Thursday, June 14, 2007

Love and Money

This is the big thing that everyone wants to know about but is too polite to ask about. How are we paying for this thing? To be quite honest, I’m not really sure. BG’s the “budget guy” (and THAT is why there’s no information on this yet!) and he takes care of the numbers.

We decided to do this trip last April — and we left in October. That gave us a good six months to really cut back and save for this trip. It’s not a lot of time, given that some people save for years to do a trip like this, but they’re not married to the Budget Guy (BG). Hah.

Cutting Back:

First, we cancelled our cable TV and our home phone. That was a savings of about $80 per month. We used our cell phones for local calling and Skype for long distance. Since BG’s cell was covered by work and Skype is nearly free, this reduced our phone budget to about $40 per month (my bill.)
We bought more at No Frills and other budget grocery stores instead of the fancy places. We also cut back on the amount we were buying, since we had to empty out the freezer in preparation for our trip anyway. We probably saved about $100 per month this way.

We trimmed our personal shopping (big ouchie for me) and entertainment budgets back to the tune of $600 saved per month. We used Air Miles to buy movie tickets and drugstore gift certificates, and I stopped buying shoes — it was pointless to buy anything I wouldn’t wear for over a year anyway. I bought fewer coffees at work, and BG diligently brown-bagged his lunch almost every day. We went out for dinner approximately never. To celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary we went camping for the weekend and ate roasted marshmallows instead of caviar and sushi.
We cancelled my Tae Kwon Do membership ($80 per month) and BG’s gym membership ($50 per month). I kept going to the gym and BG played soccer with work (this was paid in advance.)

This may not be the most recommended course, but we temporarily halted our RRSP contributions and put them into the travel budget instead.

Selling Stuff:

Because we were paring our belongings anyway, we sold a bunch of old CDs and books that we weren’t using anymore. This hurt a lot because we got almost nothing for them — 25 cents per CD and a couple of bucks per book. We got maybe $50 for everything all told, but we aren’t paying to have them stored.

We had a family garage sale and used E-bay and got rid of more stuff — $300.
I sold my beaded creations and probably cleared $800 over the summer — I also didn’t buy as much inventory and used up what I had instead (savings!)

We sold our car. ($9,000–ish.)

And our house. ($XXX,XXX.00) However, selling the house was not a necessary part of the deal. We had a pretty decent-sized chunk of cash saved (for our “forever house”) and we used that for the trip. We will still have enough money upon our return to buy a new place.

The Spending:

We aren’t traditional backpackers; we’re probably definitely too old to be actual backpackers (the ones that forego food for beer) and are firmly ensconced in the class known as “flashpackers” or “champagne backpackers”. This means that:
We do stay in what can only be described as cheaper accommodations, but so far we haven’t stayed in any dormitories and have only had a couple of places with shared bathrooms. Most places (so far) we’ve been paid for a private room with an attached bath.

We’ve been self-catering one meal a day and eating one at a local restaurant with the occasional small snack in between.

We rarely drink alcohol, as it’s a big budget-buster, but we don’t miss it. Plus, Fact: beer has mucho calories!

We are spending money on things that we deem worthy, hence the excursions, scuba boats, visits to tailors for custom wardrobes, and cooking classes. We figure that we’ll remember these experiences in ten years, not the hotel rooms or drunk-fests. That being said, we I do occasionally need a taste of the high life, and do it up and stay at a fancy place — one with a TV and shower curtain.

BG has a huge spreadsheet for our budget, and we try to track each day’s spending. The budget sometimes needs tweaking, as different countries have cost more (or less) than expected, but so far, we’re good — we haven’t had to take out any money on credit and we haven’t had to sell our kidneys.

We didn’t buy a Round-the-World ticket straightaway for a few reasons (more on that in another post.) Our initial one-way flight from Toronto to Kathmandu cost $2,130. We had a couple of big purchases with a trek into the Himalayas and a guided tour in Tibet. We were actually ahead of budget in Nepal and India. Hong Kong was waaaaay expensive, and we stayed there longer than we’d originally planned, but it helped a LOT that we had a free place to stay for the first week. Plus, we bought food at the grocery store and ate cheaply whenever we could. But then we bought a computer. China was cheaper than Hong Kong but not as cheap as India, but we still managed to stay under budget. Laos and Cambodia were inexpensive. Vietnam was more costly, and we also started feeling homesick, so we splashed out on comfort food and those big wardrobes. There were also some excursions and some unexpected and unplanned purchases. The budget caught up with us in a big bad way in Vietnam.

The first two months in Thailand were wickedly cheap, as we were at the orphanage where our room and board were provided free of charge — bonus! BG’s diving isn’t cheap, but this hotel is (hah) and we did it up in Bangkok for free thanks to some generous friends.

The next leg of our trip looks to be expensive: Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Africa. In Singapore we’re staying with friends again, which will help. In New Zealand and Australia we’re renting camper vans which will combine our travel costs and accommodations. Also, we’ll be cooking most of our own meals. However, it looks as though the budget will climb considerably. In Cape Town, we had to pay to participate in the penguin experience (and we lost part of our deposit when we shortened our time there… grrrr…). We’ll cook our own food. And so far, our plan is to drive around the southern African countries of Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa in our very own 4x4 safari vehicle. We’ll have a couple of friends to share the adventure with, and we’ll be camping and cooking on our own, but the trucks (and fuel) aren’t cheap! This is one of those times where the experience will hopefully pay for itself.

We finally bought Round-the-World tickets leaving from Bangkok. They cost a breathtaking amount of money: $5,150.00 each. Ouch. Still, that’s cheaper than paying for individual flights, and we have the flexibility of changing dates if we need to.
Extras not included here are $2000 in travel insurance and $2000 in “emergency” money. Entertainment and excursions depends on what we deem interesting or “worth it”. Trekking, some guided excursions, and shopping have all been budgeted for as well.

It’s a breathtaking amount of money, that’s for sure. But — it’s just money. And it's paying for the experience of a lifetime.


1 comment:

wompcat said...

thanks for sharing! it was a pretty informative and interesting read... :-) Maybe I'll have the opportunity to do it someday! xoxo