A pox upon budgets We’ve never budgeted in our lives. The whole notion of a budget was antithetical to our concept of being. Yet, when we first started planning our great adventure one of our foremost questions was “How Much”? We diligently researched destinations across the globe and avidly read travel blogs and how-to books on retirement in various countries that broke down costs. Some articles boasted that expat couples were living in Ecuador and Nicaragua for as little as $800 per month while others said $2500 a month would entitle one to a lifestyle one could only dream of back in the States. When we hit the road in September of 2012 we started tracking our daily expenses and charted it in a monthly spreadsheet. This was basically to give us a baseline and to anticipate future costs. We also had to learn and adopt a lifestyle that was both commensurate with our desires and our bank book. Lodging is the largest single cost and our criteria have remained consistent: safe, clean, affordable. When possible we look for weekly or monthly rental bargains. Caveats Medical costs are excluded; these are too idiosyncratic. All costs associated with life back in the states are excluded such as costs associated with our house that we are currently leasing (and plan to sell this year), charitable and Christmas gifts, etc.
Mean Monthly Costs by Category for Calendar Year 2013 in Dollars per Month
ITEM MEAN MAX MIN
Clothing 44 115 5
Food 368 632 77
Classes 164 400 0
Meals 407 587 202
Misc. 190 383 80
Rent 875 1697 22
Tours 136 511 0
Transp. 240 503 13
Total 2367 N/A N/A
Clothing: Clothing covers everything from rain ponchos, sunglasses and second-hand shirts to Teva sandals shipped in from the states.
Food: Includes consumable items as well as household products (shampoo, soap, paper goods, garbage bags, etc.). Many times we buy gringo foods at gringo prices and, obviously, this would be a perfect place to economize!
Lessons: Spanish lessons and, most recently, the services of a professional trainer. These are intermittent costs. We don’t incur them every month.
Meals Out: Any meals eaten outside the home including drinks and snacks. The figure is a real eye-opener!
Miscellaneous: A sampling of expenditures reveals moneys that were spent for laundry, haircuts, massages, entertainment, a travel alarm clock, housekeeper gratuities, baby, graduation and quinceanera gifts, volunteer supplies, replacement computer mouse (mice?), fees to use public bathrooms and handouts to street beggars.
Online: This includes fees paid online for e-books, I-tunes, Netflix, Hot Spot (our virtual private network), Dropbox, Skype membership, etc.
Rent: This year we paid for lodging in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Our most common lodging is at B&B’s but this also covers homestays and housesitting and includes any utility costs when paid.
Tours/Excursions: Entrance fees for museums, archeological sites, historic sites such as cathedrals, National parks, guided tours and the like. Also included are entrance or exit fees at border crossings between countries.
Transportation: If it moves and we’re on board it’s included. That means tuk-tuk, taxi, bus, shuttle, panga, launcha, ferry and airplane fees. We’re not absolutely convinced that this budgetary spreadsheet is necessary or advisable. But we’re finding it interesting to see how we spend our money and tracking our expenses has become a habit. So, we reckon we’ll keep at it for another year and see what changes in our spending behavior…
Through the roof!
By Richard and Anita, January, 2014