So you have set your budget and saved all of your money and your big adventure is imminent. Now you need to make sure that you manage your money wisely when you are travelling so you can stick to your plans and travel for longer.
Budgeting when you are on the road is not an easy task! It is so tempting to have that extra cocktail or treat yourself to a snazzy hotel room, getting a taxi instead of walking and ordering a pudding with dinner. All of these extras add up and can potentially mean booking a flight home or having to miss out on those 'once in a lifetime' experiences.
Here are my top tips on how to manage your budget and how I made my money go further:
Set a daily budget for each country
Once you have decided which countries you want to visit, then you need to work out a rough estimate of what you will need for accommodation, food, transport and activities. Depending on how large or small your budget is, this will help you decide how long you can stay in a certain place. When I was planning my trip I wanted to stay in Japan for a month, but once I worked out a daily budget, it would cut the trip short, so we went for two and half weeks instead and then spent more time in Cambodia. One day in Europe or America could be one week in south-east Asia if you are savvy with your money.
Setting a daily budget is vital as you need something to aim towards. Without having a daily budget I think I would have massively overspent.
Keep a track on how much you spend each day
For 9 months while I was travelling, I basically kept a note of every penny that I spent. I know this seems excessive but it really helped me stay on budget or even go under budget. Keeping a note of how much you spend every day can be a drag but it just became part of my daily routine. It also felt really good when I was under budget as I knew that would all add up and mean being able to travel for longer. I managed to come under budget enough over the 9 months to travel around Poland, Lithuania and Latvia as well! I think without my daily spreadsheet I would have struggled to even know if we were under or over budget.
Seeing your expenses written down makes spending your money feel more real and you can learn where you are overspending in the process.
If you don't track your money, your bank balance will most likely go down quicker than you think.
If you go under budget don't go crazy the next day
When you are tracking your daily expenses if you go under budget one day it is very tempting to splurge the next day. DON'T DO IT! Trust me there will be lots of days when you go over budget and you need the days which you are under budget to help you even out at the end.
Have a separate pot of money for expensive activities
If you have a bucket list as long as mine (which you can read here), then it is highly likely that you will have a few expensive activities on your list. I had a separate account for the activities I knew I wanted to do so this didn't affect my daily budget. I had a pot for activities such as doing a bungee jump in New Zealand, snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef and watching baseball in America. All of these activities would have messed up my daily budget and I am glad that I had a separate pot dedicated to these.
Don't treat long term travel like a holiday
Travelling long term is not a holiday! When you are on a two week holiday you can afford to splurge on a nice hotel, fancy meals and cocktails, but if you did this when travelling long term you would have to have a hefty budget to maintain this travelling lifestyle.
You need to change your mindset and be realistic of what you can do with your budget.
Re-evaluate your accommodation style
Accommodation will be one of your major expenses and staying in more budget-friendly accommodation is one of the biggest ways of saving money. Hostels, homestays and Airbnb's are a great way to cut your accommodation cost. Hostels are a great way to meet other like-minded travellers and they are usually central and staying with a local family at Airbnb's can be a great authentic experience. Every now and again it is nice to stay in a hotel but I did find them a bit characterless.
Couchsurfing is also a great way to travel on a budget and the biggest bonus is that it's free and you get to stay with a host who is full of knowledge on the local area.
I would highly recommend choosing a homestay if they are on offer in the country you are in. I stayed with a local man called Jose in south India and had an amazing time which you can read about here.
Avoid hidden costs
With some simple organisation, you can avoid or at least reduce hidden costs. Using a local SIM card scan will avoid you incurring additional fees when using your phone abroad but you need to make sure your phone is unlocked so the SIM card will work. You also want to make sure you have a bank card which doesn't charge banking and conversion fees, as this can add up massively if you are on the road for a long time. I have a Barclays Credit Card which doesn't charge to spend money abroad and I have a direct debit set up to clear the card off at the end of each month, so we didn't risk forgetting to pay and then incurring late payment fees.
Cut back on the booze
When you are travelling full time it is easy to feel like every night is a Saturday night. When I first started travelling I was definitely guilty of this, thinking I had an excuse to go out every night. I started to go over my daily budget and realised that those few beers or cocktails every night were the reason why. I then decided that I would drink with purposes and stopped having as many cheeky beers with my dinner. There is also the added bonus of not having as many hangovers. Cutting back on the alcohol can really help towards sticking to a budget, but you also need to have fun and you don't want to have regrets. Ps look at how big that beer looks compared to my head lol!
Eat where the locals eat
This is one of the best tips, not only because it will save you money but because you will taste the best local food and experience an authentic experience. Some of the best food I had on the trip was after stumbling into a local restaurant that didn't look very special from the outside but served the tastiest local food! Another tip is to sample the food at night markets, as you can try lots of different dishes without spending lots of money and you will always go away with a full belly. If you want to know why I love street markets in Asia so much, you can read my post on Taipei street markets here.
Use public transport or walk
Walking will save you lots of money, is good exercise, you will also see more of the area and get your bearings. Using public transport will not be as comfortable as a taxi or flying but you will see more of the country and meet local people on the way. When we were in India we were on a train and got chatting to some locals and learnt so much about their culture. Some of the train journeys in India and Vietnam cost next to nothing to travel miles and in were absolutely breath-taking.
Cook your own food
You will not always be able to do this but cooking your own food when possible will save lots of your money. When we were campervanning across New Zealand and Australia we more or less made food in the van every day and it enabled us to keep our daily budget down. I think really it depends on where you are in the world, as if you are somewhere in south-east Asia it will probably be cheap enough to eat out all the time. If we were ever in a hostel or hotel that offered free breakfast we always made sure that we utilised this (and we were guilty of putting a bread roll in our pocket for lunch if we were on a real budget).
If you haven't got the facilities to cook then 7/11 (a chain of convenience store in Asia) are great. In Japan, we generally brought food for breakfast and lunch and then went out for dinner. I think we lived of Japanese steamed buns and rice triangles (which had some kind of fish or meat in the middle of them). Even though these were from a convenience store they were so tasty and cheap!
You need to find the balance between trying the local foods and cutting the costs by making a few packed lunches now and again. We were guilty of eating instant noodles for dinner as sometimes you just want to chill at home (aka hostel or hotel room), rather than having to go out to eat.
Don't rush and travel slower!
Travelling slower usually means that it will be cheaper. Flying is the most expensive way to travel but if you travel slower and travel overland when you can, you will save lots of pennies. I also found that we spent less when we stayed in a place for longer, as you will scope out the cheap but tasty restaurants and sometimes you will get a discounted rate on your accommodation for a longer stay.
We booked an Airbnb in Taipei for a week, got discounted accommodation, cooked some meals in our apartments and had a few days hiking and a few days not doing very much, binge-watching Netflix in the evening after walking around the city in the day time. This made our daily budget even out and we came way under budget that week.
Have a contingency
I know this post is about how to manage your budget but I would recommend having a contingency which is in another account just for emergencies. I ended up in hospital for a week in Japan after having a severe allergic reaction and even though I eventually got the money back from my travel insurance, I had to cover the costs upfront. I was so grateful that I had put a little aside or else I would have had to cut my trip short. If I didn't end up in hospital my plan was to use the money to do some long weekend trips after I got home.
Stick to it
This is the hard part... sticking to it!!! Just keep your travel goals at the forefront of your mind at all times. The more you can make your money stretch the longer you can travel for, surely that's worth making the cutbacks.
I have a note of every bit of money that I spent while on the road for 9 months and will be categorising these into countries and posting blogs covering daily budgets soon...keep an eye out!
Before the trip when I was saving money for travelling, it did feel hard work but the experiences I had were priceless and sticking to my budget enabled me to keep travelling full time for 9 months and I would do it all over again!
Other posts which you may find helpful or interesting if you are planning on taking a career break: