6 Creative Ways to Save Money for Travel

One of the biggest misconceptions about travel is that it has to be expensive. It is possible to plan a trip no matter how big or small your budget it is. However, a smaller budget requires bigger creativity.

Below I’ve listed 6 ways to save for trips. I have tried all of the strategies and find them all effective. These strategies are not vacation exclusive and can be implemented to help you save for any expense.

1. Digit

Recommended for: those who have trouble saving

Digit is an automated savings tool that claims to help you, “Save money, without thinking about.™” It determines your spending patterns and transfers money in various increments from your linked bank account to a secure virtual account. Every morning Digit sends you a text letting you know your bank account balance and recent transactions.

The appeal of Digit is that it saves amounts that you allegedly won’t notice. You have the freedom to transfer money from Digit to your bank account and vice versa whenever you’d like. If you’d like to have Digit save more aggressively you can command that it save more. You also have the freedom to pause savings for up to 30 days. If you’d like to read some Digit success stories before signing up click here.


2. Qapital

Recommended for: those that want to save in a controlled, non-traditional way

Qapital is similar to Digit, however it allows more customization. After trying out both apps, I personally prefer Qapital over Digit. I check my bank accounts daily and the amounts Digit deducted were noticeable to me. While Qapital amounts are noticeable as well, because I setup the rules I anticipate the deductions.

When you create a Qapital account a secure virtual bank account is opened. You then setup various saving rules. Some of these rules are:

  • Round Up, saves the difference between a transaction and an amount of your choosing from $1-$5.
  • Freelancer, allows you to save 1%-100% of each paycheck.
  • Guilty Pleasure, allows you to save $1-$50 for each transaction that occurs at stores of your choosing.
  • Spend Less, allows you to set a budget for a certain expense and save the difference when you spend less than this amount
  • 52 Week, allows you to save $1,378 in a year by saving $1 in week one, $2 in week two and so forth. You also have the freedom to start this challenge in reverse so $52 is saved in week one, then $51 in week two.


3. Betterment

Recommended for: those that want to earn a rate of return higher than the interest rate at their bank

Although I have a Finance degree and work with money daily, I admit that I am not the most savvy on investing. Betterment is a robo-advisor.  It is great because all you have to do is select an account type, advice type, and provide details on your goal (time period, desired amount, and name). You then have the option of setting up auto transfers to your goal account from an external bank account or making one time deposits. Betterment advisors invest your funds based on the goal you selected during setup.

I have been using this service for almost a year now and my simple earnings thus far are 3.5%. Compared to the interest rate of 0.25% at my bank this is a huge difference. Out of all the saving apps/services I’ve used this is one of my favorites along with Qapital. The ease of use and high rate of return are clear advantages.


4. 5 Dollar Challenge

Recommended for: those who deal with cash frequently

This challenge is the simplest of the saving methods. It requires you to save every $5 bill you come across. That’s it. So if you receive a $5 bill in your change you deposit it into your savings account. If you’d like to earn a significant rate of return on your deposits you can combine this method with another one recommended above, such as Betterment.

5. Automated Transfer

Recommended for: those who want to save the same amount consistently

This is another simple “set it and forget it” way to save. For this method you setup a transfer with your bank from your checking account to your savings account. I use this method and transfer money from one bank that is easy for me to access to an account at another bank that I don’t live by. I do this so I’m not tempted to withdraw funds from my travel account. Depending on your bank you may have the option of saving the same amount with each transfer, or saving different increments depending on your flow of funds.

6. Annual Saving Challenge

Recommended for: those who get paid bi weekly and like a challenge

This is a saving challenge I created especially for all of my subscribers. It requires you to deposit a set amount into your savings account every other week. You can participate in this plan in conjunction with using Betterment, Qapital, or automated transfers.If you get paid weekly you can divide the amount to deposit in half and add in 26 additional weeks. $50 is the average amount that those I surveyed were able to save from each paycheck, however feel free to lower or raise the amount based on your financial abilities.

Setting aside $50 from each check adds up quickly and will allow you to save $1,300 in a year. This is enough for one luxury trip or multiple budget friendly trips. It all depends on how you plan.

51 Week Saving Challenge.png

My greatest purpose in running Surviving on a Shoestring is to teach people how to travel for less. In an effort to be more transparent in 2017 I’ll be tracking every penny spent on my trips and sharing the breakdowns. I’ve downloaded the app Trabee Pocket (App Store|Google Play Store) to assist me in this endeavor and I’m loving it thus far.


Admittedly, I’m great at budgeting for major travel expenses, such as lodging and transport. However, I have never budgeted for food or souvenirs, so I’m excited to see how much I spend on each trip in totality.

I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred card for all travel expenses in 2016 that allowed a credit card. This was due to two facts 1.) this card gives a reward of 2pts/$1 spent on travel and dining 2.) this card charges no foreign transaction fees. I was able to accumulate 87,172 Ultimate Rewards points in 2016 including the sign up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points. If I used these points to book trips through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal they equal $1,089.68. My total spent on transit and travel in 2016 was $6,934. Keep in mind, transit includes charges for my auto-refilling Metro Card and bus tickets to NYC. This partially skews the data, since I don’t count those as trips.

I used my Charles Schwab debit card to withdraw cash while travelling. This is due to the fact that this card charges no ATM fees. I am able to withdraw non-USD funds from my account at an exchange rate that is close to the mid market rate provided on Google. The only country I visited last year that required cash for certain transactions was Spain. The total cash I withdrew for travel in 2016 was $91.

The total amount of my cash and card transactions for 2016 was $7,025. In 2016 I visited the following destinations:

  1. New Orleans, LA (January)
  2. Dallas, TX (February)
  3. Reykjavik, IS (March)
  4. Indianapolis, IN (April)
  5. Düsseldorf, DE (May)
  6. Amsterdam, NL (May)
  7. Brussels, BE (May)
  8. Paris, FR (May)
  9. Copenhagen, DK (May)
  10. Rio de Janeiro, BR (June)
  11. Salvador,BR (June)
  12. Lisbon, PT (August)
  13. Barcelona, ES (August)
  14. Rome, IT (August)
  15. Ibiza, ES (August)
  16. Philadelphia, PA (September)
  17. Washington, D.C. (September)

If my total travel costs are divided by the number of trips I took in 2016 the average amount I spent per trip is $413. I was able to keep this average cost low by traveling with a friend to split the cost of accommodations and staying with friends when visiting cities they live in.

I set out to take a flight every month of 2016, which is a little extreme. However, if you only intend to take 1-2 vacations a year then you can budget less for your trip costs.

As always, if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below. If you have some creative saving tips leave those below as well.

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16 Comments Add yours

  1. kemkem says:

    All great ways to save money. My all time favorite is one you mentioned. Automated savings via transfer to my savings account. It got to the point that l didn’t miss the money :-).


  2. Daria says:

    I definitely need to choose one of these. I’ve pinned this post, so when I’m ready to put my plan in motion, I can reread and decided which one is best for me. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Donna Seay says:

    I love this post. Who know you could save this way. And I hadn’t heard of any of these before. Thanks, sometimes the prices are overwhelming!


  4. staciesayzso says:

    These are interesting ways to save up for an upcoming trip. I’m an old fashioned put it in the bank girl.


  5. MUAKimPorter says:

    Great tips! Some of these apps I did not even know about. I do use my Capital One 360 Automatic savings plan to save though.


  6. KenyaRae says:

    Interesting alternatives. thanks for sharing!


  7. Carissa (The Green Eyed Lady) says:

    Great suggestions and tips! I think I may try Digit! I like the fact of not missing the money but its saving it for you!!! Im sending this article to my husband NOW!!!


  8. Tiffany H. says:

    Wow, you really traveled a lot last year. I love Digit, but i haven’t tried the other saving tools. I just got the Chase Preferred earning 100,000 points after spending 4,000 in the first 3 months.


  9. Jo says:

    I love DIGIT, but I haven’t heard of the others. Will definitely be checking them out. With all this traveling, I need to save these coins. lol


  10. Thanks for sharing these. I didn’t care for Digit so I will try the other app. I love your breakdown.


  11. Antoinette says:

    I definitely want to travel more. I have been spending much less on things such as fast food and transferring more to savings. Hopefully we’ll be ready for a trip by summer.


  12. Ashlee says:

    I use Digit and it is AMAZING! You honestly don’t even realize that the money is being taken from your account. I recommend it to anyone!


  13. kimssojourn says:

    These are some awesome tips and the amount you spent to visit all those places shows ur acumen…wow


  14. LaQuisha Hall says:

    Great suggestions! Really helpful before my upcoming international travel! Thank you!


  15. generationtrygirl says:

    I love Qapital! Excited to learn about all these other news ones too!


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