Literally, what does it look like to travel on a budget and keep track of all your spending? It looks like this:

While I kept an excel sheet, I didn’t exactly carry my computer around with me everywhere, so I had this little moleskine journal I kept in my purse with me at all times. Every time I grabbed something to eat or drink, bought a bus ticket, picked up a souvenir, etc. it went right into the book. I was also attempting to track my spending by category (food, activities, transport, etc.) so I had a highly sophisticated system of doing this as well… by which I mean, I just wrote what the money was for above it.

By the end of my three month South America trip, I had a journal packed with hardly legible, chicken scratch-filled pages like this. And also pages of to-do lists, hostel recommendations, people’s names and e-mail addresses, etc., like these:

Sometimes it was a pain keeping track of my spending, but I do think it is one of the keys to thrifty travel. It really helped me stay on my tight budget, which also allowed me to afford some dream splurges like visiting the Galapagos.

In the back pages I also kept a track of my movements and main activities each day. I could look back and see where I was on any given day along with a quick list of what I did. I kept a real journal during my whole trip as well, but my mini tracking journal is a great way for me to look back and get a quick look at the big picture — and some of the most minute details. It’s also helped me to give advice to other people planning a similar trip, as I can easily look back and see exactly how much I spent on this or that or what state of mind I was in while planning this or that.

Furthermore, looking back at my little journal is a fun way to relive my trip now. It’s a different but interesting keepsake from that journey. Again, those little details like to-do lists, people’s names, or random little observations I had while wandering around, bring back different kinds of memories than my regular journal, blog entries or pictures do.