Hi Frugalistas! Very few of us (myself included) have an unlimited budget when we travel. Therefore saving money and prioritising our expenses is something we all need to do. Having said that, we do all need to cut loose occasionally and have a little splurge – even if it is just a little treat. Here are my top tips for when to save and when to splurge in Europe – most of them will work equally well regardless of your destination:
1. Never scrimp on safety. No money is worth putting yourself or your health at risk. That means avoiding dirty or seedy hotels or unsafe areas, or eating at dirty places just because they are cheap. Even if you scrimp on everything else, don’t scrimp on this one.
2. Splurge on things that will create meaningful memories. Rather than buying a pile of cheap tatty souvenirs and spending money on tawdry tourist traps, why not do or buy a small number of really special things? Whether it’s a balloon ride in Cappadocia, a private ski lesson in Switzerland or even just a coffee overlooking St Mark’s square in Venice you will remember that part of your trip when the souvenirs are long gone.
3. One great meal is never a waste of money. Even if it means you eat very frugally for a couple of days a great meal of classic local cuisine as got to be part of your trip. It doesn’t have to be Michelin starred. A simple brasserie or cafe meal if you’ve been living on pizza slices and kebabs is definitely a splurge you deserve!
4. A longed for destination or activity is never a waste of money. I had always wanted to stay in a hotel in Paris called the Hotel Montalembert. It’s not one of the really grand Paris hotels like the Ritz or Georges V, but features in my favorite book of all time and I’ve always wanted to stay there. It is also about three times the price of my usual Paris hotel (not including breakfast!) On a recent trip to Paris I finally did it! How did I afford it? I only stayed two nights rather than the five nights I stayed in Paris, I didn’t do any shopping and I ate frugally while I was in Paris. I loved every minute of it. Whether it is a particular hotel, a special town or a fancy activity (a sail round the Greek islands on a yacht anyone?) things like that are NEVER a waste of money.
5. In Western Europe second class rail is more than adequate – 1st class is a genuine splurge. You will be more than comfortable in 2nd class, and can pocket your savings to fulfill a life long dream. If you are covering long distances by train and want to save even more (both time and money) think about overnight trains. You will also save a day by traveling overnight.
6. You don’t need to eat in proper restaurants if you can’t afford it. Save money in department store cafeterias, museum cafes and in supermarkets for picnic ideas. For the price of a greasy takeaway you’ll eat well, with the locals, and often in terrific surroundings. Most bars (particularly in Italy and Spain) offer snacks and small dishes, often just for the cost of a drink. Save more by standing at the bar rather than sitting at a table.
7. Finally, sometimes your time is the greatest luxury of all. Don’t rush. Cut your itinerary down to a manageable size to really see, absorb and learn. Don’t whizz from location to location ticking off cities. You will spend more money and actually see less. Don’t spend your time or money on things you think you “should” see or “should” do. Spend money and time on what is important to you – regardless of how much time or money you spend, doing things you really love is always time and money well spent!
Related posts: Planning your itinerary to save even more money in Europe
Photo credits: as identified, otherwise author’s own