Learn how to track shared travel costs

“Les bons comptes font les bons amis” – says a French proverb (literally meaning “Good accounts make good friends”), while English say “A debt paid is a friend kept” and this definitely applies to travelers!

Probably every time I’m travelling together with friends or other travelers, we have shared costs that are paid by one person and covering all. Think about having a beer in a café, a ride on a bus or fresh bread bought in the morning by one of early birds who is awake at 6 am already 😊 The classic way of keeping the track of such costs is usually – making notes on who owes what to whom, collecting all the bills and trying to settle-up as soon as possible. However, as more shared costs are made as messier the calculations become in the end and more time is spent on settling up.

Well, I have a good news for you: we live in a digital age and the problem of shared costs can be solved with help of different apps available for most of the mobile platforms!

In this article I will use as an example the one called Splitwise while there are others out there too and I will give a list later. The choice for Splitwise is simply because I have the most experience with it and find it fulfilling all my needs. This small app has already saved me lots of headaches and hours of calculations!

You can use it for different situations when shared expenses are made: for example, a group travel, roommates paying for shared expenses, friends paying together while going out.

So how do you use it?

Install the app

Obviously you will need to install the application first. It’s available for both Android and IOS:

Create an account

Create an account for yourself and log in with it to Splitwise

Add your friends

Add your friends to Splitwise. You can find them on Splitwise by their email or phone number if they are already registered, or you can invite them to create a new account. In this way your friends or partners will be able to see all expenses and to add their expenses as well.

(Well, with a small workaround you can have your friends added to the app while not inviting them to login into it – If they do not want to use it for example. Just use some dummy e-mail addresses and you will still be able to add expenses for these persons and see their balances).

Create a group

Create a group (you can also see it as an event) and add your friends to this group. This is not compulsory, but it’s very handy to have all related expenses grouped.

You will be asked to specify whether to simplify group debts. If you choose so, all debts will be re-calculated amongst friends and only the remaining parts will need to be settled. Let’s see on an example:

  • Peter owes 10€ to John
  • Anna owes 10€ to Peter
  • Anna owes 30€ to John

Simplifying debts would mean that Anna only needs to pay 40€ to John instead of 3 separate transactions.

Add expenses

Ok, now you’re set up and ready to add expenses. There is a plus sign icon for this.

Note: if you’re adding an expense as part of an event or a group, be sure to select this group first.

Tracking shared costsWhen enterring expense details you will be able to:

  • Give your expense a name
  • Specify the amount spent
  • Select a way the expense should be shared: equally, unequally, by percentages, by shares or by adjustment. This gives great flexibility to specify even per person how the costs are to be shared.
    (I will not go deep into details on this feature in my article now. If you find it useful, add your comment below and ask for details. I will write an additional article on the advanced use of Splitwise then).
  • Specify a date when expense is made
  • Take a picture of receipt
  • Make notes that will be seen to everyone sharing the expense.

Tracking shared costs
Tracking shared costs
Tracking shared costs

As you add more expenses, the application will track how the costs are shared and will show balances. At the end of your trip (event) you will have a number of expenses paid by different people and split differently.  Now it’s time to settle up – pay the outstanding debts to each other. Let’s see how this goes.

Settling up

In the group overview click on “Balances” and see who owes what to whom. It’s best to settle up when all expenses are entered into the app and no new expenses for this particular trip/event are planned. (Although if you settle up and add expenses later don’t worry – it will not be a disaster, but will just add some additional transactions).

Tracking shared costs

Tracking shared costs

Now Peter knows that he needs to pay 8.66€ to Anna. When he has given Anna the money or made a bank transfer, he just clicks on “Settle up” under the corresponding debt and confirms the payment is done and the amount.
Tracking shared costs
And so it goes for everyone who needs to pay. In the end everyone is settled up and everyone knows all expenses are covered in a fair manner!

As I said before, there are diferent applications doing similar job. You can check out Conmigo, Receipt Ninja, BillPin and find the one that suits you best.

Let these digital tools help you focus on your travel and not on complex calculations! Drop a comment below if you find this article useful and if you have any questions or need any help.


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