Pamela MacNaughtan

74 Ways to Save Money for Travel

It took me a little while to realise that the small savings actually made a difference in the long run. Once I realised it, I was hooked. That doesn’t mean I was a fanatic. I wasn’t.

Money doesn’t have to control you. It’s not the enemy. Learning to control your money, and how to pinch your pennies is hard at times, but it can be done. You can make your money work for YOU! I know I sound like one of those cash man commercials, but it’s true.

Here are 74 ways to save money for travel (or any big purchase).

Banking & Credit Cards

Banks can be blood-sucking vampires, but only if you let them. There are several ways to save money, it just takes a little research – which I have kind of done for you. Plus, many banks have programs to help you save.

  1. Open a USD Account – Let’s face it, the USD is the most widely accepted currency in the world. As a Canadian, a way to save some money is to open a USD Acct. at your bank. When you open a USD Acct. you control when you buy, and how much it will cost you. Over the last few years the CND has been stronger, and there are times when it has been at par with the USD. Watch exchange rates, and buy when the rate is favourable. Obviously, if you live in the US, this particular tip is not-so-helpful for you, but there are more tips. I promise.
  2. Open a Savings Account – A savings account is not going to earn you a lot of money in interest unless you’re carrying a large balance; and let’s face it, if you’re carrying a large balance, you could be travelling, like now. Keeping all your money in one account is dangerous – unless you have Jedi-like will power.  The act of moving money from your chequing to your savings can be really satisfying. Think of it as a visual reminder of your goal.
  3. DO NOT attach your savings account to your debit card – You don’t need the temptation if you’re having a weak shopping moment. Trust me, I speak from experience!
  4. Bank the Rest – if your bank offers this program, take advantage of it. The idea of the program is that if you spend say $23.36, then the bank will round your purchase up to either the nearest $1 or $5, so $24.00 (or $28.00) will be taken from your account, and the difference will be deposited into your savings account. You can always increase or decrease later.
  5. Set-up an Automatic Deposit – Talk to your bank about setting up an automatic deposit. Sit down and decide how much money you want to take from each paycheck, and ask your bank to transfer that amount into your savings account. You can change the amount at any time, and this is generally a FREE service.
  6. Adjust your Chequing Acct – Are you using the best account option for your lifestyle? Research the accounts your bank offers, and what other banks offer. Find one with a LOW monthly fee (or no fee). If you have to switch banks, DO IT! I did.
  7. Rewards Accounts – Some banks offer rewards programs with your chequing account. If it’s a program you can benefit from, DO IT! I LOVE going to the movies, so I picked an account that awards me points, which earns me FREE MOVIE TICKETS!
  8. Use YOUR bank’s ATMs – Remember, when you use another bank’s ATMs you’re spending at least $3 per transaction ($1.50 per bank).
  9. Cash Back is your FRIEND – Does your grocery store offer cash back? Withdraw cash at the grocery store. It’s FREE! -unless you’re over your transaction limits for the month.
  10. Cash before Card – Use cash whenever you can. Debit cards are awesome, but you can spend a lot of money without realising it.
  11. Check your bank balance EVERY NIGHT – Yes, I am serious. Don’t treat your bank balance like an encounter with an ex-boyfriend. Check your balance every night. This WILL save you money in the long run.
  12. Open a GIC – As you save money, look into ways to move your money from your savings account, into an account with higher interest, and more restrictions in terms of withdrawal. GICs are great because you can have 6 months, 12 months, 5 years (or more) terms.
  13. No annual fee – Annual fees are tricky. If you’re applying for a normal credit card, make sure you pick one with no annual fee. It’s an automatic saving. If you’re applying for rewards based credit card, think about your return on investment. Are the rewards you’ll earn worth a $25 annual fee? Decide which works best for you.
  14. Rewards Card – If you’re applying for a rewards card, do your research. Travel rewards cards are fabulous (I have an American Express card), but read the fine print. When are the black-outs? How do you redeem?
  15. Lower your rate! – Have a credit card, but paying too much in interest? Call your credit card company about lowering your interest rate. Many companies have lower rate campaigns throughout the year.
  16. Pay your balance at the end of the month – I was crushed when I found out my credit card wasn’t free money. The key to keeping your credit under control (and saving you money) is to pay it off at the end of every month.
  17. Prepaid/Secure credit cards – A secure credit card can be a good way to save and control your spending. I have a secured Mastercard for $750. My credit limit is $750 because that is how much money I gave them. When I decide to close that account, I get my $750 back! BOOM! I can totally pretend I won a lottery that day – which I did not,  but it makes me THAT HAPPY!
  18. Reduce Credit Cards – Nobody needs a bunch of store charge cards, Visas, or Mastercards. Cut things down, a lot. Keep ONE credit card, maybe two. Tops.
  19. Change bowl – Nope, not a jar. Save your change. At the end of the night place, you change in a bowl. Then every two weeks go through the bowl and roll whatever change you can. Keeps the rolls in a shoe box. The act of rolling coin actually feels good, and keeping the rolls in a shoebox keeps it out of sight, and therefore you resist spending it.

Household Bills

Do you own a house, or pay rent? If you’re not living with family, household bills can really add up. So how do you save money for your travel fund?

  1. Talk to your landlord – This tip is from Megan (one of my awesome readers). Megan recently asked her landlord to not increase her rent over the next year as she is planning to travel. Awesome idea, and totally worth asking your landlord about doing the same thing.
  2. Bundle your bills – Many telecommunication companies have service bundles. Bundling your home phone, the internet, and cable together can save you a lot of money. Make sure you know what you’re paying NOW and whether there are a contract and cancellation fee, before signing on for a bundle. Know your fees first.
  3. Adjust Home phone plan – Look at the plans your phone company offers. Do you have the one that fits your current lifestyle? Can you cancel features you don’t really use? Are there FREE evenings and weekends option? Call your phone company and tell them you need to save money on your bill. Ask about promotions. Ask for fee details. Then say you’ll call them back. Don’t make decisions on the fly.
  4. Cancel your Home phone – If you have a good cell phone plan, and you don’t really use your home phone, cancel it. I’ve done this and it was the best decision I ever made. I had a FREE evening and weekends on my cell, and because I worked a lot, I was saving over $100 each month.
  5. Take advantage of Preview Months – Many cable companies will have preview months for premium channels (like movie channel, HBO). Instead of paying for these channels, subscribe at the start of the FREE preview month, then cancel the day before the preview ends.
  6. Cut your cable package – Do you work a lot and only watch TV late in the evening and on the weekends? Look at your cable package and see where you can cut it back.
  7. Cancel cable and switch to Hulu – I cancelled my cable and chose to watch/listen to DVDs instead. The other option is to sign-up for Netflicks or Hulu and watch your programs that way. The fees are way lower than cable!
  8. Turn down the heat! – Turn the heat down went your not home, or when you’re asleep. Only heat your house/apartment when you’re actually home and awake. **Ask your utility company about the base temperature to keep your pipes warm (so they don’t freeze). This will differ depending on where you live.
  9. Candles vs Light bulbs – I joke about living in the dark, but it’s kind of true. I rarely have lights on at home, and I’ve been known to read or watch TV by candlelight. If you have kids or lazy husbands/boyfriends, this could be a tad challenging.
  10. Wrap your windows in the winter – This keeps the cold out, which reduces your energy usage, which saves you money.
  11. Switch to LED light bulbs – They cost more to buy, but they save energy and money in the long run.
  12. Unplug! – If you’re not using it, and it is not a refrigerator, unplug it. Seems like piddly change, but it makes a difference.
  13. Subsidise your bill – Many utility companies have subsidy programs. Call and ask if you qualify and how it works.
  14. Downsize – Is your space bigger than what you need? Can you move into a smaller house or apartment? Downsizing saves money on rent/mortgage, the utilities are cheaper, and you need less stuff!


I’m pretty sure most of my money has disappeared because I love to shop. I’m not a crazy shopper now, but when I was working and I had a steady paycheck, I was a sucker for a sale, a cute pair of shoes, a nice purse, lip balm… Yeah, I was a sucker, plain and simple. Thankfully I’m not as bad as I use to be, and I’ve figured out some ways to save money when I do go shopping.

  1. Create a Shopping List – Start making shopping lists for EVERYTHING. If you need some new clothes, make a list of what you need. If you need to buy new electronics, make a list of what you need. Your Shopping List is YOUR BOSS! You know that Jedi Master of a boss that is crushing your soul, the one that owns you? Pretend that your shopping list is your boss.
  2. Shop Flyers First! – Flyers are a shopper’s best friend. Each week (and I still do this when I’m in Canada) I sit down and go through the store flyers. I make a list of the items I need, and where they are cheapest. Then I make a plan for my shopping day.
  3. Price Match – If you live in the city, shopping in several stores can be more costly. Know who does price matching, then bring flyers for other stores with you. This is a great way to save money on items you need.
  4. Clip Coupons – You’re not auditioning for an episode of Extreme Couponing, but using coupons to save money on items you NEED! Many times you can use these coupons on top of in-store sale prices, saving yourself even more money. Or take advantage of Groupon Goods – but only go for the stuff you really need!
  5. Double Your Airmiles! No Tax Day! – Many grocery brands have a special shopping day once a month, or once every two months. Know what it is, and when. This is a great day for saving money on the groceries you need.
  6. Subscribe to Store Newsletters – Nobody hates an inbox full of spam mail more than I, but there is a benefit to subscribing to your favourite brands. Many brands will have sale specials that are only available to their subscribers.
  7. Consider No Name brands – The horror! I started cutting down on buying name brand foods and switched to buy many No Name (store brand) foods instead. In many cases, there is not a huge difference in taste – plus you can add flavour if you wish.
  8. Vegetarian during the week, Meat eater on weekends – Restrict how much meat you’re buying. Meat can be expensive. Look for sales. Treat yourself to carnivorous meals on weekends.
  9. Plan Ahead – Plan your meals. Think of things that will last a few days like lasagna, macaroni with canned tomatoes, chilli, pasta salad. Think cheap ingredients, and meals that can stretch out.
  10. Think before you spend! – Reader Michael McCreesh suggests “when you’re about to make the purchase…walk away and give yourself 10 minutes to think about it again. Reflect on whether you really need it.” Ask yourself if you actually NEED to purchase an item.
  11. Shopping a Sale – Wait for a sale before buying items you need like new clothing, but don’t go overboard. Don’t buy more because the sale is “so good!”, that kind of defeats the purpose.
  12. Cash, Not Cards! – Twitter follower @Chalme suggests “Take a set amount of cash. Leave cards at home.”
  13. Rewards Programs – Some brands have their own rewards programs. In Canada Sobeys grocery stores over Aeroplan miles for purchases made in store. If you have this card, and an Aeroplan points credit card, those miles add up super fast. Look for who has rewards programs, and whether they can benefit you to help save money down the road.
  14. Recycle programs – Does your local store give deposits back for empties? Most liquor stores do. Save your bottles, then make runs to turn them into cash. Place the cash right into your travel fund.
  15. DIY – Try making things out of items around the house, outside by the local dumpster, anywhere really. Think outside the box. Look for ideas online, then go dumpster diving. Furniture, and artwork, for next to nothing!
  16. Reuse Ziploc bags, sauce bottles etc. – Buying jars of spaghetti sauce, boxes of Ziploc bags can get expensive. Try washing them out and reusing them. Use the bottles as glasses, or try making your own jams or preserves.
  17. Buy Local – This is tricky. It’s super important to support local business, but be savvy. Know the market for the items you’re looking for, and find a local business that fits your budget. Make sense?
  18. Shop Online – Many online stores offer things like FREE SHIPPING over a certain price point, and the prices are generally cheaper than in-store pricing due to lower overhead business costs.
  19. Buy secondhand – Think vintage. Don’t spend crazy amounts of cash on new things, buy secondhand. Big money savings and some freaking cool items can be found.
  20. Know when to buy quality, and when not to – You want to spend extra money on things like shoes and winter jackets. You need the quality on those items. Other items you can go vintage, buy Joe Fresh or other value brands.
  21. Will it go with you? – Reader Tiphany says “I ask myself “will I put it in my bag the day I’ll move”. If not, it means I don’t really need it
  22. Bargain – When you’re shopping, ask for a lower price. This may not happen in big brand stores, but you may have better luck in other stores. Try it. Reader Mark Anderson did this in Milan and got 10% off a high-end suit!

Going Out

I’m guessing your first instinct is, “Going out?! Uh, don’t you mean staying in!!”, but not everyone can completely cut off going out. So, here are some ways to still go out, and save money. Yes, you can have fun without it costing a fortune.

  1. Birthday clubs – They sound silly, but some restaurants have birthday clubs where you can get a FREE appetiser, or dessert, or an entree.
  2. Ladies Night – Ladies take advantage of Ladies Night as this usually means FREE cover, and sometimes cheaper (or free) drinks as well.
  3. Weekly Specials – Some restaurants have awesome weekly specials. When I lived in Banff on of the local bars had a steak sandwich night for $8, which is a crazy good deal in Banff. Look for cheap weekly specials and visit your favourite restaurants then. Think about is, 25¢ wing nights!!
  4. Local Pricing – Some establishments (especially if you live in a touristy area) will have locals prices and menu prices. Ask for the locals price, but be prepared to show ID proving you are in fact a local.
  5. All You Can Eat – hit up cheap All You Can Eat buffets to save money and fill the belly. I don’t suggest my brother’s method though. He and his buddies use to go to a Chinese Buffet, ate until they puked, then ate some more. They were banned from the restaurant! Teenage boys…
  6. Car Pool – Save money on gas by getting rides with friends or family
  7. Public transportation – Sure, it can take a little longer, but public transportation is way cheaper. Did you know you can travel from downtown Toronto to Pearson International airport for like $3.50? Yep.
  8. Visiting Art Galleries & Museums – Many art galleries and museums offer FREE admission one night a week, generally after 6:00 p.m. Visit websites of the galleries and museums you want to visit to find out when.
  9. FREE Tours – Yes, there are FREE tours. Many government buildings (and others) offer free public tours. Sounds boring, but the architecture could be cool, or your guide could be crazy. Worth checking it out.
  10. FREE local events – Look for free local events like movies in the park, concerts, etc.
  11. Go out in Groups – Eat out, or do attractions as a group. Groups generally get special rates – if you ask for them.
  12. Avoid Groupon/ Living Social – Here’s the thing, if you have to BUY a coupon to save money, you’re being ripped off.
  13. Join a community like Lime & Tonic – if you’re looking for unique experiences at a discount, sites like Lime & Tonic are FREE to join and use.
  14. Cheap Night at the Movies – Tuesday night cheap night is a lot better than full price every other day of the week.

Work / Home

Depending on where you work, there are definitely opportunities to save money – especially if you work retail, in (or near) a mall. Home, well there are always ways to save money at home.

  1. Bring lunch with you – Eating out is expensive. Bring your lunch, and give yourself a couple flex days each month for eating out.
  2. Bring Coffee from home – Limit your trips to Starbucks, Timothy’s, Second Cup, and any other expensive coffee shop. Make coffee at home and bring it in a thermos. Take advantage of free office coffee.
  3. Carry cash, not cards – avoid temptation (especially if you work retail) and only carry $20 when you go to work. Leave credit cards and debit cards at home.
  4. Quit Smoking/Excessive Drinking/Coffee – If you have a mild (or even heavy) addiction to a substance, make steps to quit. Not only will your health improve, but you’ll be saving a lot of money as well.
  5. Barter with Craigslist – Instead of buying new, looking for people giving things away, or wanting to trade. One mans trash is another man’s treasure.

In Summary…

Saving money is a personal endeavour. What works for one person, may not work for another. Simply cut down on your spending, and still find ways to have fun and enjoy life. One of the keys to saving money is to keep yourself focused. Inspired.


  • Melissa @ Suitcase and Heels

    December 12, 2012

    Groupon can be good *but* you have to have willpower and only buy the voucher if it’s something you were going to buy anyway. If you weren’t already planning on that laser hair removal, don’t buy the Groupon for it. A deal comes out for your favourite restaurant that you go to regularly? Go ahead and get it.

    Mint has been one of the best tools that I’ve used for getting my head around my money. I have accounts across a few different banks and this keeps everything together and breaks it down into categories so I can see where I’m overspending and where I’m doing well.

    I have my savings account with PC Financial because it offered the highest rate on a normal savings account. Sometimes it’s a pain but most times it’s a bonus that I can’t access it from an ATM. I need to log in and set up a transfer to my PC chequing account for the next day and then I can withdraw it from an ATM. Means I have to think ahead about whether I really need the cash or not.

  • December 12, 2012

    Wow, I feel like I need to print this out and use it as wallpaper. Love the tips! I def need to STOP using my credit card. I swipe like no body’s business. I always feel like I need to carry my credit cards with me in case of an emergency. You know, like getting a burrito. And I’m a born and raised Vegetarian. Just need to learn how to cook. Unless you count microwaving. Then I totally know how to cook.

  • Deb

    December 13, 2012

    Excellent tips. I’m all for no fee credit cards and bank cards. The only card I have that has an annual fee is American Express Gold Rewards, that is because the rewards I get each year far outweigh the fee. However, as you said, you have to do your research. If you are paying $150 a year for something, but gaining only $50 to $100 each year worth of rewards, that isn’t a good investment. Great series Pam, looking forward to more.

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  • January 18, 2013

    we did a lot of them; we do not have a credit card or any other debt. woohoo change always goes in a jar; we use a card at our fav store and we get points (wt them i can get rewards in either money – coupon – or merchandise); i shop at the farmer’s market; the heat is off during the day always! i do not buy magazines anymore – i read online; husband quit smoking more than a year ago ; we adjusted both the net/landline/iptv subscription and the cells’ subscriptions; everything in the house is A++ (so doesn’t use too much energy); i shop in bulk and freeze; we are vegetarians (i am since 2006, husband has to be cause he doesn’t cook); we only go out at very special occasions; and we walk a lot!

  • January 18, 2013

    oh yeah, i don’t have commissions for paying bills so we use my account to do that; husband doesn’t have for transfers so we use his for other stuff. i always have a shopping list and i made friends wt discounts, too :))))

  • December 31, 2013

    Great tips. Luckily I already do some of them, but there are some others that I can work on. I just need to convince hubby to get rid of cable or at least cut back on it. Another tip is that any extra money I get, I put into my travel fund. I know lots of people look at getting a bonus at work as extra spending money, but I either use it to pay off debt (when I had student loans) or I put it into my travel savings fund. I also saved up my toonies and loonies to put towards purchasing my plane ticket. And yes, having a USD account is fabulous because by the time I go on my trip, I have enough in my USD account to use for my spending money. My husband and I are going to Cuba next money with some of the money that I saved up last summer shooting weddings. I have not touched that account since I put the money in the spring. I don’t understand people who go on trips paid by credit because then they have to stress about paying it off when they come home.


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