How To Budget While Travelling

Make sure you can afford that skydive.

When it comes to travelling, especially long-term travel, it’s always so tempting to spend money like it grows on trees. A little taxi ride here, a fancy dinner there, a few souvenirs from one place, a t-shirt for another… you get the gist. Money is often the reason that people cite for not committing to their travel dreams, but people rarely talk about how to budget while on the road.

Firstly, track everything you spend. Every hostel deposit you make, ever snack you buy, every car you rent, every surfing lesson you take. Note it all down and add it up at the end of each day. When you see your spending added up at the end of a day, after a week or so you’ll be able to see where you’re throwing money down the drain, and where it’s okay to spend a little more. Carry your money a few different ways – including some cash, a credit card and a debit card – is always a good idea, but remember to add up all costs from all of these, otherwise you’ll be hit with a nasty shock when your card is declined as you try to book your skydive. It’s tempting to skip adding in those few drinks at lunchtime or that snack at the service station, but often this is where money just goes down the drain. The bigger payments are the ones we can’t forget about, but the little ones added up are the ones that come back to bite.

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Seattle, Washington

If your road-tripping or travelling in a camper van, you can save serious money by camping. Campsites can be a lot cheaper than even hostels, and the costs are often done by vehicle not by person. It also means that your itinerary can be much more flexible, as changing a campsite reservation is much simpler than changing a hostel or hotel booking (where you definitely won’t get your deposit back if you cancel) and you often don’t have to pay anything at all until you’ve checked in. Obviously there can be extra costs for hot showers and washing, but these are common experiences for backpackers and the money you save by camping will balance out any payments for hot water.

Instead of getting taxis/Ubers everywhere, take public transport. I know that apps like Uber and Lyft are crazily cheap now, but they are still so much more expensive that public transport. You can get from one side of a city to the other by a few bus journeys, and although it make take longer, it’s better than spending 10x as much on a taxi.

One thing I never travel without is an incidentals fund. This is money that you can’t touch except in emergencies, like a lost passport or when illness strikes. You should have one of these funds for life too, but when travelling it’s particularly important. It’s nice to know that you have some extra funds just in case of any emergencies that arise. Let’s hope they never do.

Keep bank fees in mind in your destination. In places like America, pretty much every ATM will charge you for taking out cash, with prices ranging from $2 to $8+. Added up over many transactions, that’s a serious amount of money – like, we’re talking in the hundreds… Try to take out cash in amounts that will last you a while so you don’t have to keep taking more money out, or consider getting a cash card from a company that refunds the difference when you’re charged to withdraw.

Last but not least, don’t blow your budget on drinks. I know it sounds dramatic, but there are a lot of people that party so hard they spend their money in two months and have to go straight home. It’s way more common than you think. Obviously I’m planning on having some proper good fun when I’m on my road trip, but not at the expense of my bank account (or my liver…). In a country as drink-friendly as Australia you can get some pretty good deals ($10 for 4 litres of goon anybody??), but of course this all stacks up. Have fun, but don’t be stupid.

If you want tips on how to save for your adventure, read my blog posts here, here and here.

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