Be Money Smart When You Travel

llamas for the pig.jpg

After a week hiatus, I am back! Thought I was going to be gone for a long time? No, I invested in this domain name for a year, and I will get my money’s worth out of this domain! I traveled to Peru, and enjoyed llama-watching along with other great experiences. However, this isn’t a travel blog. So, let’s talk money!

I often get asked how I am able to afford traveling. I think some people have an assumption that I must be making bank whenever they see that I am posting photos from another destination. I am in fact, not rolling in dough a la Scrooge McDuck style, unfortunately. However, I have learned to be money smart when it comes to traveling. Learned is the key word here, as with anything else on Breaking the Piggy Bank, I had to learn how to be financially savvy when it came to traveling.

My traveling experiences can be broken down to two categories:

Traveling While Not Planning Ahead and Saying Fuck It

Traveling While Being Money Smart

Can you imagine what the difference may be?

My first experiences traveling were in my early 20s. I was financially stable enough, but hadn’t yet learned how to proactively plan towards something, such as a trip. However, I had a near perfect credit score, which in return gave me a few credit cards with high limits. As you can imagine, my traveling amounted to charging nearly everything on my credit cards. I went to Wisconsin Dells purely by nearly maxing out my credit card. Seeing the pickle I had gotten into, my aunt decided to help me out afterwards. She loaned me the money to pay off that credit card, so that I could pay her back without interest.

Yet, I didn’t learn my lesson there.

The trips I took a few years later to Las Vegas and New Orleans? Basically, I charged everything for them, too. One could say I had no business traveling, and one could be right. Looking back now I realize that I could have still traveled to those places, but I should have been planning for them instead. Furthermore, I should have at least made a solid plan in how to pay off everything was charging on my credit cards for those trips. Instead, my mentality was stuck in the “fuck it, I’ll figure it out later” mode.

Now, in the present, I am a stickler towards being proactive about trips. If I know that there might be the chance to travel somewhere in a certain month, then I go ahead and start saving money towards that months ahead. I have a general travel fund in my bank account goals that allows me to set aside money with each month towards that fund.

So, even if I hadn’t planned on visiting New York City in February, I still had money set aside in my travel fund to use on NYC when my friend invited me there. Had there been no money set aside in that travel fund, then this girl wasn’t going anywhere. As far as Peru, I had been saving towards that since December/ January.

How did I get started? Honestly, the first trip I took while being money smart was to Austin, Texas about two years ago. It’s around that time that I began to use a spreadsheet to keep track of my expenses, and that is the tool that helped save towards Austin. Austin had been a challenge to myself to see if I was able to travel because up to that point I had told myself that I had no business traveling with my financial mishaps. However, Austin was the challenge to start new again. To test myself in how I could save to travel rather than use a credit card. From that and subsequent trips, I learned to be money smart when traveling.

Here are some tips and tools on how to be money smart when traveling that I use:

  • Consider your travel options. What is a cost effective way to get there— Via road, train, or air? When I visited Rochester, I decided to forgo the convenience of an airplane and chose the much cheaper option of taking the train there, instead.
  • If you decide to make a road trip out of it, then calculate gas totals. This is especially important if you are not the one who’s car is being used. Make sure you have that person’s back by setting aside how much your half of gas is going to cost.
  • If you’re going to travel by plane, I’d recommend using the app Hopper to keep track of cheap dates. It’s a very handy app when it comes to deciding the best time to fly somewhere. I’ve also used Google Flights for more last minute trips to compare prices.
  • Consider using airbnb with your friends to split the cost of lodging. If you don’t want the whole apartment to yourself because you’ll be out exploring the whole day, you may consider just renting a room through airbnb. Cheaper option.
  • Use Trip Advisor or Yelp for researching how much meals may cost at your destination. This will give you an idea of how much money you may need to set aside to eat or drink.
    • Trip Advisor has some useful forums when it comes to asking for questions about international trips like how much money people typically needed to get by.
  • You can use your credit card for your trip, BUT don’t let it be your only means of getting by. If you do use it for above average expenses while traveling, then make a plan ahead of time on how you will be paying down that balance!
  • Research what type of free things there are to do at your destination. Sometimes you get lucky and there’s a free festival going on during your time there. There’s always free things to do, so that you don’t have to pay to enjoy your vacation.
  • Find a side hustle: If you’re in a time crunch to save or have unexpected expenses come up, then find a side hustle to get money toward your trip. I have done side gigs, such as dog-sitting, website design, and money management counseling to get money I could use toward a trip.
  • Use a spreadsheet! Like always, I know, I’m a broken record, but for real… it’s a handy tool to help proactively plan your travel expenses and plan to pay back friends on the trip and/or credit card purchases while on the trip. Below are two examples of how I use spreadsheets in planning for a trip.
Screenshot (12)
In my spreadsheet for the year, I have a tab that only deals with Travel Goals. The amount is pulled from each month’s travel fund allotment. So, if I change the amount going to my travel funds in July, this sheet automatically updates. This allows me control over planning for trips I have in mind. It’s also a good way to plan how much money I’ll have a month after traveling to put towards any credit card purchases I made while on the trip. As you can see, I also used this sheet to keep track of the amount being spent on airbnb.
Screenshot (13)
This is what it looks like on my monthly sheets. At the top where I include money in and out of the account, I also have a section for goals for the month. As far as traveling, I link up each monthly amount set aside so that it keeps adding up with the following month. The amount you see here of $1,030 is not just from March, but from previous months to get a total of how much I had set aside.

I hope some of these tips can help. I plan on having a more in depth post in the future on how you can create your own travel spreadsheet.

Remember, you can travel, but be smart with your money when it comes to booking, going, and enjoying your trip!

4 thoughts on “Be Money Smart When You Travel

      1. Agree little weekend gigs can add up without putting too much dent in your current cash flow. Also they should keep you from spending money on usual local weekend/ recreation stuff.

        I like your idea of just starting a fund and seeing what trips fit into the budget.

        Like

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