Budgeting for An Extended Trip Abroad
Updated: Jan 5, 2020
We recognize how incredibly blessed and fortunate we are to even be able to travel, much less travel abroad for a year. The vast majority of the world’s population could live on our budget for an entire year (or several!). We’ve been afforded countless opportunities in our lives that other people could only dream of, but we’ve also worked incredibly hard to budget, save, invest, and learn everything we can about personal finance in order to make this trip a reality.
We’d like to start this post with a little bit of context...
We’re a dual income couple in our mid 30’s with no kids (unless you count our dog) who live in the mid west United States. For those keeping tracking at home, that makes us DICMTNKDGWPs. (How’s that for an acronym?)
We will soon have three advanced degrees between the two of us and both of us work in technology. Enter: our dream to travel more. Soon we will be embarking on a 1 year trip to experience all that Europe has to offer.
Finances are a very personal topic, but we’d like to make it a little less taboo to discuss with others so we are sharing our monthly budget for our trip abroad.
Keep in mind that your budget (whether at home or while traveling) will inevitably be very different. In reading this, some will think we’re rich while others will wonder how we manage to scrape by. When it comes to money, it’s all relative. With that in mind, let’s dive in...
Whether you’re planning to stay at hotels, Airbnbs, hostels, or on generous hosts’ couches, housing is likely to be one of your largest budget line items at home and abroad. If you prefer to have someone else clean up after you and like having a concierge at your beck and call, then a hotel is the way to go. If, instead, you’re cool with sleeping in a bunk room with 20 other strangers and don’t mind sharing a bathroom, you’ll save a bundle by going the hostel route. For us, we’re somewhere in the middle so we’ve decided on Airbnb. The fact that places come furnished is a huge bonus, allowing us to pack minimally. They also have a lot of the comforts of home, such as a kitchen where we can cook our favorite meals. We’re hoping to book listings where the host offers a monthly discount (which can be up to 50% in some cases).
Our monthly budget: $2,000 USD
RELATED: Where to? Here's our short list...
Do you anticipate doing much cooking and eating in during your trip? Some people see this as a chore (“why would I do this on vacation?”) and if that’s you, definitely pick a higher budget amount for food.
If, on the other hand, you enjoy cooking it can be an effective way to keep the budget in check. Either way, be sure to explore the local culture and food customs every once in awhile no matter your destination.
Budgeting Pro Tip: consider how much each meal of the day should cost, add them up to get a daily average, and multiple by 30.
Breakfast - $5 USD
Lunch - $10 USD
Dinner - $25 USD
Daily Total: $40 USD
We prefer to include restaurant meals, groceries, coffee, and alcohol in the food category.
Our monthly budget: $2,000 USD
(You’ll notice this allows us ~$33 per day per person, which Megan secretly hopes we won’t actually need)
Yep, you read that right!
While you’re traveling, you should also include a travel line item in your budget. Flights, hotel stays, train tickets, and car rentals for your mini-excursions can add up, so don’t underestimate how much to allocate here.
For us, we will be using each Airbnb as a “temporary home base” and then venturing to neighboring cities and countries. We estimate making 3 overnight trips per month at $300 USD in travel expenses per trip whether we take a car, train, bus, or plane to get there.
Our monthly budget: $900 USD
Health & Fitness
Have you considered health insurance coverage and what you can expect as far as care at your destination? Caught you there, didn’t we?
Most people overlook this one. It’s a benefit that typically is provided by your employer (at least for Americans, it is) so we don’t think to plan for not having health insurance anymore.
Assuming you won’t be retaining your job, you will need to come up with an alternate means of assuring a major health issue while abroad doesn’t leave you in a tough spot.
Carefully consider your destination and what hazards might come in to play (e.g. Is there a chance you might need to be airlifted off the top of a mountain you were heli-skiing?)
In regards to fitness, we will be pausing our monthly gym memberships at home (thankfully we belong to the local community center and there are no fees associated with doing so).
We do, however, want the ability to check out a local yoga studio or fitness center while we’re traveling so we’ve allocated a small amount to the Health & Fitness category to do so. Also, one of us is an avid tennis player so we’ll likely have to pay a fee to play at a local racquet club.
Our monthly budget: $800 USD
Auto & Transport
Outside of the US, public transportation is significantly more common and is generally considered economical. Research your specific destination ahead of time and don’t assume you’ll *need* access to a car. Trains, buses, taxis, and even airplanes can get you where you want to go and mean you don’t have to pay for parking, tolls, gas, or insurance to boot. We like to walk quite a bit when we travel so this saves on cab and bus fares. We also get a little bit of light exercise so it’s a win-win.
Our monthly budget: $725 USD
(Note: This includes an auto lease which is only in year 1 of 3 which we don’t expect to be able to offload. Otherwise, this category would be significantly lower.)
Student Loans / Debt Payments
One of us has a lingering student loan balance, which we have been aggressively paying down over the past couple of years. This is the only personal debt we have between us aside from our mortgage. However, during our trip we will be making smaller payments on our student loan balance.
We are also currently saving for our upcoming wedding so we felt that a temporary pause on our extra student loan payments is a concession we’re willing to make. Then, once we arrive back stateside, that amount is getting de-stroyed!
Our monthly budget: $490 USD
We have a confession to make...we both kinda hate shopping. No, really. We avoid most retail stores like the plague.
However, we do have an affinity for lightweight travel gear (in particular, merino wool clothing).
We don’t anticipate becoming shopping addicts while we’re abroad, but there will certainly be a few items we need (errrrr want) along the way.
Our shopping budget also includes any household items that our current Airbnb is lacking as well as any cold/warm-weather clothing we didn’t pack.
Our monthly budget: $350 USD
The assumption is that you’re taking an extended trip for a reason. You love the adventure of exploring a new city, country, or entire continent, and entertainment is no doubt part of that equation. Concerts, movies, museum admission, and live theatre performances should all be included in the Entertainment category. Be sure to give some leeway here so you don’t head home after your trip feeling like you didn’t allow yourself enough wiggle room in the budget to fully experience your destination.
Our monthly budget: $300 USD
Our incredibly well-behaved 2-year-old Bernedoodle won’t be making the trek with us unfortunately (*tear rolls down cheek*). We don’t want to have him fly in the cargo hold on a trans-Atlantic flight or subject him to a multiple-week quarantine that would make everyone involved really anxious. We also think that constantly being on the move would be too much of a deviation from his 10-naps-per-day schedule. We are SO incredibly fortunate to have friends and family who enjoy pets and a few have already offered to watch him while we’re away. Of course we still need to budget for our pet’s expenses while we’re gone. This includes food, medicine, grooming (every 8 weeks! Yay doodles), bark park membership, treats, and a monthly care plan with his veterinarian.
Our monthly budget: $235 USD
Does your monthly budget include a “fun money” category? We started this when we combined finances over a year ago and it’s worked out really well. We believe each person in a relationship should be able to spend some money without having to justify it to the other. If one wants to buy a life-size Klingon battle sword and the other wants to get a massage at the closest spa, go for it. No questions asked (as long as it’s out of your own individual fun money account). It’s also fairly common for us to spend our fun money on surprises for the other (since it’s the only account the other person doesn’t has visibility to). Not much fun trying to surprise your significant other when you get home and they ask “What’s this charge on our credit card for?”
One could argue that our entire trip falls into the “fun” category. And you wouldn’t be wrong. But we also want to allow each of us to splurge on something small for ourselves every once in awhile so we’ve budgeted $100 per person per month.
Our monthly budget: $200 USD
Bills & Utilities
The Bills & Utilities budget amount will depend primarily on your choice of housing. If you’re able to stay with friends and family (*cha ching!*), you won’t necessarily have any utilities expenses. However, you might want to contribute anyway since presumably you’ll be benefiting from their heat, electricity, water, etc. (and let’s be honest...it’s just the courteous thing to do).
Don’t forget to consider if you will be responsible for any utilities at home while gone. Are you subletting to a friend, but still responsible for the gas bill? Or are you planning to travel at the end of your apartment lease and, thus, are free to roam the globe untethered? We intend to rent out our house for the full year we are away and will use the rental income to cover our mortgage payments, home insurance, landscaping, property taxes, and homeowners association fees. Our renter will then be responsible for their own utilities.
Regarding cell phone coverage, we use Google Fi for our cell phone plan and thus won’t have to switch carriers, buy new devices or SIM cards, or any of that craziness. Neither of us makes many phone calls anyway (“Our devices still do that??”), but we do text message quite a bit and use data. We’ll use WiFi when it’s available, but we expect to use more data during our trip abroad than while in the US (where we primarily spend our time at home or at work).
Our monthly budget: $200 USD
For us, this category mostly consists of toiletries and other health care/personal grooming products. One of us has a beard and the other very long hair and we try to keep both from getting too unruly ;)
Our monthly budget: $50 USD
Assuming you have no income during your extended trip abroad, you will likely be spending savings rather than contributing. Hypothetically you’ve had to budget, save, and invest to even make your trip a reality so now is when you get to enjoy the fruit of your labor. Don’t worry though...we’ll be getting right back on the Savings horse as soon as we return.
Our monthly budget: $0 USD
TOTAL MONTHLY BUDGET: $8,250
As with any budget, our actual expenses will vary. We hope to use this budget as a guide and save money where possible. The primary purpose in going through this exercise was to determine how much we’d need in order to take the trip, which is why we were very conservative (i.e. estimated high) in all categories.
How would your budget vary from ours? Anything you think we're missing? Please share your feedback in the comment below.
Eddie & Megan
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