Packing on a Budget

Yerika Reyes
August 30, 2015


As I pack for Freiburg, Germany, I wanted to share with you some tips and tricks I used to save money! I am a first-generation, low-income, Latina and I was at first so unsure where to start. I know a few other people who had gone abroad (classmates mostly), but sometimes hesitated to ask or to explain how poor I am. I was afraid I would not have enough money for all the things on the packing lists. So I have created the list below as a reflection of the things I did for this trip. Hopefully, you, whether you are low-income, or just try trying to save money for your trip, will find these useful! 

1. Don't be Afraid to Ask Your Friends & Family for Help
Asking for financial support may be really tough, but asking for hiking boots or an old winter coat might be less intimidating. Let the people you feel comfortable around know that you are trying to save money for your upcoming trip, and ask whether they have any thing from suitcases, jackets, sweaters, or backpacks, that they could give or lend you. This is always the most affordable option.

2. From Strangers: Second-Hand and Lightly Used 
Explore thrift stores and yard sales. In a culture that is constantly consuming new things, people often give, sell, and throw-away items they hardly used. You might have to go to three or four stores to find everything you need, but it will be worth it! Your new favorite jeans, sandals, or purse may be hiding in a thrift store waiting for you to claim them for only $3.50! Three thrift stores I like to go to in Chicago are Unique, Salvation Army, and Goodwill. Watch out for discounts days, and color coded tags. For example, there are select days with up to 75% off at Salvation Army on items with blue tags.

 3. Discounts Discounts Discounts
However, even when going to multiple thrifts you might not find the luggage you need, the next stop(s) are discount stores! I have bought everything from suitcases, coats, to shoes, journals, body soaps, books, and cookware at discounts stores for only half or more of their original retail price. Stores I frequent: Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Ross – Dress for Less, Nordstrom Rack, and Designer Show Warehouse (DSW). Other stores to consider: Big Lots, Burlington Coat Factory, Kmart, Costco, Saves-a-Lot, Sam’s Club, and HomeGoods.

4. Invest in Quality Luggage
Although this was a tip I received when packing for luggage, at the time my family was barely getting by and I felt there was no way that I could afford to spend $100 or more on suitcases. The first time I went shopping for full size luggage to travel to college, my family knew I could not spend more than $50. I got the flimsiest suitcase from a corner shop near my house. It was the cheapest suitcase I could find, about $40 for a 29-inch suitcase. It should come to no surprise to you that my luggage arrived broken and beaten up. It was essentially trash after one use. I go to school in sunny Claremont, California and travel at least twice year to and from my hometown, Chicago. Investing in luggage that will survive years of travel was and is essential. At the time it had not occurred to me to hit up a thrift store! Thrift stores and discount stores are your best friend! 

This summer I bought a suitcase that originally retailed at $340 for $64. My black suitcase was also bought at Marshall three years ago. I acquired a Jansport carry-on as a sophomore in high school and still used it today as junior in college! This bag has been everywhere with me, from Malawi, to Puerto Rico, to London, to New York, to California, and Seattle, to New Haven, and Boston, to home. 

5. Pack and Unpack and Pack again

Packing is not fun for me. I always pack way to much. Take inventory it will help you see how much of what you have. You will realize you have ten tank tops and only two cardigans for fall! A rule of thumb I have for clothes I am not sure about is to ask myself if I have worn that item in the last 6 months or year. If no, I give it away, or leave at home.

I hope these tips help you pack (like they helped me) for your journey! Safe travels! 

- #WoCAbroad 



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Yerika Reyes

<p>My name is pronounced like &quot;Erika&quot; (Erica and Erykah) with a &quot;y&quot; in front of it. I am the daughter of Honduran immigrant parents, and my hometown is Chicago. I am a first generation undergraduate at Pomona College. In my free time you will find me connecting with people, writing, reading, occasionally attempting to knit, watching videos on YouTube, and enjoying all things nerd.</p>

2015 Fall
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