I’ve always been awful at sticking to budget.
When I left for my first backpacking trip, I had about $7,600 cash saved for 3 months in Europe. I had a $4,500 limit credit card that I had gotten “for emergencies.”
I spent it all and came back dead broke and in debt. I had such high expectations for that trip, but I hadn’t realized that when you travel, you take yourself with you–flaws and all. I wasn’t going to magically turn into a budget queen just because I was abroad. I was reckless before I left and I was just as reckless once I got there.
Mistake #1: Bringing my credit card to the bar
I did this almost every single night during the first trip, and I was amused/horrified when I read my bill and saw how much I’d spend on a night out. Ibiza was especially awful because every drink was around $20.
For my second trip I still did it once in a while, but I got way, way better at this. Also–I didn’t go to Ibiza that time around.
Mistake #2: Buying plane tickets last minute
I’m not sure if I really count this as a mistake, because I loved being able to do this. I’d look at a map of Europe and randomly decide where to go the next day, and it was the best feeling. However, it also ate up my budget. Sometimes I could have saved a lot of money if I had just taken a long train, but I was impatient–I wanted to go immediately. I don’t regret any of the choices I made. But next time around I’ll have to research more options or try to plan a bit more advance before making a decision.
Mistake #3: Eating out…all the time
I didn’t buy food at a grocery store until 2 months into my first trip. Can you believe that?? I ate out for meals almost every single day until then. I was an idiot. My second time around, I practically lived off of cartons of gazpacho in Spain until I thoroughly grossed myself out and had to stop (my Bloody Mary substitute, I guess).
Mistake #4: Cabbing everywhere
I was really good about taking public transport at the beginning. But sometimes showing up to a new city where you don’t speak the language was scary enough, let alone trying to navigate yourself around.
I stopped making excuses my second time around and did my research. But I easily wasted $200-300 during the first trip.
Mistake #5: Missing my buses/trains
Some of this was pure stupidity. I’d stay out all night then (surprise, surprise) sleep through a 7 a.m. alarm. But some of this was intentional, and it was worth it. I was supposed to leave Barcelona a million times that summer. I missed the first bus by accident. I missed the next one because a boy asked me to stay. I extended my stay there day after day until I was finally ready to leave.
Then…I came back and the same thing happened. So again, I don’t regret this. But it did eat a hole through my budget.
Mistake #6: Shopping
There was a point during my first trip when I was shopping every day.
I think part of it was because I was bored–I had become complacent in Barcelona and I got stuck in the routine of making the same loop every day. Instead of browsing through H&M (it actually took an embarrassingly long time to figure out what “HENNES & MAURITZ” was on my credit card bill) I should have been exploring different parts of the city, or making daytrips to Sitges or Girona. I had gotten stuck in my comfort zone (and people there dress so damn well).
During my second backpacking trip, I came back with almost a grand, but also maxed out my credit limit again. Since South America will be a much longer trip, I’m hoping that if I learn to budget now that it won’t be this much of a problem later.
I’ll keep you updated on how THAT goes…