Budgeting while Backpacking

Hi there!

I've been using for almost two years but I've always struggled on how to budget while on vacation. I've budgeted before while on vacation but this time is a bit more complicated.

Next week me and my friends are going on a three-week trip through Southeast Asia, traveling through 3 different countries with three different currencies.

My current budget is on Euros, so should I make another budget for the entire trip or should I make 3 different budgets for the three different currencies?

Also, any suggestions on how to organize your vacation budget (categories / group categories)?

Any feedback would be extremely helpful!

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  • Do you plan to use the budget for spending guidance while abroad? If not, then don't bother budgeting while on vacation. Record transactions hitting your normal accounts after you return in your normal budget. Use of cash (in whatever currency) while abroad is not tracked (the budget impact occurs at the time of the original withdrawal).

    Like 4
      • Green Boa
      • Green_Boa.9
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui Thank for the help!

      Yes, I do like to know where my money is going (food, transportation, souvenirs, etc). Kind OCD in budgeting 馃檲

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  • I'd agree with dakinemaui . Don't over complicate things.

    I personally don't worry about categorising beyond 'vacation' as I don't really care whether the money was spent on lodging/food/travel etc, it's just the total that matters to me and is it going to be enough to see me through. I tend to start with a specific category for each vacation e.g. ASIA19 but once it's all resolved I move all transactions/budget into a generic vacation category so my budget doesn't get clogged with too many permanent categories. If I put ASIA19 in the memo field it's easy enough to search for that vacation later.

    For short trips, I just know how much I have in both 拢 and the countries currency to see me through and update YNAB when I get back.  For a three week trip, I would possibly log in and update a few times while I'm away, maybe once a week or when I changed countries but I wouldn't worry if I didn't.  I basically just work on the old school method of I have 拢x/day (converted) to work with. I do tend to mentally work out how much accommodation and travel are working out at so also know that I have 拢y to spend on other stuff. I'd be more likely to log in and update if I thought I was getting too close to the wire.

    I use a combination of cash, Revolut and a credit card that has good forex rates while travelling. Vacation cash is considered spent in YNAB as soon as its withdrawn/converted and no further analysis required. Credit card spending is recorded in 拢 as it hits the credit card account. With one credit card it's often a few cents off between when it first hits the card and the final amount but it's close enough for any decision making.

    Some people like to separate out hotels, travel, etc in vacation costs but personally this is one area where I don't really care as long as my total vacation cost is within budget. I quite enjoy the break from my stringent budgeting when I'm on holiday. If I ever need that information I can always get it from the payee and memo information that I record later. 

    One bit of advice, if you're paying by card and they ask whether you want to pay in euros or local currency ALWAYS take local currency. If you've chosen your cards wisely you will always get a better exchange rate that way.

    Like 2
      • Green Boa
      • Green_Boa.9
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      monkeyhanger 

      Thank you so much for the help!

      Revolut card was something I was looking into as to whether was something worth bringing to the trip! Also the conversion tip is something I will definitely use!

      As I said to dakinemaui  not budgeting is a bit stressful so, although I understand what you're trying to say. I actually prefer to know where I'm spending my money so thats I can better organize and budget fro  future trips. 

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      • monkeyhanger
      • No animals were harmed
      • monkeyhanger.1
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Green Boa I haven't travelled outside of Europe since getting the Revolut card so I don't know how useful it will be in Asia. 

      BTW no-one is saying don't budget. They're saying don't do busy work for the sake of it. If it will add useful information that you can't get by simple searches then great. I've found my method gives me everything I need and the price of hotels and food from my trip to Seville was no use at all in planning my trip to Brussels. 

      Do what makes you feel comfortable but know why you are doing it.

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  • Green Boa I agree with the advice given below but here's what I do when traveling abroad. This differs from what YNAB would recommend, but it avoids the complications of creating a new budget for each kind of currency:

    -Don't use multiple categories (e.g., Food, Sightseeing, Activities, Gifts, etc.) and just use a single Vacation category to simplify. While at home I would categorize differently the different components of a night out such as a taxi, restaurant dinner, and movie. However, if I had that same night out on vacation, I would enter all of those transactions into a single Vacation category.

    -Don't track cash, other than your initial withdrawals. As soon as you take out money, check your bank app or website to see the conversion rate used. For example, 5000 Thai baht = 150 Euros right now, so do a transfer in YNAB (in Euros) and put in the note section what the baht equivalent is. Then, so that you don't need to track each and every little cash purchase you make, just make a single new transaction equal to 150 Euros in cash, and for payee, put something like Misc. Vacation. If you want, you can make notes in the transaction each time you buy something (for example, if you are sharing costs with a travel mate and need to keep track of who pays for what), but if there's no reason for this, just skip and simplify.

    -For purchases made with credit cards, do a quick estimated conversion in your head or with a calculator on your phone, and enter the transaction in YNAB in Euros, as opposed to bahts. For example, if you have dinner for 1000 baht and charge it on your card, enter in the transaction as (an estimated) 30 Euros, and put in the note section what the actual baht amount is. This will keep you with a fairly accurate running total of your Vacation budget category. Then, every few days or at least once a week, do a quick check of your credit card statement online and see what the actual charged amounts are. Perhaps that 30 Euro estimated charge is really 30.79 Euro... in that case go back to the transaction and simply change the amount. 

    Have a fun trip!

    Like 2
      • Green Boa
      • Green_Boa.9
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Slate Blue Pilot Thank you so much for your help and tips!

      So what you recommend is to use only one category on my current budget?

      What I did for past trips was to use a different budget where I have basic categories so I can where the money is going to. Then I would make a single transaction of all the money that I spent during the trip. This way a better understanding of how I spend my money.

      I know it's not perfect set up but yours quite simple and very easy to set up and also quite effective! 

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      • monkeyhanger
      • No animals were harmed
      • monkeyhanger.1
      • 4 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Green Boa It depends what you want out of it. I want to relax on holiday and my only real concern is that my total vacation spend is less than the amount I have budgeted. That's not to say that I don't retrospectively look at how much I spent on hotels, transport, etc but that's only really of value if you're going to the same or a similar country again. How much you paid for backpacker hotels in Vietnam is not relevant to a similar trip to Australia for example. And even if we do get back to Australia next year hotel prices from 2014 are less relevant than a google search.

      If you're not heavily reliant on cash, then I find you can get most of the information you require from the payee particularly if you review the information while it's fresh in my mind and enter it into the memo field. Even with cash you can get close enough. The memo field option lets you put hotel or #hotel and then search for that later. Sadly, YNAB doesn't support tags so you need to make sure you're consistent with the descriptors you use. 

      If you want more detail and you'll keep the budget entry up when you're on the trip then you absolutely could record more. I personally don't like lots of vacation sub-categories in my main budget because they don't add information that I find useful enough to make it worthwhile. I can honestly say that in all my years of YNABbing I've never needed that information retrospectively. I could see the benefit of them if you're trying to work out in advance how much you need to budget to make the trip viable. It's up to you whether that's in a separate budget or a category group in your main budget. You also have the choice of whether you use temporary categories to ringfence the money and them collapse it into a single category once the trip is over. Whichever option you go for, I'd recommend that you budget in your home currency (euros I think you said) and use a ball park currency conversion rate for the initial data entry into YNAB. 3 budgets in 3 different currencies seems like overkill to me.

      Like dakinemaui  said I'd really think about what you want the budgets to do.

      • Do you just want to work out how much you need to save up before you go? 
      • Will you use it to make spending decisions while you are travelling before you spend?
      • Do you want to retrospectively analyse how much was spend on hotels, food, transportation to facilitate future trip planning (assuming this trip has any relevance on the next)?
      • How tight is your budget going to be?

      That will let you make a sensible decision between the various options and avoid busy work for busy's sake. 

      Like 1
      • monkeyhanger
      • No animals were harmed
      • monkeyhanger.1
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Actually, having peeled back the advancing years and remembered some backpacking trips on incredibly tight budgets I suppose I could see the merit for 3 temporary budgets in Baht, Ringgit and Dong (substitute appropriate currencies obviously).  My backpacking trips were before YNAB but I had always read the Lonely Planet - yes, read and carried the physical books it was that long ago - worked out roughly what I needed to live on each day and, therefore, the type of accommodation I could afford to sleep in etc. I used to keep a very simply running log in a notebook of how much cash I had at the end of each day, how much I'd taken out, etc and there's no reason you couldn't use a new YNAB budget to do that instead. I'd still countenance against making this too detailed. Is the information helping your decision making or not? If not, spend the time getting another beer and socialising?
       

      The important bit long-term is how you record it in your main budget and you will have some doubling up to do particularly for card spending.

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    • Green Boa Given you want to track where your money is going on the trip, I'd recommend you make notes of it in the memo section of the transaction.

      (1) For credit card use - enter each transaction on its own (in Euros), put the actual payee, and then in the memo section, note what the foreign currency amount and spending is, for example, "1000 baht - dinner." Then remember to go back and fix the actual Euro amount once you have a chance to look at your credit card statement.

      (2) For cash use - as I explain above, do a transfer in YNAB, and then do a single transaction for the exact withdrawn amount (in Euros). Then, each time you make a purchase in cash, go back into that same transaction in YNAB and add a note in the memo section. For example, your note may be "500 baht - taxi" and then later in the day, you may add right under it, "750 baht - lunch," and then the next day you may go and add, "1300 baht - afternoon at beach." That way, when you are done with your time in Thailand (for example), you will have a single transaction in YNAB with a list of exactly how you spent the local currency in the notes. And then, when you go to the Philippines (for example), and withdrawn money in pesos, you do another single transaction and repeat the process.

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  • Green Boa said:
    I actually prefer to know where I'm spending my money so thats I can better organize and budget fro  future trips. 

     This can be tricky though. What you spend backpacking through SE Asia will have pretty much no relevance in planning a vacation in the Canary Islands. Whereas every year (since 1995) I got to the same beach with the same friends. And we've been renting the same house for about 8 years. So it makes sense for me to look back and say oh in 2019 we did hardly any in-house cooking and went out lots and lots and spent this, but in 2018, we had 4 house dinners and spent this. (We've been eating out more and more over the years because while there are certain things we love about the house which makes it worth renting year after year, the kitchen is worse every year in terms of what works, what pots and pans are provided or have disappeared, etc).

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