Month: July 2016

Australia! Expenses Down Under

I love to travel, but I don’t have travel sponsors. (though I would love travel sponsors!) To stay true to my dollars, I track what I spend while on vacation and report back here. This is what Hubs & I spent down under.

GOODNIGHT DEBT

Background: On an random Sunday morning in April, I was browsing Reddit. I came across a travel thread. A travel thread like none I’d ever seen before. The thread claimed I could book airfare to Australia on a reputable airline for cheap. I was skeptical. I clicked and sure enough, Cheap! We both thought it was a glitch. People in the thread expected it to go fast. We had to do it. This was too good to be true.

We texted our bosses and asked for the days off. They agreed and we booked it. From finding it to booking it, it took less than 2 hours. Australia, here we come!

Trip Details:

Length: June-July 13 nights, 15 days, because we are time travelers like that.

Itinerary: Fly to Sydney, Gaze at the Opera House for 5 days, Fly to Brisbane, Drive to Byron Bay, Stay for 2 nights, Drive to Gold Coast and spend 2 nights there, Drive to Brisbane, Take it all in before flying back home.

Entry Fees: $1466, including..

Tourist Visas: $29 Whatever it takes not to get deported!

Flights: $1437 including

  • 2 people, round-trip from the Midwest to Sydney, 3 total layovers: $1170 What a deal! We didn’t even have to fly on an Albatross!
  • 2 people, round-trip, Sydney > Brisbane: $267

 

I am not a rescuer down under!

I am not a rescuer down under!

Transportation Expenses: $372, including..

Rental: $177 We had the car for 5 days, picking up and dropping it off at the airport.

Tolls: $11 Gotta pay the tolls.

Gas: $20 1 tank. Return it full!

Public Transportation: $146 We took public transportation everywhere and it is expensive! We used it to and from the Sydney Airport with their crazy airport access fees, for 2 day trips out of Sydney (the ferry to Manly & the bus to Bondi), 1 ferry trip from Darling Harbour, 1 day trip out of Brisbane, and 1 transfer between the domestic and international terminal (with more access fees). 

Uber: $18 To get to the Brisbane airport at 4am. 

Accommodation:  $1285, including..

  • Sydney: $810 5 nights right in The Rocks overlooking the Opera House. Spendy but amazing.
  • Byron Bay: $151 2 nights near the beach. 
  • Gold Coast: $0  Staying with friends for 2 nights!

    IMG_1012

    Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast

  • Brisbane: $363-297 = $64 4 nights 1 night overlooking the entire city! Our Airbnb in Brisbane was our first bad experience. We got in late, things escalated quickly, we stayed the night as we communicated with Airbnb Customer Service and we got out of there in the morning. Fun fact: Because Customer Service got involved, we can’t leave them a review. Seems like a loop hole to avoid bad reviews.
  • Brisbane 2: $260 We booked a room at the Ibis Styles hotel right off Queen Street. Great location!

Adventures: $614, including..

  • Blue Mountain Tour: $182 ($91 each)  A full day trip out of Sydney to the Blue Mountains. We stopped to hang with some koalas before we made out way back to the city.
  • Whale Watching Tour: $132 ($66 each) It’s whale season. This was mandatory. It lived up to all my dreams. Thank goodness I’ve been practicing speaking whale

    IMG_0909

    There are whales out there!

  • Story Bridge Climb in Brisbane: $200 ($100 each) Hubs likes to climb stuff. This is continuing his tradition. We did the Twilight Climb and it was spectacular.
  • Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary: $54 So many koalas!!
    IMG_1081
  • Sydney Opera House Tour: $46 The outside is fantastic, the inside is … unique? I wasn’t impressed, but it was fun to learn more about the building. 

Food: $675.49

This covers groceries, eating out and alcohol. We ate in for breakfast every day, either from the grocery store or at the continental breakfast provided at the hotel. We had snacks while we were out, but we left our frugal card at home and ate out for lunch and dinner. This includes a limited amount of alcohol. It’s higher than I was hoping, but we didn’t break the bank. Food is expensive!

Random expenses: $48.50, including..IMG_1121

  • Koala Picture: $13 At Lone Pine, you have to pay extra for a picture with a koala, but you do get to actually hold it! Hubs wanted to hold a koala, so he got to hold a koala.
  • Kangaroo food: $1.50 Hubs wanted to feed the kangaroos, so he got to feed the kangaroos. We both fed the kangaroos.
  • Born to Fight by Mark Hunt: $14 Mark Hunt is one of Hubs’ favorite MMA fighters. He happens to live in Australia and his biography is only distributed down under. We looked at a few book shops and it was over $30. We found it at this bargain price at Target. Thanks Target! 
  • Finding Dory movie: $20 Finding Dory came out the weekend before we left. Finding Nemo is one of my favorite movies and I quoted it the whole time we were there. On our last day in Brisbane, we woke up to pouring rain so I seized the opportunity to see the movie.  It’s cute! 

Drum roll……

TOTAL COST: $4460.99!

Overall, it was a fantastic trip. My goal was to keep it under $4500 and we did just that! Outside of Sydney CBD, everything was new to us. We didn’t face any major challenges and we keep learning how to roll with whatever we may face.  Now if only that flight was a little shorter!!

Do you keep track of vacation spending? 

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Round 2! What Savings Looks Like

It took 458 days to pay off my student loans. I celebrated for 2 weeks and took a breather. Since then, I’ve been saving. As of July 10, I’ve been saving for 458 days.

July 10th marked the end of my saving experiment, Round 2. I paid off a lot of debt during Round 1. I wanted to see what I could save during Round 2. The experiment is up. It is time to see how far I came. Could I save the equivalent of my student loans in the same period of time?

Short Answer: No. 

I knew I was going to face challenges with Round 2. As I wrote when I set out the experiment, the numbers didn’t work on paper. In Round 1, I only had one goal: Kill the debt. In Round 2, my money was going all over the place.

While I didn’t reach my goal, I got awfully close. I also learned a few things along the way. Gather ’round.

 

Let me tell you about my savings.

It fluctuates.

When I typically think of saving, my brain defaults to fixed savings amounts. Save $458/month and you can max out your IRA. Save $1500/month and you can max out your 401k! For certain savings goals, fixed amounts work. Set it and forget it. But what about stretch savings goals? What about saving when life gets in the way?

I knew I couldn’t commit to $x per month with my savings goal. I didn’t want to. I wanted to commit to whatever was left over, while maximizing what was left to save.

Here is a chart of what I was able to save each paycheck. You can see that there is nothing flat about this line, though it does bounce around the same numbers.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.35.28 PM

I set up my paycheck allocation to cover my fixed expenses with the first check of the month and variable expenses the second check. The dips are from the fixed costs and the peaks are from the variable expenses. Hubs is is an hourly employee, so some months were better than others.

There were no unexpected windfalls.

I get an annual bonus. Can you guess when that hit my accounts? Other than this one time windfall, we did not come into any money during the saving experiment. I would have loved to come into money, but we took what we could get.

I don’t like relying or expecting windfalls to save, especially unquantifiable amounts. It feels like whenever you see money coming your way, it is so easy to spend it a few times in different places, even if that is saving!

I kept going even when I knew wasn’t going to get there.

I knew when I started this savings experiment that I probably wasn’t going to make it to my savings goal. I wanted to save what I paid off in my student loans in the same amount of time. If you zoom out from the House Fund, I did that. I’ve saved a lot for retirement. But the House Fund didn’t get to where I wanted it to go.

Below is my progress over the last 458 days.Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.37.48 PM

 

  • The Blue Line is what I needed to save to meet my goal.
  • The Red Line is what I actually saved

 

 

I was ahead of schedule for exactly 1 paycheck. Then the trend was clear; I wasn’t going to make it. Every months I slipped a little further below the blue line. I accurately predicted my only windfall during the year. With all that, I kept saving and I kept pushing myself.

 

Overall, I’m thankful I conducted this experiment. I saved a lot. It was way more that I could or would have saved otherwise. In the back of my head, I was constantly reminded of my obligation to Round 2 and that kept me motivated.

Hopefully, I can get to the full $45k before we buy a house!

 

Have you tracked your saving?

June 2016 Net Worth

Two net worth posts in a row? The shame.

I didn’t forget about you.

I didn’t quit blogging (well, I kind of did).

My head has been in a weird place lately and I haven’t wanted to write. Maybe I haven’t wanted to write because I didn’t have the time to do so. Maybe I couldn’t write because I didn’t have anything to say. I blame most of it on the fact that June was full.

June was full in so many ways. Starting at the back, we left for our trip to Australia at the end of June. Before that, I had to wrap pp as much as I could at work and present it with a bow to my boss. I probably didn’t have to do this, the trip was only two weeks, but it was an incredible kick in the butt to get stuff done. I took advantage of the motivation and got a lot of work done.  We also gave our apartment a good cleaning before we left. I love coming home to a clean house!

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.57.06 PM

June was also full of fun. There’s a cycling event in our area in June and Hubs and I look forward to it all year. We actually scheduled our trip around it! It did not disappoint. Now if only I could get into cycling myself!

We had a few other events to keep us busy and I spent some time crafting. I learned how to cross stitch and made my sister a little something. I’m also knitting up a shawl. I bought the yarn on my honeymoon in New Zealand 3.5 years ago. It felt right to knit it up while I was back down under!.

[Flashback!]

June 2015:  I had a net worth of $38,994. Greece was causing the markets to drop. I got honest with my numbers and dropped the value of my car.

June 2014: I owed $31,037 on my student loans.  I started maxing out my HSA and Hubs embarked on the long medical journey to fix his feet. (We’re still working on this. I hate that we are still working on this.)

June 2013: I bought my laptop and started studying for the Bar Exam. This was the beginning of the loneliest I’ve ever been in my whole life. Pro-tip: Don’t study for the Bar Exam alone.

June 2016: Brexit & a little savingsScreen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.51.04 PM

Assets!

Retirement: $39,898 (+2,574) SO CLOSE! Normal contributions this month. I almost put in an extra $300 to capitalize on Brexit, but I didn’t want to deal with logging into Vanguard on my phone in another country to buy. I figured that might lock my account or something. Landing just shy of $40k,  I’m regretting that decision. All signs look like I’ll get there next month. I better get there next month!

Taxable: $9,179 (+910) A change! A change! And finally a good change ! I’ve had this account for over 10 years but I didn’t start paying attention to it until recently. Since I started tracking it, it’s bumbled below $8500. It’s nice to have it rocket out of there! Hello, $9000! 🙂

Auto Value: $11,919 (-150)  The depreciating asset keeps depreciating. 

House Fund: $30,086 (+667) Mixed emotions here. 1) Hooray!!!! Finally, $30k! It felt incredible to get over that hump. But 2) Only $667?? Have mercy! This is my second <$1000 month in a row and its a frustrating trend. Based on my average pace, getting from $25k to $30k took way too long. The travel fund is entirely to blame. I’m ready to get the trip paid for and move forward. I miss the big saving months!

HSA: $6,865 (+46) Hubs got new orthotics this month. Somehow, we managed to pay for those and sneak out a gain this monthI’m not quite sure how! The biggest piece of awesomeness for this is that I remembered to turn off the auto-sweep on the account before Hubs paid for them. Hooray for not selling investments! 

Car Fund: $652 (+50) I could buy tires! More likely, I’ll probably get the scheduled maintenance on my car. … I should get that scheduled maintenance on my car. 

Liabilities!

Car Loan: $6,463 ($377)  The progress is slow and steady here. Nothing to report. This is simply a minimum payment on a cheap loan.

{Overall}

Net worth: $92,136. Up $4,473 from last month. 

90! 90! 90! Did someone say 90? Oh, I did! Woooot! A huge milestone!! It’s not thee milestone, but that one is right around the corner.

Sometimes I can’t believe that I started this journey feeling like a left behind millennial.

How was your June?  Promise me you didn’t do anything crazy during Brexit!