Revamping My Travel Wardrobe – Part II

Part I of updating my travel wardrobe involved going through everything and sorting out what worked and what didn’t and removing or getting rid of items that I didn’t wear or want to wear, ones that didn’t fit any more, and things that gave out (like shoes).

Part II has been all about finding or replacing items with pieces that are more practical, fit better and are a bit more stylish.

Below are 15 new items being added to my wardrobe:

This wool-blend turtleneck poncho looks somewhat heavy in the picture but it’s actually fairly lightweight while being very comfortable and warm when it’s on. It will pop over a variety of tops that I already have. Before it arrived Brett was skeptical about me wearing a poncho, but he likes how I look in this one (so do I).

When we were in India, the other woman in our travel group had a couple of shawls (ruana) that she carried along – they were easy to pop on when she needed a little warmth. This lightweight one is the same idea, and is so comfortable and flattering that I bought a second one in a dark moss green.

This kimono-sleeved sweatshirt tunic is actually a dark indigo blue and white although it looks black in the picture. The big pocket in front is an added plus.

I love the length and pattern of this indigo swing-style sweater. It’s a fairly lightweight piece though, fine on its own for fall, but I’ll probably need a camisole underneath for a bit more warmth during the winter.

I found this sweatshirt cardigan on the sale rack at Muji in Sangenjaya while I was waiting for a dressing room. It’s very soft, and a great length.

I can never find jeans that fit comfortably these days (small waist, big hips), and don’t care for the feel of them anyway so when I found indigo leggings J.Jill I decided to go with them instead (I bought two pair). I love the weight of the fabric – they will be warm in winter without being overly heavy.  I was a bit nervous about wearing leggings as I have heavy legs, but a friend posted this on Facebook one day: Want a bikini body? Put on a bikini! and I decided I needed to wear what I was comfortable in and get over being disappointed in not having some sort of “perfect” figure. The dark olive Perfect Fit pants are also a nice neutral and a color I like much better than the gray or navy pairs that I previously had packed. New summer pants include a pair of white capri leggings and a pair of knit denim capris.

 This lightweight raincoat will be a bit more practical than the three other non-waterproof jackets I had been carrying along. Not only is it waterproof, but it’s roomy enough to go over sweaters and other layers. It doesn’t show in the picture, but the waist can be cinched for more of a trench coat look, and I love, love, love the big pockets in front.

The two pair of Skechers slip-ons I started out with last year were very comfortable at first, but ended up with the memory foam soles compressed to flat (I joked that I could step on a dime with them on and tell whether it was heads or tails) and they also started falling apart. The red slip-ons above are a much better quality walking shoe, and I wanted a pop of color this time around. Red is a great neutral that actually goes with almost everything. Because I will be wearing leggings, I thought the blue ankle boots would also be a fun choice. The boots have a thick sole so are great for walking. Both pair are lightweight, both are very comfortable and fit perfectly, but both pairs will have to be waterproofed before we go (the blue boots are suede and the red pair are nubuck leather).

I usually prefer to wear solid colors, but I fell in love with this traditional Maori-patterned tunic I found at a shop in downtown Rotorua. The shop was Maori owned and operated, and all items inside, from art to household goods to clothing, were designed and made by Maori artisans.This long-ish black linen swing dress is also from Muji. It’s loose and comfortable and I can’t wait to wear it this summer!

Finally, I found this beautiful leather tote at Goodwill and snapped it up. It’s a great color, it hangs comfortably on my shoulder, and it will easily hold all my travel stuff (and then some). It’s in like-new condition too, so should last a long time.

Except for the Maori tunic and black linen dress, every item I purchased was on sale or from a thrift store, with several of the new pieces at more than 70% off the original price. The raincoat came from REI; the shoes from Zappos; the dark olive pants from L.L. Bean; and the gray sweatshirt cardigan and the black linen dress were purchased at Muji while we were in Japan. Along with the tote, I bought the summer dress I wore to Meiling’s graduation and a black velvet tunic at Goodwill. Everything else was purchased from J. Jill, my very favorite clothing store.

Outside of my pajamas, underwear, and socks, I now will be packing 35 pieces of clothing ranging from summer tops to a winter coat, as well as with three pairs of shoes, and two pairs of sandals. None of the new items are very bulky or heavy, including the shoes, and they should all fit into my big suitcase (especially since I’m no longer carrying 30 packages of CookDo and a bulk package of mugi-cha in the bottom of it).

Closing Out the Books For May

Two dozen bagels to get Brett through the summer are now in the freezer.

I don’t even want to think about what we spent in May.

We left Japan with a daily spending average of $51.03, but we are ending the month in Oregon with a daily spending average of $74.46 – YIKES! I knew it was going to be bad, but not this bad.

What did we spend all that money on? Food! Lots and lots and lots of food. We had to feed YaYu while she was here and got a few things for her that she’ll need in Japan and, because we won’t have a car this summer, we did a couple of big shops at Costco when we did have a car – one when we first arrived, and another this past week. We also stocked up at Trader Joe’s and Winco, and we bought a few things at Target. Our cupboards, fridge and freezer are stuffed full, and we now have enough laundry supplies, toilet paper and paper towels to get us through the summer (the house came with supplies to get us started thankfully). Our Oregon spending also includes a Brita pitcher and filters which we will store when we leave, our TriMet passes, and the car rental to take YaYu to the airport.

All of this hopefully means that our monthly averages for the rest of the summer will be well below average. We will be paying admission for a few activities, making a couple of trips to Trader Joe’s, and visiting the OHSU farmer’s market every week for fresh produce, but between the two of us this summer I think we will be able to keep our spending to minimum (clothing and other travel supplies come out of a different fund). Fingers crossed!

Closing Out the Books on April

We’ve set aside all of our 1¥ and 5¥ coins while we’ve been in Japan for our granddaughter – we jokingly call is “K’s trust fund.” I think there’s over 300¥ in there now – around $3.00 (but I also spy a 50¥ coin right on top in the center).

After a couple of months of being slightly over-budget, we made up for it in April and came in well under our daily goal – yeah us! Brett totaled up everything for the month, and our daily spending average for April was just $38.56! Our 74-day average daily spend for the time we’ve been in Japan also came to $46.65. These really are amounts I wasn’t sure we’d be able to achieve.

Our son’s generosity has helped us immensely, especially this past month – besides covering all transportation expenses involved in picking up our grandson, in return for our time watching the grands they covered everything except souvenirs on our getaway last weekend, and also for meals out together this past month. We have offered to pay for things, or at least for our expenses, but they have refused.

We have 11 more days left in Japan beginning Friday. We are eating down our food supplies, and are for the most part done with sightseeing (we’re visiting the Yanaka neighborhood on Friday, but that’s the last outing). We plan to make one last trip into Yokohama to pick up a couple of food items at the Sogo department store (bird cookies!), but other than that we’re done with spending except for transportation and items that are absolutely necessary.

Tokyo (and Japan) has a reputation for being expensive, and definitely can be if you’re not careful, or like me want to buy everything because it’s Japanese and cool and/or beautiful. Still, I’m very happy and satisfied that we’ve been able to spend three months living here for less than we thought was possible, and without sacrificing anything.

Closing Out the Books on March

We had a very good month in March, spending wise. Right until the last day, that is.

February ended with a daily spending average of $56.93, with nearly $200 in spending over our monthly budget amount. We were determined to be more careful in March, and by March 30 we had managed to get our daily average down to $44.39, which included Meiling’s and her boyfriend’s arrival and our getaway to Odawara (our son took care of almost all our expenses there).

And then March 31 happened.

To celebrate our anniversary, and because we had two of our four children together who don’t get to see each other very much, we took everyone out to the Sunday Brunch at the New Sanno Hotel – six adults and one child (there was thankfully no charge for our granddaughter). And, following brunch, we went with Meiling to the Meiji Shrine and down into Harajuku where we treated all of us to crepes. On the way home we stopped in at the grocery store and bought some extra items for Meiling to bring home. Our spending for the one day ended up at $270.96 which brought our March average up to $51.69, and our daily average spend in Japan to $52.35. Ouch.

We are not off to a particularly good start in April either, with our daily spend average right now hovering around $57 (the day at Disneyland didn’t help), but we have the rest of the month to get back on track. I think we can do it because other than Brett’s birthday this month, and Easter, there are no big events coming up, just small outings and trips for groceries for the two of us. We shopped at the discount grocery store this past weekend and saw a considerable difference in the amount we paid, so that will help.

Fingers are once again crossed that we get through this month under our desired average of $50/day.

Closing Out the Books on February

Two trips to the commissary and one to the Navy Exchange in the past two weeks exploded our daily spending average for February. The commissary on the Yokosuka base was huge, with many affordable temptations but we stuck to necessary items only (I consider Diet Coke necessary).

February was not a good month, budget-wise.

We always knew that our stay Japan would be expensive and push the boundaries of our budget. Following two weeks in Sydney and New Zealand, we arrived in Japan slightly over budget. Our first two weeks here ratcheted our daily and monthly spending up even more. With a few no-spend days so far this week we have managed to get our daily average back down to a more acceptable level, but we’re ending the month with a daily spending average of $56.93 ($194.04 for the month). Ouch.

The biggest reason for our higher average in Japan were trips to the commissary and exchange at NAF Atsugi and another trip this week to the commissary at the Yokosuka naval base. Although prices were low we bought a lot of stuff to settle in and replenish supplies, as well as things we needed in the apartment, like food storage containers, extra toilet paper, and laundry supplies.

The upside is that we are starting March with a comfortable amount of yen in our wallets, and we are well-stocked with essentials and pantry basics. We will need to buy produce, meat and other smaller items (i.e. butter, yogurt) from the Japanese supermarket in the next few days but otherwise spending should be at a minimum.

February – not our finest month when it comes to staying on track with the budget. I tell myself that it could have been worse, and that we’ll hopefully see a better monthly average at the end of March.

Closing Out the Books On January

Four no-spend days on the train helped our bottom line, but sadly not enough.

January should have been a very low-cost month for us, but it didn’t turn out that way. We had more no-spend days than any previous month, and yet our costs outside of those days turned out to be quite high, and as a result we ended the month over our daily spend limit by nearly $5.50/day, or a total of $170.50 for the month. That’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it was still troubling for us.

Our short stay in Hong Kong is where we really got into trouble, spending-wise, because any way we sliced it, Hong Kong was an expensive city. We saved in some areas, but other things caught us way off guard, like the huge (and surprising) cost to get our laundry done at the hotel, for example. Our casual lunch out at Stanley (a sandwich, some fish & chips, and two iced teas) was nearly $60US. It cost us twice as much to eat at Hong Kong Disneyland than our admission, and so on. A few taxi rides didn’t help the bottom line either. We made up for some of that overage once we got to Australia, which we have found to be very affordable in comparison, and hoped we’d be able to come in just slightly above our goal of $50/day by the end of the month. Our purchase of two $50AU Opal cards and a few groceries yesterday dashed those hopes.

However, with our Opal cards and groceries now in hand we are off to a good start in February, and hopefully we can keep things under control for the rest of our time in Australia, and then in New Zealand and Japan, although we will be having to buy (expensive) gasoline for the car in New Zealand, and two spendy tickets to get into Tokyo from the airport. But otherwise we should be OK, and are keeping our fingers crossed.

I also discovered that along with tracking our daily spending averages, Brett has also been tracking our daily steps and miles walked. Yesterday, for example, we walked 5.3 miles, and Brett took 14,333 steps (around 16,000 for me). The amount surprised me, considering how hot it was. Good thing I got most of those steps in before I fell and broke my toe!

It’s time for a pedicure again too!

Late yesterday afternoon the front edge of my flip-flop caught on the edge of a step as we were entering the David Jones department store in downtown Sydney (looking for a moisturizer/sunscreen replacement), and down I went. I was otherwise OK, but knew fairly soon that I had broken something in my foot because the pain in my toes was at a whole different level. However, I could still walk and we made it back home and out to dinner last night. I decided not to go to the ER because I knew all that would happen was there would be an X-ray confirming the break, my toes would be taped together, I would be told to elevate and ice my foot, and we would get a bill (I have broken a toe before). Instead, we stopped at a pharmacy and bought some tape, I taped the toe myself, and am keeping my foot elevated and iced as much as possible, and it’s all feeling better today. Brett is out with my brother this morning touring a couple of museums while I rest my foot, but I will be ready to do some limited walking later today and we plan to go tour the opera house tomorrow morning before my brother has to head back up to his home in Queensland (where there has been heavy flooding).

We have four more full days in Sydney though before leaving for New Zealand, so we should have enough time to do and see everything we’d like before we go. I’m having a very nice reunion with my brother as well!

Closing Out the Books On December

Our new “skinny” travel journal, ready to be made fat with travel tales and spending receipts.

We had to purchase a new daily journal/spending diary this month – the last one ran out of room at the end of November. It was just one of several extra expenses in December, and we went through a long stretch during the first half of the month where we were not sure we would or could come in either at or under our budget. However, at the end of the month we came in just under – huzzah!

Because of the girls joining us for much of the month, and because we had to re-provision several items before we hit the road again, we upped our daily limit in December from $50 to $60 per day. Our food spending and travel re-provisioning however, especially the initial amounts, took us w-a-y over and out of our budget not long after we arrived in Portland, and it took a few weeks of low- to no-spending to chip away at that rather appalling large daily average (over $200) and get it back to where we needed it to be. Our daily average at the end of the month is $55.96, so we’re very happy about that!

January is thankfully going to be a much less expensive month (we think). All of our expenses in India, including all meals, admissions and transportation, are covered – the only spending there will be tips for our drivers/guides and souvenirs (I want to buy a couple of pieces of silver jewelry in the Chandri Chowk bazaar in Delhi). Our time in Hong Kong will be all about eating, but we plan to mix restaurant meals with inexpensive street food and don’t think we’ll have a problem staying at or under our daily budget. We’ve got six days in Perth after that though where we’ll have food and transportation costs, but when we get on the train on the 27th once again everything will be paid for in full (meals, drinks and tours) until the end of the month. Our goal is to hopefully end January with a surplus, a good thing because in February costs will be going up again, especially since we will be eating and sightseeing in Sydney, have to pay for (expensive) gasoline in New Zealand, and Japan can always be counted on to be expensive. The cost-of-living raises in our Social Security and Brett’s navy retirement have come at a good time and will help our bottom line in the coming months.

We feel like we did very well with our finances in 2018, so here’s hoping we do as well or better in 2019!

Closing Out the Books For November

The daily journal and spending diary is almost full – we’ll be picking up a new one for Round Two when we’re in Portland.

As of tomorrow we will have been on the road for 102 days, mostly living out of our suitcases, but also taking time to unpack and rest, relax and recharge when possible. In another six days we will begin our journey back to the United States for a month’s visit in Portland, and time with our daughters and friends over the Christmas holiday.

We woke up yesterday morning to a rainy, blustery day, the kind where the wind turns umbrellas inside out every few feet. We had planned to go out and explore around the neighborhood, but instead only made it to a nearby supermarket for a few supplies, and got soaked in the process. We spent the rest of the day, warm and dry, in our cozy apartment doing laundry or with books and computers, and Brett got our travel and spending diary up to date for the month.

Our biggest savings come from fixing our own meals “at home” versus eating out. We found the waffles in the grocery store’s bakery –  just 70¢ each and very delicious!

November turned out to be quite an expensive month because we did so much. We constantly worried that we’d end up over budget, even with being as careful as possible. Besides eating gelato every day in Florence we paid for several admission tickets and a couple of tours; we took side trips to the Cinque Terre and Siena which included train tickets, national park admission, and an overnight hotel stay in Manarola; we ate out six times (lunches in Monterosso as Mare and  Riomaggiore, an expensive (but amazing) Tuscan meal in Siena, dinner in Florence and dinner and lunch in Rome); stopped for coffee or snacks now and again, and we also bought train tickets down to Rome from Florence as well as a taxi ride when we arrived and a driver when we left to come to Lisbon. All of it added up – without regret – so it was a pleasant surprise to discover that we managed to keep our daily spending average for the month to $49.02/day, just under our $50/day limit. Yeah us!

The total for our first grocery run in Lisbon has us thinking we’ll probably spend less here than we did in Italy, and once we’re in Portland we know where to shop and save. Some of our Christmas shopping has already been taken care of (using funds from our Christmas savings), but we have a few more things to get once we’re in Portland. We plan to go out to eat a couple of times with the girls (dim sum!), but budget- and spending-wise next month is looking good, and we’re actually a little ahead of where we want to be!

Closing Out the Books for October

There are two more days to go in this month, but from the way things look now we will end up just slightly over budget for the month. Considering how the month began though we’re very happy with where we’ve arrived at the end.

Our goal in October, as in September, was to keep our average daily spending to no more than $50/day. That amount is to cover daily food and snacks, transportation costs (other than train journeys between cities or countries or rental cars; those trips were prepaid), entrance fees and tours, and any other miscellaneous expenses that come up.

An Italian breakfast “burrito” for Sunday brunch to use up leftovers (gnocchi, meatballs, and pesto with scrambled eggs in an Italian “tortilla”).

We spent the first three days of this month in Switzerland, but even with carefully watching our spending the costs for that short trip had our daily spend average at $123.83/day by the time we got back to Strasbourg on October 4 – yikes! Thankfully Strasbourg was a very affordable city and we were able to keep our daily spending there to around $40/day or less, and brought the monthly average down to $54.78/day by the time we left for Bordeaux. Our time in that city proved to be slightly more expensive than Strasbourg though so our daily average didn’t move as much while we were there, but Florence has turned out to be an affordable place to live and as of today our daily average for October is down to $51.25/day, or $38.25 over for the entire month. We can live with that.

A frugal early afternoon treat on a stormy day: coffee with a couple of biscotti.

November will be one of our “long” months; that is, we will be covering five weeks versus four between our Social Security payments. There is some Christmas shopping we plan to do while we’re in Florence, which we have covered in the budget, but we’ve also decided on two other purchases we want to make here and will have to fit those in somehow. Thankfully we have already set aside funds for museum entrances in both Florence and Rome so those won’t affect our daily spending amount.

Thunderstorms and rain have allowed us to stay home and recharge for a couple of days.

A couple of other items, unrelated to current spending, have popped up this past month and are going to have to be dealt with when we’re in Portland in December. A slightly chipped tooth has been causing some minor pain from time to time, enough to be annoying, so I’m going to have to see a dentist and get that taken care of. Also, while we were in Bordeaux, continual walking on (uneven) cobblestones began aggravating the bursitis in my left hip something fierce, which in turn has ramped up my lower back pain. There are cobblestones everywhere in Florence, so I take Aleve every day which helps some, but the pain has definitely had an effect on how much I can walk (between two to three miles, but not much more). I was grateful for the thunderstorms yesterday because they kept us inside and allowed the bursitis to settle down a bit. However, I am probably going to have to get a cortisone shot (which I have avoided up until now) when we’re in Portland in order to be able to enjoy the rest of our adventure in 2019.

Our life in Hawai’i feels like something in the far distant past these days, but the reality is we’ve only been on the road for a little over two months. So far what we’ve seen and done has exceeded all our expectations, we’re having a grand time, and we’ve managed to stay within or very close to our budget. Brett and I have settled nicely into our travel-team roles, continue to greatly enjoy each others’ company and have fun talking about what’s going on and planning what to do each day (and what to eat!).

On Track With Our Travel Budget

Every evening Brett writes down in a small journal what we did that day and what we spent that day as well. He brought along a roll of tape, and fastens each receipt received into the journal (he took this idea from the Senior Nomads). Finally, he enters the amount for the day into his travel spreadsheet and averages our daily spending to make sure we’re staying at or under budget.

As the first full month of travel for the two of us comes to an end it’s gratifying to see that we have been able to stay under the budget we gave ourselves of $50/day. We were able to keep our daily average to under $40/day in South America, but Paris (and Normandy somewhat) turned out to be more expensive than we imagined. In both of those places, whether it was admission fees, tips for tour guides, a meal out at a restaurant, filling the gas tank (very expensive here compared to American prices, over $6/gallon), everything cost more. Our Paris expenses also included the (totally worth it) taxi ride from the airport to our apartment in Montmartre, and our trip out to Mont Saint-Michel also turned out to be more expensive than usual (but again, worth it). However, with everything averaged we are still ending up the month under $50/day. Strasbourg is proving to be far more affordable – we’re back to around $40/day. We’ll end this month with a daily spending average of $47.92/day.

Our main savings come from eating “at home” versus going out to eat, although we haven’t denied ourselves that experience.  We don’t consider ourselves to be “on vacation” and just as we did in the past, eating out is an exception and planned in advance. The first thing we do when we arrive at a new location is find a nearby grocery store (and a bakery) and buy provisions for several days. Although I imagined it might be otherwise, I’m just not interested in cooking even though all the kitchens in the homes where we’ve stayed have for the most part had decent cooking equipment. We keep our meals simple but healthy, although sometimes I think we could be eating more vegetables. Breakfast is typically yogurt with granola (or muesli) and fruit, or a pastry with coffee and orange juice. We often skip lunch but then maybe have coffee or another small treat in the afternoon. We enjoy drinking a glass of wine every evening, and usually have cheese, salami, sausage or paté, fruit or vegetables, and maybe nuts along with crackers or sliced baguette. If we feel hungry later in the evening we have a bowl of vegetable soup. We’re currently trying out some ready-made main dishes from the Whole Foods-like store that’s close by. The meals are large enough provide servings for at least two nights, and so far they’ve been delicious (and also full of vegetables!).

Fifty dollars a day might seem like a lot for two people who are eating at home, but that amount goes far beyond providing food – it covers everything we might spend during the day beyond food. Those things have included but are not limited to transportation costs, admission fees, laundry, paid toilets now and again, a sandwich or pastry at a train station, an ice cream cone or a bottle of water on a hot day, or a small treat like a few macarons from a bakery. It all adds up, and quite quickly sometimes. Our daily spending while we were in Paris topped $70/day, so we’re thankful for the lower prices here in Strasbourg.

I can’t imagine trying at this point trying include in our budget the costs of getting from city to city or upcoming lodgings – my hat’s off to the Senior Nomads for managing that for almost five years. I’m grateful that we were able to save and take care of most of those expenses before we set out on this adventure so the rest of our monthly income is available for upcoming or unexpected expenses, such as the balance on our India tour which is coming due next month. Starting out with only two monthly bills (my student loan and our phone bill) and arranging for both to be paid automatically each month has also made life on the road much simpler, and our budget much easier to manage.

This is just one month out of fifteen though, but it’s been good to see how we handled expenses, and learn which things we can get better at, which things we don’t need, and where we can loosen up a bit.