Closing Out the Books for December and the Year

We knew there was no way we were going to be able to stay on or under budget during December and in that respect, we were correct. We ended the month with a daily spending average of $47.34, back near our $50/day limit versus staying close to the current $35/day limit. Most of what was spent this past month was for food, lots and lots of food. We’ve eaten well but not extravagantly, and I’m not sure where we could have cut back – there’s been no waste, and we bought little to no junk food or sweets either. Other than a very few items, like Brett’s beard trimmer, his new carry-on bag, and a couple of books for me, there’s been no buying things other than travel supplies and provisions. Our daily spending average is what it is – it just costs more to feed a family.

I also went back through all our spending in 2019 to see how we did over the span of 12 months. There were several months of under average spending (more than I thought), but of course there were several months where we ended up over our daily average. I added up how we did each month, whether we were over or under budget, and came up with a total of $848.96 over budget for the entire year. Divided by 12, that’s $70.75/month over what we had planned to spend.

I have mixed feelings about that number. I’m of course disappointed, but it’s also not as bad as both Brett and I imagined it might be. Our worst overspending occurred when we were in the U.S. because we tended to do “big shops” at places like Costco, and also spent extra on re-provisioning our travel supplies. Side trips, like the ones we took while we were in England or out to the Oregon coast this past summer, also drove our spending up as well. We bought and spent more than planned in India, but otherwise did not go crazy buying things or going out to eat frequently during the year, although they happened from time to time. We have no regrets about those experiences however. Some places we visited during the year turned out to be more expensive than we had estimated (Hong Kong, for example) but other places were as expected or even a bit less. In Japan and England, our two long stays, we started off spending over our monthly averages but over time we learned and adjusted, and by our final months in each place we had it down to below average.

Overall it was just an OK year, spending wise, not a great one or even a good one. We were able to cover the amounts we were over each month, and we don’t feel as if we wasted money on anything or any experience. The cost-of-living increases in our income this year will cover the extra per month if we repeat 2019’s spending patterns, but we know we can do better. Our goal for 2020 is to come in under average every month.


10 thoughts on “Closing Out the Books for December and the Year

  1. Still an amazingly low amount given the travel and experiences. And given that it usually takes time to learn a country’s cheap shopping places and seasonal foods.


    1. Brett would agree with you – he was surprised that our overage was less than $1K, but I feel disappointed. We really do try hard but stuff happens. I could understand it better if we had a lot of stuff to show for it, but we don’t. On to next year though – it should be better because we learned a lot this past year.


  2. I’ve started logging all of my daily expenses outside of mortgage, utilities, etc. to see where the money is going. Aiming for a couple of no-spend days per week, but this week was a doctor co-pay, haircut, and vet appointment. So I’m already way over! I hope to learn from my experiences though. It is eye-opening. P.S. – your overage translates to $2.33 / day so that’s not too bad at all!


    1. It’s the little, nickel-and-dime stuff that always gets you. And it all adds up quickly.

      Good on you for tracking all your daily expenses. We don’t count, housing, transportation, gifts, clothing, medical, and a couple of other items in our daily spending as we have separate budget categories (or savings) for those. Our monthly amount is what’s left over after those things have been accounted for. We’re hoping to do a better job in Japan and then continue it through the year. Portland, we have found, is an expensive stop for us – we always spend more here for some reason. Food especially seems very high here compared to other places we’ve been.


  3. Well, I went over my budget by over a thousand and I didn’t do near the amount of traveling you did so I think you did great!


    1. Again, Brett thinks we did good too, all things considered, and he’s the one that tracks the budget. We really do try hard to be careful, but lots of little things add up quickly and before we know it we’re over where we want/need to be. We will do better this year!


  4. Given all the different places and circumstances you’ve encountered, I think you’ve done really well. It’s hard to stick to a budget, and I admire your planning and record keeping. You guys really have your act together.

    This is going to be a spendy year for us, and I’m looking at ways to cut back starting with groceries. I tallied our holiday food bills, and you’re right. It costs a lot to feed a group! But we don’t regret it – it was fun. Also, our dog is starting to cost real money as he gets older. Random issues that require vet visits, as well as his hypo-allergenic food are adding up lately. We love him, but I don’t think we’ll get another dog when he goes. At least for a while. He’s pricey, yes, but also a lot of work. And he adds a fairly hefty bill to any travel we do. So for the short term, I think we’ll be pet free in the next year or two (he’s almost 13 and starting to have health problems. 😢)


    1. Adapting to costs at a new location has been tricky. Hong Kong really threw us for a loop – we had no idea how much prices had gone up there. And living in Japan versus just doing a short stay was tricky at first as well – I think we’ll do better this year as we know what we’re up against. Trips back to the U.S. are the most expensive though, especially our stays in Portland (which I now consider to be more expensive than Kaua’i for the most part). We plan to be back for Brett’s surgery, and for Christmas next year but are going to make changes that hopefully will cost us less than we have been spending here.

      Our two elderly dogs (pugs) had multiple medical expenses in the the last few years they were with us, and boarding them was prohibitive as well when we wanted to go somewhere. They were not good car travelers either, so even a camping trip was an effort for all of us. We made the very difficult decision to release our elderly dogs back to rescue (at our vet’s suggestion) when we moved to Hawai’i in 2014 and both were quickly adopted into loving families, to whom we will be forever grateful (their love and care extended our dogs lives). We have missed having a dog from time to time, but of course there is no way we could travel now if we did have pets. Someday though. Saying goodbye to our dogs was the worst thing we’ve ever gone through, but it was the best thing for them.


  5. It’s really good to keep an accurate record. I am hoping to cut down on my spending this year and keeping a note of everything will help with that. One thing that will help me is getting more house sits back to back and cutting down on travelling costs going back home so often.


    1. Brett’s tracking our spending every day has made a huge difference. We can now easily see when we need to cut back, or when it’s OK to splurge a little. I actually thought he’d grow bored with the tracking, but he’s almost obsessive about it now! He also tracks our spending per location (versus just daily) so we can see which locations have been more expensive for us than others, and also tracks our daily steps.

      We have found that besides letting us get to know a place better and giving us time to relax and rest, longer stays also help us cut down on travel expenses between locations.

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