5 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR MONEY LAST WHEN YOU TRAVEL
One of the most common questions I get asked about my ability to travel long-term is how I can afford to travel so much? Am I rich? Did mom and dad pay? Do I have a rich uncle? Did I win the lottery?
Step 1: Know what you want to spend money on.
When I travel, I don’t budget a lot of money for accommodation, tours, or even transportation. I find the cheapest accommodation around and I walk everywhere I can. If I need a ride, I’ll take public transportation or hitchhike!
But I will spend a lot of money on food and drinks. Why? Because that’s what I want to do! I didn’t pinch pennies back home and avoid going out so I could fly to Australia and spend my nights watching Netflix, nor did I head to France just to cook meals in a hostel every night. No, not me. I came to live! I came to eat and drink in the culture! I want to go out.
And I’m willing to sleep in massive dorms, on a floor, or walk seven miles to ensure I have the funds to make that happen.
If you can eat all your meals in a hostel kitchen then a small food budget is for you. If you plan on Couchsurfing every night of the week, then you don’t need to account for accommodations. If you are flying to Europe and know you love to drink wine, you should expect that you’ll probably buy some wine.
Be realistic about what you want to do with your travels and budget accordingly.
Step 2: Research and plan before you go.
When you know yourself and what you want to spend money on, it’s easy to create a robust budget that will cover you for the duration of your trip. This is where pre-trip research comes in. Will you be taking any tours or cooking classes? Going bungee jumping or dancing the night away at a club?
Once you know your interests (at least a bit), you can set your budget.
When I started planning my trip in 2005, there wasn’t a lot of travel information online. I spent a lot of time reading guidebooks and searching for any information I could find about prices. I pieced together an intricate spreadsheet of how much I would spend each day in various places based on how much I could save and what I found online.
These days, you don’t need to go that crazy when you plan your trip, because there is so much information available online about prices. You can literally Google the price for anything you want!
If you want to make your money last, you need to know exactly how much you think you’ll spend.
Too often I see travelers get blindsided by unexpected costs, breaking their budget to pieces. Sure, something will always happen that you don’t predict, but people mostly get blindsided by stuff they should have anticipated. “Wow! That tour is so expensive. I blew my budget!” “I didn’t expect drinks would cost so much!” “This place is more expensive than I thought.”
I just shake my head when I hear these comments, because these are people who clearly didn’t do any planning.
Don’t be like these people. Do your research, plan ahead, and avoid the pitfalls that will send you home far sooner (and far poorer) than you want.
Step 3: Create your ideal budget.
Create a budget for what you think travel will cost. Write down all the things you want to do, where you want to do them, and how much they will cost. Account for your food, insurance, transportation, flights, accommodation, booze, activities, and anything else you think will be relevant.
If you need help budgeting or don’t know how much something will cost, ask someone from our online travel forum or someone in our travel Facebook group — somebody will definitely be able to help!
Step 4: Match your expectations to your economic reality.
I cut a lot from my ideal budget and itinerary based on how much I knew I was going to actually save for my trip. If I wanted to do things that totaled $10,000 USD but was only going to save $7,000 USD, then I had to make cuts to match my financial reality. Here are some good articles on saving money to help you:
Step 5: Keep track of all your expenses.
Finally, after you have created your realistic budget and set out on the road, you need to track all of your expenses. The people who have to go home early are always the ones that have no idea how much money they are spending on the road.
By tracking every expense — from hostel dorms to that snack you bought — you can see if you’re on track or if you’re overspending (in which case you can correct your spending).
This is the most important thing you can do make your money last!
If you only do one thing, track your spending! Sure, you have to remember to do it, and it’s easy to forget, but actively doing this will ensure you become a better budget traveler, and soon it will become a habit.