6 months and still not broke!

Disclaimer: The following post is probably boring for most of the people reading the usual posts on this blog. I post it anyway on one hand because I have the data and I like to play with it, on the other hand because I do know that many people have no idea how cheap or expensive it is to board a plane and go somewhere. Many of the things that can be derived from my tables is probably only interesting for myself or people that have been travelling or plan to travel in the near future, so feel free to have a look at the pictures and skim through the text if you see something interesting. If you don’t like numbers, it’s probably better to come back in a week’s time or so.

IMG_20150517_164725Usually one of the questions that always come up when I talk about my travels is “How do you finance all your trips?”. In the last three years it was usually quite easy to answer, I had regular income and the big trips were (at least partly) paid by my company. This time however it is a bit different, we left without an idea when we would have a fixed income again and we had no idea what we would end up doing nearly exactly 6 months ago, some people even predicted that we would probably be broke by now. We are not!
Agnès and I both had saved a bit of money so we were quite sure that we can easily spend the time until middle of 2015 without worrying too much about it; the only rough plan we had was to spend a maximum of around 5000€ until now so that we still have enough in case we don’t find a job.
Now, after travelling for 6 months through New Zealand and Australia I want to try to give a little insight in our expenses. From the beginning we wrote every little spending in a Google sheet, mainly to make sure that both of us spend the same amount for groceries, fuel, etc. Over the time this sheet developed into a quite comprehensive tool which now allows me to create pretty graphics and even gain one or the other information.
A few remarks for the beginning:

  • The spending here include everything from the arrival in New Zealand until the 8th of June
  • All values are NZ$
  • For the sake of simplicity I assumed the Australian and New Zealand dollar have the same value. This is not 100% accurate but at the time of spending both currencies were pretty close – in order to be exact I would have to add a little bit onto the final amounts
  • The numbers here represent half of our common spending (groceries, fuel, etc.) plus my own spending (clothing, administration, etc.)

What did we spend money on?

One of the fields in our sheet was called “category” which summarizes the single expenses in a few easy topics. We started with a handful of different categories and expanded over time to currently 16. While most of them are clearly understandable, the following might need a little explanation:

  1. Administration: Everything involving “paperwork” of some kind, visa applications, passports, stationary, etc.
  2. Groceries: Everything food related bought in a supermarket or similar
  3. Food: Everything that counts as dine-in or take-away
  4. Presents: The obvious, mostly as a gift for staying at somebodys place
  5. Other: Everything we don’t have a category for yet (stamps, charging cable, books, etc.)
Spending per Category with the car expenses

Spending per Category

Our single, biggest and most unexpected expense was our car plus all related costs (insurance, repairs, etc.). When we arrived we had all kinds of ideas how to get around, from buses to rental cars to hitchhiking but we eventually decided to buy a used car. That was definitely not the cheapest way (yet) but will hopefully pay off in the long run.As this was an exceptional expense and to make it a bit clearer, here are the spending without the car:

Spending per Category without the car expenses

Spending per Category without Car


With 2 crossings between the north and south island of New Zealand, flights to and from Australia, several domestic trips through Australia plus the expenses for fuel, it is not surprising that we spend the most money (one third of all expenses) on getting from A to B.

The high administrative costs are mainly due to the renewal of my passport in Australia, which was an unnecessarily expensive project that doubled the costs here. Certainly something that can be reduced through better planning.

While it might be surprising to see that we spend less than a tenth on accommodation and only 15% on groceries, the answer is that we spend less than 2 weeks in the last 6 months in hostels. Most of the time we stayed with friends and/or worked in exchange for food and a bed. The good thing about it is that there are several websites through which these arrangements can be organized (e.g. wwoofinternational.org or helpx.net), so that it is possible for everybody.

Something that I personally find interesting is that I spend nearly as much in alcohol as I did in clothing. If anybody out there has a similar list, it would be interesting to know how this ratio compares to other people. Considering the amount of new clothes I usually buy and the price of drinks, I have a feeling that it should be more in favor of the  alcohol.

How did we spend the money?

This is a very messy graph and the details are not really interesting, however it is clearly visible what we did in the different periods.

In the beginning until January there is relatively little spending and most of it was actually alcohol (the yellow pillars); as we worked for food and accommodation we didn’t have to pay for anything else.

Afterwards until the beginning of March a period where we spend a lot, particularly in fuel (red pillars) and groceries (blue pillars), which was obviously the road trip where we had to pay everything on our own.

From then onward, you can see large areas without any spending, interrupted by a couple of days with all kinds of expenses. That was the time in Australia, where we stayed at friends places most of the time and had bigger spending only when we moved from one place to another.


Spending per Day and Category

Spending per Day and Category

Development and Outlook

A look on what could be called our “account balance” doesn’t look too promising. Spendings of 7250NZ$ and the little peaks that represent a bit of income are rather marginal. However converted in Euro we spend 4500€ and even with adding a bit more because I didn’t convert AUD in NZD correctly, our budget is well on track with what we planned beforehand. What is even more surprising is that we both spend 3000$ on the car and still stayed in the set budget!

Accumulated Spending

Accumulated Spending

With an current average spending of a bit more than 40$/day we could already easily life for a couple of months if we keep our life style of working for food and accommodation. Considering that 40% of the daily average is the price for our car, which we intend to not spend again, we could stretch it even further.

Average Spending per Day

Average Spending per Day


Bottom line

We are fine and far away from being broke, begging for money or having to pick fruits on one of the farms here! However as we planned, we are currently busy looking for jobs and writing our CVs because eventually we would like to stay somewhere for a bit longer than just a few weeks. If everything goes well, we will have jobs soon and in a couple of months our “account balance” will be positive again.

P.S.: If anybody knows a decent tool to analyse and visualize data sets I would be happy about a tip. Google sheets is kind of alright for simple tasks but it takes ages to for example change the filters to only have the spending in NZD and not AUD.

Leave a Reply