Thoughts on Travel Budgets
I’ve been just hanging out in Luang Prabang. Not doing any touristy stuff, just living and enjoying the simple sensations of nice accommodations, people and a dining options. I’ve also had a long time to think, as a result, I’ve been doing lots of thinking, deep stuff, think Lake Eerie or whatever. I’ve been thinking of travel budgets and the why when where what how of it all.
I have found that on this trip it’s very easy to spend ~$1800-$2000US a month. I’ve also found that it’s arguably just as easy to spend ~$600-$900US a month. That is QUITE a difference in price? It’s such a difference that on the lower end it’s ~3X cheaper. If you’re on a budget or finite resources, that’s 3 times the amount of travel. The question is, do you get 3X as much fun for spending 3x as much money? I’ve concluded absolutely not.
Several times on this trip, I’ve done similar pondering, never quite to the extent that I have recently though. I’ve found that if I set a daily budget and keep to it, I often wake up the next morning with a smile and the difference in pleasure is almost non-existent.
Why bother making a budget? First off if you have no budget, you are most definitely going to over spend. Even though we all have different budgets, net worths etc etc… Why spend much more than required to have a good time? What’s the point really? If you can have a great night on ~$10US, how much better would the night of been on $20? Also how will this “night” spill over into the inevitable tomorrow?
When is it a good idea to live by a budget? I’d say always. If you do the math on your expenditures and track them for a few days, you’ll identify some areas of total waste. Usually large areas, might I add. Do you need to eat at a fancy restaurant each night? Why not eat something on the street that is 75% as good at 25% the price? Sure the “setting” isn’t as nice but when I’m poking a fire, I rarely take time to appreciate the mantle, ha.
What should be included in the budget? Probably everything, I’d say for sure account for accommodations, requirements to be well nourished, misc items that you’ll need and of course pleasure.
Where should you enforce this budget? How about everywhere, how about after you move to a new country or town for a day or so, figure out what things cost and what you need to be happy. Wasting any scarce resource is not a good long term plan. We live in a world of indefinite wants and finite resources.
How do you make a budget, how do you get an idea? Look around and follow your expenses for a few days, what was needed, what wasn’t? What actually brought you happiness, what was just fluff filler. Remember that when traveling you’re basically on a 24/7 weekend. There is always tomorrow and most people spend more money on their time off, it makes sense.
When you keep to a more “reasonable” budget, you tend to appreciate things more. In your budget you can account for ~1 day a week where you spend like a glorified glutton. You will probably enjoy it more as well. Whatever you spend daily becomes your “average day”. Your average day may be hedonistic compared to someone else, but it’s still just a “regular run of the mill day for you”.
I also found that on the days where I stuck to a budget, I was actually hungry for dinner and it tasted great, when you are just buying for fun, you’re always kinda full but wanting more. Odd how that works?
Finally, when I was in Bali, I hung out with long term travelers, guys going on 6 month – 5 year trips. The mentality was different, priorities similar but different. As a result, Bali was one of my least expensive stops and arguably one of the best times I’ve ever had in my life.
I’ve concluded that when traveling, there is a tipping point. Once reached the laws of diminishing returns comes into effect. Basically anything you spend over a certain reasonable “cap”, you get less and less enjoyment for. If you can find your own personal tipping point and manage to max it out while staying JUST below the point where returns start diminishing… You’ll have the trip of a lifetime, whether it’s around the world or just going through life in your own home town.