Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Expense of Travel: Our First 3 Months

Hello, Jim here (so please read in a deep masculine voice). 

When we tell people that we're traveling around the world as house sitters, the first question is usually, "Where are you going?," but a very close second is, "How can you afford that?" Honestly, we didn't know how much it was going to cost, but based on other travelers' accounts, we estimated a monthly budget of $2,000 for the both of us. 

Now, there were a few major expenses we had to cough up before we even left the couch. The first was our international health insurance coverage, which, by American standards, was actually quite cheap. For me, it was a mere $500 for the entire year! Natalie, being a woman of child-bearing age, was considerably more expensive at $3,000 for the year. The next big expense was airfare. The sum total to get ourselves from the U.S. to Croatia, Croatia to France, France to England, and England to Cape Town was $2,500 for both of us. We used a lot of frequent flyer miles to keep that total down. We also spent over $1,200 on clothing, bags, laptops, and other things to take on the road. So all told, we were already $7,200 in the hole before we finished our final Circle K Thirstbusters!

Since we started traveling, I've been doing my best to meticulously track every expense in a spreadsheet, and my intention was to post a monthly expense report. However, I've had a couple of setbacks. The first was that my computer suffered an early demise back in June when it drank a full cup of coffee and, as a result, I was without my spreadsheet for several weeks. The second setback, and undeniably the greatest contributing factor, was that I'm easily distracted and somewhat lazy. Alas, I have recently found the motivation to get back at it and deliver the information that everyone really wants to know, so here are our expenses for the first 3 months of our adventure! 
Scroll down to see the pretty graph if looking at numbers gives you a headache!
Here's a little explanation of the categories:
  • Dining - Grabbing a bite to eat on-the-go and dining at a restaurant, cafe, or fast food joint.
  • Transportation - All the money that we've spent on moving around. This includes rental cars, bus fare, tolls, parking, gas, and anything else associated with motorized locomotion (except flights).
  • Lodging - Hotels, hostels, apartments, or anywhere else that we lay our heads at night.
  • Groceries - Food that we buy at the grocery store or market to prepare at home.
  • Entertainment - Going on tours, admission to parks, monuments, or museums, and anything else that we do to keep ourselves from chase-the-tail boredom.
  • Misc - This is a catch-all category for everything that doesn't fit somewhere else. This might include clothing, electronics, toiletries, internet services, etc.
  • Medical - Going to the doctor or buying something at the pharmacy to cure an ill.
  • Gift - Money spent on gifts, postcards, and things we give to other people.
I don't know about you, but I prefer a chart over a table:

Yikes! What's with those spikes? I'll explain that along with everything else:
  • Dining - While eating out is more expensive here in France, we go out less since we're living in the countryside. Occasionally we have a meal in Aix, but most of our eating-out money is spent at the local pizza drive-thru (it's the best pizza I've ever had!)
  • Transportation - The spike in June was from renting a car in Croatia and driving all about for two days. Also, in France we have use of a car (free!), but we're buying the fuel. I thought we were going to break the bank in fuel costs once we got here, but so far it hasn't happened. (Thank you, Renault Clio, for your pathetic excuse for a power plant that gets amazing gas mileage!)
  • Lodging - Don't worry, July is missing for a reason. In May, we spent a couple of nights in a hostel and then rented an apartment until the middle of June. Since that time, we've been living rent-free as housesitters in France, hence, no lodging expenses for July.
  • Groceries - Groceries are generally more expensive in France than in Croatia, and that shows in our initial grocery shopping trip when we arrived in France in June.
  • Entertainment - This one has been decreasing steadily. In May, we treated our time in Croatia like a vacation, so took several tours and visited many tourists sites. Here in France, we go out less and the places we have visited were either free or inexpensive.
  • Misc - The spike in June was due to the aforementioned computer debacle, and did I mention that I managed to break our GPS around the same time by leaving it in the sun? (Apparently you're not supposed to use the GPS outside. Who knew?) In July, we spent a bit more on clothing since some of our things are already starting to wear out. Please pretend you don't notice us wearing the same clothes in all of our pictures.
  • Medical - Luckily no doctor bills, just some trips to the pharmacy for snake oil.
  • Gifts - Mainly postcards and postage so far.
Quite unintentionally, July ended up being a very frugal month. We weren't paying for housing and, most importantly, I didn't break anything! So far, the $2,000/month guesstimate has been conservative since we've averaged less than $1,200/month over the past 3 months. That's not bad when you consider that we were spending more than that on housing alone when we were living the "conventional" life.   

I'll provide an update for the month of August in a few weeks...and if I don't, please send us some comments to help me find my motivation again.