It’s hard to generalize about money, and I’ve been putting off writing a post like because everyone thinks about and handles money differently. But because workations require a bit of spending and money planning – and because that’s usually a big hurdle for people – I’ll tell you what I do and hopefully it will give you some ideas that you can make your own.
Be extremely deliberate about spending
In the 12-18 months before a workation, we watch every dollar that goes out the door. For example, we generally put off buying anything that’s a “nice to have” that costs more than $25 or $50. We had a dining room window that had a seal break, so it got all fogged up and we couldn’t see out of it. Instead of fixing it, we decided to the money for travel instead (and the window still isn’t fixed). We eat 99% of our meals at home and we don’t typically take weekend trips out of town, to resorts, etc.
It can be tough to be this disciplined for this long, but it’s always worth it in the end.
Suspend or cancel memberships
Before we go on a workation, we take a look at our reoccurring monthly payments to see what we can get rid of or reduce while we’re abroad. We cancel our gym membership; we reduce the insurance on our cars; we suspend our internet until we get back. All of this adds up bit by bit, and pretty soon you could have a couple extra hundred dollars that could cover your family’s train tickets or an entire plane ticket.
Prepare for the currency exchange
We exchange a minimal amount of money before we leave – like $20 at most for incidentals at the airport or some sort of emergency. In my experience, the exchange rates at the banks in the foreign country give you MUCH better rates than trying to exchange the money here in the U.S.
Once we land and get settled in our new home, then we find the nearest bank and exchange money there. The amount just depends on how much we think we need for the next few weeks. In most cases, because we’ve traveled to larger cities, we can use our credits cards almost everywhere and for everything. I don’t like carrying cash, both from a security standpoint and just because it’s easier for me to use and track credit card spending than it is to do that with cash. On the other hand, my parents had the bad luck of getting their credit card number was stolen, so they use mostly cash when traveling.
Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees
Make sure your credit card doesn’t charge you a foreign transaction fee. If it does, apply for one that doesn’t have that fee – it’ll save you tons of money. You should have several options; we use the Amazon Rewards Visa card or an American Express Delta card (we end up using the Visa more often because Amex isn’t as widely accepted). And now that most U.S. cards have a chip in them, you should be able to use them anywhere overseas.
Ask for best rates/discounts on everything
If the host of your apartment or house lists a discount for a multi-week stay, ask them for a discount on top of that. If the coworking space you want to use requires 3-month membership and you will only be there for a month or two, email them and ask for a custom membership package. It never hurts to ask and more often that not, I’ve gotten better deals than the listed price on these big-ticket items like lodging and work space.
Don’t assume that buying ahead of time will be cheaper
I understand the desire to have every part of a workation figured out before you leave, but that’s not realistic and often not cost effective. For example, we wait to buy any sort of bus or city-transit pass until we’ve spent at least a few days in the new city and have a better understanding of our routines. Maybe we’ll walk more than we thought; maybe we’ll be using buses more than trains; etc. Don’t assume to know exactly what your routines will be and what your spending habits will be like – after all, one of the best parts of a workation is experimenting with a different lifestyle and living in an environment outside of your comfort zone!
Get the kids involved!
Get your kids a wallet or purse and have them bring some of their spending money from home. They’ll get a kick out of trading it in for the new money (though exchange rates can be hard to explain if they get back less than what they give!) and learning how to count out all the new coins, seeing new coin shapes and looking at the colorful currency.
For other ideas on managing costs, check out my related posts: