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Overcoming the Stress and Anxiety of Saving Enough Money to Travel


I’ll never be able to travel. I don’t have enough money!

brooke with moneySome of us give up on the idea of extended travel before even giving it a real thought. I know, I know… the money, it’s a big factor in getting to head overseas, but have you really sat down and thought it out — like spreadsheet or paper and pen type thinking?

No? Well maybe you should. Putting it down on paper (or computer) can help you put the saving part into perspective… maybe even into a less stressful perspective, helping you get past the anxiety of saving money to travel.

As mentioned in my previous post on my personal battles with anxiety and how it (surprisingly) helps me to travel, I want to take some time in the coming weeks to focus on certain aspects of travel anxiety that might actually be holding people back from living out their travel dreams. The first of these posts is right here, and it’s all about how the idea and stress of needing to save X-dollars can cause so much anxiety that some people don’t even try.

Luckily, we’ll also be talking about some steps to take to help the wary get past this anxiety.

People Have Anxiety Towards Saving Money?

I think so. Money is a very stressful subject on its own for most people, and to think of being able to put thousands and thousands (depending on your travel goals) in the bank, which might take months or years, is sometimes a thought that seems too daunting. There might be sacrifices — numerous sacrifices — like the need to bypass going out or buying new clothes that could be hard to get over.

The anxiety might also kick in when you’re trying really hard to save but are then hit with a bill or other unexpected expense that takes the fun out of your travel funds. At that moment, it is easy to want to give up — throw in the towel — because the idea of having to save even more causes too much anxiety.

Ways to Alleviate the Anxiety Before Saving Money

Determine it a possibility. With money being the big deciding factor, you need to lay it all out on paper and see where your current routine will get you money-wise. Take the time to make a list of income sources, debts, and all of your expenditures.

  • See what expenses you can cut back on and where you can start socking money away in the fun fund.
  • Have credit card debt? Make a payoff schedule.
  • Not getting the money you want fast enough? Think of ways to increase the income, whether it be by finding a part-time job or selling off belongings.

Create a monthly tally so you can have clear goals and know that in 6 months your debt will be paid off and in 16 months you’ll be able to hop a flight to Spain. Even if it takes 2 years, knowing that saving the money is actually a possibility can alleviate the anxiety and help you get on your way.

Look at budget travel alternatives. Not everyone has the means to save $20,000 in a year or two, and if you’re really itching to travel, the best way to get past the anxiety and avoid giving up is to investigate some alternative travel methods. Think about teaching English abroad, couchsurfing to save money on accommodation, Wwoofing in return for free room and board, etc. These options make it so anyone can travel on the cheap.

Further budget travel inspiration:

kyrgyz money

Ways to Alleviate Anxiety While Saving Money

Focus on the smaller goals. I don’t know about you, but thinking that I need to save $10,000 sounds pretty darn stressful. Instead, it is much more manageable, mentally, to think that I need to put $300 away this month, $400 the next, and so on. Focusing on these smaller goals (that you put together in point 1) takes a little bit of the anxiety away.

Focus on the small gains. There are bound to be hiccups along the road to saving. Your car might get a flat tire, your washing machine might break… the list is endless. The main thing to do when these hiccups occur is to focus on the small gains.

Sure, you might have just lost out on $300 of savings this month, but do you still have more money in the bank than before you started? Were you able to pay for repairs without having to draw on your credit card? Heck, are you discovering that you are able to actually live without said broken appliance instead of paying for a new one?

Instead of getting anxious and worried about the saving plan at that moment, try to have a look at the benefits that have come from putting this plan in motion.

Think in relation to travel. When you’re out there on the saving road and have to bypass a second round of drinks at the pub, think about that $30 in terms of travel. That money might be buying you a budget flight from Sydney to Melbourne. That money might get you a week in a bungalow in Thailand. The possibilities are endless! To alleviate the stress involved in having to say “no”, just remind yourself of what you’re going to get in the future.

>> Your coffee money could buy you an hour of one-on-one Russian lessons.

Announce your plans and goals to friends. If you all of a sudden stop hanging out with friends because you want to save money, they might not understand unless you make your plans known. Let them in on your travel goals and you might find some happy supporters to cheer you on, or even some new travel mates. They might also start making budget hangout ideas, like at-home movie nights, part of the repertoire. Plus, there’s nothing like the support of your friends to keep you motivated.

Don’t let anxiety towards saving money get in the way of living your travel dreams.

I’m not going to lie. Not everyone is in a financial situation to just pick up and go on an extended journey right now, but that also doesn’t mean you won’t be able to in the future. What better time to start putting the wheels in motion for a trip — whether that be by cutting down debt, saving funds, researching overseas work opportunities, or planning to downgrade your belongings — than right now?

After all, the journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step.

Stay tuned for more posts on anxiety related to travel. Next up: Anxiety towards flying.


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14 Responses to Overcoming the Stress and Anxiety of Saving Enough Money to Travel

  1. Tony February 7, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    Looks like you’ve got wads of cash there Brooke glancing at the photos! Should we consulting the Bank of Brooke for help? 😉

    • Brooke February 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      Free photos mate, not my own. I don’t even have that 50 bucks in the first photo haha 😉

  2. Rebecca February 8, 2012 at 3:26 am #

    I so agree in writing down your travel goals. I did that last year for my trips in 2011 and wrote how much I anticipated to spend on the big ticket items (tours, airfare, accommodation) and it made achieving those goals so much easier! Plus, I love crossing things off my list (hand-written, of course!)

    • Brooke February 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

      Crossing items off lists = one of my little joys in life.

  3. Sarah February 8, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    Solid advice, Brooke!

    I find myself going into total denial mode sometimes when it comes to saving money to travel. I kind of ignore it all and then expect the money to be there when I need to leave.

    Not the most productive…or smart idea.

  4. Jeremy Branham February 10, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    Saving for travel can be stressful for people who may not have a lot to begin with. However, I would take a slightly different approach to this. I like to encourage people to travel close to home. If you can’t afford a big trip or are anxious about taking one so far from home, don’t forget that you can also travel to another town or city that is close to where you live. Just a change of scenery and a new place to explore can really energize people as they stay, eat, and explore somewhere new. It doesn’t cost as much and it can teach you a lot about what you do and don’t like when you travel.

    • Brooke February 17, 2012 at 9:41 am #

      Sure thing. I spent a lot of my high school years going on weekend trips with my girlfriends to random places around Illinois. Some of the best trips!

  5. Emily November 28, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    I’m in the process of saving up for a long-term RTW trip in 2 years and agree it’s very stressful. I have a very low paying job (sea lion trainers, while having very cool jobs, make extremely little!) which makes saving difficult, but I have a second job, I’ve started taking on interns to live in the loft in my apartment, I never go out, don’t have cable, etc. etc. I’ve also worked Australia and New Zealand into my itinerary because of their holiday working visas. “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.”

    One other thing I do that you didn’t mention is I’ve created an online ‘travel registry’, sort of like a wedding or honeymoon registry, where for all birthdays and Christmases from now until my trip family and friends can put $20 towards my climb to Mt Everest base camp, $15 towards scuba diving excursions, $10 towards a glacier climb in New Zealand, etc. I don’t need more stuff (since I’m going to be selling it all anyway), and this is a great way for my family to contribute towards my dream. People generally hate to just give money, but this way, even though they technically are just giving me money, it has a specific goal in mind. Then, when I do that activity on my trip everyone who contributed will get a huge thank you card with pictures and a great story. And besides, now that my family has started giving me money for the trip, it definitely hold me accountable…can’t back out now! Here’s what it looks like:

    Thanks for all your help in my planning process and keeping me motivated! 2 years seems like such a long time.

    • Brooke December 3, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

      Hi Emily – I think the registry is a great idea! Yes, saving can be SUPER stressful, but it will pay off and you will have such an adventure to show for it. Good luck, and keep us all updated on your progression 🙂


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