Creating and Sticking to your Budget
Have you ever dreamed of going to South Africa or Australia and then heard that it was ungodly expensive so you ditched the idea? You don’t have to be making six figures to go on vacation or do some long-term traveling; you just need to know how to budget. It may sound silly but when you are using multi-colored currencies of pink, blue, purple and yellow you can easily forget that you are not playing with monopoly money. The worst thing in the world is to buy a latte in Paris, only to find out later that it cost $7, trust me it happens and all adds up!
I’m going to give you a step-by-step guide (using a fake destination) on how I budgeted for my international trip and even came home with an extra $2,000 in my account.
Research the pricing in your destination
Look at average prices of hotels, food, activities, etc.
Decide on an amount that is realistic and that you feel comfortable spending for your trip. This could be $1,000 for 1 week or $20,000 for 6 months, just make sure that you are ok spending this amount. Oh and make sure you have a little savings to come back to, until you get our next paycheck or a new job.
Create a budget-tracking sheet
After I decided where I wanted to go, I created an excel spreadsheet by cities and dates. If you are going to multiple countries put each of them on a separate tab of your spreadsheet. Do all your budgeting and research in advance and fill out the chart before you leave. If you are using a tablet you can download this free app so that you can fill-in your spreadsheet on your device.
Start by adding the following columns:
- Extra Activities (optional)
- Cost of Extra Activities
- Fun Money
- Daily Budget
- Master Balance
Fill Out Budget Sheet
• Start by filling in “extra activities” that you intend on doing since you know those will be an automatic cost (this could be guided tours or fun activities that aren’t free). Put the name of the optional activity in one column (so you remember what you are putting that money aside for) and the cost of the activity in the adjacent column.
• Input the “average accommodation” costs based on your research for each day of your trip.
• Input your “food” budget for each day (based on your research).
• Input your costs for “tips” if you are in a country that expects them (I’m talking about YOU Amercia).
• Input amount for “Fun Money” such as shopping or miscellaneous items. I usually just took my left over money from my budget and divided it by the number of days in my trip. The “Fun Money” will give you some wiggle room while still being accounted for in your total budget.
Tally Your Total Daily Purchases
Each morning I would look at the “Daily Budget” column so I knew what I was allowed to spend for the day. At the end of the day I would tally the cost of everything I spent and add it to the “Purchases” column. If you are really OCD (like myself) you can write down what you spent your money on. This helps to avoid the “oh my gosh where did all my money go” at the end of the day.
Sometimes you may have allotted $75 for accommodations but only spent $50 on them but maybe you were $20 over on your food budget. That’s ok because it’s still within your total daily budget.
Balance Your “Checkbook”
Once you’ve tallied what you spent for the day, add the surplus or deficit to the “Balance” column.
For example, if your daily budget was $150 and you only spent $120 you would add $30 to this list. Or if your daily budget was $150 and you spent $200 (hey you decided to get a massage) you would subtract $50 from this list.
Calculate your Master Balance
The “Master Balance column is clutch! This allows you to see where you are in regards to your budget.
For example, maybe you find that you want to do something that you didn’t plan for, so you can look at this list and see if you can spare the funds.
Here is an example of a filled-out budget sheet. I filled out this chart religiously each day of my trip, it only took about 5 minutes and really helped me stay on track. I especially recommend this for long-term trips because it’s easy to over-spend when you are looking at a big chunk of cash in your checking account. It’s particularly helpful if you are going to multiple countries because then you can transfer your surplus over to the next country or try to make up for it if you’ve over-spent.
Sometimes you don’t want to think about spending when you’re on vacation but it’s always nice to come back from a great vacation knowing that you aren’t going to be paying for it on your credit card for the next 3 months. And let’s be honest, what’s the point of going to Australia if you have to eat “Cup’Noodles” instead of splurging on a nice juicy steak and a glass of Shiraz from the Barossa Valley?
*If you are interested in this spread sheet and don’t feel like making it. Leave a message or sign up for our newsletter with your email info and I’ll send it to you!