Our 2018 Finances

FIRECracker

FIRECracker

FIRECracker is Canada’s youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC’s On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.

FIRECracker

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Back in 2015, if you had told us it would cost us LESS money to travel the world than live in Toronto, I would’ve thought you were nuts. Everyone KNOWS travel is expensive—I mean, why else did we shell out $5000-$10,000 a year on a 3-week vacation while we were working? It wasn’t until we started traipsing around Europe and Southeast Asia that we found out what a racket the vacation industry is. We were able to visit 19 countries (even expensive ones like Denmark, Switzerland, and the UK!) for only $40,000 CAD or $30,000 USD a year for the two of us. Back when we bought vacation packages, that amount of money would’ve lasted us just 3-6 months!

It was a no brainer. Why would we stay in one place when we can travel the world…FOREVER?

And it wasn’t just us either. We met some friends last year who, after coming back from Chautauqua, sold everything to travel the world!  Read their breakdown of expenses on their blog Nomad Numbers here.

But, that’s only because we spent a 50% of our time in Southeast Asia, and they spent part of their year in Mexico right?

Well this year, we decided to try to spend most of the year in expensive Europe. Surely, having to pay everything in Euros or Pounds would screw us over, right? Well, as it turns out, not so much.

Here’s a breakdown of our expenses for 2018 by month:

Region Duration Cost (CAD) Cost (USD)
North America (U.S, Canada) 2 months $3649 + $3237 = $6886 $5297
U.K + Western Europe (Germany, Portugal, Canary Islands) 6 months $3150 + $3019 + $2596 + $3037 + $3114 + $3328 = $18,244 $14,034
Iceland + Canada 1 month $4480 $3446
Eastern Europe (Poland, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) 2 months $3037 + $3193 = $6230 $4792
Malta & Spain (Andalusia) 1 month $3898 $2998
Total 1 year $39,738 $30,567

Adding in expat insurance from IMGlobal of $781 CAD/$601 USD per couple, that gives us a total of $40,519 CAD or $31,168 USD.

This also includes other health care costs like dental and eye care. We got x-rays, check-ups, and  teeth cleaning for 40 USD each in Poland, a custom-made night guard for $135 USD, and contact lenses and prescription meds in Canada for $240—all paid out of pocket. Outside the U.S, healthcare is extremely affordable. In Malta, Wanderer went to see a doctor for a rash, and when it came time to pay, they waved us off and said, “don’t worry about it”. The cost for his prescription medication? 2 Euros.

New readers might be wondering why we switched to expat insurance after using travel insurance from World Nomads. Well, the reason is that in order to buy travel insurance, you must have health insurance in your home country. That’s why we used travel insurance for the first 2 years, since we still had our Canadian Health insurance. Now that we’ve been out of the country for so long, we’ve lost our coverage and are now using expat insurance. You might also have noticed that expat insurance cost us ½ of travel insurance. This is because we picked a package with $500,000 each and deductible of $2500 total. With Travel insurance, there was no deductible and a default of $1 million of coverage each.

The key to staying in Europe without busting your budget, as it turns out, is to balance expensive places (like Iceland, the UK, the Netherlands, and Finland) with inexpensive places like Las Palmas, Portugal, Poland, and Eastern Europe. So, in this case, even though we didn’t have Southeast Asia or Mexico to balance out our costs, Eastern Europe and Portugal did the trick.

We also took advantage of the monthly discount on Airbnb, which gives you 20% or more off when you book for a full month. Since we’ve been to almost 40 countries, we’re no longer moving around every 2 days like we did during our first year of travel. This saves us 20-30% monthly on Airbnb. If you’ve never used Airbnb and want to try it, click here to get a discount off your first booking.

We also discovered that Germany (with the exception of Munich and the Bavarian region) isn’t that expensive. And with the exception of Andalusia, Spain wasn’t that expensive either. Las Palmas was especially easy on the wallet—given that they don’t have the VAT (European goods and services tax) and have the local IGIC tax instead, which is much lower (7% versus 21%). Portugal and Poland continue to give us fantastic value, while being underrated enough to not be mobbed with tourists (unlike Amsterdam and London).

Here’s a detailed breakdown of how much we spent on average in different categories in each of the European regions:

Western Europe:

$3,380 CAD / $2,600 USD per month

Category Cost (CAD) Cost (USD)
Accommodations $1600 $1230
Food $900 $700
Transportation $520 $400
Entertainment $250 $188
Clothing/Toiletries/Data etc $110 $82
Total $3380 $2600

This is typically how much we spent in Germany. We didn’t splurge on eating out as much (we saved that for Eastern Europe and Spain) because frankly, I didn’t think I was getting a good deal. The food wasn’t bad but I could get better food elsewhere. Transportation in Germany was more expensive (read: double the cost of subway costs in Portugal and Eastern Europe) so there wasn’t much we could do about that but overall, for a country with such a robust economy Germany was surprisingly affordable.

 

Iceland + Canada + Poland:

$4,480 CAD / $3446 USD per month

Category Cost (CAD) Cost (USD)
Accommodations $1278 $983
Food $762 $586
Transportation $1207 $928
Entertainment $413 $318
Clothing/Toiletries/Data etc $820 $631
Total $4480 $3446

Despite cutting down on rent by staying with family for over a week and spending some time in Poland, this was our highest spending month. Why? Notice the crazy spending in the transportation and Clothing/Toiletries/Data/etc categories? And no, I didn’t go crazy shopping for designer purses or take limos everywhere. It’s because even though flights to Iceland were covered by points, we still had to pay for flights from Iceland to Poland, and on top of that there was the Iceland car rental which was hella expensive. Then, we ended up stocking up on contact lenses, prescription meds in Canada, getting our teeth cleaned, and buying a dental night guard in Poland. So yeah, we went a bit nuts on these costs, but in the end, it didn’t matter because spending time in Portugal, Eastern Europe made up the difference.

Eastern Europe:

$3,037 CAD / $2,336 USD per month

Category Cost (CAD) Cost (USD)
Accommodations $1209 $930
Food $1135 $873
Transportation $160 $123
Entertainment $480 $370
Clothing/Toiletries/Data etc $53 $40
Total $3037 $2336

Interestingly enough, we saved a ton on accommodations and transportation in Eastern Europe, compared to Western Europe, but we decided to spend 20% more on food and 50% more on entertainment. Yup, I’m a total Spa snob now. I regret nothing.

 

Malta and Andalusia:

$3,898 CAD / $2,998 USD per month

Category Cost (CAD) Cost (USD)
Accommodations $1708 $1314
Food $1430 $1100
Transportation $590 $454
Entertainment $20 $15
Clothing/Toiletries/Data etc $150 $115
Total $3898 $2998

This was another high spending month because expensive Madrid is included and we ate out like crazy (Madrid’s food scene is out of this world!). Transportation was expensive too because we had to fly to and from Malta. Luckily, Entertainment costs plummeted because Malta has tons of free beaches and Madrid has lots of free museums.

So this means even spending only $40,000 CAD / $31,000 USD for the full year in Europe, we still splurged on spas and eating out. We just ended up doing it a lot more in inexpensive places like Poland and Eastern Europe instead of Germany and Iceland. We also spiked our entertainment category by going to spas a lot. But you don’t have to. What I love about Europe is that with so many free sources of entertainment, you could save a ton on activities and still have a great time. In Madrid alone, we were able to see different museums every day for a week without entry fees, just by going at the designated “free entry” times. Ditto with London.

Transportation in Europe is also dirt cheap (shout out to Norwegian, Ryanair, Portuguese trains, and European buses). Norwegian, in particular, is a win for travellers . You can get from the U.S to London or Oslo for $200 USD per person—comparable to the taxes paid when using points. Then from Oslo you could fly to Bangkok for a similar price.

Since we started travelling in 2015, we’ve gotten much better at figuring out which places give you the best value and how to reduce cost using Airbnb monthly discounts. We’ve also been fortunately enough to have Chautauquan friends in the U.K, Europe, and the U.S who have been gracious enough to let us stay with them for a couple of weeks this year

So now that we’ve stayed in Europe for a full year, we’ve visited pretty much all 26 countries of the Schengen European Zone. The only ones left are Sweden, Norway, Slovenia, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein—which we’ll probably check off this year. Is there a prize for visiting every Schengen country? Nope. But I don’t care. I just like checking off lists. Shut up, I’m not crazy, you’re crazy.

Okay, now I realized this is turning into another monstrous post, and I haven’t even gotten to passion project earnings or investments, so I’m splitting this post into 3 parts. If you want to find out how much we earned and how our investments did last year, stay tuned for parts 2 and 3!


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