Actual Expenses for a Month in France
Updated: Jan 7, 2020
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We did it!
We really really did it!
We finished our first month of full-time travel in Europe!
It wasn’t all puppy dogs and rainbows, but we couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
Living in a foreign country, not speaking the native language, and trying to adjust to another culture can put stress on anyone… let alone a newly married couple!
Luckily, our budget wasn’t too far off from our actual expenses!
[Minor point: our analysis period is not a calendar month. We were in France between July 15th and August 16th so this is the window of time that we are comparing so we can share an accurate picture of the cost of living in a specific location (this one being Lyon, France).]
TL;DR: We were over budget, but not by very much. Keep reading for the nitty-gritty details and a comparison to our budget.
“Show me the money!”
Let’s start the breakdown. From highest spending to lowest)…
Food is always our highest budget category (Eddie can really put some food away). We make a good living and enjoy eating and drinking as we please. We aren’t gluttonous by any means, but we try not to deprive ourselves of things we enjoy.
Interestingly, our largest single charge in this category for the month was at our departure airport for $70 before our flight to Paris. Clearly we had something to celebrate! We did find that Lyon, France was a little on the expensive side, with a few lunches coming in around the $50-60 USD mark (a little high for lunch). We cooked at home quite a bit, averaging one meal a day at our Airbnb.
In the end, over budget, but not bad for month one!
Our monthly budget: $2,000 USD
Actual spending: $2,345 USD (yes that’s real, our actual expenses were 2345)
This one looks really good, but it’s a trick! We didn’t magically find a way to save ~$600 USD in this category this month. As a reminder, we are renting out our house while traveling and our tenants paid us a prorated amount for July and a full payment on August 1 so our rental income was artificially high.
We ended up paying an average of $62 USD per night for a 40 sq m. flat in Lyon which is roughly 400 sq ft. Since we booked more than 28 consecutive nights, we received a 30% discount (can’t complain!). We have found that many hosts offer exceptional discounts for long term stays (28+ days). Just make sure it’s absolutely where you want to stay, because you can’t get a refund on the first 30 days if you cancel.
In the end, we ended up way under budget in this category this month, but it should normalize next month.
Our monthly budget: $2,000 USD
Actual spending: $1,422 USD
As we mentioned in our blog post about our travel budget, we forgot to include our initial flights from the US to Europe in our budget. Flights “across the pond” cost a lot more than intra-European flights. We paid ~$600 USD per person for a direct one way flight. Luckily, we had credit card reward points to cash in, which almost fully covered one of the two tickets.
On top of actually getting to Europe, we also had an excursion to the French Alps to see “Le Tour de France” 2019 and then continued on to spend a night in Geneva, Switzerland.
Our excursion included 3 nights of lodging and 5 trips via train, costing $340 USD total for both of us. When you consider we got to see a world class sporting event and visit another country for less than $500 dollars, it seems like a steal.
In the end, we were over budget. We blame it on forgetting to include the initial flights though… next month we’ll do better.
Our monthly budget: $900
Actual spending: $1,233
This one is simple. We are paying off Eddie’s student loans which have a low, fixed interest rate and corresponding minimum payment each month.
Eddie is also attending school full-time while on our trip to complete a Bachelor’s degree, which comes with some tuition payments. We will make 8 payments over the 12 months of our trip so we will effectively get a “raise” during the months we don’t owe anything.
In the end, right on budget… and he’s killin' it in school!
Our monthly budget: $1,142
Actual spending: $1,142
Auto and Transport
Most of you that are friends and family reading this know that we had quite an adventure trying to unload our cars prior to our trip.
Megan owned her car outright so we were able to just sell it. Quick, easy, and we got our asking price!
Eddie (once again, in his infinite wisdom) thought that leasing cars was the way to go. We were ~15 months into a 36 month lease and had no idea what we were going to do. Turning it in would have cost us around $8k USD… NOPE. Luckily, we found a family friend who wanted to sublease it for the remainder of the lease (wooo). BUT, we agreed to make one additional monthly payment before they took it over, which increased our Auto and Transport spending by $325 for the month. We also retained auto insurance throughout August until the new lessee took control of the vehicle, accounting for another $70.
In the end, we only spent $117 on local transportation for 32 days in Lyon. Granted, we walked A LOT but that will likely be the norm for us on this trip. Over budget, but within reason considering our extra expenses.
Our monthly budget: $400
Actual spending: $512
Bills and Utilities
This category was supposed to only include our cell phone plan, since other utilities we have at home such as electric, water, sewer, etc. are included in our Airbnb (i.e. Housing) costs. Unfortunately, we had some lingering utility payments from back in the States.
With a target of spending under $200 for cell phone coverage for the two of us, we were successful. We only paid ~$150 USD this month which includes worldwide coverage and two device payments for our Pixels. Google Fi hasn’t led us astray yet! It really has been one of the best travel-related decisions we've made. The above Google Fi link is an affiliate link, but we BOTH get money if you use it. So go ahead and do that, you know you want to...
In the end, we should have anticipated a few lingering bills at home. We should also have anticipated our internet provider doing some shady stuff which will increase our bills and utilities for next month as well, but that’s a story for another day.
Our monthly budget: $200
Actual spending: $477
**The above 6 categories make up 80% of our spending in month 1.
We have plenty of other budgeted categories though, so if you’d like to stick around for more, keep reading.
If you’re tired of our rambling about budgets, scroll to the bottom to see a visual of budget vs actual.**
Moving along down the list, the next category is Beard Juice. I’m sure some of you are confused, but Eddie started a beard care company in 2018 and this month we placed an order for new product. If you’re curious, check out the Beard Juice blog and Amazon listings. We sell all-natural, vegan beard oils and beard balms.
For Health and Fitness, we only spent $403 which paid for health insurance, because you kind of need that. We failed to track down a red clay court to play tennis or a yoga studio that would allow non-members to stop in.
As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, we believe it’s important to allocate some “Fun Money” each month to spend on whatever we want without having to justify it. While we’re abroad, we will each get $100 per month. Being over by $100 was just a timing issue between us being home vs. abroad.
In the Entertainment category, we paid for Spotify, Netflix, went to 1 movie in the theater (in English with French subtitles), and did a full day wine tour with a lunch in the vineyard all coming in under budget at $289 of our $300.
The Moving Expenses category is used exclusively to track our storage unit costs. We did luck out and find a storage facility offering the 1st and 4th months free. We paid to have the house professionally cleaned prior to our tenants moving in, which we decided fits in the Moving Expenses category so this month was basically a wash. We paid $181 out of our $200 budget.
I know a lot of you will say we’re horrible people, but our pup, Mr. Miles, is staying with Eddie’s aunt and uncle for the year while we’re traveling. With that being said, we are still paying for everything that he needs while we’re gone in the Pets category. We spent $103 of our budgeted $235 for our little fur ball. We did aim a little high on this category since he’s a doodle and needs frequent grooming and this just wasn’t one of those months.
Shopping is a category we include in our budget so we have money allocated to buy those little random things you need each month that don’t really fit anywhere else. As previously mentioned, we hate most shopping, so we came in way under budget here. The largest expense in this category was a new pair of sandals for Eddie that came in at a whopping $30. In total, we spent $50 USD of our $350 budget.
Personal Care is another category that is a “catch all” for little things like razors, toothpaste, and sunscreen. Eddie was in dire need of sunscreen (because he’s pale and bald) so we rushed out and purchased the first bottle we could find. It was $24 USD (ouch). That was all we spent in this category for the month since a few other small items that fit into this category were purchased during grocery shopping trips and ain’t nobody got time to break that down further.
We Be Trippin requires a wee bit of capital to maintain. $15 for hosting for the month. Well worth it and right on budget.
Miscellaneous items is a legit category we have in our budget. While we were in France, this included mailing letters and postcards back home and paying to use the toilet… yes, that’s a real thing in Europe. It’s actually kind of nice because most of the public restrooms are kept decently clean because of it.
All told we were 5% over budget which we consider a huge victory as most of our budget was pure guesswork from before we moved. We weren’t really sure how much it was going to cost to live in another country. Lyon, France came pretty close to hitting our total budget right on the head.
Generally speaking, we felt like eating out in France was quite expensive, even at casual “everyday” type restaurants and even for lunch.
With a lot of unexpected expenses during this time and some lingering bills from back home, we’re confident that next month’s budget report will be even more positive.
Glad we didn’t burn through all of our savings in the first month and have to head home with our tail between our legs!
Budget vs Actual
If you'd like to check out some of our other expense reports, here are links to them:
We hope you enjoyed hearing how we're making it work traveling around Europe and how we keep our finances in check. Any suggestions for saving money and traveling "smarter"? Feel free to share in the comments!
Eddie & Megan
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