How I Saved $9,000 for Travel in 6 Months

Many people have been asking how I’m going to afford to travel for six months this year. A couple of people, with good intentions, have overtly insinuated that I’ll be receiving some assistance. For me, this journey is fueled by my independence and obsession with the freedom that only a passport can provide. It wouldn’t be as authentic if it were not fully funded by me.

$50 a day

I have saved $9,000 for my trip, $7,000 of it coming in over the past six months. And now, I am currently working to build up a buffer for when I come home and saving up some extra for some bigger pre- and post-trip expenses. I picked $9,000 based on the generally held belief that you can travel the world on $50 a day. Nomadic Matt, one of the most well-known travel bloggers out there, has written a book about it, which thoroughly introduced me to the tips and tricks to budget travel (I highly recommend it). This $50 a day includes everything from transportation, hostels, meals, and some extra adventure activities. Further, in Southeast Asia, the rule of thumb for budget backpackers is about $30 a day. I’m hoping that with $50 a day, I’ll never have to say no to ziplining, splurging on a great meal, or requesting an ensuite room if I’m feeling sick of having 16 backpacker roommates.

How did I do it? It’s going to below your mind. I made more money. And I spent less money. 



Made More Money

I happened to be in an hourly role during the busiest season of the year. This meant that I ended up working more hours, receiving more over time and ultimately bringing in thicker checks. This allowed me to put away between $300-$500 a paycheck. Before I really budgeted this out, I was considering bartending on weekends, finding freelance projects or working while I traveled.

Spent Less Money

Living with my boyfriend definitely cut my expenses significantly (including many generously subsidized drinks and meals). But, I swapped Starbucks for making coffee at home, Protein Bar for packed lunches, dinners out for dinners in, and shopping for, well, not shopping. Granted, I have not been torturing myself. I’ve still been going out with friends and living my life and I probably could have saved even more if I really cut back on my social life. But, you only get to be 25, living in the greatest neighborhood in Chicago with many of your closest friends, once in your life.

Grillin' out.
Grillin’ out saves cash.

To save even more money before my trip as I’m only in my current role until September, I’m applying for a temporary position within my organization that will pay me until December when I fly out for Bangkok. I will likely also live at home for a few months leading up to that flight.

I haven’t sold anything (yet) or even changed my life that drastically. Instead, I think before every purchase, how far will this get me in Thailand? Usually, that’s enough to convince me in or out.


Or rather, how I will spend. Saving up $9,000 is just the first part. I’ve had to think through what $50 a day really will look like and how I’m going to make that work.


To start my trip, I am flying from the US to Thailand. Then, on my way home, I’ll be flying from somewhere in Asia to Mexico and from Mexico (or elsewhere in Central America) to the US. That’s three, expensive, long haul flights. I purchased the first leg for $484 through amateur travel hacking. I am planning to use points and miles for at least one of those two remaining flights, if not both. There will be at least one flight I’ll be purchasing from Bangkok to Koh Samui for New Years and there might be a few other budget flights I might take. But, in general, I plan to take overland transportation options to get around and between countries. Hello buses, trains and tuk tuks.

Night Train to Bangkok | Source

Night Train to Bangkok | Source


I love hostels. I enjoy always having someone to talk to, don’t require much in terms of a bed, and don’t plan to spend much time where I sleep anyways. But, while I may start out dorm-style, I’ve budgeted enough to go guesthouse or ensuite when I’m ready. I’m too old to not get a good night of sleep! I plan to spend the majority of my trip in hostels and I do hope to do some type of home stay, whether it’s doing a free work exchange with workaway or making some local couchsurfer friends. While my friends and family visit, I’ll be in hotels, but I am hoping to score some Starwood Preferred points for a few free nights. Fortunately, I’ll also be renting a house through Airbnb with a group of friends in Koh Samui over New Years. Kudos to you, JA, for finding such an incredible house!

Airbnb House on Koh Samui | Source


Ah, food. My poor boyfriend has eaten Vietnamese, Thai, Indian and Korean food for almost every meal for the past few months whether through my own cooking or the local bimbimbap/bahn mi/curry place. I am thrilled to finally get to try real, authentic Asian food! While I will definitely be hitting up endless street vendors, I’m sure it’ll end up being a mix of very cheap and not so cheap, as to try the whole spectrum of culinary options. I hope to still cook for many of my meals, as I love it, it saves money and it’s always healthier. But, I view splurging on an expensive meal the way I see spending a ton on an outdoor adventure activity. Totally worth it if it meets or exceeds expectations and a real annoyance if it doesn’t.

hanoifood nyt

Street Food in Hanoi, Vietnam | Source


As I just mentioned, one of my activities I plan to spend money on (not every day, but when the opportunity arises), is on food! I look forward to cooking classes and an exquisite meal. But, more than anything, I will be spending on outdoor adventure activities. I want to learn how to scuba dive in Koh Tao, go rock climbing in Railay, and kitesurf in Mui Ne. Activities like these will set me back a few dollars, but the $50 a day average should be more than enough to cover these adventure activities. I’ll just have to keep an eye on my weekly averages to make sure I’m not going over!

Rock Climbing Railay | Source

Rock Climbing Railay | Source


Scuba Diving, Koh Tao | Source

Kitesurfing in Mui Nei, Vietname | Source

Kitesurfing in Mui Nei, Vietname | Source

How do you save money for travel?

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I'm Emily - a twenty-something female travel-enthusiast - here to serve and inspire you. Need help planning your next trip? Email me at emily [at] letsroamwild [dot] com and tag your own travel pics to share with the world @letsroamwild.


6 Responses to How I Saved $9,000 for Travel in 6 Months

  1. Christie of The Butterfly Editions July 16, 2014 at 3:34 am #

    I’m saving money at the moment too so I’m always interested to see others techniques. However, it all really comes down to spending less doesn’t it! I have cut back so much on my spending this year – I used to be a serial lunch and coffee buyer and I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve bought either this year! I have also stopped buying clothes and other unnecessary items altogether. I thought I would miss it but I really don’t – its quite freeing to never to go shopping! The downside is I have missed out on lots of fun out and about with friends due to the money saving thing, but we have to think of all the travelling fun thats coming up instead! 🙂
    Christie of The Butterfly Editions recently posted…A Travel Announcement: Life’s Next Big Adventure!My Profile

    • Emily Moyer July 16, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

      Hey Christie,

      It can be hard! Cutting out lunch and coffee is such a great step – it all depends on what matters most to you. I’m happy going for the cheapest beer on the menu just to spend time with friends and suggesting cheap places to go out! I’ll check out your blog to see where you’re headed!!

  2. Rachel of Hippie in Heels July 16, 2014 at 6:54 am #

    Way to go on your savings!
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted…Which Goa Restaurants and Clubs are Open in Monsoon?My Profile

  3. Katie Waller November 27, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    Emily, I started reading your blog last night and I LOVE it! Thank you for sharing all of your travel tips. I can’t wait to start saving for my next trip now. I really look forward to reading about your time in Southeast Asia! 🙂


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