I’m not sure which forum this should go into, so please excuse me if this is the wrong forum for this post. I love this forum and have been reading a lot of great posts, but I noticed one subject that hasn’t really been covered (or at least, I haven’t been able to find it). How does one save up for a Europe trip? I think everyone has their own way, but here are some of the methods I have used and continue to use (Just a disclaimer: I live in California, so some of this information might only apply to California or the USA):
1. Cans/Bottles/Recyclables: I don’t know why so many people look down upon collecting recyclables, it is literally free money just sitting (many times) in the street or even in the trash. I often ask my friends, “Would you walk past a 5 cent piece lying on the ground, or would you bend down and pick it up?” Of course, everyone would pick up that five sent piece…..so why not a can that can be exchanged for 5 cents? I collect every recyclable from my daily home usage, I walk around my neighborhood and collect the cans/bottles on the ground (making the neighborhood look nice and lining my pockets!), I ask my folks to save their recyclables for me, I go to local college campuses and loot their recyclable bin, and a few years back when my wife still lived in the dorms, I would “dumpster dive” the dorms every Sunday, when it was chock full of beer bottles. I save up until I have about 5 trash bags full, take it on down to the recycle center, and usually walk away with 25 bucks or so. Now 25 bucks may not seem like a lot, but I can easily save up to 150 or so over the course of a year, and that’s without even trying terribly hard. I know it’s not a fortune, but still…free money towards Europe. I put all of what I make into an ING account which gains interest over time. I know some may be shaking their head at the idea of me pulling bottles out of a dumpster, but I’d certainly dig through some trash if I knew there was a 20 dollar bill in there….so I don’t see the difference. Oh….and bring some liquid hand sanitizer…you’ll want some.
2. Craig’s List: Ah Craig’s list…how I love thee. Only on Craig’s List could I sell a dusty old carpet cleaner (With missing parts!!!). I went into my garage the other day and took a good look at a lot of crap that’s been sitting there, collecting dust, and taking up space. Then, I took a deep breath…and put it all on Craig’s list. I sold extra bunk beds, a broken down vacuum, a mini fridge, aquarium, old computers……all of this stuff I DON’T NEED, but for some reason cling onto “just in case”. I made HUNDREDS in a matter of days just getting rid of crap I really did not need. And you’d be surprised what people are willing to buy…..yes, even that New Kids On the Block vintage poster you have collecting dust in your closet (or dare I say, hanging on your wall!) could be of value to the right person. If you have older relatives, EVEN BETTER. Older relatives LOVE to collect crap. Ask if you can come over to clean out some clutter from their garage. Put that clutter on Craigslist. The worst that will happen is no one will buy it, and then you have to throw the stuff into the garbage. BIG DEAL! The best thing that can happen is someone will pay you for something you did NOT pay for.
3. Swap expenses: This is the hardest thing to do, but often the most rewarding! I LOVE sushi, but sushi is expensive. Where I go, after drink and tax, it comes out to around 45 bucks or so (for dinner). So when I am planning on going to Europe, whenever I get a craving for sushi, I tell myself “45 bucks is a night in a hostel and a day of food”. I take that 45 bucks and deposit it into my ING account. Now if I do that ten times over the course of a year….I have ten nights in a hostel and at least 10 days of food. It takes a lot of discipline, and yeah I still eat sushi, but not NEARLY as often as I’d like or as often as I would had I not been saving for Europe. I realize that my money will be better spent on the experience of travel in the near future than the immediate gratification of sushi then and there. So the next time you go to a bar/club with friends, order a coke and nurse it all night long. Then deposit the 20 or so bucks you would have sent on alcohol that night into your Europe fund. Wouldn’t you rather be drinking the alcohol in PARIS, FRANCE anyway?
4. Seasonal cash: Here’s a little known secret. During certain holidays, specifically Valentine’s Day and Mothers Day, many local flower delivery companies will advertise in the paper or on Craig’s list for drivers. My buddy made 10 bucks a delivery last Valentine’s Day, simply driving to someone’s house and delivering flowers. He loaded his car up with gas, and within a day made 30 or so deliveries. Yes, he made 300 bucks in one day just driving around the city. If you are planning on a trip and want some quick cash, look for those types of seasonal cash flows that will work you to the bone for a day, but also give you a decent wad of cash.
5. CREDIT TIME: Ok, this is the least desirable way to go, but still an option: open a credit card, go to Europe, have a blast, then pay it off when you get home. Yes, we should never spend money we don’t have…..but……I don’t look at travel to Europe as the same thing as buying a new car, or spending cash on a big screen TV. Travel is so beneficial to a person’s growth; I’d argue that even debt is worth the trip. If you find a 0% APR for 6 months to a year, you may be able to pay the whole thing off before you have to start paying interest. I guess I included this on the list because I truly feel that if you want to go to Europe, and you are FAIRLY CERTAIN you can make monthly payments on a card when you come home….THEN YOU SHOULD GO! That being said….all things in moderation. You should not be staying at 5 star hotels and eating out at fine restaurants. You don’t want to come home with a HUGE debt.
6. Exploit your family and friends: LOL. Well, maybe “exploit” is a little harsh, but that doesn’t mean we can’t milk our relationships for extra cash, so long as it’s done with tact. For example, I make a killer BBQ sauce. So, when it gets closer to traveling to Europe, I’m sending out a mass facebook message to my friends offering to sell them a bottle for 5 bucks. Because they know the reason behind it, most of my friends and family are kind and buy a bottle. I don’t feel awkward because I’m not asking straight up for money; I am offering to give them something in return for their generosity. Again we’re not talking Solomon’s gold mine riches here, but money is money, and it does add up over time.
7. Save your change: I use a lot of cash, not plastic. That means my pockets usually have some change in them at the end of the day. Over a year and a half period, I saved 300 bucks…yes, 300 bucks….in change. My wife, who doesn’t spend as much cash as I do, saved up 100 bucks over that same time span. I just got a sand bucket and labeled it “Europe Fund”. If you live at home with generous folks, leave it in the living room and maybe your mother or father will toss their change into the bucket as well.
8. Combination: The best advice I can give is to combine all of the above suggestions. For example I have been collecting cans/bottles for the past year and a half (I gave myself a 2 year time frame to save up for my “dream trip”, my honeymoon, at the end of this year. 33 days backpacking in Europe baby!) which has been slowly and steadily adding to my stash. I’ve been selling anything and everything that I don’t use in my daily life, which has not only been extremely lucrative, but somewhat cathartic (especially when you realize how much you really DID NOT need that hunk of junk sitting in your garage to begin with). I don’t need a seasonal job, but I think I might just do that next year for the heck of it. At the beginning of the year, I bought my plane ticket and put it on my credit card (which I just got at 0% APR for one year), and it took me a few months to pay that off. Add the 10% of my paycheck that I take out every month for my trip to the money I save on not eating out, and BAM. I now have about $4,500 (and this is after plane ticket/rail pass) bucks for my 33 day trek – MORE than enough for the type of travel I like to do.
As I mentioned, everyone has their own way of saving money, but I hope the above suggestions help some folks who are a little lost. For my American brethren, even though the Dollar is pretty weak right now, Europe is STILL an affordable place to visit, especially for the backpacker scene. I think if you follow some of the above suggestions, along with your own special knack for getting money, you’ll be just fine.
Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Venice, Ljubljana, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam