How To Travel Even With A Low Income

It’s easy to plan a trip or dream of going to another country. It’s easy to set a goal and get excited over the thought of witnessing the wonders of the world. But saving money to turn these dreams and aspirations into reality is always difficult.

I have to admit that saving money is not my forte. In the first place, money is never easy to keep if you live in a world obsessed with high-tech gadgets and gaudy shoes.

And money is even more difficult to save especially if you don’t earn much, right?

But after months of thinking, reading, consulting, and discerning, I have come to realize that the question is never about how much one earns. It’s about how much one spends.

Here’s a fact: I’m neither a big shot mogul nor a corporate manager. I don’t earn more than $600 or Php25,000 / month. I pay my rent and utilities. I have to spend a decent amount for food and medicine in order to survive. And yes, I live in a third world country.

Despite all these “bumps”, for lack of a better word, I still get to travel.

So how do I do it? I don’t spend much. It’s that simple. And how do I manage not to spend much? Here are a few tips I’ve learned and I hope these tips can also help you in saving up to travel:

  • Make traveling your priority

All of us have priorities in life. Some of us want to buy a new house and some of us want to raise a family. No matter what your priorities in life are, the most important thing you have to remember is to FOCUS on what you really want to do. If you put all your energy into what you really want to do, everything will flow in its direction. So if you want to travel, make it your priority by putting it ahead of everything. Treat it like it’s the most important thing in the world. Once you set this in mind, the things you do will eventually benefit whatever goals you have in relation to this priority. Priority also means giving up other things which are not too important. Example: Instead of buying a new gadget or partying on a weekend, save that cash for the next airline ticket.

  • Create a travel fund

This is the undeniable truth: you don’t have to be rich in order to travel. Anyone who says otherwise is just jealous of what you can actually do. Whether you earn Php 80,000 or 17,000, the only way for you to travel is to set aside money for it. Create a travel fund and make it a habit to put something in it every payday. You don’t have to put a one-time-big-time amount that’ll ruin your life in one payday. Just make sure to save a reasonable amount. Let this travel fund grow and never spend it until it’s enough to buy you that ticket to the world.

  • Budget / balance your income during payday

The question now is, how do I put money in my travel fund? This is the budgeting part and you have to make sure that everything falls properly into place during payday. But you have to remember one thing: BALANCE IT. This means, you have to set aside cash for travel, but you also have to set aside a few to enjoy what life has to offer. Here’s an example:

Let’s say your net income is Php10,000/payday and you are given 11 working days plus 4-non working days. Here’s how you could budget it:

      • Transportation = 100*/day multiplied by 11 working days=1100
      • Food = 200/day multiplied by 11 working days =2200
      • Rent =2000
      • Groceries =500
      • Utilities=400

Total =Php 6200
*One hundred pesos for transportation is an exaggerated amount

Subtract 6200 from 10,000 and you have 3800 left. So what are you going to do with that? Put 2000 in your travel account and divide what’s left (1800) for you to enjoy your 4 non-working days.

If you save Php  2000 for 3 months straight, you can already book a round-trip ticket to a local or even an international destination. If you’re lucky, this amount might just cover your accommodations.

What if you earn only Php 8,000 per pay day? Given 11 working days and 4 non-working days, I would budget it this way:

      • Rent = 2000
      • Groceries = 500
      • Utilities = 400
      • Commute =1100

Total = 4000

Since the income is low, you can adjust the amount you spend on food daily. Instead of 200, I’ll make it 150 / day, so that would mean 1650 for 11 days. Which brings us to:

      • Rent = 2000
      • Groceries = 500
      • Utilities = 400
      • Commute =1100
      • Food=1650

Total = 5650

If you still want to enjoy your 4-days off, then set aside a thousand for it.

      • Expenses = 5650
      • Weekend Shindigs = 1000

Total = 6650

The remaining amount which is 1350 could go to your travel fund.

Now just imagine if you earn more than Php 10,000 per payday or still live with your parents. With this type of budgeting, it may only take a few months for you to reach your travel dreams. All that’s left to do now is research in order to get the best deals.

  • Cut down on expenses

This is a follow-up to the previous advice. Let’s say you have a budget plan already. It can work or may not work at all (blame the expensive movie tickets or those damn new shoes). But if you really want your budget to be successful, you have to CUT DOWN on your expenses. Using the previous example, instead of spending Php 200 per day for food, make it Php 150 or even lower. Or instead of taking a route which will cost Php 100 in transportation, try other routes. In a nutshell, lower your expenses so the remaining amount can be added to your travel fund.

I would like to share my actual experience in terms of cutting down transportation cost. This is my basic daily transportation cost in pesos:

Going to work:

      • 17 = Tricycle
      • 10 = Bus
      • 45 = Shuttle Van

Going Home:

      • 10= Jeep
      • 11 = MRT
      • 15= PUV FX
      • 17= Tricycle

Total = 125

I realized that 125 is just too big an amount. So I created this scheme in order to save money:

Going to work:

      • Walk from my house to the Bus stop = 0
      • Bus = 10
      • Shuttle =45

Going home:

      • Jeep = 10
      • MRT = 11
      • Jeep (alternative)=8
      • Walk from the jeepney stop to my house =0

Total cost: 84
Money saved: Php 41
Savings per payday using the 2nd scheme:  41*11 = 451

Walking from my house to the bus stop is not just a way of saving money (I could save about Php 900 in transportation cost per month), but it’s also a great way to exercise!

Try applying this scheme also when you buy food (instead of eating a Php 100 meal, try eating a Php 50 meal instead).

Remember this though: NEVER risk your health in the process. Don’t eat junk just so you could save money. Eat a Php50 meal but make sure that the meal is healthy (with vegetables or fish; and you can get such meal in the Philippines already).

  • SAVE Your 13th month bonus

This is the hardest part to do because the payout always happens during Christmas season (two words: HOLIDAY SALE). The 13th month pay covers your entire salary for a month. It’s a great gift for your service and a curse at the same time as it brings out the spendthrift in you. But saving the 13th month is as important as building your travel fund. Why? Because it’s HUGE and you can add it to your current savings account. Huge savings account = more travel. In case of an emergency in which you have to shed money, you can also use it so you wouldn’t have to subtract an amount from your travel fund.

  • Create an OH SHIT Fund

I first found out about this saving idea from the So Many Places travel blog. The OH SHIT Fund is your emergency fund because we can never tell what’s going to happen. It is your monetary source for emergency cases so you wouldn’t have to worry too much about getting money from your travel fund and your working day budget. Using the previous examples, you can put maybe Php 400 or even Php 200 to your OH SHIT Fund every payday.

When to use the OH SHIT Fund?

      • A broken pipe, window, or any home-related emergency
      • You need to buy medicine for a sudden illness / accident (God forbid)
      • You need money for a LIFE AND DEATH SITUATION

Earning low may not leave you enough for the OH SHIT Fund. But bear in mind that this is as important as setting aside money for rent or food. So adjustment is the key. Again, you can lower your daily food cost or simply set Php500 flat for your travel fund if need be.

Having an OH SHIT fund can also be beneficial if unused for a long time. You can actually turn it into an”emergency travel fund” if in case you need to shell out money for unexpected cases while on the road.

  • Save those coins

You may think those 25 centavo or 1 peso coins will not do you any good. But if you continue to drop them in the good ‘ol piggy bank, they will definitely come in handy when it’s time to buy that roundtrip ticket. A wise traveler once told me, EVERY PESO COUNTS. True enough because that PESO will be your gateway to the world. So put those extra coins in a can and watch them grow. Believe me, you can definitely use them in your future travels.

  • Create a DATE FUND

Last, but not the least, is the OPTIONAL DATE FUND. This is optional because some may not agree with me. But hey, you can’t be SERIOUS IN LIFE all the time! You have to enjoy life! How can you say NO to some nice guy or girl who asks you out for dinner? And for those in a relationship, how can you say NO to your partner if he or she wants to watch a romantic movie with you on a Saturday night? Life may be about traveling for all of us, but we cannot ignore the golden opportunities that would make our hearts smile. These heartwarming moments are blessings, and believe me, they can be as exciting as traveling. So just let loose and open your door (or heart) to possibilities.

Even if you don’t believe in love (ouch), it’s still important to create a date fund so you could still spend time with friends or go to concerts without getting money from your travel fund.  You can save a Php 100 or Php 150 per payday. That money is enough for a sweet ice cream date in a park. Bottomline: save for your travels but never miss out on what life has to offer, because it might just change everything.

Am I missing anything? Please feel free to comment or give suggestions.

*Image source:

10 thoughts on “How To Travel Even With A Low Income

  1. Great list! I would also suggest researching where you want to go, the costs of things there, and how much spending money you’re going to need. That way you have a better idea how much you need to save.

    • Good call! Knowing where you’re going, or simply determining the destination (Asia, Europe, or even around your own country etc) can really help in the budgeting part.

  2. but i spend waaaay to much on clothes and makeup! hahahaha I like this post because you actually state the realities of travelling. ang daming inspiring words from other people about travelling PERO KASI, penge pera. hihi

    cge na nga! I’ll give this a shot! Thanks Rica!!! 😀

    • There’s really nothing wrong if you spend much on clothes and makeup as long as they’re #1 on your priority list :)) But if traveling is your priority, then you have to lessen your “material” expenses 🙂 Kaya yan Kist!

      • Tomo! Thank Rica! I just booked a flight today to Coron for November!! I really want to travel! 😀 Thanks for the tips! 😀

        Cebu pacific is on sale!! Good ones! Taxes are on 50% off!

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