Category Archives: Save For Travel

Long Term Travel Planning: Save, Book, Go!

Long term travel planning guide

Looking for advice on long term travel planning but not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place. My husband, Craig, and I (Gemma) took an 18-month career break to the travel the Americas and Europe and have detailed every single movement from saving to packing, planning to staying alive on the road. We visited 16 countries in 17 months from Cuba to Canada, Spain to the States and here is our long term travel itinerary, our daily average budget, and practical tips on how to travel long term.

1. Long Term Travel Destinations

Long term travel routes have to be considered with a sensible head. Yes, it would be sexy to drive along Route 66 in a Cadillac or fun to sing karaoke with the kids in Tokyo but both activities are expensive.

Setting (and sticking to) a long term travel budget is far more challenging than a quick three-week trip island hopping in Thailand then going home to comfortable wage at the end of the month to pay off the credit card bills. There is no home and there is no pay at the end of the month!

Prioritise

Write down where you want to go and what you want to do. Then it is time to do some research – this is all part of the long term travel experience! Use social media, travel blogs, tourist board websites, and Pinterest to get a feel for backpacking prices, visa instructions (and costs), itineraries, public transport information, and ideas of things to do.

Check Prices Online

You’ll swiftly work out that some countries are more expensive than others. For example – a dorm bed in Sydney, Australia starts at $19 whereas you’ll find one in Bogota, Colombia for $6.

Some continents/areas are cheaper than others but countries within those continents/areas vary wildly.

Let’s take Southeast Asia for instance. Hanoi, Vietnam is super cheap, you can get a bed for $2.50 (in a 6.5 rated hostel) compare that to Singapore where dorm beds start at $11 for 5/10 hostel.

Beers in Hanoi are $1.50, Singapore? $8.37!

I’ll cover our strategy for booking cheap accommodation below as it makes sense to investigate flight prices, more on that to come.

If you are travelling long term on a budget, I would strongly suggest avoiding the following countries:

  • USA and Canada
  • Europe’s Nordic countries
  • Australia and New Zealand
  • Japan

But I want to see Niagara Falls! I know, you can – just be prepared to burn through cash like Harry Styles does ladies.

Japanese yen in front of Kyoto gate

Facebook Groups for Travel Planning 

Don’t be afraid to chat with bloggers on social media or join Facebook groups to ask for advice.

There are two excellent Facebook groups for female travel lovers where non-biased travellers of all ages, shapes, and sizes give advice about their home countries and places they’ve visited – Girls V Globe and Girls Love Travel.

These groups are especially useful for ladies looking to long term travel alone.

Every destination has a Facebook group now. Just use the search function to find them.

Airport I Long Term Travel Planning

2. Saving for Travel

My name is Gemma and I am a super saver.

My best tips for saving is to set up three bank accounts.

The first account is where your pay goes, a second account for savings which cannot be touched, and a third for savings which can be tapped into for a wedding gift or new car tires (safety first!)

Next tip is to write down how much you spend (every single detail) for one week and then work out how much you can realistically live off. Each payday, move your savings over into the mentioned accounts.

Avoid window shopping, if there is no temptation, you won’t splurge!

Sell your stuff at car boot sales. Complain! Speaking to companies can reduce your monthly payments, for example, your phone provider. Go sober, not drinking every weekend was one of our biggest saving techniques.


 Read more | We managed to save £20K to travel, and you can too.


Long Term Travel Saving Advice

3. Cheap Flights and Other Transport

Craig lives on the Skyscanner app!

He claims that it is one of the long term travel must-haves, due to its ‘go anywhere’ function.

If you are flexible with dates and destinations – you will find cheap flights.

When searching for flights via computer, always set your computer to ‘incognito’ or ‘private browsing’ so websites do not remember your previous searches and hike up their prices.

Another travel tip is to Google the local airlines, bus companies, and train lines for your desired countries then go directly to their sites.

For example, Air Asia is a popular low budget airline which covers South East Asia and beyond. Sign up for the newsletters of these airlines for deals.

Don’t be scared of buses! We bussed all around Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia – some of the overnight buses have bad boy lazy chairs! Go local!

Do what the natives do – chicken buses in Central America are a thrifty traveller’s dream. Always be cautious of your belongings, opportunists roam in every country. Overnight trains in Vietnam have beds!

Car rental is sometimes a cheaper option in the long run and Bla Bla Car is a new car-sharing option for you to consider. Have you tried Über or Lyft in your home city? It’s a cheaper taxi service which runs from an app.

Important note: on entry, countries (bar those in the European Union) may request evidence of an outbound ticket. Immigration wants proof that you are leaving their country.

This restricts the ‘footloose and fancy-free’ hippy lifestyle, a little planning ahead is always required. We were asked by every country for this proof – do not take this warning lightly.

Long term travel visas can also be tricky – be prepared for each country to have different rules regarding visas. For example in Cuba, you must have a Cuba Tourist Card before arriving. Going to Cuba? Here’s our planning guide.

Currency for Travel

4. Travel Accommodation Search

While searching for cheap accommodation do consider the reviews of places too, we managed to avoid bed bugs and I hope you do.

Each continent/country favours different search engines for hotels – for example, Booking.com for North America, Agonda for Asia.

Hostelworld is still my go-to for hostels.

In Nicaragua, many hostels, hotels, and guest houses advertise via Airbnb, even though they are not private houses.

We’ve stayed in an airstream in Austin, a prison in Slovenia, and a time capsule in Portland!

Word of mouth! Backpackers love to chat and pass on their experiences. Read about our good and bad hostel experiences.

Couchsurfing is not something that we have used during this trip. This website connects travellers with people who can offer a sofa or bed.

Both set up profiles and can leave reviews, like Airbnb but without paying. Naturally, your safety is paramount, so be sure that you are comfortable from the beginning.

We did swap our skills for a bed in WWOOFing style voluntary work (no fruit picking!) through the website Workaway.


» Read more | Check out our review of Workaway and HelpX for more details


You will need this variety of long term travel accommodation, especially if travelling in a couple – often you will want private space but other times you will want/need to converse with other human beings!

Stay in a Prison in Ljubljana I Chicken Bus I Passports and Currency I Long Term Travel Planning

5. Pills, Bills, and Travel Insurance

Do not get caught out by medical charges. Long term travel insurance should be up there with Havaiana flip-flops in the priority list.

During your research ensure that companies cover the types of travel (high altitude hiking?) and activities (skiing at Whistler?) that you plan to do.

I did have to visit the doctor in Vancouver which cost $100 CAD and then the physiotherapist (twice $100 CAD) for ear crystals (dizziness), and our insurer (True Traveller) refunded half of the balance.

Malaria and Zika exist and they can floor you. Cover up, avoid dusk and stagnant water, use protection, and take malaria tablets. The more countries you visit, the higher the chance of long term travel malaria being an issue.

Check out if your desirable destinations require malaria treatment. Ladies, for those of us doing long term travel in your 30s, Zika can cause defects in babies for up to two years, get tested as soon as you return. Check with your local travel clinic what vaccinations you require. If you don’t have them, your insurer has a reason not to pay out.

Long term travel birth control can be a dodgy one.

My GP prescribed one year of the pill, I sneakily had a few packs left from other trips to the doctors – luckily I am healthy and my blood pressure did not change.

Probably not wise advice to give as deep vein thrombosis can be linked to the combined contraceptive pill and long haul flights.

Help! I am a fast fat, and Craig is a speedy skinny.

Neither of us liked the way our bodies looked after four months of travel, long term travel weight gain can happen. Regardless of how many hikes you are doing, if you are eating churros every day it won’t keep them at bay! The solution?

Slow travel. I wrote a post on this while spending two months of the summer in British Columbia, by stopping we could move more. Ironic.

Churros so good I Long Term Travel Planning

6. Longterm Travel Packing List?

 Here is a quick overview of what we recommend

  • Long term travel backpacks – we have 80-litre packs which have a 20-litre zip on/off day packs, very useful for 2/3 day trips like hiking the Colca Canyon and long term travel carry on
  • Lightweight foldaway raincoats – I love my Marmot Precip US / UK. It’s electric blue!
  • Invest in a purifying / filter water bottle, save money and the environment – check out our unbiased review of DrinkSafe Travel Tap or get 15% off Water To Go [quote TSA15 at checkout]
  • Portable charger – we use Anker charger US / UK for phones
  • Digital nomads – I never travel without Mac but not everyone is a fan of Apple so here is a review of the best laptops to take travelling
  • I was never robbed, I used my trusty PacSafe which ties around your daypack and hooks up to a radiator or bed frame then you clip a padlock to it.

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Benarty Hill hike, Fife Scotland. Gemma wearing blue Marmot Precip jacket, bag, hat. Bowie the dog in background. Trees, loch._

7. Long Term Travel Hacks

Here’re five travel hacks to save your sanity and keep long term travel expenses down

  • Large scarves or flags make great dens in dorm rooms
  • Avoid long term travel cell phone bills by closing your account and switching phone to ‘airplane mode’ then pick up WiFi in cafes, accommodation, etc
  • Take an external hard drive and swap films with other travellers
  • Tweet your bank, then DM them with a contact, ours called us all over the world!
  • Craig maintains that Wednesday is the cheapest day to book flights

8. Long Term Travel Mistakes We Made

Learn from our mishaps

  • Cheap flights don’t always work out cheap! Price how to get from the airport, how expensive the airport hotels are, is the time waiting between flights worth what you will spend in the airport shops?
  • Write down information in a diary – it’s easy to forget what day it is when travelling and this can cause havoc when you are supposed to check in, start a trip, etc. We turned up at one hostel two days early in Cusco!
  • Back up images – don’t overwrite SD cards, transfer to an external hard drive, and save online
  • Slow down, you don’t have to see EVERYTHING and you will experience more stopping in an area for longer than one or two nights, avoid burn out
  • Solo travellers – be wise, read this guide on how to travel safely flying solo

Filter and Purifying Water Bottle_

9. Avoid Blowing Long Term Travel Budget

Readers always ask – how do we organise our monthly budget posts?

In a nutshell – persistence. Craig takes note of how much we spend every day.

He jots down what the item was and the cost.

At the end of each week he tallies up the items under categories – accommodation, food, transport, trips, socialising, miscellaneous/ luxury and sends the numbers to me, ta – da, we have a monthly budget post!

Not going to lie, it takes commitment, patience, and attention to detail – the last two characteristics I do not possess.

However, I personally think it’s the only way to travel long term on a small (ish) budget. At the end of the week/month, you can work out what is costing too much and cut back. Ice cream anyone?…

Another tip to help stretch your travel budget is signing up for Workaway or Help X (mentioned above), researching jobs abroad, or starting a travel blog

→ How do you keep control of your budget? Tell us in the comments below.

We have worked out that our daily average long term travel expenses are £34.50 each.

That covers 17 months on the road with 20 weeks volunteering (in hotels, hostels, family homes) for our keep and 5 nights staying with friends.

We estimated how much we saved through working with partners via the blog and added that to the total for a realistic long term travel budget.

Dog Sitting in Granada I Long Term Travel Planning

10. Romance on the Road

Couples that rave together, stay together.

So what about those who live in each other’s pockets, on limited money, with no GPS for a number of months? Long term travel in relationships is a test, whether that be a friend, parent, sibling, or significant other.

My best advice for long term travel as a couple is to test the water first. We endured a 5 – week trip to South East Asia two years before this long term travel trip.

We didn’t kill each other so started saving for the future.

Get hobbies – whether that is reading, blogging, or DJing (Craig makes music on his phone!)

Learning new skills is a great way to avoid getting on each other’s nerves.

Oh, and get used to going to the toilet in close proximately of each other!

These long term travel relationship tips worked for us – I left Scotland with my boyfriend, and came home with a husband (the same man!)

We got hitched in Austin!

An Austin Elopement - Lou Neff Point, Ladybird Lake - Corey Mendez Photography I Long Term Travel Planning

11. Long Term Travel Planning Itinerary

Still with me?

If you find this article useful, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and never miss a post – there will be much more to come.

This section outlines where we went and what we did over the past 17 months.

There were three countries that we were pretty set on seeing.

Peru for Machu Picchu, Vancouver, Canada to suss out future living arrangements, and Cuba, to drink rum and dive (not at the same time).

The trip had to start in March as we were keen to attend the music festival South By Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Any plans after that were a bonus (and financially motivated!)

I’ve calculated the average daily budget for each country for two people including accommodation, transport, trips, food, socialising, and luxuries.

I’ve identified some of the big things we spent money on in brackets. I’ve added the price of trips/stays when we worked with partners to give you a true reflection of the prices in these countries.

They do not include flights between countries.

March

After a stopover at a JFK airport, we touched down in New Orleans where we spent the next three days listening to jazz, drinking hand grenades and eating Po Boys!

Next up, one week in Austin, Texas for the popular music festival South By Southwest. We watched new and old bands, drank beer, and ate tacos all without putting our hands in our pockets! Love free stuff? Check out how to do SXSW for free.

  • Duration: 9 nights
  • Average daily budget: $100 (based on a private room and hostel)
  • Currency: American Dollar

Lafette's Blacksmith Shop Bar I Long Term Travel Planning

March/April

We temporarily said goodbye to the United States of America (pausing our ESTA visa waiver) and headed to Peru in South America for one month.

In Peru, we hiked, biked, and attended Spanish school. Our Spanish is still muy malo!

  • Duration: One Month
  • Average daily budget: $76 (2 treks, Peru Hop pass, Spanish school, dorm beds)
  • Currency: Peruvian Nuevo Sol
  • Thinking of Peru? It is so much more than just Machu Picchu
  • Here are 14 ways to get to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu I Long Term Travel Planning

Three weeks in Bolivia was spent between the capital, La Paz, the Bolivian Salt Flats – Salar de Uyuni, and the warmer city – Sucre.

One of Craig’s highlights was cycling Death Road. For the first time since leaving, we actually stopped! Feeling a tad burnt out we booked into an apartment in the suburbs of La Paz and breathed.

  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • Average daily budget: $35 (Bolivia Hop pass, dorms, Salt Flats, Death Road cycle)
  • Currency: Bolivian Boliviano
  • Don’t bypass this in Bolivia

Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni, Salt Flats, Sunset Shots

May/June 

A late addition to the long term itinerary was Colombia. Every backpacker that we met raved about the country, our only background information about Colombia was cocaine and cartels.

Craig found cheap flights via Skyscanner so off we went to the Caribbean coast! Highlights include the friendly Colombian people, Tayrona National Park, and empanadas.

  • Duration: 3.5 weeks
  • Average Daily Budget: $53 (Bikes, Volcan El Totumo, Tayrona National Park, dorms)
  • Currency: Colombian Peso
  • Colombia – no cocaine in sight

Piscina Beach Tayrona National Park Colombia I Long Term Travel Planning

June

Hello Havana! We touched down in the land of cigars and salsa with grand plans of backpacking our way around the island (which is possible in three weeks) however we ran out of money, and patience.

Cuba is hard work.

I can’t sugar coat it! Yes the rum is super cheap and tasty, and the beaches are paradise but it is hot, some locals see you as a walking dollar sign, and the lack of free information made transit tough work.

We were suffering from long term travel fatigue after four months of crazy backpacking.

After two weeks of travel (Havana – Viñales – Playa Larga – Trinidad), we booked ourselves into an all-inclusive resort in Varadero – a holiday within a holiday.

This was the cheapest option for saving our long term travel budget!

  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • Average Daily Spend: $90 (Havana Walking Tour, diving, all-inclusive, casas)
  • Currency: CUP
  • Dreaming of Cuba? Check out our Cuba Travel Guide

Havana I Long Term Travel Planning

July – January

The summer months of July and August were spent on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, Canada.

This hidden gem is only a 40-minute ferry ride from Vancouver and boasts of lakes, hikes, and craft beer.

  • Duration: 2 months
  • Currency: Canadian Dollar
  • This is where we want to live: the Sunshine Coast, BC
  • All our Canada content starts here

Sechelt Inlet | Sunshine Coast BC

For the autumn and winter months, we moved to the bright lights of Vancouver!

Renting two apartments over the four months, catching the end of summer in Kitsilano then the rainy months in hipster Main Street. We were lucky enough to review West Trek’s tour of the Canadian Rockies.

For four days we gawked at those blue lakes, hiked around beautiful Banff, and made friends for life with the tour guides.

I left Craig for 5 days and flew West to Toronto! My best friend, Helen, met me. We ate our way around the city, cycled through Toronto Island, and felt the mist of Niagara Falls.

We were very lucky in Canada, not only did we make good friends, our family and friends from Scotland came to visit! Everyone wants a bit of B.C!

Craig also proposed under the fake stars of the Macmillan Space Center on my favourite day of the year… Hallowe’en!

  • Duration: 4 months
  • Average Daily Budget: $85 (apartment, hikes, lots of nice food)
  • Currency: Canadian Dollar

Peyto Lake Rockies | Two Scots Abroad

January

Rested and ready to put the rucksack back on, we skipped over the border to America where we spent two nights in Washington state, filling our stomachs in Seattle. The next four days we partied in Portland. Oregon’s capital city, Portland, is a very cool place.

Full of food carts, cycle routes, and craft beer – it’s easy to lose a long weekend there.

  • Duration: 6 nights
  • Average Daily Budget: $128 (based on two dorm beds at $32 each)
  • Currency: American Dollar
  • USA’s hipster city?

Portland Food | Two Scots Abroad

On our way to Nicaragua in Central America, we took an extended stopover in… Orlando! For five days we unleashed our inner kid at Disney World, Universal Studios, and iDrive!

  • Duration: 6 nights
  • Average Daily Budget: $334 (tickets to theme parks, hotel $89 per night)
  • Currency: American Dollar
  • Fancy going to Orlando? Orlando: Time and Money Saving Tips

February

By February that backpacking burn out was looming, the solution? Five weeks living in paradise! We moved into a hotel in Las Peñitas and worked for a bed and one meal. These type of Workaway programmes have stretched our £20K budget and made travelling for longer possible.

In total, we have completed five work/stay programmes. During our time in Las Peñitas, we visited León at the weekends and even boarded down an active volcano!

For the final three weeks in Nicaragua, we backpacked around Ometepe (an island with volcanoes), Somoto (a beautiful canyon), Granada (a very well developed city) and Managua (the capital and transport hub).

  • Duration: 8 weeks
  • Average Daily Budget: $35 (scooter hire, hikes, tattoos, private room in hostel)
  • Currency: Nicaraguan Córdoba
  • We lived in paradise

Las Penitas, Nicaragua Sunset

March

In March we returned to Austin, Texas, after a one-night stopover in the ridiculously expensive San Jose, Costa Rica.

I arrived in Texas an Orrock and left as an Armit – Craig and I eloped in Austin!

We got hitched after SXSW at the lush Lady Bird Lake then partied at the DJs Junior Boys in the evening. A perfect day!

Junior Boys Mohawk, An Austin Elopement - Corey Mendez Photography

April

By April we had said goodbye to USA, after one night in New York, we touched down in Oslo, Norway then met our true destination, Budapest, Hungary.

We spent the next five weeks in Hungary, 3.5 weeks of that was spent living with a family helping out around the house and garden. The rest of the time we soaked in spas and socialised in Budapest (cheapest place in Europe to drink) with family and friends who visited us. We also hired a car and took a Hungarian road trip to explore Budapest’s day trips.

Tasting Table Budapest I Long Term Travel Planning

May

May was pretty manic!

First stop was the laid back Ljubljana, Europe’s cutest city! We also visited Bled and Kolpa River in Slovenia (eight nights) before moving on to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) Sarajevo (six nights). That is a damn cool city, rich in history and culture. If heading to BiH, Mostar is not to be missed!

Next up was Serbia’s Belgrade (three nights) then the buzzing capital city of Romania, Bucharest!

Belgrade bypassed me but Bucharest blew me away. We left Bucharest with a stopover in Bergamo, Italy on our way to the sun.

  • Duration: 20 nights
  • Average Daily Budget: $56 (private room)
  • Currency: Slovenia (Euro), BiH (Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark), Serbia (Serbian dinar), Romania (Romanian leu) and Italy (Euro)
  • Further Reading: See city names!

Mostar Stari Most Bridge I Long Term Travel Planning

June

Welcome to warmer climates! Hello Espanol! The summer month of June was divided up between Marbella with Craig’s family, our final Workaway in Granada, and Malaga with my friends Shelley and Jen G.

  • Duration: 34 nights
  • Average Daily Budget: $65 (based on $32 private room)
  • Currency: Euros
  • I wouldn’t say Granada is my favourite city, what’s yours?

Malaga Spain

July

Last stop – Portugal! We spent the next ten days using the capital, Lisbon, as a base. We attended the music festival NOS Alive, watched Portugal win the European Championships, and devoured custard tarts in Belem.

Wine Portugal I Long Term Travel Planning

12. How To Apply For A Career Break

So why a sabbatical? I had always regretted not taking a gap year between university and work so when I found out that after three years of working with my council that I could apply for a sabbatical that was me ready.

When Craig and I met, he was planning on moving to Holland but put that on hold and we tested the wayfaring waters with a five-week trip to South East Asia. We did not kill each other, so the long term planning began.

I verbalised my plans with my line manager and head manager, they were both supportive so I put in my application with a supporting statement which identified what benefits me taking a career break would bring to my job.

I was a politics and current affairs teacher so the justification was pretty straight forward – I wanted to bring the textbook to life!

Craig is a self – employed gas engineer, he passed his business to his brother.

Waiting for it to happen or making it happen fellow travel lovers?

Have we missed work? Yes, I miss the routine, constant chat, and the banter with the students, but I have still worked every day – blogging which I now do full time.


» Read my step by step guide on how to apply for a sabbatical


13. Long Term Travel Checklist

To finish off this ridiculously big guide of long term travel advice here is a quick to-do list for you to check off and remember – long term travel is not for everyone. I had an incredible time but I’m looking forward to the shorter trips that the future holds!

  • Work out your budget
  • Investigate countries which meet the budget
  • Price flights
  • Start selling and saving
  • Advise work/apply for a career break
  • Get vaccinations/buy travel insurance (research travel quotes here)
  • Organise visas, credit cards, and currency
  • Stop dreaming, start living!

Here is our advice to Scottish mum/daughter duo who are about to take the trip of a lifetime
~ featured on STV2


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Considering long term travel planning but don't know where to start? Practical tips on how to plan, save, budget, and wander safely!


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How To Save Money For Travel In 6 Steps

How to Save Money - Currency

How did you save £10K each? A question asked often. Mainly by asking myself ‘Canada or crap, Gemma?’ and executing Two Scots Abroad’s 5 S’s of Saving. This guide will teach you how to save money, rapidly. Scroll to see us share these tips with the Royal Bank of Scotland and STV.

How To Save Money For Travel

1. Separate Your Salary

Open three bank accounts. One for income/bills, the second for untouchable savings, the third for temporary savings that can be dipped in to.

Regardless of any travel trip on the horizon, wedding invites will still happen and gifts still need to be bought.

I get paid monthly. As soon as I get paid I move £600 into my house account for rent, bills, etc and £500-£600 into a separate account.

Initially, savings were put into an ISA but once we reached the £15k yearly allowance we moved the funds over to a second account which does not charge you when taking money out of ATMs abroad.

In the beginning, you need to work out what you can live off.

Make a list, calculate how much that list costs you, you don’t need a new leather jacket, doubtful you will wear it in Costa Rica, and minus that from your income.

Craig is self-employed so his wages don’t work like that. Every time he makes £1000 he banks it. He doesn’t recommend this way of saving but it’s the nature of his job.

For my birthday, Craig bought me a ceramic pot – one of those pots you have to break to get into. And it’s pretty so I don’t really want to break it.

When I initially stopped eating sweets (my vice) I put a £2 coin in every second day.

The pot can hold £1000 worth of £2 coins. Craig has a tin that he puts his £2 coins in, his last count was £206. Nice.

It really is a question of needs and wants – when I feel the urge to purchase I say to myself ‘Canada or crap?’

Now I know there will be times you need to spend money – birthdays (like my Mum’s 50th, Granddad’s 80th, all of my friend’s 30ths), weddings (all 6 of them) and the like, but gifts don’t have mean splurging.

Friends and family understand – it’s time to get creative!

 Here’s our guide to cheap but impressive homemade presents
Thrifty Homemade Gift Ideas

2. Sell Your Stuff to Save Money

What’s the point in buying things?

You will ask that question when you are selling off everything and making 50p on a top worth a tenner.

I’ve participated in two car boot sales at the (Greenside) Omni Centre in Edinburgh.

It’s actually an enjoyable experience but you need to be prepared to sell low and accept that punters want everything for less than £1. The first time around I made £95 and the second time I went for the ‘everything for £1’ strategy and made £83.80.

Shout out to my friend Shelley and my Mum who helped me at these sales!

Car boot guide: I’ve totally got car boot sales covered now, here’s how to execute

I was determined not to sell our DVDs for 30p to Music Magpie. It felt like such a waste but I only managed to shift one of three boxes over the two car boot sales so Music Magpie was the only option left.

You can download the app and scan the DVD barcodes which is easy.

You then need to box them (they have to be covered, we made that mistake) and leave them in a designated area on the date agreed for collection. It takes one month for the company to processes the cheque so you do need a bit of time.

Our total was £41.65 for 99 DVDs, two were deemed unacceptable, they keep and ‘recycle’ these!

I’m lucky because I have a great relationship with a pre-loved clothes shop owner of Glorious, formed through my shopping habits (addiction to second hand/vintage clothes)! This relationship has progressed from shopper to seller.

Twice a year I pass my beloved Top Shop goods on to Glorious, the owner decides what will sell and I collect funds from previous sales (£150 last time).

There are now apps like Depop which give you online space to advertise clothing sales. Check out local Facebook market and groups too.

What about a clothes swap party with friends?

Failing that there are shops that buy your clothes, bedsheets, towels etc but don’t expect much from it. I put in four black bags worth and got approx. £7.

eBay. Love it? I’ve never had much success selling on eBay.

Two items never made it to the buyer but Craig has made a fair bit – £200 on worky things kicking about the garage.

Remember eBay charges you at the end of each month. There are ways to save money on the road too, like swapping your skills for a bed and meal.

We did this, read about our experience here.

Pile of dollars

3. Speak and Find Money Solutions

I’ve always been against speaking to my bank. I just assumed they wanted me to take out more bank accounts or loans but the meeting I had last year was really useful.

The adviser went through my accounts and cleared up any outstanding direct debits, not in use. She also pointed out that I had a whopping bill from Sky one month, two films and the boxing.

This made us really assess our spending, back to needs and wants list.

I am never against complaining!

  • Most recently I called to ask about closing my mobile account and I wish I had done this sooner as they moved me down a tariff! Prior to that, I made complaints as the online team kept telling me different things from the phone team, the phone team reduced my tariff and gave me a refund too
  • I complained to a bank as they kept sending me letters about loans – £50 cheque for my inconvenience
  • Cancel Sky, get Now TV. It’s a fiver a month for the entertainment package! Sky actually called us and offered Sky back for free since we had our phone line and broadband through them

Airbnb in La Paz

4. Searching Helps Save Money Too

Setting aside time to search online is worth the input but you don’t have to as I’m happy to save you time and share what we found out.

Why sell your soul to the car boot sale when you end up losing a chunk of cash when spend that hard-earned money abroad?

There are debit cards that do not charge you from their end and credit cards that you can accrue points which can result in flights and free hotel stays!

  Read more: best cards for travel

Searching for accommodation for your travels can really put in perspective how expensive a country is.

If you are travelling alone, consider hostels. If you are travelling as a couple, consider apartments as a cheaper alternative to hotels.

Naturally, the type of holiday that you are taking dictates the saving process.

If you are looking to laze for a week in the sun why not try for a last-minute deal? Avoid school holidays too, sorry fellow teachers!

Travel deals often advertise money off, kids go free, upgrades or extra days.

Off-season options can be a steal and keep an eye out for the increasingly popular Black Friday deals in November.

I’m a big advocate for buying experiences and avoiding ‘things’.

For my last birthday, Craig surprised me with a trip to Iceland.

If you are flexible with your flights you will benefit.

Use the ‘fly anywhere’ options for the cheapest routes.

Sign up for airline newsletters, join a credit card scheme which offers points for flights, avoid checking in baggage surcharges. Here’s a guide to carry on bag sizes for note.

A flight issue we’ve faced many times – cheap flights don’t always work out cheap when you arrive or leave during the night or very early morning.

This often results in an expensive airport hotel, often not even in the airport vicinity, taxi rides or car rental.

Pay a little more to arrive/depart at a reasonable time which allows you to use public transport.

 Research travel insurance: I’ve done it for you, click to read
Seljalandsfoss Iceland Waterfall Hike. Gemma and Craig kiss at sunrise.

5. Keep Planning Costs Down

Another tip for keeping flights cheap is baggage.

The budget airlines are really hammering down on the amount and style of baggage you can take on the flight.

For example, EasyJet only allows one bag – whether that be a small wheeled cabin bag, small rucksack or a purse style handbag. Regardless if you get through security with your wheeled carry-on case they will still target you are the departure gate.

I managed to get around this by taking my new Cabin X One which is a hybrid suitcase and backpack.

You just unzip the straps and cover the wheels with a discreet piece of cloth which is attached to the bag. It is really a great option for a few days of travelling or for those who pack light.

I spent months searching and making several phone calls regarding travel insurance.

I am one of those annoying customers!

We settled on True Traveller because the team answered my ongoing questions, they were reasonable for 18 months’ worth of travel that including winter sports (skiing in Canada) and they covered high altitude for our hike to Machu Picchu which many of the cheaper insurance packages did not.

We witnessed two members of our hiking group being taken away by donkeys (there is no transport until you reach Machu Picchu Pueblo) because of altitude sickness and poor health.

 Check rates for your trip: True traveller insurance search 

Click play to see our saving tips in action [with RBS and STV]

6. Sobriety – The Unthinkable Answer to How to Save Money?

Whhhhhhaaaaat? Seriously, stop drinking – it saves money and you’ll feel like a boss at gym.

Have you seen what South American girls look like in swimwear? I still drink, just not every weekend. We have too much to do to waste a day on the couch under the dark cloud of hangover guilt.

We also can’t justify a take away every weekend (ahem Craig). When you are headache-free there is more chance of going outdoors.

There is so much of your own country that you can see for free by using your legs! I did the West Highland Way last April and I am in awe of Scotland, she is such a beaut.

Here’s a biggy – quit your vice. Mines is sweets (chocolate, jelly sweets, just sugar in general, not really cakes bizarrely).

If I can go four days without eating sweets I am in control again. And it means more £2 coins for the pot (and pounds off the waistline)!

So that’s number five of The 6 S’s of Saving. Update – as of January this year I have not had any chocolate, sweets or cakes – it can be done!

Las Penitas, Nicaragua Coco Surf Cocktails


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Final Words

To recap – less Singapore ‘Slings means more kerching, use your searching abilities for more than just Tinder, seek out support, sell what doesn’t fit in a backpack, and lose it before you use it (to another bank account).

What are your saving tips?
Tell us in the comments below

10 DIY Gift Ideas To Save You Money

Thrifty Homemade Gift Ideas

Looking for DIY Christmas gift ideas for all of the family? The festive period can be overwhelming and expensive so why not take the time to connect with the gifts you plan to give to loved ones and save some cash by making them yourself?

Let’s get our creative hands dirty with these tried and tested, cheap and cheerful, homemade gift ideas. No breaking the bank while saving for travel, weddings, babies, houses or that trip to the Canadian Rockies.

Handmade Gifts They Won’t Know Are Handmade

1. Great Gift Bake Off

This super cheap gift idea is running as strong as the TV programme, even if it has moved channel and is supporting new presenters.

Making a cake shows the receiver that you have spent time nurturing their present from shopping for ingredients to wrapping the dessert.

Take time to present the cake in a cute fashion using a nice container, basket or wrapping paper with string.

Things to Consider

When choosing which cake to bake think about the following:

  • What does the recipient like?
  • Do they have a connection to a cake for example a trip or previous celebration?
  • Dietary requirements
  • What ingredients are available to you?
  • What utensils do you have?
  • Storage space, fridges tend to be very busy around Christmas time
  • Do you have to travel far with it?
  • How well does it package up?

You also need to consider the cake’s shelf life.

Fresh fruit and cream cakes last 1-2 days, sponge cake with buttercream and fondant icing can stretch to 5 days

Type of Cakes That Work As Gifts

  • Cheesecake if eating immediately, get crafty like my mother-in-law’s business does does with Easter eggs!
  • Tray bakes, we actually had a tray bake wedding cake!
  • Shortbread, travels well and lasts for ages
  • Sponge cake with buttercream and fondant icing
  • Types of cake bread such as banana and walnut

If going for a sponge cake, stick a note to let the recipient know if it goes stale it can be added to trifle! DIY gifts are great for recycling and zero waste too.

Here’s a picture of two famous Hungarian cakes.

Cake Budapest, Taste Hungary

2. Homemade Candles

If you are not crazy for cooking why not try melting up a storm with homemade candles?

Wax, wick, and scent can be purchased for relatively cheap online and is actually fun to play with.

You can buy the items separately or as a part of a candle making kit which you can see here – UK readers click this link, US readers click here.

Charity shop-bought teacups make a nice holder or candle filled jam jars is a new hip idea hitting the shops!

How to Make a Teacup Candle

  • Get the teacup, wick, wax, scent, metal melting pot with pouring edge and a pot full of water ready
  • Place the bottom of the wick on the bottom of the teacup, consider using a glue gun (UK/US)
  • Bring the water to boil
  • Add the wax to the metal pouring pot and place into the boiling water
  • Add the scent if it’s not already mixed into the wax
  • Pour the molten wax into the teacup ensuring the wick stay upright
  • Let the wax harden naturally

The wax clean up can be a bit of a mess so go easy on the pour and be prepared to lose a pot if not buying as part of a kit.

I made teacup candles as gifts for family one Christmas and my friend Liz used them as favours at her wedding.

Candle Teacups DIY Gift_

3. Tasty Tea Gifts

A tea package or hamper is a fantastic idea for friends and family who love brew.

Creating a Tea-rific Hamper

  • Loose tea in different flavours
  • A tea strainer like this super cute Loch Ness Monster strainer UK/US
  • Vintage tea cups and saucers or a mug with a design that means something like this Schitt’s Creek mug UK/US
  • Unique tea spoons like these guitar shaped ones UK/US
  • A nice pack or box of biscuits for dunking

I love tea and I love giving and receiving mugs which have a connection. Last year I got my mum a mug  which had a picture of the Derry Girls nun and one of her quotes on it. Hilarious.

Piper and Leaf Tea Lowe Mill Huntsville_

4. Homemade Hampers

Homemade hampers not only look impressive but they are also very personal and easy to compile.

Pick up a wicker basket for a budget shop and think about a theme your loved ones like.

Examples of Hampers

  • Soup hampers – bowls, spoons, salt and pepper shakers, insulated soup containers (UK/US), microwaveable Tupperware, nice bread, butter, soup
  • Chocolate hampers – hot chocolate, nice mugs, stirrer, marshmallow, cream, chocolate snacks, chocolate spread
  • Gin hampers – flavoured gin, stirrer, gin glass, gin cocktail book (UK/US), gin chocolate, gin candle, hangover relief
  • Beauty hampers – bath soaks, face mask, foot cream, cute fluffy bed socks

5. Spa in a Jar

I made spa in a jar for my friends who helped with my wedding party.

Use a mason jar or glass storage jar with a lid a pack with spa goodies such as bath melts, hair masks, heart shaped soaps, pillow spray.

Add a tag with their name and the words ‘spa in a jar’ on it or create a hip dymo label using a dymo machine UK/US .

6. Bar in a Jar

Same premise as the spa in the jar but with booze!

Stock up on your loved one’s preferred tipples. The bottles will need to be in miniature size for them to fit.

Throw in a packet of nuts and electrolytes (UK/US)for the hangover.

7. Family Calendar

With the growth in the digital age, no one prints out pictures anymore.

Give stale social media images a new leash of life by printing out and adding to a 12 month calendar!

You might find cheaper print deals by signing up for new apps so it is worth shopping around before heading to your local print centre.

You can get blank calendars is budget shops, sometimes for as low as £1.

Then all you need to do is glue the images to the months. What about matching birthday months with family members?

This was a popular gift in my family and my cousin has kept some of the images and framed them!

There are also a number of online companies that will print the calendar with the images for you but that tends to be more expensive this the DIY version.

Salar de Uyuni, Sunset Shots, Salt Flats,_

8. Love Notes

A modern take on a love note involves cheap tags and a stamp or sticker with numbers on them.

Stamp one side of the tag and write a promise or task or date night idea on the other.

Bring the tags together and connect with string or a clip.

Not in love? This can be adapted for friends or even promises to your parents!

Love Notes DIY Gift_

9. Music Mixtape

Select your favourite, their favourite, team favourite, songs, whack them on a Spotify playlist.

Name it something cute that means something to you and your loved one.

Throw in a dual headphone connector (UK / US) and listen to the playlist together.

10. Pretty Prints In Frames 

There are multiple options for prints in frames! One homemade gift idea could be to print out nicely typed up lyrics to a favourite song or poem and frame it.

A4 frames can be bought relatively cheap in pound/dollar shops.

Another gift idea, a personal favourite of mine for weddings, is to purchase a record of the first dance (if it is an oldy) and frame it.

LP frames can be purchased from Amazon /UK /US in plastic or metal form, depending on your budget

A sweet, personal touch, believe me, this gift always goes down well with the bride and groom!

Finally, acquire nicely printed wrapping paper from a card shop, cut out a heart, star, square etc and glue to card then frame it.

I did this for Craig’s birthday, cut into a heart around Southeast Asia as that was our next trip (you can read about the trip here).

Map Heart Shaped Card I Prints in Frames I Homemade Gift Ideas_

An obvious freeby thrown in….

Why don’t you do something (as Britney said)

Spend time with a loved one instead of buying commercial crap which may be given away to the work tombola the following year.

Homemade afternoon tea, long walks, cocktails – whatever your style.


Did you find this gift guide useful? Pin to your DIY Christmas gift board

Looking for DIY Christmas gifts that you can easily make at home? These cheap homemade Christmas gift ideas are quick and so successful they won't know they are handmade! Gifts for all the family, click to find out more.

Final Word Homemade Gift Ideas

Not everyone has to be a whizz with a whisk or a super with scissors, to create a welcomed thrifty homemade gift with a personal touch for loved ones at Christmas, birthdays, or life events!


Super Saving Articles

I’m a super saver! Here are more tips on how to save for travel, weddings, rainy days.

Our Gift Guides

See the full gift guide page here.

What ideas of yours can I steal? Tell me the comments below…

Best Credit Cards for Affordable Travel – For Brits!

You’ve saved hard, lived off pasta and had to bunk back at your folks’ home for half a year so don’t get ripped off spending money abroad! Fed up with only reading about points benefits for U.S credit and debit cards I’ve dug deep to research the best credit cards for travel for Scots and Brits (and debt and travel cards too).

Why do I need a Different Credit or Debit Card?

When travelling to different countries, whether they be European, or further afield, we are often hit with charges for using ATMs or making credit card transactions abroad.

This is not always necessary if you are willing to leave your day to day cards at home while you hang around Havana or laze around Lisbon.

Some of these debit and credit cards are free, others charge a monthly fee but also include other benefits such as car break down coverage in the UK, mobile phone insurance and the handy European travel insurance coverage.


⇨ Taking a trip? We saved £20K to travel for 18 months – check out our tips


What to look for

When researching for the ideal travel credit card you should look out for reviews on

  1. 0% foreign transaction fees (no fees on overseas) saving around 3% in fees.
  2. 24/7 contact from abroad (call/email/social media) for lost or stolen cards especially.
  3. Reliable online banking.
  4. APR (annual percentage rate – the rate you pay back at).
  5. Never take money out using the ATM using a credit card at home or abroad.

Best credit cards for travel (UK)

1. Credit Card: Post Office Mastercard Platinum 

This card has 0% foreign transaction fees, which is great, right? I used it for one month travelling around the USA and also in South East Asia for another 5 weeks. However the Post Office Mastercard has its flaws, and this is mainly down to the website.

It is not user-friendly, often difficult to understand and when I spoke with customer service about this over the phone they laughed, agreed and apologised. I even missed a bill payment due to the site being awkward, the customer service advisor waived the fee and stated that they get frequent complaints about the website.

There is an app but it receives 1.8 stars out of five.

There is also a very high APR coming in at 18.9% APR (up from 17% in 2014).

Advice: do not use a credit card with high APR unless to plan to pay off the full balance each month. A bonus is that the card is free of monthly or annual charges.

Pros

  • No overseas transaction fees.
  • No monthly/annual account fee.

Cons

  • Digital banking is poor.
  • Poor ratings for app.

Best Credit Cards to Use Abroad

Halifax Clarity Credit Card 

We are now using the Halifax Clarity Credit Card (since Lloyds has lost Amex, see below). 

Like the Post Office Platinum, there are no charges for using abroad. There is also the added bonus of no charge for withdrawing money from ATM aborad too, although some ATMs may charge. 

Another high APR at 19.9% means this is not the card to leave a balance on each month. 

There is no annual fee. 

Pros

  • No overseas transaction fees or ATM withdrawal.
  • No monthly/annual account fee.

Cons

  • Highest APR.

Lloyds Bank Avios Rewards Points Credit Card

This is no longer an option, unfortunately.

First, Lloyds switched from Avois to British Airways. This removed the function to use points for hotels and the points for BA are reserved for certain flights, mostly from London. Not great of us Scots. 

Then Lloyds recently announced that they are losing American Express altogether and you will be charged to use the Mastercard abroad. 

No use as a travel card.

Cons

  • Can no longer use abroad without being charged. 

What do you use? Tell us in the comments below


Using Debit Cards Abroad

Do not take money out of ATMs with your debit card abroad if you can.

Obviously, this is not an option for most people but this is where your purse is hit.

For example, I used my Royal Bank of Scotland debit card in the USA and South East Asia, we were hit with a fee of 2.75% and then up to £5 charge on each withdrawal. Why don’t I just bend over?

Nationwide Flex Account Debit Card

I wanted to go with a bank I was familiar with hence bypassing Norwich & Peterborough and Metro Bank who are both recommending elsewhere online. 

I had a dormant account with Nationwide from when they offered ‘no to very low’ charges on transactions overseas (back in the early 2000s when I went inter-railing around Eastern Europe).

I brought life back into this account because of the low 2% transaction fee for withdrawals overseas. This debit card account is free.

As of 2015, I now use the upgraded Nationwide Flex Plus account which has a monthly fee of £13.

With this, there are no charges of using ATMs abroad (just the rate of conversion), car break down in the UK and Europe, worldwide mobile phone insurance and free worldwide family European travel (including skiing bonus for Austria!)


⇨ For longer breaks we use True Traveller, I claimed in Vancouver for ear crystals (GP visit and two trips to the physio) and they paid out, fast.


Monzo – the New Kid on the Block

When I lived in Glasgow a new music club opened and to give the impression that it was thee place to be the stewards would hold back the queue making the desire to enter evident to anyone walking past.

Monzo is thriving a similar vibe! The pink card from the anti-tradition bank is only available to those with an invite.

Jokes aside, friends who have a Monzo UK account are buzzing about it. They like the speediness of the app which shows purchases as soon as they happen, money-saving settings, and ease of using abroad.

Pros

  • Free transactions abroad.
  • Instant notifications when spending.
  • Nifty app.
  • It’s like a club for cool kids. 

Cons

  • Withdraw limited to up to £200 every 30 days for free.
  • 3% charge after that.

A fellow traveller has also suggested CaxtonFX prepaid card which Money Saving Expert, Martin, says is decent if you want to withdraw money at ATMs but the exchange rate is determined by the company.

You top up online, the card is free and if you lose the card (or it gets stolen, same travelling friend’s boyfriend was a drugged and mugged victim!) you get the money back. However, I need to look into its use worldwide.

Las Penitas Leon Sunset Nicaragua Shadows

Super Saving Tips

Saving money? I can help you. I’m a super saver, yes the stereotypical tight Scot! Browse the following articles for more tips.

How do you deal with money overseas?
Please check the comments below for tips from readers too.

How to Car Boot Sale in Edinburgh

Pile of dollars

Have lots of junk, need the space, and could do with a bit of extra cash? Cat boot sales (or garage sales in America) may be the answer. My partner in dime, Shelley and I have successfully car boot sales in Edinburgh, turning out crap into kerching. Here’s my tips for to get the best out of your early rise.

The Process Of Car Boot Sales

1. Arrive early to the car boot sale
(like 06:30am early)

In September, we met in Leith, decanted my products into Shelley’s larger car and were in the queue at the Omni Centre car park (where the indoor car boot sale takes place) at the top of Leith Walk for 06:40am.

Today we learned that they actually start letting cars in from 6am, I stayed at Shelley’s last night to cut out the decanting which meant we were in line for 06:30am, giving us the opportunity to get a decent space.

You pay your £15 to the organisers, they ask you to fill out your car details and address and to read a sign with instructions.

2. Choose a car park space

You want lights! There is a very dark end of the car park (right of where you drive in), because of the lack of lighting it feels cold, shoppers agreed.

This time we chose a space next to a pillar. The positive more space for our clothes rack. The negative – we could only access our stuff from the boot and the passenger’s side. We were told off for trying to rearrange the pasting table. Oops!

3. Go for a coffee

You now have an hour and a half to kill as no one is allowed to open their boot until 08:30am. If you need to hire tables and clothes racks, join the queue (rather you that me!) There is a well-known coffee shop at the top of Leith Walk for those who have a table etc.

4. The alarm

An alarm goes off at 08:30am. At this point (and only at this point) you can set up your pitch. I advise that you pack what you need first (table, clothes racks etc) as you will want them out first (for more tips see here). We pre-hung our clothes and tied them together with hair bobbles which was effective. DVDs were in boxes already and jewellery etc was placed on the table.

5. Beat away the poachers with a verbal stick

As you unpack people will try to rummage in your bags, peer in your boot, ask if you have mobiles phones, games, real jewellery etc. This can be daunting, just ask them to come back later.

6. Sell sell sell (for cheap cheap cheap)

People love the chat (we do too). I met a returning shopper who told me to get my own website for our travels (and here I am), he finally haggled me down to £1.50 for Gary Tank Commander box set (I was trying for £4 last time). Now I am being serious when I say, you want a £1, they want 50p. However some things do sell for more but not much. Today we sold clothes for £1 at the beginning then 50p at the end. There were a few pieces I was precious over (Levis jacket, Coast dress) so they came home. Shelley sold a coat for £10 but Uggs for £25, she wanted £30.

7. Car boot sale float

Lots of change is advisable. I took £13 in £1s, 50ps, 20ps, 10ps and 5ps and that was suffice

8. Keep your eye on the game

Know where you stuff is and watch your bag, we keep our in the boot (with the boot door open). A shopper asked me for my tie die T from Thailand, I was wearing it! She jokingly said but everything is £1. This is not the first time someone has tried to take the shirt literally off my back, it happened in Vietnam too!

9. Plastic bags

Have a few, the shoppers tend to bring their own and I reckon they will do more so now the 5p charge law is in place

10. Snacks

There is nowhere to eat unless you want to buy sweets from someone’s stall. Build your immune system up by eating your sandwiches with your money dirty hands (like me at 10:30am, it was lunchtime according to my stomach).

11. And the alarm goes again at 1pm

This is when mayhem breaks loose. Cars begin to reverse, shoppers still want to buy, the organisers begin cleaning up. We kicked back and ended up making a win. A man asked how much we wanted for what was left on our racks. Dubious at first, I swiftly protected our bags but turns out he was decent. He let us keep the desirable and he took the dregs and gave us a fiver each (equivalent of 50p at item).

12. Count your car boot sale earnings

I made £104 minus the £7.50 (£15 between us) entry and £13 float, leaving me with £83.80. Although less than last time, we did pretty much shift everything which was my aim and would make Shelley’s partner, John ecstatic (it wasn’t getting in the garage again). Shelley made £79 minus £10 float.

Attending a couple of car boot sales definitely helped Craig and I save for our long term travel trip around the Americas and Europe. It meant storing fewer belongings we wouldn’t want to go back to while making a bit of dollar.

Car Boot Sale in Edinburgh

For more information check out the Omni Greenside Car Boot Sale Facebook page. Addicted? Click here to see all car boot sales in Edinburgh.

Super Saving Tips

Saving money? I can help you. I’m a super saver, yes the stereotypical tight Scot! Browse the following articles for more tips.

 

What car boot tips can you share?