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Gap Year Budget Update – 4 Months

I’ll be damned if time isn’t flying.  We’re already 1/3 of the way through our year-long sabbatical in South America.  We quit our jobs, pulled the kids out of schools, rented out our house, and headed south in June.  We’re now four months in already, and I feel like we’re just getting started!  If I hold my breath a little, we’re going to reach the half-way mark before we know it.  We initially planned a $40,000 all-in gap year budget, which includes our initial move south of the border, living in our Bolivian village for 12 months, travel, plus long-term storage of our stuff back in California.  Here’s our budget update for September, four months into our adventure.



In September, we spent three weeks in our village, and we traveled for one week to Sucre and Potosi, Bolivia – probably the two most fascinating cities in the country.  We all had a really good trip.  It was fun for the adults and entertaining and educational for the kids.  But after a week of travelling, staying in hotels, and eating in restaurants, we are always happy to get back to our beautiful home base, Villa Abecia.


Here’s a picture of our lovely town, just around the corner from our house:

Villa Abecia, Bolivia


Other than our trip to Sucre and Potosi, September was a pretty uneventful month: we just enjoyed quality family time in our village.


Like August, we had to take a couple of trips in September to the nearest city, Tarija, for medical reasons.  Tarija is about two hours away from our village, but its where the closest medical facilities are to us.   My wife continues to have follow-up tests related to her August hospital emergency, and our daughter continues to visit the dentist for her braces.  But, all this medical tourism finally seems to be winding down!


So, here’s what we spent in September:

ExpenseSept. BudgetSept. ExpenseSept Variance
Under / (Over)
Living in Our Pueblo$833$793$40
Travels Around Bolivia / South America$1,250$766$434
Medical Expenses$0$22($22)
Long Term Storage in California$250$108$142

We continue to rock the budget! We spent only $1,689 out of a budget of $2,333.  That leaves us $644 under budget for September, despite taking a week long trip.


Our Travels

In all fairness, the trip we took was one of the least expensive trips we will take this year.  Sucre and Potosi are only a few hours drive from our village.  We traveled by bus and taxi, rather than flying.  Plus the entire trip was within Bolivia, which is a very inexpensive country to travel in.  We only spent $766 on our week long trip – not bad for a family of four!

My kids in Sucre

Here’s a breakdown of our travel expenses for our week long trip:

Entertainment & Museums$67
Other, Misc.$52

There were no tricks, points, or promotions involved with our trip.  We stayed in hotels every night and ate at restaurants for every meal.  We went to a ton of museums and even rented out some sidewalk space for the amazing Guadalupe parade.  $766 is straight-up how much we spent for a week vacation for a family of four!


Living In Our Pueblo

After seeing just how cheap it is to live in our rural Bolivian pueblo during our first three months, I was hoping now to reduce our living expenses to under $500 per month.  That didn’t happen in September, mostly due to the internet.  (Life Pro Tip: ALWAYS blame the internet, whenever you can!)


After living virtually without internet for three months, we had service installed in our house in September!  Yay!  It actually works off regional microwave towers.  We had a small antenna installed on our roof that receives internet-by-microwave, and we have wi-fi throughout the house.  Oh Glory!  It’s slow and its expensive, but it’s unlimited data, which means I suddenly have no more time for anything.  Anyway, the antenna cost $143 to install, and will cost about $60 per month going forward.


Our pueblo living expenses were slightly under budget again in September.  Here’s what we spent on basic living in our village:

September Living Expenses In Our Village

Food & Household Supplies$177
Clothing, Entertainment, & Other$98
Transportation To/From City$35
Food & Restaurants in City$270

We again spent a good chunk on trips to the city – about 40% of the total.  My wife and daughter spent a week in the city for medical stuff, and spent over $300 between food and transportation.


The other “big” expense was for utilities – $214. That included $143 for installation of our internet antenna, $55 for our U.S. mobile phones, $13 for electricity at our house, plus $2 for water/sewage!  We finally got a Bolivian cellphone, and we cancelled one of our two U.S. phone lines.  So next month our phone bill will be smaller.  Our internet cost will also go down significantly in October, since the antenna installation was a one-time thing.


The main “other” expense in September was a new blender ($69) because our old one broke.


You can imagine that without the extra utility expenses, and without the medical trips to the city, we could easily spend less then $500 for a month in our village.  I do expect our living expenses to decrease the longer we’ve been here.  More motivation for next month!


Year-To-Date Update – 4 Months

Now that we’re 1/3 of the way through with our family gap year, Here’s how the cumulative year-to-date budget is looking:

ExpenseTotal Annual BudgetExpected Thru
4 Months
Actual Thru
4 Months
Under / (Over)
Flights To/From U.S. and Bolivia$10,000$5,000$528$4,472
Move-In Expenses$2,000$2,000$1,374$626
Travels Around South America & Bolivia$15,000$5,000$3,198$1,802
Living In Our Pueblo$10,000$3,333$2,928$406
Long Term Storage California$3,000$1,000$612$388
Medical Expenses$0$0$1,281($1,281)
Visa & Other Paperwork$0$0$931($931)

Of our total $40,000 budget for the year, I had expected to spend $16,333 after three months.  But so far, our actual expenses have only been $10,853, which means we are $5,480 under budget at this point. (Woo Hoo!).


Most of that savings is still thanks to getting our initial flights to Bolivia for free.  We saved almost $4,500 on the flights.  Our traveling and living expenses are also under budget ($1,802, and $406, respectively), as were our move-in expenses ($626).  But, we’ve had $1,281 of unbudgeted medical expenses (mostly the cost of travel insurance we paid for at the last minute, plus some major dental work we decided to do for both kids, on the cheap), and it cost me nearly $1,000 to get my visa to live in Bolivia for a year, which I also did not budget.


Still, it’s looking like we might end up being far, far under budget for the year.  It will mostly depend on how much traveling we end up doing.  We have another awesome trip planned for October – the Salar de Uyuni and Eduardo Alvaroa National Park.  Imagine if you could make a Salvador Dali painting come to life – that’s what this place is like.  We’re looking forward to it!



Jojo Bobo


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