Now that we’ve planned out our flight and accommodation, the last thing to worry about is how you’ll pay for the rest of your expenses! To me, this is the easiest part of planning because it usually comes down to “I have $X so I cannot exceed $X”.
This all depends on you and how you like to travel. Do you like to shop and buy lots of souvenirs? Do you like exploring the sights or tasting the food scene? Or both? Do you want to experience the nightlife? The questions could go on and on, but only you know what you like to do. Depending on your answers, you might want to set aside a little more money per day.
If I’m not sure how much daily expenses may be, I’ve found Budget Your Trip to be fairly accurate. It lets you select a range based on what type of traveler you are, but I’ve always found their estimates to be a little on the high side.
PART 4A: WAYS TO SAVE MONEY ON THE DAY-TO-DAY
In this part, I’ll try to talk about some things you could do to save money as you explore! You may read some of these and say to yourself “no way I can do that”, but hopefully you could incorporate everything else so at least you save something.
Exclusively using cash – It’s definitely easier to just use a no foreign transaction fee credit card and not worry about currency conversions. But, it’s literally SO easy to just swipe/tap/insert your card and not really know how much you’re exactly spending until you see your credit card bill. By only using cash, you can set a daily budget and only carry that amount so you’re more careful about what you spend money on.
I have a Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account and its associated debit card, which carries no foreign transaction fees and no ATM fees (refunded at the end of the month). Remember in Part 1 when we were talking about setting aside a “daily expense fund” before you travel? You want to put your fund into this account, and then withdraw money at an ATM once you get to your destination.
The key is to ONLY carry the daily budget you gave yourself (in cash) every day. If you have some leftover cash from the previous day, just carry that over to the next day. This has definitely helped me save money by forcing me to check how much money I have before spending it. However, I always carry a credit card in case for emergencies.
Yes, you may be forfeiting any potential rewards from using your credit card. However, this is a good strategy if you are particularly impulsive. Also, I don’t like using credit cards when I travel because nowadays there’s so many ways hackers could steal your information (card skimmers, sketchy people, RFID scanners, etc.) that it’s simply safer to just use cash.
Using public transportation – Repeat after me: I will avoid taxis, Ubers, and any other sketchy private transportation services at any cost.
Any country outside the USA will most likely have very extensive public transportation, and you should take advantage of this because it’s cheap. I would say that there is only around a 5% chance where you HAVE to use private transportation (Ubers, taxis, etc.) to get somewhere.
Many cities offer “X-day passes” for their transit systems and you should do the math to see if this is more cost-effective than refilling a transportation card as needed. A lot of cities also offer deals where they bundle transportation and certain attractions for a set price, which might be a good deal as well. Again, just depends on what you have planned. Purchasing a pass allows you to “set and forget”, where you don’t need to worry about topping up. However, if you’re not planning on using buses/subways a lot, you might do fine just with topping up a transportation card as needed.
Travel with only a carry-on – This is pretty self-explanatory, but I never travel with suitcases anymore because they’re too inconvenient. Traveling like a “backpacker” simply allows you to be more mobile and avoid those pesky luggage fees. Check out my Packing article to learn how to downsize the amount you travel with.
Travel with a reusable water bottle – Also pretty self-explanatory. Buying bottled water REALLY adds up. However, if you’re traveling in a country that doesn’t have a clean/sketchy water supply (most third world countries and some in Asia), just buy bottled water. However, In most first world countries, you could get away with drinking from the tap.
Keeping your nightly activities to a minimum – Buying drinks at bars and clubs is the easiest way to make money disappear from your wallet. 95% of the time, alcohol is not cheap. Therefore, you should avoid it. This is easy for me, because I’m not a fan of that kind of scene.
However, if you like going out, just be careful of how much you’re drinking/buying. It’s REALLY easy to just have “one drink a day”, as the cost adds up quick! I am NOT saying to completely stay away from the nightlife, as a lot of cities have a very vibrant nightlife which is part of the culture. Just remember, everything in moderation.