The True Cost of Remote Year For Me: Part Three

It’s time, friends and strangers. I’ve avoided it for long enough. Today’s the day we talk about one of the most taboo subjects: actual cash money.

This post is going to be about Remote Year spending beyond the (currently) $2,000 monthly fee. It’s part of my series of posts on “costs” of Remote Year. Like when I wrote about the details about what that monthly fee covered. Or the abstract/personal costs. Good times. Now remember how I said I’d write a post about the actual monetary cost of Remote Year? It’s time. 

I obviously could have written this earlier, but now I have six months of travel through Europe with my Remote Year group under my belt/in my budget spreadsheet. I also have two months of Central/South America, so maybe I’ll try to do the same after our six months in the Americas, but no promises. I’m feeling motivated to write this one because so many of my friends/acquaintances/random-awesome-people-who-reach-out-to-me-about-remote-year ask me about my non-program fee costs. So hopefully it helps!

Also: To other remote year participants (or just “remotes” as I’m constantly reminded), if you have more or different advice/information that you want to share, hit me up on slack and we can talk about adding your comments to this post or writing a guest post or even compiling a bunch of advice from multiple remotes for a later post.

Also, side note, check out this site by a fellow remote to get a feel for what other participants on Remote Year have to say about their experiences: http://remoteyearblogs.com/ and look at this really insightful post about questions to ask yourself before coming on Remote Year. 

On to the moneys!!

So, I’m a really frugal person (thanks, Dad!).

I get my books from the library. I know where all the clearance racks are at Target. I make a pretty good pseudo-Chipotle bowl of rice, beans, salsa, and veggies. I will always look for the cheapest thing on the menu before I decide what I want to spend for dinner. And I definitely look up discount codes before I buy something online.

Most of my wardrobe is from Goodwill, TJ Maxx, or other Thrift Stores. Not because I want to be like Macklemore, but because that’s how I was raised.

Okay, you’re right. It’s a little bit because of Macklemore.

I’m getting better at not being so painfully frugal as I get older. Mostly, I’m learning that I’d rather spend money on experiences and food than on “things” – and RY has made that a lot easier to do since I’m living out of a suitcase, a backpack, and a laptop bag. I just don’t have room for many “things!”

Before I break down my actual spending over the last months on the program, I want to put out some disclaimers…

  • I am, by nature, a saver, not a spender. I paid off my student loans within two years of graduating from college (thanks to a scholarship and my parents letting me live in their basement). I saved up a good chunk of money pre-RY to pay for the deposit. I also saved money to go on trips during the program because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – I don’t plan on living in many of these countries again.
  • I am obsessed with food. I would rather spend money on good food than on clothes or toiletries or transportation. I base a lot of spending decisions on how many of the local cuisine I could buy. Mexico example: “How many tacos could I buy with this?”
  • I don’t feel the need to go on many side trips outside the city I’m living in because I, personally, signed up for RY to live and integrate myself into each of our 12 cities in the month I have there.

That being said, every single person on RY has their own values and things that they spend money on. Everyone’s salaries vary. Everyone’s saving vs spending threshold varies. I’m going to try to keep this focused on RY-related spending as much as I can, so please don’t assume that you know all about me and my budget based on this post. This is strictly meant to be educational for people looking to join the program, but who are worried about the cost.

 

Enough of that, let’s get to the good stuff.

Things I pay for every month that never change: Remote Year fee (currently $2000), Sim Card in each country delivered by Remote Year on arrival (currently $30), and Personal Bills (like netflix and cell phone).

Things that vary every month – and what this post is focused on: Charitable Giving, Local Events/Entertainment, Food/Drink, Travel/Side Trips, and Personal Care.

 

Interesting spending trends by month:

Highest/Lowest months using the ATM: Rabat/London (This had to do with which cities took credit cards)

Highest/Lowest months on Travel: Lisbon/London (These have more to say about the month after and how much travel I did that next month)

Highest/Lowest months on Non-Travel and Non-ATM: London/Belgrade (This breakdown is the most realistic cost of living metric in my opinion)

 

Actual dollar amounts (#yourewelcome):

This is the amount I spent by month (and, in parenthesis, the most expensive things I spent money on) – if you click the city link, you will find the recap of what I did that month.

Prague: $1,100 (about $300 is flight to Paris in November and train tickets), $800 without extra travel costs

Belgrade: $800 (about $400 is a trip to Croatia and a trip to London in October), $400 without extra travel costs

London: $1,350 (about $400 is from my Fringe Festival trip and booking hotels for October UK trip), $950 without extra travel costs

Lisbon: $1,650 (about $750 paid for my Germany trip and October UK trip), $900 without extra travel costs

Rabat: $1,300 (about $600 for the October UK trip [finally!] and all the Morocco side trips), $700 without extra travel costs

Valencia: $650 (didn’t spend much extra and spent a week in Paris with my grandparents for Christmas), $650 without extra travel costs

Average with travel costs: $1,250ish

Average without travel costs: $750ish

 

So, if all that frugal/savings rambling that you read up there speaks to you and you’re looking to live like this girl with…

  • Occasional nice meals, but mostly fun cheap meals or groceries.
  • Occasional nearby side trips, but mostly staying local.
  • No big sporting events, concerts, or shows. Or at least very few without getting discounted tickets.

Then you should budget about $750 per month if you aren’t planning on doing side trips (which I definitely don’t recommend… I don’t do many side trips, but I still love them and definitely find them necessary for my sanity). Or you should budget $1,250 per month if you are planning on doing a couple small or one bigger side trip per month. Obviously, your spending will differ in South America and Asia, but since Europe is the most expensive of the three, you can’t go wrong setting your budget that way.

Now for the big question I’ve been asked and then un-asked as people realize it may be awkward: Am I making money on this trip? 100% no. I’m still saving for retirement because I set that up in my paycheck a while ago, but I’m also using my personal savings account to fund some of this trip.

And the big question that sparked these posts that is at the root of many of these awkward questions: Is the cost worth it? Is spending my savings worth it? 100% yes. I’m not always in love with the program, and I’m working through some personal struggles, but I believe that most of my friends on this trip would agree: this has been and still is an opportunity of a lifetime and it is so worth the cost.

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