Whoever said, ‘the best things in life are free’, was certainly not a backpacker. Travel is certainly not free. You have to make a plan & BUDGET LIKE HELL.
One of our biggest achievements from travelling Asia in 2017, was stretching a 6-month budget to last us 10 months. Excluding India, Australia and Dubai we normally worked towards a living budget of £25 / $35 for the two of us.
Every penny counted when it came to our budgeting. We would honestly leave a restaurant if the meal would come to 30p more than we were used to. We went a bit overboard. But we knew that every time we avoided that extra couple of pennies, we would be able to travel for longer.
We will be creating individual budget guides for every country we visited so we can help you save money and explore as much as possible. But for now, this article will get you started on planning your budgets and what you need to know before heading out.
Categorise your budget
We split our budget into living costs and our excursions.
Just because we were super cheap & spent as little money as possible, it doesn’t mean we were limited in what we experienced.
Our living costs normally consisted of:
- Food / Groceries
- Scooter Rental
- Water / Drinks
- Treats, sweets and chocolate cake!
- Alcohol & coffee!
Our excursion costs normally consist of: (the fun things & the things that we knew would blow our daily budget)
- Hikes, Tours, Activities
- (e.g. hiking up Mount Bromo, spending a day with elephants or Thai boxing training in Chiang Mai)
- Travel between cities and countries
- Hospital appointments, Medical related problems
- Visa & border crossing fees
- Police fines
- Cinema ? (which is around £3 each – crazy!)
Medical costs and police fines should’ve belonged in another category called ‘Unexpected Shit’.
If you’re heading to a popular tourist spot on a scooter, have some money in a separate wallet. If you’re stopped by police, just tell them that you only have what’s in that separate wallet. It will be a fraction of what they ask for but they’ll choose to take that money rather than go through the trouble of taking the scooter off you. (Based on our Vietnam experience).
So that’s the base for your budgets.
Work out a daily budget
Before travelling, we conducted heaps of research trying to create daily, weekly and monthly budgets for each country.
None of them stuck…
We shortly learnt that the best way to know what we’d spend on a daily basis was to take the first couple of days as they came. You have to get your own idea of how much things cost in that country. Get an understanding of what’s a good price and what’s a shit price.
Make it daily & sum it up Weekly / Monthly
We would note down every little thing we bought, be it a bag of sweets, a mango, a bus ticket or dinner. This then started to paint a picture on how the rest of our week/month would look like. We then set a daily budget (normally averaged around £25 / $35 for the 2 of us), which helped us plan for the rest of our time in the country.
So a key tip to make a note on your phone of every bit of money you spend! It is very easy to forget spending a penny here or there, but the more you forget, the more money you’re saying goodbye to that’s not accounted for.
I would sum it up at the end of the day in local currency and our currency (£). On top of this, (on the following page) I would have a running total of our spend in that country.
By keeping a daily log, you won’t forget anything and it makes you a lot more flexible with you spend. For example, if you’re cheap on one day, you can treat yourself the next!
Adapt but don’t stress
Your daily spend in any country will vary massively, especially when expecting to pay the local price you read online and being faced with the ‘tourist price’ which is normally 3 or 4 times more!
Plus, unexpected spend happens every day, e.g. when you decide you just can’t resist a dessert for another day.
The biggest thing is not to stress. Providing you monitor your budgets, you’ll easily be able to stay on top of your expected and unexpected spend and have the flexibility to spend more (or less) when necessary.
Be flexible though. Don’t let a budget stop you from having or doing what you want.
Some days we would spend more money but we knew we would just have to be cheaper for the following couple of days to balance it out.
TOP TIPS –
- It’s always a good idea to plan before you travel. Plan your locations, excursions, accommodations and budget!
- Start with a rough plan and always try to save more than you need. This will grant you flexibility with your daily spend.
- Know what to expect. Do adequate research (both online & in travel books) and get a rough idea of costs in different countries.
- Be flexible because everything changes. Being flexible with your budget will save yourself A LOT of stress! If you spend more one day, it’s easy to spend less the next.