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To get a better understanding of how much money we’re spending on the road, Lisa created a spreadsheet, breaking out our daily expenses.  We’re aiming for $100 (US) a day, ($50/person), which is very doable, especially in some countries like Bolivia & Peru.  However, there will be other countries, like Argentina & Chile, that will be more challenging if we’re not careful.  We know that at times we’ll be over budget & other times under, so things should even themselves out in the end.

We knew before entering Argentina that it would be one of the most expensive countries on our itinerary & it doesn’t help that we were there for almost 3 months!

frontier

Daily Accommodation Average: $20 per day

It’d be nice to say that we stayed exclusively in hostels during our time in Argentina.  However, Corey still had a few crappy days in Cordoba, so we did spend 4 nights in a hotel.  I realize that doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but at $94 per night, that’s a pretty big hit to the accommodation expenses, especially considering that the average cost per night in northern AR is about $24 per bed.  Luckily, we saved a ton during our stay in San Rafael, since we received free accommodation in exchange for our help.  Six weeks of no fees for room & board was no doubt one of the main contributors to remaining under budget.

DSC_2426   DSC_2433

Daily Food Average: $38 per day

Food is expensive in Argentina!  It was very shocking to go from the cheap street food in Bolivia to the pricey menus of Argentina.  Granted, you can find “menu del dias” all over the place, but you do have to be choosy, as some just aren’t very tasty.  I think we’ve had 4 meals of the day that were actually good.  Usually though, it’s pretty gross & you’d be better off going grocery shopping & cooking your own meals.  Which, we finally started doing in Bariloche, the first Patagonian city in Argentina.  Patagonia is just too touristy to eat out every breakfast, lunch & dinner.

I attempted to wake up for the free breakfasts wherever we happened to be staying & we got into a habit of pricing out all eateries if we did decide to eat out.  That being said, we did regress & fall back into eating out often by the time we ended up in El Calafate!

Daily Transportation Average: $15 per day

Another pricey thing in this country is transportation.  Fifteen bucks a day doesn’t sound too bad for transportation, but when you compare the cost for long distance bus tickets in Bolivia versus Argentina, you’ll see that the fares are outrageous!

18 hour bus ride in Bolivia = $24 per ticket

18 hour bus ride in Argentina = $140 per ticket

The most expensive bus ticket was from Esquel to El Calafate, a 26 hour bus ride that cost us a total of $322!  We learned very early on that taxis aren’t much better.  Like most cities in the States, you’re better off taking a city bus.  You might have to ride around for a bit longer, but you’ll be saving a decent chunk of cash.

Daily Entertainment Average: $12 per day

There’s so much to see & do in every part of this beautiful country.  We didn’t even come close to scrapping the surface in terms of site seeing.  There were a lot of things that we missed out on because you have to go through a tour company in order to experience some of the fun touristy activities.

Goat counting Sheep

DSC_4134

We’re very happy that we spent money on the Glacier tour & white water rafting in San Rafael.  However, there were times, like the Cachi tour, where it seemed like a waste of money.  Had we gone in with 2 other travelers & rented a car, we could’ve done the same thing on our own, saved some money & still gotten some great pictures!

In the end, we were in Argentina for 78 days & spent a total of $7,296, which averaged out to $94 per day.  It’s great to know that we came in just under budget, but we know now that we could’ve spent even less had we cooked more often.  Hopefully, we learned enough in AR to improve our Chile budget!

 

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To get a better understanding of how much money we’re spending on the road, Lisa created a spreadsheet, breaking out our daily expenses.  We’re aiming for $100 (US) a day, ($50/person), which is very doable, especially in some countries like Bolivia & Peru.  However, there will be other countries, like Argentina & Chile, that will be more challenging if we’re not careful.  We know that at times we’ll be over budget & other times under, so things should even themselves out in the end.

Bolivia should’ve been one of our cheapest countries & we definitely would’ve been under budget, had it not been for medical expenses.  Between Corey’s visits to the clinics & hospitals, and my trip to the dentist, we spent a total of $1,607 on medical expenses alone (this includes money spent on medication).

Daily Accommodation Average: $26 per day

For the most part, we attempted to stay in hostels in an effort to save money & also meet other travelers.  However, we did end up in a hotel for 11 nights in Santa Cruz, which definitely increased the daily amount spent on accommodation.  The silver-lining, we spent nothing in this department while volunteering in Samaipata!

Manhole in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

Daily Food Average: $18 per day

We found that La Paz was one of the best places for street food & it was definitely very easy to find local, cheap options close to our hostel.  There were also cheap options in Santa Cruz, but once we got closer to the city center, those became harder to hunt down.  Plus, we’d already found a few places that we really enjoyed eating & found ourselves returning often.

Lorca – Favorite Restaurant in Santa Cruz

Tasty Treats

Tasty Treats

Daily Transportation Average: $6 per day

Taxis in Bolivia are super cheap, especially considering that you get to negotiate your fare before you even get in the car.  This took a bit of practice, but once we had the layout of each city, it was easy to tell if a driver was trying to take advantage of us & then haggle our way down to a reasonable price.  One thing we never did in Bolivia was take a local bus, so I’m sure more money would’ve been saved, had we attempted to use that mode of transportation.

First Bus - La Paz to Santa Cruz

First Bus – La Paz to Santa Cruz

Daily Entertainment Average: $5 per day

The following are included in our entertainment expenses: tours, souvenirs, park/museum admissions and any items that may cause us joy, but aren’t necessities (ie: clothes, headphones, jewelery, etc.).  We only went on one tour, while in Bolivia, mainly because we know we’ll be back in the new year for the Salt Flats tour.  Also, we didn’t find anything in the cities we visited that appealed to us enough to spend a lot of money.  However, it must be said, that in comparison to tours in other parts of the world, entertainment in Bolivia was VERY cheap – the Tiwanaku tour was only $25 per person.

Tiwanaku Tour

Tiwanaku Tour

Unique Church in Santa Cruz (only thing worth photographing)

Unique Church in Santa Cruz (only thing worth photographing in this city, besides the food!)

Do you think they'd notice if we took that dollar?

Do you think they’d notice if we took that dollar?

Plaza in La Paz

Plaza in La Paz

In the end, we spent 31 days in Bolivia, with a total of $3,502, which is an average of $113 per day.  Take out the medical expenses & we would’ve spent only $61 per day & that’s if you travel like we did.  You could definitely spend less than that, by always staying at hostels & eating local food everyday.

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SAVINGS

So, Corey decided to look back on the last year and see just how far we’ve come in terms of saving.  Turns out, we’re doing better than we thought!  In 2010 we were able to save less than a 1/4 of the money we planned to save.  It seems as though we really didn’t start saving until March and it doesn’t help that we took a trip to Raleigh for the holidays.  In the last 6 months alone we’ve been able save that same amount.  At this point we are past the halfway mark, which means that if we keep up this pace (knock on/touch wood), we’ll actually be over our initial goal for this big trip! 

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins
Image by epSos.de via Flickr

GEAR

We’ve also been going through our gear and we’ve crossed most of the big-ticket items off our list.  We got our tent last night from REI!  We’re hoping to do a test run in the next couple of days.  Thank goodness REI has a great return policy, so if it’s not the perfect fit for us, we can always exchange it for another one.  Here’s to hoping that we made the right choice.  Anyone have any feedback on the Big Agnus Copper Spur UL2?

Anyway, some of the remaining big-ticket items will be coming to us as Christmas presents from family members or each other.  We found our sleeping bags which Corey’s parents have graciously offered to get us.  Corey’s got his eyes on the REI Halo +25 & I fell in love with Marmot’s Ouray +0 (I get cold VERY easily).  I’ll probably get Corey his Kindle for Christmas & we still need to invest in an external hard drive.  We’ll need a netbook/tablet & travel clothes (all of which we won’t purchase until we’re about 2-3 months away from our trip), camera accessories, toiletries and other small miscellaneous items (like duct tape,  zip ties, sunscreen, bug spray, etc).

Some of you may have noticed that our gear list has grown a bit & it’s due to the decision to make camping a bigger part of the trip.  The idea is that the more we camp, the more money we’ll save on the road and the longer we’ll be able to travel.  That’s our theory anyway . . . we’ll see what happens!

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Today Lisa and I went through our budget for the third time.  Over the past few weeks, we’ve been re-examining the life we are living in relation to the amount of money we’re trying to save.  As Lisa has written in past blogs, a change definitely needed to be made. 

We successfully changed our cell phone service at a slight savings.  Anything is better than nothing.  Unfortunately, terminating our Direct TV wasn’t as successful.  Apparently the last time that THEIR receiver malfunctioned and was replaced, we were put back under contract for another year.  I know it’s garbage, but what are you going to do?  It made more sense to gut our programming package then pay the outrageous early termination fee.  We are saving quite a bit, but not as much as we were originally hoping. 

On my end, I’ve tried to cut back on my own habits, mainly Endorush (an energy drink) and sweets (via the practice of Lent).  For those of you who have never heard of Endorush its bar none the best source of legal energy ever made.  Unfortunately, it is extremely expensive and in light of the other changes that we were making, it didn’t seem right to continue spending the ridiculous amount that I was spending on it.  So it is back to coffee.  It’s not the same but I think I’ll live.  Besides, I don’t think I’ll be able to find Endorush for sale in Machu Picchu.  Although Lent is over, we both plan to limit sweets.

Overall, with increases of pay at work and the few changes that we have made we should be able to save more now.  I’m sure we’ll have bumps in the road and I’m sure more ways to save will come to mind.  We think it’s important to constantly assess what we are spending money on and where we can cut costs.  We’re not perfect but we’re doing our best to perfect our saving capabilities.

After doing the math we found that we’re saving $330 more/month!

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We have been wanting to do some major “spring” cleaning, but had a feeling it wouldn’t happen until at least April because of all the snow.  But Wisconsin got an unusual heat wave last weekend, so we decided to take advantage of this rare opportunity & get rid of some junk.  We donated 3 garbage bags worth of clothing & other stuff to Good Will.  We made $10 at Plato’s Closet, a second-hand store that buys gently-used clothes.  Obviously that isn’t a ton of money, but we’re happy we made anything since we’re not really the “hip” couple you may imagine!  We got rid of several boxes, clearing up our storage area & our closet actually looks neat now. 

Corey getting ready to tackle the storage area

No, we did not have a shopping spree, we're just getting rid of boxes!

The car packed with trash and cardboard to be recycled.

We realize that this is the first of many cleanings we’ll have in the next year & a 1/2.  We’ll have to challenge ourselves in terms of what we can and can’t live without.  It all comes down to “wants” vs. “needs.”  In a way, it’s kind of liberating!  What items do you think would be hard for you to let go?

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So it just dawned on us that while some of our readers are travellers, most of them are friends and family who’d like to know more about what it takes to go on a trip of this magnitude.  We have about a year & 1/2 left before our departure and here’s a list (in no particular order) of some of the big items that need to be done.

 Find Subletters AND/OR Sell/Store Belongings: We have gone back & forth as to whether we want to sublet or move out several times. Our living situation is pretty sweet right now, not only because Corey’s parents are our landlords, but it’s a really beautiful location. If we sublet we wouldn’t have to worry so much about storage or trying to sell our stuff. However, if we do decide to have a big garage sale and get rid of everything, then we won’t have anything to worry about while we’re on the road. I think this would be a hard step to take, but I’ve read so many blogs about how liberating this can be. For now, we are leaning towards subletting, but we’ll be sure to let you guys know once we decide.

 Get Proper Vaccinations: This is pretty self-explanatory, but we need to figure out all the places we plan to go or even those we think we might go and get our shots.  We’ll definitely need to get malaria medication and chances are we’ll attempt to get it from Canada, cause it’s cheaper.  It seems like most people get this taken care of about 4-6 months before their trip. 

Finalize Our Route:  We have a pretty good idea of what route we plan to take, but as the trip gets closer we will need to solidify this a bit more.  We think we want to start in Central or South America, but we’re not sure where to start.  Here’s a map of our plan (as of 2/13/11).

Purchase the Rest of Our Gear:  Up until now, we’ve been buying a bunch of small stuff that we know we’ll need.  For example, earplugs, toiletry kits, small dry sacks and our daypacks.  Now, it’s time to start purchasing those big-ticket items, like digital readers, headlamps, underwater camera – just to name a few.  We’d originally planned to get 2 iPads, but we recently came across more affordable tablets, so we’ll be doing more research on these in the upcoming months. 

Complete any Membership Registrations:  Some of the resources that we’ll try to utilize while we’re away are couchsurfing.com, workaway.info, airbnb.com, only-apartments.com & anyworkanywhere.com.  It’s not required, but recommended to get yourself verified on CouchSurfing, which involves making a donation and basically verifying your identity.  In order to register for WorkAway, there’s a fee of 24 Euros for 2 people, which is good for 2 years.  From what we can see, Air BnB & Only Apartments is like booking a hotel, so there shouldn’t be too much in registering & Anywork Anywhere will probably be utilized if we end up staying somewhere for a month or more.  These are some of the resources we have found, but are definitely open to any suggestions that you guys have come across.

Picking the Right Bank/Credit Cards:  This will be delegated to Corey, because it makes me dizzy trying to understand the ins & outs of credit and financials.  However, here are some articles we found on the Best Credit Cards for Travelers, Managing Your Money on the Road, & Banks Recommended by Travelers.  There’s also the issue with Americans having problems using their credit/debit cards overseas because we don’t have a Chip, which you can read more about here.

Get More Passport Photos:  This is for any visas that we’ll need while we’re on the road.  Again, this goes back to getting a better idea of all the places we plan to visit.  As Americans we’re pretty lucky in that we can visit all the places we wish to see without too much hassle, so this isn’t something we’re really worried about.  Here’s a list of Visa Requirements for US Citizens.

 To be honest this list is just the tip of the iceberg.  Other things we still need to figure out are trip insurance, slimming our packing list, travel clothing which won’t be purchased until about 2 months before our departure and that’s just to name a few. What did we miss?  What was the most challenging for those of you who are either on the road or already back?  We’d love to hear what you guys think. (Sorry for the lack of photos, we did try, but our internet is having a bad day)

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It’s not like this is the first time we’ve ever traveled anywhere, but it is the first time that we were actively looking for ways to improve our travel style.  I decided to do a test drive with both my main pack & my day pack, while Corey just did a test drive with his daypack.  We’re happy to report that we love all three items so far, but it was also a small trip!  But, here are the top 5 things we took away from our trip:

1 – Pack More Efficiently:  For starters, we were only in Raleigh for 13 days & we both overpacked!  We each took 1 to many pairs of shoes (Lisa: 3 & Corey: 2), too many books (Lisa: 4, Corey: 6 – though I did read 4 books, 3 of them were my mom’s & Corey also read 3), I took a bunch of nice clothes (1 set was worn to church) & Corey took way too many t-shirts.  We also ended up bringing our own bodywash, but my parents provided that for us.  I can only imagine all the weight that this extra stuff added to our load!   

2 – Patience:  Without a doubt we always end up near the screaming kid or farting man or nosey chick on our flights.  It’s something we have come to terms with, however, that doesn’t make our travel days very enjoyable.  And, it always seems to happen at the beginning of our trip, because the 2 flights from Raleigh back to Milwaukee were hassel-free.  Anyway, from MKE to EWR (Newark) I had the excited 4-year-old kicking my seat, while Corey had the farting man in front of him & from EWR to RDU we both had kicking kids behind us.  Another 4-year-old behind Corey & then mom was behind me with an infant on her lap, while dad was across the aisle yelling at his wife to control the kids. So not cool!  

3 – Stick to the Budget:  We actually get a silver star this year, but that’s only when you compare it to how badly we did last year!   We went to Raleigh in 2009 where we had a crazy shopping spree, buying jeans, shirts, movies (dvds & theater) & books.  To top it off we hit all of my favorite restaurants!  We were absolutely ridiculous!  This year we still went to my favorite restaurants, bought 4 books (2 each) & saw 5 movies (How do you Know, True Grit, The Fighter, Black Swan & Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows for the 3rd time), but paid for 3; my parents paid for the other 2.  I realize that some people would still see this as a lot, but besides all the eating out, this is what we enjoy doing while we’re home, so it just makes sense to do the same with our family during the holidays.

4 – Take (More) Pictures:  For anyone who doesn’t know, I majored in photography & I used to be one of those people who brought my camera with me everywhere. . . I mean that, EVERYWHERE!  So, I brought my camera with me & had intentions of keeping it on my person during our trip.  But, I took zero pictures.  You read that right: zip, nada, zilch!  I’m so angry with myself & this is definitely something we both need to work on considering that we plan to bring 2 cameras (1 nice, 1 point & shoot) for the big trip.  Photo score for this trip: F.

5 – Love Each Day: While we weren’t watching movies, playing video games or reading, we were enjoying each other’s company.  It sucks that we only get to see each other once a year & I think it’s important to enjoy the little things because our time together is so short.  We all had a great time & I think one could argue that there’s never enough time, so A++ for not taking it for granted!  Too bad we don’t have teleporters like the Jetsons!  



Now, we have a better idea of what to expect for our next trip.  We’ll be putting more effort into packing less & sticking to the budget, while packing an extra case of patience for the crazies we will inevitably encounter while on the road.  We hope that everyone had a Happy New Year and that this next year brings joy & happiness!

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