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Gap Year Budget Update: 7 Months

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Here we are, another month gone, never to return.  It’s also a new year, which means things time to ponder things like the future and New Years’ resolutions.  This is a busy time of the year for everyone. Here in our village, we’re bogged down with things like barbecues, parties, soccer tournaments, hiking, and gardening.  It can be hard to juggle it all! Anyway, here’s our 7-month budget update for our family gap year.


What Happened in December

December was the first month since August that we didn’t take a week (or more) to travel somewhere. We stayed in our village the entire month, with the exception of one short trip to the city for three days.  December is a time of festivities throughout Bolivia, and we really wanted to experience it all in our village.


Related: How We Celebrate Christmas In Bolivia


So, here’s what we spent overall for December:

ExpenseDec. BudgetDec. ActualDec. Variance Over / (Under)
Living In Our Pueblo$833$1,045($212)
Medical Expenses$0$0$0
Long Term Storage in California$250$108$142

We were $1,180 under budget overall since we didn’t travel anywhere (not including the trip to the city).  However, our village living expenses were high, $212 over budget. Considering we spent the entire month in our village AND it was December, that’s not too bad at all.


December is always an expensive month for our family, no matter where we are.  Christmas gifts and events cost money, and we usually blow through our regular budget in December.  Here in Bolivia, that’s the case too – just on a lesser scale. So being two-hundred dollars over budget for our village living expenses this month is certainly excusable, IMO.


Living In Our Pueblo

I have to admit, after the last trip we took to Argentina and Uruguay in November, I was ready to settle in for a while.  Traveling is fun and all, but it can get tiring too.  Plus, while I love to travel and explore, I hate to spend money.  That’s just me.


December means summertime in our village.  And if you want to settle in for a while, this is the time to do it. The population of our village doubles with vacationers arriving for the holidays. Many of them stay for the whole summer, until Carnaval in February.  With all those people in town, there’s a lot going on – people to see and things to talk about.  You can imagine that the social scene in town is a juggernaut.


But I’m no social butterfly. I still prefer my own gardening, house projects, and blogging, rather than surfing the town’s social scene.  I spent the first couple of weeks of December building an outdoor wood-fired oven.  It’s not the prettiest, but it works well.  And it only cost about $75 in materials, mostly bricks and concrete.  Try to beat that at Home Depot! Here is my first batch of sugar cookies I made for Christmas Day:

Family Gap Year Budget Update December Christmas Coookies

Christmas cookies made in my outdoor oven.  The oven cost about $75 in materials.

Anyway, here’s the detail of what we spent in our village in December:


December Living Expenses In Our Village

Food & Household Supplies$690
Clothing, Transportation, Other$119
Transportation To/From City$46
Food In The City$124

Of the $119 in the “other” category, we spent most of that ($102) on Christmas gifts and decorations. A hundred bucks for Christmas! I know, I know… it’s a lot, right? Right! That’s cause we LOVE our kids!


In reality, there’s really not much you can even buy for Christmas here in our village.  One of the gifts my daughter got was just a couple of small candy bars.  That’s fine, though, because the whole consumer side of Christmas in the U.S. goes way too far. What’s amazing is that our kids were still thrilled to open their gifts, even though they knew they were all just trinkets. That puts things into perspective for you.


With the holidays, we’ve got a bunch of guests at our house too – six people in total, all from my wife’s family.  The house is full, and so are our stomachs.  While I can’t really say how much that’s driven up our food costs, I’m sure it has at least a bit.


The other thing that’s driving up our food costs in December is fresh fruit. Our town is bursting with harvests of various fruit, and some of them can be rather expensive (relatively).  We’re eating bucket loads of fresh figs and cherries.  No, I’m serious – bucket loads!  We buy fresh figs, cherries, peaches, and even blackberries by the bucket for just a few dollars. It’s super cheap compared to the U.S., but it’s relatively expensive for here, and it drives up our food costs.


The cherries we have here are different from what you’re familiar with in the United States.  It’s a variety that only grows in Central and South America, and have a completely different taste.  Here’s a photo:

Gap Year Budget Update Fresh Fruit in Bolivia Capulin Cherries

Bolivian Capulin Cherries

We took one trip to the city in December.  We spent $46 on transportation to/from, and $124 on food.  We were celebrating the high school graduation of one of my wife’s nephews, and we went out to a nice steak and wine dinner – $48 for four.  Here’s the steak I had:

Gap Year Budget Update December Steak in Tarija, Bolivia

This has to be the best steak in the world, for the price. In Tarija, Bolivia

Finally, utilities.  We spent $65 on our very slow, but often-on internet.  I forgot to pay the water and electricity bills.  That would have been another $10 or so, total.


They don’t send bills to your house here.  It’s kinda up to you to remember to go pay.  If you miss two months, they cut you off with no warning (we found that out in July).  But, you can easily get it reinstated within just a few hours if you walk down to the office and pay.  Anyway, I gotta remember to pay in January, or we’ll get cut off again.


Year-To-Date Update 7-Months

So, how are we looking for the full cumulative year abroad, seven months in?  Pretty good:

ExpenseAnnual BudgetExpected Thru 7 MonthsActual Thru 7 MonthsVariance Under / (Over)
Flights To/From Bolivia$10,000$5,000$528$4,472
Move-In Expenses$2,000$2,000$1,374$626
Living In Our Pueblo$10,000$5,833$5,774$59
Long Term Storage in California$3,000$1,750$936$814
Visa & Other Paperwork$0$0$931($931)

Of our $40,000 total budget for the year, I would have expected to have spent $23,333 by now.  But, thanks largely to getting our initial flights to Bolivia for free, we are still about $4k under budget after seven months.


We’re now pretty much right on target for our travel and living expenses. We have small savings in those categories, offset by a few unanticipated expenses.


In what was undoubtedly  the 10th circle of hell, we spent $931 hiring a lawyer to get my visa to live in Bolivia for a year.  Then, for some odd reason, I didn’t really budget medical expenses either.  We ended up getting  World Nomads travel insurance (for $837) just before we left on the trip.  It’s a good thing we got it though, because it totally covered the roughly $1,000 in hospital costs when my wife spent three days in a Bolivian hospital. The insurance more than paid for itself!


We’ve also had about $400 so far in dentist bills to cover braces for both of my kids.  While it’s eating into our budget, I really don’t mind.  It’s a huge savings from what we would have spent for braces in America, fo shizzel.   Gotta love medical tourism!


Coming Up

January is here, and it’s going to be more of the same – enjoying the festivities and events of summer in our village, while avoiding the intense sun and dodging an occasional thunderstorm.  We don’t have any plans to travel anywhere, other than one or two trips to the city again to see the dentist.  Maybe we’ll eat some prime steak too.



Jojo Bobo

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