Top tips to live cheaply and save money for travel

income / expenses
income / expenses

Cycle-touring is one of the cheapest forms of travel I can think of but it still requires money nonetheless and a little extra coin in your pocket can go along way to increasing moral by allowing you to purchase better quality food and occasionally treating yourself to a bed, shower, longer visa or a haircut. In planning my upcoming ride to China I’m forecasting visas to one of the biggest expenses, perhaps even overtaking the cyce-touring No.1 – food!

So with this in mind it’s time to start saving and living as frugally and smartly as possible. These are some of the habits I already had and a few new steps I’ve taken in recent months that have allowed me to vastly reduce my expenses and save money for the grand tour.

room for rent
room for rent

Share your living space
If you’re serious about saving money and like people then this may be one of the best ways to instantly create huge savings – If you’re in a position where you have a big house or have spare living space then consider letting that space out for some instant cash. Space if valuable and people will pay good money for a place to rest their heads. They might be people in similar situations to you, trying to save money, or perhaps students and young professionals that are just looking for a place to stay for a few months.

On the other hand you might decide to move in with someone who is letting a room or friends and family may be willing to house share. Friends and family would benefit from your added income as well as you so the arrangement is mutually beneficial. And don’t forget – living with others may have many additional social benefits too.

There are so many costs associated with property; rent, mortgage, energy bills, tax and very probably TV licence, phone bills and internet subscriptions. If you manage to offset these by having family, friends or other lodgers living with you then the load can be shared by sacrificing a little space.

If you live in a busy area all you might need to do is create a window sign to attract inquiries, another way of getting residents is to use sites such as in the UK or for a more global service.

Cancel your subscriptions
We’ve all seen these micro costs creep into our lives and devour little tiny portions of our earnings; a magazine subscription here and Sky TV channels there, expensive mobile phone tariffs that are left to continue long past the expiration of their contracts. Perhaps you have a premium Flickr account that doesn’t see much action or some other online service that’s under utilised – cloud storage like Dropbox or even an online computer game subscription. Compile a lists and discover just how much of your income is being consumed by tiny expenses such as these, if it’s quite high then perhaps you’ll be able to drop a few of them and keep the cash instead.


Start using GiffGaff
I can’t put into words how much I love using GiffGaff so I’ll try putting it in figures instead. My mobile phone network service was provided by O2, for about £35 a month for 18 months I had unlimited data (which I used extensively) free text messaging (SMS) and about the right amount of minutes for my needs. But the £35 I was supposed to pay often ended up being £36-37-38 and I just though ‘this is too much’ I knew there must be better options somewhere and that’s when a friend introduced me to GiffGaff – it’s UK mobile service provider that uses the O2 networks hardware, masts, etc. and crucially it’s really, really cheap.

Now I have the exact same contract (unlimited data, free text messaging and about the right amount of minutes for my needs) but I’m paying a measly £10 a month and what I really love about it is that it’s not a contract, I’m not obliged to continue payment next month if I don’t want to! This means that I don’t have to pay for the months that I’m out of the country, I don’t have to pay if I feel the service has been less than satisfactory and I want to change providers, I don’t have to pay for the next month if for any reason I decide not to. It’s more like a pay-as-you-go service but you can buy packages called ‘goodybags’ that include a months worth of features just like a contract.

I have found the whole service is excellent, it’s the same as 02 in fact because they use the same infrastructure and my phone even thinks it’s on O2 and says ‘O2’ next to the signal indicator.

The reason I think giffgaff is particulary suitable for travelers is that you can stop paying while your out of the country and start the service again the day you return – it’s like a contract that you can put on hold and are not obliged to pay – come to think of it that’s not really a contract at all is it…

giffgaff offers
giffgaff offers

If you feel that you’ve already heard enough about giffgaff then feel free to skip down to the next tip. For those of you that are still here I’m guessing you might have a few more questions so lets start with ‘How can it be so cheap?’. Yea, I asked that question too. Well there are a few ways, they pay a licence to O2 to use their hardware so have no installation or maintenance costs, they don’t offer phones, you must use your own phone and they don’t have any advertising or call centre. The entire process is online, you can get a free sim-card (if you order and register one through me we both get £5 credit – this is what they do in place of advertising) and you can transfer your number over from your old phone all online once you have your new sim-card.

In short giffgaff is the cheapest and most flexible, quality mobile phone service provider in the UK and although we both get £5 on our sim-cards if you order and register a sim-card ordered through my link I would only ever recommend a product or service if I truly believe in. I have been using giffgaff for about 4 months and have recommended it to all of my family and friends.

If you would like to order a free sim-card please follow this link and you will get £5 preloaded.

Selling on eBay
Selling on eBay

Sell stuff on eBay
ebay has long been my ally in finding cheap equipment for touring and also selling on all the excess stuff that I’ve accumulated over the years – spare cameras, jackets, unopened items, tools, shoes, DVD’s, games, sports equipment all sell really well and with apps for android and iPhone selling couldn’t be easier, you can now use the cameras on the phones to take pictures and load them simply and easily to eBay. I browse eBay often and have been blown away by the amount of listings that have been created using phone apps. It’s really given a new lease of life to eBay and eBayers and created many more buying and selling opportunities for everyone.

Just recently in the run up to Christmas I sold: a hat, leather jacket, board game, pair of walking trousers, shoes, an old down jacket and a teddy bear (don’t ask) and made about £80 after fees and postage. There was not a single item that I would have ever used and all of it was just creating clutter. Not only have I made some cash but I feel better to have de-cluttered my room and made cleaning and tidying easier.

So take a look around, do you have a few too many Gore-Tex pro shell jacket (you know who you are) spare bikes in the garage, perhaps a perfume you’re not keen on or an unwanted gift? If so do a little searching on eBay and see if it might have some value. Besides, didn’t I mention, eBay is fun.

Ditch the car (may require bravery)
Ideally here I’d suggest that if you have a car then get rid of it, sell it off and don’t look back, but I realise that’s not practical for everyone – however if you live in a city this might be a more realistic possibility. Personally I enjoy not having a car and am able to pull it off with little need for motorised transport, but I’m lucky because my work is only 5miles away and the nearest city is 10miles away, where I can jump on a train for the occasional longer distance travel. Cars are one of the greatest expense people have and can occasionally come with nasty and expensive costs such as failing an MOT, or developing some other expensive fault.

The bike is an excellent utility vehicle and should handle most peoples requirements for luggage with just a set of rear panniers, and don’t forget if you don’t want to carry all of your shopping home on the bike most supermarkets now have a good home delivery option.

Everyone uses their cars for different purposes and for some people life without a car would be made very difficult. However just using your car less can make considerable savings but the really impressive savings come from ditching it all together; not only will you make some cash in selling it but you won’t have to pay out for insurance, breakdown cover and of course any fuel either. Again I’d never recommend something I’m not willing to do myself and I can tell you that life with just my bike suits me perfectly and I’ve never wished to have a car.

Does anyone owe you money?
One last thing to check might be to see if anyone owes you money, I took a while to think about this, listing organisations I’m involved with and business I use, and realised that my old network provider O2 and my university both owed me money. Two calls later I sat back in my chair content in the knowledge that my money was being returned to my account. Phone service providers in particular are very sneaky and often take out the next months bill after you ask to cancel explaining that it’s basically just ‘normal procedure’ and that ‘that’s the way it works’, to get the money back you must call them and request it, which of course many people forget or are too busy to do.

A change in lifestyle
These are some of the key ways in which I save money to fund travel and equipment for touring and other adventures. By living simply and cheaply at home you can save money and stay in good shape, due to cycling commuting rather than driving, etc, in order to spend more time doing the things you really love. Have you any tips for me, if there some frugal and cunning money saving idea I have missed? If so email in to I’d love to hear from you.

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