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Guide: How to not overspend on your next holiday

Guide: How to not overspend on your next holiday

I just stumbled on an article by the BBC titled “Why so many people overspend on their holidays” that seeks to explain why people overspend for their holidays. The article identified the following reasons:

  • Currency differences making price comparisons difficult and decision making haphazard;
  • Malleable mental accounting resulting in a traveller reclassifying an expenditure as a “normal” spend instead of falling within his or her holiday budget;
  • ‘Licensing’ effect where monies saved during the earlier part of the trip ends up be spent unnecessarily towards the end being surplus monies;
  • Now-or-never situations encouraging spending; and
  • FOMO (fear of missing out) on friends’ and acquaintances’ travelling experiences and wanting to have similar experiences.

If you have the time, why not check out the article in full?

Are there ways to help curb spending?

How to beat the currency difference? It would be best if you have some base exchange rate formula that you can use easily. Such an exchange rate doesn’t need to be exact and just needs to help give a rough guide as to price. For example, if I were to travel to Taiwan, I use a rough and ready exchange rate of NTD1000 : SGD40. If I were in Vietnam, I may use a rough rate of SGD10: 160,000 Dong. These rough estimates allow you to get a quick sense of the price without having to turn to a calculator.

Stick to your budget! There are a few ways to do this. One is to simply restrict the amount of cash you carry to just your daily budget plus some allowance for an emergency. Keep that emergency fund stashed in a separate compartment to avoid be tempted. The other is to do some basic accounting at the end of the day to ensure you are still within budget. If you realise you are overspending, you may want to cut back the next day or two. I personally prefer the latter as it allows some flexibility. For example, I expect to spend more in London than in Edinburgh and should allocate more budget to the former location.

Is it really now-or-never? I remember touring Xian, China previously and had managed to get myself tricked into buying a tour group package instead of my original plan of taking a public bus to see the Terracotta Army. One thing I took away from that group was the guide’s few wise words. To paraphrase what he said in Mandarin, there are so many sites to see in Xian and you won’t have the time and money to see all of them. Just pick a few good ones and stick with them. Similarly, you can never hope to see everything that a place will offer. So no matter what you do, there will always be some other site that you should have seen or visited. Instead of splurging and trying to do as much as possible, just pick a few places that you will really enjoy visiting. Not only will you save money but your overall experience will be better. If it’s really enjoyable, you would surely want to visit again.

FOMO (not just the good stuff). Often, you will scroll through photographs of your friends in some exotic destination. That’s just the good stuff. You won’t read about them being harassed by fraudsters at the Spanish Steps in Rome trying to tie friendship strings/bands around their wrists. You won’t feel ripped off by a phone operator who misrepresented the phone package he sold to you. You won’t experience a missed train connection in Venice and the frantic rush to explain to a train conductor that you didn’t know there was a change in platform number. You won’t experience a sudden freak weather in Austria where temperatures are abnormally low for a summer and you are ill prepared for it. You won’t experience mosquitoes buzzing around at night in your exotic hotel room in Istanbul and the blood splatters you find on the walls the next morning after your travel mate went on a mosquito hunting frenzy the night before. Travelling has its own ups and downs so don’t feel too left out. Of course, such downs make fantastic story telling though (How else am I able to tell you all these downs?).

Avoid using cards. While I think travellers should pay any room deposit using credit card and also conserve previous cash for actual spending, credit card use should be kept a minimal to avoid spending unnecessarily. You can’t see your actual expenditure. With a simple signature hundreds of dollars may be flowing from your wallet to the vendor without you realising how much you have just spent. Further, by using cash, you get to save on transaction fees being charged by your banks and also the exchange rate fees. Sometimes, banks convert the foreign currency into USD before converting the USD amount back into your local currency so you end up paying two exchange rates. And if you are forced to pay by card, a rule of thumb is to pick payment in the foreign currency instead of your home currency. These “convenient” features cost money and you will likely get a better rate if you paid using the foreign currency.

Carry sufficient local currency. Although not directly related to actual spending, you normally incur transaction costs from withdrawing monies at foreign ATM machines. Such costs are on top of the exchange rate costs. So, it would help save money if you carried sufficient local currency with you instead of withdrawing whilst overseas.

What other ways have you used to help curb spending overseas? Let me know in the comments below.

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