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Old 10-21-08, 07:19 PM   #1
oldride
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Monthly budget to tour long term

I have read much here about the cost of touring. There have been many posts about daily costs, etc. It's all been helpful but recently I started looking at costs a little differently...sort of. Hypothetically if a person had a budget of say $1500 per month could you tour long term or indefinitely on that amount? If a person started on their bike from home and had no additional travel expenses could it be done? This would have to include all costs ie. food, camping fees, occasional motel/hostel, misc, etc.

I'm planning on selling my house, once the market here improves, and I'm thinking about traveling for an indefinite amount of time before I buy another home. I can't travel long term and keep the house and I want to downsize anyway. Much of the travel (maybe all of it) would be bike touring in the US and Canada. During this time I would only have expenses directly related to traveling. I'm 55 years old and retired and figure it's time to start living some of my dreams. So is $1500 per month realistic or do I need to increase the budget?

Right now I'm just in the brain storming stage and trying to figure out possibilities. All feedback is appreciated.
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Old 10-21-08, 07:36 PM   #2
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We are a family of four traveling in the USA and Canada (for now) and are spending roughly $1500-2000 for all four of us - so yes, you could travel alone on that for sure.

Of course, that will depend on how you choose to live. If you want to check into hotels all the time, it won't be enough. We tend to camp out in the wild most nights so we rarely pay for accomodation, and we buy 95% of our food at grocery stores rather than restaurants.

Traveling as a group of four has some definite advantages financially. We can buy a big package of food and will eat it no problem. That's more of a hassle for one person, so a lot of people I know who travel alone find that restaurants end up being for economically feasible for them. Also - campground fees are set regardless of whether one person or four stay in the tent.

That being said - I cant imagine that you couldn't travel quite comfortably on $1500 per month.
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Old 10-21-08, 07:38 PM   #3
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$1500 is ample to cover monthly expenses in non-touring life (rent, transportation to work, groceries, etc.) ... so yes, $1500 should cover touring expenses.


I toured Australia in 2004 for about $30/day (including a cruise out to the Great Barrier Reef, short flights here and there, etc.) ... but prices have gone up, and I think NA is a bit more expensive than Australia, so $50/day would probably be about right to give you a reasonably luxurious tour.

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Old 10-21-08, 07:44 PM   #4
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How much an individual spends is so personal it's hard to answer your question specifically, but in general $1500/month is a lot of money if you are prepared to be frugal. You can eat very inexpensively, you can free camp a lot and couch surf to keep accommodation cost low. Your bike maintenance costs can be inexpensive by careful shopping when sales occur.

Having said that if you need a shower every night, like to have luxury items [$5 coffees, restaurant meals] and have a hard time staying on budgets than it could be tough, but you know your spending habits and your preferences better than anyone.
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Old 10-21-08, 08:09 PM   #5
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For $50 per day, you would not be living luxuriously, but if you are camping and preparing your own meals, it might be possible. The big question is whether at the age of 55 you would be willing to travel that way. I am in my early 50s, and my experience may not reflect yours. I have traveled regularly since my early 20s. If I were 25 again, I probably could travel on $50 per day with ease. (Back in the late-1970s and early-1980s, I travelled for as little as $3 per day!) Although my needs as a 50+ adult are not at all luxurious, I have zero desire to travel as I did as a young adult. Hell, I know I am not going to sleep well on a foam pad at this point in my life!

For $50 per day, you would have virtually no margin for the unexpected. It would not hard to blow a day's budget or more for "emergency" accommodations in a cheap motel. On one recent trip, I needed to make a long-distance call on my cell phone, and because of roaming charges, the bill was $45. Ouch!

Your budget might be more feasible with a traveling companion or two. Splitting costs is the secret of traveling cheaply.
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Old 10-21-08, 08:19 PM   #6
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On one recent trip, I needed to make a long-distance call on my cell phone, and because of roaming charges, the bill was $45. Ouch!
If I were you, I'd have left the cell phone at home and picked up a phone card.
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Old 10-21-08, 08:42 PM   #7
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If you're touring the US, I'd guess $20/day for camping; $10 for food; $100/week for a hotel or motel room; $200 a month for incidentals. If you toured Southeast Asia or China and stayed in hotels the whole time (camping is rarely done there btw), it'd probably cost you half.

However, there are some places in the US where camping is more affordable. For example, the hiker/biker sites in California are $5 or less a night, and don't require reservations. I believe that type of setup is common on the West Coast.

My only recommendation is not to go too crazy with saving money. It's good to be prudent, but at a certain indefinable point you go from "making your dollar stretch" to "obsessively counting your pennies" (aka "budgetitis"). It happens a lot to backpackers, who even get a competitive streak about who can spend the least. It's better to spend a little less time on the road and not worry about money, than to spend an extra week or two and get a knot in your stomach when a candy bar costs $0.95 instead of $0.75.
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Old 10-21-08, 08:54 PM   #8
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As others have pointed out, it can be done depending on lifestyle - with camping and making your own meals helping a lot.

When I've thought of that, I've typically also budgeted for things like health insurance coverage in addition to day to day travel expenses.
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Old 10-21-08, 09:00 PM   #9
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One way to save on sleeping expenses is to make use of hospitality sites, such as www.warmshowers.org, www.couchsurfing.com, or www.hospitalityclub.org. The first 2 weeks of my recent trip through France was completely hosted and I spent very little money every day and slept indoors every night. That said, you do have to resist the temptation to take your hosts out to dinner!

One issue I see is how you get your food prepared. If you do your own cooking more most of your meals, then you should be able to keep your food bill to less than $10/day, depending on how much bulk you buy and how good you are at cooking. If you don't cook (then learn!) and need to use restaurants exclusively, then the food charges go way up (and the quality goes down).

There also is the issue of medical coverage. Will the $1500/month include your insurance payments? Do you take any medicines or need any periodic medical tests or procedures? What about dentistry?

While not an issue of cost, you will also need access to your money. Where will you put it? You can't carry all that cash with you. Being able to move money around without exposing passwords on public computers could be a bit of a bother and will require some arranging upfront.

It certainly seems doable to me. But, you could also have a fallback plan, such as, setting an upper dollar limit (say $10,000) and reevaluating when you get to that amount, assuming it is less than 7 months.

It sounds like a wonderful dream. Good luck and keep us updated!

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Old 10-21-08, 09:05 PM   #10
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When I put all my junk in storage and quit my job and went for a bike ride, I figured out how much money I wanted to have in reserve for the moment I would return to 'real life' - made some guesses about how much I would spend a month, and came up with an estimate for my burn rate and time-till-return-to-full-time-work. My reserve amount was 6 months of living expenses including rent, first/last/deposit, plus a little more. That's how long I thought it would take to find a new job.

My estimate for how long I could mess around about 8 months. 5 years later, I am now a contractor in the same field I used to work full time, have gone on about five 2-3 month bike tours, rock climbed and lived in a van for about a year total.... very satisfying.

You don't really have to know your monthly budget, is all I'm saying, you just need to have a really good idea what your 'low water mark' in the bank is, and when you reach it, you get the nose back to the grindstone.

You probably know better than I - there are some tax issues around selling a house and the timing on reinvesting the money in another residence. I think at some point you get hit with capital gains, so you should educate yourself on that (don't take my word for it).
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Old 10-21-08, 09:07 PM   #11
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There also is the issue of medical coverage. Will the $1500/month include your insurance payments? Do you take any medicines or need any periodic medical tests or procedures? What about dentistry?
I pay <$100 for several month's worth of travel coverage ... what's the approx. cost of travel coverage in the US?


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While not an issue of cost, you will also need access to your money. Where will you put it? You can't carry all that cash with you. Being able to move money around without exposing passwords on public computers could be a bit of a bother and will require some arranging upfront.
He could just leave the money in his bank. Even small towns across Canada, Europe, Australia, and I'm assuming the US too, have ATM machines. That's what I've done on all my trips. I carry 2 or 3 day's worth of cash with me ... and then take what I need from ATM machines as I go along. There is a small service charge for this, but I figure it's better than carrying a lot of money.

Further to this ...

If you want to use your credit card, and still pay the monthly payments, or pay it off each month, you can have your bank set up automatic payments. In fact, if you've got other expenses which will continue while you're on tour (perhaps monthly health insurance payments?) you can also set those up to be paid automatically.

Your financial life can all be happening automatically behind the scenes while you're off having fun!

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Old 10-21-08, 09:38 PM   #12
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Machka - how does one set up the credit card payment? I'm having to get online each month and pay it, but I'd love tohave it paid automatically!
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Old 10-21-08, 09:52 PM   #13
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Machka - how does one set up the credit card payment? I'm having to get online each month and pay it, but I'd love tohave it paid automatically!

I set mine up years ago, so I'm reaching into the depths of my memory ... but I think you've got to talk to your bank about setting it up.

I think it's kind of like how you set up automatic payments for insurance, etc. ... by filling in a form giving permission for a certain amount to be withdrawn from your account on the date of your choosing, etc.
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Old 10-21-08, 10:20 PM   #14
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Many banks, such as mine, have autopay features. Some charge fees some don't.
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Old 10-21-08, 10:33 PM   #15
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I would think most, or even all, banks would have that feature by now. I set mine up a little over 9 years ago, and it wasn't new then.
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Old 10-21-08, 10:48 PM   #16
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Thanks for all the thoughful replies! I knew you guys and gals would have lots of good info.

I figured to do this I would start with a prefered budget amount but I can increase it if needed. I have no problem being frugal but I don't obsess about it. I do have a good reserve so if I run into unexpected costs or go over my budget here or there I'll be fine. I do have a monthly health insurance premium but I'm not figuring that as part of the touring budget. I have no health issues and take no meds...except for ibuprofen.

I have done many backcountry trips and camped for well over 35 years so no issue there. I have all the equipment although I will update some things. I do cook well enough to keep alive. I could improve. As far as money and banking related issues I would keep cash on hand (ATMs) and use a bank card for purchases whenever possible. I do all my banking online and have automatic payments set up. I would also take along a small laptop like an eeePC for occasional wireless access.
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Old 10-21-08, 11:06 PM   #17
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The big question is whether at the age of 55 you would be willing to travel that way. I am in my early 50s, and my experience may not reflect yours. I have traveled regularly since my early 20s. If I were 25 again, I probably could travel on $50 per day with ease. (Back in the late-1970s and early-1980s, I travelled for as little as $3 per day!) Although my needs as a 50+ adult are not at all luxurious, I have zero desire to travel as I did as a young adult. Hell, I know I am not going to sleep well on a foam pad at this point in my life.

Your budget might be more feasible with a traveling companion or two. Splitting costs is the secret of traveling cheaply.
This is a good point and I have thought about the age factor. I'm strong and healthy and this will not be a permanent lifestyle just extended travel. When I get tired of it I'll head back home and savor the adventure. It could last a month, maybe 6 or maybe a year. I don't have a rigid plan nor will I make one. But I do have a general idea of where I want to go. Sure I would like to have a companion to share expenses with but I'm not thinking that will happen. When I travel alone I always meet people to talk with, have dinner or coffee, share a fire and some stories.

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Old 10-21-08, 11:14 PM   #18
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We are a family of four traveling in the USA and Canada (for now) and are spending roughly $1500-2000 for all four of us - so yes, you could travel alone on that for sure.

Of course, that will depend on how you choose to live. If you want to check into hotels all the time, it won't be enough. We tend to camp out in the wild most nights so we rarely pay for accomodation, and we buy 95% of our food at grocery stores rather than restaurants.

Traveling as a group of four has some definite advantages financially. We can buy a big package of food and will eat it no problem. That's more of a hassle for one person, so a lot of people I know who travel alone find that restaurants end up being for economically feasible for them. Also - campground fees are set regardless of whether one person or four stay in the tent.

That being said - I cant imagine that you couldn't travel quite comfortably on $1500 per month.
I've read some of your journal. You folks are amazing! Best of luck in your journey. Your boys lives will be forever altered in a wonderful way.
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Old 10-21-08, 11:24 PM   #19
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Machka - how does one set up the credit card payment? I'm having to get online each month and pay it, but I'd love tohave it paid automatically!
Two ways to do this:

1. As Machka notes, you can instruct your bank to pay your credit card each month. At least with my bank, though, I wouldn't know how to vary the amount each month without logging into my bank account.

2. Second way - do it through your credit card holder. With my credit cards (at Chase) I can elect to have a set amount *or* the entire balance paid each month automatically from my bank account. This is set up through the CC company, though (not the bank).

Hope this helps.
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Old 10-21-08, 11:29 PM   #20
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When I put all my junk in storage and quit my job and went for a bike ride, I figured out how much money I wanted to have in reserve for the moment I would return to 'real life' - made some guesses about how much I would spend a month, and came up with an estimate for my burn rate and time-till-return-to-full-time-work. My reserve amount was 6 months of living expenses including rent, first/last/deposit, plus a little more. That's how long I thought it would take to find a new job.

My estimate for how long I could mess around about 8 months. 5 years later, I am now a contractor in the same field I used to work full time, have gone on about five 2-3 month bike tours, rock climbed and lived in a van for about a year total.... very satisfying.

You don't really have to know your monthly budget, is all I'm saying, you just need to have a really good idea what your 'low water mark' in the bank is, and when you reach it, you get the nose back to the grindstone.

You probably know better than I - there are some tax issues around selling a house and the timing on reinvesting the money in another residence. I think at some point you get hit with capital gains, so you should educate yourself on that (don't take my word for it).
valygrl. I think the tax law was changed on this a few years ago. I think you can sell a house one time with no capital gains. I better call my accountant to be sure.
I like your "low water mark" comment, as I may have to use some savings but not much. My situation is a little different in that I have an income and won't need a job when I return. Of course who knows in these uncertain economic times. So you were a van dweller, cool. I have a van that I will be storing for future adventures. Thanks for mentioning storage as I almost forgot to figure that in the expenses.
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Old 10-21-08, 11:30 PM   #21
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Two ways to do this:

1. As Machka notes, you can instruct your bank to pay your credit card each month. At least with my bank, though, I wouldn't know how to vary the amount each month without logging into my bank account.
My bank gave me two options ... I could pay the balance of my account every month, or I could pay the minimum payment every month. I opted to pay the minimum payment, because that keeps the bank happy, and I don't have to worry about getting to a computer terminal or bank to make a payment every month. But I can go in and pay more at any time I want.
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Old 10-21-08, 11:47 PM   #22
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Machka thanks for all your replies. Your website and photos have been an inspiration to me. I really liked seeing you and your Dad out on your bikes. I lost my Dad last January so I hope you two will be able to ride together for many years. Good luck to you and Rowan with your future plans.
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Old 10-22-08, 01:35 AM   #23
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Hi,

I think 1500 USD are more than sufficient. I spent about 1000 EUR per trip. Because I'm short term traveller (3-5 weeks) I have a very fix time schedule which forces me to spent several times high hotel rates. I guess if I had more time - I could more use these nice and cheap accomodations (and the rate entrance fees / days will also be lower).

I would estimate 25-30 EUR per day in high priced countries like North America / Europe if camping is part of the trip. In other countries it impossible to spent 10 EUR per day.

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Old 10-22-08, 02:05 AM   #24
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For what it's worth, over our two and a bit years of bike touring our expenses have averaged out to 20 euros a day for two people or 30 euros a day if you include all the extras like insurance, replacement kit, airfares etc. I would say we are not at the very bottom budget possible for bike touring, perhaps at the high end of low budget or the low end of the medium-budget range.

We are living very well in Thailand at the moment. In North America, we'll be doing a mix of wild camping and campgrounds with almost no hotels. We do indulge in the occasional treat, be that a beer or a nice meal. We keep track of our expenses religiously, which helps us to see if we've overspent and then go easy on things for the following few days.

A large part of your budget will depend on how many comforts you need. How much wild camping can you tolerate? Will you want a beer or a meal out very often? Will you want to go see a lot of attractions?
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Old 10-22-08, 02:26 PM   #25
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Yep is 1500 enough for you?
Right now my total expenditures are around 700 bucks a month living inside a house.
rent 450
phone 34
food 100
last bit overhead.

The lowest possible I see would be 13 (400 a month ) a day since you need food and allow for other things like tubes etc.

I spent 74 days in forest land all free.

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