Spend Less And Travel More By Tracking Your Travel Expenses
There’s no point in budgeting for your holiday no matter where you go if you fail to track your travel expenses.
In my mailbox this week was an email from a young lady who will be travelling for a month to Madeira, Portugal.
I’m a 25-year-old woman who still lives at home with her parents.
I’ve been planning a month-long trip to Madeira, Portugal where my best friend lives.
The good part about visiting a friend overseas is that I have free accommodations which save me money.
I was able to plan and budget for the plane tickets which cost me $5147 for an economy fare with Air Canada.
You can see why I’m excited that I don’t have to pay for somewhere to stay.
While I’m there I will be paying for everything else I purchase including food, eating out and any shopping I do.
What do you suggest is the best way to track my travel expenses so I don’t spend more than my $2000 budget?
Thanks for your question Mila, I’ll do my best to answer it below from my personal experiences with travelling.
Prioritize Your Travel Expenses Before You Travel
How do you keep track of travel expenses?
There are two ways you can track travel expenses both of which I’m going to discuss today and the importance of each.
If you are travelling for work your employer should have some sort of travel expense report that you can fill out.
On the form, you will be able to document your gas mileage, per diem expenses or daily expenses which include eating out.
Talk to your Human Resources department and also make sure you know how much you are able to expense ahead of time.
If you work for yourself you can use my form to track your business travel expenses for income tax purposes and budgeting.
Research Your Travel Destination
When you are travelling for leisure you still need to plan ahead and it doesn’t hurt to research food costs.
During the years where I used to travel from the UK to places such as Thailand, Portugal, and Iceland I always researched where I was going.
Most of the time I was on holiday you might find me sigh-seeing or backpacking the country-side.
This meant that I needed to pack food and drinks with me to keep my strength up.
It only took minutes of my day to Google restaurants, hostels, hotels, and grocery stores.
By doing so I was able to gauge my meal allowances so I could set a realistic travel expenses budget.
The good thing about travelling years ago from the UK was that it was cheap but that is a distant memory.
Never Guesstimate Your Travel Expenses
I was a penny pincher back then and although I didn’t track my expenses I manually added my travel expenses in my head.
Although that worked for me PLEASE don’t try that on your holiday as it’s the WORST thing you can do.
We learn from our mistakes and although I didn’t overspend I could have easily done so and put myself into debt.
That means if you don’t have savings at home to pay for the extra expenses you incurred you’re stuck with the debt.
You don’t want to create debt while you are away on a holiday or a road trip.
The point of going away for most people is leisure so why add financial stress on your plate when you arrive back home.
Tracking Travel Expenses
Becoming an expert traveller takes time and experience as does learning how to budget your money.
One of the most important things you should do when you are travelling is to get your receipts.
I think we’ve pretty much justified the importance of receipts any time you exchange money.
Without a receipt, you cannot track your travel expenses or maintain a proper budget.
When you are away from home having a simple way to track travel expenses will help keep you on budget.
There are two things travellers fail to do most often and then regret it;
- Create a travel budget
- Track your travel expenses
We can honestly say that we were these people when we went on holiday a few years back.
Although we had a travel budget created we got so caught up in the holiday that we did not track travel expenses.
On the other hand, we did collect every receipt from our trip but boy were we shocked when we got home.
I don’t want you to make the same expensive mistakes that we did which is why I created this free travel expense printable.
Believe it or not, our plans for any road trips or holidays that we take is to bring along our monthly budget binder.
It easily fits in a suitcase or travel bag which makes budgeting that much easier while we are away from home.
I know the task seems tedious but a few minutes a day can save you a huge financial hassle when you get home.
How To Track Travel Expenses
As you will notice from the screenshot above from our travel expenses form (which is free to CBB subscribers) it’s simple.
I’d suggest bringing an envelope, pouch or zip bag to place all of your receipts in.
Many 3-ring binders may have a pocket or area you can store your receipts which works as well.
Once you get back to where you will be sleeping take 10 minutes to review your travel expenses receipts and input the data into your form.
Just remember if you used cash and did not get a receipt because it was not available you must include this expense.
I know that lots of street food vendors and markets don’t have receipts available to customers.
This is important.
This is a simplified travel expense form where you will need to include the following items;
- Where did you make your purchase?
- What was the date of your purchase?
- Detail what items you purchased.
- How much did the purchase cost you? Currency exchange rate and running total.
I didn’t add an end total for travel expenses because I wanted to make sure that we worked with a running total.
Finding out at the end of your trip that you’ve spent too much money is defeating the purpose of tracking.
As you go along add what you spent from day to day so you can adjust your starting budget amount.
For Mila, she is working with a $2000 budget which I’m not sure is in Canadian dollars or Euros.
Whichever currency you are using as your starting amount this is where you would deduct daily travel expenses from.
- Grocery Store- Mimi’s grocery
- February 5, 2020
- Bananas, Bread, Cheese
- $10 Euros
- $2000- $10= $1990 Euros left to spend
This is how you would fill out the Canadian Budget Binder Travel Expenses Form.
Best Travel Expenses Reporting Apps
There are apps available if you will be carrying a phone with you while travelling but pen and paper work just as well.
If you do plan on using open or free wi-fi while you are travelling CBB reader Mary has some expert travel financial advice for all of us.
I have hubby set up a secure network for us i.e. our own network within the hotel’s network. He brings the hardware to do it and 2. I pay off all of our expenses weekly while we are gone.
The trip ends and the expenses are fully paid.
Although there are travel apps available not all of them are free.
- TravelSpend– Track Expenses with TravelSpend
A simple app that helps you manage your travel budget so you can add your expenses quickly on the go.
- TripLog Mileage Expense Tracker
Track miles, free car mileage log, gas and fuel expenses calculator (30-day free trial)
- Money Manager: Expense Tracker, Currency Exchange Free Budgeting App
Money Manager claims to be free and includes loads of tracking categories, spending details, one-click tracking and an in-depth analysis of your expenses.
Budget Apps vs Manual Travel Expenses Tracker
There will be good reasons to manually track your travel expenses and not so good.
The same goes for using an app to track your travel expenses.
Let’s have a quick look at both.
Manually Tracking Travel Expenses
Pro: You are creating a paper trail and fairly simple to use.
Con: Having to carry a budget binder to track every expense manually.
Using An App To Track Travel Expenses
Pro: Easy to use, convenient as it’s on your phone. Less hassle with carrying a budget binder or travel expense form.
Con: The app may cost you money to use.
Always have a back-up plan
What if the app crashes and you lose all of your valuable information?
This might sound nutty but it doesn’t hurt to use both the manual tracking and an app for this purpose.
I often find that a paper trail is the best defense against having documentation at your fingertips.
Don’t get me wrong I still use technology but I’ve learned to back up the backup as I’ve lost plenty in the past.
Just this past year I sadly lost all of our budget data for 2019 which left us without end-of-year figures.
That was my mistake for not backing up our net worth tracking information like we were supposed to.
That’s how easy you can lose important data so consider backing up what you have or making sure the app has a backup system in place for their users.
Not all phone apps are created equally.
Overall, how you choose to track your travel expenses is not as important as making sure you do it.
Discussion: How do you track your travel expenses when you are away from home?
Share your comments below and I’ll be sure to respond.