I’ll show you a very easy simple way to track your travel expense (cash only) while you’re hopping around the world.
First, create an excel sheet like below. The sheet should have 3 mandatory columns: description of the expense item, amount spent and current balance. You can create additional columns to keep track whatever else you want. I’m using my one-month travel expense in Russia as example. (I’ll share with you then entire sheet at the end of the post.)
|Category||Item||Amt (RUB)||7500||Amt (USD)||Amt (EUR)||Amt (CZK)|
|accommodation||moscow TNT 2x||900||6465||28.7||22.4||566|
|food||lunch (borsch, chicken)||200||5279||6.4||5||125.8|
|admission||treyakov gallery admission||240||5039||7.6||6||150.9|
|communication||ru sim card||250||4769||8||6.2||157.2|
1st: category of your expense (optional)
2nd: short description of your transaction (mandatory)
3rd: amount you spend for that item in local currency (in my case it’s Russian ruble. 7500 is my initial cash) (mandatory)
4th: balance, running total up to that point (mandatory)
5th-7th: the amount of each transaction in other currencies. e.g dollars, euros and czech crowns. (optional) (Dollars and euros are universal currencies and you are mentally familiar with their value, thus having them there help you estimate how much an item worth and how much you have spent. The Czech currency is there because it’s the currency of my everyday-off-traveling. I don’t see traveling as a way to waste money, thus I prefer not to spend too much more money while traveling than at home for similar activities.)
Paper pen system + MS Office or Online Google Docs: You can jot down your daily expense in a notebook and then put them into Excel later if you carry laptop or have a google account to use their free google office suite like Docs, Excel, etc. I used to do this before I had a smartphone.
Smartphone: Every smartphone nowadays should have a lite version of office app. If not you can download it for free. I did all my travel expenses on an old Samsung Windows Mobile phone, bad phone but had very good mobile office suite from Microsoft.
What to put there
EVERYTHING. Other travelers laughed at me because I put down even the most trivial expense like a bottle of water, a local bus ticket or toilet fee. But that’s the idea to track cash flow: recording the in and out. I used to put every transaction as separate item, but later grouped them into a single purchase e.g. total of 5 local bus rides in different occasions instead of 5 separate entries for each.
Why use this system
I never knew how much I spent and kept losing money until I tracked it down on paper. Then my boyfriend showed me this system and I started using it every since.
1. Keep track of your cash at any given time: If you put every cash transaction here, the running balance should match the cash you have in your wallet and pocket. If it doesn’t, you either lost it or miscalculated somehow.
2. Estimate future spending: By knowing exactly how much cash you currently have and how much you have spent on similar item category, you can easily estimate how much you might need for the rest of your stay for example 2 night accommodation, 3 lunches/2 dinners, bus to city A, etc. and how much more cash you might want to withdraw from ATM, etc.
Some might think that with today’s availability of ATM and credit cards, you don’t need to do this right? Wrong unless you travel in developed countries. In 3rd world and even parts of 1st world countries, CASH is the only currency.
3. Monitor spending habit: By keeping a tab of your spending, you have an overview of your spending habit and either cut down on certain item e.g curbing your shopping enthusiasm.
Note: This sheet is good only for cash transaction. Anything bought/paid by credit cards, ATM, online transaction can not be placed here otherwise it will break this method.
See the budget for my Russia’s trip (not entire budget b/c this sheet doesn’t include non-cash transaction). The trip was one from mid-July to mid-August 2012.
If you find this post helpful to you, please share with others. Hopefully we’ll get others to share their tips on budget keeping for example how to incorporate this with transaction done visa cards or online.