Welcome to the first in a regular series where I break down my monthly expenses. Below you’ll find a complete breakdown of what I spent this month living as a nomad with my wife. This month we lived in Lisbon, Portugal.
Before you dive into the numbers, I recommend reading why I’m sharing my monthly expenses publicly. In that post, I explain the why behind all of this plus give an overview of our financial situation. Read that first here.
You can browse the numbers for other months & all my personal finance posts here. Okay lets dive in!
My Monthly Expenses Breakdown for January 2019
As the title suggests, Jaimie and I spent the month living in Lisbon, Portugal. We rented a beautiful apartment on Airbnb for the month. This was our first month being nomads so we binged a bit and took two additional weekend trips. I cover those at the end. We arrived in Lisbon on January 5th.
Spending by category
- Business Services: $466
- Miscellaneous: $18
- Clothing: $89
- Eating Out: $1,849
- Entertainment & Media: $852
- General Shopping: -$22 (we had a return from a previous month)
- Travel: $1,578
- Auto & Transportation: $581
- Groceries: $303
- Phone & Internet: $140
- Rent: $0
- Services (Dr. Repairs, haircuts, etc): $581
- Utilities: $0
This is for everything we spent in January for a household of two adults (my wife and I).
Note: all expenses for any business I have are run through those businesses directly and do not reflect on my personal spending.
Expenses covered with credit card points
Airbnb in Lisbon: I paid for our Airbnb with credit card points I’ve saved up. The total for the Airbnb was $2,423.89 but I covered the charge with 242,389 points on my Bank of America rewards card.
Flights from Dallas to Lisbon, Portugal: I booked our flights with Delta Sky Miles back in June. Our flights cost 62,500 points per person (125,000 points in total). I don’t know exactly what the cost would have been if I paid with $, but roughly the points are worth 1 cent each, so lets say ~$1,250.
Flights from Lisbon to Madeira Island (roundtrip): We flew to Madeira island and back via EasyJet. It was booked last minute and cost us $284.36 for 2 seats. Those charges were covered with 28,436 Bank of America rewards points at a rate of 1 cent per point.
Hotel in Madeira: For our 3 night trip to Madeira Island, I booked a room at The Vine Hotel using my Chase Sapphire Reserve points. We redeemed 31,986 points to cover a $479.79 booking charge. Those points are worth a bit more at 1.5 cents each.
Total value received for free from credit card points: $4,438.04
Optimizing credit card point redemption and accumulation has become a bit of a hobby for me. We’re lucky to rack up a lot of points with our personal and business credit cards. I spend a lot of time optimizing for the maximum amount of value from those points though.
Thoughts on this month’s spending
Rent expense was $0? This is because we nixed our apartment and are living out of Airbnbs. So where’s that Airbnb expense you ask? We didn’t incur it as outlined above. We have a lot of credit card points from my personal and business spending.
We didn’t have any utility costs like an electric bill, water, trash, or internet. This has previously cost us about $200 – $400 per month. By staying in Airbnbs, those costs are now included in that expense (or lackthereof).
Higher spending than usual: Spending on “services” were higher than usual this month. Jaimie got an ear infection so we tracked down a private hospital in Lisbon. The appointment and meds really added up. I also got a haircut in Lisbon for 40 euros, and then we had some expenses prepping to leave our dog with my parents in Texas. I expect that category of spending to be down in future months.
Business Services were higher than usual too. We paid for a year of blog hosting, a year of VPN services, and a blog theme for Jaimie’s website.
Our “Auto” category was high due to two rental car bookings this month. Gas and rentals add up! Had we not booked cars for both of our weekend trips, it would have been a cheap “Auto” month. We only used Uber 3 times. Lots of walking!
Outlier Expenses: This months spending would have actually only been $5,016 had we not upgraded to first class lay flat seats on our long 7hr flight to Lisbon. Our original tickets were booked with Delta points. Before leaving, Delta offered an upgrade for their first class lay flat seat tier for $859 per person. We had never flown internationally with lay-flat seats so I purchased it and surprised Jaimie. This was a real treat and not something we normally spend money on. We slept like babies. The total was about $1,718 after taxes.
Jaimie had the biggest smile when I surprised her with our seats
My Chase Sapphire Reserve card reimburses $300 per year of travel charges so $300 of those tickets were immediately reimbursed. All in it cost us about $1,418 after that. The other expenses in the travel category were our room in Algarve for 2 nights booked cheaply via Hotel Tonight.
For food spending (eating out & groceries), I wanted to see if we just didn’t think too much about the costs what it would add up to. Food is our way of experiencing different cities, so I’m pleased this was around $2,000 in total. This is definitely higher than we historically spend, but it’s to be expected this year. We’re saving in other areas now that we’re nomads.
Comparing to previous months
- +/- last month: we spent $2,468 less this month than in December 2018.
- +/- monthly average last year: we spent $1,982.92 less this month than we did on average last year.
- +/- this month last year: we spent $457 less than January 2018
Where we lived, worked, & traveled
During the week I worked from three different spots – our Airbnb living room, a hotel rooftop down the street, and a coffee shop called Simpli.
The living room of our Lisbon Airbnb
On our first weekend, we visited Pena Palace which was only 20 minutes away via Uber. I was so impressed with how much “access” you get to the place. We could essentially wander our way up to any lookout point. Nothing was blocked off.
I even got a fun drone shot with my DJI Spark and nobody seemed to care. Entry for the day was $32.32 USD for the two of us.
I shot this with my little DJI Spark drone
For our 2nd weekend, we visited the Alarve coast for 2 days to hike around the cliffs. Since we went in the off season there weren’t many tourists, which we preferred. Below are a few photos I snapped while hiking. That’s some “blue ass water”.
At the recommendation of a friend, we packed in a long weekend to Madeira Island – an island owned by Portugal. We went there for 2 reasons:
- Hike Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo above the clouds
- Toboggan down the hillside through town.
The hike was the best view both of us have ever experienced. It was 6 hours and 8 miles of trails. I don’t think I can over-hype how amazing the view on the trail was. If you’re ever in Portugal, take advantage of a cheap weekend flight to Madeira island. You won’t regret it.
We’re spending next month (February) in Marbella, Spain. I’m looking forward to a much quieter month. As much as I loved our time in Portugal, we definitely packed in too much. I’m pretty exhausted from all the fun!
My cousin and his wife will be coming out to visit and explore, so we’ll check out Madrid for a few days with them too. I expect our grocery and restaurant expenses in Marbella to be higher than in Lisbon. The cost of living is much higher. Otherwise, I think we’ll continue to live relatively cheaply other than food. No major purchases planned for February!
All in, our first month of being nomads was incredible. We ended up spending less this month than when we lived back in St. Louis. We had some amazing experiences for relatively little money. If you have any questions or comments, reach me on Twitter or Instagram.
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