I’ll be honest. Managing money is something that doesn’t come naturally to me. Yes, I can easily save and spend. But it’s being aware of my spending habits and understanding how to make my money really work for me that takes a lot of trial and error.
Luckily, traveling is the best teacher for stubborn people like me who learn best from experience, both good and bad. I call it baptism by fire, especially when you find yourself shortchanged with almost a week left in your trip in a country that doesn’t really accept credit cards. Trust me, it happens and you too can survive.
In the last couple of years I’ve traveled in groups, pairs, alone, for the weekend, over a week, on business and for pleasure. I’m not an expert, but hopefully you can learn from some of my tips below.
Managing your money starts before you trip
Research. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but researching the costs and expenses will give you less of a headache on the road. You don’t need to budget for everything. After all, the best part of traveling is being spontaneous.
But you should know the basics and set aside money for it, like the cost of a hotel and hostel, and most importantly, any airport fees that will potentially prevent you from flying back home or to your next destination.
I freaked out once when I was traveling alone because I was looking at a guidebook that said I needed to pay airport tax, which I didn’t have enough money set aside for. Luckily, that book was outdated and I got home just fine
Tip: Always have a contingency plan. If you can, set aside an extra hundred dollars as an emergency fund. Don’t change it unless you absolutely have to.
Plan for what you like to splurge on
You should be able to enjoy yourself while traveling and sometimes that means spending a little bit more on the experiences that make you happy. Whether it’s food, shopping, massages, tours or museums, don’t feel guilty about spending that extra dollar or two. Plan for it. When is the next time you’ll be in that country? The chances of running into the same store with that adorable handicraft again are slim. Also, be conscious about what other people in the group don’t like spending on (like tips) to prevent any potential disagreement.
Tip: Check what’s the custom in the country that you’re visiting. Is it normal to tip and if so how much is the going rate?
When to use your credit card
It’s best practice to always have cash on hand but don’t carry everything around. Predict and only carry how much you will need for that day. This helps to prevent you from spending too much all at once.
But your credit card is a safety net and security blanket. While I try to charge as little as possible, be practical and assess every situation. Charge if you have a big expense and need the extra cash because you’ve just begun your trip. I do find charging a good way to keep track of expenses especially when you’re in a big group and need people to reimburse you later on.
Have a tracking system when in big groups
When traveling in groups of 3 or more set up a kitty or a pool of money that’s contributed by everyone. This can be used for shared expenses like food and transportation.
Tip: Not all countries or activities give you receipts like taking a tuktuk for transportation in South East Asia so make sure you consciously note down all your expenses.
What are your tips and tricks? Share in the comments.