Making a realistic budget can be tricky to get the hang of but once you do, it saves heaps. Doing a proper one takes time as you have to look up costs, but it’s worth your while; not only does it let you know how much you can afford to spend, but it stops you falling into the trap of spontaneous and unnecessary spending when in the holiday spirit; that raid on the gift store, that “novelty” photo with some randomer in a toga, that large dessert after dinner etc – it all adds up… but doesn’t have to!
First thing’s first: set an affordable target and adjust the following to stay within it.
1. Get cheap flights – do this by planning a trip well in advanced or availing of sales. This will be one of your main expenses. Remember: the closer it is to the departure date, the more you’ll have to pay.
2. Find a decent place to stay. This should be one of the first things you do. Consider all elements of your location such as proximity to city centers, facilities included, security and hygiene, not just the price as these will all impact your spending. http://www.hostelbookers.com is really useful for feedback about all these factors.
3. Research places of interest and find out how much they’ll cost to explore – entry fees, transport etc. This will not only allow you to budget realistically but also prevent disappointment on learning about something really cool when you’ve back home again.
4. Investigate the cost-of-living – it’ll be a good indication as to how much the next few things will set you back. This is a bit tricky to do, however viewing the prices on local restaurant and supermarkets sites can give you a rough estimate. Not to mention checking out blogs etc.
5. Allocate a certain amount of money for food for each day. This way, you’ll know if you can afford that tasty steak on the menu and still have enough for a decent sandwich the next day. You don’t want to be short on food money, believe me! I’ve been there and it’s not pretty.
6. Get an idea of how much you’ll be spending on transport. As with no. 4, this can be done by checking out local sites detailing these costs. It’s always a good idea to see if tourist travel cards are available or even familiarise yourself with the local travel card system as this almost always works out cheaper.
7. Set aside a realistic sum to spend on entertainment – entrance into clubs, refreshments, cinema, theme parks, tours, museums and whatnot. This is where you really need to be disciplined and have commitment to the cause. That extra Mojito won’t be worth it when you can’t afford something much better later on, no matter how tempting it may seem at the time.
8. Miscellaneous expenses will always get you; postcards, stamps, internet cafés, presents, painkillers… Have a small amount allocated to cover them. If in doubt, the rage you’ll inevitably experience from a neglected parent/friend on failure to provide these things should convince you otherwise.
9. Add approximately €100 – €200 to it all – you don’t want to spend this but if something unexpected happens – a trip to the A&E, lost documents, an amazing opportunity – you’ve got yourself covered.
10. Keep your receipts, or write down all your expenses throughout the day to make sure you stay on track – it really works!
Having a well-planned budget gives you peace-of-mind on your adventures and a warm, fuzzy feeling on your return home as opposed to a pile of debt. Also a loud alarm clock. Not having one of those badboys can undo all your good work in a matter of minutes! Hope this is of help.