I came to India two months ago with no plans and almost no money in my bank account. Now, I’m living in a house with my boyfriend, with a comfortable lifestyle and almost no income. How do we do it? There are a number of ways we are able to survive without selling our souls to money.
- Make food at home
Very quickly into my trip I noticed how much money I was spending on food. Even though it’s dirt cheap compared to prices at home, everything is relative over here. If you want to start saving money, you have to think of expenses relative to the costs in India. Sometimes, if you’re staying in a hostel, you won’t have the chance to cook in a kitchen. But if you do, make the most of it! Plus, it’s a great opportunity to practice your skills at making local food.
2. Eat at local restaurants
In India, the prices for tourists inflate to twice or triple the local prices, even if you’re told you’re getting a good price. This goes for food too. When you’re travelling, do as the locals do! Eat the specialties of the area. Go to the small, local restaurants where you can see locals eating. It might not be as fancy as a tourist restaurant, but the food will be half the price and more delicious.
- Don’t drink alcohol
This point might not be a popular one, but it’s the truth. Alcohol is expensive, and if you make drinking it a regular habit, you’re going to spend a lot of money on it. If you’re a long term traveller who is serious about saving money, this will save you a considerable amount. If you’re really bent on drinking, go for spirits over beer or buy in bulk.
- Don’t stay in hostels
Although you may not be in the position to stay in one place for an extended period of time, I found that renting a house with my boyfriend for one month cut my accommodation costs dramatically. When I was staying in a hostel, I was paying 400 Rs per day for my own bed and a shared bathroom (and a roommate who snored). Now, my boyfriend and I are paying 250 Rs a day each for our house (15,000 Rs per month) which has a bathroom, kitchen, garden, living room, and best of all, privacy!
Volunteering is a great way to gain knowledge, meet people and save some money. There is a plethora of volunteering opportunities in India; just decide on your area of interest and go from there. Through volunteering you may be offered free meals throughout the day (like I was when I volunteered at an international primary school for a few weeks) or accommodation (like my boyfriend when he volunteered at a hostel), or both!
- Trade your skills
Money isn’t the only form of currency. Trading your skills is another brilliant way to exchange your time or services and get something in return. For example, a friend of mine is a master in remedial massage, another friend is a talented musician, and another is a woodcarver. All three trade their knowledge with other people and get something in return, and all they have to do is teach others the thing they love. Sounds good to me.
- Sell your skills
If you’ve got a skill that you can make money from, don’t be shy. Advertise yourself! You never know what other travellers might need. Web design, hair cutting, ukulele lessons, or even just busking on the street – give it a try, you have nothing to lose. Stick up some posters around town, advertise on your local community page, make friends and let them know what you offer. You might be surprised.
- Work online
Travelling is no longer an obstacle for reaching the internet. In India, the internet speeds are sometimes faster than Australia. Buy yourself a 4G SIM card, or use the Wifi at a cafe or your hostel. The internet is everywhere, and you can make good use of it. Whatever skills you have, use them. My boyfriend does computer programming for clients online, and I do freelance writing. If you can make money through blogging, Youtube tutorials, business online, anything, do it!
- Spend your money wisely
This one is pretty straightforward, but still worth mentioning. Spend your money on necessities and make it last. Don’t buy things that aren’t essential to your survival and comfort; for example, new clothes or touristy trinkets aren’t really going to make your life better, but if you want to start doing yoga, invest in a yoga mat. In order to survive, you need to be happy; don’t deprive yourself of all creature comforts, but make smart decisions.
- Choose the cheapest transport
If you’re living somewhere and need to rent a scooter or motorbike, it’s best to rent it for long term as this is always cheaper. If you’re travelling around, always get the local bus or ride in third class on the trains. It might not be as comfortable as the tourist transport (and you won’t get air-con), but you’ll save a lot of money and you’ll have a more authentic travelling experience.
- Make friends with the locals
Make friends everywhere you go, or engage in conversation with a stranger sitting next to you (if you feel safe to do so). You will be surprised at how much useful knowledge you will gain from being friends with the locals – they know all the tricks and corners to cut. As well as showing you ways to save money by acting like a local, you will also understand the culture and people around you more. Absorb yourself in the culture and ways of the people around you, and you will be rewarded in more ways than just saving money.
- Learn to haggle
This is so important in India. As I mentioned before, no matter what shopkeepers tell you, the first price they offer is always double the price they will settle on. I repeat: the first price you are offered is always double the price you can get. Learn to haggle. Watch others doing it, learn methods from your local friends. And don’t feel bad about haggling; this is how people do business in India, and if you end up compromising on a price, all you’re doing is losing money. It’s harsh, but true.
If you follow these twelve points, you should be able to survive anywhere in the world with very little money. Happy saving!