"every penny (cent, baht, yen, peso,...) counts"
You may not want to cut back everywhere though, as it can get you down. I've mentioned many times in articles on this site that I never scrimp on my accommodation, for other people it is food that makes them happy, therefore they don't mind paying extra for it.
Getting the balance right between saving money and staying happy is the key:
You can spoil yourself occasionally, just don't do it every day.
Money saving is significantly more essential when in developed countries and most of these tips below are much more relevant when in developed countries. When in developing countries my main aim is not to get ripped off and haggle.
"it all adds up"
Need help budgeting? Check out our daily budget calculator...
How much does it cost to backpack around the world?
You can find out a rough estimation on the minimum daily budget you will need for 77 of the most popular backpacking destinations here...
15 Money Saving Tips - Where Can You Save?
If you want to travel the world cheaply the most amount of money can be saved on accommodation. In cities like Sydney you can save up to £22 ($40) a night on hostels depending on the quality, facilities, dorm size and location. Use sites like Hostelworld to compare prices.
In developed countries you should cook; you save a lot of money over eating out. Cooking in groups will save you even more money. Some people can eat pasta every night, others cannot. In developing countries it is difficult to cook for yourself and part of the experience is to eat out. It is much cheaper to eat street food or at markets than in sit down restaurants.
I have never paid for internet in a hostel or cafe. I don't understand how people can spend $2 for 15 minutes of painfully slow internet (you can barely open one page in that time). In developed countries I get a mobile phone sim card and buy a data package for about $10-20 a month, then tether it to my laptop if needed. I always try to stay at places with free wifi or computers. In developing countries most restaurants and bars advertise free wifi to get you to come in.
Hostels in particular offer plenty of freebies, my favourite being breakfast. Yes it usually is only toast (or cereal if you are lucky), but it is usually all you can eat and can save you time shopping as well as money. Look out for free shuttles, laundry, food, and many others free things before booking your hostel.
Some people just can't go without. A coffee in developed countries will cost you £2-3 ($3-5) - I know people that have up to 4 a day - potentially £12 ($20) a day on coffee, more than I spend on accommodation a night. Even more scarily that can be potentially £360 ($600) a month on coffee! You could do a dive trip in the Great Barrier Reef for that!
A similar principle to coffee, there are better things to spend your money on when travelling. However no one wants to seem like a bore, so drink cheap booze in the hostel before going out or save your big nights for cheaper destinations.
It can be very tempting to pay £80 ($130) for an hour's flight over £10 ($17) for an 18 hour bus ride. Whilst it may be OK occasionally, this is a dangerous mentality to have. Say you took that option three times during your trip - that would be £240 ($390) spent over just £30 ($51) (equivalent to over a week's accommodation in developed countries or even over a month in developing countries), and that's not even considering the money you would have saved on accommodation by sleeping on the bus.
If you want to buy them, buy them at the end of your trip. Don't waste money on them early on and not have money for other more important things later. Sending them home can be very costly too. The best souvenirs are free, like used tickets, etc.
9. Tour or DIY
Always weigh up whether it will be cheaper to do something on a tour or by yourself.
Plan ahead to not get stung by unexpected fees and charges. Toll roads, national park fees, visas, airline charges, lost hostel key deposits, cancellation fees - all avoidable, but they happen to everyone.
11. Other Little Unnoticeable Fees
Exchange rates, card fees, service fees, booking fees and agency fees. Always check multiple places before exchanging currencies or just use a currency card. Withdraw cash from an ATM (if free) to avoid paying card charges. Avoid service, booking and agency charges by booking direct and shopping around. These fees all add up.
All hostels and information centres have brochures with money off vouchers for all kinds of different tourist interests. You would be foolish not to look in them at every new place you visit. Discount cards will also save you money; here are some you can look into - ISIC, HI card, YHA.
By talking to your fellow backpackers you can obtain a great number of items for free. I myself have been given an entire wardrobe of working clothes, tonnes of food and travel books without even asking - people just want to get rid of certain things. Remember to return the favour to other people you meet. You or other people may sell or buy items to make/ save extra cash; I brought a camera off someone I met, which saved me a lot of money on a new one and gave her some extra spending cash.
In developing countries locals see dollar signs in their eyes as soon as you approach them and jack up their prices immediately. They expect you to haggle, never buy anything from a market seller without haggling. You can haggle in developed countries too, hostels and tour groups are the easiest to try, especially when they are desperate to fill up spaces.
Finally... and the most important budget travel tip:
Always think before spending every penny: "do I really need to buy this?"; "can I get this cheaper elsewhere?"; "would I rather spend this money on something else?"; "can I afford to do this in the long term?"; "can I go without?".
Remember every little bit you save reduces the cost of travelling, and it all adds up. Even if you can manage to just save £1 here and there every day over a 3 months trip, it adds up to £90 - easily an extra week travelling in a country as cheap as Thailand.
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