When you travel, of course it’s important to keep a daily travel budget of your spending on your trip. This post is not about saving for a trip or researching costs at a particular place. It is about what comes after that–when you are finally in a new country. In this post I’ll share my exact system I use to budget my travel down to the day.
I will assume that you have already saved enough for a trip. And you probably already have a general idea about how much you will need to spend when you get there. How much water costs, a regular meal, a rough idea of transportation costs, and how much the tourists sites cost, etc.
It’s a bit tricky to explain, I’ve included a free printable spreadsheet with a guide on how to fill it in. Keep reading to learn how to budget travel and then download the spreadsheet and get started!
Budget travel travel budget
I have a little notebook that I bring with me on trips. It’s where I write down the names of things I want to see, how much it will cost to get there and enter, and other technical things like that. It has a lot of numbers in it because I do a lot of math in it.
I will explain my system with a past trip I took to Mongolia. I used Japanese Yen as my starting base (because I live in Japan), but I will put a rough idea in Canadian Dollars (because I’m from Canada). Keep in mind this is my backpacking budget. But there’s no reason why you can’t use the same system for different travel styles.
1 Determine how much you will need for the entire trip
First, figure out how much you will need for spending money for your whole trip–one week, two weeks, one month, etc. I came up with a total budget of 10,000 JPY (120 CAD) for ten days in Mongolia. I like to look at Budget Your Trip to get some ideas about how much it would cost.
2 Divide this total amount by the number of days you will stay
I stayed in Mongolia for ten days, including the day I arrived and the day I left. So that gives me a daily budget of 1000 JPY (12 CAD). Pretty cheap, huh.
3 Next make a table in your notebook
Take a fresh page in your notebook or on a letter-size piece of paper. Make 9 columns across and label them: Day, Date, Day of week, Today’s budget, How much I spent today, Over/under, How much left/ Days left, Tomorrow’s budget. Like this:
Underneath these columns make enough rows for each day of travel, plus an extra day. I usually like to start at Day 0, the day before I leave for a trip.
Is this getting confusing? Download the guide and spreadsheet to see these steps in action:
4 Convert the total and daily travel budget into local currency
My total for the entire trip was 10,000 JPY. 10,000 JPY (approx. 100 CAD) at that time was 178,000 Mongolian Tugrik. This makes for 17,800 MNT a day. It’s better to work with the local currency when you fill in the chart because it’s what you are working with in cash when you are out and about each day. I use XE to get a general idea of the exchange rate.
5 Fill in all the information in the columns for Day, Date, and Day of week
The first column, Day, should be in ascending order from 1. Or from 0 if you want. The second column, Date, should be the month and date of your travel starting from the first day. Include the days of the week column if it will help you be more organized.
The second to last column, Days left, should be in descending order. For example, a 10-day trip will be numbered from 10 down to 0.
6 Take out the first day’s budget and have fun!
On the first day of my trip, I take the daily travel budget amount from my total. Mine was 17,800 MNT a day, remember? Then I say to myself, “this is how much money I can spend today–don’t spend any more than this.” I leave the rest in the my hostel in locker.
I use this money from the moment I land. It’s to buy food, take local transportation, visit tourist sites, and maybe a souvenir here and there. However, I do keep a bit of extra cash and a credit card with me in the event of an emergency or whatever.
7 Record your daily spending at the end of the night
At the end of the day, when I have finished buying things, I do a bit of math. I take the remaining cash that I have left over from my daily budget and figure out how much I spent during the whole day. Then I write this down in my “How much I spent today” column.
Take your “Today’s budget” minus “How much I spent today” to find out how much you were over or under budget for the day. Right this amount in the Over/Under column: ex. +300 or -450.
* If you were under budget:
If you spent less than your daily budget, add the rest into your total money for the whole trip. Put that number in the “How much left” column. This means tomorrow’s budget will be a tiny big bigger!
* If you were over budget:
If you spent more than your budget, subtract the extra money you spent from your total money for the whole trip. Put this number in the “How much left” column. Tomorrow’s budget will be a tiny big smaller. 🙁
8 Get your a new daily budget
Next, take your total money amount for the whole trip (How much left) and divide it by the number of days left in your trip. This will give you your new daily budget. For example, if you were over your budget and now you have 4500 left and 9 more days of travel, your new budget will be: 9/4500=500. Write this number in the Tomorrow’s budget column. You have 500 to spend tomorrow.
Still with me? Download the printable spreadsheet and guide to see how this all works with instructions and examples.
10 Set aside your cash for tomorrow
After everything is filled in and the math is done, take out your daily budget for tomorrow. At least as much as possible, depending on what bills you have. That amount is for tomorrow’s adventure!
Do the same steps for each day of your trip
Repeat everything you just did for each day of your trip. This will help you get a good handle on your spending for the whole trip and for each day.
You could always do this on a spreadsheet on your phone that does calculations for you. But I prefer to do it with pencil and paper because I’m old school like that. As you can see, when you do it by hand, it can get a little messy. But sometimes travel is messy:
My experiences keeping a daily travel budget
I first started keeping track of my daily spending when I was in India for one month in 2012. I wanted to make sure that I had a handle on my spending. It also helped to make sense of the local currency. Since then, I do it for all my trips. It’s especially good if are into budget travel because you can control how much you spend.
I’m a budget traveller, and I like to know how I’m spending money when I’m walking around in a new country. It can be really easy to pick up extra little things you don’t need and end up spending more than you intended. Once I came up with this system, I had better control over my travel budget. And I hope you will too!
Download the free printable spreadsheet with instructions and example below: