How I’m Traveling to Europe in June as a Broke College Student
Whenever I casually mention my upcoming Europe trip to someone, I usually get a “You’re so lucky – I could NEVER afford that.”
Well, I couldn’t either, if I didn’t really push to be able to.
Most of the time, achieving goals don’t come down to how achievable they are — it’s all about how hard you’re willing to work to make things happen.
I’m paying off student loans and my usual bills, saving to move by myself, and maintaining my quality of life, all while still taking 3.5 weeks off to tour Europe and have the adventure of a lifetime. Here’s how I’m planning and penny pinching —
#1: Work Two Jobs — Make More Money and Force Your Day into Place
I’ve been working two jobs for a while now, while still fitting in blogging, working out, and other responsibilities. The key has been to have one job that I can work consistently in the morning, and then another job that I work consistently every night. This frames my day so I’m forced to get everything else done in the 3-4 hour time slot in the afternoon. Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time allotted. So if you think you’re too busy to work two jobs, give yourself priorities and a forced window of time to get things done. You’ll get the cooking, cleaning, laundry, gym time, reading, blog posts, freelance work, and emails all done within that window because you have no other choice.
Even if you don’t need to work two jobs, finding a way to bookend your activities so that you’re forced to do things efficiently is a great way to get more done.
Plus, when you’re working 60-80 hours a week, you tend to spend less money on what you don’t need. After a few 18 hour work days, I swore I would never buy something I didn’t need again, because I was so tired from working to pay for my life.
#2: Work One Job at a Restaurant
Waitressing is 70% of my income — you can make $25-30 dollars an hour if you do it right and focusing on cleaning tables constantly so that the hostess can give you more guests. I pay my bills with my other income, and then save all of my tips. Plus, I get an additional paycheck every other week with my hourly pay at the restaurant, that I use to buy anything that I’m needing leading up to the trip (its only about $3 an hour — but its really useful if you apply it correctly!)
Plus, since I’m busy working, I don’t spend my Fridays and Saturdays going out. I work at a bar, so I see how much people are spending on alcohol alone. A single margarita can cost $20 and only a few beers and a shot can put you back $30-40. And thats not including food.
A recent study by Eventbrite showed that the average event-goer spent $81 on a night out, and goes out 2 nights a week. Thats $648 a month.
If you only waited on Fridays and Saturdays for 3 months, you could be up $3,600, instead of out $1,944 from going out.
Another tool I’ve used is saving all of the change I have at the end of my shift. Waitressing brings an influx of dimes and quarters – I’ve put them all in a jar every night and have saved $15 in just one month. By June, I’ll have a significant amount of spending money for my trip.
#3 Meal prep — Don’t Eat Out
Meal prep is another thing — because of my schedule, I’m forced to have everything ready ahead of time. I only work one of my jobs on Sundays, so I cook up all my chicken, sweet potatoes, etc., and have them ready to go. This keeps me from having to cook during the week, having to wash dishes, and spending extra money for food on the go. Subsequently, I now have more time available to work. Food can DRAIN your money when you’re a college student. Don’t let it — it’s not worth it.
I guarantee you, when you’re laying on the beach in Hawaii or sitting in a cafe in France, you will not remember all of the times you microwaved your pre-cooked chicken so that you could get to that place. Plus, with a little effort, the food doesn’t have to taste bad, either.
#4 Get a Good Credit Card — But use it WISELY
Pay for everything with a credit card, but only if you can pay it off immediately. I bought everyone’s Christmas gifts with a credit card, I pay my bills with a credit card, and I buy protein powder with a credit card. I could pay cash upfront for these, but this can help you establish credit while getting you points or airline miles. With enough points, you could pay next to nothing for your airplane ticket.
You could pay your bills, or you could pay your bills and save on a trip. The choice is pretty clear. Also, make sure you get one with no foreign transaction fees that is accepted in the area that you are traveling to. Avoiding bank fees while you’re abroad will save you a bunch, too.
#5 Say No
Starbucks, shoes, eating out, buying DVDs you’ll watch once… it all adds up. Say no to the things that you don’t really need. I’m constantly asking myself Am I going to have to do something I don’t want to do in exchange for getting this? Is it worth it? The answer is usually no – it’s not worth it. I want my trip to Europe far more than I want a third pair of Nikes (and I have a severe Nike addiction.)
#6 If Yes, Be Careful
I can go to New York for a full day by myself, have an AMAZING time, and spend $75. Literally – my life changing day in NY cost me only $74.79 including my train ticket. I have friends who go to New York for the weekend and spend $600. You don’t have to deprive yourself of everything just for your one trip – you just have to be smart and realistic about what you need and don’t need. Set a budget for what you can realistically spend on “extras,” and make it work. You don’t need to stay over night in the city, go to high end restaurants, and ice skate in Rockefeller Center. You just need a camera, a few cups of coffee, and one meal at a cool cafe to get you through. New York is about finding art in the midst of the crowds, anyways.
Apply this to each thing you say yes to – find ways to enjoy activities without the bells and whistles. You can do more and see more and really appreciate the beauty of where you are.
In the end, I’ll have developed habits for saving for the rest of my life, learned a heck of a lot of self-control, developed good credit, saved to move, and I’ll be in Europe.
What’s not to like?
Stay tuned for a post on how I’m saving money on my trip expenses!