For some expert budgeting tips, we talked to Anthony Hayden from Highway Dreams. Anthony and his wife Jane have been living on the road while travelling Australia for the better part of the last four years with their two sons Cooper and Leo and their daughter Isabella.
1. When making a budget for your next adventure, what is the first thing you should do?
"When starting to construct a budget for any travel adventure, it is important to start by making a list of all possible expenses you could anticipate having to deal with along the way. The usual expenses like fuel, food and accommodation make the list straight away, but it’s important to consider other expenses relevant to your travel plans such as the cost of permits (land access), ferry costs and so on to the places you intend to visit. Even the smallest of costs should be included simply because the little things add up quickly and the budget will take a quick hit if not prepared. Our budget has changed dramatically since we first left home and now contains even the smallest of expenses such as Laundromat costs and a few dollars for a car wash."
Fuel, food and accommodation should be first on your list.
Don’t ignore all the small costs like land access or ferry costs, take them into account too
2. How long does a trip need to be for budgeting to become a necessity?
"In our eyes any amount of touring requires some form of budgeting, particularly if like most people you need to watch your pennies. The length of a road trip is irrelevant as a month of camping and exploring in the bush could still work out to be much cheaper than just a week travelling through popular coastal towns. It’s the style of camping and objectives of the trip that determine its costs and not the duration."
It’s wise to make some form of budget for any trip you do.
3. If you formulate a budget and it’s more than you can manage, what areas do you look to cut down on?
"For us doing long-term travel, our biggest variables are accommodation costs and fuel costs. We always look to save money where we can and often we search for cheaper camping alternatives such as national parks and reserves or bush camping. Sitting idle in one spot for an amount of time can help stabilise the bank account as long as you have an income stream replenishing your funds like we do."
Saving money often comes down to specific choices like how far you drive and where you stay.
4. How harsh do you have to be on yourself to balance ‘enjoying yourself’ with actually getting through the trip with some money in the bank?
"It’s only important to have money left in the bank if you want there to be money left. Otherwise, set yourself aside a pool of money that you are happy to part with and use every little bit of it to enjoy yourself 100%."
“Budgeting for leisure items is almost like gambling- only gamble the money you are willing to lose.” - Anthony Hayden
5. How accurate is your pre-trip budget in comparison to the costs in real-time?
"Our first few weeks on the road were pretty spot on, but as we started to travel more remotely and started travelling much further distances each day in areas where fuel became more expensive and food was dearer our budget began to change. We were lucky in one respect that through these more remote areas, budget camping options were more prevalent. We were able to off-set some of our increased costs by saving money with accommodation and camping fees.
We now budget for fortnightly periods at a time. We know exactly where we are headed, what type of accommodation we will have, and a better idea of distance and availability of fresh food or major supermarkets. A great example is from our time in the Margaret River area in WA. We overspent by more than a thousand dollars in that fortnight on unexpected purchases and gifts (wine, food etc.). We thought we were only going to be there once, so we made the most of it. Our backup funds helped make the experience possible and the following month was spent free camping and doing basic activities."
Budget in small time increments to avoid inaccuracies over time
Recognise the times when it’s ok to spend big and when it’s necessary to conserve cash
6. You’ve travelled over 70,000km in four years, in the meantime growing your family from three to five; how do you do it?
"When we first left on our trip our son was two-and-a-half, so he didn’t pose too many extra impacts on our budget (he ate what we ate, went where we went and most caravan parks didn’t charge for him). As our family grew, so did our budget. Things got more expensive in most areas and the way we travelled had to change. We now do a lot more budget camping and participate in more ‘free’ activities like spending time at the beach, going fishing and playgrounds instead of visiting costly local attractions. We still splurge when necessary and prepare for that in advance by putting money aside or accepting that we will need to lay-low for a while afterwards whilst the money is replenished. We are lucky that our kids are so young and they aren’t pushing our personal budget to its limit just yet.
We have an online business that brings in a modest passive income whilst we travel but recently we have taken an opportunity to write articles on travel for magazines that bring in a little extra pocket money (plus we really enjoy doing it)."