You’ve spent the last year scrimping and saving every penny to put towards your big overseas adventure but have you given any thought to how you’re going to manage your money on the road? Juggling foreign currency, tight budgets and spending constantly can throw your for a loop if you’re not prepared.
Here are four simple ways to manage your money on the road:
Split your cards up. Most of us have at least one credit card and one debit card. When you’re using an international bank to get access to funds overseas, only keep one card on you to use on a regular basis. Keep the other card safely in your suitcase or backpack and only use it as a back-up. That way you’ll have access to funds if your card gets eaten by a machine, gets lost or stolen. If you’re travelling with a friend or partner, give them your back-up card. In the event that you lose everything you own, you’ll still have one card to access your bank accounts.
Carry only the cash you’ll need for a day or two. Walking around with a wallet stuffed to the brim with hundreds of dollars is a sure-fire way to get pick-pocketed. Take a “throw away” wallet out with you on a daily basis – something cheap and small that won’t attract attention. Add in one of your credit cards in case you need to make a bigger purchase, your driver’s license (or even better, use an expired license and keep your current one in a safe place), your contact details or a card from your hotel, your ICE (in case of emergency) contact details and a baby picture (it’s a proven fact that wallets containing baby pictures are more likely to be returned to their owners when lost).
Keep track of your expenses. Staying on top of your budget is important especially if it’s a small one. Tracking your expenses on a daily basis can really help. There are many methods of doing this. A pencil and small notebook works well for the technophobes, an spreadsheet with a running total or, if you’re really sophisticated, an app like Trail Wallet. Update it once a day with your purchases for the day – it’s easy to do this over dinner or in bed at the end of the day. Spending a foreign currency can feel a bit like spending monopoly money – especially if you’re working in the thousands or millions like in Thailand and Vietnam. By monitoring what you spend on a daily basis you can work out where you’re overspending and cut back. If you have a budget busting day, for example if you’re taken a tour, bought a plane ticket or done some shopping, make sure you balance it out with a cheap day the next day.
Have a back up plan. What will you do if you get robbed, lose your wallet or have your credit card details get hijacked? Carry some emergency cash so that you have enough money for food, accommodation and transport while you’re waiting for a replacement card to reach you. Stash a few hundred dollars in the lining of your suitcase, in a laundry bag or in the diaper bag. If you feel more comfortable using travellers’ cheques, use them as your emergency cash.
Cover image: “Money by 30 Traveler” used with permission.