System For Keeping Track of Your Expenses While Being Nomadic

One of the biggest issues that I have when I’m traveling is that I lose track of how much I’ve actually spent while I’m traveling, especially when you have to think all the stuff that comes with traveling like where you’re staying next, the logistics of getting to your next city and arranging to meet up with people in that area. Add in your usual day to day activities like having to exercise, finding places to eat and working… and then it’s easy to see why keeping track of what you’ve spent falls by the wayside. What gets measured, gets managed. I like to keep some discipline about my spending when I’m on the move and I think the best way to do that is to track everything that you spend.

When I budget a certain amount for a trip, I’ll usually end up spending at least 3-4 times that amount. By using this system, I’ve kept it at around 2x which is a good improvement.


The System

Keep a Paper Record

So what I do is keeping track of all expenses, especially cash expenses. And make a habit of always asking for the receipt.

Take a Photo of the Receipt

After getting the receipt, I’ll take a photo of the receipt and send it to my virtual assistant. You can email it or use a messaging system depending on what you prefer. I personally use WeChat with my VA and send her all of the receipts that way.

After taking the photo, I’ll tick the receipt to indicate that the receipts been recorded and put it all together in an envelope.

I’ll mark the envelope with a description e.g. May 2016 Thailand or May-August 2016 Thailand

If you forget to ask for the receipt or you can’t get one for whatever reason, then just message your VA when you remember with details of the transaction.

For expenses like AirBnb, flight tickets etc, you can just forward the receipts to your VA and they can input that also.

When you have currency conversions, it’s more accurate to record what you actually got charged. For example, if you paid 40 euros for dinner and you used your US currency credit card which ends up being $46.84 USD, then it’s better to put 46.84 USD rather than 40 euros to be more accurate. I’m a bit lazy about this part so I’ll just record it in euros.

Google Drive Spreadsheet

The next step is having your VA enter in the expenses on a Google Spreadsheet. The tab should be the same name as the name on the envelope.

It will have columns for the Date, Name of the Expense, Amount of the Expense, currency and Account It came from (e.g. cash, bank account, credit card etc.).

There should also be a cell somewhere away where the total expenses are tracked and calculated automatically. You can just use the sum formula and do that for the column where the amount of the expense is being recorded.

Monitor Expenses

The next thing to do is just to monitor the spreadsheet regularly (I do it fortnightly).

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