About money and budgeting

(This article is part of a series called:  Checking in at 6 months.)

How much does a trip around the world cost?  How big is your budget? How much have you spent so far?  Over the past six months, I’ve been peppered with these questions by curious friends and strangers.  While I don’t feel comfortable talking about specific dollars and cents, I will share some general observations that we have made about the economics of long term travel.

Our basic living expenses, such as accommodations, food and transportation have been very low thus far, which is what we expected in South America, although Chile and Argentina have been quite expensive.  Expenses for activities, on the other hand, have almost equalled our living expenses. And the cost of our two cruises totally blew our budget equalling more than half of what we have spent thus far!

We are travelling with the motto to economize wherever possible, but to spend on things that we feel are worthwhile, such as the activities we participate in.  It would make no sense to us to refrain from doing things just to save money.  A big part of our travel experience comes from the things we do, and usually those activities come with a price tag.  On the other hand, we try to select our activities wisely, to get the most value for our money.  We also share the philosophy that while for the most part we are travelling frugally and low budget, we both reserve the right to check ourselves into a 5* hotel at any point in time.  Both cruises we selected were luxurious, and while we saved money through last minute reservations, they still came with fairly hefty price tags – so good examples of this philosophy in action!

Then there is the matter of budgeting. How do you make sure you have enough money for the entire trip?  How do we know we have enough money to travel for two years anyways? I must admit that Chris and I hold different views on this subject. Chris is comfortable with the way we are doing things, whereas I am concerned if we don’t have some kind of budgetary guideline in place, we will probably run out of money before we visit all the places we want to see and before our two years are up.  Chris makes a good point that a budget is of limited value if it isn’t based on real numbers, and how on earth do we know how much it’s going to cost to visit Timbuktu for instance.  We are tracking everything that we have spent, right down to the minutiae, and Chris has all the data organized so we know exactly how we’re spending our money too.  This information helps us to make projections to see how far our money will last and it also helps us to make decisions on a day-to-day basis.  I think this is as close to budgeting as we’re going to get!

One thing we both agree on:  neither of us is willing to forfeit experience to save a few pennies.  We would much rather become more creative at stretching our dollars than shortchanging ourselves on the experience.  We are definitely going on safari when we are in Africa and we’ll be hiking Kilimanjaro too – both costly adventures.  But over the next six months we will be exploring house sitting, work exchanges and volunteering opportunities as ways to extend our budget while optimizing our experience – a win-win for everybody!  [read more]


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