Gap Year Spending Month 6 – $2,136.15

We have officially been on the road for 6 whole months!  Starting from Seattle in February, we’ve driven thousands of miles, visited over a dozen different states, and had enough unique experiences to fill a decade.  And we’re not even halfway done!

July has not only been our lowest month of spending on this trip, but it’s actually our lowest month of spending ever since we started tracking 5 years ago.

It is important to keep that number in perspective because we have been hosted by generous friends and family for a large portion of the month.  We are very grateful to have these places to stay in and around the Midwest to escape some of the crowds for the summer, but our lodging expenses should grow as we make our way to the east coast.

You also may have noticed that I’m barely getting July’s expenses out and it’s almost September!  Part of the blame lies in sending my laptop in for repairs, but I’m not here to make excuses.  Let’s dive into July’s numbers:

Lodging – $264.30

As I mentioned in the intro, we were hosted by friends and family for a majority of the month which kept our lodging costs low.

Lodging Breakdown by Nights:

  • Hotel nights booked with points – 9
    • See below for breakdown
  • Hotel nights booked with cash – 2
    • IHG – 2
  • Nights spent with Friends and Family – 20

Both of the cash nights finished out one of our Q2 Accelerate promotions from IHG to earn us ~40,000 points.  By optimizing our stays for this promotion, the net cost of the 5 nights that earned us over 40k points becomes extremely low.  The flexibility of time on this trip has allowed us to really optimize our hotel points, including strategically paying cash at times to earn more.

Points Spent by Brand:

  • Hilton – 5 Nights – 88,000 points
  • IHG – 4 Nights – 30,000 points

Once again, we used our power of being flexible to optimize our stays.  Hilton offers the 5th night free on points bookings, so we stayed exactly 5 nights to save 22k points.  Additionally, IHG offers the 4th night free on points bookings, as a benefit of their newest credit card, so we chose to structure our stop to be exactly 4 nights to save 10k points.

Theses strategies have allowed us to get out-sized value for our hotel points on this trip, especially compared to shorter, less flexible trips that we’ve taken in past years.

Points Earned per Brand (excluding credit card spend/bonuses):

  • IHG – 44,540 earned
    • 3,540 in regular earnings
    • 38,000 from Q2 Accelerate Promotion
    • 3,000 from 10% points rebate via the IHG credit card
    • 500 from welcome bonuses

Both of us took advantage of IHG’s Accelerate promotion in the first quarter of the year, but were only able to make our stays work for one of our promotions this last quarter.  Hopefully we are targeted for additional lucrative promotions in the second half of the year!

Transportation – $166.25

  • Gasoline – $89.07
  • Car Maintenence – $21.06
  • Uber – $15.22
  • Tolls – $32.90
  • Parking – $8

By spending most of our summer catching up with friends and family in the Midwest, we didn’t end up driving as far during the month of July.  However, as we spent time in Illinois and looked ahead to our future east coast driving, we did buy an iPass to simplify highway toll usage.  The west half of the country doesn’t have many tolls, but I expect this spending category to maintain or grow on the second half of the trip.

Car maintenance was a simple oil change, our second of the trip, and our Mazda 3 is still running great!

Driving Stats:

  • Miles Traveled – 1,021
  • Gallons of Gas Purchased – 41
  • Average Miles per Gallon –  25.12
  • Average Price per Gallon – $3.55

The total mileage of the trip sits at 13,460 after the six month mark, but I anticipate that we may more than double that by the time we make our way back to Seattle at the end of this trip.

Food & Dining – $654.62

  • Eating Out – $572.31
  • Groceries – $82.31

Our food spending was down a bit for the month, probably because we ate more home cooked meals than usual.  We still prefer to eat out most meals while we’re on the road, so I don’t see this shrinking any further going forward.

Entertainment – $369.38

  • Attractions – $210.31
    • Pabst Mansion Tour
    • MillerCoors Brewery Tour (this one was free!)
    • Six Flags Great America
    • Chicago Field Museum
  • Bars – $79.41 (the times we didn’t have food with our drinks)
  • “Sports” – $41.50
    • Gym visit
    • Mini Golf
    • Bowling
  • MoviePass – $19.90 (RIP)
  • Movies – $13
  • Puzzles – $5.26

July was a fun month as we explored Milwaukee and Madison in Wisconsin.  If you’re in Milwaukee, definitely check out the Safe House!  That specific expense actually showed up in Food because we ate there, but there is no shortage of entertainment and puzzles to complete before, during, and after your meal.  Highly recommend checking it out yourself and a quick shout-out to Tanja from Our Next Life for letting us know about it!

July also marks the final month of our MoviePass membership.  It was a great ride while it lasted and we probably saw over 40 movies together for ~$60 each over the past 6 months, but recent changes to the program were deal-breakers for us, so we cancelled our membership.  Back to paying for movies again (once our free Regal tickets run out…).

A new category this month was “Puzzles” which deserves a brief explanation.  One of our hotels this month was right across the street from a Goodwill, so we decided to browse around and ended up bringing back a puzzle for ~$2.  Solving it made for a good break from our usual “hanging around the hotel” routine and we ended up grabbing a couple more after donating back the first one.  It’s tough to beat a couple dollars for several hours of entertainment, so we might keep up this routine during our downtime in various places.

Everything Else – $681.60

It’s usually a bad sign if a catch-all spending category ends up being the highest category for the month, but we just happened to have over $300 in once per year expenses come due.  Not to mention that most of our other spending was down for the month to start with.

  • Cell Phone Plan – $96
  • Storage Unit in Seattle – $57
  • Household Supplies – $33.19
  • Shopping – $35.69
  • Haircut – $16
  • Gifts – $123.78
  • Health Insurance – $4.65
  • Umbrella Insurance – $192.79 (annual premium)
  • Nursing License – $122.50 (annual renewal)

Most of these are normal recurring expenses at either the monthly level (cell phone and storage unit) or annual level (umbrella insurance and nursing license).  The only one that is worth talking about beyond that is “Shopping” which included a couple new HDMI cords, a new minimalist wallet for Becky, and the JackBox Party Pack computer game.

If you’ve never played one of the JackBox games, it’s an amazing group party game that’s super easy to jump into.  The computer running the game is hooked up to a TV to display the questions/scores/etc while everyone in the room can join the game using any device with an internet browser (typically a phone, but tablets and computers also work) to answer questions and play along.

Totaling Up the First 6 Months

At the unofficial “halfway” point of the year, we managed to sneak in just below $20k for a total of $19,863.37.

While planning this trip and getting our financial situation in order, we were able to set aside nearly an entire year’s worth of expenses.  Given all of the unknowns going into this trip, that “year of expenses” was based on how much we were spending in Seattle at the time, but I’m happy to report that we are well on pace to stay within that “budget” by a good margin!

These summer months (June-August) are a bit of an outlier (on the lower side) because we are driving fewer miles, staying with family and friends, and visiting fewer tourist attractions (we’ve already seen most of them).  However, as our adventure makes its way over to the east coast, I fully expect our costs to be closer the first few months of this trip if not a little higher.

Luckily, that should remain well within our budget for the year and get us back to Seattle with a buffer to fill any gaps before we start earning an income again.

We still have plenty to figure out regarding what our lives will look like after this trip concludes, but there will be plenty of time for that down the road.  For now, we’re doing our best to enjoy every moment of this amazing adventure together and that’s more than enough.

I hope you also managed to find a little adventure during your own summer. 🙂


10 thoughts on “Gap Year Spending Month 6 – $2,136.15

  1. * Health Insurance expense of $4.65 seems very low.
    * No monthly expense for car insurance. Pre-paid?

    Thanks for sharing! Happy weeding anniversary 🙂

    1. For health insurance, we are on a basic ACA plan from the Washington exchange. The premiums are income based and since we don’t have an income this year, it is extremely cheap. I wrote about the different health insurance options we considered here if you want more detail: http://moneymetagame.com/fi/gap-year-planning-many-mediocre-health-insurance-options/

      For auto insurance, we pay a 6-month premium. That last showed up in month 3: http://moneymetagame.com/gap-year/gap-year-spending-month-3-2184-27/

      Thanks Mandeep!

  2. I too am over MoviePass and their BS changes. I just signed up for Sinemia yesterday. The cost is $9.99 / month and comes with 3 2D movies that you can see at any movie theater, at anytime, without blackout dates. I have high hopes for Sinemia. I wrote a post about it this morning if you want to see what the service offers: https://travelwithgrant.boardingarea.com/2018/08/31/sinemia-summer-sale-9-99-for-3-movies-month-with-no-moviepass-bs-or-blackouts/

    Keep up the great work and happy Labor Day!

    1. Once we settle down somewhere, we’ll probably end up getting Sinemia or A-List, but now that the summer movie chaos is over, we’ll probably just use up our remaining Regal passes and pay cash for now.

      Hopefully there is a good movie subscription service in existence 6 months from now, but only time will tell.

  3. Things I’m curious to know about:

    1. Has your in-car experience changed/evolved at all? All those hours in the car you must have developed a system of some sorts of packing/having things accessible, etc.
    2. How far in advance are you booking hotels on points/cash? Have you encountered issues of availability if you book close-in?

    1. Good questions Jackrin,

      1. We rarely drive more than 3-4 hours at a time, so the actual in-car experience is pretty simple. The limited time means we don’t really need to worry about having a cooler of drinks or snacks readily available. As for packing/unpacking, we’ll usually grab a luggage cart at each new hotel to move two carry-on sized suitcases, a backpack of electronics, a bag for laundry, a bag of miscellaneous items, and a small crate of food/snacks. All of these items fit flat into the back of our car and are returned to their places when we move between hotels.

      2. We’ve been booking about 1-3 weeks in advance throughout most of the trip and that’s the same for points or cash. Every week or two, we’ll sit down and decide where the next couple stops on our trip will be and we look for reasonably priced places both on the way to and at those stops. Booking that close means not every property is available (or priced in our range), but we have always managed to find an option or two that works.

      The only time we’ve re-arranged our plans after looking at hotels was in Nashville because our initial plan overlapped with the country music awards, thus everything was either booked or really expensive. For that situation, we just decided to hop over to Memphis for 5 days first and returned to Nashville after demand died down. A huge benefit of this trip is that we have plenty of time to spare for changes like that, which makes booking properties fairly easy because we’re so flexible.

      Thanks for reading!

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