Prices go up and prices come down … but the open road won’t wait forever

Budget for grey nomads

The yo-yoing price of fuel is yet another unpredictable ele­ment that makes it all but im­possible to accurately budget for a long-term trip around Australia.

A grey nomad setting out on the Big Lap in July, 2014, would have been somewhat daunted by the average petrol price of almost $1.60 per litre, and would have been delighted to watch prices plummet to an average of $1.08 in February, 2015.

In contrast, a happy camper setting off on their big adven­ture in February, 2015, thinking he or she could continue to fill up at just over a $1 a litre would be feeling the pinch as the price climbed to an average of $1.40 by June.

So, how can a budget-minded traveller hope to cover all budget bases? The experts all agree on one thing. They can’t!

The recently released Westpac Global Travel Survey revealed that four in five Aussies blow their holiday budget … and that’s just through being unable to resist temptation. Westpac found 36% of travel­lers admitted to overspending on impulse purchases and avoidable costs.

The bank said travellers could avoid overspending by “research, budgeting and planning”.

But the best laid plans can be thrown into chaos … the un­planned for vehicle repair bill, a fuel cost spike, an interest rate hit to your savings yield.

All the money men can advise is for travellers to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Of course, everybody’s circum­stances are different. Some are travelling on the pension, oth­ers are relatively comfortable. Some free camp every night and others prefer the security of caravan park stays.

A figure often bandied about as a reasonable – but certainly not excessive – budget for grey nomad couples is $500 per week … but it’s really a case of how long is a piece of string?

Janice and Alan W have been travelling full-time since 2011 and have kept a track of the percentage of expenditure spent on basic categories.

It came out like this: food- 24%; camping fees-23%; fuel – 22%; vehicle maintenance – 12% (includes insurance and rego); tourist visits and treats – 9%; alcohol – 4%; sundries (phone, internet etc) 7%.

After years of doing his sums and watching van park fees and fuel costs climb, solo trav­eller Tom R said he realised he was ‘overthinking’ it.

“In the end, if you’re going to go, you’ve just got to go,” he said. “Now, I’m on the road if I start to feel the financial pinch I just park up in the bush for a week or two until things are back on an even keel.”


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