“How can you afford to travel?” is something I hear fairly often, and to be honest, as an American without a job and a home, traveling is the only thing I CAN afford!
The USA is somewhere around the 15th-most expensive country in the world. Compare that to Mexico, where the same lifestyle generally costs about half as much — then, compare it to central and eastern Europe, where almost everything is a degree or two cheaper than what Americans are used to… and traveling is indeed a bargain!
If you’re new to my blog, I published spending updates every month during my 180 days in Mexico… and the purpose of those and future updates is to inform and educate on what my lifestyle choices cost in varying parts of the world. This is not “how to do it on a shoestring” content — I’m drinking the wine, eating the gelato, and going on some tours, but I’m definitely creative when it comes to maximizing my budget.
Drumroll please. In my first 30 days in Europe (Ljubljana → Bled → Salzburg → Munich → Graz → Vienna → Bratislava → Budapest), I spent $2,009.09, or $67 a day. “Wait, Julie, what?!” — I’m sure you’re thinking — “That’s less per day than you spent in Mexico!” It is, and I’ll explain why…
30 days in Europe spending… in detail (in USD)
|Food & Dining||$763.21|
|Auto & Transport||$280.03|
|Health & Fitness||$157.00|
|Gifts & Donations||$42.43|
|Fees & Charges||-$11.77|
“Food & Dining” was my largest expense this month and includes restaurants, groceries, coffee shops, and alcohol & bars, at $763.21. Truth be told, this is almost twice as much as I generally spent in Mexico, which tracks… because things in central and eastern Europe so far are not quite as affordable as Mexico. This ends up being just about $25 a day. I feel like I splurged on some good meals, some nice cocktails, and I try to treat my hosts as well. Which provides the perfect segue…
“Travel” — which includes hotels, vacation rentals, air travel and airport transfers, and other general travel expenses — was my next biggest spending category at $296. It’s $296 because, during 30 days and nights in Europe, I spent only three nights in hotels (while in Bled and Bratislava)… the rest of the time, I stayed with kind and hospitable friends, friends of friends/personal references, and Couchsurfing hosts I met online!!
Soooo, thank you SO much Andrej, Manfred and Valerie, Sarah and Lena, Martin, Rouven, Marion, Colleen, and Mike for opening your doors so generously to a wayward traveler!! ❤️
If you’re unaware of Couchsurfing, it is a platform for hosts and travelers to connect — hosts offer accommodations to travelers (and ironically, most of my stays did not involve a couch, but a bed), and no money is exchanged — only culture and camaraderie. (Learn more about an earlier experience with Couchsurfing here.) It’s a great way to meet like-minded people, see a place through the eyes of a local, and of course, save on lodging, which is one of the most costly parts of traveling!
Despite being without my vehicle in Europe, I spent $280 on “Auto & Transport.” This category typically includes tolls, gas, taxis & ride share, parking, auto insurance, and public transportation — and while I had no spending in the first four subcategories, I had to renew my 6-month auto insurance policy for $110 (collision coverage is currently suspended because I’m in Europe and it’s not being driven). The rest of my spending during the month was on metro and train tickets to my various stopping points ($170) — single rides around town cost anywhere from €1 and cross-country train or bus tickets cost anywhere between €9-35.
I next spent $157 on “Health & Fitness.” This is my international health insurance that covers me both in the U.S. and abroad, provided that I remain outside of the U.S. for at least 6 months out of the year. While I paid the policy in full, I “split” the transactions into 12 payments of $157 per month in my budget tracker Mint so it doesn’t hit me all at once.
Note: The verdict is still out whether I can recommend my IMG Global expat health insurance policy — they’ve denied my only claim (one that I believe should be covered, and they told me as much too, in advance of undergoing my exam). Another expat health insurance plan I’ve looked into and will perhaps go with next year is William Russell’s; click here to learn more (this is a referral link).
“Entertainment” ($133.26) includes expenses like tours and park or museum entrance fees. My big ticket expense in Munich was going to the castles Neuschwanstein and Linderhof via Grayline Day Trips (about $92), and a handful of other entrance fees to various sights.
So, I did a little “Shopping” in Europe, spending about $103: I bought a pair of wide leg pants on sale at Mango, two pairs of shorts at Calzedonia, and a few toiletries and a European curling iron at a drugstore (I left my American one at home because it would not work without a voltage adapter).
“Uncategorized” is cash from the ATM that I haven’t spent yet or tagged with a category. These are typically small or miscellaneous purchases or tips that I just don’t have time to keep track of.
“Business Services” includes the cost of my domain, the cost of hosting my website, my email client, and other various business startup costs. (Did you know, so far, the cost of my blog outweighs the earnings from my blog? It’s like an expensive hobby. If you enjoy my content, want to support the lifestyle, or just want to treat me to a glass of vino, consider sending a Venmo donation to @juliebrose… anything helps!)
As you may know, I typically travel with my dog Penny — but while I’m in Europe she’s with my mom in Kansas. So my “Pets” spending category ($50) is money I sent to my mom as a thank you and for any incidentals Penny might need.
“Personal Care” is the $44 bikini wax I got in Salzburg. For reference, in the U.S. this service has cost me between $60 and $80, plus tip!
“Gifts & Donations” are charitable donations or gifts for loved ones.
“Home” is my rental insurance policy that protects the items I store in my mom’s house.
“Fees & Charges” are my reimbursements for ATM fees. Thanks Fidelity Cash Card!
MISSING FROM MY 30-DAY SPENDING REPORT: “Bills & Utilities” — my cellular plan! I recently switched from an $82 a month AT&T plan to an international T-Mobile plan, which I share with my mom — my portion costs $45. More on this later!
Well there you have it — for my first 30 days in Europe, I spent $2,009.09 — and that’s largely thanks to all the wonderful people who graciously put me up in their spare bedrooms and living rooms. If I can keep this up, that’s about $27,000 for the year — below the American poverty level for a household of four, but pretty decent living (and savvy budget maximization) elsewhere around the world.
I’ll be in Europe until mid-October… will let you know how the following 30 days shake out — be sure you’re subscribed to the blog!
FYI: I use Mint to track my spending by category. It’s super handy and most of the work is done for me. If you’re interested in trying Mint, it’s free!