10 Tips For Sticking To Your Travel Budget

Last updated on: 27 Comments
Tips For Sticking To A Travel Budget
It might look like a very expensive holiday, but this beachside hotel room was $10 a night and this bottle of wine was $3.50. Luxury on a budget!

You’ve worked hard for a few years, diligently saved every cent you could, and now you are ready to start that big travel adventure!

The research has been done, flights are booked and before you know it you’re sipping cocktails on a beach in Thailand with no end date in sight! You’re finally living the dream! But the hard part is far from over. Now that you’ve taken that incredible step towards a life of long-term travel, you need to learn how to stretch your money out as far as possible. Certain parts of the world like Southeast Asia and Latin America are famous for being cheap, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to spend all your money in only a few weeks. That’s where you need to learn how to stick to your travel budget.

We have been travelling for a long time now, and have finally started to figure out the best ways to manage a sustainable budget on the road. But it didn’t come easy. We made a lot of mistakes as we stumbled our way around the world. At one point we even ended up $25’000 in debt – all on credit cards! Yes we had an incredible time, but most of the debt didn’t come from ticking off bucket-list activities; It came from being careless with our money. After a lot of hard work we managed to get out of debt, save some more money and get back out into the beautiful world. We’ve learnt our lessons, and discovered that the biggest thing we want to do is to travel indefinitely. To help make sure you don’t make the same mistakes we did, we have put together this collection of our 10 best tips for sticking to a travel budget while you’re out on the road. Stick to them and you’ll even manage to check out some expensive parts of the world like backpacking in Japan or travelling across Europe!

Keep Track Of Every Dollar Spent

Every single dollar we spend we write down in a little pocket diary. Every. Single. Dollar. At the end of the week we add up how much we have spent and use it to keep track of where our money goes. Doing this helps to keep us focused on our goals and see where we need to improve on ways to stick to our travel budget. Having the numbers in front of you makes it seem real and really gives direction in your spending habits.

Write It Down Tips For Sticking To A Travel Budget
Don’t forget to write down every dollar you spend along the way!

Make A Daily Travel Budget

Yes the biggest tip for sticking to your travel budget is to actually have a budget to start with. Work out how long you plan to be away for and make up a budget. Then stick to it. Our travel budget here in Southeast Asia is $25 a day each. Some days we go over it, but we always make up for this by having a few quiet days to even it out. If you stop caring then you may run out of money a lot sooner than you wanted to.

Cut Back On The Alcohol

Don’t get us wrong, we love a drink or two. But alcohol will cut deep into your travel budget. For an example, the average cost of a beer in Southeast Asia is about $1.50 (give or take). If we have 5 beers each, every night of the year when we are traveling, that works out to be $5,460 annually. That’s nearly 30% of our yearly travel budget! We do love a night out every now and then, but through lots of experience, we have learnt that travel is much more fun without a hangover!

Cut Back On Alcohol Tips For Sticking To A Travel Budget
When you drink too much alcohol it not only hurts your travel budget, it hurts your head as well!

Travel Slowly

Slow travel has a lot of benefits, but the one we are focusing on now is that it saves you a lot of money. Staying in one place for an extended period of time allows you to work out where the cheapest places are to eat and drink. Depending on your bartering skills, you can make a deal with your accommodation and get a better price for a weeklong stay. You are no longer taking transport every other day, which can really cut into a traveller’s budget. There will be the chance to take a few rest days, where you don’t go to museums or check out awesome tours. This means you can relax by the beach or go for a walk, enjoying the downtime by doing some free activities. Trust us, the slower you travel, the less you spend.

Travel Slowly Tips For Sticking To A Travel Budget
Travel slowly to save money and experience the best that this world has to offer.

Catch Public Transport

If the locals do it, why shouldn’t you? This can be one of the biggest fears for first-time travellers to developing countries, but 99% of the time the local bus or train is great. Not only are they really cheap compared to taxis or tourist buses, but they can be very entertaining! Nothing quite like sharing your seat with a local family of 4, their luggage and a goat to give you a fun travel story! Sure it might be a bit less comfortable than taking a private car, but remember – you have a travel budget to stick to! Embrace the public transport, or if you are really adventurous, try hitchhiking.

Catch Local Transport Tips For Sticking To A Travel Budget
You don’t get fun experiences like this by calling a taxi.

Eat Where The Locals Eat

Whether it is street food, a hole-in-the-wall eatery or a sit-down restaurant, the locals usually know where the best and cheapest food is! If a place has a crowd you can almost guarantee it will be good. Western-style meals in third world countries are usually expensive and very rarely as tasty as what you can get at home. Don’t avoid the local food just because you think you may get sick. Both fancy restaurants and street vendors all buy their food from the same markets. If the locals are eating there, it is probably safe.

Street Food Local Restaurants Tips For Sticking To A Travel Budget
Street food – it is delicious, and cheap!

Stay In Cheap Accommodation

Accommodation is usually the biggest day-to-day cost of any traveller’s expenses. In many countries dropping a few hundred dollars a night on a nice hotel room is very easy to do. But this is counter-productive to your long-term travel goals! If you are travelling indefinitely you should be outside exploring everything that the world has to offer, not sitting around in a robe watching TV back in your room. If you are on a holiday, then of course, take a much-needed break and relax. But long-term travel is not a holiday – it is a way of life.

Choose to stay in small locally-run guesthouses or homestays, or find cheap hotels on the edge of town. In many countries these cheap accommodation are pretty clean and comfortable, and offer the basic necessities a traveller would need such as a bed, running water and a door. Really, what more do you need? To help keep your costs down as well try CouchSurfing. Just remember though, CouchSurfing isn’t just about free accommodation.

Cheap Accommodation Tips For Sticking To A Travel Budget
We paid $4 a night for this view. In our opinion, it was money well spent!

Shop At The Markets

Local markets are great, and usually very cheap! If you are looking at buying anything from fresh fruit, to souvenirs or new clothes, the markets are the place to go. The stalls usually have far lower overheads than stores do, and as a result their products are cheaper. If your accommodation has a kitchen, or you travel with a portable stove, you can buy all your meat and vegetables from the markets to cook yourself. Two great travel budget tips in one!

Fresh Fruit Local Markets Tips For Sticking To A Travel Budget
Buy your food from the local markets. And don’t miss out on the delicious fresh fruit!

Don’t Buy Things You Don’t Need

This should be obvious, but you’ll be surprised how hard it is to not buy that funky trinket or custom-made shoes as you travel along. If you are only on a short holiday, then go for it! But if you are planning on being on a long-term adventure, seriously consider holding off on any impromptu purchases. If it is something you have always wanted, then that is a different story. But if we had bought every single wood carving and painting we had liked, we would be broke. Plus we would need a truck to carry all the extra gear! For souvenirs we collect small denominations of money from every country we travel to. Takes up far less room and sometimes only costs 5 or 10 cents.

Don't Buy Things You Don't Need Tips For Sticking To A Travel Budget
Even though Jazza looked dapper as hell in this hat, does he really need it?

Don’t Give Up!

Trying to stick to a travel budget is hard work, but don’t lose sight of your goal. After a few months on the road staying in basic accommodation it can be very tempting to go out and splurge on a fancy hotel room and a 5 course meal. To be honest, sometimes you deserve it. Just don’t make it a regular occurrence. The longer we have been on the road the more we appreciate how far we can stretch our money. Remember, you will never remember that great night’s sleep you had in a $200-a-night hotel, but you sure will remember only forking out $10 on a room so you can spend $190 on a once-in-a-lifetime activity. Long-term travel is hard, and so is sticking to a budget. The rewards however, are always worth it.

What are some of your best tips for sticking to your travel budget? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author

Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award winning writers and photographers behind this blog, and we have been travelling the world together since 2008. Adventure travel is our passion, and through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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27 COMMENTS

  1. Kendra

    Good article. There are other ways to cut expenses I have learned over my 2.5 years of traveling. I have an online bank account that reimburses ATM fees and charges a low foreign transaction fee, and limit the use of credit cards to flights and online lodging sites such as Agoda.com. I sometimes make my own coffee for breakfast when hot water is available by using a lightweight portable coffee filter I bought online for about $20 which is much cheaper than buying a couple of cups of coffee with breakfast. In some countries you can tell a pharmacist your symptoms and get medications without having to pay for a doctor’s visit. Medication costs can be expensive in some countries. When in your home country, see if you can get a long-term supply if it is cheaper there – or check out the prices when travelling and buy extra where it is cheaper. A medication that was cheap in the USA cost me $89 for a month’s supply in Costa Rica, but only $13 in Nicaragua.

      Alesha And Jarryd

      Thank you so much Kendra. You have some great tips there. Thank you for sharing. Happy travels

    Stephanie | Adventures in Aussieland

    I already follow a few of the tips mentioned but I really enjoyed some of the other ones such as eating at local restaurants and shopping at the markets. I always tend to be very cautious with what I eat when abroad (I have an autoimmune disorder that affects my GI tract). But you’re right, if there are a lot of people eating there it’s probably safe!

    Agness of aTukTuk

    I already use some of these tips but the others have been very helpful, Alesha and Jarryd! Keep up the good work!

    Ashley – Adventure To Anywhere

    Love the tips, guys! Thank you! I hardly drink any alcohol at all – at home or when I travel – simply because of the sheer cost. It’s a small trade to make in order to travel more.

    Elaine Anderson

    Loved your article, great advice. I am getting closer to retirement and the plan is to do long term traveling. When I was young before starting my career I traveled extensively and remember doing a lot of the things you mention here to save money and stay on a budget.

    I had noticed while I was traveling that I always had local currency left over when I left a particular country. This become my souvenir of choice. To this day, of all the souvenirs I collected, the currency is the only thing I have left.

    Eating what the locals eat where the locals eat. While traveling this was always an essential part of my mind set. Not only is it cheaper but to me it is a part of the travel experience. Avoiding the typical tourist spots is also part of that mind set and makes sticking to the budget easier.

    Joey

    Me and my girlfriend just started our travels in January of this year and i’m glade to know that we aren’t the only ones who messed up budgeting straight off. We are learning more and more everyday,especially by keeping track of what we spend money on. Really inspiring stuff to keep us on it. Thanks!

      Lesh Jazza NOMADasaurus

      It’s an ongoing challenge! We still break our own rules sometimes. Thanks for reading, Joey 🙂

    Crystal | The Poor Explorer

    You guys knocked the nail on the head with that one! I’m an extreme budgeter and meticulously write down everything I spend. It gets a bit tiring but I know what I’ve spent every day for the last 1.5 years. On the other hand if you find something cheap then keep going back. E.g. If you find 5c beers in Cuba, drink ALL THE NIGHT, EVERY NIGHT, no excuses! Ha ha

      Lesh Jazza NOMADasaurus

      Can’t beat 5c beers in Cuba! Thanks for reading Crystal.

    caitlin

    I love this! Especially eating where the locals eat. I have been so surprised how much money I have saved eating street food and at local restaurants, and it’s usually the best food! If we are running low on funds (or spending too much money on other things, as the case usually is) we will limit ourselves to street food for a couple days. I’ve never been sick, and it’s been a great adventure!
    Thanks for the list!

      Lesh Jazza NOMADasaurus

      Street food is awesome! We love it. Good for the soul and good for the budget 🙂

    Arun

    Great article and of course a catchy name of your blog. I am a Digital Nomad myself, working on various Freelance forums, so YES travel is a way of life for me, not about vacations. Therefore sticking to and even stretching my budget comes naturally to me. Currently in Ho Chi (Vietnam) and I can tell you $25 is more than enough here. I do just fine with $12 a day. Coffee in fact is slightly costlier than beer in most places, so I kinda alternate between them. Both are in abundance here and the choices will spoil you actually. Cheers

      Lesh Jazza NOMADasaurus

      It’s important to stick to your budget if you want to live abroad for an extended period of time. But we make allowances for Vietnamese coffee. It’s just too good! Thanks for reading Arun.

    Kirsten Juni Nilsen

    It’s supposed to be “I walked a lot :-)”

    Kirsten Juni Nilsen

    Hi! What a great article! When I was 20-21 I lived like that in Madagascar. I used the taxi-brousse with the locals and what stories I got from that (holes in the bus floor, chicken under the seat, drunk policeman…) ate the local food (what is better than fresh deep-fried samosas, as you stroll along the beach and warm evening..) To be able to stay there on my budget I rented a flat with hardly any furniture, it was not important. And I walked away lot :-). Thanks for a great article!!! Kirsten Juni

    Carmen

    A really great app to keep track of your spending with is Travel Wallet! We use it every day. 🙂

      Carmen

      Oops, I meant Trail Wallet – and then I read your comment above 🙂

      Lesh Jazza NOMADasaurus

      +`1 for Trail Wallet. It must be awesome! Thanks for reading Carmen!

    Petra @ The Global Couple

    There are some great tips here! We use an iPhone app called Trail Wallet to track our spending – it’s fantastic, easy to use, and I’d really recommend checking it out! We wrote a similar post recently about not blowing your budget: http://www.theglobalcouple.com/10-tips-avoid-blowing-travel-budget/ 🙂

      Michele

      We are huge fans of trail wallet too after 12 plus months of using it we now by habit add everything. It also helps when something looks cheap and we can add it and see if it is or not.

        Lesh Jazza NOMADasaurus

        Another one for Trail Wallet! I guess we’ll download it shortly. Thanks for the tip Michele!

      Lesh Jazza NOMADasaurus

      We’ve heard a lot about Trail Wallet. We will have to check it out for ourselves one day. Thanks for reading Petra!

    Ben

    These are some great tips. While I was traveling in Belize I had to actually earn money but the problem was that the country wanted $1,000 dollars USD that I didn’t have. A popular out sourcing site was a life saver while we we there.

    Have you ever considered a post about ways to make money in a pinch while traveling abroad? If so please let me know I would love to read it! Thanks!

      Lesh Jazza NOMADasaurus

      Hey Ben, thanks for reading. We will write a post up like this soon. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Bethaney – Flashpacker Family

    Agree with all of these especially tracking your spending. It’s sometimes hard to equate foreign currency with real money, even more so when it’s in high denominations like Vietnamese dong where you have thousands to deal with!

      Lesh Jazza NOMADasaurus

      Tracking our spending has definitely been the major one for us. It just seems more real when you can sit down at the end of the week and go, “I spent HOW MUCH?!” Bouncing between countries is always a bit of a mind game as well. “Yesterday in Thailand a drink was only 30 baht, today in Vietnam it is 20’000 Dong!”

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