Now that I am based back in Brisbane and am once again surrounded by familiar faces, friends and family, one of the number one questions I get asked is “How do you afford to travel?”. As a result, I have put together a detailed breakdown of my costs, savings and budget for my travels in 2015 because I understand that finances are one of the main reasons people are hesitant to travel and the entire aim of this blog is to encourage you to see more of the world 🙂 !

Context for my Saving Journey

Something incredibly important I want to start with before I breakdown my budget is an acknowledgment of the Australian standard of living and my university’s support for study exchanges. In Australia the minimum wage for an office job at my age is approximately $20 AUD. Many countries do not have this minimum wage and consequently I understand that my earning capacity to save for travel is higher than many regions around the world. I live in circumstances that meant that working for 4 years allowed me to accrue savings for travel. It is important to recognise that many people could work for twice this amount of time but because of minimum wage would not be able to accumulate these savings.

Furthermore, until I was 19 years old I lived at home and did not have to pay rent. This allowed me to save money during my teenage years that would have otherwise had to go toward rent. This is something I am incredibly grateful for because I know that my mum had to work very hard to support myself and my two younger brothers up until this age. Finally, I also attend a university that facilitates overseas exchange on a monetary level. They do this through academic scholarships, something that because of my grades I was very honoured to received.

Why is this important?

I wanted to start with these points so that it is clear that I appreciate and comprehend the extent of support my university, the standard minimum wage in Australia and my mum has provided. I know firsthand how disheartening it can be to get engrossed in a ‘self-made’ travel blog only to find out that this is not the full truth, in fact, it really made me question the industry for a while. This is consequently why I want to give you a 100% reassurance that I am not one of those writers and I will always maintain full disclosure throughout my travels. Additionally, because of the time and effort I had to put in to work for these savings, I actually do want to share with you my saving journey because I am proud of what I achieved and it has been incredibly satisfying to see the money I worked for being put toward unforgettable memories around the world.

About My Circumstances before I left

So with the context set, a bit about myself:

  • I come from a single parent household with two younger siblings. My mum works in customer service for a salary packaging firm. So no, I am definitely not a trust fund kid that travels on their parent’s money!
  • I have been working part time while studying full time since I was 15 years old. In my senior year I did take a break from work to focus on my grades in Semester 2. While I have always tried to work as much as possible it is important to note that I have never let this impede on my high school or tertiary studies. Education is always something I prioritise and is why I am continuing my studies and am due to graduate with a Bachelor of Laws (Honours)/Bachelor of Media and Communications at the end of 2017.
  • It took me 4 years to save and work for the money I spent during my year abroad. I was working up to 40 hours a week while studying my dual degree and saved a total of $20,000 AUD.
  • I was fortunate enough to receive a university bursary based on academic merit for my study exchange.
  • Because of my earning capacity, family situation and student status I qualify for Australian government welfare to assist my rent, groceries and university expenses.

Breakdown of my Savings

Before I left I had saved $20,000 through part time work, all of this money was dedicated to travel.

I received an academic bursary of $2,000 through university that went toward my accommodation. While on exchange I received Centrelink Youth Allowance and Start Up Scholarship payments. For international readers, Centrelink is an Australian government welfare organisation that helps disadvantaged students that require living assistance. Based on their calculations of my personal income, the fact I am completely financially independent from my mum and my limited working capacity as a full time student I qualified for this welfare that went toward my rent, books, local transport and groceries while on exchange. Being based in Zone 1 of London, without this assistance I would not have been able to continue my studies overseas.

When you go on exchange in Australia you can take out OS-Help of up to $6,300 per semester (you can choose how much of this you take up) that gets added to your HEC’s (university fees) to pay back once you start earning a professional wage. Once again, without this I would not have been able to afford to live in London. In Australia students do not pay for university upfront, it is put on a HECs debt until they are earning a professional wage. The OS Help Loan is consequently extremely helpful for students and encourages people to go on exchange. 

My 2015 Assets and Costs







University Academic Bursary



Centrelink Youth Allowance and Start Up Scholarships



Australian Government OS Help



13 months of Zone 1 London Accommodation



Groceries, Local Transport, University Necessities, Insurance + Misc






I know, it’s a crazy amount of money! It took me 4 years to save this amount and I could not be happier with the result. Obviously, there are going to be people that would rather spend their savings on other priorities. Furthermore, everyone has different situations to take into account (children, carer responsibilities, debt or lower earning capabilities etc). The truth of the matter is, everyone has unique circumstances that will affect their ability to save for travel. What you need to do is assess your personal priorities and set realistic goals. Most importantly however, you cannot judge others or be affected by people judging you for your personal saving and spending decisions.

Things to remember

This was a difficult article for me to publish because upon returning home it became very apparent that when people disagree with your priorities they can sometimes unintentionally respond with hostility. Whether it be people genuinely looking out for you but phrasing it negatively (“you could have put a deposit down on a house with that, remember to be responsible with your money Chels...”), putting down your travel choices (“I am sure traveling on a budget would have meant you missed out on things or stayed in some horrible places…”) or plainly disagreeing with your passions (“that’s a lot to waste on nothing more than a holiday…”) – all I can say is, you learn to take it on board and not let it affect you. I am also grateful to be surrounded by close friends and family that have 100% supported my dream to travel. 

For an article that specifically looks at saving tips (in terms of things you can personally do at home to help save money) check out Top 5 Tips to Save Money for Travel .

For an article that specifically looks at how to travel on a budget, in other words, how I stretched my $20,000 AUD in travel savings to backpack around 5 continents(!) there is the article How to Travel on a Budget.

I really hope that this article was helpful and if you have any questions or queries feel free to comment below! 

45 countries. 5 continents. 21 years old. Next goal – all seven continents (aka Antarctica!) within the next two years…

*Edit: I made it to all 7 continents within 12 months of this article being published 😉