Closing Out the Books for March 2020

Before we suddenly had to leave Japan, we were on track to have a very good month, budget-wise. Our daily spending average on the day we left Japan was $20.50/day, nearly $4 below the very minimal spending limit we had given ourselves for the month of $24/day. We had a good supply of food on hand to get us through the rest of the month and until our departure in April (including those five jars of peanut butter I carried home on my own one day!). Our daily spending average for our entire time in Japan, beginning when we arrived in January, was $28.00/day, just $4 over our budget, and we were on track to get it down to $24/day.

Those numbers were partially the result of the pandemic slowdown in Tokyo which stopped many of our plans and kept us from spending. However, they also show that with careful budgeting, taking advantage of lower-cost benefits in the area (for us, that was the commissary or other military facilities), exploring local or neighborhood attractions, and watching and tracking spending carefully, it’s possible to live in an expensive location like Tokyo on less and still have a good time. We discovered we didn’t have to visit distant or famous locations in the city to find interesting and affordable things to do, or beautiful things to see, that there was plenty of all that right in our own neighborhood.

We are ending March though with a daily spending average of $42.94/day, the result of having to stock up on food for a long quarantine after our arrival back on Kaua’i, not just for us but for YaYu as well. We did a big food shopping at Costco the day we arrived, spent some more at Big Save Market the day after, and have picked up a few more things at the Princeville Foodland that we weren’t able to find earlier or forgot to buy (things like baking soda, green onions, carrots, ice cream, and toilet paper). We have enough though to get us through the next 11 days before we move over to our apartment. Many of the things we bought are pantry staples that will move with us and get us started in our new residence (the apartment actually has a pantry too!).

Although we won’t be traveling again for a long while, Brett is going to continue to maintain our daily spending journal, and I plan to continue reporting on our spending each month, especially since the cost of living in Hawai’i is so different than it is back on the mainland. Our stay in Japan was good preparation for us here as it can also be an expensive location. We’re going to continue much as we did in Japan, especially doing our food shopping once a week using a list made off of a weekly menu. We’re giving ourselves a daily budget of $20/day for food and gasoline beginning in April. It’s not very much but I think we’ll be able to manage with careful menu planning and shopping. Our car currently gets around 35/mpg so there’s lots of potential for saving when it comes to gasoline purchases (prices are currently low for Kaua’i too – gas at Costco is just $2.55/gallon right now), and with current stay-at-home orders we won’t be going out much anyway. We won’t be eating out any time soon as all restaurants on the island are closed, and there is no date scheduled for reopening (hotels are not expected to reopen until May 20 at the earliest). None of us need any new clothes either.

However, we will be spending quite a bit in the next two weeks to get ourselves ready to move into our new place, but those costs will be covered by savings. We have nothing here – no dishes, cookware, cutlery, utensils,, linens, furniture . . . nothing. Almost all stores on the island are closed, but there are enough open that we should be able to get some essentials to get us started (a sofa, a bed, a TV, towels, sheets, kitchen linens, a dish drainer, trash cans, some bakeware and a couple of pans for cooking). We will be shopping for those items with a list we have been putting together so we don’t overspend. 

Our life is going to be an extremely simple one for a while, at least until our shipment arrives from Portland, whenever that may be. However, if Brett and I learned nothing else while we were traveling it was how to live the good life on less by making sure we tracked our spending every day. We’ve got this.


28 thoughts on “Closing Out the Books for March 2020

  1. You’ve got this!
    It becomes even more of a fun challenge when you can figure out which things you have to have. My love of pyrex began the year our shipment got lost- three months with only the stuff in our van–lol. I wonder if you can text or email a thrift store owner and see if they can sell you a kitchen pack—and do an exchange outside of their shop (bag in front/cash in envelope)? The little shops here are doing that sort of thing. We find each other on facebook and work from there.
    The best part is that you are all together.


    1. I have been working on a list for the past two days, but it’s been somewhat difficult as I can’t remember what we got rid of and what we kept. Did we keep any baking pans, for example? Don’t remember. But, I know we sold our mixing bowls. So we’re going to get one 9×13, one square pan, and a set of mixing bowls. I know we kept our cutlery but I don’t remember what dishes we kept and we won’t have any knives until we get the shipment, so have to get one of those too.

      Thrift stores here are closed, and the only stores open are Costco, Home Depot and Walmart. So, are options are somewhat limited as it is, but we’ll get it figured out.

      Yes, the best part is that we’re all together and that the ones that are not with us are fine and doing well too.


  2. I can’t remember the details of your daily spend total. What does that include? I’ve been tracking my incidentals since the beginning of the year, and it’s eye opening!


    1. Our daily spending total included food, miscellaneous expenses (like stopping for coffee or tea), dining out, souvenirs, and local transportation (buses, trains, gasoline for rental car, etc.). We had separate areas in the budget for major transportation (flights from one places to another, long train or bus journeys, etc.), clothing, and gifts. We gave up on tracking local transportation in Japan – it was so difficult because of how much we used the trains – and just filled our PASMO cards every month with a set amount and called that good.

      Here’s we’ll just be tracking food and gasoline for the most part, with maybe the odd miscellaneous expense. Once things open up again we’ll refigure things.


  3. Like Janette I immediately thought of thrift stores but thought the shutdown could impact that. However Janette’s suggestion shows how it might work. Guess it all depends —doesn’t it? And Costco certainly has home goods and housewares too. Good luck, and like you said you’ve got this! You know the drill and though each circumstance is different know how to adapt.

    We are past the “doldrums” or at least I am. Now I am ready to sift, sort and declutter although it may mean items to go out of the house may hang around awhile if nowhere to donate is open. My fix for that is bags and boxes labeled with items and their proposed new homes. Sealing boxes and tying up bags will in my mind be almost as good as gone. And my yard and plants also need attention. So rather than stream shows I plan to be more active and stop making my house a storage facility.

    Your prior experiences are all being brought to bear in your new normal. I did note “our traveling may be on hold for quite awhile” similar statement. We have also felt the same recently. Not sure if in our case time marching on, or the recent injury repair from a 2018 incident and more surgery to come or again awareness of the elusiveness of time and the pandemic. Feeling pretty good however about blooming where we are planted and maintaining strong family relationships as well as friendships…as those are also extremely nourishing too.

    Thanks for your updates, looking forward to how you pull it all together in your new apartment. Though gotta admit the “bar sink” gave me pause — however if that is the only thing then that too can be overcome—as there have been much bigger obstacles before.Good luck as you manage the next transition.


    1. I hope we have this down – our list of things we need keeps growing, or at least it feels that way. Besides basic furniture our other two big expenses are a TV and a grill so we can cook outside (one of the things we loved about living here before). The cost of those has certainly gone up since we last lived here!

      We signed our lease yesterday so are ready to start moving in, although we have to stay at the condo through the 10th to keep YaYu in quarantine. We like it up here except that we are so far away from everything – it’s over an hour’s drive down to our new location, and at least 45 minutes or more to Costco, etc. It’s the main reason we never could have settled here, as beautiful as it is.

      The bar sink isn’t as bad “in person” as it looks in the picture. It’s very deep, and the faucet will give us enough room to maneuver dishes for washing. We’ll manage.


  4. Since I live in the epicenter, I have NO desire to go out, so I’ve been stocking up on food and supplies just in case things get worse. But it’s really a budget buster. I am thankful though that I’ve been able to find almost everything I need and can get it delivered.

    Is Walmart open there? I would think you could find most of what you need there. Not furniture though.


    1. It always costs a lot for initial supplies whenever you move, and then add in stocking up and our grocery expenses exploded this month. We are going to try and shop once a week after we move, just to get out of the house, but that will be it for going out.

      Walmart is open, although on reduced hours. We’re planning to go today – hopefully they will have what we need. We bought a sofa and mattress yesterday at a local furniture store that opened just for us, but no deliveries so we’re now trying to figure out how to get it moved to the apartment. We can still order from Amazon, but it takes a while now, up to a month if not longer.


  5. It’s definitely expensive to “start over” & rebuild from scratch. Here’s hoping you are able to easily find your essentials & can settle in to finding a new normal. That’s where we are, finding the new normal. Our lives look so very different than they did a month ago, but that’s okay. We’re making it work & finding enjoyment in a few small things each day.


    1. Our list of things keeps growing although we are trying to keep it simple. I can’t remember everything we kept either so that’s not making it any easier. I will be glad when we’re moved in – we bought a sofa yesterday (a big one as we all have to sit on it, and YaYu will sleep on it) – I feel bad though that Brett won’t have a chair to sit in for a while (which he prefers to a sofa). We also won’t have a table to eat from either. We’ll make it work though as as you say, find a new normal.


  6. I think there are a fair number of us for whom unexpected expenses are cropping up. But the abrupt end to your travels and all that has entailed definitely makes your life a little crazy right now. Hoping it all goes well for you and that you get settled with some minimum supplies and dishes without too much trouble.

    I’m cooking more at home, of course, and that means no eating out expenses. We have done a drive through meal a couple of times when we were showing our house, but no one is looking at houses right now, of course. And I’m just a little leery of take out food since I have no idea who is cooking it or whether they’re healthy. I’ve always been a bit of a germphobe, and this situation is not helping.


    1. I am so happy that we at least have a sofa now, and a comfortable mattress to sleep on. We were going to put that on the floor, but now realize we have to find some sort of platform because of centipedes. It’s always something.

      YaYu will be meal planning with me after we get moved, and helping with the cooking. We’re doing no take-out because like you, we have no idea who’s cooking or if they are healthy.

      We are only getting started but I’m already sick of spending money. I just want to find some sort of “normal” for now and then stay there a while.


  7. I was thinking the same as JJ-Walmart and Target would be a good start. Both are open and carry things you need. Even disposable or semi-disposable items may bridge you until your stuff arrives. Of course, thrift stores would be a good source as well but I’m not sure if you have any in that area.
    I think a lot of us went over budget with this crisis.I know I did-A LOT. But I also know that I will be using everything I purchased and although it may seem crazy to conceive right now, it will most likely save me some money in the future. The prices are going up as we speak except for gas and will continue to do so on everything as merchants must recoup some of their loses. Plus, the stimulus money that everyone is so pumped about is just borrowed money that will need to be paid back. And who’s gonna pay it? All of us, in some way or another.So I don’t expect rosy skies ahead of us, au contraire as one of my French friends would say. We shall see. Meanwhile, we do the best we can. Staying healthy and frugal is the best strategy. I am so impressed by your financial discipline and I’m sure you’ve got this. We may learn one thing or two from you while we tag along your journey into re-settling on the island.
    Stay healthy and take care!


    1. We will be stopping at Home Depot, Costco and Walmart today. HP for cleaning supplies and to (hopefully) rent a truck to move our sofa and mattress next week, Costco for a few things (no food though), and Walmart for everything else. I feel like our funds are just oozing out of our accounts. We knew it was going to happen, but the reality is always worse. All of it is necessary, of course, but after living so frugally for so long, spending sure isn’t as fun as I thought it would be.

      We will be wearing masks today, and sanitizing like mad. YaYu gave us a container of Clorox wipes that we’ll be using as we go along.


      1. Great! When you go to Costco take a look at their foldable chairs and tables. Those may be a good choice for now. Costco also used to have a George Foreman grill that I LOVE (I’m now at my 4th) which means no need for charcoal or gas tanks. You just plug it in, use it, wash it and it’s good to go.


      2. You would have laughed if you saw our cart today at Costco – filled to the brim with household items (trash cans, glasses, towels, sheets, pillows, dish drainer, storage containers, and more – we couldn’t even see over the top. I don’t know where we could have put folding chairs and a table (and I didn’t see any). We did see a KitchenAid grill that we’re going back to get – $100 less than any grill for sale at Home Depot. Year-round grilling is the one of the things we love about living in Hawaii (although I’ve had a Foreman grill and loved it! Didn’t see one of those either today.


  8. I definitely spent far more than usual in February and the first half of March as I stocked up on supplies! But I figure that I will offset those unexpected expenses by spending a lot less during the pandemic, so it should all work out.

    The other thing I’ve started doing is only eating twice a day, which was an easy habit to adapt, since I’m rarely hungry in the mornings. Brunch is made up of steel-cut oats topped with hemp hearts, chia seeds, brown Swerve, and almond milk – healthy, economical, filling, tasty – all shelf-stable ingredients. Dinner is almost as simple, though I switch it up a bit more.

    Your planning skills are going to stand you in good stead as you settle into your new home, and I’m looking forward to hearing all about the transition 🙂


    1. I’m beginning to sense a pattern here – EVERYONE overspent this past month! Your brunch sounds like mine, although I have Greek yogurt with fruit and local Anahola granola. One bowl and I’m good until dinner.

      The transition to the new place starts in earnest next week. We’re assembling what we will need this week, and then will start moving stuff down next week as we clean the place and get organized.


  9. You know what I’m waiting to hear about? If/when things comes to the point when they start giving out boxes of MRE’s. Back during Hurricane Iwa (1982), I remember army trucks handing out cases of those at the neighborhood centers. Recently I was looking online (Amazon Italy) where you can get your hands on American, French, Russian, Lithuanian, and Korean military meal packs — all at a steep price of course. As much as some might mock that kind of sustenance, I have fond memories of trading meals with my brothers. How I wish we had canned spam here!


    1. Spam is still available here! I thought that might be something that would disappear early, but the stockpiles of the stuff must have been massive! Rice and ramen are gone though, or at least hard to find. And the places that sold things like laulau, etc. are all closed. We did find manapua at Costco though so that helped.

      Heaven help us if we get to having only MREs to eat. But it may happen – our supplies here are greatly affected by supplies back on the mainland and if those dwindle things will get a bit more desperate here.


      1. Our stores here on the mainland, at least here in California where we have been under Shelter In Place since March 19, are looking good once again. There was an initial panic, and now people have settled into whatever their unique patterns will be, i.e., in person, delivery, or take out. We do have lines, but only because stores are now limiting significantly how many people can be inside to insure the 6 foot social distancing can be maintained. If you really, really need something, you may need to get to the store right as it opens, but otherwise there is now stock back on the shelves. I don’t think you have anything to worry about, truly.


      2. Stores here are still out of lots of things – Costco had a long list today of the things that were not available (rice, ramen, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.). There was also a long line today to get into the store, too – three out, three into the store although there were more inside at any one time, but low enough numbers for distancing. Our cart was full of household items for the new place – we got lots of funny looks. Hopefully shipments will be straightening out here soon and the shelves will be full again.


  10. I feel oddly left out, but our spend dropped drastically in March because life just, well stopped. I will say it has been reassuring to know on just how little we could live if need be! Our travel was our biggest churn, likely yours as well, and without any of that going on, nor being booked out for the future, our expenses are pretty modest. So some good news in the midst of all this calamity.

    I am finding myself using every little bit of fresh produce I can, so as to put off having to go to the grocery store. The stress level inside of them is just awful currently, even as I am so thankful to the grocery staff that keeps showing up. We did start to order takeout recently from a couple of our favorite fast casual restaurants, but even then it feels so stressful. Life, once it returns some semblance of normal, will be so very sweet.

    I am going to send positive thoughts that you and Brett will travel again once you are settled, and YaYu is back at school. Should you care to, of course. Along those lines, here we’ll be happy to stay within driving distance for the next 12 months or so. I am loathe at this point to hand over the transportation reigns to someone else. The last week of our recent five week cruise was excruciating – the world was falling apart and there we were literally stuck on a boat.


    1. Shopping has lost its luster for us, although right now we’re doing it out of necessity. Costco continues to be out of so many things. There is no rice on the island, no ramen (both are staples here) and no toilet paper or paper towels either. The Monkeypod Jam shop is located near to our new place and they are coordinating CSA bags so we signed up for that today; they also offer order-ahead meals and main dishes that are competitively priced with Costco’s so we’re going to try and do those once a week – we are committed to helping local businesses as much as we can.

      We’ve committed ourselves to staying put here for the next two years, to get YaYu through school so she hopefully does not have to borrow any money. The way things are going though we wonder if she will even be going back to school in the fall. We hope so, and that the world is on the mend from this virus.

      I am SO GLAD you got back OK from that cruise. It was such a wonderful adventure, but could have ended far differently. I have to wonder if cruises are going to become a rarity if not disappear altogether in the future.


Comments are closed.