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Keeping your finances in check when travelling

2012 November 16
by Scott

Travelling is, obviously, the perfect way to experience the many delights the world has to offer. However, for a trip to go well, whether it is for a week or a year, takes careful financial planning. Every precaution must be taken to ensure that you have enough money to provide food and shelter, as well as at least one back-up plan.

Budgeting

When budgeting for travels, a person should make a list of all possible expenses.  An excellent way to do this is by using an excel spread sheet. All manner of things should be included on the spread sheet including:

  • Flights
  • Accommodation
  • Food
  • Gifts/perks if you have the money
  • Laundry and other living expenses
  • Taxes
  • Transport

Literally anything that has a cost should be included in the table with an estimated price per day. From this, with the help of excel, the traveller can estimate how much money will be spent over a week, month or for the duration of the holiday. You can also get a sense quite quickly if budget forecasts are suitable.

It’s always better to overestimate prices rather than underestimate them. Save the spread sheet to an email, or to a cloud storage service such as Dropbox or on Google Docs, so you can amend it on the go. This way the outgoing costs can be checked against the table and adjusted in order to sustain correct finances for the trip.

If you have any income (for example freelance work, blogging etc) to add, then be sure to add that to your sheet as it will give a wider view on your true expenditure for the month. See my example spreadsheet below.

Cards or Cash?

The best way to keep money secure whilst travelling is to keep it in various places, meaning between cash cards, credit cards and cash itself.

  • ATM Card – An ideal way to get cash whenever it’s needed. It is better to open a travel account separate to the primary account used at home.  Looking for the best online bank account to transfer money easily from one account to another is a great way to avoid the turmoil of losing all money should something go wrong. Also, looking for banks that are part of the Global Alliance means that using any one of the partner banks cash machines will not incur a fee. It’s worth bearing in mind that the exchange rate for withdrawing money from a cash machine is often better than most currency exchange centres. To keep costs to a minimum, it’s always a good idea to withdraw large amounts of money rather than going back to the machine time and time again each day.
  • Credit Card – Great for large purchases and emergencies. Users should always notify the credit card company of their plans to travel to avoid disappointing moments where the company blocks the card for “suspicious activity” when they see it being used abroad.
  • Cash – The money that talks. Cash is quick and convenient and can often be responsible for lowering prices due to companies not having to pay debit and credit card fees. Even though fees are kept low by withdrawing large amounts of cash at a time, money should be kept on the person in small amounts. It’s also better to keep money in different places about the body. For example in a concealed pocket, money belt, socks, etc. You may even want to consider travellers checks if the situation calls for it.

It pays to have the right Apps

There are many mobile applications that can help manage the finances of a traveller. Banks are constantly upgrading their applications in order for customers to be able to deposit, transfer and check funds without having to make a costly call to customer services. People can find out where the nearest cash machine is in the area or with some apps, even take a photo of a check to deposit it to their bank account.

In the UK, the most major banks have iPhone apps, which are a useful way to keep a track of your spending (all you need is a WiFi connection), and for our US counterparts Mint.com is known to be a very good budget tracker. Lots of pretty graphs and tables to see where your spend is going each month.

Never has it been so easy to make the money last the distance when travelling abroad. So making a little extra preparation on your financial planning goes a long when when out on the road.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. January 14, 2013

    Cash and ATM card works best for me. Outside of that, I do my very best not to spend money… when I don’t have to. I think that you can over think a budget too, so you must forget not to over think it and continue to enjoy your trip.

    • Scott permalink*
      January 29, 2013

      Thanks for the comments Andy – cash is king!

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