Travel teaches us a lot. How to manage money is an interesting lesson. I never thought that it would teach me how to manage money when I was NOT travelling. Budgeting is imperative when you are travelling long term, so they have been important lessons learned along the way.
LESSON #1: Understand Whether Your “Stuff” is a Need or a Want.
When you are travelling constantly, you can’t haul a lot of stuff around with you.
When we moved to Australia from the United States in 2013, we had to assess every single thing we had, because we were paying the shipping costs. We weren’t moving through work or being sponsored in any way. It was all on us. Assessing everything we had, whether it was worthwhile shipping to Australia, was a great exercise to go through. Every article was questioned: ‘Do we need it or do we want it?’
Of course, there were sentimental things that we shipped. But it made us look at practicalities too. We also knew by then, that we would be travelling full time after living four years in Sydney.
It made life a lot simpler for us as a family. For example, we had no television. It wasn’t something we felt needed to be purchased (because we had to buy all new electronics moving from the U.S. to Australia.) If we wanted to watch something, we would stream it on our large monitor, which we used daily for work.
Now we travel full time, it’s an exercise we go through constantly. I have one suitcase, a backpack for my work stuff and that’s it. If it doesn’t fit in my suitcase, then I don’t need it. And if it’s not something I am going to use daily, or often at least, then I definitely don’t need it.
When there is a need to replace something, or if I’m simply browsing through a market (my weakness!), the question is asked, mostly now in my head:
Is it a need or a want?
Shop My Simple Travel Wardrobe
LESSON 2: Know it’s The Small Things That Add Up.
When you’re travelling, stopping and buying coffee, or even lunch, can get expensive and those costs can add up fast. We generally plan on eating before we go out and if we need a pick me up, we’ll buy a sushi roll or we will eat nuts, which we often carry with us.
If you are eating out every day, you’ll be wondering where your money went.
When doing a comparison of costs while living in Sydney (when we were settled) we compared that year to both the first and second year we were travelling full time.
We spent a lot of money that first year of travelling. What shocked us were the amount of take-away coffees we were buying (sometimes 4 daily!) and how often we would buy lunch (four times a week) while road tripping.
We clued in pretty quickly that our expenses were out of control when it came to eating out. So, we adapted quickly to ways we could save while being on the road. (We bought this handy gadget for travelling, to keep our coffee expenses down.)
Related Post: 9 Ways to Save Money on a Road Trip
LESSON 3: Leverage the Free Stuff.
I’m sure people would call me a scrooge, but when it comes leveraging the free stuff, I’ll pin that badge on my chest proudly.
- I take advantage of free concerts, free museums and free festivals whenever I can. Some of the best events I’ve been to have been free.
- I pop the extra toiletries from hotels into my suitcase when I go and use them later.
- I take a few extra salt/pepper/jams/condiments from fast food chains and use those on the road as well.
LESSON #4: Always Have a Financial Backup Plan.
When you are travelling, your passport, credit cards and money can be stolen at any time. How is that different than any other time? Interest rates change. Banks go bankrupt. Stocks go up and down more than a rollercoaster.
We’ve all heard that it’s good to keep a diversified equity portfolio. It’s the same for travel. It makes sense to split up your cash from your credit cards when travelling, so that if the worst does happen, you don’t lose everything at once.
The same can be said for your finances when settled. You need to be sure that you aren’t putting all your eggs in one basket. Even my income is diversified so if one thing isn’t doing well, it’s supplemented by another source.
Having a backup plan is key life lesson.
Related Post: How I Travel Full Time as a Digital Nomad.
LESSON #5: Master The Tools You Love and Dump the Rest
When travelling, you quickly learn which booking sites work and are reliable. You know what travel apps work best to keep you organised.
Figure out what apps work for you to manage your money, your life etc – everyone’s needs and skill sets are different. There’s no sense in using tools that don’t work for you. Stick with what you love and ditch the rest.
Related Post: 19 Apps for travelling
LESSON #6: Collect Experiences, not Souvenirs.
When I initially started travelling, I was all about buying souvenirs. Over the years, I stopped doing that. If I’m going to buy anything, I’ll buy something like earrings that I’ll USE every day so I can support a local artisan on my travels.
I’d much rather journal and photograph my experiences as tokens of my journey.
The same can be said when I’m settled. I don’t want more stuff. I’d rather have a kick-ass experience or to explore somewhere new. When events like birthdays and holidays approach, I’d much rather give (and receive) an experience than just another ‘dustable’.