‘I live a life of austerity so I can travel all the time’

‘I live a life of austerity so I can travel all the time’

Tom Bourlet on how he saves money to fund his lifestyle – and how Heinz spaghetti hoops inspired the name of his blog

Tom Bourlet




Tom Bourlet on the beach near his home in Hove, East Sussex.
Photograph: Tom Bourlet

I’ve always been a saver. As a student I lived frugally and was constantly setting up little businesses such as a moving-in service for freshers so that I could graduate in profit. My favourite gourmet experience has always been Heinz spaghetti hoops.

Now, despite earning a decent salary, I lead a life of austerity as all my spare time and money are consumed by my travel blog Spaghetti Traveller, named for that spaghetti hoops passion.

I started it six years ago while working for a travel agent and back then thought it would be cool to eat a can of hoops in every new place I visited. It would have been an economical way to eat out, but I kept forgetting to pack a supply.

My job back then was to optimise the website so I thought it would give me useful experience to try building my own. I’d just returned from a holiday in the US which was the high point of my life and gave me an itch to see the world, so it seemed obvious to use the website to motivate and record my trips.

It cost £10 for the domain name and £30 a year for hosting and I did all the design and IT work myself, but because I didn’t know what I was doing I’d crash the site and have to pay someone £25 an hour to fix it.

I then started saving to go away for a weekend once a month, mostly around the UK, and blog about it. I’d travel to UK and European cities and stay in cheap hostels and do without all luxuries like cinema trips and meals out to afford it. I didn’t go to a restaurant or cinema once.

The blog only took off when I started recommending things to do in different destinations. People started writing in for advice and to tell me how bored they were with their lives, and the website climbed up the Google rankings.

It now gets 20,000 views a month and last year I spent about £4,000 on it, including seven overseas trips and eight ones within the UK. Part of the cost is unpaid leave from work since my holiday allowance doesn’t cover all the trips I do. In 2016 the outlay was double that because I attended various travel blogging conventions and had to pay for fares and hotels.

Now the blog is established I could get most of my trips for free from PR firms, but I prefer to pay for all or part of them to keep them authentic.

I also spend about £500 a year on maintaining a fashion blog and last year I spent £1,500 buying Facebook ads and drinks for a marketing conference I held in a pub so people in the industry could get together.

I haven’t lost my inbuilt impulse to save money. I buy food as cheaply as possible and spend about £20 a week on it. The trick is to buy a chicken and a bulk bag of potatoes, cook it up on Sunday and make it last three days.

I’d never turned central heating on in my adult life until this year when a housemate wanted it. I’d wear thick clothes instead.

My main outgoing is my £500 share of the rent for a two-bedroom flat in Hove in East Sussex and I spend £30 a month for my mobile phone and £18.99 for Sky broadband.

I still don’t go to the cinema or go out to grab a sandwich with colleagues, which can get frustrating because part of me wants to do what others do, but when I know another trip is coming up it’s worth it.

As told to Anna Tims