Calculating a budget for full time travel: How we did it

Budgeting for travel

It's easy to be 'millionaires' when the Indonesian currency is 10,000 to 1!

By Eric Koelma | Dare List Dad

Before we sold our possessions, quit our jobs and left on our big global adventure, we asked ourselves some very important questions.

One of our top questions was: Can we spend the same or less per day as what we do living in Australia?

If the answer was yes, then this plan was viable in theory. So we did the math...

When it comes to expenses, living a domestic middle-class life in Australia is expensive. Studies in 2017 found Sydney to be more expensive than New York and London, for the first time ever. 

Our house was 1.5 hours from Sydney, so we felt the ripple effect of rising house prices and cost of living.

Here was our regular monthly expenditure:

Rent/mortgage: $460/wk = $1840 per month

Electricity: $360/qtr = $120 per month

Water: $330/qtr = $110 per month

Phone plans: $19.99 and $17.99 = $38 per month total

High-speed Internet = $60 per month

Petrol and owning two cars: Estimation tank and a half per week ($80) = $320 per month

Car operating costs including servicing, insurance, registration etc would be (conservative estimate) $3000 per year =  $250 per month

Health insurance = $50 per month

Home insurance = $50 per month

Okay, they are the more major and most consistent things...

So we're looking at $1840 + $120 + $110 + $38 + $60 + $320 + $250 + $50 + $50 = $2838 per month

And we haven't talked about food yet...

Or random purchases.

Or house repairs. (Yikes!)

Now compare that with life on the road.

Some initial research on Airbnb (our favourite home rental platform) showed us that we could find accomodation for between $500 - $2000 a month (toward the lower end in Asia and the higher end in cheaper European countries).

And remember that the cost per month isn't just for a roof over your head. 

We chose accommodation with high-speed internet, a kitchen (so we could cook our own meals and save money on eating out every night), a laundry, and if we were lucky, a backyard or pool. Utilities like water and electricity come included in the price wherever you stay. Remember that when you rent temporary accommodation, you don't have to pay for home insurance or renter's insurance, and you don't have to spend money on home repairs.

So our expenses filtered down to:

  1. Accommodation (including wifi, water, electricity, maintenance, home insurance)
  2. Mobile phone plans
  3. Travel insurance (for our technology, health or other emergencies)
  4. Transit costs (airline tickets, taxi + Uber fares)*
  5. Groceries (factoring in the use of a kitchen and only eating out once a week)
  6. Entertainment and tours
  7. Discretionary items and occasional clothing/equipment replacements**

* A note on budgeting for bigger travel expenses: things like flights would be booked in advance and be a large lump sum ($500-$3000 at a time), so this had to be budgeted for, and we usually broke down the cost across the months between long-haul flights.

Eg. We paid $2500 for three tickets to Europe, and divided that lump sum monthly over the 5 months we were in Europe, as an average monthly budget. So our flight costs were budgeted at $500 month between June - November 2017.

** A note on discretionary budget: Compared to what we used to spend on a weekly-monthly basis on clothes, home decor, trinkets and other random purchases, this cost was extremely minor while travelling... we chose not to purchase souvenirs or home decor because there's only so much space in your suitcase and your furnished accommodation leaves you no space to buy that ornamental rug. Quite a handy way to stay a minimalist!

Rainy day funds

Obviously, there are things you can't budget for, and for that we have a 'rainy day fund' and also a 'insurance excess fund', so we have funds to pay our excess (around $500) at short notice when making a claim.

This is just our method of budgeting, and we'd love to hear if you've done similar maths or something different. Have questions? Pop them in the comments box below and we'll do our best to answer based on our experience!

Eric Koelma

Eric is husband to Grace and Dad to Leo, exploring the world and doing everything he can to align the travel itinerary with world sporting events (hello Tour de France!). He's all logical precision and epic decision-making. Eric's also a rare kind of super-human who works best between 9pm and 2am, and still manages to get up early and chase that wilful toddler, WITHOUT coffee (he hates the stuff!)

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