Post Updated – Aug 18, 2017
There is a lot of difference in travel styles and travel budgets. We are budget travelers and knowing that we are working with a limited budget, makes me extra cautious. I tend to keep very close track of our spendings when we’re on the road and I want to be able to see where we went overboard. So I’ve been trying to find a good method of budget tracking since the first time we started traveling and have optimized this system along the road. Establishing this system took some time and experience because we encountered expenses we didn’t realize we would make, like visits to a dentist and other non-fun stuff. Budget tracking can be done in a lot of different ways and it’s up to you if you need to think of this as a serious business or just to know.
A tight budget is a great reason to keep track. It’s always good to know how far your money can take you and if you should be thinking about ways to make money or buy a ticket home. I want to know how much we spent on accommodation or food or transportation. I do like to check it every once in awhile on the road, just to see if we’re doing well or we need to save on certain things.
I’ve heard other travelers tell me their budget keeping secrets. They aren’t really secrets, but still: it’s nice to know how others do it. Some backpackers have a set budget for a certain amount of time and they just split their budget into weeks. So they know how much they can spend each week, get it out of the bank and if they still have money in their pocket on Sunday, they had a good week. Our system is basically the same, but we play it differently. We set a monthly budget and evaluate that each month. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, as long as you don’t run out before due date! Budget traveler or not, everyone has to keep to some sort of budget. Bookkeeping is a lot of work and it takes up some time. I tried a few methods and tried to make it easy and low-maintenance. Eventually, we found a great app to keep track of everything without me having to categorize every cent.
The beginning of travel bookkeeping
On our first trip, we had a lot more time than money. That’s why we could spend some of this time on figuring out how long our money would last. We had a book in which we wrote every cent we spent. The book wasn’t that convenient for writing down everything while traveling. It was to big to carry all the time. Nobody goes out to eat a taco holding their entire financial plan. So I typed everything into Evernote to copy it to the book later. Evernote is a great app to take notes in different ways: you can write, type, take a photo or talk. We made a note called “expenses” and typed everything in there. Every few days we copied all the expenses into the book, changed currencies to euro and divided them into categories.
Because we did everything by hand, it seemed best not to have a hundred categories. Basic expenses while traveling are easy to split up.We started out by dividing our spendings into these four options: Transportation – Accommodation – Food – Extra. This gave us a global idea of where our money went. We still use these categories today.
‘Transportation’ included all buses, trains, flights, and taxis. ‘Accommodation’ makes sense, I guess. It includes all sleeping costs. ‘Food’ includes supermarket trips and restaurants. We recently divided food into these two sections, because we tend to eat in local restaurants a lot when traveling. Self-catering is mostly cheaper. Our ‘Extra’ category is everything else. This could be a cool excursion as well as the visit to the dentist. Because this is quite broad, we recently split up this category.
The android app solution
Android, as well as iPhones, offer a plethora of budget managing apps. Most of those apps are designed for home situations and can be synced with your actual bank account. They have pre-fixed categories for everything and you can attach multiple existing accounts. Most of them work best when you enter your income as well so you get a good idea of your actual account balance.We didn’t want all that since we only keep track of our every cent when traveling. We needed something simple and efficient. I took me so long to find an app that was simple and straightforward. In my opinion, most budgeting apps offer too much, which just makes it complicated. I don’t want to track my expenses when I’m at home. We only use these apps for travel.
Dozens of apps I’ve tried. We eventually choose this one, because it has all we needed. This app is easy to use, has just some categories you need for travel and it’s free to use. It allows you to see (in a pie chart) where your money went. Our train journey through Europe was pretty expensive and as you can see: trains aren’t cheap in Europe! The cool thing is that you can just enter your spendings in the currency you actually use. That way you can also see how much you spent in each country. The currency was a big hassle in the pre-app times.
How Trabee Pocket works
First, you probably want to create a trip in the main screen of the app. When pressing the PLUS symbol, you’ll be able to add a title to your trip. You can choose your travel dates and country. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t know the end date of your travel because you can change that anytime. The app will also ask for a currency. You can choose between every currency on earth and you can always add different currencies while traveling, so we just put our starting currency and our own. Our own currency is interesting because we pay for flights in Euro.
Once you created a trip, you will be able to see it on the home screen of the app. After tapping on your trip, you can add expenses by tapping on the plus symbol or by swiping down on your screen. Adding expenses is quite straightforward. You can choose a currency and a category before you add the amount. If you wish, you can add a picture of the expense: a receipt or a picture of the meal you just paid. The categories can only be changed in the premium version of the app. Trabee only takes a few minutes of tapping away to learn how to use it.
I know there are a lot more decent apps out there that we didn’t try yet. So feel free to let us know which app or gadget you use to keep track. I’m very interested in learning about new apps or old apps that just do the trick!