We all dream of visiting far away lands and having our own taste of adventure. Volunteering abroad is a great way to give back to the community or environment, while experiencing new cultures and travelling to new places (you can read our Top Reasons to Volunteer Abroad here). Whether you are saving for a volunteer abroad experience or planning to travel the world, probably one of the first things you will be thinking about is “how will I ever save enough money?”. Don’t despair! With some good planning, a bit of soul searching, and a pinch of self-control you will reach your saving goal in no time! Here are some top tips for how to save money for your volunteer trip abroad:
Have a goal in mind.
Before you can plan your saving strategy you need to have an idea of how much you need to save. If you are saving for a paid volunteering experience abroad then you will need to know what is covered by the program fee and what you need to pay for yourself. We all want to make the most of our trip and experience the destination for all it has to offer; but this means different things to different people. Some people might want to experience adrenaline activities like bungy jumping and shark cage diving (more on the pricey side); and other people might be happy to enjoy the local scenery and perhaps just buy a couple of small souvenirs. If there are things that you know for sure you want to do then build them into your budget. Of course there will always be things that you didn’t plan for in advance, so always have a contingency fund!
Track your expenses.
In order to know where you can cut down on your spending you need to know exactly how much you spend each month and what you spend it on. Write down everything you spend in a month (you will probably need to analyse a few months spendings to get an accurate picture)…and I mean everything…don’t forget about that new DVD or that night out with your buddies because all those little bits add up to a lot! Now break down your spending into categories. There will be things that are absolutely necessary expenses like rent, insurance, groceries etc. However once you start to analyse your spending you will see there are also plenty of expenses that you can do without. Some unnecessary spendings will be obvious, like that $1000 phone you bought even though you could have made do with a $100 phone! Some will require you to dig a little deeper, for example you might need to break down “groceries” into sub-categories and see if you can save some money there….like, do you really need that slab of chocolate and the extra bottle of wine?
Pay off your debts.
If you have high interest loans or outstanding credit card bills you are going to have a really tough time saving anything! There are a few ways that you can reduce your debt, like switching to a loan or credit card with a lower interest rate; or consolidating your debt. Check out https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk for some great advice.
Prioritise your spending!
If you really want to save for your travel then you might have to sacrifice a few luxuries. What’s more important, that new top or another 30 pounds (or dollars, or euros etc!) towards your trip? And here’s some great news – saving can be good for your health! Buy that 5th cocktail or save my money? SAVE IT! Buy that pack of cigarettes or save my money? SAVE IT! Drive to my friends house down the road or walk? WALK! (save yourself some fuel money and do the environment a favour!)
Open a savings account.
Do some research and find out which of your local banks offers the best savings account (i.e. who will pay you the most interest!). Remember, although it might mean a little bit of extra paperwork, you don’t have to open an account with the bank you are currently using. Check out the different options for savings accounts. Generally accounts that allow instant withdrawals will have a lower interest than accounts that require advance notice; so if it works with your travel plans it’s often best to go for the latter (and there’s the added bonus that you won’t be tempted to go on a last minute spontaneous shopping spree!)
Earn rewards points and cashback with a credit card.
BE WARNED this is only going to help you save IF you are the kind of person who will ALWAYS pay off your credit card bills in full every month! If that’s you, then do some research and see which credit cards in your country offer reward points, cashback, frequent flyer miles etc. Some popular options in the US are Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Southwest, American Airlines, United, and Alaska Airlines. Some popular options in the UK are British Airways Premium Plus, AMEX, Flybe.
Stash the cash!
If you come into some money unexpectedly (lucky you!) be it a birthday present or a lottery win (Disclaimer: I am not suggesting gambling as a method for saving!) then put it straight into your savings account. Remember, you didn’t know you were going to have it, so you don’t need to spend it! And don’t forget about those coins down the back of the couch….every penny counts!
Be more self-sufficient.
As tempting as it is to eat out at fancy restaurants or order take-aways every night, all those restaurant bills will quickly add up. Rather cook your own meals and save yourself the extra expense. Don’t know how? Then now is the time to learn! Not only are you saving money but you are also learning a valuable life skill! But don’t forget, it’s not just about cooking your own meals, it’s also about what you cook. Be a savvy shopper – buy things in bulk and freeze; keep it simple, don’t buy luxury items (just walk right past the lobster and caviar); and go where the specials are! Take it one step further – instead off heading to your local greengrocer, why not grow your own vegetables and fruits? And food is not the only area where you can learn to be more self-sufficient. Got an embarrassing hole in the crotch of your shorts? Before rushing out and buying a new pair, why not just stitch it up?
If you don't need it, sell it!
Impulse buys, last season’s technology, unwanted gifts….let’s face it, we all have that high up shelf or that cupboard in the back room where these things sit and gather dust! If your Xbox 3 is just sitting in a cupboard because it can’t compete with your Xbox 4, then sell it! If your Aunty bought you an ADORABLE frilly summer dress (because in her head you’re still 4) and you’ve never worn it, then sell it! (Maybe just don’t tell her). Now this one is not for the faint hearted…but let’s talk about your car. Could you get by with public transport? Or even better, a bike? Or your own 2 legs?! Just think how much cash you could put in your pocket, not just from the sale, but no more car insurance, no more fuel expenses, no more road tax….
Put the FUN in fundraising!
A fundraising event can be a great way to fund your volunteer trip. Other than the obvious benefit of helping you get together some extra cash for your travels, it can also be a great way to make your feel friends and family feel involved in your adventure, and raise awareness of your host organisation. It can also be really good fun for you! (and let’s face it, after all the scrimping and saving you’ve been doing, you could use a little fun!) There are no end of options for fundraising events…sponsored sky dives, bake sales, car wash, school lock-ins…the list goes on! You can check out our Great Fundraising Ideas for your Volunteer Trip for more inspiration.