The #1 question I get when I am about to set off on a new adventure is: “How can you afford to travel so much?” My typical answers of: “It is not as expensive as you think” and “I don’t really shop” seems to go in one ear and out the other. It wasn’t until a few hours ago that I considered another response: “How much does it cost you NOT to travel?”
WTF Does That Even Mean?
On one of my previous posts where I explained step by step how I saved $55,000 as an English teacher in South Korea, I revealed my passion for the nitty-gritty number crunching that comes with travel planning. One of the things I always consider is the cost of travel minus the cost NOT to travel.
Staying at home week-in and week-out involves spending on three meals a day, activities, subways, and the like. Using this Expense Manager app, I found out how much I roughly spend per day and knew it was time to leave the US and move back to Korea. Despite having to pay for rent, it is actually cheaper to live here in gas savings alone (well, almost).
Good for You. How Does this Help Me?
Okay, so you want to consider the cost of NOT traveling when making your budget. GREAT! Follow these steps:
1) Track your own spending for a month. Consider everything including bills, rent, going out, food, everything. If you do this for longer than 1 month, you will have a more accurate idea of how much you spend per day. You will be surprised how many “special occasions” exist in your everyday life.
2) Make a budget for a trip. Every country is different, and while sky is the limit, there are floor benchmarks you can use. $25-$50 per day is manageable in South East Asia / South America / Korea, $50-$80 in the US, Canada and Japan, and $80-$100 in Western Europe (pizza ain’t cheap yo!). This assumes you will visit the top spots and not just staying in your hostel all day. Who wants to go to Rome and not see the Colosseum?
I intend to make a section with my budgets over the years eventually, but for now, I suggest these two excellent money conscious travel blogs: eTramping (a blog about spending less than $25 a day in any given location), and a blog I recently discovered: Getting Stamped (with amazing money management disclosures).
3) Subtract your travel budget from the cost of NOT traveling. Keep in mind to remove things you have to pay for whether you are there or not. For example, you would not count a cable bill since you have to pay for that even while traveling.
4) Add the cost of the flight. This varies widely, so while it costs me 150 USD for a round trip to Japan (which I just booked BTW), it might cost you a little more if you live in the US.
Why does this Even Matter?
Many times, the cost of traveling is simply the cost of a flight. You are going to eat out anyways right? Wouldn’t you rather do it in the beaches of Thailand, for a lot less? You are going to entertain yourself today right? Would you rather go bowling yet again, or visit the ruins of Angkor for $20 if you could? My point is, IT IS NOT AS EXPENSIVE AS YOU THINK! Isn’t that what I said in the first place?