This article is a follow-up to an earlier post, Travel Budgeting 101: Managing Money Before & During a Trip.
Disclaimer: the following paragraph is littered with currency puns. I apologize for not exercising better self-control.
The first time I went abroad with a budget in mind, I got kicked in the teeth by exchange-rate sticker shock. I'd never been to Europe before and had never handled European currency. Frankly, spending it felt like playing a board game without real consequences, and I had a marked reaction when I czeched my bank account later in the month. (Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.)
If you've done any traveling on a budget, I'm sure you've had a similar situation. Unfortunately, keeping track of one's budget entails any combination of several factors: keeping receipts, writing down expenses, converting and re-converting currencies, and learning how to do a quick—albeit rough—calculation on the fly.
It's because of these factors that I'm now a full-blown convert to the iPhone app Cash Trails (by Vasyl Smyrnov). My friends Anna and Luke tipped me in its direction, and after a quick scan through the free version, I bought the full app and haven't looked back. While it might lack the aesthetic luster of Mint.com or other financial applications, Cash Trails excels in a league of its own by providing the finest in budget managing across multiple currencies and accounts.
After setting up an initial budget in my native currency (U.S. Dollars), I was permitted to enter individual expenses and assign tags and descriptions—transportation, lodging, food, etc. At that point, it was pretty run-of-the-mill.
But Cash Trails starts to show its excellence by allowing users to maintain a glance at their budget (in their home currency) while simultaneously tallying expenses in other worldwide currencies (currently there's support for over 160 currencies, and the exchange rates are synced over wi-fi). And by establishing a start and end date, users can view their spending habits on a line graph to judge which days were more successful than others for staying under budget.
Multiple parties can generate budget reports from a single Cash Trails app, proving it to be invaluable for keeping business funds and fun funds separate, or when traveling with a group of people. Password protection can be enabled, too, and reports can be exported as spreadsheets, as well as backed up over wi-fi or via email.
If you're like me when it comes to spending money in the App Store, the initial investment in the $4.99 Cash Trails iPhone app might be a pricey option. Despite this, though, it's the only travel budget manager that handles home and foreign currencies as fluidly as we would hope, and its added flexibility and customization options ensure that this handy app will be here for a while.
If your travel budget awareness could in any way be equated with your spending habits in Monopoly, it'd be worth your while to give Cash Trails a look. It's the App Store equivalent of passing Go.