“Hush!” I say to the grousing in the back of my mind. “I’m trying to do math.” I click on the “Actual Tally Tab” in the Excel file that contains my Year to Date equations.
“I don’t know why you are bothering with this,” Myself responds. “You know you aren’t going to make your budget.”
I ignore Myself.
I update the six month tally equations to include January through June. I review to make sure all the necessary categories are in place and that they look accurate compared to each individual month’s spreadsheet. Then, I hit the hard return. Figures pop up into the total boxes:
Total Spent: $36,001.00
Monthly Average: $6,000.16
“Yuck!” I say aloud to Andrew, wrinkling my nose.
“What’s the damage?” He asks. Upon hearing my report he just shrugs. “It’s New Zealand.”
This is true. New Zealand is expensive. It is more expensive than the United States in every way. Fuel for Sister Mary Francis was $7.00 per gallon. Camping sites charge per person, and even the cheap ones are $9.00 per night/per person - making it $18.00 per night to park the van in a giant open field with pit toilets. And let’s be honest, the average campsite was more like $15.00-$20.00pp making it more like $30.00 - $40.00 per night. There is a concept of “Freedom Camping” but with the number of camping vans running around these days, the “Freedom Camping” is less available than it used to be. The grocery and restaurant food are both on par with the United States, but the beer will take your breath away. If you want craft beer, you will be paying $3.00 per 12oz bottle in the grocery store and a minimum of $11.00 for a pint in a restaurant or pub. You can get a lager akin to Budweiser for $2.00 at the grocery and $7.00 per pint in the restaurants. Delicious wine is a great buy, though. You could easily get a lovely glass for $5.00 per glass. Time to switch to wine!
“Yeah, we knew New Zealand would be like that. But, we are supposed to be coming in low to balance our average out over the rest of the year.” I remind Andrew. Then I read our tallies for April, May and June. “Tonga we just made our budget. Fiji we made our budget (Thanks to Grin taking us out on unsupervised SCUBA adventures). And Vanuatu blew us out of the water.” I report.
Being ranked the poorest country in the world based on GDP, I would have thought that it would be cheap. This is not the case. The value of the Vatu and the pricing of the goods and services end up being on par with costs in the US. While there are 100 Vatu for every $1 US Dollar, a beer cost 500 Vatu here/$5.00 US. The groceries are pretty similar, and the Au Bon Marche has so much delicious French cheese that our stock up runs have been substantial.
The biggest “problem,” though, is the level of AWESOME available to explore. A “Can’t Miss” experience around every corner. Live volcanos, world class scuba diving, the best and largest WWII wreck anywhere in the world, limited time to see cultural experiences like land diving, people who are so kind and so talented that they deserve payment for their tour guiding services and cultural art performances. We broke the bank in June spending $800 for the flight and Pentecost Land Diving Tour alone. This did not stop us from paying $400 for ten scuba dives (a great price, it just adds up).
In addition, we are about to face some camera infrastructure spending. My SLR is beginning to act a little quirky and the Go Pro died. I have one deep water camera and housing, but it is not adequate to stand in for land tour photos if the SLR dies. Vanuatu did not have my preferred SLR (Cannon 70D) available and I want to keep my lenses, tripod, and extra batteries compatible if possible. So, we ended up buying a Nikon Coolpix that can go to depth of 30M without a separate housing. It’s a great little camera that seems to take pretty nice pictures out of the water and is good in the water, too. This cost is inevitable and the cameras have worked longer than I expected them to in this saltwater environment. In theory, it's built into the projections, as we know the Bumfuzzles took pictures, too, right?
All this equated to a $3,000 overspend in June. This puts Vanuatu in the same category of expensive as New Zealand. Our six month average Jan-June 2017 is $2,000 over budget per month, and if we spread this over the sixteen months we have been traveling, we are spending $1,241 per month over budget.
“TIME TO PANIC!” Myself screams and waves her hands over her head.
“It’s not time to panic,” I tell Myself.
She has already run off to find Osmond the Comfort Owl. Rocking in the corner and mumbling “We are never going to make it home. We are going to run out of money and then what? Then what? This is so embarrassing. Everyone can see we are wrong about our projections. Obviously, we lack complete self control. Ugh. We drink too much, too. Our budget would probably be on track if Andrew didn’t drink any beer….” Then she yells, “I can’t believe you are writing about this on the internet!!!”
“Osmond?” I say.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” Osmond hoots.
Budgeting. My mother makes fun of me for budgeting. Every time I raise the “B” word, she rolls her eyes and reminds me that I am not in control. I can hear her eyes roll over the phone from 10,000 miles away. “Life will take you on the path you should go, Leslie.” She says. And, I’m sure that is true. Luckily, my life took me on a path that introduced me to budgeting.
Just like everyone else in the world, I have a love/hate relationship with making a budget. The judgmental, frightened part of Myself hates budgeting. She knows that when I work through the budget, I am going to look Myself in the eye and ask: “Am I doing what I need to be doing right now to make sure I am going to be satisfied with my life the day I die?” She hates that question. Why? Because when I focus on the answers to that question, she has less control over me. I am less distracted by her motivations: fear of failure, comparison with other people, pleasing other people, avoiding embarrassment, and avoiding anything less than perfection.
But, the real Me loves budgeting. We get to kick around her favorite two questions: “What is really important; and are we making it happen?” If the answer is “yes”, she can rest easy. If the answer is “I don’t know, maybe, or not quite” then we can get a jump start on readjusting before things really go off the rails. What could be better than that?
That evening, we pour a glass of wine and start kicking around the important questions.
- Why are we over budget?
- What is our goal?
- Does this continue to be our goal?
- Why is this our goal? Is there a way to revise this goal that will align our real objectives with our resources?
- Are there other goals at play?
- Where do they fall in the line of priorities?
- Are there any impossible/competing priorities?
- Is the budget overrun a problem (immediate, temporary, or long term)?
- What options do we have to readjust?
- Are there any acceptable ways we can either earn more or spend less?
At the end of our discussion, we confirm our goal remains a full circumnavigation. We determine the budget overrun is still not an immediate or pressing problem, but that it is wise to take a route through cheaper Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand for the remainder of this year rather than tacking on extra time and expense of going to New Caledonia and Australia for now. We decide to capitalize on a couple opportunities for income through remote work, and we are staving off panic at least until the end of the year. The average may just even out, yet.
(Osmond is brushing up his resume for this position. He says he likes the robe.)
So, anyway, here’s the tally:
January 1, 2017 - June 30, 2017: New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu
Total Spent: $36,001.
Monthly Average: $6,000.16
Healthcare: $998 ($360 Antimalarial supply through South Africa, $300 prescription glasses and sunglasses)
Yard Fees/Slips/Moorings: $3,243 (This figure includes Sonrisa’s yard fee in Tonga and all campsites in New Zealand)
Diesel/Gas: $1,983 (Sonrisa and Kitty insist that I tell you $1,638 of this figure is fuel for Sister Mary Francis The Van on the New Zealand road trip. )
Blog/Communication Costs: $2,100 (Includes Internet, SatPhone, Ting and $538 spent on Nikon Coolpix camera.)
Gifts/Donations: $594 (This doesn’t include all the food, clothes, parts, or equipment that we just happened to have on Sonrisa that we gave away or traded for coconuts. Come to Vanuatu ready to trade! Bring extra sugar, tea in teabags (teabags are a luxury here), matches, writing paper, rope, fishing line or lures. Be aware that any plastic or wrapping that you give them will end up on the beach. Remove everything from packaging and take care of the garbage yourself when you get into town.
Sonrisa Maintenance: $2,079
Check In Fees: $1,120
Groceries: $4,132 (Hey! Groceries are still outspending dining out!)
Dining Out: $3,491
Entertainment: $9,196 (Scuba diving, tours (like Land Diving), mountain bikes in New Zealand
Insurances: $5,729 (Health, Life, Disability, Boat)
These tallies have been added to the "Cost Tally" Page, where you can see every dollar we have spent from the time we bought Sonrisa, through her refit, and the trip itself. Go to the menu bar at the top of the blog page (or right hand corner if you are looking on a smart phone) and check it out.