We’ve been quietly enjoying the slow life in our village (oh, so slow!) for the last two months. But, slow as life is here, time is flying like a hot hell-bat on fire. We’re eight months into our year-long adventure in Bolivia, and, with mixed feelings, we’re already starting now to think about going home. For sure, there will be things we’re looking forward to again back home – like washing machines and peanut butter & jelly. But we will also miss life here – especially our kids, who can never be so free in suburban California. Anyway, here’s how we stack up on the financial end after eight months:
What Happened In January
For two months now, we haven’t taken any major trips anywhere. We spent most of January in our little village, with the exception of a rather adventurous weekend to see the Dakar Rally, and two short trips by the wife and kids to the city for banking and dental work. That’s kept our expenses low again for another month.
In our village, I spend weekday mornings homeschooling the kids, and afternoons in the garden or writing blog posts. Both kids are really progressing in math and grammar, and it’s an awesome thing to be a part of. For me, homeschooling has been a great experience (not sure about for them, though). It’s allowed me to really get to know how my kids think.
Related Content: A Typical Day In Our Pueblo
It’s been raining a lot more, which means we’ve been indoors more too.
The Wet Season
January is a new year and a new season: specifically, the wet season. I can see now why they call it the “wet” season. It’s wet. I thought we were living in a desert (we are). But for the last two weeks, we haven’t had a single day without substantial rain. It comes in the afternoon, at night, in the morning, and sometimes all day long.
It comes in light drizzles, in booming thunderstorms, in short showers, and in pounding downpours. The dry canyon behind the town has become a permanent flash flood. Our dirt road is now a mud road. It’s impossible to hang-dry our clothes, and I’ve given up on using our wood-fired stove. The pigs next door have redefined muddy. The cat is a miserable wet rag. And the leaf-cutter ants have started building their own boats. It’s raining a lot.
Apparently, this is a “La Niña” year, which means extra rain in the central Andes. I can verify that we have the extra rain.
Oh, it turns out our roof has a few leaks. The good news is that the house is made of brick and concrete (not wood or adobe), and so a little water doesn’t really do damage. But the bad news is that we’re not talking about just a little water. We’re getting a lot.
But, I digress. On to the budget! Here’s what we spent overall in January:
|Expense||Jan. Budget||Jan. Actual||Jan. Variance Over / (Under)|
|Living in Our Pueblo||$833||$860||($27)|
|Long Term Storage in California||$250||$108||$142|
We were $1,177 under budget over all in January. We only spent about half of our budget mostly because we didn’t take any big trips. Our weekend to see the Dakar Rally cost $188, and $108 for our long-term storage in California. We were just a bit heavy on the village living expenses, again because we spent the whole month in our village.
Living In Our Pueblo
We spent $860 to live in our rural Bolivian town for the entire month of January. That’s $27 over our budget for that category. Here’s how we spent it:
January Living Expenses In Our Pueblo
|Food & Household Supplies||$663|
|Travel to/from City||$46|
|Food in the City||$39|
The bulk of our January spending was on food & household supplies in our village. It seems our kids are growing and eating a lot these days. On top of that, we spent $87 on our utilities. That’s $65 for our mostly-on and always glorious internet, $17 for electricity – actually that’s 2 months, since I forgot to pay December, $3 for water – also 2 months, and $2 for cell service. That’s the first time we’ve paid anything for cell service in a few months (we pay per go, and mostly use wi-fi calling).
Our trips to the city cost us a total of $85 for food and transportation. The kids had their monthly dental visit (braces), and my wife had to go grab cash from the nearest ATM a couple of times. By nearest, I mean in the city, 2 hours away. We’ve been sort of cut-off from our Bolivian bank account on account that my wife (a Bolivian citizen) failed to vote in the December elections. The penalty for not voting is 3 months of no banking services.
Fortunately, we can now access our funds directly from the U.S. using ATMs, although we have to pay some fees.
Related Content: Adventures in Banking Abroad
Year-To-Date Update, 8 Months
So, how are we looking for the full cumulative year, eight months in? Awesome!
|Expense||Annual Budget||Expected Thru 8 Months||Actual Thru 8 Months||Variance Over / (Under)|
|Flights To/From Bolivia||$10,000||$5,000||$528||$4,472|
|Living in Our Pueblo||$10,000||$6,667||$5,582||$1,077|
|Long Term Storage in California||$3,000||$2,000||$936||$1,064|
|Visa & Other Paperwork||$0||$0||$931||($931)|
Through eight months, we’re $6,224 under budget, primarily because we got our flights down to South America for free (or virtually free). We’re under budget in every other category too, but we had over $1,500 in unanticipated medical expenses (primarily dental work for the kids) and it cost me $931 to hire a lawyer to get my Bolivian resident visa.
At this point, our budget is looking great overall. It looks like we could easily finish our Family Gap Year well under budget. But, we’ve been responsible savers for many years, and it’s time to stop acting our age! One of my 2018 New Year’s resolutions is to leave no regrets. We’ve spent years planning and saving for this gap year, and we’re not going to leave some regrets on the table.
So, rather than saving money, we’ve decided to spend it all. It certainly helps that our stock portfolio continues to kick ass this year. Our net worth has increased by over $100k even though we’re not making any money and having the adventure of our lives! Not a bad deal!
So, we’re planning three more large trips in the remaining four months. They’ll be expensive (they won’t), and they may cause us to go a bit over our $40k total budget by the end of the year (they will). The plan at this point is a week at a jungle lodge in the Bolivia’s Madidi National park, a couple of weeks through Peru, and a river cruise on the Mother-of-All-Rivers itself (Amazon), before heading home in June – or so.
February is the heart of the summer down here, and it’s going to be a big month. We have several festivals in town, including the grand-daddy of them all, Carnaval – a four day long party, where anything goes (except that! Get your mind out of the gutter). After Carnaval, our family is heading to the Bolivian Amazon for a week in a jungle lodge to enjoy the oppressive heat and biting bugs of Madidi National Park. Our kids have been looking forward to that trip all year long, because we’re guaranteed to see tons of animals (and a few bugs too).
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