Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Category: Living Frugally (page 1 of 4)

Monthly Expenses – January 2018

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting and relatively adventurous life without breaking the bank. The less money you spend, the less you need to make. 🙂 That being said, Mark and I seem to manage one big expense a month for some reason, whether it is camper, plane, travel or computer-related. Luckily, we live totally rent-free, wherever we end up.

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce and non-alcoholic drinks predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits.

Health insurance and costs are related to my health care as a permanent resident in the US. Mark is still eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts as of today. If a non-emergency were to happen outside of that state, it will be expensive! For check-ups, we both return to the East Coast. I still pay a small quarterly fee in Belgium for health care (required to retain citizenship), which I mention in my year report.

We finally did it... We stayed under $1000. A good start for 2018. But, it was an unusual month. Most of January, Mark and I stayed in Newburyport, Massachusetts, instead of San Diego, California, to take care of his parents. So much for a warm winter! On a financial note, life is generally cheaper there (except for wine), our plane tickets were "bought" with miles, fuel and parking were paid for, and the grocery costs were shared.

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Expense Report 2017

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting and relatively adventurous life without breaking the bank. "The less money you spend, the less you need to make" is my motto. 🙂 2016 was the first full year that Mark and I lived on land as house and pet sitters, which means there is no rent to pay, wherever we end up. You can find my yearly expense overview of 2016 here. What follows is the break-down of how we spent our money in 2017.

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce and non-alcoholic drinks predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits.

Health insurance and costs are related to my health care as a permanent resident in the US. Mark is still eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts as of today. If a non-emergency were to happen outside of that state, it will be expensive! For check-ups, we both return to the East Coast. I still pay a small quarterly fee in Belgium for health care (required to retain citizenship), which I mention in my year report. The utility cost refers to fees we paid for Skype, until we changed over to Google voice as our main phone service.

To be quite honest, I am disappointed and somewhat surprised at how much Mark and I spent in 2017. It is similar to our years aboard our sailboat Irie (2007-2015), and we don't even have those expensive boat repairs anymore. But, we bought a camper van this year (its purchase price is the only cost NOT included in this post), and fixing-up, equipping and "feeding" Zesty is not cheap. The car category covers money used for our Prius, which we sold in July, and our camper.

Swapping our Prius for an Airstream Westfalia camper van

All our plane rides from the West Coast to the East Coast and from Massachusetts to Belgium belong in the travel category.

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Monthly Expenses – December 2017

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting and relatively adventurous life without breaking the bank. The less money you spend, the less you need to make. 🙂 That being said, Mark and I seem to manage one big expense a month for some reason, whether it is camper, plane, travel or computer-related. Luckily, we live totally rent-free, wherever we end up.

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce and non-alcoholic drinks predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits.

Health insurance and costs are related to my health care as a permanent resident in the US. Mark is still eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts as of today. If a non-emergency were to happen outside of that state, it will be expensive! For check-ups, we both return to the East Coast. I still pay a small quarterly fee in Belgium for health care (required to retain citizenship), which I mention in my year report.

The expense categories that "hurt" us the most in December were our camper (car), gifts, and dining out. The mechanic in Northern California who "solved" the most urgent issues when we first bought Zesty in July, did not do a good job with the transmission service, so we needed to get the fluid drained and refilled again, and a plug replaced. Not cheap. Our goal to only spend $25 a month on diesel while in San Diego failed, because we decided to drive all the way to the desert (Joshua Tree National Park) and back for the New Year's weekend.

Congratulations, Amy!

As far as dining out goes, we wanted to treat a friend to dinner to celebrate her graduation as a zoologist. And, in regards to that gift category, well... it was the holiday season. We bought personalized photo calendars for family members and a shiny, ultra-modern, multiple-use radio/GPS system for the camper. So, while we went "way" over budget, it was all money well spent! 🙂

Mark's - I mean, Zesty's - new toy...

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Things to See and Do in San Diego, California

When Mark and I started our current three-month house sit in San Diego, we knew we couldn’t go on weekend trips with our camper van like other times. Frida and Elvis, the two Italian Greyhounds we are taking care of, are relatively old – 12 and 10 years respectively – and home buddies; their owner prefers them to remain nearby. In a city like San Diego, that is not a problem at all! There is so much to do and see in this area that we could spend many weekends exploring and discovering. Here is a selection of what we visited over the last six weeks.

San Diego skyline with moored boats

San Diego Safari Park

We contemplated a visit to the safari park in Escondido, about 20 minutes north of the city, for my birthday (November 28), when our friend Amy (who recently graduated as a zoologist) gave us four free tickets that expired within a week. So, one Saturday, Mark and I set out to the park earlier than planned and had a fantastic time. Not as fascinating as the real thing in Africa, of course, but not a bad alternative! We were especially intrigued about the relationship between cheetahs and dogs. Every young cheetah is paired up with a dog and they become buddies for life.

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Monthly Expenses – November 2017

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting and relatively adventurous life without breaking the bank. The less money you spend, the less you need to make. 🙂 That being said, Mark and I seem to manage one big expense a month for some reason, whether it is camper, plane, travel or computer-related. Luckily, we live totally rent-free, wherever we end up.

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce and non-alcoholic drinks predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits.

Health insurance and costs are related to my health care as a permanent resident in the US. Mark is still eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts as of today. If a non-emergency were to happen outside of that state, it will be expensive! For check-ups, we both return to the East Coast. I still pay a small quarterly fee in Belgium for health care (required to retain citizenship), which I mention in my year report.

No matter how hard we try every month, since we took possession of our camper van Zesty in July, we can't stay under $1000 anymore. Maybe we should shoot for $1200 from now on, which appears to be more feasible. We really tried hard in October, using some tricks like selling our camping gear and using that money to buy parts for Zesty (it's like a trade, right?), postponing Amazon shopping until December, and only putting $25 of diesel in the van, keeping its use to a minimum. Luckily, we can walk to the grocery store from our current house in San Diego.

What blew the budget in November was our grocery category. Apart from stocking up our catamaran Irie in the past to sail to remote areas, we have never spent this much ($600) for one month of food. The main issues? We bought 10 pounds of "deluxe mixed nuts" (without peanuts) for $75 to last a while, and we continued the subscription of the home owner to receive a box of farm-fresh organic vegetables at our doorstep every week, which set us back $125. Mark being on the East Coast using his parents' car and taking care of himself didn't help the budget either. For December, we have cancelled the Wednesday veggie box (while tasty and good quality produce, the amount was skimpy for $25 a box) and we certainly don't need more of those super-healthy nuts!

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Southern Utah’s National Parks – 12-Day Adventure between House Sits

Between our month-long house sit in Rollinsville, Colorado and the next, three-month one in San Diego, California, Mark and I faced a gap of two weeks. Initially, we were on the look-out for a short pet sit, but pretty soon, we realized this would be the perfect opportunity to really test the van life. Longer than one weekend, and for fun, instead of as a means of transportation to get from point A to B. It was an attractive plan for many reasons, including these four: we have always wanted to visit some of Utah’s incredible National Parks, they happened to be en route, we could use a break from our computers (when not?), and, coincidentally, our business partner appeared to have a scheduled vacation within the exact dates we’d be on the road. Now, if that wasn’t the ideal time to relax The Wirie work a bit ourselves!

A window to Delicate Arch

Arches National Park

Not much planning and anticipation went into this camping trip. I checked the map, saw Canyonlands, thought “I guess we stop there,” then noticed a green spot called “Arches” along the way and yelled: “Oh yeah, that’s the famous one in Utah, not Canyonlands. We have to go there!” Now, I don’t know whether you have ever looked at Southern Utah on a map… it is one national park after the next! How exciting! All we had to do was pick and choose, be happy about not doing it all, and not feel rushed! Oh, did I mention that the two biggies, Bryce Canyon and Zion are here as well?

Our selection of Utah National Parks

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Monthly Expenses – October 2017

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting and relatively adventurous life without breaking the bank. The less money you spend, the less you need to make. 🙂 That being said, Mark and I seem to manage one big expense a month for some reason, whether it is camper, plane, travel or computer-related. Luckily, we live totally rent-free, wherever we end up.

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce and non-alcoholic drinks predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits. The utility category has disappeared, since we replaced our Skype phone service with Google Voice - the one-time fee for this was paid with our Skype reimbursement and there are no more monthly contributions.

Health insurance and costs are related to my health care as a permanent resident in the US. Mark is still eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts as of today. If a non-emergency were to happen outside of that state, it will be expensive! For check-ups, we both return to the East Coast. I still pay a small quarterly fee in Belgium for health care (required to keep my citizenship), which I mention in my year report.

Zesty the Westy continues to be our biggest expense: over $500 last month, mainly for fuel - we went on a long road trip visiting some national parks in Utah - and a high-altitude fuel pump so we could run our heater above 5000ft in Colorado and Utah. Not being cold anymore is worth something. We also spent $40 on accommodation - something we rarely do. Technically, I could record this amount under "travel". Usually, we overnight for free, but in Zion National Park we made an exception and paid for two nights of basic camping in the midst of the park's natural beauty.

All in all, October was not too crazy, considering we went on a two-week "vacation", exploring one of the most amazing states in this country, and Mark hopped on a plane to the East Coast. Next month, we are aiming to spend $1000 or less!

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Monthly Expenses – September 2017

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting and relatively adventurous life without breaking the bank. The less money you spend, the less you need to make. 🙂 That being said, Mark and I seem to manage one big expense a month for some reason, whether it is camper, plane, travel or computer-related. Luckily, we live totally rent-free, wherever we end up.

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce and non-alcoholic drinks (100% orange juice, almond milk for Mark and organic 2% milk for me) predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits. Utilities are always Skype-related, since that is how we make phone calls. 

Health insurance and costs are related to my health care as a permanent resident in the US. Mark is still eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts as of today. If a non-emergency were to happen outside of that state, it will be expensive! For check-ups, we both return to the East Coast. I still pay a small quarterly fee in Belgium for health care (required to keep my citizenship), which I mention in my year report.

Once again, we did not succeed to stay below $1000 in September. Our biggest expense category was - you guessed it -  Zesty the Westy. We were actually not doing too shabby, when Mark noticed a new top hatch come up for sale on eBay. He won the bid and bought the manual hatch (as a spare for our camper van) for $255. This a very reasonable price, knowing that an electric replacement (not our preference and that's why we worry ours, at 13 years old, might break any time) costs around US$1000 and needs to be shipped in from Europe. Now, the question is: where will we store this massive spare part without tripping over it?

Zesty at our current house sit in Colorado. The top hatch is that massive contraption, in the middle of the roof, above the side window and in front of the AC unit


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Day Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque

So little time and so many excursions to blog about! Since Mark and I were only in Santa Fe, New Mexico for one month, we had to fully utilize our weekends to explore the area. We did this by leaving the house mid-morning on Saturday and returning late afternoon on Sunday. All the sites we visited can be done as day trips from Santa Fe, since our driving time was usually between one and one and a half hours each way. Going for the whole weekend allowed us to relax some, do less driving and spend the nights in nature – quiet and peaceful. We always find free camping spots to sleep in Zesty, our Westfalia (Westy) camper van.

Albuquerque is located at a lower elevation than Santa Fe. This means that it is usually quite a bit warmer, something we did not account for. My plan, before setting out, was to visit all four areas of Petroglyph National Monument and do most of the hikes, about 7 miles in total. It seemed feasible. We had all day. There are over 24,000 images pecked in stone. We would not have to search hard to see some.

Too many carvings to count!

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Creating a Lifestyle Catered to You – Guest Post on Retirement Reflections

It was an honor to be featured on my blogging friend Donna’s website “Retirement Reflections” this weekend, as a guest in her Sunday Guest Post Series. She is an amazing woman, who just walked a big chunk of the Camino Trail in Spain with her husband and has many interesting, insightful and inspirational ideas incorporated in her blog posts. I love her adventurous, positive and caring personality and I encourage you to browse her website, if you haven’t already. Here is the beginning of the post about Mark and my past and present – how we got to our current lifestyle of house and pet sitting…

Thank you, Donna, for inviting me over to participate in your Sunday Series. It is a pleasure, and an honor, to be called one of your favorites. My ego is bursting!

A retirement lifestyle?

Lifestyle
At 42-years-old, I am not retired, although many people might think differently based on the lifestyle I have been living since 2003. It’s either that, or they think I am on a perpetual vacation, or that I am rich, or all of the above! Living an alternative lifestyle throughout adulthood causes these assumptions. Unfortunately, the reality is “none of the above.” Although I have the flexibility to sleep in and form my own schedule, that’s where the comparisons stop. I still need to make money and sacrifices to survive, and I own nothing, not even a retirement account. My husband, Mark, and I like the minimalistic approach and don’t require much to be happy and free. All our belongings fit in our red Toyota Prius and, other than our business, The Wirie, we have no burdens or responsibilities. We don’t have a home, children or pets (yet) and go wherever we find an attractive long-term house and pet sit. To us, creating memories and going on adventures is more important than collecting material goods or financial wealth.

Blogs to inspire and share?

In 2007, Mark and I embarked on an impromptu cruising adventure with our two big rescue dogs, Kali and Darwin. After a failed attempt two years prior in Northern California, because the dogs hated sailing on a monohull (which lays on its side when moving in certain directions), we searched and found a 35-foot catamaran (more stability and less seasickness for me) in Annapolis, Maryland, and named her Irie, which is a reggae term meaning “It’s all good!” I started my first blog, It’s Irie, to document all our adventures and share tips while cruising the Caribbean and the South Pacific. We ran a business from the middle of nowhere (tricky!)…  Continue reading here.

(If you’d like to leave a reaction, please do so on Donna’s site.)

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