I’m Quirky Travel Guy, and I’m a victim of tightwadtravelitis

I can’t bring myself to spend money on anything but travel!

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten really good at traveling cheaply around the U.S. For local destinations, I buy up Megabus tickets for less than $10 each, and when I have to fly, I study flight prices and pounce when there’s a sale. Because I’m a full-time freelance writer with a somewhat flexible schedule, I can travel anytime, so I nab those cheap mid-week flights without having to miss much work time.

With this new success at traveling cheaply has come a new problem: I don’t want to spend money on anything except travel.

me grand teton

I’m aware this is a silly, first-world complaint that really shouldn’t be a complaint at all. Don’t you realize how lucky you are that you get to travel?, people might ask. (Actually, no – being able to travel isn’t luck at all, as Gary Arndt explains nicely.)

This insane condition has an official name, which I just made up. I’m Quirky Travel Guy, and I’m a victim of tightwadtravelitis. Please help!

Why I can’t spend money on anything but travel

When you’re finding flights from Chicago to San Diego for $60 each way (including taxes!) and to Miami for $72 each way, that makes it really hard to spend money on anything else.

In my head, the logic goes like this: How can I shell out $30 for a nice local restaurant meal when that’s half a plane ticket to California? How can I justify spending $70 on a pair of shoes when that’s the same price as a trip to South Florida?

Miami Royal Palm

And forget about big-ticket purchases. I haven’t had a vehicle since my van was blown up in 2010, but I find it hard to save up a few thousand for a new ride when that money could instead take me to Australia or Africa for the first time.

I use this reasoning all the time, and therefore, I don’t spend money on much of anything anymore. You might think this is a good thing. Hey, you’re saving up money and sticking to a budget! But it’s actually becoming a problem.

As nice as it is to be able to save money for travel, the fact is I’ve always been good at sticking to budgets. I’m now going too far in the opposite direction – becoming so frugal that I’m passing up chances to grab a drink with friends or take in a movie because that $15 could be the entire cost of a roundtrip Megabus ride to St. Louis!

Being aware of the problem is the first step. Now I will seek to remind myself that, although I want to build up some savings so I can take memorable trips (and perhaps buy a new van!), I also have to live in the moment and take advantage of opportunities for life experiences that come along in the meantime.

Huckleberry madness in Montana!

Has anyone else ever been stricken by this tragic affliction? Have any tips to overcome it?


  1. Love the title – sign up by email to get a months worth of offers for free meals Not the buy one get one – those mostly don’t work out well. Movies before noon at AMC theaters are discounted. Choice hotels always has special promotions where if you stay two separate nights they give you points ( they say one night) but the points don’t equal one night at many of their hotels. But if you just stay one night and move on to another hotel even within the same city, you can save up enough to do several days in a ROw on points.

    Have your friends come over and ask them to bring drinks and you supply some eats. Get movies from the library.

    I cut back a lot because my income is less than my outcome for basics right now.

    1. I love the library! For a long time I only watched pirated movies online, but now I just got cable for the first time in ages so I’m splurging a bit. I still can’t bring myself to pay $12 for a 90-minute movie though.

  2. Ha, I hope that phrase enters the travel lexicon. 😛

    We’re not afflicted with this because we don’t have the opportunity to buy a lot of stuff that isn’t travel related. A new pair of shoes? Forget the cost – I’m worried about whether or not they’ll fit in my bag!

    1. Good point – once I’m on the road it’s not as much of a problem when you have to worry about carrying everything around.

  3. We have a variation of your illness — Travelstretchitis. Why would I stay at the Ritz for one night when I can stay extend my stay at a cheap place for eight days?

  4. I am definitely a co-sufferer. My ‘unit’ is the price of a hotel room. As I’m mostly traveling in Europe for the time being my average is EUROS 50. To quote your example: why would I want to buy a pair of shoes if I can stay in a wonderful place elsewhere. What to do? Nothing at all but to enjoy the affliction.

  5. That’s how my last year looked like, as I was getting ready for a big trip to the Americas. I had a savings log and even $10 mattered. I, too, rather travel than get a vehicle or buy shoes, for example. I even started borrowing books from the library again instead of buying so I could save for that trip. Yet I also had a budget for another part of my life that really matters. Perhaps you can have a budget for those times you get to meet up with friends or other occasions. If you’re meeting with friends for a meal, you can even make it part of your traveling – inside your own city! It might not help with the addiction, but at least you’ll see your friends…..

    1. I do have a separate spending budget for regular non-essential expenses, so I can go out a little bit without going broke.

  6. I am not the frugal traveler. But I spend money on the terms that I know I will remember the experience for a long time, or something that will be useful. I know it might be hard to buy a meal that seems to cost half of a domestic plane ticket, but it that meal is awesome and will make you remember it for a long time, then it is worth it once in a while. Eating, drinking, shopping, are all part of the travel experience.

    1. I have no problem spending for meals and so forth while I’m traveling. I just don’t want to spend when I’m at home.

  7. While we are VERY cost conscious when we travel, we are total suckers for a value. So, if we find a great deal at the Four Seasons in Hawai’i or the Peninsula in Bangkok, we’ll do it. In those cases, we could certainly find something less expensive, but the value that a particular deal represents is just too good pass up.

    Our biggest issue is “scope creep.” Like you, we have a lot of flexibility due to working virtually. So we will start planning a trip and then we have a hard time reeling ourselves in. Here is how the conversation always goes, “We’re in Boston, so we should probably go to Provincetown for a couple of nights. Then we might as well go to NYC since we are so close. Wow, we could drive to Montreal from here, so we better do that. Oh, gosh, we are so close to Toronto, it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity…” You get the idea.

    1. Great point about scope creep. I’m the same way. I think when I finally make it to Europe, it will be as part of a months-long RTW trip. I can’t imagine paying for flights and coming home after just a week or two. I’ll want to stay and go everywhere I can to get the best value!

  8. I am always a frugal traveler. I can’t say it’s the only thing I spend money on but I do spend money on travel stuff even at home (especially recently). I am with you though about spending on travel. I can be quite anal about researching to find the best deals to make sure I don’t spend a lot of money. Guess that is why I focus on travel tips to save money because it’s just the way I travel.

    Even yesterday, I bought two one way tickets rather than a round trip flight because it saved me $19!

    1. You know, I rarely search for two one-way trips because I just assume the price would be the same as round-trip flights. Thanks for the advice 🙂

  9. My husband and I are opposites – I ONLY want to spend money on travel and he’s all about the techie gizmos. I try to tell him the memories will last forever but he still wants the gizmos. Luckily, we manage to compromise and spend SOME money on travel!

    1. I’m glad you can work out the compromise! I tend to buy tech stuff when I have an unusually large paycheck or come into unexpected money. That’s the time when I splurge on a new computer or camera.

  10. Are you related to my husband? I swear, you both have the same logic…as well as knack at knowing how to find deals and work them to your advantage. Also, I LOVE your title and “tighwadtravelitis.” CLEVER name!

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