7 Tips To Reduce Spending On The Road

July 15, 2013 | By | 7 Replies More

Desk on the beach

I’m hanging out on the beach in Costa Rica working on my blog and thinking about how to lower my expenses. This country is expensive for budget travelers especially coming from Nicaragua or Guatemala where the dollar can stretch further.

After being on the go for a few weeks, I decided to take it easy. Slow travel allows me to settle in a town and immerse into a culture and get to know the people. I spent a bit more than planned, so by slowing down I can catch up to stay within my budget.

One of the tricks to make long term travel sustainable is to lower fixed costs. These are costs that you have to spend money on no matter what. Unless you’re sleeping on the beach or dumpster diving, two things that can be reduced are accommodations and food. There are several creative ways to prevent a hole from burning in your wallet.

Here are a few things I did that you can do to reduce spending on the road:

1. Volunteer at a hostel for accommodations

I found a hostel gig on helpx.net where I work at the reception desk, check guests in, and provide information about the area. All I have to do is volunteer in exchange for a place to stay. The hours vary, but I still have free time to have fun. If you decide to volunteer, know your limits of what you’re able and willing to do. Don’t get taken advantage of. The nice thing about my current gig is that I can work on my blog and build my online business since it’s slow season at the hostel. Plus, this place right next to the beach!

2. Shop at the grocery store, street markets, and cook

Eating fast food and at restaurants can add up. I buy groceries and cook at the hostel. It’s economical. Check the grocery store for prices though because some imported goods can be expensive. In a tourist town where a lot of expats live, some products cost a lot. To give you an idea of prices here, apples are $1, broccoli is $3, and soup in a can is $2! Yikes! These prices are more expensive than back in the U.S. If you buy the staple foods produced in the country such as bananas, eggs, rice, and beans, it’s cheap.

3. Eat less

We don’t really need to stuff our faces. Our body only needs food as fuel. I reduced my eating to what I need for the activities I do. If I work out, I’ll eat enough to replenish the nutrients. If I’m sitting at a desk, I eat less. This has helped reduced my grocery bill.

4. Purify drinking water

Get a steripen to purify drinking water in a canteen. The money you spend on these gadgets up front will pay for itself in the long run. The old fashion and effective way to purify water is to boil it for over a minute. If you’re at an altitude higher than 2000 meters, increase the boil time to more than three minutes. I purifying my own drinking water instead of buying bottled water. So far, I haven’t gotten sick. A dollar here and there can add up over time. Imagine the savings you’ll put back into your pocket for beer.

5. Hand wash clothes

Doing your own laundry is another area where you can save money. If you’re traveling light, you’ll probably be washing clothes quite a bit. Going to the laundromat will start to get expensive. Wash your clothes in a dry sack and hang dry. I use the bag as a portable tub to soak my clothes in and swish around. To save time, I do laundry when I take a shower so it’s part of my daily routine.

6. Run errands… literally

If you have to go to a store that’s usually a short drive away, run or walk instead of taking taxis or local transportation. When I went grocery shopping at a cheaper store a mile outside of town, it cost me $2 to get there by taxi. It was about a 3 minute drive, but I decided to walk back. It took me 20 minutes, but I saved a few bucks and got to exercise. Figure out ways to incorporate exercise into your routine to make it fun.

7. Trade skills for services or classes

I made a deal with a Spanish school to barter online marketing work for classes. I met yoga instructors who taught classes in exchange for a place to stay. What talent or skills do you have which you can trade something for?

These tricks helped me reduce my spending by 1/3. If you do a few of these things, it can help you stay within your budget and keep you on the road longer. We need to come up with ways to remove our reliance on money.

Have you considered these tips? What are some of your favorite tricks to lower your spending?

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Category: Travel tips

Comments (7)

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  1. amy says:

    Good tips; we’ve been considering the Steripen actually. We like to shop and cook for ourselves as much as possible although we’re finding this more expensive than eating out at the moment in Asia. We always try to use public transport and search around on foot for the cheapest good quality hostel we can find when we arrive in a new place.
    amy recently posted…Searching Our Souls on the Gili IslandsMy Profile

    • Mig says:

      Gracias! I love my Steripen. I have the USB one and I used it for a whole month before charging it. You bring up a good point that it can be cheaper to eat out than buy all the ingredients to make a meal. Here in Costa Rica, I’ll buy a chicken wrap at a fast food place versus buying frozen chicken at the grocery. Plus, it still takes time to cook. It def depends on the meal.

  2. Steph ( says:

    Well, given our love of foodcations, you know that eating less just isn’t an option for us! 😉 We’re more than happy to cut costs in other arenas, but one of the biggest reasons we are traveling is so that we can try all the different foods the world has to offer so it just wouldn’t make sense for us to sacrifice that!

    However, one thing we’ve definitely found helpful for keeping costs lower is by traveling slower. We’ve often found that transportation costs from city to city (or country to country) are the most expensive part of those days, so if we hustle from one place to the next every 2 days, that really adds up. Plus, if you are willing to stay at a place for multiple days, we’ve found it’s generally pretty easy to get discounts on lodging!
    Steph ( recently posted…The Ultimate Taiwan Bubble Tea ChallengeMy Profile

    • Mig says:

      LOL You got your travel priorities straight. 🙂 I love eating too, but I just adjust the diet when necessary. I did splurge on a steak dinner a few days ago.

      I hear ya on traveling slower. I like settling into a town to get to know the people and culture. You are def right about getting discounts on lodging if you stay multiple days. Rates can always be negotiated. It helps to pay in cash too.

  3. Mark Murray says:

    Costa Rica!!! Also, I needed to read these tips today. The last time I went on to travel, I spent twice as much as I was supposed to.
    Mark Murray recently posted…The Ultimate PLR Article CollectionMy Profile

  4. Carla Devis says:

    Costa Rica is a beautiful place and going there is my dream. Beaches are best relaxing place and inexpensive and beautiful. You have listed great things which will help to reduce expenses in easy way. Few tips are totally new to me and I will keep in mind in my vacation trip.

  5. Brandon says:

    Great Tips Mig!

    I especially love exchanging services. We can confirm that teaching yoga in exchange for accommodation (and tips) is a viable option! Saves money, spreads yoga, and it’s super fun 🙂
    Brandon recently posted…6 things to do in Luang PrabangMy Profile

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