› How to budget

Your Australia budget: how much does the trip really cost?

We stuck to our Australia budget, and you can to with these tips to build your own realistic trip budget. It doesn't need to cost a fortune, but you do need to get some idea of what you are likely to spend.

The key is to break it down day by day.

Years ago, my mum (and accountant) taught me a great way to work out any travel budget.

Either -- Work out how much money you can spend overall, and divide it by how long you are travelling, e.g. You save $5000, and your trip is 50 days. Your daily budget is $100…if the daily amount is too little, you need to save more or shorten the trip.

OR --- Work out how much you think your everyday expenses will be, then add a little more for splurges and contingency. Multiple the final daily amount by how long you plan to travel, e.g. $100 x 50 days = $5000.

There’s your budget.

Having said that, the devil is in the detail. To give you a better idea of the specifics, let me take you through our budget and spending, and then you can think about how to build your own.

Along with food, fuel will be one of your biggest costs.

Your camping budget will be different to ours, so make sure your estimates are right for you.

Our trip budget = $123 /day

We are cheap skates. But we met others far cheaper. We were on the road for 439 days, and we spent a grand total of $54,054, for everything. That’s a daily average of $123, which was less than we budgeted.

Here’s a breakdown of our expenses –  

Daily expenses = $86 /day

We estimated $112 / day

$20  - Campgrounds
$35  - Food
$22  - Sightseeing / outings
$7    - Extras (gas refills, haircuts, etc)
$21  - Splurges
$7    - Contingency 5%

We actually spent $86 / day

$14  - Campgrounds
$34  - Food
$18  - Sightseeing / outings
$9    - Extras (gas refills, haircuts, etc)
$11  - Splurges

How to work it out?

We came up with daily figures by working out weekly costs first then dividing by 7 (e.g. grocery bill, or xx nights in caravan park per week). Our daily expenses came to $86/day totalling $37,754 for the trip.

Car expenses = $37 /day

Rather than by day, we estimated our car costs by how many kilometres we expected to travel over the whole trip. We estimated that we would drive approximately 40,000km. We actually drove 45,000km.

For fuel

  • We multiplied the kms by our expected fuel efficiency when towing, then by $1.75/L (our estimated average diesel price).
  • On the trip, we tracked how much it actually did cost as the odometer went up.
  • Our fuel spend was $11,100, just under what we budgeted.

For servicing / maintenance

  • We used the distance to estimate what services and tyres the car would need and how much they would likely cost.
  • We serviced more often than we expected, and went through more tyres – so the budget blew out!
  • Our maintenance spend was $5,200, well over what we budgeted.

How to build your own budget

Before you go, work out a realistic Australia budget by asking yourself:

  • Do you keep a budget right now, in everyday life?
    If you don’t, chances are you’ll need some practice before you go around Oz. As you plan your trip, start a budget at the same time – it will help you stick to your budget on the road.

  • How much can you afford to spend?
    Or how much are you willing to spend? How much money do you need to come home too afterwards?

  • How do you spend your money now?
    Do you splurge a lot..or live very simply? Which extravagances can’t you give up?

  • What are your fixed expenses?
    Will rent cover your mortgage and council rates? Do you have other expenses that will reduce your spending money?

Once you're on your trip, here's how to stick to your Australia budget:

  • Track your daily budget weekly.
    Look at where you under or over spent, and work out where you need to rein things in.

  • If you over-spend for a few days, plan a few quiet days to recoup.
    Find a great free-camp and use up bits in your pantry.

  • Don’t splurge for the sake of it.
    ate and choose your big spending wisely. After all, I’d choose a diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef hands down, over a fancy dinner out (although I like those too!).

  • Keep looking at your budget, even when you overspend.
    Track your spending for your entire trip, even if you feel like you can’t meet your budget any more. It might not be as bad as you think, and a few small changes might get you back on track. Once you stop looking, you’re more likely to completely blow it.

As long as it balances out…

If one expense bucket spills into another, that’s okay. Try to stay on track overall…and you’ll be fine.

On the other hand, be careful not to disregard your Australia budget, even in the last month or two. Maybe splurge a little more, but hang in there until you’re home. After such an incredible trip, who wants to be left paying for it for years to come?

› How to budget