Travel Without a Budget

Something many people asked us when we first told them we were quitting our jobs and travelling was what our budget was. “How much do you plan to spend”, “are you sure you want to quit your jobs”, and “did you win the lottery”, were all things we heard in one form or another. While a budget for a trip like this should be an obvious thing to have, the questions actually caught me off guard. As much as Kaitlyn and I talked about whether we actually wanted to take this trip or not, a budget wasn’t something that ever really entered the discussion. If you know me (and my obsession with personal finance), you might find this surprising, but let me explain.

Travelling without a budget doesn’t mean we have unlimited funds (whether saved or through debt) to spend on this trip. What it means is we have no predefined spending plan that we will try to adhere to. We will allow ourselves to spend as we please, but we’ll be conscious of our spending. We’ll deal with money and spending on the road the same way we did at home (while employed)… without a budget (which don’t work for most people).

I enjoy (or rather, am compulsive with) personal finance, but I don’t believe in budgets. They may work for some people (e.g. crazy disciplined people, of which I am not), but I genuinely believe they don’t work for most. So how does a person concerned with personal finance go about their spending without a budget? I practice (what I call, not sure if there’s a formal term…) value based spending. To me, it is the most important principle in personal finance, and the one thing everyone should be aware of. What you spend your money on is a true reflection of your values. No exceptions. (The same can be said of your time, but that’s a topic for another day). So, consider what your values are, and spend accordingly. Simple, right?

Or maybe not so simple, because people can have little or no idea what their values are, and when they do feel like they have certain values, a reflection on whether their spending habits actually align with their “values” can be a difficult thing to reconcile.

  • Do you spend more money on charity or on shoes?
  • Do you save for financial security or take on debt to buy things you can’t afford?
  • Do you value things or experiences more?
  • How much money have you made in your lifetime and what do you have to show for it now?

So how does value based spending allow Kaitlyn and I to quit our jobs and travel for a year (without a budget)? First and foremost, we value freedom. As long as we were dependent on our work related incomes, we weren’t free. We were wage slaves to our employers. So, we spent money on ourselves (i.e. saved a high percentage of our income), so that we had enough savings to afford our (temporary) freedom. Second, we value frugality. Given our frugal nature, we can spend freely without a budget knowing that our savings provides us with enough of a buffer. (If you value luxuries over basics, and convenience over frugality, then save (or budget) accordingly).

Meditate on what you value (or want to value), then see if your spending aligns with it. If it doesn’t, ask yourself why not, then take action.

While we may be travelling without a budget, that doesn’t mean we don’t track our spending as we go. Just as I do at home, I am meticulously recording our spending on this trip. An important part of value based spending is tracking your spending so you can review and reflect on whether your spending aligns with your values. When things don’t align, you have the information to make the necessary adjustments so that your spending better reflects your values.

We’ll have future posts with details on our spending (maybe 1 post per country?). Hopefully, those posts can help you with planning your own trips and allow you to set a budget (if you happen to be one of those people who’s good with using budgets).

For those who are curious, I’ll also share what software I’m using and maybe post a spreadsheet or two. I’m sure you’re all dying to know what this is for:



2 thoughts on “Travel Without a Budget”

  1. This shit is tight.

    add web query to an fx table (i use to pull Fx rates to lock your CAD cross currency rates in on the day of your spend…only then will you accurately capture Fx PnL movements…unless you’ve converted a fixed amount at your start…either way- in the current conditions, spot rates are extremely volatile…over a couple months…these amounts will add up.

    Great blog post btw….couldn’t agree more. value based spending has a weakness though- the model more often than not hits the tail risks when things go on “sale” and or you wander a bit too much on w/ Prime membership.

    1. I’ll have to share my full spreadsheet so you can critique it :P. I don’t pull in the live exchange rate for a given date in the spreadsheet, but I have a separate worksheet tracking exchange rates I use based on the rate when I converted the currency. If I use (Canadian) credit cards , then I enter it in my spreadsheet as CAD and update it with whatever exchange rate I got on the credit card when the charge gets posted.

      I usually don’t have too much trouble with wandering a bit too much on places like Amazon as long as I have a good sense of my own needs vs wants. However, I admit it’s pretty easy to justify purchasing wants when they’re below a certain price threshold… So I can get in trouble that way sometimes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *