Five tips for budgeting for your grad trip

If budgeting were an Olympic sport, I would probably ace it.

Kaisah Wasis

Published: 19 February 2019, 11:38 PM

When my friends suggested we go to Copenhagen and Stockholm for our grad trip, I almost fainted. Scandinavian cities are notorious for being expensive cities, whether you are a local or just visiting as a tourist.

But it was too good an idea to pass up and I am all about glam vacations. Since I knew my bank balance was going to suffer, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

To add on to the pain, our goods and services tax (GST) will be increased to 9 per cent sometime between 2021 to 2025, as announced during Budget 2018. So if you’re only graduating in the next few years, you better start saving before the GST hike comes along to make things harder.

Nonetheless, hopefully, these budgeting tips can help you save money for your own grad trip too.

1. Find out how much the trip could potentially cost 

It is a highway to hell if you save blindly. You will never know if you have saved enough if all you are thinking is that you cannot spend money.

Instead, research on how much your trip could possibly cost and allocate money accordingly.

After researching, I figured out that the maximum I would spend on my flight and accommodation for 10 days in Scandinavia would be $2,000.

To make sure I could afford this, I put aside $20 every day. In just over three months, I managed to save enough to book everything I needed, without depriving myself of daily needs like food.

You can have your cake, and eat it too!

2. Figure out your priorities

Here is a personal tip: determine your priorities beforehand, as it is important to allocate more to more to your crucial needs. For me, it’s definitely accommodation.

I am not so picky on what to eat when I am overseas, so I tend to set aside more money for my accommodation. I know that at the very least, I want to come back to a cozy Airbnb apartment where I can rest up for the next day.

Yes, that coat from H&M looks really cute but do you really need another coat? If the money you saved from buying a new coat lets you stay in a more luxurious Airbnb apartment, do not buy the coat!

For my previous trip to Tokyo, I skipped on buying a new beanie to free up some cash for this cozy apartment.

Once you identify your most urgent needs for your trip, you’ll realise that you might have enough money to spend on the activities and experiences you simply cannot miss in your itinerary.

3. Consider the trade-offs you have to make

Basically, the more you spend in one area, the less you have for another.

This means you may have reconsider that gorgeous Airbnb apartment you were eyeing. Is the price within your means, and will you end up eating only bread in your very luxurious accommodation?

So, yes, while that Airbnb apartment could give you very nice Instagram photos, that money could go to literally more important things like feeding yourself.

It’s just like how you should resist all temptations to spend all your money once you receive your SG Bonus, be it $100 or $300.

In case you missed it, all Singaporeans aged 21 and above will receive a hongbao (red packet) bonus. This is probably the closest you can get to a money-falling-from-the-sky experience.

When I travelled to Seoul, I ended up eating convenience store food for dinner because I went over budget on shopping.

My point is, it has always been my goal to make sure I never have to starve during our trip. No one likes to travel when they’re hangry.

4. Scout for cheap and good experiences 

While it is important to budget for the trip, don’t forget to manage your expenses while you are on the trip. After all, budgeting is a continuous process, so you do not end up broke halfway through your trip.

Some activities are way too expensive for our wallets. Although they may make good experiences, it may be advisable to skip some.

For example, paragliding may sound fun but when you factor in the costs and think about how much money you would have left, maybe not so much.

Consider looking for activities that cheap, or even better, free! It may not be as exhilarating as paragliding, but it is an experience nonetheless.

My favourite thing to do in Seoul was to enjoy the stunning view at Bukchon. And it’s free too! PHOTO CREDITS: YOUTH.SG/KAISAH WASIS

Try to spend within your means so that you will not be broke after your grad trip. And if you budget well, you might even have some leftover cash to fund your next trip!

5. Grab all the (student) deals

Besides scouting for airline deals, always look out for student deals.

In Europe, there are youth prices for train tickets and entries to museums that are valid till you are 25. That is partly the reason why I am in a rush to travel throughout Europe despite being only 20 years old. I want to do it for cheaper, while I can!

Budgeting for big ticket items may seem like hard work, but remember that you are not in this alone. Gather your friends and budget for your grad trip together. The more you save, the more extravagant your actual trip can be.

All or nothing, right? But still, preferably all.

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