Money is the main reason that couples fight and being overseas together can make you discover new things about your significant other. Or, if you are aware of differences before, it can exacerbate them. So it is handy to be honest and have a plan of attack.
It is important to sort out finances because nobody wants to have a stressful holiday and money does not have to drive a wedge between couples. Having travelled as a couple for several years I have picked up a few basics on maintaining finances, however everybody is different. Here is my no fuss guide to organising travel expenses as a couple and hopefully it helps.
Know your spending habits
If you do not know this about yourself and your partner before heading off, it is important to figure it out. Here are a couple of questions I like to ask because it could identify potential spending problems.
- What do you value when spending? Some people may happily pay a lot more for comfort whereas others are happy to rough it. You need to ask yourselves what you value in spending – quality, quantity or a mix of both?
- How much do you want to be spending each day? Figuring out a rough amount you want to spend each day can help decide the kind of trip you will be taking. When I travelled as a couple, we agreed to spend $50AUD a day (not much, but it’s what we agreed on) and this helped us to then figure out how much could be spent on accommodation, food, etc. Having this number to go off meant that nobody was spending outside of their means.
- What do you splurge on? Someone might prefer splurging on food whereas another may like fancier accommodation. You have to make sure that you are okay with splurging on the same thing so that someone doesn’t feel like they’re ‘wasting’ money.
If you have any more specific questions about personal finances or your partner’s finances, do not be afraid to ask them. Money can be a sensitive subject but it’s better to be honest before the trip rather than figure it out when it’s already too late.
Find a reliable way to keep track
I find it is important to have a record of what each person has spent irrespective of how you decide to split the costs. It is handy to know who has purchased what just so it is all traceable.
Personally I use an Excel Spreadsheet to track stuff which I update each day with running totals (not only to see who owes who but to track how much I’m spending on a holiday overall). When I’m on the go I just use a Sticky note in my phone – nothing fancy!
There are loads of ways to keep track of expenses travelling as a couple including phone apps. The travel-specific budget app that I like is TrabeePocket because it keeps budgets in a variety of currencies and converts them to one total in your designated currency. But other budget apps work well too (such as Daily Budget Original) but you’ll have to do the currency conversions yourself.
Alternatively if you’re paying for everything on card, just use bank statements to trace who has spent what – it just might be harder to sort out.
What is split and what is not
With your partner it is good to discuss what is split (and if so, is it split 50:50) and what is not split at all.
For me, the big expenses are always split (i.e. flights, accommodation, transport) and put in the spreadsheet. Smaller things like coffees are more of a casual thing, so sort of like shouting rounds at a pub and I don’t feel it necessarily needs to be recorded.
For personal expenses (i.e. buying new clothes or getting an extra coffee for yourself) I don’t expect them to be split and just add them to my personal tally.
Really it is up to you how strict with budgeting and recording you are – whatever you both decide and are comfortable with. If you think you are going to have problems/differences with money, I would recommend recording as much as possible so that you have a clear idea of where the dollars are going.
If you are on a super tight budget it is also good to record everything. Not only is it useful to know how much you’ve spent but it also makes you a lot more accountable for what you are spending (eventually you get acutely aware of spending and naturally think twice before buying stuff, which is good for saving money!).
Options for money
These days there are loads of ways for withdrawing money or splitting travel expenses as a couple. Here are several ways that I have used or considered:
- One person buys everything, keeps track and gets the other person to pay them back at the end of each day/week/month/destination
- Both buy stuff and keep track of it, at the end of the holiday see who owes who and pay the difference
- Joint bank account where you both put in a certain amount of money at the start of the holiday and withdraw from that account
- Prepay figure out how much you want to spend and get one person to transfer the amount to the other person. This way only one person is purchasing everything during the trip (easier to keep track of bank statements), and transfer any remaining money back when you’re home.
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list of options for organising travel expenses as a couple but it is a few of ideas to get you thinking. Hopefully you enjoy your holiday and remember that money is not everything! Honesty is the best policy with finances so if you are honest, open and organised, you will be fine!