Posts Tagged ‘money’
Shopping around is one of THE cornerstones of frugality. Taking a little time to do your research in order to get the best deal … it’s a no-brainer.
But when do you draw the line?
I wasted far too much time early on in Europe trying to save money on accommodation. Hostels and hotels were so expensive in Brussels and Amsterdam that frankly, I may have saved a few euros, but it was a poor payoff in proportion to how much time I spent searching countless websites looking for the best price.
My go-to sites for booking accommodation are Agoda (in Asia) and Booking (Europe/North America). I also used Hotwire, Priceline and Expedia once each in the US, but by and large, Booking.com is where it’s at for me. Unlike other sites, it’s always upfront about taxes and other charges that individual places levy. And while I don’t ALWAYS check against other sites, I can’t think of any instance where I’ve found the same room for cheaper elsewhere.
(As for hostels, I always play off both Hostelworld and Hostelbookers against each other, though Booking also includes some hostels in its database.)
The convenience of booking through the same site can’t be understated, particularly if there’s a good mobile app. All your details are saved, so you don’t need to enter them every time. You know how to navigate your way around instinctively to get the information you need. And your loyalty starts to pay off – you start to get emails with special subscriber deals and exclusive discounts. I’ve booked through Booking.com so many times I now have a 10% Genius lifetime discount, although it applies to certain hotel deals only.
Loyalty pays in other areas, too. You’re more likely to get fees waived if you’re a long-time customer. You get discounts for staying with the same insurance provider after a certain number of years. You get a free coffee if you rack up enough stamps at your favourite cafe. And so on and so forth.
Personally, I’m pretty loyal when it comes to banking and insurance, but I’m a personal finance nerd. Nothing is totally sacred.
When do you go with the easier option, and when do you hunt down the best possible deal?
Tags: money, personal finance, shopping
Aside from cities like Berlin and Athens, Europe was pricey. I was constantly asking myself, is this a YOLO purchase? Is it a big thing that is going to enrich our memories for years to come? Is it a small comfort that will make the heat and exhaustion today that much more bearable? Is it something forgettable that I would enter into our spending log and struggle to recall an hour later?
We had a few days under budget … and a lot more over. Which is not unexpected by any means, but it’s a little embarrassing to fess up to. We may be backpackers, but we are not hardcore. I would rather hustle harder to make more money than subsist on crackers and bananas (particularly in Italy! Oh, the food!) or miss out on certain experiences. And while trains aren’t always the cheapest way to get around if you’re willing to plan ahead, having the flexibility to hop on and off with our Eurail passes has been fantastic. We can extend stays in places we like and move on when ready. Our Munich host kept suggesting we hitchhike around (and indeed we’ve met a lot of people who have the most amazing hitching stories) during our email exchanges, but once he saw us in person, he changed his tune. I can’t imagine anyone who would ever stop to pick up someone of T’s size.
You know I’m not a hardcore budgeter, so although I was all gung-ho about sticking to a strict daily cash allotment (envelope method, anyone?) that just did not happen. Not my style – never was and never will be.
As always, spending is for both of us in NZ dollars. Our priority was food – you might even say we had almost a mid-range food budget, so much did we spend on filling our bellies – whereas we skimped on accommodation where possible. Flights, insurance etc aren’t included (you can see how much we spent pre-departure here). I’ll be doing a monster budget breakdown at the end of the whole trip and will answer any questions you have then…
While most of June was spent in Vietnam, we also made our move from Asia to Europe, starting with a few lovely but expensive days in the UK.
June 20 – $157.04 (including Heathrow Connect train from Heathrow)
June 21 – $230.28 (including London Eye)
June 22 – $134.16
June 23 – $385.58 (including buying train tickets to Edinburgh)
June 24 – $42.25 (the day we actually took the train, saving on accommodation)
June 25 – $150.38
June 26 – $160.19
June 27 – $130.16
June 28 – $193.28 (including ridiculously expensive bus tickets from Charleroi airport)
June 29 – $233.80 (accommodation was a killer – 80 euros for two in peak season)
June 30 – $217.81 (ditto)
July was a full month in Europe, and even with a free week (thanks to hosts and to volunteering) we still spent a whopping $4675.82. Splurges included a gondola ride in Venice, BMW hire in Munich, canyoning in Switzerland, and of course, a lot of delicious Italian food. Food made up the majority of our spending at 33 percent, followed by accommodation at 30 percent, transport at 17 percent and entertainment at 16 percent.
July 1 – $92.14
July 2 – 109.68
July 3 – $42.15 (free accommodation through Hospitality Club)
July 4 – $43.09 (ditto)
July 5 – $69.12
July 6 – $131.47 (expensive accommodation on the 2nd night)
July 7 – $226.06 (simply because I allocated the purchase of Berlin-Prague bus tickets to this day, but I actually bought them a few days earlier)
July 8 – $27.01 (again, free hosting)
July 9 – $82.88 (free accommodation through Hospitality Club)
July 10 – $23.83 (ditto)
July 11 – $0 (ditto)
July 12 – $344.15 (BMW rental)
July 13 – $238.38 (expensive accommodation in Munich)
July 14 – $5.82 (first day of Englischhausen volunteering in the Black Forest)
July 15 – $0
July 17 – $0
July 18 – $0
July 19 – $269.10 (expensive Munich accommodation, plus settling our drinks and wifi charges from Englischhausen)
July 20 – $241.90 (expensive Swiss hostel and expensive Swiss food)
July 21 – $202.98 (ditto)
July 22 – $512.83 (ditto, plus $300 for T’s canyoning trip)
July 23 – $116.14
July 24 – $168.41 (including laundry)
July 25 – $142.46
July 26 – $112.11
July 27 – $427.57 (including $70 on train tickets and $150 on a gondola ride)
July 28 – $203.51 (glorious, glorious food)
July 29 – $156.24
July 30 – $132.78 (including bus to Rome airport and train from Athens airport)
July 31 $554.11 (including Acropolis tickets and 239 euros for ferry tickets to Santorini)
August was another full month in Europe, most of it in Italy, but a relatively frugal one. We spent $2423.68 although half of the month was spent volunteering on a farm. We could have spent less on food for sure, but who goes to Italy to NOT experience all its culinary delights? Food clocked in at 41 percent of spending, accommodation at 37 percent, transport at 14 percent and entertainment at 5 percent.
August 1 – $81.57
August 2 – $202.33 (including quad rental, petrol)
August 3 $194.30 (ditto)
August 4 – $136.55 (including laundry)
August 5 – $124.08
August 6 – $102.48
August 7 – $146.07 (including bus transfer from airport)
August 8 – $160.84
August 9 – $132.94
August 10 – $125.05 (including train tickets to Salerno)
August 11 – $172.54 (including ferry and bus tickets to/from Amalfi)
August 12 – $131.63 (including bus tickets to Naples)
August 13 – $92.50
August 14 – $115.54
August 15 – $135.59 (including Naples museum entry)
August 16 – $147.22
Cerveteri (where we stayed for free while working on the farm)
August 17 – $87.48 (including new plug adaptor, train tickets from Rome to Palidoro)
August 18 – $0
August 19- $0
August 20- $0
August 21- $0
August 22- $0
August 23 – $0
August 24 – $9.85 (beer)
August 25 – $0
August 26 – $0
August 27 – $0
August 28 – $50.88 (groceries)
August 29 – $0
August 30 – $0
August 31 – $73.86 (a night out on the town)
September took us from the farm to Paris and to Iceland.
September 1 – $0
September 2 – $0
September 3 – $0
September 4 – $0
September 5 – $0
September 6 – $99.51 (a day trip to nearby Viterbo)
September 7 – $24.62 (T’s night out on the town)
September 10 – $151.97 – (including bus from the airport)
September 11 – $173.04 (including laundry)
September 12 – $106.03
September 13 – $102.61
September 14 – $113.20
September 15 – $112.45
September 16 – $66.05
September 17 – $117.38
September 18 – $211.02 (free accommodation with friends, but Eurostar tickets for two – total 77 pounds – pushed us over)
September 19 – $226.17 (free accommodation through Couchsurfing, but car rental, petrol and food pushed us over)
September 20 – $162.89 (ditto)
September 21 – $159.29 (ditto)
Tags: money, travel
Travelling through foreign countries takes its toll after awhile. For us, London was a breath of familiar air – first after our Asian stint, and again for a day after our Eurotrip. I’m a little embarrassed to admit to how nice it was to be greeted in English at the airport and in shops, to be able to read all the signs around us, at how relieving it was to have everything be easy again. T was just happy to be able to drink milk again, and you can bet he gorged and gorged. The milk’s nowhere near as good as the stuff at home, but at least it’s cheaper.
That said, London is blimmin’ expensive. Here’s how we tried to keep costs down:
Now that I’m a seasoned metro traveller, I wish we’d taken the Tube from the airport into the city when we first landed; as intimidating as all the transfers would have been, I think we could have coped. Still, we opted for the cheaper Heathrow Connect train rather than the Heathrow Express, which is half the price.
Travelling off peak can save you a decent amount if you’re travelling around underground; otherwise, assuming the weather cooperates, you can walk around like we did as much as possible. If you do need to travel a lot by subway, there is, thankfully, a maximum daily price cap, so you won’t pay any more than that.
Hostels, while not exactly cheap, are still your best budget option. I’m not sure if we were extremely lucky, but we found dorm beds for a mere 12 pounds each at Hyde Park Smart Inn hostel, which was in a convenient and pretty swanky area. Downside: the hostel itself was horrible, though I think this may be par for the course in London in general.
For our second visit, I found dorm beds for 15 pounds at Journey’s King’s Cross, but thanks to some generous friends, we ended up crashing in a Clapham living room for free.
It’s amazing just how much prepackaged food there is in the UK – and not in a good way. Nonetheless, supermarkets are your friend, be it Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Cooperative. They all seem to offer $3 meal deals with a sandwich, drink and snack, though we mostly bought breads, dips, and salads (I got hooked on the tomato, olive and spinach pasta salad from the get go). And if you spot a ‘pound store’, don’t walk in – run in! Stock up! Cheap samosas from Spar near our hostel were also a staple.
The one attraction we paid for (and regretted) was the London Eye. Aside from that, simply strolling around taking in the architecture, exploring the south bank, wandering past Buckingham Palace and through all the huge parks, and nipping into some of the many free museums in London, was enough to keep us occupied.
What other suggestions have you?
Tags: london, money, travel
If you’re in New Zealand, you know we don’t get a lot of choice when it comes to credit cards. Even the special travel cards that you can buy and load up with money come with a whole host of fees. Figuring out how we would handle money overseas took up a LOT of my time before we left. After reviewing our options, I was pretty thoroughly depressed. I looked into individual credit cards at many banks as well as several travel cards that you can load and reload, like the Travelex Cash Passport. They all charged astronomical fees, and often there’d be an outrageous charge simply to obtain and activate in the first place. And then I came across the Air NZ Onesmart debit card.
Another Kiwi blogger has covered the ins and outs of the Air NZ Onesmart card for travel pretty comprehensively. I’ll let her extensive overview speak for itself, but in a nutshell:
- $2 fee to load funds.
- It’s easy to avoid the monthly fee as long as you’re regularly using the card.
- No fees for electronic transactions; first three cash withdrawals a month are free.
- You can store money in different virtual currency wallets on the card, move it around, and lock in exchange rates that way. (That means no crappy currency conversion rates or extra fees at the point of withdrawal from an ATM, unless you are in a country with an unsupported currency.) Or you can leave it to chance and take whatever the exchange rate is on the day that you make a purchase/withdrawal.
I’m convinced the Air NZ Onesmart card is the best option currently out there for Kiwis travelling overseas for a long period of time, and it’s definitely a much better one than my normal credit card, which charges $8 per withdrawal plus conversion fees. Plus Air NZ often has promotions where you can join the Airpoints scheme (and get a Onecard) for free, which I took advantage of.
How do I manage our finances while travelling? Well, my money system on the road looks something like:
- Transfer funds from my bank account to my Onesmart card
- Move cash around to the relevant currency ‘wallet’, ideally when the exchange rate is high (a few cents probably doesn’t make all that much difference, but it makes me feel competent , okay? My new thrill is opening up my daily email update from xe.com. Seriously)
- Withdraw cash as needed every few days
As for tracking our spending, I swear by the Trail Wallet app. It costs a couple of dollars and is worth every cent. Trail Wallet keeps a running daily and monthly total, tells you how you’re faring budget-wise, and generates colourful monthly graphs breaking down your spending by category. The Trail Wallet app can handle multiple currencies – I enter expenses in the local currency and it converts them to the NZ equivalent. You need to be online if you want to change your currency, i.e if you’re moving between countries and need to switch from, say, pounds to euros – but otherwise you can input transactions at any time. You probably carry your phone everywhere anyway, so whipping it out to record purchases isn’t a big stretch.
How do you manage your money while travelling?
Tags: money, travel
So, after six weeks in Asia, what was the damage?
Confession: I didn’t track those first four days in Malaysia. We were getting settled into travelling, using a lot of cash gifts from the wedding, and spent some on phone calls and taxis to meet with friends and family – but also had some meals covered by them. It was all a bit messy, in short.
I did, however, track our spending pretty closely from then on. Here are the Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam breakdowns.
Averaged out, that came to…
NZ $82.10 a day
Could you do it for cheaper? Yes, absolutely.
We weren’t out to spend as little as humanly possible. Our budget is more reflective of a flashpacker budget – frugal but not cheap, comfortable not stingy. Starting our trip in Asia meant we could be a little looser with the purse strings and have a bit of a honeymoon phase before entering bona fide backpacker mode in the Northern Hemisphere.
Our travel style
Accommodation was in guesthouses and budget hotels, usually about about $12-15 for a double air con room.
Food varied widely – anything from $1-2 street food/pastries to $5 meals at restaurants. If you eat like a bird and don’t mind eating noodles for breakfast, you can probably get by on $3-6 each a day . If, like us, you have a normal to large appetite, you’ll spend more – potentially a lot more. (That said, portions aren’t uniform. Some are so small you could practically inhale a bowl in one go; others are reasonably sized, though in most cases I was left wanting more.)
We love food, so we were happy to splurge quite often. There were plenty of fruit smoothies, milkshakes, fizzy, and sugarcane purchases. (Don’t forget about drinks – you’ll spend a couple bucks on water every day, and you won’t want to miss out on the fresh fruit drinks in Asia. The cheap alcohol tempted even us non-drinkers into a few mixers throughout Thailand and Vietnam.) There were treats like cake, snacks, and ice cream from time to time. But our food expenditure really went up in Vietnam, because T got sick multiple times there, and after the first time, was (understandably) wary of street food. From then on, he stopped eating soup – which is, of course, the staple in Vietnam) – favouring starches and solid stuff, and mostly ate in restaurants rather than on the street. I still ate street food at least once a day, though.
Transport wise, we mainly travelled overland. Train, bus, minivan … We used public transport a few times, but most of the time, it was taxis or tuktuks. They’re convenient, not too expensive, and most of all, more comfortable for T, especially for journeys where we were lugging our packs around.
Tags: asia, money, travel
We took it slow in Vietnam, spreading our time out over more than a fortnight. I actually wish we’d returned to Thailand earlier and perhaps fitted in a visit to Chiang Mai, but flights were cheapest early in the week, and I wanted to book well in advance in order to lock in good rates.
I’m also going to include spending for our last couple of days in Asia, which were spent back in Bangkok.
- June 19 – $46.22 (including shared taxis and meals out with our CS hosts; again, free accommodation)
- June 18 – $57.28 (including transport to and from airports. Free accommodation through Couchsurfing)
- June 17 – $56.64
- June 16 – $15.72 (drinks, etc, aboard the Halong Bay tour, the only exclusions in the price)
- June 15 – $40.55
- June 14 – $273.33 (including tickets for overnight Halong Bay cruise)
- June 13 – $44.94
- June 12 – $34.49
- June 11 – $31.42
- June 10 – $77.05 (including sleeper bus tickets from Hue to Hanoi)
- June 9 – $71.92 (including motorbike and fuel)
- June 8 – $73.96 (including motorbike rental and fuel)
- June 7 – $77.95 (including transport from Hoi An back to Danang)
- June 6 – $44.55
- June 5 – $38.73
- June 4 – $65.34 (including transport to Hoi An from Danang)
- June 3 – $184.93 (including sleeper train tickets up to Danang)
- June 2 – $97.51
- June 1 – $64.29
- May 31 – $48.11
- May 30 – $40.92
- May 29 – $33.12
There were some expensive days (e.g. Halong Bay tour and restaurant splurges, especially in the very internationalised Ho Chi Minh) and some cheap ones (particularly while T was sick and not eating much). Overall, though, Vietnam was still a very frugal destination – especially now that we look back on it through a European lens…
Tags: asia, money, travel, vietnam
One frustrating thing about travelling in Asia is the low, low ATM withdrawal limits. You can only take out the equivalent of maybe $100-200 at a time, and you’ll be charged as much as $8 or so for the privilege of doing so.
One thing I never got tired of, though, was exchanging New Zealand money for local currency. Handing over a couple of bills and getting back many, many more was always a thrill.
Alas, those days are over. We’re now in Europe, where our dollar is pretty darn weak, and everything is a lot more expensive. It’s quite depressing, actually.
That means pinching pennies, lots of supermarket stops, and looking for deals wherever possible, be it discounts on tickets for the London Eye or tickets to Disneyland Paris.
The MasterCard I’m using (a post on how I’m managing our money while travelling is in the works) lets me store money in different currency ‘wallets’ and lock in exchange rates in the process. This didn’t matter in Asia, because none of the currencies in the countries we visited were supported, but the pound, euro, and US dollar are supported. So I’ve started keeping an eye on currency fluctuations, getting daily updates from XE.com, in order to take advantage of rates when they’re good. Annoyingly, they’ve been quite volatile of late, and the trends don’t look promising overall.
In the meantime, I’ll have to try not to develop too much of an inferiority complex about the New Zealand dollar.
I’ve still got a few posts to come about Asia, so keep an eye out for ‘em. Happy weekends, all!
Tags: money, travel
Our stay in Cambodia was short and sweet, wonderful and terrible. It is a place you cannot visit without feeling something - whatever that might be in your case.
We spent just a couple of days each in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Moving this quickly, of course, inflates the daily budget. We also ate mostly in bakeries/restaurants. But staying at Hak’s House in Siem Reap, while a little bit of a trek from the main streets, provided us with a free breakfast and free mineral water refills from a cooler, as well as a cheap restaurant and easy travel bookings. Here’s how we clocked in.
- May 28 – $221.85 (including $116 for Vietnam visas, $26 for bus tickets to Ho Chi Minh)
- May 27 - $132.13 (including $20 souvenir for T’s mum from the museum)
- May 26 – $125.31 (including $40 for Angkor Wat passes, $18 for bus tickets to Phnom Penh)
- May 25 – $73.21 (nothing notable today)
Full travel day
- May 24 – $144.64 – ($40 for Cambodia visas, $36 for the taxi – an outrageous amount as we were only three passengers along with a Chilean guy, and I oh-so-generously decided we should make up the shortfall as the couple.)
Getting from Bangkok to Siem Reap was, uh, an experience. Read more about that here!
Tags: asia, cambodia, money, travel
Curious about what it’s cost us to travel in Thailand? The south was fantastic, but a little pricey. Bangkok was much easier on the wallet. Check it out.
- May 23 – $53.27
- May 22 – $39.31
- May 21 – $49.06 (a bit of guessing on this one)
- May 20 – $60.91
Full travel day
- May 19 – $32.22 (another guesstimate, to my best recall)
- May 18 – $71.38
- May 17 – $215.94 (booked both bus transport to Bangkok and one-day, four-island trip)
- May 16 – $111.10 (including two-day tuktuk hire)
- May 15 – $113.47 (including minivan and ferry from Krabi to Lanta)
- May 14 – $75.06 (including booking a minivan to Krabi for the following day)
In terms of accommodation, we’ve been staying in private double rooms in guesthouses/hostels. The most expensive: one night at the Nakara Longbeach in Koh Lanta – 1200 baht, or about $48. The least expensive: 350 baht, or about $14, in Hat Yai at the Ladda Guesthouse. For those on a budget, about $15 should be enough for your own room with attached bathroom.
We were spending $1-2 a day on water (1.5 litres can be bought for 13 baht, or as low as 5 baht at one shop in Lanta – the only cheap thing on that island) and up to another $4 on other drinks (T favours Big Gulps from 7/11).
Food could be done for under $5 per person a day if you were on a shoestring in Bangkok, what with 25 baht pad thai, 50 baht noodle/rice dishes, 10 baht spring rolls, 20 baht fruit/fruit shakes, etc. I’d probably double that for Lanta, where you’d be hard pressed to find dishes at the 50 or under price point, at least during this season.
Category-wise, food is shaping up to be our biggest expense. Miscellaneous includes items like toiletries, postcards, and shopping (a few pieces of clothing). Entertainment includes touristy things like our four-island tour, a few drinks in Bangkok, and a shisha (my first one).
However, I’ve left off a couple of expenses from Bangkok, which would otherwise totally skew it: T’s medical expenses, which amount to about $300, and the tattoo he got, which was $200.
If you travel slowly, a $50/day budget for two looks completely doable!
Tags: asia, money, thailand, travel
I’d hoped to be spending a lot less per day right now (like $50 or under a day). But a couple of things are making this difficult:
I’m loving the fact that I can breathe freely in the Asian heat. Clear airways are a wonderful thing. (My skin doesn’t like the temperatures quite as much, though.) On the other hand, the heat here is making my poor husband a bit of a sad sack. I’d be fine in a fan room (and we stayed in a fan room on our first night in Thailand) but for his sake we’re seeking out rooms with air conditioning – which basically doubles the price.
Again, I’m in my element here. Him? Not so much. He’s not used to the food (we eat a lot of Asian at home, but not for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and is wary of street stalls (sigh). He misses steak and burgers and dairy products. And while at home he swings between eating hardly anything at all (most days) or eating everything in sight, while in Asia it’s been a case of the latter constantly. Nothing keeps him full. That said, I’m glad he’s getting into some sort of regular eating routine.
Everything is still crazy cheap by Western standards, but we’re on a tight budget.
Tags: money, travel