In The Red

06.October 2009

Budget

Budget Screenshot One look at the budget spreadsheet and it’s easy to see that we are over budget. Significantly over budget. So far, more than $4000 over budget and we’re only 4 months into our one year trip.

For a while it caused me quite a bit of stress. As I saw the under/overage column be in the red day after day I would worry about it more and more. What were we spending so much money on? Why were the countries that I thought would be more inexpensive so expensive? Was this going to mushroom and affect the rest of the trip?

I was getting crankier and crankier about it and wasn’t enjoying everything because I was worrying so much. Did we pay too much for such-and-such? Could we have gotten such-and-such for cheaper? Should we not have done such-and-such because it cost so much? Why did we have to pay so much for what appeared to be a nothing room with an uncomfortable bed and a shower that doesn’t work? Was I not doing a good job of finding places? Was there something more I should have been doing?

It peaked with an argument between Jason and I where I accused him of not being concerned at all with the budget while I worried about it constantly. That, of course, was not true. We just had different views on how the budget was going.

The $100/day budget we had set out was meant to be an average over the entire year, taking into account that some countries would clearly be over and others would be drastically under. While Jason understood this concept completely and accepted that the law of averages would be upheld, I, for some reason, could not let it go that we were over almost every single day.

In the end we agreed that I would relax a bit and trust that it would all average out and that Jason would be also keep an eye on the budget.

What have we learned?

  • I have learned to be much more relaxed about the numbers now and to trust that it will average out. We looked at all the ‘big’ overall numbers again and realized that, even if we’re a little over budget daily, there is some room in the big budget for that.
  • We learned that maybe we’re not quite the ‘budget’ travelers we thought we could be. Although our rooms now are not luxurious by any standard, we are paying a bit more for a room than we were…and we’re happier for it.
  • We learning that we have to do the things that we want to on the trip. We won’t have any fun if all we do is hang around the hostel. We like to take tours and do stuff, and that costs money, so we’ll spend the money.

Maybe I’m finding it easier now because our ‘expensive country’ travel is coming to a close and I can see the day when we’ll stop bleeding money and maybe even make some of it back. I don’t know…all I know is that I’m enjoying myself more now…and so is Jason.

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11 Responses to “In The Red”

  1. Dirk Says:

    I guess it’s true that your troubles follow you. Experience trumps money. It would be much better to come back a month early and know that you had really enjoyed eleven months, instead of scrimping to make the whole year and regret all the things you didn’t do. Have fun.

  2. Tahna Says:

    I did not really track my budget while I was travelling but ran some numbers when I got back – I’m with $100 of where I thought I would be…. pretty impressive huh? hehe

  3. michelle Says:

    @Dirk – great point about coming back a bit early if you’re out of money. Hey, we’re not kids anymore, sometimes the things we want to do cost money (like all that beer consumed in Germany!). But i’m like you Gillian, my whole life I have budgeted and worried about money constantly. Funnily enough, it wasn’t until we had no income and were spending on our trip, that I didn’t worry about it. Not to say that we overspent, but I just didn’t worry about it. I knew this was a choice I had made and at the end of the day, because I know how to get money, it would come again in another way.

    So I am glad you aren’t worrying about it – try to stay away from the spreadsheet for a while, that might give you a bit of rest!

  4. Geoff Says:

    Ah, I know the feeling well. I’m consistently over budget (although not by as much, but the again I still have my two most expensive countries to come). It worried me a lot too, for a while, found myself stressing oit about it (and I don’t even have anyone to take it out on except myself!). I made myself more miserabel by missing certain experiences out in an attempt to cut back, and I resented it afterwards.

    SO, like you, I’m now trying to relax, as I realise that I shouldn’t miss out on any big experiences because of money, as they are the things that help create the best memories. Oh, and like you, I’ve also realised I’m not that good a budget traveller – I think at my age after so many years working and having a good standard of living, it’s just too hard to return to living on an ultra-tiught budget. In particular, in my case, it’s not the accommodation (i’m still sleeping in cheap dorms), but food – I made myself miserable eating in budget restaurants all the time, and am much happier again now I’m spending more on nicer meals (although I can’t wait to get to Asia where the street food is so good I’ll be able to eat well AND cheaply).

  5. Glenda Says:

    The conversation sounds quite familiar….glad things have worked out. Having fun can cost a bit of money…. and most of the time it’s worth it. I think of my trip to the Great Wall (did I tell you the zip line story?), snorkeling in Cuba and the dune bashing in Abu Dhabi – all a little expensive but totally worth it. Karl has similar stories…. you’ve got to live a little, right? As for accommodations, you aren’t starving students so it’s nice to treat yourself to a comfy bed and a clean shower.

  6. Akila Says:

    I know exactly what you mean. Though we are only three weeks in, we are already over budget. We know that one of the main problems is that we don’t mind spending that “few dollars extra” to get a nicer room. In Australia, for two of us to bunk in a share room would cost us about $65 per night. For $72 per night, we can stay in a double private room with a shared bathroom — which we invariably choose. And, I would rather spend the $3 to dry my clothes than hang them on a balcony to dry. Those little things add up but we don’t even realize it.
    We keep on reminding ourselves that it’s okay if we don’t stick to our budget because we can come back early instead (or, if all else fails, we could dig into our cushion fund a little bit.)

  7. Shawn Says:

    Well I am not to sure what to say, I am always under budget. However I really don’t have a strict budget. I just try to be mindful of where I stay and how I spend my money.

    So you two going to be in Cappadocia in the next couple of days? I just arrived in Istanbul because I need a new visa for Bulgaria.

  8. Tracy Says:

    For us South America, Europe & the Middle East were all significantly more expensive than Southeast Asia so once you get there your average should come down. In any case, it’s better to spend a little more and see what you want to see even though your trip may not last as long. Make the most of it!

  9. Jillian & Danny Says:

    I think you make a great point about spending money on things that will make you happy. We meet (and I’m sure you guys do as well) travelers all the time who are watching their budget so closely that they aren’t willing to do anything. They miss the travel experience. If spending a little more on a hotel room makes you more comfortable then you’ll have a better time, which is definitely worth it. We worry about budget all the time and argue about one of us not “watching” it as closely too. Its definitely stressful, but it sounds like you guys are managing well. The first few months are the hardest!

    • Gillian Says:

      Thanks to everyone’s comments regarding budgeting…it makes me feel better that we are not the only ones who are watching and squabbling over the budget! We are really enjoying ourselves and the budget worries are fading away. When we look back on this trip we won’t be saying ‘well, i wish we had…’ (within reason of course!!).

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