Money is one of the most difficult issues to deal with when travelling, especially when you’re travelling as a couple. Getting the money together is one issue, but once you’re on the road you also need to manage it — you have to decide what to spend it on and be careful not to waste it.
The most important thing you can do is talk. Sit down before your trip and talk about your expectations about how you plan to spend your money. One of the first things you’ll need to decide is:
To share or not to share?
If you’ve only been dating for a short time, you’ll probably keep your money separate, while if you’re married or have been together for some time, you might have joint finances.
If you’re spending your own money, you possibly won’t get upset if your partner suddenly decides to blow a large proportion of his cash on (in your opinion) a quite stupid activity — it’s his money, after all. But such actions are going to affect the trip anyway, because if one partner runs out of money either the trip will end sooner than planned, or the other partner will have to support the first. It’s always worth discussing large purchases.
If you’ve decided to share finances, make sure to discuss how you’d like to spend it. If one partner is looking forward to a one-week luxury retreat that will use half the budget, and the other wants to backpack for a year, you’ve got some negotiating to do. If an awesome (but slightly expensive) opportunity comes up, discuss it together and work out if it’s something you’d both like to do, or if it’s really important for one partner. If only one partner wants to do it, perhaps she could do it alone, and the other partner could choose a treat of similar value later in the trip.
Don’t count pennies
Some people like to keep records, but in my opinion it’s not useful to write down every cent you spend. Instead, set a daily budget and stick to it. This is easiest to do if you use cash rather than cards — every morning, put the day’s budget in a separate wallet and use only that. If you pay for something with a card, take the cash out of the wallet and put it away.
This is a really easy way to limit overspending — if one of you wants an ice-cream but there’s only $10 left in the budget for that day and you still have to eat dinner, save your treat for the next day.
Your budget needs to be realistic — if it’s too low you’ll just get depressed — so think carefully about how much it should be, and be ready to change it if necessary. You’ll need less in Southeast Asia than you would in Switzerland.
It might also help to keep your daily budget just for food and activities, and to pay for accommodation separately, or by keeping a separate fund for special activities. Whatever you do, talk about it as a couple and make an action plan together — if you’re both on the same page, things will go a lot more smoothly.