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I have found that many travelers write down their expenses while on a trip. I always however found it difficult personally, because there are so many situation in which I do not have enough time to jot it down, such as paying for the cab and then rushing forward. So I get lost pretty quickly.

How do you deal with documenting expenses? Do you always do it after the payment or rather put together in the evening? Do you write down every single expense or just the major ones?

My main concern is about expenses for which you do not receive a receipt, like for example paying on a market or car pooling.

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8  
Save your receipts. :) –  Karlson Feb 7 '12 at 19:53
5  
I use a smartphone app to do this. While I run to the airport terminal I have a few seconds to write the cab expense in my phone. Also, some memory skill still helps when you have no time to write :) –  Ivan Feb 7 '12 at 21:00
    
I use pen and a little notebook and in the evening add it to my android app "Moneytab" –  greg121 Jan 20 '13 at 13:53

8 Answers 8

up vote 4 down vote accepted

As far as cash-based expenditures:

Carry around a mini-pocket sized notebook and a golf-pencil (or similar equipment to your liking). Date the page, and then every time you make a cash purchase, jot down the amount and a quick note about where or what the purchase was for so you remember when you are doing your ledger later. The sooner you write down the expenses, the easier it will be to remember the exact amount and what it was for. You may want to count the cash in your wallet before and after the outing if you anticipate lack of time to make a quick note in your notebook, or make the note as soon as conveniently possible after the fact (eg: wait till you sit down on the bus to write down what you spent on bus fare when entering).

What to track primarily depends on what purpose tracking the expenses is for. If you are just trying to make sure you stay within a budget, you might track differently than if you are trying to estimate how much to set aside for a future trip of similar duration. If keeping track of "holes" in the expenses (eg: someone else treated you to dinner) you would probably want to jot a note where that expense should go so you can remember to adjust for that in your estimations for future expenses.

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Three things help me keep organized:

  • Be in the habit of writing on receipts that are not obvious (eg many cabs just have the city, not even a date - scribbling TO AIRPORT now will let you fill the rest in later)
  • Have a standard place you put receipts you haven't processed (for me, this is in a notebook to help keep them from crumpling - if I didn't get a receipt I often write down the amount in the notebook at the time)
  • Have a way to "process" receipts by writing them on a summary or typing them in to a spreadsheet, and a place to put them after doing that.

If your summary has a fairly standard format, it can help you realize where you are missing an expense - at a glance you can see there's no entry for lunch on Tuesday, perhaps. On mine if someone else buys me a meal or I share a cab and the other guy insists on paying for the whole thing, I write "Joe paid" or whatever in that spot on the summary so I know it's not a missing receipt. If it is a missing receipt I can look for it before checking out of the hotel, or try to remember the number at least approximately.

Finally, get one credit card to use for business trips and put absolutely as much on it as you can. You can reconstruct a lot from a credit card statement, but from "I came into town with $73 and left with $14", not so much. Plus, you get at least the credit card receipt even if you don't get the itemized list with the taxes.

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But what if you do not have receipts? I will edit the question to include this. –  mithy Feb 7 '12 at 20:20
    
I voted up for "writing on receipts". However still I am mainly interested in those cases when you hand out cash multiple times a day without any evidence :) –  mithy Feb 7 '12 at 20:37
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My best advice would be "don't do that" - use cash only when you have to, and write it down if you do. Use credit card or debit card whenever possible, for the paper trail. I'll put $4.00 on a credit card without blushing. Just did on last week's business trip: bought a Coke and small chips at the airport. –  Kate Gregory Feb 7 '12 at 20:40
    
+1 for using standard format to detect expense patterns/not forget an expense –  Vince Jan 20 '13 at 21:25

I use Homebank for all my personal finances. Some also swear by GnuCash, but I find it unnecessary complicated. Homebank is simpler and has all the features I care about.

Usually I gather all receipts during the day and spend a good ten minutes adding them to the database. If you pay with a card and have electronic banking, you can skimp on receipts and acquire exact expenditure information from your bank's website (this comes in handy when paying in other currencies, bank exchange rates differ from the official ones, and some additional taxes might apply).

This requires a bit of discipline -- if you skip filing only for a few days, the pile of receipts becomes insurmountable obstacle that you can't easily bring yourself to go through. Besides, if you don't do this every day, you tend to forget what you spent your cash on if you haven't gotten a receipt -- you can't track it as easily.

As for the expenses, I add every single one of them, so that the actual amounts and those on book match. If you can't remember a particular transaction, you can always put it under "Other" category, and still balance out everything. Those tend to be some small one-off purchases anyway.

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a little notebook and a pen or pencil work wonders. No need for battery chargers :)

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I do like keeping track of expenses when I'm travelling since I'm on a tight budget, but what I don't like is keeping track where all my receipts are! Most of other answers seem to suggest that: keep receipts, then use something else to track.

Typically, what I do is that I have made it a habit to take a picture of a receipt in Evernote's app on my phone. (I set Evernote to sync only over WiFi networks so that I don't have to upload on slow mobile networks. It also keeps a local copy anyway.) Then, it doesn't matter whether I lose my receipts or not. In the same note, you can also quickly type or record a note of expenses for which you don't get a receipt. This is a quick and simple operation, and then later once you're back and have to file expenses, you can sit down and add them up in one go.

This method works well enough for me. I guess though that at some point, whichever method you use, you just have to make it a habit! You can go round and round saying "But I spend in cash! Multiple times a day! And then I forget them all!" but there isn't just a real answer to that. :)

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A friend and I took a holiday last summer and used a shared Google Spreadsheet to balance up at the end. Make sure you keep all receipts, and are willing to write-off small things, then just make a ledger in the spreadsheet and compare the values. This also gives you the advantage of seeing where the money went cumulatively (as in, if you paid for the accommodation and someone else pays for travel, you can see totals of where the most money went).

The thing I find most difficult is keeping track in my head what I've used cash for and what I've used card for. One thing about cash is to withdraw large, round amounts - then you can see what is remaining and get a good estimate for what has been spent.

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I've developed an Android app which is design to do just that: easily track your expenses while traveling. It supports multiple currencies, categorizes the expenses and tracks them on a map. Its main purpose is tracking the shared expenses of a group of people, but you can use it as a single person too.

Have a look: TravelMoney

Cheers Francis

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I've made an App to keep track of my expenses... You can find it here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/share-travel-expense/id808843677?l=it&ls=1&mt=8

Keep track of your expenses in your travels or during week-end nights with your friends. Record how you have spent your money, where you have spent it, how much, with whom and how much was the contribution of everybody in your party. You will know in every moment how much you will be refunded and how much you own.

  • Create users profile for your friends and add them in your travel.
  • Add your expenses.
  • Add the contribution of every one of your friends.
  • Know in every moment how much you and your friends have spent.
  • Generate a map to track your expenses in your travels.
  • Send a recap mail to all your travel mates.
  • Import travel mates from your Address Book.
  • Pre generated trip to test the app.
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