Discover more from Brent and Michael Are Going Places
In 2022, We Spent $56,000 (While Traveling the World)
I was surprised by how little we spent last year.
Okay, I’m a bit shocked by how little Michael and I spent in 2022.
I’ve written about our finances before: how back when we owned a house in Seattle, we spent about $80,000 USD a year, and how after we left to travel the world as nomads (from 2018-2021), our spending fell to between $42,000 and $50,000 a year.
But we’ve been living a bit more lavishly since then, and the prices of Airbnbs have skyrocketed. Also, inflation has been very high, and we traveled more quickly this year, which I assumed would push up costs more than they did.
Here’s a look at how things broke down:
January: Split, Croatia, Apartment: $735
February: Seattle, time-share condo: $65 (cleaning fee only)
Sitges, Spain, Apartment: $1100 (2 weeks).
Back-to-back Princess cruises: $2600 (2 weeks).
April: Athens, Greece, Apartment: $1300
May: Como, Italy, Apartment: $1800
June-July: Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Apartment: $1500
Novi Sad, Serbia, Apartment: $860 (30 nights)
Belgrade, Serbia, Hotel: $250 (4 nights)
September: Apartment, Ohrid, North Macedonia: $1050
Villa, Lake Como, Italy: $1100 (1 week)
Apartment, Levanto, Italy: $1450 (1 month)
Gouda, The Netherlands: $683 (1 week)
Amsterdam: $624 (4 days)
Antwerp, Belgium: $558 (1 week)
December: London housesit: $400 (utilities only)
Incidental transit lodging: $500
Annual Total: $16,575
Explanation: In previous years, we’ve tended to stay in locations for 1-3 months, but last year, we moved more quickly, usually only staying in our main destinations for a month — giving us less negotiating leverage and raising prices a bit. But this was balanced by the fact that we spent most of the year in Eastern and Central Europe, which is extremely affordable compared to most of the West.
We almost always stay in apartments (booked either through Airbnb or Booking.com), and we think we got some great deals this year (especially in Levanto, Italy — the Cinque Terre — where we negotiated a $1450/month rent for a beautiful apartment that was originally priced at $2800).
As you can see, we did occasionally stay in hotels (through Booking.com or personal referrals), either while touristing or transiting (at airports, the night before a flight).
We also had our usual mix of other unconventional lodging: my dad’s time-share condo for a month (where we only paid the $65 cleaning fee); two back-to-back week-long Princess cruises, which brought us from Spain to Greece; a villa we shared with old nomad friends on Lake Como; and a house-sit for friends in London (where we only paid utilities).
All in all, I'm pleased with our average monthly rent of $1381/month, considering our Seattle mortgage used to be $2700/month (including utilities).
Cost-wise, it’s also worth noting that we obviously no longer take “vacations” (since we’re always traveling), and we save money there as well.
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Groceries: $9360 ($780/month)
Restaurants: $9720 ($810/month)
Annual Total: $19,080
Explanation: Our sense is that food is usually some degree of cheaper outside of America, especially since we try to shop at local farmers’ markets — actual farmers’ markets, not the cater-to-the-rich or tourist-y American ones. We also try to buy mostly in-season food, which is also cheaper.
In terms of restaurants, when in more affordable countries (like most of Eastern and Central Europe), we eat out a lot: 3-6 times a week, including take-away, but often also in fine dining establishments. When in mid-budget countries (like Spain and Italy), we ate out less often: 2-4 times a week, including take-away. When in expensive countries (like the Netherlands or the U.K.), we eat out even less often: 1-2 times a week.
All in all, I think we eat extremely well — much better than we did back in America.
Streaming services: $220/year
Museums, tours, and other paid attractions: $1700/year
Cinema or live theater/performances: $30/year
Annual Total: $1950
Explanation: We subscribe to add-free Hulu most of the time, share Netflix and Paramount+ accounts with friends, and dip in and out of Disney+ and HBO Max (usually as part of some discount bundle).
We obviously do way more touristing than we did back in Seattle, and we visited a lot of museums and other attractions this year. But it was mostly in less expensive countries, where admissions and fees are much lower.
Except for several outside venues, we didn’t attend the cinema or live theater or music events this year (mostly due to Covid, but also because we’re becoming lazy old farts).
U.S. Insurance: Kaiser Permanente, Bronze Policy: $10/month or $120
Travel Insurance: $2772
Dental, four cleanings/examinations: $120
International doctor visits: $0
Annual Total: $3012
Explanation: The total premium for our U.S. coverage is $16,500 (with a $5500 per-person deductible, no less!), but because we had such a low income in 2021, we qualified for a major Obamacare subsidy and ended up paying very little (only $120 for the entire year). We treated this as a kind of “catastrophic policy.” This upcoming year, since our 2022 income was higher, we will probably swap this out for international health insurance.
But the Kaiser Permanente policy has zero international coverage, so we also paid for SafetyWing travel insurance.
Outside of the United States, dental cleanings are ridiculously inexpensive, even more so in Eastern Europe (and we’ve mostly received excellent care).
We did have one out-of-the-U.S. doctor visit this year, in the U.K., but they ended up not charging Michael anything.
For why we have the health insurance we do, check my article on health care coverage for the long-term traveler.
Non-owned Auto Insurance Policy: $150/year
Umbrella Liability Policy: $250/year
Life Insurance, two policies: $1100/year
Annual Total: $1500
Explanation: We keep a $3 million “umbrella” personal liability policy (because it’s cheap, and because we’re Americans, always expecting to be sued). But in order to get this policy, you have to have auto insurance, and we no longer own a car. To fix this, we have something called a “non-owned auto” policy. Fortunately, we’re able to “suspend” this most of the time (and still keep the liability insurance), but we do turn it on when we’re back in the U.S. and we have to rent a car.
We also have $500,000 life insurance policies on each other, which we set up years ago, the premiums for which we pay once a year.
Rental cars/gas/bikes: $760
Annual Total: $4730
Explanation: We’re pretty ruthless when shopping for cheap airfares (although we’re not willing to endure long layovers or trips with too many legs). Some of these flights were booked with points accrued via our travel credit cards — currently the Sapphire Preferred.
When back in the U.S., we always rent a car, but avoid paying their insane insurance rates by turning on our non-owned auto policy (see above). But this policy does not offer collision insurance, so we rely on our travel credit card, which provides this coverage on rentals up to 30 days.
We sometimes rent cars in other countries, but only did it once this year (in Croatia), sharing the very modest three-day cost with our friend Vicki. We rent bikes a lot, but even in Western Europe, the cost is always much cheaper than in America.
Various Other Costs
Seattle storage locker, 5X10: $1044
Phone/data plans: $82/month, $984/year
Accounting service: $550
Miscellaneous memberships, fees, office supplies: $3640
Annual Total: $8893
Explanation: For the first half of the year, we were on GoogleFi for our phone/data coverage, but they abruptly cancelled our phone plans mid-year (because we were using our international plans for, uh, international coverage?). So we switched to Flexiroam (and Google Voice), which, frankly, is much better and cheaper (but always wait for their regular 70-80%-off “sales” before buying data).
Looking at the above numbers, it’s obvious neither of us is much interested in expensive electronics. And looking at our photos in general, it’s equally obvious we’re also not much interested in clothes or fashion!
Most of these purchases are strictly utilitarian, and we’re absolutely fine with that.
Total Spending for 2022: $55,744
This does not include our annual taxes, Roth and 401(k) retirement contributions, and charitable contributions.
At the end of 2022, we Zoomed with our financial advisor, who told us that we’re currently living far below our means, which, frankly, is a great thing to hear.
But it’s also a bit of a Catch-22: the reason why we’re fairly financially comfortable right now is because we’ve always lived pretty frugally (and we’re really good bargain-hunters and negotiators).
Nonetheless, after reviewing our finances, we’ve decided to loosen the purse strings in 2023, especially on lodging. Except for one place (Amsterdam), none of our apartments or hotels this year were “bad,” but after five years of traveling, we’ve definitely noticed that life is considerably better in more comfortable/nicer accommodations. And in better climates, an outdoor space and/or view is absolutely worth paying for.
We also want to treat ourselves to some nicer meals. And we already regularly visit hot springs and spas, but perhaps we’ll now try more higher-end places.
Can we change our skinflint ways? Stayed for next year’s report to find out!
Brent Hartinger is a screenwriter and author. Check out my new newsletter about my books and movies at www.BrentHartinger.com.