Money, that piece of paper or metal in your pocket, has no value — until you buy something with it. Then, its value is up to you. Is it:
- One taxi ride or a bus and fine pastry?
- One week at a resort in high season or a two week road trip in the off season?
- DSLR camera or a top quality point&shoot camera and new walking shoes?
In advance of a trip, you may plan to spend so much on accommodation, a certain amount on food and another amount shopping. But on your trip, things can change. Unexpected opportunities arise and you are faced with the decision of when to make or break your budget.
Know What is Really Important to You
As a solo traveler, you choose how to spend your money. You aren’t forced to spend money in way that doesn’t interest you. So, the question is: what interests you? What’s important?
Some people will almost starve to save money for a fabulous pair of shoes on a trip to Italy. Others would traipse around in decade old clothes to afford the Reserva wine at that special vineyard in Chile.
Yes, you can come in under budget one place to break it in another.
When I arrived in Santiago I paid the equivalent of $35 to take a taxi from the airport to the apartment that was generously lent to me for that trip. When I returned to Santiago from Patagonia, I took a transfer from the airport and paid of $12. When I left for the airport to return home, I paid about $3.60 going by public transit. Each mode accomplished the task. By not taking a taxi I saved $54.40 – the cost of the wonderful textile art I bought (but had not budgeted) was $60. You can see what’s important to me.
Know Your Relationship to Money and Stress
It’s easy to get carried away with cool travel gear but there is a point where cool can turn into stress. If your gear is expensive, you might travel worried about its safety. In this case, your choice to spend a lot, even if you can afford it, has compromised your travels. Know the point between cool and stress and you will spend the right amount.
When I was buying my latest digital camera I knew what I was looking for. One priority was a camera that was priced such that I would grieve the loss of my photos but not really the loss of my camera should we part. Yes, I would be upset if the camera disappeared. But it was $300, not a $1000. I didn’t sweat it. (Confession: I still mourn the loss of my Pentax K1000 lost in Paris in 1985.)
When to Make the Budget
Following these two thoughts above, I would suggest that you make (or even spend short of) the budget when:
- You can get the same results/pleasure/satisfaction at a lower cost.
- You don’t care about something very much.
- The expense would worry you.
When to Break the Budget
Fortunately, there are always times to break loose and break the budget. Do so when:
- It’s buying something tangible that you will value long term.
- It feeds whatever you are passionate about in this world – food, wine, art….
- It is fun in a way that is just not possible anywhere else.
Understanding your relationship to money and travel, and spending with awareness can help you travel more.