September Expense Totals (2014)


Each month I write a report of sorts, to show a bit of the bigger picture.  For a more detailed list of each spend, go to the stats page or click here.

You know what’s crazy?  Airfare is often the one expense I just don’t have to worry about, and food is the expense I get stressed about because it’s always higher than I want it to be.

Isn’t that backwards from normal, non-travel-hacker travelers?  Before travel-hacking, the airfare would be the biggest inhibitor for travel and the food would be the one thing I knew I could scrimp on.

So on the one hand this makes me excited that airfare isn’t such a hurdle.  On the other hand…what the heck are we doing wrong with our food budget!

For one, we are both extremely extraverted and food is often a social thing.  So I suppose we could argue that our food budget is also our “social” budget to some extent.  We don’t go to movies, concerts, etc.  We don’t really go out drinking or anything like that.  We don’t do a lot of the more expensive social things so perhaps our food budget absorbs our social budget too.

And for another, groceries almost never make sense while you’re traveling.  The only time it might make sense would be when we have long stays in the suites type hotels with the kitchenettes.  But the last time we had a stay like that, we were visiting friends.  So the social side of the visit meant we were eating out a lot.

Also, I don’t want to sacrifice health for the sake of frugality…(though…I realize we do this in other ways…).  But I don’t want to eat Raman and gas-station bean burritos just to see that food&bev category budget go down…

Anyway, what do you think?  Is $816 ridiculously high for two people’s food budget on the road?
*Update: I found a missed receipt, so the food budget total was more accurately $835

See what you think.  Here are our expenses for the month of September, spanning 4 countries, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and United States.

September Total$2,303.65
Tourist Attraction Total$103.58
Food & Beverage Total$835.79
Land Transit Total$635.24
Air Transit Total$11.2013,733 Rapid Rewards points
35,000 AA miles
Accommodation total$642.77120,000 IHG points

Pictures of the month:





10 Comments on “September Expense Totals (2014)

  1. I wouldn’t necessarily consider $816 a ridiculous amount for two people to spend on food even if they were stationary. Especially since you spent half of the month in the States.

    As frugal as I am in general, I love to eat. Good food is one of the key highlights of any destination I go to. With the never-ending list of top-notch restaurants and buffets in Vegas, I’d be likely to blow that food budget in that one town alone.

    I save a lot of money in so many different ways when it comes to travel, but dining is almost always near the top of my expenses.

    • Ya maybe we’re the same way these days. We definitely used to be more frugal. But now we’re more likely to get what we want at least sometimes.

  2. I think you guys are doing decent considering the amount of time that you were in the US. I think you guys spent way too much money in Central America though. So much good cheap street food and local restaurants. Also, when you had lounge access, did you eat all/most of your meals there?

    You probably could have maximized a bit more in Vegas too, lotta deals to be found.

    • In Panama we didn’t find a cheap restaurant until the second to last day so we definitely failed there. In Cali we ate at a little local restaurant every day so that was a win. In Costa Rica we spent more than necessary because our hotel was in the middle of a mall and nothing else, so the only food in walking distance was crappy mall-food-court type stuff. In Guatemala we spent a bit more because that’s just part of the new years festivities.
      So basically I think we could have done much better in Panama and Costa Rica. And we know next to nothing about Vegas lol, and particularly budget Vegas, so we surely could have done better there too.

  3. This is actually one of the main areas where I thought that we are totally different. i.e. the aspect of travel that my husband and I enjoy the most is the food. Our travel MO is pretty much, walk around and enjoy being in our new surroundings…stop for a coffee or tea and people watch or just sit there enjoying the view some more (or take a to-go coffee to somewhere nice)…walk around some more….eat somewhere nice, as in local and hopefully delicious, but not necessarily fancy.
    eat…….walk. I couldn’t imagine getting most of our food from lounges and hotel breakfasts. The food is absolutely part of the experience for us. But it kinda looks like it is for you, too.
    And to answer your question directly… $816 is not high at all. At least not by US standards. But if it’s stressing you out…then either you have to figure out something to do about it, or stop letting it stress you out. 🙂 I don’t know. It does kinda make your $20K/year budget difficult if you’re spending $816 on food, but also $635 on land transit. Sounds like next time you go somewhere you need to make a blog post like, “we’re going to be in xxxxx, what should we eat if we want cheap, delicious food?” and hope your readers come through for you. 🙂

    • Oo that is a really good idea! Also I do think Drew is much better at not stressing about it than me. So maybe you’re right, I need to relax about it! Enjoy the food!

  4. I just stumbled over your website and I may be in love with it. I LOVE to travel and I do so about twice a month. whether it be small weekend trips of road trips that will carry me away for a week..I’m in. My biggest advice for you (which you may do already) is book free nights @ hotels with kitchenettes AND free breakfast. I love Candlewood Suites! Clean new with laundry too. I eat free breakfast and I shop for groceries for lunch and dinner. I may splurge on dinner with a groupon or living social purchase. I did a week in NY (5 days) and Boston (2 days) for $418! That included air fare, rental car for the week, food, and tickets to Yankees and Red Sox games! plus incidentals (gas, bus and tickets to sightseeing places) Keep up web page please : )

    • Thanks so much for sharing these great thoughts Cassandra! Ya I love love love Candlewood suites because they feel so homey and I do miss that when I travel. And if we are staying long enough, we usually like to buy a few groceries and cook some meals too. (nothing fancy but still really neat to have that ability.)

      Impressive budgeting skills by the way! Definitely chime in any time you have more helpful tips! Thanks so much!

  5. I think that an average of $27.85 per day for two people who eat out every meal everyday is a pretty outstanding achievement in U.S. prices.

    I personally really love to cook so whenever I’m away for 4+ days I try to make sure I have a space that allows it (usually by using Airbnb or staying with and cooking for a friend). In these instances, I make my first trip a grocery run and plan out cheap meals for most of the days and leave a couple off for trying out local fare.

    I’ve also been thinking recently of trying out one of those dinner sharing sites (like airbnb for food) to try out food made by local residents in their homes. One site I saw let’s you choose the amount you want to pay when you search:

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