How to travel on a budget is as much about how much you save before you leave for your trip as it is how you keep track of your money whilst on the road.
There’s not point saving up loads of money then just to go around makin’ it rain everywhere you go.
There are a number of techniques you can use when traveling on a budget to keep track; some I subscribe to and some I don’t. Keeping track on your spendings is one way to travel on a budget. Another way is to make sure you don’t spend unnessecary money to begin with. Here are some ways to easily save money while traveling.
How to Travel on a Budget – Keeping Track
1. Keep track of every penny you spend
A lot of people do this. Literally writing down everything they spend each day so they know if they’re being frugal enough. Whether or not you should do this will very much depend on your personality. For me, getting myself to write down everything I spend on a daily basis would be like pulling teeth.
It would feel like work.
And part of the reason I left to go traveling is to remove things like that from my life. So it’s not one for me.
It would effect my happiness to force myself to do this task everyday and suck the joy out of the things I did spend my money on.
And travel really should be fun.
For some people writing a list like this comes easily and naturally to them though so if that’s you by all means go for this option. It will be a great way to keep track of your travel budget. But if doing things like this doesn’t come naturally to you, just don’t do it.
Don’t feel pressured into doing it from all the posts you’ll read on other sites about it. I get by just fine without tracking every penny I spend and I’m much happier for it.
2. Work out a rough daily travel budget
Working out a rough daily budget is great way to keep track of your money without having to go into the minute detail of writing down every expensive.
With this option you just need to do a quick mental check in at the end of each day to see whether you spent roughly your daily budgeted amount or less.
If the answer is yes you’re fine.
If it’s over, you’ll need to adjust your next day’s daily budget to account for this as the little amounts will add up over time.
The only problem with this is that travel doesn’t really work in the way where you will constantly be able to spend a similar amount each day.
There may be some days where you’re already in a location and not doing anything other than exploring the town by foot so only end up spending a few pounds on food that day. But then they’ll be other days where you have to pay for the bus ride from x to y or the entrance fee to somewhere like Angkor Wat or the tour fee to go Whale watching.
These are all absolutely things you should spend your money on. After all there is no point in going travelling if you’re just going to spend all your time hauled up in your hostel afraid you’ll blow your budget if you go do the cool things there are in that location or move onto the another place. But if you’re working your budget per-day, each time you have to buy an item like this it will completely blow your daily budget.
There’s just no way it will fit within it (unless you’re super rich and have a REALLY high daily budget).
Budgeting day-by-day makes it really hard to factor in larger expenses like this and because it blows the budget each time you have to do it will create a lot of guilt each time you spend money on an item like this.
And that shouldn’t be the case.
You should be free to enjoy the experiences where you are without constant guilt gnawing away at you. That’s almost as bad as just staying hauled up in your hostel the whole time. So, onto my preferred option.
4. Budget by month
This is one of the most effect, and guilt free ways, to keep track of your budget while traveling. Having a monthly budget is great for ensuring you don’t burn through your money too quickly but also have the freedom to spend more when you need to.
You’ll still want to work out a rough idea of how much you’ll ideally spend each day for this system but because it’s actually the monthly total that really mattes most it will take the pressure off. As long as you come out roughly on the right amount at the end of the month you’ll know you’re doing ok.
4. Don’t budget
This is the least frequently taken option but, if you are travelling for an indefinite period, it does pose the question as to why you need to budget in the first place?
Sure you want your travels to last as long as possible but you also want your experiences to be as rich and varied as possible. Before you write me off as insane for even suggesting this, read the below.
As long as you have changed your mind-set before your set off on your travels to place more emphasis on experiences rather than material things, an essentinal part of how to save money to travel, then you will not be at too much risk taking this option.
I’m not suggesting you spend whatever you want when you want, far from it. But as long as you have already made the conscious decision to live more frugally and to take the cheaper options where available doing this will free you up to get the most out of your travels without having to worry about money all the time.
I made this mental shift before I left for my travels and do things like eat local food almost all the time which only costs me a pound or two rather than going to fancy restaurants and hardly ever buy new clothes.
But you do need to do things like eat, even when traveling on a budget. That’s not an expense that’s going to go away so as long as you form a habit of buying the cheaper options there’s no point in stressing too much about it every time you have to buy a food or pay to do your laundry (and you should still abide by the standard tipping practices in the countries you visit).
I actually use a combination of this technique and the one above of setting a rough monthly and daily budget.
I therefore have an idea of what I should be spending each month but I don’t actively budget as such. If someone suggests doing something that I think would be really fun, even if it is out of my budget, I will go do it. I know I’m not spending wildly all the time and I’d much rather spend my money on experiences than anything else.
I want my travels to be filled with rich and varied activities. If doing that means my trip ends up being a day, a week or a month shorter than it could have been so be it. There’s no point in stretching out the time by being so frugal that you don’t get to experience anything.
Some of the things I’ve done and seen on my travels have been way out of my budget, but that I wouldn’t take back for a second, are:
- Getting my Open Water and Advanced Scuba Diving Qualifications in Koh Tao, and subsequent dives after which are not cheap
- Going to Angkor Wat in Cambodia
- Going Paragliding in Manila
- Taking a boat to see Whales in Mirissa
- Hover boarding in Boracay
- Yoga Teaching Training in India
- Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cebu
- Learning to Surf in Bali
If I was worrying too much about my budget I wouldn’t have done most of these things. But I am so glad I did. How to travel on a budget isn’t about scrimping and scrimping on everything. It’s about scrimping on the things that don’t matter and focusing on those that do.
Don’t just travel for the sake of being able to say you’ve been to x number of countries.
Travel to experience those countries do the fun, interesting and different things there are to do there.
Even if they’re out of your budget.
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