10 Surprising Ways You Deplete Your Travel Funds Without Realising It

On paper, building up travel funds for long trips isn’t all that difficult. There are three ways to go about it: spend less on the trip, earn enough money to not have to worry about it, and save up as much as possible. Regular readers would know that I stretch my budget on the road, but money has to be earned (or inherited, as the case might be) before it can be spent. If you are already doing (2), well done, read on if you want to.

For the rest who earn average incomes (like me), a bigger part of your hard-earned money could have gone towards your travel funds, but you’re spending it on these habits instead. Hint: most of them are related to your social life.

10 areas you can cut back on to create more travel funds

Taxis and Private Hire Cars

A single ride on the MRT or the bus costs $2.00 at most. A taxi flag down fare starts from $3.20, and that’s before the journey has even started. Think about that. Nobody needs to spend money on a taxi unless there’s no public transport home, they’re running late, they can get reimbursed for the trip or they need to transport bulky items. The same applies to Grab rides.

Alternative: Plan your trip and leave earlier so that there is time to take the bus or the MRT. If you really have to take a taxi, split the cost of the ride with your friends.

Savings: Anywhere between $1.50 for a short shared trip to $20 for a long ride alone after midnight. That’s a lot of tuk-tuk rides.

Drinks (Alcohol)

We all know how expensive alcohol is over here, so is it really necessary to pay $15 for the same pint of beer that can be purchased on your travels for far less? Or $25 for bespoke cocktails on a regular basis?

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Alternative: Make use of your duty-free allowance! Make your own cocktails and take them to BYOB parties and barbecues.

Savings: A $10 happy hour pint here easily buys 2 pints in the Czech Republic. Your travel funds will thank you for it.

Craft beer may have eaten my travel funds

Drinks (Caffeinated)

I understand that coffee preferences are a personal thing, and some folks really prefer the taste of espresso and appreciate the skill that goes into making a perfect cup. Just remember that it comes with a hefty price tag. The same goes for bubble tea.

Alternative: If you’re just after the caffeine kick, consider brewing your own coffee, although I’d draw the line at instant coffee mixes for health reasons.

Savings: The $4 could’ve been spent on the same thing in Melbourne – or many, many cups of Vietnamese coffee.

Eating Out

New cafes and restaurants open all the time in Singapore and I understand the fun of trying them out. I totally dig that, and it’s a social thing too. Doing so every week, however, doesn’t make sense if you want to save up. It’s silly to pay someone else to make brunch items that are easy to make and even cheaper to prepare.

Alternative: Cook simple meals. There is time to do that if you make the effort to do so. It won’t be cheaper than eating hawker food but you can control what goes into your body.

Savings: A $15 plate of Eggs Benedict could purchase three trays of eggs or a lot of street food in Thailand/ Cambodia/ Laos/ Vietnam.

Drinks (Soda)

It’s a common habit to order a soft drink with lunch and dinner. That’s $1 a pop, more if it’s a restaurant or a cafe. It’s money from your travel funds you will literally piss away, but not before increasing your insulin resistance and contributing to weight gain and diabetes.

Alternative: Stick to sky juice. Your body will thank you for the amount of sugar that you cut out too.

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Savings: A soft drink every lunch and dinner adds up to roughly $50 a month. Think of the duty-free booze that could buy – it will sort your alcohol woes out too.


If you’re not maximising your membership fees and they are going towards subsidising someone else’s usage, perhaps it’s time to reconsider where and how you keep fit. Besides, you’ll get a good workout too from lugging a 30kg backpack amid some spectacular scenery!

Alternative: Community gyms will probably serve your needs just as well. If you use them only occasionally, pay by the entry. Should you be eligible for ActiveSG credits, better still, use them. If you’re just looking to keep fit then there are heaps of bodyweight exercises out there.

Savings: $80 to $130 a month – that’s preactically the airfare to some nearby destinations. It’s also enough to pay for several tramping permits in New Zealand.

Shopping for Clothes

Few of us are immune to the thrill of owning something new. It gets you noticed the first time but in reality, nobody cares even if you own only 5 sets of clothes and run through your entire wardrobe within a week. If they do I’m not sure they’re worth hanging around.

Alternative: Try clothes swap events if you really need a new look. Depending on the item you’d otherwise buy you could save anywhere between $5 and $120. If you really have to shop for new stuff, see my ShopBack review to find out how to get cashback.

More money-saving tips: How to pack for winter with just a cabin bag

Upgrading Devices

It’s bad enough that our mobile phones and laptops no longer last forever. They start to feel too slow when newer, better-specified models appear on the market. Is it necessary to upgrade every year though? It’s a waste to keep an expensive phone that still works as a spare or see it in a scrap heap.

Alternative: Get the phone when you renew your contract. Consider the free models too – you can sell them if you like your current phone too much.

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Savings: $500+ for that iPhone with a contract. With that sort of money, you could get return air tickets to the Maldives on a budget carrier.

Movies, Gigs and Festivals

These are wonderful social events that have a heft impact on your travel funds! It costs a lot for promoters to rent book accommodation and concert venues for our (yep, yours and mine) favourite bands and singers so that they can perform here. You’ll find that ticket prices may be cheaper in other countries, and this is true for the Formula 1 races held here.

Alternative: It will cost more to organise trips around gigs abroad but you will get some travelling done at the same time! If you and your friends aren’t fussed about catching the newest and latest films together, consider going to free movie screenings.

Savings: Anywhere from $22 for two movie tickets and drinks to $165 for passes to the last Laneway Festival held here to the $498 three-day passes to the Grand Prix that I usually get.


You’re literally burning hard-earned money with every cigarette! No alternatives here since there is no such thing as legal duty-free tobacco in Singapore – start cutting back and getting your kicks from something else.

Savings: $9 to $13 a pack. Only Australia, New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries have more expensive tobacco.

In conclusion (don’t get me wrong)

I’m not saying that we should all wear rags, or that I have no life beyond my work, to build up travel funds. The truth couldn’t be further from that. Think of it as a call to be more creative and less snobbish about our choice of social activities. Being less wasteful is also a means of responsible travel.

When people who truly love to travel spend unnecessarily, they constantly think of what the money could have bought. They choose the events that they show up at carefully, so you know you mean a lot to them when they show up at yours.