October 2016 Financial Update

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Now that the trick or treating is over and October is gone, I’m ready to share the good and bad financial data from last month.  Our income, mostly derived from this blog, remained very strong at $8,365 while our expenses ended the month at $1,460 which left us with a large cash surplus.  If I make much more money, I’m afraid I might be “unretired”!

I can’t say I paid any attention to the stock market in October but apparently it declined.  In spite of income exceeding expenses by about $7,000, our net worth still dropped by $29,000 to $1,618,000.  Since this is significantly more money than we had a year or two ago, I continue to feel safe and secure at our current net worth levels.

Here’s the straight dope on our October financials:

 

Income

October investment income dropped to $31 after a much stouter September with $4,160.  That’s the nature of the beast since most of our funds pay at the end of each quarter which means March, June, September, and December always bring us high investment income while the other months are near zero.  We are still on pace for matching or exceeding the total of $28,527 in dividend income received in 2015.  Although I’m no dividend-focused investor, dividends still figure significantly into our annual cash flow by helping provide the funds we need for living expenses.

No October post would be valid without the obligatory pumpkin pic. Neighborhood event in the park.

No October post would be valid without the obligatory pumpkin pic. Neighborhood event in the park.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, ballooned to $7,253 while my early retirement lifestyle consulting also increased healthily to $1,076.  Blog income was higher than normal because I received both September and October payments from one advertiser during the month of October.  The consulting income remained very strong even though I raised rates last month.  As one client mentioned, it’s hard to find good, competent professionals that understand taxes and investments with a focus on very early retirement at any price point, and particularly at the relative pittance I’m charging (though I don’t claim to be a professional or anything more than “a guy that writes stuff on the internet and retired at 33”).

The $4 in Deposits includes the cash back rebates from the Ebates.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals. If you sign up through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Ebates, you’ll get a $10 gift card like I did.  I try to do all of my online shopping through one of these portals and the cash back adds up fast. I recently booked an $857 cruise for next month through Expedia by clicking through Ebates to get to Expedia.  I’ll be getting $85.70 in cash back once we return home from the cruise in December.  Ebates is a nice way to get a 10% discount on every cruise from a booking site we already use.  I’ll also be using one of those shopping portals later in the month if I see any good deals on Black Friday / Cyber Monday.

On a slightly different note, our ten year old just landed her first job!  Someone asked us if one of our kids would be interested in making some cash as a tutor for their kid.  Now our little gal makes $10 per hour as a tutor.  She will be working one hour after school Monday through Thursday.  If this gig continues, she might make enough to fund a Roth IRA like Go Curry Cracker’s kid!  This also supports my notion that mom and dad won’t be on the hook for very much during the kids’ college years.

october-2016-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 look at October expenses:

october-2016-expenses

While some consider $1,460 to be a mind blowing monthly expense total for a family of five, I consider it just another routine month where we didn’t have any huge lumpy annual expenses (like property taxes or insurance).  We spent almost $2,000 less than our budget of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).  For the second month in a row, travel spending topped the expense report (and I like it that way!).

Travel – $579:  In September it was cruises. In October it was plane tickets for the five of us to, from, and around Europe.  We booked tickets from Raleigh to Lisbon, Portugal for June, 2017 with the return from Amsterdam to Raleigh in August, 2017.  Even though we used United Airline miles to score “free” tickets, we still had to pay tax on the tickets which was almost $400 for the five of us.

For those in the points/miles game, we spent 60,000 miles per ticket, or 300,000 total to fly economy between Raleigh and Europe.  By booking so far ahead of time we scored some great flights that are only 10 hours to Europe and 13 hours back home including connection times.

With United’s new redemption rules, you get a free one way flight anywhere within the region you’re flying to (in this case, Europe).  We used the free flight for a short hop from Lisbon to Malaga, Spain.  We could have flown all the way across Europe to some distant corner (Estonia?) but instead chose to take a relatively short flight to coastal Spain since we wanted to visit that area and it’s cooler in June than it is later in the summer.  We’re slowly making our way north across the continent as the temperature rises throughout the summer.

All of those 300,000 United miles came from sign up bonuses for credit cards, so if you’re interested in free flights to Europe don’t forget to check out my credit card page.

We also jumped on a luke warm Ryanair deal from Seville, Spain to Milan, Italy for $194 total for the five of us.  There might be some extra checked bag fees later on if we can’t pack extremely light like we did for our 7 weeks in Mexico last summer.

All of our gear for seven weeks in Mexico.

All of our gear for seven weeks in Mexico.

So far, we spent $579 for our 9 week trip to Europe and managed to buy all the flights for our trip (20 one way tickets in all).  Hopefully this is prelude to a nice low cost, high value summer in Europe!

After visiting Portugal, Spain, and Italy, we will continue through Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Germany before flying back home from Amsterdam.  It won’t be cheap even with my travel hacking skillz.  I’ll feel really proud if we can pull it off for less than $10,000, and content with a total under $15,000.  In rough terms, we’ll probably spend around $6,000-7,000 on lodging ($100/day), $3,500 ($50/day) on food, $2,000 ($30/day) on ground transportation between and within cities, and $1,000 on various admission fees, attractions, and entertainment.

Sound off in the comments if I’m being completely ridiculous about prices but keep in mind we have hotel points for free nights and will rely heavily on airbnb (click for $35 off your first rental), and will probably dine out once per day and buy groceries for the other meals.  Trains and buses are stupid cheap in most places (goeuro.com is amazing for cost comparisons) and often come with kids ride cheap or free promotions.

I’ll probably ramp up the hotel/airbnb reservations in the early spring and book those advance purchase train tickets that come with discounts for booking early as the reservation windows open up.  Anyone have experience booking airbnb apartments six or eight months before their stay?

I’ll publish a more in depth article on the trip at some point.

Groceries – $366: Another modest month buying groceries.  Some of the savings came from “shopping in our freezer and pantry” instead of buying stuff at the store.  Here’s a typical month of groceries for us.

We enjoy good food cooked from scratch.  Somehow we find these incredible deals on groceries including some high end, “fancy” ingredients.  At Kroger, we scored about $80 worth of imported Italian goodies like cheeses, pasta sauce, prosciutto, and olives at 75-95% off retail prices.

We also shop at the ethnic grocery stores in our neighborhood.  After walking to the kid’s school for morning drop off, we continued walking to the neighborhood Latino supermarket and picked up three pounds of poblano peppers (on clearance but still perfectly good), a bunch of cilantro, two and a half pounds of fresh tortillas, and two bottles of imported Guatemalan hot sauce for $6.  These goodies combined with some large hunks of meat led to incredible fajitas for under $1 per meal.  “Reminds me of those street tacos in Mexico” one of our kids remarked.  ¡Que rico!

Some of that prosciutto and mascarpone gracing the tops of some day old ciabatta bread. Mmm... discount good eats.

Some of that prosciutto and mascarpone gracing the tops of some day old ciabatta bread. Mmm… discount good eats.

Clothing – $134: Fall and winter clothes for the kids.  One pair of shoes.  A combo of Walmart and the thrift store.  The thrift store offered all girls/women’s apparel at 40% off.  How incredible is that?  A steep discount on top of already low prices.  As usual, the thrift store haul included some articles of clothing with price tags still attached.

Healthcare/Medical – $129: Health insurance premiums of $125 for our very impressive gold plated silver plan obtained through Healthcare.gov with some very sizable ACA subsidies. $4 for some random lab tests at the doctor.

For those looking for insurance in early retirement, on November 1st the Healthcare.gov marketplace started open enrollment for 2017.  You can price out plans based on your income and household size.  Even though North Carolina was one of those states that lost a few insurers, we picked up one new insurer (Cigna) bringing the total number of companies offering insurance in Raleigh to two, with Blue Cross Blue Shield being the other one.

The two cheapest silver plans look like reasonably good options for our family.  I’m debating between the $50 per month plan with $200 deductible, no kid dental coverage and limited network and the $125 per month plan with $800 deductible, kid dental, and nationwide network plus out of network coverage.  Those costs are after the very generous premium tax credit/subsidy and include large cost sharing subsidies since our MAGI is less than 150% of the federal poverty level.

Utilities – $103: Water, sewer, trash.  In a previous month I prepaid the electric bill by applying an extra $250 toward my account balance – more credit card travel hacking.

October is a cheap time of year for utilities since we don’t need to use the heat or the air conditioning.  Winter is coming (like the Game of Thrones reference?).  A few minutes before pressing “publish”, I had to turn on the heat.  It was 62 inside the house and the forecast for the week calls for brisk mornings in the 40’s and cool afternoons topping out in the upper 60’s.  I appreciate thriftiness, but don’t mind dropping a few bucks to keep it 68 degrees during the day and 63 at night.

Hurricane Matthew blew through in October. Culvert underneath our property almost topped out. That plus 4-5 more feet of water equals a flooded crawlspace.

Hurricane Matthew blew through in October. Culvert underneath our property almost topped out. That plus 4-5 more feet of water equals a flooded crawlspace.

On the bright side, the kids got to play in a hurricane!

On the bright side, the kids got to play in a hurricane!

Education – $66: Field trips for the year for the elementary school kid.

Free education: troubleshooting a freebie TV given to us by some family. Looks like a $4 fuse will fix it.

Free education: troubleshooting a freebie TV given to us by some family. Looks like a $4 fuse will fix it.

Restaurants – $38: Dinner at a pizza place for the whole family and a clandestine lunch at the Chinese restaurant for Mrs. Root of Good and I (we brought home some fortune cookies and mints for the kids).

Internet (“Cable”) – $34: 50/5 mbit service.

Entertainment – $4: One hour boat rental on the city lake.  Small price to pay for a beautiful morning paddling on the water.  My first bald eagle sighting was included at no additional charge.

Most of our entertainment is free.  Tennis or other sports/recreation at neighborhood parks.  Walking/hiking on the trails.  Hanging out with friends at the park or at our house.  Campfires in the back yard.  A seemingly endless string of birthday parties.  Visits to the art museum, science museum, and children’s museum.  After all that, it’s time to kick back and relax with some video games, Netflix (which actually costs us a tiny bit), and library books (like European travel guides).

Free visit to the children's museum. I'm strapped in with the little dude at the flight stick. HELP!!

Free visit to the children’s museum. I’m strapped in with the little dude at the flight stick. HELP!!

Special huge inflatable bunny week at the Art Museum. Free, of course.

Special huge inflatable bunny week at the Art Museum. Free, of course.

Boat rental - not free but worth every penny of the $4. Also cheaper and more fun than a gym membership. And bald eagles.

Boat rental – not free but worth every penny of the $4. Also cheaper and more fun than a gym membership. And bald eagles. And look at that grin.

Home Maintenance – $2: A gallon of gas for the lawn mower. Colder weather = no more mowing (soon).

Gas – $0: Nope, not for the car. But I did get a full tank in early November which you can read all about next month.

 

Year to Date Living Expenses

october-2016-ytd-expenses

That should read “through 10/31/2016”

At $30,780 year to date spending, we remain below our annual spending target of $33,333 budgeted for the first ten months of the year by a few thousand dollars.

Other than paying for gas, parking, and tips on our two cruises in December, we won’t have a lot of expenses out of the ordinary.  I’m planning on replacing the roof sometime in the next year but I don’t think I have time to get bids, research those bids, schedule an installation time, and deal with any unexpected delays before we leave for our first cruise in less than three weeks.  And there’s a huge Thanksgiving feast we’ll be throwing somewhere in that schedule.  Otherwise, I would go ahead and tackle this project in November.

The budget for the roof replacement is somewhere around $4,000 to $8,000.  I could probably fit it in the $40,000 annual budget this year, or underspend 2016’s budget by a bit, then go over slightly in 2017 if we do the roof replacement in the spring.

 

Monthly Expense Summary:

 

Net Worth: $1,618,000 (-$29,000)

After several good months we experienced a slight reversal of fortune in October as $29,000 disappeared from our net worth statement.  It’s to be expected.  The market goes up, it goes down.  October happened to be a down month.  So far November is following in October’s footsteps.

october-2016-net-worth

From last month’s financial update:

We’re still sitting on over $50,000 in cash in our credit union money market account right now.  I’ll be moving some of that cash around for year end tax planning, like a large solo 401k contribution, but I will also hang on to part of that cash in order to provide a buffer against severe market downturns.

My procrastination paid off since we’re sitting on even more cash right now and I still haven’t pulled the trigger on the IRA or solo 401k contributions and the market is lower now than it was a month ago.  I’m either the wisest or laziest investor ever.

This pretty much sums it up right here. Didn't cost a penny but worth a million bucks.

This pretty much sums it up right here. Didn’t cost a penny but worth a million bucks.

 

Looking for year end tips to get your finances in order? Check out these 11 tips to finish the year strong.

 

 

How was your October?  Any big year end financial moves?  Ready to end the year on a high note?

 

 

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105 comments

  • Wow, your blog income is impressive! It sounds like the blog income alone could cover your normal living expenses if you can maintain the success with the current advertisers.

    Looks like a great month on the “living life” front too.

    In regards to the IRA/Solo, who cares if you were lazy or wise? 😀

    I frontloaded the IRA in January. Shame on me.

    • Depending on when in January you front-loaded, you’re probably better off! January was also quite a low point for the markets.

    • I’ll go with wise. It’ll greatly help my reputation as a market guru.

      This month was a pretty typical month lifestyle-wise (well maybe more outdoorsy stuff because OMG the weather!!). I just don’t always do a great job of dumping pictures into these posts like I should. I’d hate to think that others felt a $4 monthly entertainment budget was limiting in any respect! 😉

      Yes, the blog income covers our expenses in most months. Such a strange situation to be in. Totally unexpected from my pre-FIRE forecasts of what a part time / side hustle income might look like ($6000 to $12000/yr was the most I ever forecast in a best case scenario, and that was at $15/hr).

  • Awesome blog income, and even better job on scoring those flights to Europe! I should probably start looking at fares to Europe as well, but have been distracted by other planning. We have a trip to Costa Rica coming up, then one to the Caribbean in the spring. I stole some of you hacking tips from the Canada trip so our costs for the next few vacations should be really low as well.
    Cheers!
    Mr CK

    • Very cool! Yeah book those Europe tickets as soon as you can. I didn’t want to get locked out of choice flights, connections, and dates because I’m shopping for 5 tickets together, so I had to book waaaaaay early before I really knew what we wanted to see or visit in Europe. Now we know roughly it’ll be 5 nts Lisbon, 9 nts southern Spain, and the other ~7 weeks somewhere between Italy and Amsterdam (details TBD).

  • I’m excited to hear about the Europe trip. We loved our time there, and once the kids are a bit older (like, all potty trained and out of car seats!) we will be going back!

    • Yeah, getting the youngest out of diapers makes traveling 10x easier. And I notice each year he gets easier and easier in general. He kind of realizes on the longer travel days that he’ll just have to go with the flow (even if that means sleeping in a seat/chair somewhere).

  • Great use of free entertainment! I see you listed kids birthday parties under that category but nothing in your budget for gifts? Can you share what you do for gifts for the kids birthday parties?

    • Great question Karen. I was about to ask the same thing, but perhaps more broadly for gifts. Weddings, showers, birthday gifts, etc. Particularly if the other party has already provided a gift and socially expects something in exchange when it’s their turn.

      • Check out the reply to Karen. I’ll also throw out that we didn’t throw baby showers or wedding showers or whatever they do these days for ourselves, partly because we didn’t want to obligate anyone to spend money on crap we don’t need. We still go to the occasional baby shower and willingly participate in the gift giving (what’s the point of $ if you can be generous occasionally? 🙂 ).

        • Your stance on gift giving is fairly similar to our own. We’ve got our first little one on the way so no idea how the children’s birthday party thing works out. We live at the edge of two cul-de-sacs with something like 32 kids under the age of 13 (imagine Lord of the Flies) so the birthday party thing could get out of hand quite quickly.

          As a side note, I’ve been living on the border of Cary/Apex for a few years now and just recently stumbled on your blog. I’d love to get a coffee or beer sometime if you’re interested.

          • Wow, 32 kids? You could field not one, but two full football teams!

            Not sure how to handle all those b-day parties. Subtly suggest to every single one of them that “no gift required” is the only sane way to avoid having thousands of generic toys junking up their houses? Definitely start the trend yourself if you host a b-day party by making it clear on the invitation that no gift is required.

    • We spend very little on gifts throughout the year. For kids’ friends b-day parties, some are “no gift required; your attendance is gift enough” which are awesome. For others, we usually pick up fairly generic stuff throughout the year if we see a good buying opportunity. That’s mainly arts and crafts kits and girly make up/nail salon/hair stuff (oldest 2 are girls with mostly girl friends). Sometimes we’ll round it out with something thoughtful from the dollar store (arts/crafts, small toys, nothing too junky; most recently it was a few 12 packs of origami designs/papers for $1 each along with a bigger present).

      Somehow we’ve managed to not get invited to a lot of weddings (yay small social network in real life?? 😉 ) or we don’t have friends that throw huge weddings perhaps. But for those we usually pick something on the lower price range on the registry or go with a cash gift or gift card ($50-100ish is probably pretty typical for us I think, but Mrs. RoG is mostly in charge of that department). Similar with baby showers – something in the $20-50 range depending on how close we are to the person. We also no longer work, so that eliminates all those random gift requirements (that we would frequently ignore anyway).

      For all the nieces and nephews (and there are a lot!) it’s $10-20 cash.

      Overall, our friends and family aren’t really big on gift giving. Probably because none of us are from wealthy backgrounds, so simple is normal for us. Time together is more important than gifts. And if someone tries to escalate the gift giving arms race, they’re welcome to learn that we aren’t interested in playing that game the following year but graciously accept their generosity.

  • Hello! Great blog, been reading some older articles for, like, the last month or so.

    On the costs of an 9-week eurotrip, I think you’d be really lucky to keep the food cost as low as 50 dollars per day for a family of five if you’re planning to dine out kind of every night. You can find some really cheap (and, boy, wonderful) small, cozy, delicious restaurants in Portugal and Spain, and Eastern Europe is also a cheap place to eat, but I’d say you’d be more close to 12 euro/person/day than to 10 dollars/person/day.

    On the travelling costs, bus routes are really cheap, you should consider it in some routes, mainly the shorter ones.

    Best regards!

    • I might be way off on the food. I cringe when I see the restaurants in the guidebooks where it’s €25-35 per adult meal (which we might do on rare occasions) but I also know there are a lot of pizza/sandwich/gyro kind of places where it’s probably closer to €5-7 per person. And pastries look to be very cheap (€1-1.5 many places) so that plus some fruit and yogurt from the grocery store equals breakfast for €1-2 per person. We’re also down with some baguettes, cheeses, meats, and fruits for picnic lunches on occasion (nothing like spending 2 hours laid out in a park enjoying a leisurely lunch, right?).

      Also helpful to our per meal average is skipping Paris and London on this trip. Other than Milan, Venice, and Amsterdam I don’t think we’ll get hammered with high COL cities.

      • There’s a lot of street food in big Europe cities. You can get a tasty bratwurst for a couple euros.

        • That’s what I figure. I’m a huge fan of street food and grabbing on the go and settling down at a park with a view is more our style than a formal sit down restaurant. Then when the kids start doing flips and jumping jacks it’s totally socially appropriate. 🙂 I figure there will be enough €5-7 family meals from the grocery store and <€20 street food meals to balance it out to somewhere around €50/day. What/where were your favorite street foods?

          • I went during winter where there were a lot of “Christmas markets”, so I’m not sure if it would be the same in summer time. i assume they have different types of street vendors to accomodate the increased tourists.

            I defintiely had a lot of bratwursts. Currywurst is big in some places but I’m not a curry guy. I also had Iberian ham in Spain which was tasty…Paris, I had a really delicious sandwich with ham and like 5 different types of melted cheese on it.

            if you make it over to Germany, try the doner kabob, I think it’s Turkish. One of my European food regrets is not trying it.

            • Doner kabob is definitely on the list along with currywurst (love love love curry). I think we’ll be spending quite a bit of time in Germany between Munich and some other cities TBD.

              Iberian ham is delicious but oh so pricey around here. Hopefully getting it locally will drive down the price and I can eat it by the fistful (okay I don’t really like it that much…).

            • Iberian ham can be kind of pricey in Spain, too. But boy, it’s delicious.

              On the subject of Munich, I didn’t really like the locally popular Weisswurst, which is popular in Munich. Go for the brezel with cheese, it’s soooooo good a match for a Bavarian beer at the biergarten!

          • We spent 4 weeks in Nice last year, and 6 weeks in Barcelona this year. We discovered that lots of restaurants have special lunch menus. In Barcelona a 3 course lunch including bread and a drink was usually under 10euro each. (children cheaper) Half the price, at least, of eating out in the evening. Advantage was that you only needed to top up with bread, meat, cheese from the supermarket in the evenings. It also stopped a lot of casual snacking because you were full!). We ate like this about 3/4 times a week, and did light cooking (fish, pasta, rice) the other days. Barcelona was cheaper than Nice, so hopefully Paris is no worse than Nice!
            Good luck from the retirees at the other end of the spectrum! Enjoy

            • Much thanks! Yes, I neglected to mention we usually go out for lunch while out exploring. Then go back to the apartment for some R+R and quiet time in the evenings. So rarely go out for dinner. 100% with you on the savings for lunch vs. dinner for what is typically the exact same food (possibly with slightly smaller portions).

          • You can totally hit up Aldi in Europe! They are even nicer than in the US. When we lived there we would eat tons of fresh mozzarella balls (50 cents for 6 oz each) with tomato and basil (1 euro a plant). Super cheap gouda in the Netherlands. Strumpf waffles. Oh my gosh. Those delicious caramel waffle cookies. Don’t worry, you will be doing TONS of walking. It evens out!

            • Sounds awesome. I’m a huge fan of eating whatever is cheap locally. Looking forward to cheap cheeses that I’m used to paying $$$ for when imported to the US. I also understand some wines are €1 per bottle in Spain (which means better wines are still probably €3 or so). My own form of geographic arbitrage – enjoying expensive stuff for really cheap prices when abroad.

      • Sure! Street food is great, I was considering the cost too low to include “dinners”. But if you just do it on occasion and rely more on delicious street food, you surely will be fine with your budget.

      • If you don’t have it yet, get the Hilton Reserve C.C. You get two free weekend nights and Gold status….that gets you free breakfast and access to the club lounges. Might I suggest the Hilton Stucky Hotel in Venice…awesome buffet and a roof top pool looking over Venice. That’s what we did, loved it…we also used Airbnb for two nights as well. Rented a whole house for 5 as well, a little over $100 a night. Booked 4 months in advance…book early, lots of places were already filled.

  • Glad you got to enjoy the bunnies! We didn’t make it (darn them for only making it 10 days.) And I think being cautious with your cash at this point is a good idea…there’s a lot of uncertainty about things, and I’m not sure it will settle down this week. Good luck with your ACA decision…we still need to do ours but this will be the first year going with lower deductibles hasn’t paid off.

    • The bunnies were a little disappointing. They were neat – don’t get me wrong – but after you see them for 5-10 minutes you’re kind of ready to move on to other things. The new park area at the art museum looks pretty cool. And that place was amazingly packed for a Friday night (given that it’s an art museum). Didn’t know Raleigh was so full of “culture”!

  • Sounds like another great month.
    For our Europe trip, I booked Airbnb lodging months in advance and had no problems. With Airbnb it’s way more important to snag a great spot if it’s available because there might not be anything else quite like it, so booking early is good.
    Your $4 TV repair reminded me of the time we repaired our hot tub with a $4 relay. Good stuff!

    • Hmmm… in that case maybe I need to go ahead and start booking Airbnb’s for the earliest part of our vacation? I’m seeing some incredible values out there all over, even where the average price per night is over USD$150 (which is generally Italy, Germany, and Austria).

  • Wow alot going on financially this month. Definitely fantastic blog income. We leverage many of the same travel hacking trips to keep costs down. It really helps though to do longer trips, it means cheaper lodging, flight costs differed over more weeks, ECT. If only my vacation would support it.

    • The longer term travel will definitely save us a ton. Those flights to/from Europe would be $6,000 at retail! The one downside of moving from country to country is that we won’t be staying in one place for longer than 3-7 days at a time. So we won’t get a lot of advantage from weekly rental rates at our airbnbs.

  • Hi Justin, you could use Amovens/Blablacar to move in Europe… it is pretty cheap and fast. The only problem is that usually there is not enough room for five people… but you can try.

    Regards,

    Homo Investor

    • Thanks for the tip. I’ll have to investigate those further. It seemed like blablacar was mostly intended for 1, maybe 2 passengers. And if they charge per passenger, it will be hard to be the train combo deals where 3 kids ride free or dirt cheap. Seems like all the trains in or around Germany offer incredible value, plus those in eastern Europe. The only expensive transport that I’ve seen is in Southern Spain (but it’ll still be under €100 for all 5 of us between cities), and in Italy (only taking 2-3 trains there).

  • Another great month! Heartiest of congratulations to you and the family, since everyone contributes in their own way (even if it isn’t whining about something or other).

    Currently in the midst of a two month timeshare sojourn to the ocean in SC. Like yourselves we keep costs down on these longer stays by eating most meals in the condo, and using all the discount coupons available in tourist destinations like Myrtle Beach to offset when we do go out. At the same time we lower the costs at our vacant home to a minimum by lowering tbe furnaces to a minimum setting just in case, turning the water off completely, and suspending things like our TV service. I will keep track of our expenses on this trip and estimate our savings by not be in TN to see what two months in our oceanfront lodgings cost us, and I plan to do the same when we do it again for three months starting Jànuary 1st. Gotta love offseason travel, far from tne maddening/working crowd folks.

    Loved the TV story. My best is still when I recently found a persistent rattle underneath the wife’s H3 when she would accelerate. There were all kinds of comments on the Web and videos on YouTube saýing what the problem was, but none of them solved it, and when listening to it the sound reverberated from all directions. Finally found the issue, namely a clamp holding up a section of the exhaust system had rusted off, allowing the exhaust to rattle against other metal near it. The solution – a $2 stainless steal clamp, versus anything a mechanic might have dreamed up.

    Question – if your blog income continues at a high rate, won’t it impact your ACA premium costs next year? A pleasant problem to have, but just curious.

    • These kids helped a lot with that TV! All those screws… 🙂 And down the road when the kids are on their own, I’m less likely to get those “daddy, can you come look at this? It’s broken” phone calls (er, texts? FB messages??).

      Fun story on the H3. I’ve discovered a rattle before but didn’t bother to fix it. Just glad it wasn’t something mechanical with the engine/transmission/exhaust system!

      All those costs you won’t incur when you’re away from home certainly add up. If you include groceries, I figure we save about $1000 when we’re out of town. So when I’m thinking about spending $10-15k for a summer in Europe, it’ll be more like $8-13k after subtracting out those baseline expenses. More savings if I shut the water off with the city and turn off the internet.

      As for the blog income, at some point it might impact my ACA premiums. So far it looks like I can land a $40-42k/yr MAGI since I can put $29,000 into a solo 401k and 2 tIRAs, plus 25% of my “profit” to the solo 401k. I think blog income will end the year just under $40k and I’ll have to dig through receipts and records and find some business deductions too. But yes, eventually the blog income will run away from me and I might face higher ACA premiums. One way around that would be to shift to some other form of corporate structure that won’t impact my MAGI (ie earnings retained at the corporate level). Not sure it would be worth the hassle at today’s income levels however.

  • Another great month Justin! I focused right in on the TV troubleshooting. Our TV died and my husband did some research on it. He got put on a waiting list on an online electronics place that thought they could get the part – and about 2 months later it arrived. For $35 and an hour of YouTube videos and research, he saved our $450 TV. It’s terrific you’re showing the kids things to try before just tossing things. Your grocery bills are still my envy!

    • I’m 90% sure this $4 fuse will fix the issue but if not I could spend $35-40 to replace the power supply and have an almost brand new 43″ TV (probably worth $200-300+ at retail, maybe half that on craigslist; it’s a Samsung).

  • Very nice month despite a little lower net worth. It’s a noise anyway. E.g. pre-election euphoria has SP500 quite high.
    As another N.Carolinian, I have a few questions re flights to the EU. Unfortunately, CLT is closer for me.
    Is AA a monopoly in Raleigh also or not?
    Can you tell me what kind of strategy you used for the United flights?
    Are they direct one-way flights (one to Portugal and then another from Amsterdam)?
    Does United still charge 30k (?) one-way even though you have to change planes?
    How does it work to score a free flight within the EU? I’m guessing you had to outline all your flights in one itinerary (Raleigh to Portugal one-way, Amsterdam to Raleigh another one-way and once the United system saw these ‘two legs’ it allowed a freebie flight within the EU). OTOH, were all those 300K miles in one account. How many and what kind United CC’s did you (both?) get? If two the same but separate itineraries to split the family, I’d say you were lucky to get the same flights this cheaply.

    Is United CC under 5/24 rule too? They used to be excluded, but not sure how it is now.

    Re costs in the EU. I think you can easily do for less than $15k if you use Carefour (?), Lidl/Aldi and some of the local street or fast food. Donner places are wonderful to stuff you up for the price. And if you feel like eating healthier they have salad. However, I prefer donner places in Germany than in France or Italy for example just because of the sauce they use on that meat in that donner. If you go to a local market, you’ll score some nice bakery and food items as they have those foodie trucks there. Grab a roasted chicken or two, make some salad and lunch or dinner is set. Pasta dishes are super easy. If you intend to walk a lot (you’ll have to 😉 you want easy/quick dinner at an AirBnB and the walking will burn all those calories.

    BTW, just do not be too cheap on the gelato in Italy. You might think you get cheap per scoop but then you will not like the taste. So, it you see one place serving a scoop for 0.70 euros per scoop but another for 1.00+, I’d vote for the more expensive for sure.

    • Great tips on the food front and I’m sure we’ll be doing a combo of all that. I love checking out the local grocery stores and also love our Aldi’s here in Raleigh. I can usually make something pretty killer out of whatever cheap produce they have on sale at Aldi plus some meat (and maybe a local baked goody for the grains – can’t wait to try out all the local bread specialties!). And those roasted chickens are one way we ate super cheap in Mexico. It was usually USD$2-3 for a small to medium roast chicken, veggies, and tortillas and 1 was almost enough but 2 was way too much (como se dice “leftovers for breakfast or next day snack on a sandwich??”).

      I’m excited to try the gelato because I’ve never had “real” gelato from a gelateria. Just the stuff in the jars here in the supermarket (and wasn’t impressed at all).

      As for the United flights, I think they have flights out of Charlotte too. We are connecting through IAD Washington Dulles both directions. Just one layover each way. So it’s an hour to/from IAD, then a couple hour layover, then about 7.5 hours to Lisbon and 9-10 hours from Amsterdam. The way I booked was 3 tickets: #1 Raleigh-Lisbon, #2 Lisbon-Malaga Spain, #3 Amsterdam-Raleigh. With their new rules you get the Europe flight for free when you book w/ the other 2 flights. Taxes are highly variable and could be double what we paid (we picked Amsterdam on purpose because it was much cheaper tax-wise to depart from though higher COL in the city will eat those savings for sure!). Those flights were 60k total round trip, and you can arrive at and depart from different airports in Europe (“open jaw ticketing” in airline parlance). In fact your intra-Europe flight could be between totally different airports than you fly into or out of coming to/from the US. Like Charlotte-Lisbon, Madrid-Budapest, Amsterdam-Charlotte.

      As for specific cards, I’d say you could do well with the United Explorer cards for you and your spouse (if applicable) plus the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Those will get you almost 300k pts if your spouse also applies and you include pts earned from min. spend. Looks like current offer on United Explorer is 30k pts, so look around for a 40-50k pt offer if there’s one out there (flyertalk is worth a look). Might also try logging into your United miles acct to see if you have a targeted CC offer for 40-50k pts. Or wait for the offer to come back in several months.

  • You know you’re an engineer when you are troubleshooting a TV with your kids. Love it!

    • Ha ha, you can take the man out of engineering but you can’t take the engineering out of the man. 😉

      Actually, my middle kid has been bugging me to dissect electronics with her. So I upped the ante and said “hey maybe we can figure out how to fix this busted TV and you can have it / take the $ from craigslisting it”. Still looking for some busted electronics to disassemble with her that aren’t worth fixing. 🙂

  • If it makes you feel any better, our net worth is down $70,000 over the last 30 days. It looks like we’ll recover a little bit of that today. Not that I checked. OK, I did. S&P500 up 2%, emerging markets 3%. I can’t help but look!

    I’ll reserve a spot in The Sunday Best for your post on the European trip next summer. I love a good recap of a relatively frugal but amazing trip. I know you will deliver.

    We’re taking a family trip to Paris and Rekjavik in March. The flights were a steal ($417 each times four) but I doubt the rest of the trip will be anything but expensive.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    • When I took a quick look at Paris, it didn’t seem impossible to do it on a (relative) budget, but you might be a couple of subway stops away from the touristy areas. Definitely some affordable apartment rentals minutes away from the action!

  • Looks like a great month RoG!

    Wow, I’m always amazed at how low your expenses are! And that income! 8 grand in blog income is phenomenal! But I guess that is two months, right? $4k per month is pretty darn good too!

    Love the food pics!

    • Yeah, it’s more like $4k for 2 months since last month was so small. And next month will probably be a little smaller too. Can’t complain given how little time I spend actually writing new content (not including hanging out with you guys here in the comments 😉 ).

  • Great score with the flights and use of miles. To give you another perspective , we are flying the four of us to Jackson Hole from Boston in February vacation week next year and had to use 200,000 United miles to do it. Still a steal compared to what flights there in that crazy week are running at.

    Watch out with Ryan air. They will nickel and dime you for everything. I am sure you will be vigilant with those dudes!

    Are you planing any hop across the channel to the U.K. during your trip?

    • No UK visit this time around. 9 countries in 9 weeks is already making me think I’m crazy, so we might cut 1-2 out (Austria? Hungary?).

      I’ve seen Ryanair’s games. I’m going to get out the ruler and make sure our bags are in compliance or buy the checked luggage ahead of time to save €. Also saw that you have to check in ahead of time and print your boarding pass. So many hoops but we can do the jumping to save several hundred dollars vs. the other airlines.

  • For excellent and cheap bus transport (especially in central Europe) try: https://www.regiojet.cz/nase-trasy/mapa/

    • Thanks! That’s one of the bus companies I was looking at for the Budapest-Prague bus trip I recall.

      • Good choice, you would be impressed. Good on board entertainment system (screen at each seat), cheap refreshments on board. This bus company is like Costco on wheels.

        • If that’s the one, then great! If we end up doing the Budapest-Prague trip in one day then it will be the longest segment of travel within Europe at 7 hours. We did six hours on a bus in Mexico and it wasn’t too bad at all. Cheap refreshments, comfort and entertainment will help.

          • How much was each bus ticket in Mexcio? Would you recommend traveling via bus? I am curious about this type of transportation. Thank you!

            • Very cheap. You can check out rates online. Here is the Primera Plus bus site for example. Just checked prices from Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende (3.5 hour bus ride; 250 kms) and it’s MXN$369 which is USD$18 at today’s exchange rate. Very nice buses too, and I think that route I quoted provides a drink and a lunch and wifi (in theory; didn’t work well on our bus).

  • Congrats on this result! Shame to hear about the share market drop although hopefully this should stablise after the US election, for better or worse (it’s interesting watching how this pans out from afar)..

    Good on your daughter as well, from what I understand that’s a chunk of change for a 10 year old :).. Hopefully a budding entrepreneur..

    Awesome work on the blog income as well.. My October wasn’t fantastic, ended up spending as much as your family, although there was some vacationing in there 😉

    Cheers and here’s to an awesome November for us all!

  • Impressive as usual.

    If you are this good at scoring cheap airfares to Europe, i highly recommend reducing the number of countries you want to visit next year and going back the following year to see the rest.
    Europe is different from america and canada, there are so many different things to see and do, that you will be overwhelmed if you are planning to see so many things.You will have historical monument poisoning after a week and it will be hell to drag the kids through that. Plus museum/monument entry fees are outrageus, you can easily spend close to the 50-100 dollars a day on them for a fam of 5.

    So, if i were you i would pick 3 of those countries you mentioned and i guarantee you will have a fantastic time, i travel with a 4 and 6 year old, (the 6 year old has visited 15 countries so far) so trust me on this. Do some slow travel instead of country hopping. Maybe do eastern europe first, it is very affordable and very interesting and do the west later when the kids can benefit from the historical and cultural education.

    • I’ve gone back and forth on this. And this is actually a big reduction from what we were planning (2-4 more places in France; somewhere in northern Spain, etc).

      I think we are going to treat this trip as an overview of Europe and try to hit many different places, and acknowledge we won’t be able to see everything. I haven’t finalized the schedule but hope to have some one week stays in some places so we can kick back and relax for a few days and not do any sightseeing. Take a stroll in the park, picnic, relax, swim, etc. But it is tempting to settle down somewhere for 2+ weeks.

  • Solid month with the blog income all while keeping expenses humming along at a pretty nice level!

    I look forward to hearing all about the Euro trip. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a vacation longer than 2 weeks, you will have a blast and get your money’s worth by staying for 9. What great memories the kids will have too!

  • Sounds like quite the trip! I’ll mooch off your reviews of each place to book my European adventure 🙂

  • We looked at going to Portugal for our Honeymoon. Even with credit card points it was going to be +$800 in taxes roundtrip because of a stop over in London. Taxes for a direct flight to Madrid, Spain – $50. Our decision was easy.

  • What a fun post, the pictures are lovely, and really an excellent way to make your point about the best things in life being free (or very close to free). Congratulations on that most excellent blog income.

    I need to start honing my travel hacking skills. We’re past the first stage and we’re sitting on a nice pile of points. Now we need to start redeeming. Reading about your bookings is inspirational (wheee! we can do this too!) and intimidating (oh my god, what if I waste all my points on the worst redemption rates in human history) at the same time : /

    • Ha ha, I’ve had some of that point redemption anxiety too. I’m hesitant to spend them in some cases because the cash price for flights/accommodations is much cheaper.

  • Are you getting your internet from TWC? We’re also in Raleigh and pay twice what you’re paying for the same level service – 50/5 mbit – from TWC. I’ve checked with some other providers – AT&T uverse, Frontier – and none are available at our location.

    Nice work on the grocery bill. We’re a family of 3 and have cut ours down from $1200/month to about $750, which I’m feeling very good about, but obviously we still have room to improve. Wish there was an Aldi closer to us.

    Great job on the blog income and cool to see the local landmarks in your pics.

  • I’m certainly envious of that blog income! Maybe one day I’ll make a dime on our site 🙂

    We recently booked a trip to Ireland and the UK for June 2017. I’m pretty happy with our airfare – just over $2000 round trip to Dublin for our family of four. It was much cheaper to fly into/out of Dublin instead of London. This will also be our first time using Airbnb. I went ahead and booked a flat in London (through Airbnb) and did hotels for the other locations. Hopefully the dollar will stay strong against the Euro and Pound this summer.

    • So far so good on the strong dollar. My foreign investments don’t like it but at least we’ll save a bit on overseas travel.

      Great airfares by the way. I didn’t shop too hard for cash tickets since I had the points available. Norwegian Air is another cheap option for flights to Europe if they service an airport near you (or buy some cheap domestic tickets to get to an airport they do service).

  • Great post as usual. Will you have your daughter save her money, invest….?
    My health insurance is going up again, this will make my annual costs at $8,300 which does not include copays or deductibles. Don’t have Obamacare as I don’t qualify for much of a subsidy and am also worried about what the politicians will do with the program, plus if I drop my insurance from my former employer I will not be able to get it back. Health costs are out of control. Do you have any concerns about the future of Obamacare?

    • Well, a lot has happened since 9 pm on election night. 🙂 Yes, I’m very concerned now with what happens to the ACA and what might replace it. Check out my reply to Mike E. for more of my thoughts.

  • Nice job on the blogging income and congrats to Kaylin on the tutoring job! Well done 🙂

    Well, it’s now the end of the world with trump being elected, so hopefully we won’t all die in nuclear hell fire and can continue blogging to our heart’s content.

    I’ve never been so relieved to be FI in my life. Thank God I don’t have to rely on having a job because I don’t see them being around for much longer.

    • Yes! We are very excited she’s able to find and keep gainful employment. Build that resume and retire in her 30’s and all that good stuff. 🙂

      Life’s not so bad so far under the new overlord. I’ll give you an update as the policy proposals roll out and he takes office in January. So far the stock market likes him (bond market not so much). Not sure what to make of it all.

  • Though you discussed health insurance, I was wondering about your thoughts on umbrella liability insurance-specifically as it relates to protecting the nest egg you worked so diligently to acquire. with a lawsuit happy society and lawyers that get paid more for a larger result, an accident could take it all. As I am retiring soon, this is one area that I can not find much info on. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Good job on the blog!

  • Sounds like you have a good side gig going with 8K in blog income. Question if the dividends you get are in retirement accounts, like 401K or Traditional Roths, how is the dividend income allowed to be used without paying taxes or penalties? Did you do a conversion ladder 5 years ago?

    • Some of it is accessible immediately (HSA, Roth, taxable brokerage, 457) others not (401k, trad IRA). I report all the div. income but can’t tap all of it immediately.

  • Hi Justin, it’s only been a couple days, but can you share your thoughts so far on the fact that 2017 will likely be the last year of the ACA? I’m bummed about the prospect, and hope it’s replaced with something that early retirees can afford. The ACA really opened up the ER opportunity for a lot of people.

    • I’m bummed too. But hoping something viable will replace the ACA if the subsidies are repealed.

      Here’s a great article from Living A FI that lays out his analysis of what we can expect over the short to intermediate term (and it happens to coincide almost exactly with what I’m thinking, too).
      Key takeaways:
      – It’ll probably be intact through 2017
      – He thinks 2018 will be the earliest we’ll see changes
      – Changes will probably keep the prohibition against discriminating based on pre-existing conditions and covering children till age 26
      – Subsidies are one area that could get quickly reduced or eliminated (as early as 2018)
      – There’s some chance ACA v2.0 could be better, at least in some regards

      As is, I’ll be facing $16000-20,000 per year in health insurance premiums in 2018 or 2019. I could fund that for a year or two but would have to figure out something else long term.

  • Wow….You guys continue to amaze me with the “credit card calculus” that you use to get free/cheap travel. That trip to Europe sounds like something that will always be remembered. Pretty cool about the TV repair…$4 would be just crazy for a 43 inch TV. Aaaand the kids get to learn a bit about self reliance….always priceless…..

  • I don’t know how you manage to pay $35 for that speed of broadband. I pay $65 as a promotional, bundled rate for the same speed here in Rhode Island.

    If I just wanted internet without cable TV, it would be $80/mo.

    Grrr… Cox. The “competition” is very slow DSL.

  • Great job on the blog income and the travel hack plane tickets. We just got back from Spain the end of September and(without having travel hacker skills..yet) scored tickets for $780 each.

    Hubs and I with his cycle team hit Barcelona and Girona Spain(northern Spain). We rented a Airbnb in Barc and rented a house in Girona(there were 13 of us, the house worked out to $22 night per person). We also shopped and shared rotating cooking duties, thus greatly reducing our trip cost. Most days hubs and I or whomever we were cycling with would eat out for lunch. Most days lunch was less that 5 euros.

    A couple things I would encourage you to see if you are traveling through Barcelona is Sagrada de Familia. It is this incredible church designed by a devout Catholic Antoni Gaudi. Very intresting in that the church is still a work in progress and would be really fantastic for you kids to see. In Barc you can also see examples of his work all over the place in buildings that he designed.

    If you decide to hit Girona, there churches and really cool old medieval towns a stones through a way from every location. It was also far cheaper than Spain, hubs and I each had a Cafe con leche and a delish sandwich(think small bagette, cheese) each for less than 5 euros total…crazy.

    Also…do not miss Carcassone(2 hours across the border from Girona) in France. This is a huge Medival town, not cars are allowed except service vehicles. It is a full on fort. There are a couple hotels, restaurants and I heard a rumor some even live there still. I think your kids would absolutely love it. It is a kind of a ‘Shrek style’ castle.

    Grocery shopping: Definitely Aldi’s. They had a refrigerator case full of creme brulee for 2.30 Euros(most oldest so would have died and gone to heaven). Also Paella fixin’s for a bargain: saffron, Bomba rice, etc. Carrefour is good but does not have the discounts. Another store good was Mercadona. I scored canned truffles for 2 Euros, saffron for 1 Euro…which you know a bunch came home with me=).

    My favorite food items was Ines Olive oil Tortas. You can get them at Aldi’s for .88 Euros(they are almost $9. on Amazon). They are kind of like a sweet, crisp, anise flavored cookie. I ate way too many of these…good thing I was cycling every day.

    Last but not least, you can buy wine in a jug if you decide to take a winery tour(we don’t drink but this is how our friends did it.

    We are planning on taking our kids to Europe when the 2 middles kids graduate high school and all the basketball stuff has died down a bit.

    Ok..one more thing….Google translate works awesome! If you happen to have a Google FI for a phone, the service is excellent and they do not charge extra for service in Europe. Google maps killed it on that phone too.

    • Thanks for the tips on Spain. We’ll only have 9 days in Spain and are flying into and out of Southern Spain, so the northern areas including Barcelona will have to wait for a future trip (but we can do those areas plus France and UK possibly in the next trip!). Sounds like Spain is a very affordable destination – from my preliminary overview of Airbnb average costs, it seems to be on the lower end for the places we are visiting. Lots of 2 BR places for $50-100/nt at varying levels of luxury. Can’t wait to see what’s on the shelves of the local grocery stores including Aldi.

      I recently downloaded google Translate to my phone and played around with it a bit. Looks killer and all the language packs can be downloaded for offline use. And it has all the languages from all the countries we’re visiting (even Slovenian!). Maps is the same way – offline maps are powerful and easy to download. Only downside I’ve seen is no transit routing/directions in offline mode. We’ll have Freedompop international service that works almost everywhere we’re going in Europe other than Slovenia. Not sure we’ll opt to buy a local SIM there just for the ~week we’ll spend there. But yeah these tech “toys” and apps are amazing. How did we ever travel without them? 🙂

      • Yikes…my typos…I was so excited that you were going to Spain, I didn’t take the time to correct my spelling grammer, etc.

        Since you will be with you family, you will probably not have much use for a phone. I would consider not getting a sim card. We left our kids home with our 19 year old in charge, and traveled with a large group that we needed to in contact with at times. We used Whatsapp, this allowed us to text once hooked up to WIFI(free).

        I just remembered we used Googlemaps without being on a network. I learned that GPS has 24 satellites that cir-cum navigate the earth, this is one of Gmaps main datapoints. We had Gmaps in the middle of nowhere when we had not cell service.

        I also watched this video from the Rick Steves group on traveling with a mobile device. Excellent tips!
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-BH2Dm96Uw

        Really appreciate all your site and your posts!

        • I usually download the offline google maps data for wherever we’re visiting overseas. Great way to navigate for free. I’m planning on buying a compatible smartphone that takes SIM cards and pop in a free Freedompop SIM that works in almost all of Europe that we’re planning on visiting (other than Slovenia and maybe not Hungary either). Worst case I’ll use my current non-SIM smartphone only on Wifi and just use the offline map data to get around.

    • Definitely go to Sagrada Familia. You don’t need to be religious but it is seriously the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Has been under construction since 1880s. They are hoping/planning to have it finished by 2026 – the centennial for the architect’s death! Buy tickets (not cheap) and book a time ahead. Otherwise the lines can be v-e-r-y long.

      Seeing anything designed by Gaudi amazing.

      • Mary,
        Did you make to the Gaudi museam too. Really amazing stuff!

        • We went to the park he designed and one of the apartments. Both amazing. Apparently one of his professors said that he was either a genius or crazy. I figured LSD must have been invented in the 1800s.

          I really need to go back to Barcelona. Too much good food and great architecture for the 3 days we had there at the end of a cruise.

          • LOL…LSD…I didn’t think of that, but his stuff is really that unusual.

            We really loved Spain. I think this has been my favorite trip, best trip to Europe for sure.

            Yeah…3 days is really not enough.

  • Read your previous comment, and thought you weren’t going there, but if you are in Barcelona, it is best to book Sagrada for late afternoon, the light coming through the windows is just amazing. I was there in 2003 and it was just a building site, I was there again in April 2016, and it was transformed. Fantastic.
    I use QuickDic on my phone. You can download it in advance, and then don’t need a network to use. I am very ‘cheap’ when abroad. Anything I can do without network charges is good! I also use Word Lens which translates a menu etc (again, no data connection needed)…

    • I downloaded Google Translate and it seems to be pretty robust for live translation of signs/menus/etc, and includes offline download of dozens of languages.

      Unfortunately we won’t be headed to Sagrada Familia since we won’t visit Barcelona this time around. Maybe next trip!

  • Does the free flight when booking with United only work when using a United rewards card or does it matter? I have Chase Sapphire rewards I’d like to save for a couple years for Europe. United looks to be the best for redemption to Europe out of Atlanta.

    • Those Chase Sapphire reward pts can be transferred directly to United and then you redeem points at United just like you would if you earned United points from flying on United or from their United Explorer credit card bonuses. So it’ll be 60,000 to redeem for round trip to Europe (and you can get the free 1 way within Europe and fly into one city and fly out of another for your big transatlantic flight between US and Europe). Also check out cash fares since they are dropping for flights to Europe. Might be able to get a nice deal for under $500 cash which is a better deal than using 60k United points in my opinion.

  • Hey Justin,
    pretty sweet monthly overview as per usual. You guys have been doing pretty good this year so far, probably won’t really change for the rest of the year either 😉
    When are in the Netherlands next year, and you want some company or help, do reach out. We unfortunatly cannot provide you with accomodations (all units are rented), but may be able to entertain you.
    Cheers!

    • I expect the remainder of the year will be very smooth expense-wise. Nothing big coming up and we’ll be on vacation for half of December (with most expenses already paid other than tips and gas for the car!). So odds are we’ll be too busy to spend much more in 2016. Unless I see some sweet deals on electronics during our Black Friday holiday (the day Americans go crazy and buy tons of crap thanks to incredible sales from all retailers).

      Thanks for the offer for some hospitality in NL next summer. I might take you up on it! We’ll unfortunately only have one or maybe two full days in Amsterdam before catching our flight back home.

  • How much would your ACA costs be without subsidies?
    My family of 3 live in California. Without subsidies, I will be paying $1500/mo for the Silver Plan in 2017. Your level of income from this blog does not affect your subsidies?

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