When I first started planning to travel the world I found a great website called A Little Adrift. It is a great resource, and Shannon’s books are well worth buying. One of the best things Shannon has is her travel spreadsheet, which you can download for free. To get your own click here. Thanks Shannon! Her spreadsheet is best if you are traveling spending time in more than one country per month, and are moving back and forth between countries. The first thing I did when I got ahold of her spreadsheet was to begin to alter it for my own situation of spending multiple months in each country.
Warning! I am a true spreadsheet freak! I can’t seem to work with a spreadsheet without constantly changing it. Below is what my summery sheet looked like December 31, 2019. This is the day that I make a copy of the old work book and purge it for the new year. If you would like a copy of the blank document press the download button below.
The blank workbook, has sheets for each month where you can record your variable expenses. Other information is entered directly on the summery sheet. All the sheets in the workbook are locked, but if you love playing around with spreadsheets as much as I do, there is no password. I removed a lot of the stuff I have crammed into my workbook. That is why there are so many blanks on the index page. On the bright side, this gives you space to add in your own pages and links.
Okay, now that the sharing is over. The reason for this post it to write about budgeting on the road, not to teach how to become an Excel addict. If you do become an Excel addict, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
When I first decided to travel the world I wondered if I could actually afford it. I was working on that when I found that I had lost about 2/3s of what I had expected to retire on. I went back to the spread sheet I had been working on and slashed my budget. I removed things like two months in Paris, and a month in London. I found that some Airbnb hosts will slash their prices by 20% to 50% if you are staying for three months. I try to get as close to that 50% as possible.
On the first reworking on my budget I expected to spend my pension plus half my savings. I just needed to make it two years until my Social Security kicked in. Not long after I got to South American I realized that I wasn’t going to have to dip into savings. By the time I got to Warsaw, seven months later, I realized that I could save a good part of my pension each year, and still have enough to live the way I want to. In the sheet above you can see what I consider worth spending my money on. What you decide to spend money own is up to you. The point is to get the best bang for your buck. I saved money in South America and Mexico, so that I could spend more in Warsaw. Most of the money I spent on dining out was in Warsaw.
If you have been following my blog, you can see that I am enjoying myself, especially in Warsaw. The good thing about keeping a spread sheet recording every penny you spend, it makes you think about how you are spending. I have learned to go beyond checking to see if I can afford something. I have learned to consider the Opportunity Cost. If I spend my money on X then I will not be able to spend that money on Y or Z. Yes, next week, I am going to have enough money in the budget to go out to a nice restaurant for dinner, but wouldn’t it be better to wait until February when I friend will be visiting, and we can go together?
When I decide to make an unusual purchase, I record it into workbook and see how it effects my overall budget. The block “wiggle room”, lets me know how much extra I have to play with. I this year I spent the extra, which was remaining on Dec 31st, on buying some TV seasons and Movies, to watch over the next year. I prefer to own media, so that I don’t have to worry about streaming and and all the issues you can have with that while traveling. My hard drive doesn’t care what country I am in.
In the spreadsheet above, I have caused information from the summery sheet to flow over so that I can compare my 2019 spending to my projected 2020 spending. I have been able to increase my budget 2020, so this sheet helps me figure out how to allocate my spending for the new year. I tinker with the percentages on the right to see how everything pans out.
In the spreadsheet below, I started with a blank spreadsheet and started loading in my best guesses as to what I would be doing and spending for 2020, based on 2019. I went into the monthly sheets and put in the numbers for my projected spending. The amounts went into the the columns for Lodging, food, shopping and miscellaneous. As the year goes on, I these amounts will be adjusted as needed. Like if I have $10 in the food section, but I spent nothing that day, I will put in a zero. If I spend $40 dollars for food, the then 10 will be changed to 40. For these initial figures, I am usually are too high, but that is a good thing.
You can see where I have already put in for the computer I will be buying and other expected fixed and one-off expenses. Everything in the spread sheet can be changed, except some of my standard expenses and the flights I have already paid for. In 2020 I might have to return to the US in June to smooth out any problems with filing for social security. With that in mind, I am assuming it will happen and that I will have to be in the US for the whole month of June. But I might also be able to handle things from Mexico with a single trip to the US. So I put in a round trip flight from Mexico.
I will be shipping the last of the things I own from Hawaii to Texas, to save on the huge cost of storage in Hawaii. I will have to be in Texas to receive the shipment at a new storage unit. I have put in a second round trip to Texas for this contingency. If everything with Social Security goes with only the normal amount of problems, I should be heading to Zagreb in July. I am planning on returning to Peru in October and staying here for six months before heading back to Hawaii again in 2021. I am having to have some big expenses related to getting a new laptop and shipping my stuff from Hawaii. Once I find out how much those expenses are going to be, I will prorate them over the next few years so that my yearly budget doesn’t get busted.
With the 2020 spreadsheet ready to be used in the morning, I am already looking toward 2021 when my budget will nearly double. It is a long time in the future, but It is nice to think that a few of the place which are out of reach right now will be back on the table. London, Paris, Bilbao … I will be playing with these numbers for all of 2020.
Besides my own track record I use the following resources to figure out what I might be spending.
When I look at the numbers in Nomad List, I know I live more like a local or an expat than a Digital Nomad, so those are the numbers I go with. With Numbero and Expatistan, I compare to cities I have already lived in. These aren’t fixed figures, but are just a place to start.
One more little spread sheet I can’t do without. This is the way I figure out how many dietary supplements to buy when I am in the US based on how many days I will be away. I am a minimalist traveler, so I always need to know just how much weight I am going to be hauling around with me. As I travel I am always on the lookout for local places to buy my dietary supplements. Maybe one day I will have the assurance that they are just as easy to find in other countries as just about everything else.
If you travel with a lot pills click below to get a copy of this spreadsheet. You can unlock it with no password, but play with it at first without unlocking as that will show you what cells have formulas in them. I have left some information in so you can see what to type in about your own pills. Have fun.