Today’s guest post from Erin of Never Ending Voyage provides insights and resources for how to save and budget your travel around the world.
We’ve spent four out of the last five years travelling. We travelled around the world in 2007-8 and then three years ago we set off to travel again—this time permanently. There’s one tip that has helped more than any other to enable us to afford to travel the world.
We’ve trekked in the Nepal Himalayas, scuba dived with turtles, lazed on powdery white beaches, winery-hopped around Italy, and danced the tango in Buenos Aires. One of the main reasons we’re still able to experience adventures like these three years on is because we track our expenses.
Warren and Betsy do the same. The reason they keep note of everything they spend isn’t just to be able to share their travel costs with you, but to keep them on budget, to make sure they don’t spend more than they can afford. Like us, this technique helped them to save up for their epic trip (as they wrote about in Dream Save Do) and still be going over two years later.
Before You Leave
Money is the number one excuse people give for not being able to travel, and yet they can afford to buy that new outfit, eat out with friends, or upgrade to the latest iPhone. Saving up for travel is about making it your absolute priority—sacrificing everything else so you can achieve your dream. The best way to do this is by tracking you spending.
Start writing down every single thing you spend and after a month look back and see where your money is going. Are you wasting money on a gym membership that you never use? Could you host a potluck dinner with friends rather than eating out at an expensive restaurant? Do you really need that new pair of shoes?
Looking at the cold hard numbers is eye opening and often rather disturbing, but when you know exactly where your money is going you can take control and start working towards your goal. By cutting back on all the unnecessary expenses those savings can go straight to your travel fund. As you break the spending habit it gets easier each month and you’ll find yourself being able to cut out more and more. We used this method to save 75% of our joint income and in just nine months we had £23,000 ($36,000)—more than enough to travel for a year.
On The Road
Once you’ve saved your travel fund and hit the road you’ll be in the habit of tracking your expenses so don’t stop now. Set yourself a budget before you leave and keep track of your spending to make sure you stick to it.
If you know exactly how much money you’re spending and what you’re spending it on then you’re in control and can make informed decisions on your travels. If you know you are under budget you’ll feel comfortable splurging on that bungy jump or scuba diving course. If you are over budget then look at areas where you could save. Maybe you need to cut down on alcohol so you can afford to hike the Inca Trail, or save money on food by cooking for yourself and be able to do that skydive. You can prioritise what’s important to you and make sure you have the trip you dreamed of.
How to Track Your Travel Expenses
On our first RTW trip without a laptop so were laughably old school—I wrote down everything we spent in the back of my journal and added it up with our pocket calculator. This isn’t an approach I’d recommend these days as pretty much everyone is travelling with some kind of technology that makes the process easier—a laptop, iPad, smartphone, or iPod Touch.
When we became digital nomads in 2010 we had a laptop with us so we enterred what we’d spent into a spreadsheet at the end of the day (see Warren’s spreadsheet for a good example). The problem was we’d have to recall exactly what we’d spent and on some days (sightseeing in big cities is the worst) we’d have spent lots of little things and it’d be hard to remember.
We needed a more efficient solution and luckily my partner Simon is a development geek. He’d wanted to get into iPhone apps for a while, so we decided to build an app to keep track of our expenses, and Trail Wallet was born. There are other expense tracker apps out there but none that met our needs as long term travellers. We designed it to to be simple and fast so you can add a new expense when you’re out and about really easily; and it has support for multiple currencies so you can see how much you are spending in both your home and local currency (it even updates the exchange rate for you). Definitely much easier than the back of the journal!
Whichever method you choose to track your expenses make sure you do—before your trip and during. It requires some dedication and focus but by taking control of your finances you’ll be able to travel for longer and experience more.
Author Bio: Erin McNeaney and her partner Simon are a digital nomad couple who sold everything they owned and left the UK in March 2010. They write about their slow travels around the world and the ups and downs of life as digital nomads at Never Ending Voyage, and create iOS apps that make your travels easier at Voyage Travel Apps. Their latest app Trail Wallet is an easy travel expense tracker to help travellers stay on budget.