How to keep track of spending in multiple currencies while traveling?

I am about to take a short, several-day trip abroad. While in the other county, I'll exchange my money to the local currency and pay my travel expenses from that local currency. Then I'm coming back and will either exchange the local currency back to dollars, or spend it all while I'm abroad.

How should I keep track of the exchanges to the foreign currency and the expenses in the foreign currency while I'm traveling? If I simply record the expenses in the values of the local currency, it will throw off the reporting, because it will look like my purchases are much more expensive than they really are.

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  • Make a 2nd budget in the other currency. Outflow from your dollar account (category: foreign travel, perhaps) of the amount in $, inflow:TBB to your foreign account of the amount in the other currency. You can account for the exchange fees in which ever currency they’re taken from.

  • When I travel abroad, I put as much as possible on a credit card and guesstimate the exchange rate because I do 100% manual entry on the day of purchase. Then when it actually clears my credit card company, I clean it up. For cash transactions, I keep a spreadsheet that calculates all my purchases based on the exchange rate received at the time of conversion and then enter that in YNAB. I also have a payee I call "Exchange Rate Gain/Loss" and at the end just create an inflow or outflow category as the case may be to a discretionary category like Eating Out. Yes I do this fiddly cash handling even if I'm not bringing my computer because with Google Sheets I can usually pull it up on my iPad or phone. But hey, it's an 8-week business trip in a country where it's not great to go out alone after dark, so I have plenty of time in the hotel room to fiddle with my budget.

  • The two main approaches are either a separate budget specific to the foreign currency or work with the equivalent values in your normal budget. There are various pros & cons to each depending on your needs. 

    For a vacation where you are not relying terribly on YNAB for spending guidance, I would outflow the conversion to foreign cash to a Vacation category, then inflow any conversion back to the home currency. Purchases made with that currency are not even put into YNAB.

  • Hi Green Nomad ! A trip abroad is exciting. Where are you traveling to?

    We recommend creating a separate budget for each currency you use. For example, you could have one budget for your main currency, and another for the local currency. 

    This blog post from my colleague Nicole, goes over three different options in this Guide to Budgeting in a Different Currency. I think those will be helpful, and hope you find the best solution for your individual budget.

    Creative YNABers have come up with all kinds of ideas too! Another place to check for inspiration is the Travel section of the forum.

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