How I Track My Finances Abroad
I try to be transparent about finances because money + travel seem to go hand in hand. That's why I wrote a blog post on How I Saved $10K for Travel in Five Months and why I share how much money I've spent in each country in my Monthly Recaps. And it's why I want to share how I track all of those dollars.
I am obviously OCD about tracking my finances abroad, but that's because it's pretty easy to do! I am way better about keeping a budget than I ever was when I was living in Indy. So, here's how I do it! Plus, how much I've spent on my trip so far. (cue Pink Floyd's "Money" track)
As I spend money throughout the day, I jot down the purchases on a Note in my iPhone. In the evening, I add up what I spent and input it into my budget spreadsheet. I don't update my spreadsheet throughout the day because I start to get confused on what I've already included or not (Did I already include my third fruit smoothie of the day? Hmm.)
*I list all my purchases in the currency I bought it in, because the spreadsheet I use will automatically convert it to USD to tally up each spending category. This means you don't have to spend time converting to your local currency as you're jotting down purchases.
A Little Adrift's Spreadsheet
I suck at making Excel spreadsheets. Ask anyone at my previous job: I would gladly create a beautiful, colorful, 20-page PDF while my colleague would create a 10-tab Excel spreadsheet with formulas that made my head hurt (hi, Sam!).
So, I decided not to re-invent the wheel when it came to spreadsheets. Instead, I downloaded this amazing budget spreadsheet that was created by Shannon, owner of the blog A Little Adrift. You can see her actual spreadsheet from her 11-month RTW trip here and her tips for budgeting here.
Shannon's spreadsheet is fantastic because all the formulas are auto-populated. The spreadsheet allows you to input the exchange rate, add the number of days you've been traveling, and add notes for each day. Then it takes all this information and automatically udpates the multiple categories (Accommodation, Food, Transportation, etc) and your daily spending average for that country.
I downloaded her spreadsheet as a Google spreadsheet and changed its settings to offline so that I could access and edit it even when I didn't have wifi. When I do connect to wifi, the spreadsheet updates my changes automatically.
*If I buy something but it doesn't pertain to that country, I put it in the appropriate tab for the country. For example, I bought my $50 Myanmar visa in Thailand, but that cost shouldn't be associated with Thailand. I put it in the Myanmar tab. Same with flights to / from countries. My flight from Manila to Singapore was included in the Singapore tab, but my flight from Singapore to Malaysia was included in the Malaysia tab. If that makes sense.
Here's a quick look at what it's in the spreadsheet.
The spreadsheet has a tab for each country which I use to input all my expenses. When I go to a new country, I update the name of the country and the month, look up the exchange rate, and change the currency format.
Final Stats Tab
As you update your spending in each country, the formulas also automatically update the Final Stats tab, which provides a quick look at your spending across the board: spending averages for each country, total spent in each country, category totals, pre-trip purchases, and misc. purchases that don't fit into a country (like my World Nomads travel insurance). One glance at this sheet and I can instantly tell that my lowest daily spending was in the Philippines and my highest daily spending was in Singapore. I think this overall tab is really impressive.
Current Balance Tab
I added an extra tab that I update all my account balances with. At one point, I had money in three different accounts. I've since closed my Australian account and transferred that money over to my American account using Transferwise (highly recommended). I update this tab every few days with withdrawals I've made from my accounts, then a SUM formula adds up the balance in each account so I know exactly how much I have to spend.
While this tab can take longer to update, I think it's worth it because it acts as checkbook. It's my way of double checking that none of my debit cards have been stolen, that my ATM transactions are accurate, and that I wasn't double charged for any purchases.
Travel Plans Tab
This is another tab that I added for myself. It's a very basic tab and it has obviously changed a lot because I have added and deleted countries over time. This tab allows me to double check that I have enough money (and time) for my remaining travels and the countries I plan to see.
I include the number of days I think I will be in that country, how much I think I will spend a day (I get backpacker budget averages from here), and then I add it all up to see what my total costs might be for the remainder of the trip. (Yes, I know the averages I include here are higher than normal; I do that to provide myself with extra $ padding.)
Which Adds Up To...
I've been traveling for 6+ months and I've tried to share all of my in-country costs along the way. Because of this spreadsheet, I can easily tell you how much I have spent on my trip so far.
Including all flights, in-country costs, travel insurance ($1,000 for 10 months), and pre-trip costs (Australian visa fee, blog design and hosting costs, toiletries, etc), I've spent...
So far, I've been able to do the trip of my dreams -- with everything included -- for only $45 a day! That number even includes the $865 I've spent on scuba diving so far. Crazy!
So that's it! When I'm done with my trip, I want to be able to provide a helpful blog post sharing exactly how much I spent, what I spent it on, my daily averages for each country, and more! I hope it will show more people that traveling, even long-term, is affordable. Knowing me, expect a lot of colorful, pretty graphs.
How do you track your finances when you travel? Any questions or comments?
PS: If you're looking for more blog posts on Finances, check out this category.