At Travel Hacker, we’re not rich. Some of our core beliefs are that it doesn’t take much money to begin traveling, and that the Digital Nomad lifestyle can have a positive impact on one’s net worth. Turning those beliefs into reality takes preparation and discipline.
Personal finance can be scary stuff, even without accounting for varying costs by country, currency fluctuations, and emergencies on the road. To help get you started, we’ve created a handy (personal finanance nerd approved) list of budgeting tools.
Before you can get started budgeting, you’ll need to know how much things will cost. Numbeo makes that easy! They cover the average costs of everything from restaurant meals to taxi rides to cinemas. If you’re trying to figure out how much money you’ll need compared to your current location, they make it super easy with their cost of living comparison:
- Travel Budget Calculator
The team at Independent Traveler made it easy to figure out the total cost for your trip with their travel budget calculator:
Plug numbers into each of the existing categories, add your own categories if needed, and out pops an estimated cost for your trip. This calculator is tailored for stays in one location. If you’re hopping around, then we recommend calculating the total cost of each destination, and adding them together for a final total.
Widely known and loved, Mint.com is owned by Intuit, the creators of financial software favorites, QuickBooks and TurboTax. All of your financial accounts are linked to Mint during set up and you can also add transactions through manual entry. That way Mint can automatically import transactions and balances from each.The access that you give Mint to your financial accounts is called “read-only,” which means that it cannot move your money.Progress bars are a great visual indicator of how much you’ve spent in each category throughout the month.In addition to budgeting, Mint shows a snapshot of your overall financial situation, bill reminders, a complete list of transactions, personal financial trends, and your investment performance.It is free web based software, so it does require an internet connection. Please note that Mint works only for citizens of Canada and the USA. If you currently use a similar product that works for citizens of other countries, we want to hear about it in the comments!
An acronym for “You Need A Budget,” YNAB wants to change how you think about money. YNAB requires manual importing of financial information, which is helpful for those who have a hard time sticking to a budget.It’s less easy to ignore overspending when actively involved, as opposed to Mint’s style of “set it and forget it.” YNAB has a 34 day free trial, and can be purchased for $60. The app is accessible offline. YNAB would like users to follow their methodology and not just use their software.
They offer free online courses to teach their users how to budget. We love their dedication to personal finance education, but we are firm believers that different methodologies work for different people. Learn about other strategies for financial planning and investing from the following reading list:
The Intelligent Investor
The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing
The Richest Man in Babylon
A Random Walk Down Wall Street
Another free software, GnuCash is open source and completely cross platform. One of the biggest differences between GnuCash and other tools, is that GnuCash operates on a double-entry bookkeeping system. That means every account needs a corresponding, and opposite entry to another account. For example, if I pay my credit card bill of $200, I would debit my checking account and credit my credit card account.GnuCash has more functions than Mint and YNAB, but can be intimidating for a personal finance beginner. Entrepreneurs can use GnuCash for their small businesses. Multiple languages and currencies are supported! Please note that new versions are released for testing before they are completed. Make sure that you are downloading the most recent, stable version of the software.
- Travel Hacker Budget Spreadsheet
Our lives have simplified in unexpected ways on the road. One of these is the way that we keep track of our budget. While we enthusiastically endorse the aforementioned software products, and have used them at various points in time, currently a stripped down spreadsheet meets our needs.For each month take the total amount of money that you are planning on spending. Subtract monthly costs, such as rent or motorbike rentals. The amount of money left needs to cover daily costs. Divide by the total number of days in the month. This amount is the average amount of money you can spend per day. Throughout the day jot down each expense. The total of the expenses for the day is the only amount that will be entered into the spreadsheet. Personally, I add a comment saying what each transaction was. That way if I begin to overspend I can determine whether my planning was not adequate, or whether I am being careless with my spending.At the bottom of the spreadsheet, I can view the average amount spent per day, and the total amount spent for the month. We challenge you to create your own! Check out our screen shots for inspiration.
Bonus: Personal Finance Community
Trying to create and stick to a budget can be easier with a group of people to advise and support you. The personal finance folks on Reddit already have a vast collection of information on handling debts, allocating money, and planning for the future. Post your personal situation for input from people with a wide variety of backgrounds. *Please note that this is a peer community, not professional financial advisors, and to check any financial advice you receive before taking action.
We hope you found this list of budgeting tools helpful! Tell us how you plan and stick to a travel budget in the comments 🙂