Europe trip budget wrap-up
I'm at the end of my originally planned Europe trip. Even though I'm still in Germany working, the nomadic travel is done. I calculated $12,593.40 for my 13-week trip. I spent $10,876.84. I was $1,716.56 under budget. I also earned some money by working. Not enough to make a living, of course, but it did help. And to be completely fair, the 12-day cruise was partially paid for by my dad, the rest with Discover card cashback bonuses.
My biggest mistake was not factoring in public transportation. That was a $700 overlook. It would've been more if I didn't have the Eurail Pass which got me free transportation in some areas.
I also regret not keeping track of little things like toiletries. Although I don't think it added up to more than $50. I also didn't include souvenirs in the grand total.
I didn't check my bank account each time I went to the ATM, but I should have just to see how much each withdrawal was costing. There was only 1 ATM that charged me an upfront fee for using it (3€ in Madrid). Looking through my bank account, I was never charged a fee from my bank, which is nice. And the conversion rate was always accurate. A tip: if you ever use your card, and you're given a choice to use your home currency or local currency, ALWAYS choose local currency. They try to scare you into using your home currency so that you think to yourself "well, at least I know what I'm spending", but it's a total scam. What they're really doing is trying to trick you into agreeing to pay for a bad conversion rate. It's literally as simple as giving them permission to charge you more.
I used a free iPhone app called Best Budget. Every time I paid for food or a museum ticket, I tracked it with my phone. When I had some downtime, I would export it to my budget spreadsheet, do some currency conversions, and add it all up. Using credit card as often as possible also helped with keeping track of spending (something I do at home as well).
Airbnb was the biggest money-saver. For an average of $50/night, I got to stay with locals (most of the time), got to meet some great people, and experienced more culture. At $3,800, it was easily the biggest expense. Having a set budget for this was really important when it came to choosing a place to stay. Even a small decision of $10 could affect my budget by over $700.
Overall, I'm very pleased with how things turned out. Staying after and working will also help pay the bills. Despite not working quite as much, completely straying from my original "make a living while traveling" goal, I think it was a very successful vacation with some work sprinkled in. If I were to stay put in a place for longer and not be overcome with the urge to cram in as much tourism as possible, I think I could've worked enough to make a living. I'm practically doing that now in Germany working alongside my client. But I'd really like to do this again, taking my time a bit more and really trying to live like an established local instead of a tourist. Maybe next time.