Unexciting Travel Vol. 1: Travel Smart with a Budget App

Well, isn’t this exciting…

No, really, isn’t this exciting?! You’re going on a trip! Why else would you be researching on travelling smarting with a budgeting app?! Before I say anything, I hope you have a great trip, and I hope that the information on this blog post helps save you a few notes so you can splurge on your last few days or start saving for the next.

Budgeting is very unglamorous, hence why it is the first entry in my new Unexciting Travel series that I’m writing to help give valuable information and not just lists of “the best places you have to visit in xyz” – although admittedly they are fun to read, and write. Nonetheless, you cannot visit the best places in xyz without having a solid budget. So, budgeting.

The budget app that I am going to be talk about is Pennies, for iOS – unfortunately it’s only available for the Apple system, if anyone knows a good Android alternative, let me know in the comments below – but, the app is the least important part of budgeting, the most important part is being realistic with your budget and sticking to it. So without further adieu, let’s get smart budgeting ?




Set a realistic daily budget (in the currency you’ll be spending)

Setting a realistic budget is vital. Without a realistic budget, you’ll never stick to it, and this entire process is pointless. With Pennies you can set a weekly or monthly budget, and then it divides it between the days. This works well because sometimes working out your max budget for the trip, and then working backwards is better than just guessing your daily budget. For example, for Thailand I don’t want to spend more that £700 for my month out there. That works out to just over 30,000 Thai Baht, which is 1,000 Thai Baht a day, which is £22, which is a realistic budget. In fact, I’ll try to spend less than that each day.

Even if you don’t stick to your budget each day, the process of working out a budget, and working it out in the foreign currency you’ll be spending, it’ll make you realise what is expensive and what is cheap. 250 Thai Baht, is the cheap? Expensive? I don’t know, but I do know that it’s 25% of my daily budget, and that’s really useful information to know.


Set categories for spending

Pennies allows you to set custom categories for your spending, they call them notes, but most of the budgeting apps allow you to set categories. It allows you to see where your money is going by seeing how much you spent each week / month on each category, and helps you identify where you could save a few pounds. Try and make these categorise as specific as possible. Don’t just have “accommodation” – if you’re going to be spending some time in hostels and some time in hotels, make these two separate categories so you can see exactly how much you have spend in the different accommodations. You may realise that you might have to spend some more nights in hostels, or alternatively that you have some money spare for a nice hotel.

The categories that I mainly use are:

  • flights
  • public transport
  • taxis
  • hostels
  • hotels
  • activities
  • groceries
  • toiletries
  • grab ‘n go food
  • eating out
  • alcohol
  • treats


The worst thing you can do is have a “miscellaneous” or “other” category. These are a nightmare when it comes to working out there your money went. Oh, I spent £43 on miscellaneous this week – cool, what did I buy again?


Make it a habit before you go

A lot of the time the reason why most people don’t stick to budgeting apps is because they never make it a habit. Instead it’s a chore, that they do for a day, then forget for a week and frantically fill in hoping they didn’t miss anything. Then they give up the following week. Sound familiar?

Making it a habit is hard. Some people I know will save receipts and fill the app in at the end of the day, some will write down cost on a piece of paper and then transfer across, and some do it at various points throughout the day. It’s personal preference, but I like to do it there and then. As soon as I’ve paid, I get out my phone, and log the cost. It’s especially easy if you’re somewhere the accepts contactless and Apple Pay because you already have your phone out! Nobody in the queue is going to get funny about you spending an extra 15 seconds at the till filling in your budget.

But how do you make it a habit? Well, honestly, you just have to keep using it. That’s why my biggest piece of advice is to start using the app before you go travelling. Start using it a week or two before you go, by that point you’ll of had your days where you’ve forgotten to use it, and it should be a habit by the time you go.


Check the data and back up

The effectiveness of budgeting apps depends on how regularly you review the data. If you review it monthly, and you’re away for a month, then what? I like to check in every couple of days, see where my money is at and see if I can change anything.

The great thing about Pennies is that you can save the data to iCloud, so not only is it seamlessly synced across your devices, it’s also recoverable if your phone breaks as the data isn’t stored locally. Check your budgeting app to see where the data is stored. If it is in the cloud then you’re golden – if it’s stored locally, then usually you’ll have the option to export that data as a spreadsheet and save it to Dropbox. If you don’t have Dropbox, you should, you can sign up to Dropbox here and access your files wherever you have wifi or mobile service.


Change your travel habits, not your budget

You made this budget for a reason. Don’t ignore it. Sure, overspend some days, underspend others, but don’t keep changing you budget because that doesn’t help anyone, least of all you. Be realistic, and change how you travel to keep to the budget. If that means staying in more hostels, then stay in more hostels. If that means staying in the dreaded 24 bed shared dorms instead of a 6 bed then I guess it means you better be good with people, cause you’re going to be staying in more of those. Eat out less. Cut back on the booze. Prioritise sights that you have to pay to enter, do less guided tours and instead explore alone, be your own guide.


Final thoughts…

Budgeting is hard, it can be annoying and a ball ache. But it doesn’t have to be, get into a good habit of doing it and you’ll love it. Seeing where you can save money can be a fun thing, and it sure is fun when you realise you underspent the whole trip and have saved £100 for your next adventure, because planning your next adventure is never not fun!


If you have any budgeting tips, or any budgeting app recommendations then let me know in the comments below! Pennies is a great app and I would recommend it to anyone. You can also change the sound effects to an old school 8-bit games console which is just straight up dope. The Legend of Zelda: Budgeting of the Wild. 

1 Comment

  • Jack Walker
    Never thought to start budgeting before the trip. Sounds like a good way to get into the habit!!

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