Spend Less, Save More. Surviving When You’re Broke

We’ve all been there at one point or another in our life where we are piss broke. It seems to be a common occurrence for me as of lately. If you’re smart about it, you can easily squeak by on $25-$30 a day, that’s what I usually do. How? Well prepare to be slightly hungrier than you usually are and more sober. It’s actually quite easy to spend less and save more, whether you just want to save money or are actually broke.

The first thing you need to do when you realise you are running out of cash is stop consuming anything you do not need and stick with the bare essentials. Staying at a hotel/flat/expensive hostel adds up, ditch the place and find the cheapest hostel you can which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the worst either. Use different websites such as HostelBookers or HostelWorld to find the best deals (use my links too, I get $$$ any time you use their services when clicking from my site, while you’re at it, click an ad or two even if you’re not interested, I get paid per click) these sites have the best selection of Hostels anywhere and their prices are always competitive.

You also need to cut out anything you don’t need to survive. Alcohol, cigarettes, illegal drugs and fast food will burn a hole in your wallet very quickly, especially abroad where anything that is bad for you is taxed to high hell. In Australia, you can drink goon instead of traditional alcohol if you aren’t too broke yet. $10 for 4.4 litres is a good price and can last you up to 3 nights if you go easy on it. Goon is very nasty and requires getting used to. Fizzy water (aka Soda) is also very expensive and should be avoided. Although better for you abroad since it contains real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, real sugar costs more as well in addition to the drink just being taxed. Best to avoid soft drinks all together.

As for fast food, avoid it and buy real food from grocery stores. When I say grocery stores I mean real grocery stores and not convenience stores. You can easily save 50% or more on food by buying from a grocery store rather than a convenience store so walk the extra distance. Local quinsies can also be surprisingly cheaper than fast food as well so just look around. While I was staying in Kings Cross in Sydney, there was this little place used by the pimps for their meetings in the red light district. It was shady but you could get a full breakfast 24/7 for a flat $5, pretty good considering you couldn’t even just get a big mac for that price. Plus, unlike in America, there are no such things as free refills on fizzy water, stick to regular water.

Food from the grocery store, it might be a little more expansive than you are used to back home (if you’re an American at least) but it gives you the chance to experience something new too that you might otherwise avoid. Fruits and vegetables are rather expensive in the states compared to abroad so eat a lot of those. They are good not only for your wallet but your body too. If you shop towards the end of the evening, say 7 or 8 pm, that’s when a lot of food that is about to expire or go past its sell date go on sale. Shop then and save. Most foods are good for an additional 10 days beyond their sell day and 3 beyond their expiration date so keep that in mind when looking at discounted food. Never buy anything you think might be mouldy or are too unsure of. Refrigeration will also help push back the date on foods that you might not otherwise refrigerate. Freeze if possible but most hostels do not have freezers.

Always keep your eye out for deals. Some places will have discount days between certain hours where you can get half off a pizza (Domino’s in Kings Cross for example has $4.95 pizza Tuesdays and in New Zealand, they have $5 pizzas everyday).. Getting a full pizza can easily last you two days if you don’t scarf it down in one sitting. Chat with people whom have been at the hostel a while, they always know where to find a good deal.

Finally, if you are really poor, figure out when the hostel cleans out the refrigerators and cupboards. Any food that is unlabelled gets tossed usually and if you are there when they begin the cleaning, you can usually stand around and have them give you anything you might want they would otherwise toss. Some days can be better than others. For example, since arriving at my current hostel, I have only gone to the grocery store once in the 17 days I’ve been here. The bulk of my food comes from people leaving behind what they don’t want or can’t travel with. Instant savings right there and it’s been good food too, nothing crappy or expired. People just forget about their food when they leave I guess. Don’t forget to check the “Free Food” area as well frequently as sometimes people aren’t lazy and will put their food there instead.

Although you may be tempted to steal other peoples food when you are broke, do not do it. The most important rule of backpacking is never steal from other backpackers, they are just as broke as you. Karma is real and it will come from you, I have seen it happen. In addition to Karma, most hostels have gotten wise and placed security cameras in the food storage area. When someone complains their food went missing, it’s not that hard to pull up the video footage of who stole it. At best you will get a scolding and have to pay the person back, at worse, you’ll be evicted without a refund and possibly, the police could be called. Just don’t do it. Begging on the street is better than stealing from your fellow backpackers.

I hope you found this article useful on saving money when you are broke. I know a lot of the stuff is obvious but some of it isn’t. If you have any good ways on saving money, please share in the comment section! The key to surviving when you’re broke is simply to spend less.


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