On a recent trip to North Dakota, I might have annoyed my brother by writing every little expense down. If filled the gas tank, I’d hand the receipt to him and say, “Write it down.” If he filled the tank, I’d hold my hand out and wait for him to give him the receipt. But keeping track of all of your expenses and doing a post-trip budget analysis, can help you take more trips. It forces you to be aware of your spending and be more intentional with your budget.
Why it’s important
Keeping up with your finances helps you maximize your money for more trips. By creating a post-trip budget analysis, you can see exactly how much the trip costed you. This helps you prepare for other trips. Money is a large barrier to travel for many people. So anyway that can help your money go further is always helpful.
By doing a post-trip budget analysis, you can analyze each aspect like how much money is spent on food, lodging, and travel expenses like fuel.
First, do a pre-trip budget estimate
I always do a pre-trip budget estimate because I don’t like to guess how much the trip will cost me. But it’s also a good way to see how much on the mark are you with a post-trip budget analysis. This will help you plan and prepare better for trips.
When I traveled to the Everglades with my best friend, I underbudgeted on gas costs. When I got home and did my post-trip budget analysis, I found where I had gone wrong. I hadn’t accounted for how large the park is nor how much driving it took to get places.
Keep a small notebook and pencil handy and write everything down
Keeping a small notebook and pencil or pen handy and easily available helps you keep everything in order. Don’t rely on your memory, because you will forget things. Believe me, I have done this.
I have also made the mistake of relying on all my receipts. The problem with referencing receipts is you don’t always get one. Also if you are like me and not the most organized, you can misplace them.
The best way I have found is to keep a small notebook and pencil in the glove box of my car. And to write down all my expenses as I make them. This also helps me keep track of my spending while on the trip so I don’t overspend. But the main reason I started doing this is to analyze my budget and expenses after the trip. If you’re the kind of person who does better with the notes app on your phone, this works too. I’m just a pencil and paper kinda person.
Keep track of your miles for gas estimates
OK, bear with me and my common core type math. Math was not my best subject in school and I was never good at figuring up gas mileage. This is the way that I do it. But if you have a better way or a way that is more suitable to you, the important thing is to be able to have a good idea of what fuel will cost you.
So here’s my method on how I come up with my gas estimate. I use my phone’s directions to get the total mileage of the trip. I know I get about 315 miles per one tank. I like to be more conservative so I round down to 300 miles. Then I take the total mileage and divide that by 300. This gives me the number of times I’m going to have to fill my tank. I then multiple that number by 30 (the average cost of a fill-up). That gives me the dollar amount for a gas estimate.
So for example, when I went to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, I estimated 3,431 total miles. That 3,431 divided by 300 is roughly 11.5. That time $30 is $345.
But, when I got home my post-trip budget analysis showed the total cost in fuel was $390.56. I gassed up 12 times, making the average cost of a tank of gas to be $32.50.
So what I learned from this post-trip budget analysis, is I need to adjust my common core math figures.
The GasBuddy App is also a great resource to use when you are doing your pre-trip gas estimate. You can look at gas prices along your route so you don’t have to guess.
Post-trip budget analysis
Doing a post-trip budget analysis is a great way to keep a grasp on your finances. And being more cognitive of where your money goes, helps you cut out unnecessary spending. Cutting out unnecessary spending means more funds for more travel.