Starting from Seattle in February, my wife and I have now spent 8 full months traveling across the country!
We’ve never tried anything like this before, so we had no idea how much our adventure would cost. Therefore, we are tracking every penny spent and keeping a running tally here on the blog. This has the dual purpose of making sure we won’t deplete our savings on the road and gives an example of what living on the road might cost if someone else is interested in trying it for themselves.
At the end of month 8 of our gap year adventure, we find ourselves in the beautiful Northeast on the shores of Maine, not too far from Acadia National Park. The leaves are just starting to change and the temperature is beginning to drop, so this will be the furthest north we find ourselves for quite some time.
For the next month or two, we’ll be making our way down the east coast towards the warm beaches of Florida. This is where we plan to hang out for the holidays, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
First we need to take a look at how much we spent during the 8th month of our trip (September 2018):
Lodging – $1,110.33
After a very inexpensive summer of lodging (thanks to our generous friends and family!), we’re back to spending most our time in hotels. I enjoy optimizing the use of our various points (mostly from credit card signup bonuses), but our stash isn’t unlimited so paying cash makes sense at times. Particularly when a hotel chain, like IHG, is running a generous promotion.
Lodging Breakdown by Nights:
- Hotel nights booked with points – 12
- See below for breakdown
- Hotel nights booked with cash – 12
- IHG – 7
- Other – 5
- Nights spent with Friends and Family – 6
Our points versus cash bookings were an even split this month, while we also spent 6 nights at a friend’s cabin in Michigan. That friend is the one and only Physician on FIRE who runs a blog by the same name. We met up with him and his family at CampFI outside of Minneapolis and after telling them we were heading through Michigan soon, they didn’t hesitate to offer their second home to us.
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how generous people in the FIRE community can be. Becky and I have attended a handful of events across the country related to this community and it rarely takes more than a minute for new friendships to form. The common thread of wanting to optimize our finances is just the icebreaker into more meaningful conversation that often ends with plans to stay in touch and meet up again in the future.
If you’ve never been to an in-person meetup related to this community, I highly recommend it.
Points Spent by Brand:
- IHG – 12 Nights – 165,000 points
The 12 nights were spread across 3 different stays of 4 nights each which allowed us to take advantage of the 4th night free benefit that comes with one of our IHG credit cards.
Points Earned per Brand (excluding credit card spend/bonuses):
- IHG – 78,069 earned
- 48,756 from IHG’s “Double Points plus more” promotion
- 16,500 from 10% points rebate via the IHG credit card
- 9,813 in regular earnings from cash bookings
- 3,000 from welcome bonuses
This past month was IHG heavy across the board, mostly at Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express properties. Our cash bookings all counted towards an ongoing promotion that allowed us to earn nearly 90 IHG points per dollar spent! We also have the option of finishing out the promotion by spending ~$1k more towards IHG hotel nights to earn an additional ~56k in bonus points. I’m not sure if we’ll take advantage of that portion or not, but we have until the middle of December to decide.
Overall, the ~$1,100 spent on lodging this month is the most so far on this trip, but not by much. That total is within our budget and probably sustainable through the end of the trip.
Transportation – $341.01
- Gasoline – $277.39
- Ferry – $48
- Parking – $11.62
- Tolls – $4
We started the month in Wisconsin, made our way through the upper peninsula in Michigan, and continued through southern Canada on our way to Maine. That means our gap year adventure has entered it’s 3rd North American country!
Gas was our largest transportation expense of the month, while the ferry tickets brought us over to Mackinac Island for a day of fun.
- Miles Traveled – 2,026
- Gallons of Gas Purchased – 74
- Average Miles per Gallon – 27.32
- Average Price per Gallon – $3.74
I believe this is the most we’ve paid per gallon of gas so far and Canada is partially to blame (assuming I did the liters and CAD conversions correctly). At the same time, this is also the most efficient our car has driven which is probably due to the highway speeds being a little slower than the past.
Food – $1,050.70
- Eating Out – $854.43
- Groceries – $196.27
Our eating expenses remain consistent right around the $1k mark, so no surprises here. Broken down, that’s just shy of $6 per person per meal (assuming 3 meals per day).
Entertainment – $452.54
- Attractions – $113.52
- Mackinac Island Bike Rental
- Michigan County State Fair
- Lumberjack Show
- Acadia National Park
- “Sports” – $168.43
- Mini Golf
- Bouldering Gyms
- Bars – $73.47
- Movies – $46.19
- Gambling – $33
- Puzzles/Games – $17.93
We stayed busy in the month of September and one of our more interesting experiences was a live lumberjack skills exhibition. The brochure rack at our hotel led us to this unique show and it was fun watching the guys throw axes, chop wood, and scale tall trees. Another attraction included exploring Mackinac Island via bike. There are no cars on the island, so everything is extremely bike friendly and there is a lot to see along the trails.
Some of our favorite pastimes include miniature golf, bowling, and bouldering. Each of these activities can be found in most cities along our route and make for a great addition to an otherwise relaxing day.
Gambling is the entry fee for the one fantasy football league I’m participating in this year. Last year I managed to turn an $80 buy-in across two leagues into a whopping $395, so fingers crossed on repeating that success this season.
Puzzles and games include numerous jigsaw puzzles purchased from Goodwill and a board game we picked up at the same time called Concept (it had never been played!). It’s meant for 4+ people as a competitive game, but we’ve found that it works great as a 2-person cooperative game trying to decipher each other’s clues.
View this post on Instagram
Does anyone take advantage of the brochure rack at hotels? We do! Without them we would have not found out about this Lumberjack show. There’s nothing like an amateur timber games skills exhibition to sum up the true northern Wisconsin experience. To follow it up, we stopped for some mini golf on the way back. Some of the best days on our trip have been unplanned and spontaneous 🌲🌲⛏⛳️ #fredscheerslumberjackshow #axethrowing #logrolling #woodchopping #60foottreeclimb #woodruff #wisconsin #minigolf #gapyear #moneymetagame
Everything Else – $161.54
- Laundry – $24.31
- Gifts – $1.58
- Storage Unit – $57
- Health – $4.65
- Cell Phone Plan – $74
Nothing too exciting here. The storage unit, cell phone, and health insurance expenses recur every month, while we bought a few postcards and did our laundry at coin-op machines.
The Running Total After 8 Months
After preparing for and living on the road for a full 8 months, we’ve spent a total of $24,585.
- Pre-Trip Expenses – $1,552.62
- Month 1 Spending – $3,743.55
- Month 2 Spending – $3,555.27
- Month 3 Spending – $3,796.40
- Month 4 Spending – $2,184.27
- Month 5 Spending – $2.895.11
- Month 6 Spending – $2,136.15
- Month 7 Spending – $1,605.04
- Month 8 Spending – $3,116.12
With our average spending per month coming in at ~$2,900, we should finish the year having spent under $40,000. This is below the amount of money we set aside for this trip at the beginning of the year, so we shouldn’t have to sell any of our investments before settling back into a normal routine.
Where that routine will be located is still to be determined, but we’ll have to start putting some serious thought into it in the coming months. For now, we’re focused on enjoying our time in some of the larger cities along the east coast as we make our way south. Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, DC, and more are on our list for October.
Be sure to follow us on Instagram for our best pictures from the road!
View this post on Instagram
We walked over 8 miles on our own self guided walking tour of Montréal. Stops included Schwartz Deli for smoked meat sandwiches and poutine, a hike to the top of Mount Royal, and many of the old buildings with beautiful architecture. We even stumbled across a lively drum circle in the park🥁🥪🇨🇦#montreal #canada #frencharchitecture #lotsofwalking #shwartzdeli #smokedmeat #mountroyal #grandquai #notredamemontreal #gapyear #moneymetagame