When you travel, of course it’s important to keep a daily travel budget of your spending on your trip. Duh.

This is not so much 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. This post is about how I keep track of my daily travel budget.

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.

But even if you have a monthly or weekly budget for your trip, it is important to focus down your spending even more.

That’s why I like to keep a daily travel budget.

I have a little notebook that I bring with me on trips. Sorry, no, it’s not a journal. I could never get into journalling my thoughts and observations when I’m travelling. Instead, 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.

I will explain with a past trip using my trip to Mongolia in 2013. I used Japanese Yen as my starting base, but I will put a rough idea of Canadian Dollars too. Keep in mind this is a backpacking budget. But there’s no reason why you can’t use the same system for different travel styles.

Read: Mongolian gers and a truly nomadic people

1.Determine how much I will need for the entire duration of the trip

Like I said, this should already be done. 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 will 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 I make a table in my notebook

I have a column for the amount of money I spend in one day, how much I have left at the end of the day, how many days left on my trip, what is my remaining daily travel budget, and how much I am over or under my budget. I started including the date on the left side to make it easier to understand.

4. Then I convert the total and daily travel budget into local currency

So 10,000 JPY 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.

5. I fill in all the information in the column for date and days left on the trip

“Days remaining” should be in descending order.

6. Next I take out my daily budget and have fun

On the first day of my trip, I take the daily travel budget amount from my total. At least as much as possible depending on what bills I have. 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 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 (usually in my bra) in the event of an emergency or whatever.

7. I record my 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 “spent” column.

Whatever I didn’t spend from my daily budget, I add back into my total budget. I then fill in the “how much I have left” column.

8. I come up with a new daily budget, which changes daily

Then I divide my new “amount left” amount by how many days left on my trip to find my new daily budget. If I went over my budget today, then tomorrow daily budget will be less. If I stayed under my daily budget today, then tomorrow’s daily travel budget will be more.

Still with me?

9. Next I find out how much I was over or under my budget that day

I record this in the +/- column. Though I don’t always fill it out. Depends how I feel. Wild child.

10. Finally, I set aside my cash for tomorrow

After everything is filled in and the math is done, I check my daily budget for tomorrow and. As much as possible, depending on bills I have, I set aside that amount for tomorrow’s adventure.

Then I do the same steps all again tomorrow.

I always just do it by hand in my notebook, but if you have a computer, you could do it there as well. Excel makes it easy to format the cells to do the calculations for you so you don’t make any math mistakes.

Here is what my Mongolia trip daily travel budget looks like when I put it into Excel. Remember, it is in Mongolian currency:

daily travel budget screen shot

Some notes:

  • The dashes from Aug. 21 to Aug. 24 means I didn’t spend any cash those days. I was on a tour in the Gobi Desert and already paid for it by credit card.
  • Aug. 25 and 26 were cheap days because I spent most of the day sick and tired in the hostel.
  • Aug. 20, 27 and 28 are more expensive because I paid for some tourist sites, a tour, a bus and taxi, and the hostel.
  • I was over my budget every day on this trip. It’s not always like this. Some trips I end up being under my budget.
  • I had 38,500 MNT left over at the end, which I converted into Russian Rubles. I added this to my Russian total and made the whole table again when I got to Russia.
  • This is not a budget of everything I spend, just when I use cash in country. I used my credit card for the desert tour. A whopping 456 USD, but worth it, in my opinion.
  • Rather than writing the dates, I’ve found it easier to understand if I write the days of the week instead.

Read: The singing sand dunes of Khongoryn Els

My experiences keeping a daily travel budget

I 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 helps to make sense of the local currency.

Since then, I do it for all my trips. It’s especially good if are a budget backpacker anyway, and you really want to control how much you spend.

As you can see, when you do it by hand, it can get a little messy. But sometimes travel is messy.

travel budget table

What do you think of my daily travel budget system? Is it useful, or unnecessary? Or are you like “come on, Jennifer, why would you write something so obvious?”

Let me know how you budget your daily spending while travelling.

Author

Jennifer has lived in Japan for a total of seven years. She has travelled, taught English, studied Japanese, completed a Master's Degree, and travelled some more. She currently calls Nagoya her home, where she lives with her Japanese husband.

17 Comments

  1. Wow! What a system. Very impressive! That’s why i always dpend too much money, I just cannot keep a budget haha!!!

    • Thanks. It’s still not perfect, and sometimes I still end up having to find an ATM. But it works well enough for me most of the time. You do have to stick with it for the whole trip though, otherwise it won’t really mean anything. I will continue to use it, since I like to have a general idea where my money is going and how much in one day.

    • Thank you. It can be hard to do it if you are tired at the end of the day. It also works if you do it in the morning before you go out for the day and start spending money. But if you have an early day, the night before might be better. Also, it’s flexible! So try different things and see what happens. You might miss a day, but you can still figure it out when you have time.

  2. So organized! I usually have two systems going for spending amounts: daily budget, and then I try to keep cash separate for tours, entrance fees, day trips, or other big cost adventures that are on the top of our to do list. I am not nearly as organized as you, in contrast I spend most of my time journaling, and my “budgeting” record tends to be scribbled notes in the margins.

  3. Wow! Your tips are so practical and useful, Jennifer! Your daily travel budget system is awesome. Have you tried using an app on your phone? It’s easier I believe. 🙂

    • Thanks. I’m glad you think so. I haven’t used an app for this. I started doing this before I had an iPhone, and I just like to write it down on a piece of paper. This way is easy enough for me. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Very impressive. I don’t think we could stick to such a rigorous tracking although I wish we could. I will try to learn from this. Thank you for the tips! 👍🏼

  5. management is a discipline which involves more of common sense….. you r way of managing things is very good…. thanks for sharing the same with us……

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