Have you ever wished you had more money, so you could travel more? Or, not felt like you knew how much money you could spend on a trip? I'm going to help you understand your budget, an important part of travel planning, so that you can figure out how much money you can spend on travel without hurting your finances for the long-term. Specifically, I'm going to discuss one part of your budget that you may not have considered as part of your travel equation: expenses that are completely dependent on you being at home.
Mortgage payments. Cable bills. Gasoline. Groceries. Although looking at the money flowing out of your bank account is probably one of your least favorite activities, understanding the types of expenses you have is a key part of preparing a travel budget. Without this understanding, you won't know the true amount of money you'll need to save for, or put on your credit card, to pay for your trip. The breakdown is simple: some items in your household budget are dependent on (or at least affected by) you being at home. Pour through your expenses, identify them all and calculate the average monthly total. For most households, the the most common dependent expenses are groceries, eating out, entertainment, and commuting, but you may find some others in your own budget. Once you have your own household monthly total, divide by 4 to get a rough weekly average, and then apply that to how many weeks you plan to be traveling. Confused? Read Diane's example below for a real-world example.
In this example, we've helped our traveling friend Diane, who is planning on a three-week trip to Italy in the summer. As you can see below, she's used her past three months of expenses to figure out her rough average grocery, eating out, commuting, and entertainment costs. Since the airfare has already set her back roughly $1000 and hotel costs are looming large, she's looking for money anywhere she can find it.
Groceries - $400 per month / $100 per week
Eating Out - $150 per month / $37.50 per week
Commuting/Bus Fare - $100 per month / $25 per week
Entertainment - $75 per month / $18.75 per week
Total per week - $181.25
For a 3 week trip to Italy, this would mean she is able to use $543.75 of money that she won't be spending at home, avoiding that much in credit card charges or savings. It's no small amount! Diane can travel easier, knowing that she can enjoy all the gelato she wants without worrying about breaking the bank.
Now, I've already shown you how this technique helped Diane to lessen the impact of her trip on her long-term finances. But, what does this mean for you and your next trip budget? I challenge you to print out your bank statements, credit card statements, and receipts for the past 3 to 6 months. Set aside some time for a few evenings and categorize all of your expenses. Remember to pull aside the ones that depend on you being at home, even if it's not on my list above. Then, add them up, average them out, and discover how much money you've got hidden in your household budget that's just waiting to get used on your next trip!