Overall, we are pleased with our spending in the second full year of our early retirement budget travel adventure. We went over our budget a little bit, but we knew we would and the money we spent on experiences will last our lifetimes, so we’re not displeased by the results in any way.
Our annual budget was $24,000 for 2017, or $2,000 per month. We went over that annual budget by about two thousand dollars. We splurged on New Year’s Eve with tickets to an event in San Francisco with friends; we ate out some nice restaurants throughout the year; we took some side trips and excursions to experience locations we would never have seen if we’d been working the 9-to-5 life — so we have zero regrets.
If there were any surprises to our budget last year, it would be the few health hiccups we experienced. After housing and food, health care was our biggest expenditure.
Here’s a partial spending breakdown:
Housing (mostly Airbnb, a few hotels): $7,378
Groceries (we eat in most of the time): $2,999
Health care (annual checkups, emergencies, U.S. insurance): $2,653
Travel (everything from airfare to local bus rides): $2,102
Excursions (park entrances, event tickets): $976
Snacks (mostly beer and soda): $924
The balance of our spending was on Cleveland property-related costs (like taxes and insurance), supplies (like flip-flops or clothes), gifts (birthdays, charities). It all added up to about $26,000.
A few words about health care
Included in that health care category total was my surgical breast biopsy, a few doctor appointments for each of us, teeth cleanings, a trip to the emergency room for the spouse, high-deductible health insurance coverage back in the United States.
We are healthy – and we are grateful. Tedly likes to say that is our only job now – to stay healthy. I agree. For example, I can’t be overweight with high blood pressure and pre-diabetic and expect to enjoy early retirement budget travel abroad – hiking volcanoes and swimming with whale sharks (the latter blog entry is coming soon). But I can stay fit and healthy and ready to fight any ailment that might rise up against me.
All of that said, for 2018 we decided to drop health care insurance. We are not required to buy it since we are not returning to the U.S. this year. (Read more about health care exemptions for U.S. citizens living abroad here. Note, as of this writing, that link has not yet been updated for 2018.)
We have been to enough doctor appointments abroad by now to realize that the health care system in the U.S. certainly is not the only way to get quality care. In fact, it’s overpriced and overrated in the U.S. based on our mostly positive experiences so far.
Looking ahead into 2018
As we start our third year of living how we truly want to live, we have increased our budget because we’ll be in areas that cost more than Mexico and Guatemala, such as Southern Europe.
All things considered, we will have a monthly budget of $2,400 – a substantial 20 percent increase. We don’t want to have that kind of increase long-term, but for now, it’s a spending goal. (In fact, Tedly says he’ll be happy if we come in under $3,000!)
If God doesn’t alter our plans, we will be in Southeast Asia by the last quarter of 2018. At that point, we may decide to knock 20 percent (or more) off of our monthly target to try to keep the yearly lower $28,000.
In the meantime, we will continue to collect experiences and live extremely well outside of the U.S., with zero plans to return this year.
If you are on the fence about whether you really want to live this kind of lifestyle, even though you’ve taken steps to actually live your dream, I’ve previously written a pep talk for people like you! Find that here.
(*Correction: a previous version of this post misidentified our Obamacare health coverage as “catastrophic”, when the technical term of what we actually bought is instead “high deductible” health insurance. This distinction was made to the post on June 16, 2018.)