“How are you able to do this?” (Part II)

A couple of friends have been brave and direct enough to ask, face-to-face, how much my back-and-forth-life-between-California . . . which I’m writing about here on Medium, in this (non)book . . . costs.

So I figure there are probably more folks out there who want to know too . . . but who are too shy or polite to ask.

Here ya go!

This (non)chapter’s all about the Benjamins.

Which, if we break down in terms of the Georges . . .

I have a budget of 50,000 to work with each year.

You should also know that currently, my very good friend the Croatian kuna (here, 50 of them) . . .

. . . will buy you a lot more of just about everything (except coconut water and gasoline, which are the only items I’ve found in Croatia that cost more than in California) than your American dollar buys you in America.

I have no idea how long that situation will last, given all the changes in the world. I also have no idea how long this budget and travel will last, either, given all the changes in the world.

But right now?

This is how it’s breaking down in my single life and spending choices (which, of course, might be a lot different than yours):

Rent: $11,400

Six months in Croatia at $900 a month; California . . . four months of AirBnBs/other living situations (which sometimes include free or paid pet/house-sitting gigs) at appx. $1,500 a month; two free months split between my two grown kids (and their kids’) homes.

Health Insurance, Office Visits, Tests, Dental: $7,000

This is composed of my Kaiser individual plan monthly premium of almost exactly $500 a month (which makes my yearly deductible a whopping $9,000), and another $1,000-a-year estimate for uncovered regular maintenance and tests there and at my dentist. Obviously big ticket items are something outside this regular-yearly-budget.

Travel Back-and-Forth: $4,000

That is $2,000 round-trip from California to Zadar, Croatia, twice a year. I have become an ace at booking cheap, non-refundable airline tickets far ahead of time, and at traveling cheaper off-season, and of taking the super-comfy-and-wifi’ed buses in Central Europe to save money. Look!

In fact, that $2,000 each trip usually includes a couple of nights at hotels along the way (most hopefully in New York City, if I travel at the right time to get cheap flights and cheap hotels that are worth the cheapness — in other words, good flights and rooms that happen at those times to be bargains). Also, really good hotels in Central Europe often end up costing around $70 equivalent a night for a room for a single, so I also stop a night or two on that side, between bus rides and plane rides, to break things up and see cool places.

Car in America: $2,600

I have a 2012 Subaru Outback with 90K miles on it. It would not net me much to sell. And I’ve run the numbers: what it would cost me in Uber rides and time and inconvenience to do the California always-in-the-car life . . . and get back and forth between kids’ homes in Oakland and San Diego . . . during my six months here a year is not worth it. Then too, there is the added factor of being able to store some stuff (nothing valuable, don’t worry) in the car while I’m here and also while I’m in Croatia. So, there’s this $2,600 yearly expense. Which consists of insurance, gas, and upkeep (some years more, some less).

Phone and IT: $1,800

That’s $150 a month ($130 on my plan, plus an extra $200 thrown in for when I screw up minutes or calls or whatever overseas — receiving texts I didn’t anticipate, etc.) for my whole tech communication system in this mobile nomad life. I have an iPhone and an iPad mini on which I write, text, talk to my kids (voice and face-to-face) on the Viber app, send and receive emails, photos . . . everything. It’s how I do Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and all the social media that lets me stay connected — as long as I’m on wifi, which I always make sure is available where I’m staying, and then I also use it in cafes, libraries, etc. It’s also how I’m able to write and post these (non)chapters of this (non)book on Medium.

Everything Else: $18,200

And by everything else, I mean everything else.

Groceries. Restaurant visits. Coffees. Drinks. Gym visits. Clothes. Museum tickets. Birthday presents. Books. Vitamin supplements. Movies. Bus tickets.

You get the picture.

I have a brilliant system for this, of which I’m inordinately proud, and which has worked great for me in the three years since I started doing it (before I even imagined starting this back-and-forth-life).

Here’s how it works:

I take cash out of the bank on Monday and Friday. In Croatia, it totals $300 a week. In California, it totals $400 a week.

And that’s how much I spend.

From that cash. In my wallet. In my purse. For me to count, keep track of, hand over to cashiers for whatever I decide I really want that money to buy.

There’s nothing I’ve ever found like this system to keep you on point with the choices you’re making about. . . EXACTLY what . . . you are spending your money on.

Which is why I stopped buying so many things.

Like anything on iTunes. And most books I’d like to read but decide not to buy because it’s $$$ and I’m just going to have to pass the book along, anyway, because it won’t work in my luggage and where am I going to keep it once I get to the next place? Certainly most clothes — which, dollar for dollar, are about the most pointlessly expensive thing you can buy for yourself, given the numbers of times you (don’t) wear most items. Definitely most shoes, especially since I’ve found that life with three pairs works just fine, and is way best for the luggage situation. Make-up. Pedicures. Haircuts anywhere besides SuperCuts (which does a damn fine job on my short cut for $16, versus the $90 used to spend once every five weeks when I was a lawyer and married to another one).

Also . . . $300 a month in Croatia will buy you tons of stuff. In addition to groceries, bus tickets, gym membership and all the coffee and wine I feel like drinking, that’s enough for two 90-minute sessions a week with a personal trainer at the gym AND a weekly session with a language tutor. With even a little left over. (That’s not the case in California, at all . . . where the $400 a week is 33% more than I spend in a week in Croatia, for not nearly as much stuff. Way not nearly. In case you have not noticed, Californians . . . it is SUPER EXPENSIVE TO LIVE HERE. Almost like New York City. But this is not New York City. No offense. But it’s true.)

Grand Total: $45,000

Which leaves me $5,000 in the $50,000-yearly kitty for the stuff that inevitably comes up. Medical or car expenses that run more than other years. Half a year of a storage unit for furniture in transition before you found out you could have jettisoned everything in the first place. A non-refundable airline ticket from Vienna to New York you didn’t get to use (and the airline wouldn’t work with you on, as they first said they would but then didn’t) and had to rebook, because you got a concussion four days before you were supposed to fly and were grounded for another week that required a different flight.

You get it.

You know how life and adventure work:

There are always unexpected items in the budget.

In addition, I set aside a little slush fund (when I finally found out in January what my nest egg actually is — after my house with ex-husband sold) for extra travels while in Croatia. So, for instance, this spring’s trips to Budapest, Sicily and Dugi Otok . . . which totaled $2,000 for 18 nights worth of travel (transportation, lodging, etc.) . . . came out of that, instead of the $50K/year budget.

So, there you have it.

All the nitty-gritty numbers.

Any questions?

Happy to answer them!

No need to be shy or polite.

I’m happy to help, if there’s anything you’d like to ask about how I’m (or you are) able to do this. And am also happy to learn about how your own systems work.

NEXT TIME: “How are you able to do this?” (Part III)

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