Budgeting & Costing Special

Sunday, July 21, 2013

We have been travelling now for 6 months approximately 2/3rd's of our trip. So how are we doing against budget? In short, very well and it's all down to the pre-trip budgeting.

We spent hours, probably days if toted up researching prices of transport, hotels and food which gave us a great budget to work towards. It might have been hard work but we are reaping the rewards now.

So what did we do well?

Researching everything we possibly could so there haven't been many surprises on route (yet). We aim to book train tickets and plane tickets where needed around 6-8 weeks prior to travel. This seems to be a happy medium where you can still get promo deals but it still gives some flexibility to tweak travel plans. We always try and book our own tickets to avoid paying any commission. On the whole trip we only booked the Trans-Siberian, 1 ticket in China and our Vietnam tickets via an agent. If you read our blog on Hanoi we regret booking our tickets in Vietnam via the hotel as we could have easily done it ourselves. Discount train tickets in advance is a Western practice and there is no cost difference to buy on the day in Asia but if travelling in peak time it is best to buy in advance for peace of mind.

Contingency planning! After detailed budgeting we added a contingency to each pot of cash. As we budgeted on being able to get promo rates on trains and flights, if we couldn't, it would have left a hole in our budget. Therefore we added a hefty 15% contingency to the transport pot.

We avoided paying expensive car hire excess insurance by purchasing an annual policy. This cost us around £90 (we got about £20 back from our friends at TopCashBack) but it covers us for multiple rentals for 1 year even in the UK. The only downside of this type of policy over a comprehensive cover offered by rental companies is you have to pay up front for any damage and then recover it from the insurance company. In Australia this only saved us $6 per day as we hired a car from a local company, the multi-national chains charge considerable more, however in New Zealand we saved $30 per day!

What did we do badly?

We didn't budget enough for clothes on the road. We budgeted for warm gear to get us through Siberia at the start of the trip but we didn't put anything aside to purchase stuff as soon as it got warmer. This was just a simple oversight and luckily to date hasn't been a big issue as clothes are vastly cheaper in Asia.

We took out extensive medical insurance before leaving the UK so totally forgot to put anything aside for doctors or hospital fees. As we noted in various blogs both being slightly accident prone we should have put at least £250 aside for contingency. Ross's doctor's consultation and medication in Thailand was approximately £100 and if we had visited a private hospital it would have been substantially more.

Cost Savers!

The biggest money saver by far for us has to be our amazing bank account with Norwich & Peterborough. They do not charge any commission to withdraw cash or use the debit card anywhere worldwide. This has saved us literally hundreds of pounds, nearly all other card holders charge a commission and our Barclays accounts charges a whopping 2.75% on each transaction.

The next biggest money savers has to be Skype and the wonderful Fishtext. Starting with Skype, we took out a premium subscription that gives us unlimited UK landline calls. We were a bit cheeky here as prior to Christmas we purchased some Skype Christmas vouchers which were on sale at 1/3 off, we added them to our account and then used them to purchase the subscription. : Fishtext has been fantastic and it only costs us 2p to send a message to a UK mobile. The great thing about the service is it is linked to your mobile phone so replies come directly back to our mobile. We can't estimate how much Fishtext has saved us but it's certainly not an insignificant amount.

Our trusty S3 has indirectly saved us a pretty penny/baht/dollar. We use it for just about everything but a few ways it has saved us money include:

Being able to download and save Google Maps offline has enabled us to avoid paying for GPS when hiring a car.

We have also used it as a wireless router to tether our internet connection between our other devices thus we have only needed to pay for one connection. In Australia we purchased a local simcard to avoid paying excessive hotel data charges, this saved us around $18 per day.

Being able to check-in for flights using airline apps, avoiding having to pay check-in costs or having to print documentation.

Saved on taxi fares! Although we rarely use taxis as we prefer to walk or take public transport on the few odd occasions we have hired a taxi, as soon as you get out the S3 you can guarantee the taxi will take a more direct route. It's also amusing to see how long it takes the driver to spot the phone and then justify why we are going a particular way.

If we toted up everything our S3 had saved us it would go a long way to paying for itself. Don't leave home without a smart phone. We both love our laptop and iPad but if we had to choose one electronic item, the S3 would win hands down as it is so versatile.

There is definitely more cash savers tucked away, but we can't think of any right now. If we do think of some more we might do another budget special later in our trip.

Ta Ta for now

Team Chip

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