save you hundreds of pounds a year. Nowadays there are plenty of comparison sites which make it really straightforward to swap and some will even give you some cash if you go through them. If you live in the UK it’s worth checking out moneysavingexpert.com for loads of advice about how to switch deals.
Just think: Saving £100 a year on your energy bills + £40 for going through a comparison website = £140 a year = a return flight from the UK to Italy
5. Make your money work for you
This is the one I cannot stress strongly enough. I have spoken to loads of friends in the past who are saving for something and when I ask them where they are keeping their hard earned cash they tell me in their current account, where the interest they’ll earn on it is 0.01%. While we all know interest rates aren’t great at the moment, you can definitely do better than that. If you live in the UK your first port of call should be an ISA where you can save up to £5,640 cash a year, tax free. If you want to make sure you don’t touch your money you can also look at bonus saving accounts which you pay into for a year, three years or five years which also give you a bonus at the end providing you make no withdrawals. Highstreet banks are vying for your custom at the moment and a number offer incentives to have your current account with them. These range from £5 a month if you have your salary paid into them, to money back when you buy things on your debit card. So if you haven’t looked at your bank accounts for a while that’s also worth doing. Again, check out sites like moneysavingexpert.com.
I know that saving for a career break or a sabbatical isn’t easy but I can 100% guarantee that going through the small hassles and making a few sacrifices along the way is definitely worth it. There was never a moment on my grown up gap year, when I was walking the Inca Trail in Peru or swimming with dolphins in New Zealand, where I thought to myself ‘I’d rather have bought that new dress’.
If you want to find out more about setting a budget for your trip, then check out this post and if you want to learn how to save so you can splurge while travelling, this may help.
Do you have any money saving tips you use when planning for a trip? I’d love to hear them!