Confessions of a Frugal Solo Traveler: How I Earn and Save For My Trips

The struggle is real.

I know most of you struggle from earning or saving for your dream trips or simply to keep up with your friends’ lifestyles. As a regular below median income earner in the Philippines, I understand your struggles. Lack of a stable or high income is one of the reasons why we’re stuck to where we are now and this also applies to our desire to explore the rest of the world.

But before I go thoroughly on the main subject of this article, let me give a brief background about myself to further give you a bigger picture of what could be the story behind all the travel experiences that I gained.

I work eight hours a day, six days a week in a retail apparel store. I share an apartment with three other fellows to minimize cost. We split water and electric bills. We don’t have a fridge and stove at home so this gives you an idea that we don’t cook and we buy our daily meals outside instead. I have a phone line and a credit card which I pay every month. I have a senior citizen mom who receives regular allowance from me, plus her medical, house bills and all that. Tax is high, plus mandatory government benefits deducted every cutoff. Don’t forget to include the medical security deduction. I get a loan, another deduction. I get company uniforms, another. Since I work in a retail store, inventory shortages, cash shorts, merchandise damages are on us too-another deduction. Seasonal shopping credits, another one. As I said, I don’t earn much from my day job and summing up all possible deductions would give me more or less enough to live a below average life each day. Remember I also have a number of regular bills to pay. So how do I manage to keep up with travel costs especially I’m a solo traveler? That you will learn as you read on. And oh, dear bosses, if ever you’re reading this… This is not a rant. I swear.

So here are some of the things I do to earn and save for my travels which I hope would inspire you start saving up and putting on extra effort to explore other earning options.

  1. Eat cheap but healthy. I buy my everyday lunch at work at a certain “turo-turo” that cooks amazing veggie dishes with hefty rice servings. I always include bread and some cheap bread filling everytime I do my grocery for breakfast. If I run out of stock or miss doing the grocery, I buy cheap rice cakes or other cheap high carb food for breakfast at a snack bar near our store. I fill up more than enough to last until dinner during snack time. I bring heavy snacks or buy cheap bread or pastries. Remember the keyword, CHEAP. But don’t forget your health. Sometimes I slip and go to my favorite sit down restaurant, but still order the cheapest they got and always pick ala carte. My average daily budget for food is Php 56. Better to pack your lunch and snack for work to zero out food cost every day.
  1. Don’t avoid the hassle. My work is luckily one ride away from home. I never take a cab. My daily transportation cost is Php 15.
  1. Avoid hanging out after work. May it be catching up with friends or just chilling with co-workers, I definitely avoid this. After I’m done saving, I’m always available for a quick catch up though.
  1. Budget your money right after every paycheck. This gives me an idea of how much I could spend and not ending up spending everything I have after paying all the bills. Every cutoff, I see to it that I withdraw everything only leaving a small amount in my payroll card for a quick grocery stop. I save half of my salary and deposit it to my “travel fund account”. The rest I settle all my debts, bills and responsibilities. Of course they don’t go altogether. The rest is my allowance around Php 1,500 tops. This includes food and transportation for half a month and believe me, if I stick to my budget, I still save a portion of it.
  1. Find other ways to earn. Since my salary is not enough to quickly save for my travels, I find other ways to earn. For a year now, I’ve been reselling imported and branded chocolate candies and bars to co-employees and friends. The more I sell, the higher my income is. This is a big help for me grow my travel fund.
  1. Sacrifice your lusts. I have a goal and that is to make my latest travel plan materialize. I veer away from things that may distract me from focusing to my goal and working on it. I want to eat my favorite food. I want to buy that, this, those. I want to have that too. I think it’s cool! But no. Not today. Maybe after my trip. Sometimes I psyche myself and talk myself out of it. Weird though but it works for me.
  1. Drop your shopping list. i am not a fan of shopping that’s why it’s easy for me to resist impulsive or even a planned shopping activity.

People see al lot of success stories on social networking sites. They are inspiring. But most people who look at them and only find amusement don’t see the sacrifices and the real picture behind each of them. Traveling is very rewarding but it takes a lot of sacrifice and hardships before you succeed especially for those who dream big but were not born with silver spoon in their mouths or without corporate slave parents with high ranks.

There are for sure other ways to save and a lot of ways to earn aside from your day job. You just need to be creative and focused. So don’t fret! You can also do what I and others did! As’s tagline goes, “Seeing the world should not cost you the world.”


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