Closing Out the Books for October 2019

Our souvenirs from Oxford: Brett got a Cheshire Cat mug (one of his all-time favorite literary characters) and I got a plastic-free reusable/sustainable travel cup in the Japanese “octopus” pattern at the Ashmolean Museum (the silicone top and sleeve and can be used on other cups). Both were purchased using a coupon, and cost less than £10 ($13).

We tried.

We tried very hard to stay at or under our Daily Spending Average this month, but between our visit to Edinburgh and our time in London and Oxford with YaYu, October ended up being an expensive month for us and we are ending October with our DSA at $45.08. That’s $10/day over budget or $310 this month. Ouch.

We did a bit of traveling this past month, and we did buy a few things. Brett and I each got a cashmere scarf in Edinburgh (discounted because we bought two), and we also bought some shortbread and a bottle of gin when we toured the Edinburgh distillery. We ate out only once a day, nothing fancy, but otherwise, all meals were eaten at our apartment. We bought nothing in London other than three Oyster cards for transportation (£40/$52 each) and ate just one meal out a day while we were there as well. Even though we chose affordable places to eat (for London, that is), it was still expensive, usually in the $75+ range for the three of us. In Oxford, we walked everywhere, ate one meal out (full tea at the Randolph Hotel) and Brett and I stopped for coffee and cake at a cafe after YaYu departed. Brett and I also bought ourselves a coffee mug while we were there, our preferred souvenir these days. Along with the small rabbit pillow we got for YaYu (less than $25) before she arrived, it didn’t seem like much but it all added up and here we are.

We spent £43.50 ($55) on this week’s groceries, enough to get us through until we return from our trip to Bath next week. That amount also included a few more items not shown because they will be used later for gifts.

We are finding food costs, if bought in a store like Aldi or Tesco, to be very affordable, much less than we paid in Portland last summer. We average around $50/week on food, with our monthly grocery store expenses less than $300 (our food budget is $450/month). However, everything else seems to cost much more here. Our round-trip bus ride over to Moreton-in-Marsh every week is £9 ($11.50), nearly triple the cost of a similar ride in Portland, and that’s after getting a discount because we buy a round trip ticket. A cup of tea and scones costs approximately $10 per person but we’ve learned to get a plate of two scones and share a pot of tea to save on that expense. We don’t do that very often though, maybe twice a month, and consider it a British experience we couldn’t do elsewhere. The different gins we are enjoying are also something unique to being in Britain. We’ve bought four bottles here of specialty gins, costing us about $180 total, but those have and will last through our entire three-month stay. They’ve been an absolutely delicious treat and we have no regrets (and we’ll go back to drinking cheap wine after we leave).

Anyway, we’ll keep trying and hope for a better result next month. We’re not quite sure where to make changes or cut back at this point. Brett tracks everything we spend, every day, and we think carefully about each purchase we make. We had several no-spend days in October and we’ll try to increase the number of those. Maybe $35/day is unrealistic, especially in an expensive country like England (and Japan) and perhaps we need to adjust the amount we’re putting away for YaYu’s college costs. We’ll see how November goes because December is also going to be an expensive month when we have all the girls with us for nearly a month.


10 thoughts on “Closing Out the Books for October 2019

  1. I’ve found food at supermarkets so much cheaper than home. But ooohhh eating out is hugely expensive. Simple food, we could easily make ourselves, cost way too much. Likewise, food that isn’t that good. Restaurants just add too much €€€€.


    1. Being able to cook the majority of our own meals is what has allowed us to continue to travel and afford it. Eating out is a luxury, and a treat and doesn’t happen very often. I also think that what we make at home tends to be healthier as well.

      Grocery prices here in England, especially at Aldi, are ridculously cheap. I wish they were as low in the U.S. We are girding our loans as we get ready wade back into Portland prices and do battle.

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  2. it sounds as if you are being very conscious about spending. You don’t want to spend nothing at all and deny the unique opportunities of being abroad as this is why one travels.

    I’m reminded of how the Senior Nomads alternate expensive places with inexpensive places in order to balance out the books.

    Thanks for sharing honest information and good luck!


    1. We are very, very careful with our spending. We don’t need anything so don’t typically buy any clothing items, but the cashmere scarves will be much appreciated when we get to Japan (where it will be c-o-l-d). Coffee mugs always get used, and bring back wonderful memories when we use them. We still have (and use) our mugs from Tokyo when we traveled there after our grandson was born, and our Hawai’i mugs that we got on our first trip to Kaua’i. We’re looking forward to using the ones we’ve bought this year (Pittock Mansion in Portland and Brett’s Chesire Cat from Oxford).

      We try to trade off inexpensive places with more expensive places, but we’re getting ready to wade into several more months of expensive (Portland, Kauai, Japan) so our stay here has been a wake-up call and good training.


  3. Coffee mugs are one of my favorite souvenirs, too. I am drinking from my FLW mug from Taliesin today. They bring back such great vacation memories.

    Food in England IS pricey, but it sounds like you are pretty careful. We ate out a lot when I visited my DD and it was a big chunk of our cost. And a fair amount of it wasn’t that good, Wagamama and one local restaurant (which we kept returning to) excepted.


    1. Grocery food in England seems very low cost and high quality, but restaurant prices are astronomical, even a chain like Wagamama (there’s one close to where we’re staying in Bath!). Thank goodness their food is good for what they charge. Same for the place we ate in Notting Hill (and those doughnuts we bought).

      Brett used to get out a different set of coffee mugs every day so we had a different memory. I think we’ve almost reached our limit though, but you never know.


  4. I think you’ve done really well considering that you traveled and treat yourself a little bit. The end of the year is challenging for everyone, I budget a little every month to be able to cover all Christmas gifts and parties. One can do only the best possible given the circumstances.Enjoy the time left there, that’s where the true value is.


    1. We have a Christmas fund that we use to write off some of the things we buy (they don’t go into the Daily Spending Average), but just daily living here seems to add up, and giving up $15/day has been a hard adjustment. We’ll keep trying – it’s good training as Japan is even more expensive, and will be the true test of living on a reduced budget. If we can make it there we can do it anywhere!

      I think we’ll have an easier time of thing this month because other than our trip to Bath we’re not doing any traveling, just local stuff, and hanging out at the cottage because of the weather.


  5. I think ya’ll are amazing at sticking to your budget so well. Whatever you set your mind to , you accomplish. I thought a budget of $50 per day was low but $35 for two people seems extreme when you are traveling and trying to see the sights.


    1. $35/day is not much but there are no lodging costs coming out of that, or our train travel when YaYu was here. We have savings for major transportation (although that fund is getting very, very low) and our lodging costs are separate as well. Still, in an expensive country it’s difficult at times to keep costs down. I don’t think we’ve gone crazy with our sightseeing either.


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