June 2017 Financial Update

This month’s financial update comes to you from Ljubljana, Slovenia – an undiscovered gem in Europe.  We are about to head to Lake Bled, Slovenia for some hiking, lake-lounging, and more relaxing.  After that we’re on to Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic for the next month before ending our vacation in Amsterdam.  It’s hard to believe we are almost half way through our nine week summer vacation in Europe!

June was another great month financially.  Net worth increased $14,000 to $1,842,000.  Income was very strong at $7,793 during June, while expenses remained moderate at $2,629.  Such a great feeling to watch your assets continue to grow for you while you’re on the other side of the world exploring and relaxing!

Income

Investment income totaled $6,265 for the month.  The majority of our mutual funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly in March, June, September, and December.  During other months investment income tends to be much smaller.  We are well on our way to earning roughly $30,000 in dividends for 2017, as we have in the past.  Of the dividends and interest received during June, around $3,000 was in our taxable brokerage accounts with the remainder deposited into our IRA’s and 401k’s.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, dropped to $906.  I have a large check from an advertiser waiting for me at home, so the blog income is lower than usual.

My early retirement lifestyle consulting remained steady at $480 for the month.  That represents four hours of work.  Some of that work was completed while in Seville, Spain which technically makes me a “digital nomad” (one who is location independent and works wherever they are).

This guy works hard!

This guy works hard! No vacationing here!

Tough to focus when this is your view of Lisbon from the bay windows!

Tough to focus when this is your view of Lisbon from the bay windows

 

The $141 in Deposits includes cash back rebates from the Ebates.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals. If you sign up for Ebates through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Ebates, you’ll get a $10 gift card like I did.  When shopping online, I always check to see if I can score some extra cash back by using one of those online shopping portals (and it usually pays off!).

Part of the “Deposits” income is $125 from something called credit card tradeline sales.  It’s something new I’m trying to pick up some easy cash. The 30 second version is: I add an authorized user to my credit card; the authorized user gets a big boost to their credit score; they pay the credit fixing agency; I get paid. I’ll expand on this explanation in a future blog post if it’s ever something worth recommending to my general readership. So far it’s kind of cumbersome for limited payback potential and comes with non-trivial but manageable risks that I would have to explain in detail.

june-2017-income

If you’re interested in tracking your income and expenses like I do, then check out Personal Capital (it’s free!). All of our savings and spending accounts (including checking, money market, and five credit cards) are all linked and updated in real time through Personal Capital. We have accounts all over the place, and Personal Capital makes it really easy to check on everything at one time.

Personal Capital is also a solid tool for investment management. Keeping track of our entire investment portfolio takes two clicks. If you haven’t signed up for the free Personal Capital service, check it out today (review here).

 

Expenses

Now let’s take a look at June expenses:

june-2017-expenses

We spent $2,629 during the month of June.  We came in several hundred dollars under our budgeted $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).  The big expenses this month were travel/vacations and home maintenance (a new roof).

Vacation is underway. La Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

Vacation is underway. La Alhambra in Granada, Spain. And perhaps the only picture where our five year old is smiling normally and looking at the camera. 

 

Travel – $1,290

During June we spent $1,290 here in Europe on our big summer vacation.  I haven’t been tracking this spending in great detail, but looking at the data in Personal Capital, I see $723 in ATM withdrawals (fee free or fee reimbursed, thanks to my Fidelity Cash Management ATM/Debit card).  Of that $723, I still had around $400 in cash at the end of June, so June’s spending is slightly overstated.  The ATM spits out cash and I spend it anywhere that won’t take credit cards.  I don’t keep a detailed list of where this cash goes.

I spent $95 on the annual fee for my new Chase Ink Business credit card. I assess this charge to “Travel” because we’ll use the 80,000 bonus points for signing up for this card to get a free plane ticket or three in the future.

After taking out the $400 that we didn’t spend yet, and the $95 credit card annual fee, we spent a net of $800 in June. About $300 of that is groceries.  $250 on dining out. The remaining $250 we spent on local buses, trains, and subways, Uber, and entrance fees to castles and other attractions.

Groceries – So far we’ve spent roughly $300 for the first 18 days in Europe, or about $17 per day.  Grocery prices in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Slovenia (where we have visited so far) range from about the same as Raleigh to about a third cheaper.  We aren’t able to take advantage of bulk purchases or shopping big sales, so overall we’re still spending about the same as we do at home in spite of dining out more often here in Europe.

I love checking out all the different foods they stock at the grocery stores in other countries. And snapping up cheap buys compared to prices at home.

I love checking out all the different foods they stock at the grocery stores in other countries. And snapping up cheap buys compared to prices at home.  Prosciutto flavored potato chips! Local pastries. Fresh cherries for a buck per pound. $0.35 fresh baked baguettes. A pound sack of olives for a buck. Croissants, multiple packages of prosciutto. Camambert cheese and duck liver pate.  Beef samosa dumplings, empanadas, and cured bacalhau fish croquettes.  I paid USD$35 for all this.

 

Dining out – we go out to eat about once per day or once every other day.  Even though Europe is supposed to be expensive, we aren’t having a hard time finding meals for €20-30 total for the five of us (about USD$23-34).  Sometimes that’s take out, and sometimes that’s a sit down meal at a simple place.  Even in supposedly expensive Venice, Italy, we found a local pizza place 30 seconds from our Airbnb that serves huge 19-20″ pizzas for €10 (USD$11).  These pizzas wouldn’t fit in the 18″ box so they had to fold the pizza over onto itself to get it in the box.  I also had to incline the pizza box at a 45 degree angle to get it through the narrow doorway of our apartment!  For €20 we fed the whole family and had some leftovers for a midnight snack (and some nibbles at the Piazza San Marco the next day).  Then we broke the bank by ordering a couple of take out seafood pasta dishes that totaled €24.50 (USD$28).

$5 for a steak dinner? Thanks, Lisbon!

$5 for a steak dinner? Thanks, Lisbon!

$5 for 2 empanadas and a "quibe" - fried meaty deliciousness

$5 for 2 empanadas and a “quibe” – fried meaty deliciousness

Most recently in Ljubljana, we spent €27-30 (USD$35 or slightly less) per meal on two meals.  One meal was a nice little cafe with local Slovenian dishes where we ordered some extra sides to try different things.  The lunch special I ordered was €5 (USD$5.60) and came with a medium size salad, pan-fried smoked trout on a bed of rice and spinach, plus a slice of cheesecake for dessert.  Later, we went to the Ljubjana central market and ordered from food trucks and had more than we could eat – burgers, local sausage sandwiches, a local version of stuffed crust pizza, and fried calamari for €27 (USD$30).

The fish and rice part of my 3 course meal in Ljubljana for USD$5.60

The fish and rice part of my 3 course meal in Ljubljana for USD$5.60. Not shown – salad and cheesecake.

 

Transit – Other than a pair of Ubers to catch an early morning flight in Lisbon, we’ve gotten by with buses, subways and local trains everywhere else.  Or our feet.  Local transit usually costs USD$0.70 to $1.50 and sometimes one or two kids ride free.  In almost all cities, it’s cheaper (or mandatory) to buy a transit card for $0.50 to $2.00 and charge it with single rides, or add a day pass for unlimited rides for one or more days.  The most expensive city was Lisbon where everyone had to pay and a one way ride on transit was USD$7 for our family of five.  An Uber to downtown or to the airport is only USD$4-6, but we had to take 2 Ubers since only four passengers can legally ride in an Uber (and yes, I asked if a lap child is acceptable; no, the driver said it was not).  We would have been better off Ubering everywhere if there were only four of us.

Entrance fees – We haven’t had to pay to get into a lot of attractions so far.  Many places are free, or offer free admission on certain days of the week or times of the day.  We worked around these free admission schedules and rarely had to pay an entrance fee.  I think we’ve only paid to get into one museum (well preserved ancient Roman ruins under the city of Seville, Spain, about USD$10 total for the family and totally worth it).  We paid to get into the Sao Jorge castle in Lisbon.  Here in Ljubljana we are paying for entrance to two caves (to be reported in the July financial update).

Random parade in Malaga? Free.

Random parade in Malaga? Free.

Follow the parade into the cathedral? Free.

Follow the parade into the cathedral? Free.

Most in the family aren’t that interested in museums anyway, so we generally skip museums (even if they are free).  I do enjoy the occasional museum so I’ll sometimes leave Mrs. Root of Good with the kids and explore the museum part of an attraction while she rests with the kids (read: the kids drive her crazy).  Even for museums that charge, many are incredibly affordable compared to US prices,  Family admissions for USD$10-20 are common. In a previous month, we paid around USD$40 for La Alhambra tickets in Granada, Spain and that proved to be a cheap price for a nice (but hot) six hour adventure through a beautiful castle, palace, and gardens.

La Alhambra. Amazing to see in person. Can't believe it took us 6 hours to see it all, but it's a massive facility.

La Alhambra. Amazing to see in person. Can’t believe it took us 6 hours to see it all, but it’s a massive facility.

Alcazaba in Malaga - totally free if you time it right

Alcazaba in Malaga – totally free if you time it right. Like a mini Alhambra if you aren’t going to Granada.

 

Transportation between cities and all accommodations were paid for over the past six or eight months, so we’re not spending anything on that right now.

We’re a little below the budget estimate I put together for this trip.  Costs might go up slightly once we enter Germany, but so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the moderate costs on the first half of the trip.

 

Home Maintenance – $1,126:

Our portion of the roof replacement was $1,111.  The other 80% of the cost was covered by the insurance company.  It looks really nice, and hopefully it’ll hold up for many years to come.

Work in progress

Work in progress

The remaining $15 in this category is random stuff from Lowe’s to tackle a few small DIY tasks before we left for Europe, plus a gallon of gas for the lawnmower. We’re having a teenager from down the street mow the grass at $20 per mow, and I told him to use our gas to refill his mower so he can avoid hauling the gas can down the street.

 

Groceries – $157:

We left for Europe on June 12, so we only spent a little bit on groceries while in Raleigh.  When we get home in August we’ll have to restock the fridge and freezer so I expect a large grocery bill at that point.

We’re spending quite a bit on groceries while in Europe, but I’m including these in the “Travel” expense category.

At the butcher counter, they'll slice the steak thin for you. Makes it easier to fry up some steak for sandwiches.

At the butcher counter at the grocery store in Lisbon, they’ll slice the steak thin for you (“bife” style the English speaking butcher told me). Makes it easier to fry up some steak for sandwiches.

 

Restaurants – $29:

Went out to eat with our immediate family plus some extended family right before we left for Europe.  Dining out while in Europe is included in the “Travel” expense category.

 

Insurance – $25:

Farm Bureau, the insurer I use, requires a $25 annual membership fee. For some reason they billed me in June whereas I paid the other insurance bills in May.

 

Expenses that were zero during June:

Gas – we didn’t fill up the van in June before leaving on vacation, so we won’t have any gas expenses until August or September when we get back.

Internet – we cancelled internet for the summer since we won’t be using it.

Healthcare/Medical – I prepaid the health insurance through July so we won’t have to worry about that while in Europe.  So far everyone has remained healthy and my extensive first aid kit is still mostly intact.  We chose to skip travel insurance so we are self-insuring for health care here in Europe (other than our emergency coverage through US-based insurance).

Utilities – I prepaid our electric, natural gas, and water bills for several months ahead during prior months.  This was mostly to meet the minimum spending requirements for a series of credit cards we applied for this winter and spring that gave us 360,000 airline miles.  It doesn’t take much to score free tickets to Mexico, the Caribbean, or Europe (we traveled to Europe on free plane tickets, for example).

Do you like free travel as much as I do?  Check out all the credit card sign up bonuses.  Or go directly to the Chase Ink Business Preferred card with an 80,000 point bonus (any size business qualifies you for a business card).  For reference, 80,000 points can fly you almost anywhere in the world on a variety of frequent flyer programs, or get you three domestic round trip tickets.

We spent USD$21 to get into the Sao Jorge Castle in Lisbon. Very nice castle, and our first castle in Europe.

We spent USD$21 to get into the Sao Jorge Castle in Lisbon. Very nice castle, and our first castle in Europe.  Great views all around the city and the bay too.

 

Year to Date Living Expenses for 2017

june-2017-expenses-ytd

We have spent a total of $14,316 for the first half of 2017 (through the end of June).  That is $5,700 below our annual spending target of $20,000 budgeted for the first six months of the year.  I’m a little dumbfounded by this running total since I feel like we’re living a pretty luxurious lifestyle (what I call a $100,000 lifestyle on $40,000 per year).

The bulk of the planned big ticket spending for 2017 is over and on the books at this point. The new roof came in much cheaper than expected thanks to receiving over $4,000 from our insurance company for hail and wind damage.  Our Europe trip is on track for our $10,000 total budget for the nine weeks.  July shouldn’t have more than another $2,000-$2,500 in trip expenses.  There’s a good chance we’ll close out 2017 with a nice budget surplus if nothing unexpected pops up.  It’s also possible we won’t break $30,000 in spending for the year!

 

Monthly Expense Summary for 2017:

 

Net Worth: $1,842,000 (+$14,000)

Another month, another strong net worth boost.  I miss the days of up and down markets where we occasionally lost $50,000 or $100,000 in really bad months.  Right now it’s just up, up and more up.  Which means the odds of down, down, and more down increase.  june-2017-net-worth

 

In the meantime, we’ll continue mostly disregarding market performance.  I might move another $25,000 into the Vanguard Total Bond Market index fund if markets keep going up like they have been.

Life's a beach, man. Total beach.

Life’s a beach, man. Total beach. First time dipping toes in the Mediterranean Sea while in Malaga, Spain.

 

Ok, back to traipsing across Europe!  Hopefully I can carve out some time to provide a more in depth trip report for all these places we’re visiting.

 

 

How is your summer going?  Still enjoying the perpetual stock market gains? 

 

 

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101 comments

  • Wow it sounds like you are having an amazing time. I hav only heard good things about Slovenia and Croatia and they are on my bucket list once the kiddos get a bit older. Keep sharing these awesome pics. I’m definitely enjoying them.

  • Yes, credit card tradeline sales, is something this reader wants to know more about. Thanks!
    Amazing trip, by the way…

    • I have heard (and read) about selling tradelines, but ethically/morally, I just can’t get over the hump to doing it. I know that people justify why it is valid, but I just dont know. There is a reason a person is willing to pay hundreds of dollars to piggyback on someone with a good credit rating.

      • Yes, Eastnortheast, I feel as you do. At first I was like, alright, easy money! I can quit my job! Then I kept reading and thinking and I didn’t feel so comfortable with it. There is too much that I don’t know.

  • Looks like a great time. Nice job on finances this month too.

  • What a great trip you’re on, I love the pics. The experience your giving your kiddos is unreal, kudos to you. I hope to do the same in the coming years once mine get a little older.

  • Ah, I plan to follow your lead starting in the year 2021 and travel each summer for at least 1 month a year out of the 3 month vacation somewhere. By then, I’ll have been homebound for four years and itching to see the world again! We did so much travel each year from 2000 – 2016 that we kinda burnt out.

    June was good. But I’ve derisked some more and now have a hoard of cash. Feels good!

    Sam

  • Your yearly expenses for a family of 5 are basically the same as the two week European cruise we have booked for next month ($14K+ for the two of us, including airfare). Wow, I’m embarrassed.

    • Yes, the airfare eats up a huge part of the travel budget. Our $10k would have been $16k if we didn’t get free airfare from airline miles (well, technically we paid $350 in tax total for the 5 tix, but still $5650 cheaper than retail). Our marginal cost to add an extra day here is tiny – maybe $80-100 for a night in an airbnb plus about the same amount for food as we would spend at home. Today’s one of our “do nothing” days so we aren’t leaving the house other than walking to the grocery, bakery, and a restaurant later (aka no spending on transit).

      • You guys are lucky in the USA with all those airmiles programs. I live in the UAE and we spend around 15K USD per month on credit card to get miles ( business transactions mostly) and needed around 1 1/2 year to accumulate miles to pay for 4 tickets for a 4 hour flight paying 600 dollars in additional fees and taxes. Not really worthy but better than nothing. We cannot get cash back on other credit cards as those are business purchases

        • Wow! That kind of spending in the US would earn ~180,000+ airline miles. On United, for example, that would earn us 3 free round trip tickets USA to Europe with only ~$100USD per ticket for taxes. Probably an 9-14 hour flight depending on which side of the country you’re on. I know we have it lucky, as Canadian readers have voiced the same with regards to US programs.

  • I loved shopping at local markets while we traveled around Europe. I found all of it interesting. The grocery store is like a sneak peak into the locals lives. Plus there are always so many delicious, interesting and affordable finds. Have fun! We traveled all over Europe the 4 years we lived there, but now that we have 5 little kids at home, I think we are going to do US based travel for the next 5 years then start jumping the pond again. =)

    • Sounds like a smart idea, as I can imagine you’ll have several extra hours of flights coming from the western US (our flight from DC to Portugal was under 7.5 hours – not much more than flying to LAX from home). I’ve seen a lot of folks with kids and they looked like they were struggling when they had to haul kids, strollers, gear, etc up stairs and hills. Glad we took it relatively easy the first few years (including the one time we cut our trip in half after it turned out to be more exhausting than we expected).

      You’ll love it over here in Europe with kids. So many places have family packages for entrance fees, train trips, etc. Usually works out to be just a tiny bit more, or the exact same price for a whole family as it is for 2 adults (though with 5 kids you might have to pay a little extra supplement some places since it seems like 2-3 kids was the assumption that get in free with adults; trains should be totally free for young kids though – under 12-14 yrs at least). Groceries are the same or less than home. Restaurants not bad either. And airbnbs will be way cheaper for 2 adults + 7 kids vs hotels. Many hosts are fine letting kids double up or they have extra mattresses, cots, for free or a few bucks extra per night.

  • Slovenia, I’ve been there once and now want to go more and more. I don’t know why, but it has something special for me in this country.

    Congrats on the great month.

    P.S.
    Have a great journey and I hope you will write about all the countries you are visiting when you back.

  • I am glad you are having great time. May be it will motivate other people like me to do say some days. If I want to talk to you about financial consultation how do I go about it, any phone number? what time? and how do you charge your fees?

  • I’m loving those dividends! I know they pay quarterly, but hey, $6k ain’t too shabby, even for quarterly payments. 🙂 And wow, your travels look awesome! I never had the chance to tour Spain, so I’m living vicariously through your pics. 🙂

    • It’s neat getting these cash payments from investments, many of which come from European companies. And then we’re spending those funds here in Europe. That was sort of the plan all along – hold international investments that would then pay for international travel as a means of matching foreign exchange rates with our cash flow.

  • Love watching your travels! I’ve visited a number of the same places. I was in Lake Bled about 10 years ago. We really enjoyed the Chinese restaurant in Bled (we went back a second time, even, so I could order a sizzling beef plate again!). Looking forward to a more in depth trip report.

    • I was underwhelmed by Lake Bled but perhaps it was because we didn’t have much time to explore. We stopped there on the way up the mountains to Kranjska Gora where we stayed in a neighboring village, and used that as a base to explore several other places in the mountains.

  • Looks amazing, how was the Airbnb experience abroad? I’ve heard mixed reviews when using the service to stay at places outside the US.

    • I just got back from the Netherlands and England, and while in England, we used Air B&B exclusively. We were traveling as a group of 5 adults and 2 small children. Having a large flat was infinitely better than hotel rooms, plus we saved a *lot* of money! We’ve used Air B&B before while traveling in Europe and have had some of our best experiences this way. I recommend it.

      • Yeah, it’s great. I like being in a residential neighborhood and getting a glimpse of how locals actually live vs. being in a business hotel or a tourist hotel and seeing how business travelers or tourists live 🙂 And the kids have so much more room to spread out. Right now I’m typing away in our living room that’s similar to ours at home in Raleigh. Mrs. RoG is taking a nap and the kids are quietly doing something somewhere that isn’t underneath my feet. 🙂 We have 2 bathrooms, a full kitchen including a dishwasher, and it’s nice and quiet generally.

    • Really great overall. No place has been perfect, but all have been nice, most better than expected. I love having all the room, a full kitchen, amenities like dishwasher and clothes washer (sometimes dryer). Most places have been very clean and even the least clean places were acceptable. No duds so far and we only have 4 places left to stay.

      Key to this was 1) booking early and 2) researching the crap out of it. We spent a couple hours per city making a list of potential rentals, then shortlisted a few to contact and negotiate with. Then booked the best overall deal (not always the cheapest). In general, you don’t want to book the cheapest 20% or so of airbnbs, and focus on those with 4.5-5 star reviews. Any mention of “place wasn’t clean” gets the rental eliminated from our list unless the guest is clearly being vindictive in their review. We’re picky in the selection process but it’s paying off well so far. 1000% better than a hotel stay in most places, and even the worst places we’ve stayed in were better than hotels (and sometimes we booked smaller, less nice places if we’re only staying for 2 nights and won’t be in the apartment much because of our busy schedule).

      • We have used AirBnB frequently outside the US – Taiwan, Thailand, Seychelles – have all been a good experiences. I agree research is the key. Mrs. Zero spends an hour or two on each trip and so far her hit rate is 100%.

        Great to see you guys having so much fun. I can’t wait for vacations that are more than the 7-10 day variety. 2 years and counting!!

  • People that want to spend all their cash on “things” are missing the joy of making money from financial assets, whether you are working, not working, on vacation, watching TV, reading … The truly wealthy have done this down through the ages, and for us middle classers, it is still one of the only ways to make $ during our retirements (I don’t count part-time workers as retired). I personally love dividends and goosing those returns by selling covered calls. If your stock get pulled away and purchased, rinse and repeat with another stock or wait for the former to get to a more attractive level.

    Food and attraction pictures look great. We have doing all our travel in the US since we still have a great time doing so, but your travels and others I read have me thinking about Spain as our next overseas jaunt. Have fun, and stay safe out there among the English.

    • We live in great times. Amazing that a middle class family like ours can save enough $ to retire in our 30’s (with some effort, of course) and travel the world. This kind of lifestyle was reserved for the wealthy elite just 100 years ago.

      Lots to see and do in the US for sure, and I hope we explore more of it in the coming years. My only complaint is that much of the US that I want to explore is hot in summer months, so it’s not as great for vacationing with kids that melt in the heat and only get off 3 months during summer 🙂 Everywhere we’ve visited has been lovely. Southern Spain is nice and scenic, and probably better to visit during the fall when it’s not as hot. Weather is similar to where you and I live except less humidity (hot summers, chilly winters but not arctic). I imagine October is best weather if you want to be outside most of the day.

  • What a lovely post, awesome pictures, and a terrific family vacation! You are making lifetime memories for your three kiddos. Thank you for sharing your adventures and budget info with us. Enjoy the rest of your trip with your beautiful family!

  • I can’t wait to follow in your footsteps – we’re doing about 3 weeks in Europe in September and will be in Amsterdam, Lisbon and Croatia. Thanks to two CSRs we paid $240 for 3 tickets from SFO -> Lisbon -> Amsterdam ->SFO. We got the 80k from the CIP recently and we just got approved for the United MPE for 70k points.

    • Nice. Enjoy your trip! Our tickets were the same – into Lisbon and returning back home out of Amsterdam (with a free segment from Lisbon to Malaga, Spain using United’s new redemption rules for booking European tix). Hopefully Lisbon and Croatia cool off some before you get there.

  • I always enjoy reading your blog. Great info! I was surprise to see that you get charge $25 annual membership fee from Farm Bureau. They charge me $41 for annual membership. I have been a loyal customer with them for many years, no accidents and no tickets but still my bill goes up.

    • In Florida, my membership fee for Farm Bureau is $48. I expected a difference in insurance costs but do not understand a difference in membership fees.

      • Must be the “of North Carolina” part – each state has their own Farm Bureau organization so they must set their rates state by state for the membership fee.

  • Hey. Greetings from your reader from Ljubljana, Slovenia. Welcome. Enjoy!

  • The Airbnb’s look great! You guys always find some great places. I’m starting to build up cash as well so kind of hoping we do see a bit of a correction in the next year or so – definitely a dream of mine to spend a good month traveling every summer but I’m a few years out from that for sure. Enjoy Europe!

  • Wow you guys, what an awesome trip! I was hoping for an update.

    As for tradelines, I’ve pondered it as I have a lot of open credit I never use, but I am leary of doing this. Yes, I guess it’s legal, but I just don’t know enough. Who are these AUs? What are they doing? Am I contributing to some mafia scheme? Haha, I don’t know! I’d be interested to hear your opinion.

    Take care and I hope the rest of your trip is wonderful.

    Vicki

    • I spent several hours reading up on tradelines and figure if this is how the credit reporting agencies and the lending industry want to do business then I’m fine staying within the lines on this. There is a very slight risk to me but the payoff makes it worthwhile. I wouldn’t encourage it without doing a lot of due diligence on the risks and getting comfortable with it. The AU in my case was some guy in California. I saw his driver’s license, home address, SS number, etc. He doesn’t see any of that info of mine – just that he’s an AU on my $10k credit card that’s been open for 5 years (and now he’s not any longer 🙂 ). Maybe he’s buying missiles for the mafia using a fake identity, but maybe he’s just trying to shave off half a point on his home mortgage, or qualify for a car loan so he can drive to work (I’m banking on the latter).

  • Looks like a great trip, and remarkably inexpensive. Re: “I might move another $25,000 into the Vanguard Total Bond Market index fund if markets keep going up like they have been.” Do you have an IPS you follow? Or maybe do you feel like this is such a small amount relative to your total portfolio that you are just making a ‘fun’ timing move to lock in some gains? You have clearly done really well with your portfolio since you retired, and am curious to know if you wing it or follow a strict policy.

    • I don’t have a strict IPS that’s written out. If I did it would be this:

      “Don’t buy individual stocks because I’m a dummy at picking stocks and timing the market. Keep almost all $ in equities because very long term, inflation will eat me alive and I can weather out the storm of a multi-year stock market correction. Keep a reserve in cash and stable bond funds to get me through those tough spots, and fill up that bucket of money when the markets go way up”.

      Basically, the $25k move into bonds is small enough that, while it’s clearly market timing based on my sense that the market is valued above-average, it’s not going to sink the ship. I’ll forgo the extra several percent return over the long term on these $25k chunks in order to have some stable assets available for spending in bad years. I’ve wanted to build this fixed income reserve since the bottom of the 2009 market and now seems like a smart time to do so.

  • $1,111 for the roof replacement seems pretty cheap! Was it a fix to damage that triggered it? Or more time to fix it? I’m all ready to replace mine, but at this point until there’s damage, it seems like insurance isn’t going to help out.

    • It was time to fix it anyway, but I called the insurance first to have them check it out. They found damage sufficient to warrant full replacement.

  • Your expenses are incredible. What an incredible year you’ve had. If you are able to come in at $30,000 spent for all of 2017, that is just awesome. It just shows that you can have a wonderful family life on not that much money if you’re smart. Well done! You need to become the poster family for great life on low dollars.

  • Looks like you’re having a great trip! Thanks for taking time to post about it! 😉

    Would love it if you’d do a total “cost summary” after everything’s said and done. Europe looks impressively cheap (especially the food)!

    Do you guys specifically hunt for the cheapest eats, or is it more like “Hey, that looks good… Let’s try that… oh, look how cheap it is!”

    I’m always amazed at how cheaply you guys travel! We’re heading to Japan this fall, and I’m hoping to keep our food costs in-line with what we spend at home (I know — good luck, right!)

    • Just shop like locals and you’ll do fine. Don’t buy the $300 grapes but rather whatever fruits are on sale in Japan. 🙂

      As for deciding what to eat – it’s usually decide on what we want to try and then figure out if there’s an inexpensive way to get it. Sometimes there is (street vendors for $3-4/plate vs $8-20 for similar at a sit down restaurant 1 block away) sometimes there’s not (Venice – seafood pasta plates x2 at $12-13 each). Another example – this morning in Munich – $0.20-0.30 pastries/pretzels/breads from the grocery store bakery vs $1.50-2.00 pastries from the real bakery across the street. I got some from each place to try without really looking at the cost (other than “hey, this nut-encrusted bread is $0.30 and that one is $1.00 but looks similar – let me get the cheaper one). Result was that the grocery store baked goods were way better than the fancy little bakery place. So far I don’t see a strong correlation between price and quality/enjoyment other than you’ll pay a lot more for ambiance. But I’m all about eating the actual food. 🙂

      At the grocery store, I’m trying all kinds of local goodies. So if I see a cool cheese that’s more expensive than the cheap cheese in a big package, I’ll try several of the smaller local cheeses even though it’s double the price. We’re still only spending $35-100 for a cart full of food (and drinks, some alcoholic!) which lasts us several days to a week. AKA about what we spend at home, sometimes less.

  • Amazing…living the life I have been dreaming about for a few years. I hope to accomplish what you are able to do in 10 years time. Your post is truly motivating.

  • I’m laughing at ME because our family spends *per month* about 75% of your YTD figure. Maybe I should be crying instead.

  • Great pics and looks like you’re having a great time there. $35 for all that grocery is amazing too! I’m loving the stock market gains like so many others but a part of me is starting to get nervous for a storm waiting to happen!

  • You guys are living the life! Awesome food and sightseeing on a very cheap budget. Awesome!
    I’d like to see the total cost summary too. We’re planning to fly into Europe and wander around for a couple of months. Then fly out of Eastern Europe. Plan is not solid yet.

    • I think it would be a lot cheaper to book train/bus tickets well ahead of time along with Airbnbs. The advance purchase price for bus/train tix are often 20-30% of what they will be if you wait till last minute, and you’ll get the best times for travel instead of taking whatever is left. Plus you can buy ryanair/easyjet tickets for longer travel segments which are usually cheaper several months out too. The good and cheap airbnbs sell out quickly too, as I’ve checked availability for last minute bookings and it will cost a lot more and probably mean getting inferior places to stay.

      The upside of having a rigid schedule is that you don’t have to plan the framework of the trip later while you’re traveling – all the logistics are already set. Just show up to the train station at the right time and hop on board!

  • I would think twice before forgoing travel health insurance.

    Two reasons. It is pretty cheap. I was quoted $78 for a family of 4 spending 17 days in Central America earlier this summer. Second you have one person on Medicaid and they will pay big fat nothing outside the US. We didn’t use our travel health insurance on our trip. We never got to leave as our son had an emergency appendectomy less than 24 before we were supposed to leave.

    • We can self insure quite a bit 🙂 The quotes I saw for reputable places for real insurance was $500 or so for the five of us. We’re saving many hundreds every year by foregoing travel insurance and have never needed it after many months on the road. Eventually we’ll need medical assistance overseas and pay out of pocket, and lose out on some non-refundable reservations. However most of our bookings for Europe were refundable completely, minus a small cancellation fee, so we wouldn’t have been out much if we had a medical emergency before leaving or had to go home early for some reason.

      • I am a wimp, and would be too afraid to travel without insurance. I was running a project for my company and one of the guys we had on site (not a third world country either) had a medical emergency (non work related) and we ended up medivaccing (sp?) him out. Cost was on the order of $50K just for the medivac. The alternative was for him to spend multiple months overseas in the hospital there. I know the odds are small, but……………………

        In any case, dont want to be a Debby Downer. LOL Love how you are living life the fullest and making the most of the Europe trip. Two thumbs up from me!!!!

        • Yeah, we’d either enjoy the few months in Europe or drop the $50k, suck it up and move on. 🙂 The “few months to recover” seems to be a very long tail event, as we’d be more likely to have something quickly treatable (or at least enough to be mobile again, perhaps requiring rebooking plane tickets back home sooner). Or a shorter recovery period than a few months.

  • Regarding the picture (This guy works hard), Is that an Airbnb ? Looks extremely nice. Great pictures.

    Just paid $1.89 a lb for cherries and that is the cheapest I have seen. Your grocery trip $35. Wow! Wish I could find those deals in the US. For some reason, I expected Europe to be more expensive. Love to hear more about your trip when you get back

    • Yes, that was our airbnb. Probably the nicest one we stayed in so far, though the one we’re in here in Munich is pretty nice and comfortable too (though further out from the city).

      Food here seems pretty cheap for most stuff. Meat might be a tiny bit more expensive for chicken and poultry but then again I’m comparing costs to the best sales at home. Veggies are generally cheaper here – salad ingredients are about half the cost of home and that’s for a nice lettuce or greens instead of iceberg lettuce. Tropical fruits are probably double the price (we’re skipping the mangoes and avocados while over here 🙂 ). Some stuff is ridiculously cheap – paid $0.25/lb for zucchini in Slovenia and $0.50/lb for fresh apricots. It’s usually 4x that much at home and that’s when things are on sale!

      Wine is cheap in southern Europe (a buck or two per bottle) whereas beer is dirt cheap here in Germany ($0.25-0.50 for many varieties of 16 oz beers which would be at least 3-5x that price at home for similar brews). We’re pretty much buying whatever is local and inexpensive wherever we are.

  • What about the view in Lisbon? A block of flats and the local ring road! Makes me wonder what the view in other countries was like heh heh. I seriously love this blog! Wish we’d bump into each other. You’re not coming to Belgium, are you?

    • I know, Joe, I wish we could have a get-together! I’m in Seattle.

      • I hope to make it to Seattle at some point. Geographically speaking it’s like on the other side of the world from us in Raleigh! 🙂 Farther away than Mexico and almost as far as western Europe. I hear your summers are nicer than North Carolina’s though

    • The back window is mostly buildings (an interesting bit of scenery for us since our backyard view at home is a lake with trees around it plus a tiny office building at the far end 🙂 ). Front window was beautiful – tall buildings by the huge river (that’s probably 1-2 miles wide) and a 500 year old monastery. Plus some soccer and rugby fields for free sports viewing. 🙂

      Not coming to Belgium this time around but we’ll be near-ish there when in Koblenz and doing some castle-viewing near the German border (closer to Luxemborg I think). And eventually in Amsterdam but just for a few days before flying back to the States. Belgium was on the list of places to visit initially but we had to trim it down so we weren’t traveling to a new city every other day.

  • Glad to see you living it up in Lisbon. Looks like you were really working hard, though there really is no reason to work at all for you. Gotta love it. I am headed to Italy for 2 weeks later this year and my in-laws are claiming it is going to be insanely expensive. Glad to see that it is completely possible to keep the costs low while on the go in Europe.

    Enjoy the rest of your well-earned vacation.

  • I don’t see how you keep your expenses so low. Maybe I am missing something. I’m going to have to dig through your posts to understand how this is accomplished. I’m especially interested in how you are vacationing at the same cost as your living expenses at home! Are there posts with details on this?

  • Congrats on another great month of net worth increase and low expenses! I’m glad you and your family are having a great time in Europe. I can assure you this is the life a lot of people are dreaming about, myself included. But I also know that you have gotten to this point through a lot of hard work and sacrifice. Kudos to you for your foresight and dedication!

  • I love reading your posts as well as your readers responses as it’s always beneficial to hear from like minded individuals. I’m semi retired but would like to fully retire as I’m 62 but I I’m easing into retirement just hard to make big changes. Keep up the good work!

  • I love trying random cheap food while traveling. The combinations different cultures come up with can be so intriguing and delicious. Do you think you’ll ever stop consulting entirely? I know 4 hours is not a lot of work, but I wonder if I would be willing to do any work at all once I reached a certain amount of passive income… I guess I would not want all of my brain power to atrophy.

    • Yeah, trying local stuff is awesome. I discovered “ajvar” in Slovenia (pronounced “ayvar”). Basically a vegetable sauce/dip/spread made from bell peppers, eggplants, and other goodies that comes in regular and spicy varieties. I mistook it for pasta sauce and what a great mistake it was (and also makes a great addition to pasta sauce!). Lots of interesting foods in Slovenia that are variations on foods we’re used to (burgers, pizza, kebabs, etc).

      I’m not sure if I’ll ever stop consulting. As long as it’s a few hours per month it’s nice. I enjoy helping other people craft a framework to get to FIRE too. For me, it’s basically chatting about something I already enjoy (hacking finances/taxes/investments/lifestyle) and getting paid for it. The fee from a one hour session basically buys us a full day of vacation. I don’t really need the money but enjoy it enough to not say “no” at this point. And I’ve been raising my rates to control demand – don’t want to get too busy.

  • Justin,

    Amazing job once again!!!

    Honest question for you… if you eclipse the 2 million dollar mark, why not move everything to ‘safe’ investments at 2-2.5% and never worry again? With your living expenses, 40-50,000 covers you, why not take the market risk completely out of the equation?

    I understand everyone references the trinity study as proof that the 4% withdrawal rate should be safe but why not take all chance out of the equation and stick to ‘CD’ or bond equivalent investments.

    You have consistently proved that your monthly controllable expenses are well within the necessary threshold.

    Just curious on your thoughts because I’m quickly approaching a similar point in my FI journey and I just get nervous everyday that I see the market continue to climb and I don’t begin moving assets to safe territory.

    Enjoy your vacation and keep posting pictures.

    • As we approach $2 million, I’m feeling wealthier and don’t feel the need to take as much risk, therefore I’m selling equities and dumping the $ into safer stuff. I’ll always keep the majority of assets in equities though, since that’s the only way to fight inflation (unless TIPS yield 4% real again 🙂 ). I’m more concerned with our net worth and purchasing power 20-30 years out, and not so much today or next year due to market fluctuations.

  • Looks like you are eating well on your trip! I’m interested in how you accumulated such a large networth at such an early age. I’m doing my homework and reading up on earlier posts. Glad to have stumbled upon your blog. Cheers!

  • Hey! We were just in Lisbon too! It was awesome. Very family friendly. We have a 1 year old and 3 year old and it wasn’t a problem at all. Many attractions had special lines for families or those with infants. We also got special treatment at the airport for check-in and security. Best of all Lisbon was very affordable. Our AirBnB was in the center of town any only cost $150 per night for three rooms overlooking the square.

    • We got ushered through the special family line at the airport security, too! I thought they were telling us we’re in the wrong line at first. Turns out they were helping us out.

      Nice job on the lodging. Amazing how cheap it is there.

  • In case you are still in Germany and have a day or two to spare: In Münster every ten years the Skulptur Projects come to the city.

    https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/best-images-munster-sculpture-project-987512

    https://www.skulptur-projekte.de/#/ (Bottom left set to English)

    https://www.skulptur-projekte.de/#/En/Map

    You can do organized tours or just go yourself, for free 🙂

    I’d advice you to rent bikes at the main station (there is an underground bike parking where you can rent them) and enjoy an art-day in the bike capitol of Germany 🙂

    • Looks pretty cool! Some of my favorite art is done by unknown people on the sides of buildings 🙂 Just found a cool graffiti this morning on a walk to the grocery here in Munich that I’ve never noticed the several times I’ve driven past it (at much higher speeds).

      Sadly, we will be 3+ hours away from Munster at the closest (while we’re staying near Koblenz) so we’ll most likely miss Munster this time around. I’m loving Germany so far, so I hope to make it back here some day soon.

  • The Wealthy Healthy

    Enjoy your trip! I feel the same in the bull markets… It’s an eventuality that things start a bit of a nosedive.

    And congratulations on the digital nomad status – could be the seeds of an evergreen remote business.

    • I guess “digital nomad” could be a good plan C if the investment returns turn to crap for a decade or more, and cutting expenses at home won’t work. 🙂 Or if US-based healthcare ever grows unaffordable/inaccessible for us.

  • Nice!

    Quibe, kepi, cupi, etc is one of my specialties. Is a middle eastern food (Syria/Lebanon) that was adopted all over where these people emigrated. Just recently I had one from a vendor in the beach near Cancun. I make it grilled tough, with mint and pine nuts thrown in the filing. If you know the meat to be fresh, etc, is also really good raw, with some olive oil and finely chopped onion as well…

    • Oh wow, didn’t know they had them in Cancun or elsewhere in Mexico! I’ll have to keep a lookout next time we’re down there.

      Those things are good! I wouldn’t try it raw but I bet Mrs. Root of Good might! The one we had in Lisbon was deep fried I think, though it might have been toasted or on a grill. Pretty tough exterior but the interior was soft.

  • Hello, this is Jos from Holland, great article, I hope you all enjoy Europe. Looks like you already lost some weight, probably because of all the hard work. Sorry if my English is not correct. Keep enjoying your holliday with the whole family, you all are very lucky people.

  • Good pics and you are a master at eating on a budget. Good luck visiting the other countries. The fund appears to be very close to 2 million. Wow.

  • Amazing update and you’re killing it with the NW report! Your expenses are so low for a family of 5 including travel! That’s amazing. I went to Spain in 2013 by myself (went to visit a friend who was living in Barcelona) and loved it, the Alhambra is gorgeous and I remember going to Sevilla too. I did venture into a bull fight (everyone was walking towards the arena so I wanted to join in and bought tickets) without realizing what it was about. It did not appeal to me and I had to leave in the middle of it, I couldn’t watch the rest of it. Gorgeous pictures and thanks for sharing.

    • I’m conflicted about the bullfighting too. I’d like to see it at least once in person, but so far they weren’t in bullfighting season whenever we’ve been in Spain or Mexico and near a bullfighting ring.

  • Nice! Looks like your $40/day food budget for the family isn’t going to be a problem at all!

    I’m still amazed at how cheap central/eastern europe is. I thought we’d seen most of Europe last time we were here, but there still SO many places to explore.

    Looks like the more luxurious your life gets, the more your costs go down. *scratches head* 😛

  • I’m soooo glad I found your blog, you’ve got another subscriber! Very inspiring to read, as I’m on my journey to achieving financial freedom as well. I like to share all investments I’m doing and also track and post the performance every month. I haven’t shared our expences yet, maybe I should start doing that. I just started investing and blogging a few months ago so I still have a long way to go. If anyone would be interested in joining me on the road to financial freedom, feel free to come by and say hi!

  • Seems like 30k in dividends is a bit low for that net worth or am I not seeing the full picture. Great Blog take care.

    • Some of our investments are in proprietary funds (in our 457 and 401k) and as such they don’t explicitly pay dividends but instead increase the value of the shares of the fund. But overall, a 2% yield on $1.6 million gives roughly the $30k or so that we get. We don’t focus on dividends in our investing, so our yield is lower than a dividend-focused investor.

  • I love your blog! I subscribe to blogs via an app called Feedly, For some reason, it dropped your blog recently and I am having trouble linking your blog back into my feed. When I type in the ROG URL, Feedly says, “no such blog.” Are you aware of any way that this can be fixed? I suspect that some of your readers subscribe via Feedly. When a new article pops up, I head over to the blog because I enjoy reading the robust comment section along with the blog.

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