My Number One Tip: How To Save Money For Travel

One of the top reasons women (and men) don’t travel often is money.

I know because I’ve been there. I used to wonder how it is possible that I work full time and still don’t have money to do anything. Where is all my money going to? Who is spending all my money? Ha!

So I googled and read an article that changed my life. It talks about how to manage your money wisely so you can actually enjoy the things you love. I love to travel more than anything else in life and was willing to try anything at the time to really change my financial game.

In this post, I’ll show you exactly how to manage your finances wisely by sharing my number one tip on saving money for travel.

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How to save money for travel?

Okay, my number one tip on how to save money for travel is…a spreadsheet!

Before some of you roll your eyes and think this is super dumb, it saved me a lot of money and allowed me to travel a lot in the last few years!

And for those of you who are giddy because you read the word “spreadsheet,” keep reading because you are going to like where this is going!

How to track my expenses

Essentially, I put together a spreadsheet to track all my expenses.

And I mean every single expense! I set up categories such as groceries, restaurants, clothing, alcohol (yes, that is a category in itself!), etc. I would input a dollar value each time I spent money on one of the categories. Then at the end of the month, I can see exactly where I spent my money and figure out where I can trim my spending.

This is an excellent way of managing finances, especially if you are in debt and want to save money for travelling.

However, it is a time-consuming task. But it is a handy tool to see exactly how you are spending your paycheque. The goal is to understand exactly where your money goes so that you can take the appropriate steps in scaling back. I still track my expenses today because it is a useful tool to keep my financial situation in check. My tracking sheet looks something like this:

Different ways of tracking your expenses

You can track your expenses with a notebook that you carry around with you. It may be an easier way to write down the value when you are spending money.

And there are apps out there that can track your expenses. I haven’t investigated any of those, but it captures the essence of the exercise.

Or if you are (nerdy) like me, you will put it on an Excel or Numbers spreadsheet. One of the advantages of doing it electronically is you can add the numbers up pretty quickly, see a pattern in your spending, calculate what you spend in a month, in a year, etc. I highly recommend tracking it electronically so you have a centralized spot for tracking your expenses and it allows you to analyze your spending habits efficiently. It is a manual, old-school method, but it really works.

Steps to track your expenses

Below are the steps to track your expenses using a spreadsheet.

  1. Set up a spreadsheet for the month, including your income, fixed expenses, and other expenses.
    • Income includes all the money you earn in a month.
    • Fixed expenses include all the fixed amounts you have to pay each month. For example, your rent or mortgage, car payment, hydro, mobile phone, etc.
    • And the last section is everything you spend in the month. I further categorize some items, including transportation, restaurant, grocery, clothing, household, and entertainment. I also include a luxury item because, hey, we all need a treat once in a while. You may or may not know what the categories are right away. It took me a few months to see a pattern in my spending habits to know what categories I needed. I’ve included mine in the downloadable spreadsheet.
  2. Each time you spend money on something, type it in your spreadsheet (I usually track it at the end of the day for all the expenses for that day. I keep receipts in my pocket or purse to help me remember what I spent)
  3. Keep tracking for the entire month. Total up all the values.
  4. Repeat this process for at least three months

Download your free worksheets here:

I’ll get you started with the spreadsheet that I’ve been using. You can adjust it according to your needs:

Expense Tracking Sheet (Excel): Expenses-Template-Excel

Expense Tracking Sheet (Numbers): Expenses-Template-Numbers

Tips on tracking your expenses

It might help if you spend the majority of your expenses on your credit card. So at the end of the month, you will have a detailed list of all the things that you purchased through your credit card. 

As with cash purchases, I try to minimize that because it is harder to track. If I have cash purchases, I input the values at the end of the day or collect a bunch of receipts and input the expenses at the end of the month. I try not to go on too long without tracking my expenses because it is easy to forget.

1. Track your expenses for a minimum of three months

The system only works if you commit to tracking EVERYTHING you spend. It sounds like a pain in the butt at times, but it only works if you commit to the process. You may be able to see your spending pattern after a month of tracking. It will take at least another month to see if you are actually curbing your spending habits. So it would be ideal to track your expenses for at least three months to see if you have saved money.

Also, it requires some time to see if your efforts to minimize your expenses are actually working or not. For example, if you used to buy coffee every day and scaled it back to once a week only, you will see a significant decrease in dollar value in later months.

2. Analyze your spending habits and minimize your targetted expenses

Now that you know how to track your expenses, you can interpret your spending and how you can save money.

When I was going through my initial few months or even years, I was shocked at how much I spent on buying coffee at the coffee shop. And I didn’t just buy a regular coffee; I go for the large lattes a few times a week. And I was shocked to see how much money I was spending on purchasing alcohol. I was trying to scale back on eating out because it could mean paying at least about $50 for each meal. So I started cooking more but I was drinking at home instead of at a restaurant. It was a process I had to go through to understand my spending habits.

The idea is to analyze your spending habits and minimize your targetted expenses. If you noticed your entertainment category is really high, perhaps you only go out once a week instead of every night, for example. Or if you see you are spending a big chunk of your paycheque on expenses relating to your car, then the remedy could include driving less, taking public transportation, parking your car in a less expensive parking lot, etc.

3. Determine how much money you can save each month

When I started this exercise, I didn’t know how much I wanted to save because I did not know what was possible. But after a few months, I can see a pattern in my spending habits and be able to scale back my expenses. Only then can I determine how much I can save each month.

Without doing the exercise, it is difficult to determine how much money you can actually save. And the number is different for everyone. It all depends on how much you make, your fixed expenses, general spending habits, etc.

Reasons why tracking your expenses work

I tried many other ways of managing my money but it is the only one that really works and is the most effective for me.

Moreover, I like this method because it allows me to see exactly what I am spending my paycheque on and how I can precisely minimize or eliminate specific expenses.

The more I tracked, the more I was addicted to minimizing my expenses. It was almost like a game where I always challenged myself (I’m a Capricorn; we’re pretty stubborn, and I like a good challenge!)

And this method works because I don’t like manually inputting every single item. There are times when I don’t want to spend money because I don’t want to input the value in my spreadsheet. My sheer laziness worked in my favour at times.

Furthermore, this method works because seeing some of the totals in a month really scared the sh*t out of me! It is the impact of the final numbers that will shock you! Did I buy that much coffee? And really, I drink that much? And I eat out that much? The monthly amounts were so alarming to me that I knew I had to do something about it. I knew precisely these were my items to scale back on. I didn’t eliminate them completely. C’mon, a girl needs her coffee, a drink (or two) and eating out from time to time!

Are you ready to take on this challenge?

I feel like we can all use a financial makeover once in a while. Whether you want to save money for travel or something else, you have the ability to do that.

But this system really works for me, and I’m totally obsessed with it! It has to be the painful manual inputting old-school way. I’m sure all the online expense managers and apps work wonderfully, but I like my method and will continue to track my expenses.

Are you ready to take on this challenge? Let me know in your comments if you do or if you have any suggestions to fine-tune this system.

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 20+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!


  • unaveronicavagante
    July 27, 2018 at 12:08 am

    This is extremely useful!
    I have been doing it since I started living out of home. When in need, it’s the best way to understand how you’re investing your money. And it’s very useful, as you said, if you want to use it to travel.

    • queenie mak
      August 1, 2018 at 3:03 pm

      I’m glad I’m not the only one doing this! It is super useful!

  • catherinemryan
    July 27, 2018 at 2:05 am

    It’s awesome that this system works for you! I like how it helped you see where you could use money you already had incoming to do what you love.

    • queenie mak
      August 1, 2018 at 3:04 pm

      It is a bit of work but totally worth it! 🙂

  • Candy
    July 27, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Setting up a spreadsheet to keep track of your spending is a great idea. I started doing this this year and it really does help!

    • queenie mak
      August 1, 2018 at 3:04 pm

      yeay!! I love a good spreadsheet!! super useful when it comes to planning especially for finances!

  • Sanne
    July 27, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    Thank you for this very useful post! I started doing this last year, but stopped after a few months (laziness?). Maybe I should try it again, because it is indeed a great way to save money.

    • queenie mak
      August 1, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      I don’t blame you…it takes a lot of time to track all your expenses! I’m so used to it now that it’s just something I do daily.

  • Beth Anne
    July 27, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    Oooh I love a spreadsheet. This is a super helpful post. I’m saving to travel around Europe next year so thanks so much for this.

    • queenie mak
      August 1, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      I hope this works for you too!! 🙂

  • Lyne
    July 27, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    I so so so agree with this! Tracking your expenses is the best way to save money! When you do that you realise how much money you’ve been ‘wasting’. Love your post very useful.

    • queenie mak
      August 1, 2018 at 3:07 pm

      Yeah…I didn’t realize I was spending a ton of money on stuff I wasn’t really using or appreciate. It’s pretty amazing when it all adds up!

  • josypheen
    July 27, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    I did something really similar when we were saving to buy our flat. I totally agree that this can really help…mostly because it makes you more aware of each purchase!!

    I love a good spreadsheet #NerdCheckIn. 🙂

    • queenie mak
      August 1, 2018 at 3:08 pm

      Haha totally nerding out!! 🙂

  • hayleyjones98
    July 28, 2018 at 12:23 am

    Great tips! It’s always good to read posts like this and gain some insight and different perspectives on how to travel on a budget!

    • queenie mak
      August 1, 2018 at 3:08 pm

      This is something that worked for me. Hopefully it can work for someone else too! 🙂

  • thegetawayjournals
    July 28, 2018 at 1:50 am

    Awesome tips! I could always use the encouragement to save a little more. I’m sooo bad at tracking my expenses, but this post gave me a motivational kick in the pants!

    • queenie mak
      August 1, 2018 at 3:09 pm

      I hope it works out! It does take a bit of time to get into the groove of things. I kept it up because I find it super useful and effective for me. Good luck!! 🙂


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