In budgeting

Travel budgeting with zero-based budget basics

Travel budget


There won’t be the perfect timing in your life to travel. There is always something stopping you, most of the time issues seems to be revolving around money. One of they key things to master is travel budgeting.

The idea behind budgeting is obvious, you just need to save, right?

The issue that I had for some time is that I thought I had nothing to save from. I was a full-time student living on a government money (In Finland, school is free and you get government money each month, about 500 euros). I always worked whole summer and spend that money plus government money for the whole year.

When you think about it, that is plenty to save from!

How many times I had spent large amounts of money for alcohol, bars and fast food the next morning? Too many. If I can afford that, I could also save for travelling.

Other thing that I did is last summer, I moved back to my dad’s apartment for the summer. I saved everything I made that summer and spent it all into travelling. That worked, but maybe that is not the smartest move to make or even possible for everyone. Now in the future I will start working, so I have to change my strategy.

I read about zero-based budgeting and that got me interested. The idea is that all available income is allocated within a category with no money remaining after.

If you wondered that this is not directly related to travel budgeting but it is general budgeting, you are partially right. In my opinion, those two still cannot be separated, how would you otherwise know where to cut back to make room for savings?


Zero-based Budget basics

Now what I plan on doing going onward is this. First of all, you need to figure out how much your income is by every month. That would usually be your salary and other potential streams of income.

Secondly, you need to calculate your monthly expenses and put them into categories and figure out what percentages you spend on each, such as following:

Travel budgeting

Budgeting break-down

Travel budgeting

Zero-based budgeting


You may have other categories also, such as debt or health care and so on. Put exact amounts also in your plans alongside with percentages! That is crucial to keep things more understandable.  Some of these are fixed expenses such as housing and some are variable such as shopping or food. These are my percentage from last month.

Next, I noticed that some of these could be cut back and directed into savings. The amount spent on food seems too big,  so I could try to cut on that. It is apparent that I have done quite a lot of shopping, from that I could cut back on easily.

Now that I noticed how much I spend and what I could cut back from, it is time to make plan of action.

Making a goal-budget

Next, try to find expenses that are variable costs that seem a little too big. Almost 20% of my budget goes into entertainment and 32% to food.

I could cut back on food expenses about 10% and entertainment about 7 %, so that would give me 17 percent of my income directed into savings. So, third of the food budget and less that half of entertainment budget. I started three new bank accounts: savings, travelling and investment. Every month as you get your our salary, direct the 17% to go to directly to these accounts.

Remember that the time you spend saving should be pleasant. It does not benefit you to make your budget too tight, then you’ll just be miserable. Think of it as dieting, crash diets never work, but slow and steady style works instead.

Also, you could think of some fixed expenses, if they could be cut down somehow. If you are paying too much of your apartment that saving anything will be impossible, are there any other options of lower price range you could move into?

Travel budgeting

Goal budget


  • If there are expenses left over after the month, try to put them all into savings
  • If the amount of saving is not enough, look where you are still spending too much
  • The key to success is to monitor whether your plan works
  • Write down a plan on how you re going to lessen the expenses
  • If housing seems to take majority of your budget, consider other areas to live in

Travel budgeting

For example hypothetically if you would make 2500/month,* 17% = 425 each month

Next step is to calculate how much you would need to save through travel budgeting. Normally you could spend about 1000/month backpacker style around Asia plus flights around 600, so one month of travelling requires 1600 saved up.

Conservative plan

The amount going into savings each month, I divided into three savings accounts I chose (savings, travelling and investment) 425/3= 141/month.

As 1600/141= 11 months savings to reach required amount to travel for a month plus flights. 11 months of saving for a 1 months trip. So every year you could go for a one month trip around Asia. These are my priorities, having a savings account and investment account, but every person has different priorities, so it might require more or less time.

Medium intensity plan

If you want to save money faster, put half of the amount to travel and other half to savings 425/2= 212,5

1600/212.5=7.5 months of saving for one month worth of travelling

high intensity plan

All savings into travelling

1600/425=3.7 months and your off for month of travel!

As you see, it is not difficult. The main issue is that you need to know where you are going and is there expenses you could cut from.

In order to fully accomplish this plan, I downloaded an app Moneylover where I log everything I spend. That alone makes me more conscious when spending to something else that is not absolute necessity.

I like to plan everything in detail to make sure I am able to do everything that I want to. It is not fun to be on the other side of the planet, ready to go do coolest stuff of your entire life and realize you don’t have enough money.

So what I have done is excel calculation, where I try to find out common price range for meals, accommodation, trips and then make estimation. Then, during the trip I will track everything into the app to see that my budget is holding up.

travel budgeting

Budget categories

How do I find out all these amounts?


I check out on what sums the flights vary between and take a middle number. I choose about 4-5 different flight websites, and check their prices on few different days.

Normally Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday flight are cheaper, avoid flying in weekend if you can!

You don’t have to book the flight yet, just see how the prices vary and how much is needed. Normally I check the prices actively for a month or so to see if there is any major price drops.

Also take note that the price normally doesn’t include check-in bags, it will add extra 50 or so, unless you travel with a carry-on.


Check out what there are to offer and on what level of accommodation you feel comfortable with and can afford. Are you the person that doesn’t mind sleeping in hostels and sharing rooms? Also it is a good idea to realize that you definitely get what you pay for. Hostels might have more bed bugs for example (I certainly have seen them, unfortunately…).

Or are you a travelling couple and prefer your own privacy? there are options in hostels and hotels. Just see what is the going rate.

Then choose conservative number you could spend per night.


I usually read from other blogs on how much they spend per meal and calculate estimation for three meals based on that. If you are travelling in cheap countries such as South-East Asia, this is not as huge of a deal. If you are travelling around Australia for example, it suddenly becomes an issue. What I have done in more expensive countries is that I cook most myself in hostels.


This is also highly dependable on the country you plan to visit. Again, in Australia there are a few very expensive activities such as trip to Frasier Island or Whitsundays sailing that can take a huge amount of your money, it is around 700-1000 euros/dollars. In Bali for example, this could be a motorbike and few temple visits, around maybe 50 euros/dollars.

I google some prices and make safe evaluation.

In conclusion

Good resource in travel budgeting is different blogs where they share the amount of money they spend in different countries!

This kind of table works well if you are travel budgeting for only one destination, but if you have multiple countries planned it requires a bigger table and more work. Also, this table example is simplified. What I did last time is to make day-by-day estimate, considering the different areas I was going to stay at and check the price range. I feel that it is important because area affect the prices hugely.

This might seem like a lot of work, but once you have the initial plan everything will go on much smoother. Also, me included not many people are in the financial situation that they can afford everything without even thinking about it.

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