Money and Finances

Guest Post: Guilty Spending Abroad — Is it Worth it?

The following is a guest post from Olga Garcia, a seasoned round-the-world backpacker and expat. Currently she is the Social Media Community Manager for Going Global, a leading provider of country-specific career and employment resources for individuals interested in working outside of their home country. She runs a blog called Goinglobal where she helps young people achieve their international dreams.

The author on a backpacking trip

The realization of your international trip finally hits the minute you step on to the plane. The excitement sets in and you can barely sleep on the six-hour flight ahead of you. All of the planning, saving, advice-seeking sessions, reading, blogging and preparing seem like a distant glimpse of the past (even though you were still getting ready three hours before boarding).

Six hours later, the moment you step off the plane, you are on a mission to experience this culture to its fullest. You indulge in the small pleasures of life; the decadent meals, all-night partying with your new friends, ridiculously expensive museums. All of these spending sprees are justifiable and worth it. You planned to spend money on this.

And then suddenly you see it, staring at you from across the room. It’s the one thing that you know matches everything in your closet and will make you feel like the most beautiful person in the world. It just happens to be ten times more expensive than you can afford.Two voices come chiming into your ears.

Voice number 1: “You saved for 10 months. You are worth it. Go ahead, buy it and you’ll see how much people will adore you.” Voice number 2: “You know that this is too expensive. Don’t do it.  It’s not worth it in the long run.” Who do you listen to? Why do you have to listen to either of them?

As travelers, we have all been faced with this defining moment. In that instance, we feel as though life will not be the same without this one thing. It could be an article of clothing, a piece of art or an extravagant experience.  Even though it might feel like the right reason while we are away, as soon as we get back home, reality sets in. The best way to avoid this guilty spending is to know how to deal with it before you leave.

As an expat and seasoned backpacker, I learned some tricks to make my trip financially more enjoyable. Every trip, no matter how big or small, needs a spending budget. This budget includes money for food, accommodation, transportation, entertainment and indulgent spending.

Guilty spending is the least obvious of the five but is just as important. Think of it as your emergency ‘loving me’ fund. Before you leave, decide how much (and come up with a finite dollar amount) you would want to splurge on yourself. That number is the limit for your guilty spending abroad. As you save for your trip, remember to set aside money in the ‘loving me’ fund, just in case you see something irresistible while you are abroad.

What do you do once you are in the situation? A couple of things. First, decide if it is within your ‘loving me’ budget. If it is, try it on, play with it, think about how you would use it if it was your own. Then let it go. Walk around the store. Go around the corner and have a cup of coffee. Impulsive choices have a 50/50 chance of making us feel great or horrible. Once you clear your head and realize that life will not be the same without, go and get it. If you decide it’s unnecessary, leave it behind. Congratulate yourself either way, because you made a calculated impulsive risk. You avoided getting into unnecessary debt, feeling guilty when you get home and you can enjoy the rest of your trip without dipping into your other funds. (Yes…that means that you can still have elegant dinners and you won’t need to eat at McDonald’s.)

To have a clear financial conscious while traveling takes planning for indulgent spending. I once met two guys who flew from London to Miami for the weekend. They each got into $5,000 in debt over a span of two days. That’s $2,500 a day! Remember that instant gratification is short lived. You control your money and not the wonderful things that you see along the way.

Do you have any horror stories of guilty spending? How do you resist temptation?

A generation 'y'er from Ireland, living his dreams and convincing you to do the same. Traveling through more than 90 countries around the world and showing no signs of slowing down