Welcome to my third monthly spending report. This is a regular series where I break down my expenses living as a nomad with my wife. This month we traveled through four cities in Italy and then moved on to Bangkok, Thailand.
If you’re new here I recommend first reading why I share my monthly expenses publicly. In that post, I explain the why behind all of this plus give an overview of our financial situation. Read that first and then come back here.
In this month’s report I’ve included the following:
- Breakdown of all expenses for this month
- My thoughts on this months spending
- Photos of where we lived, worked, & traveled this month
You can browse the numbers for other months & all my personal finance posts here. Okay, let’s dive into this month!
1. My Monthly Expenses Breakdown for March 2019
This month was insanely expensive for one reason: both of our suitcases were stolen on a train to Venice. If they hadn’t been stolen, it would have been quite an affordable month. Read on for why.
Our itinerary this month was packed! Here’s everywhere we traveled
- ✈️Fly into Milan, rent a car, drive directly to Lake Como for 8 nights
- 🚆Train from Lake Como to Venice, where we stayed for 4 nights
- 🚆Train from Venice to La Spezia & Cinque Terre for 8 nights
- 🚆Train from La Spezia to Mian for 2 nights
- ✈️Fly from Milan to Bangkok, Thailand where we stayed 6 nights and finished the month.
After Thailand, we’re headed to Bali in April for a minimum of 1 month.
Spending by category
- Business Services: $680
- Miscellaneous: $160
- Clothing: $5,380*
- Eating Out: $1,998
- Entertainment & Media: $540
- General Shopping: $3,090*
- Travel: $605
*Clothing & General Shopping were insanely high from having our luggage stolen. I explain what happened further down
- Auto & Transportation: $626
- Groceries: $397
- Phone & Internet: $239
- Rent: $0
- Services (Dr. Repairs, haircuts, etc): $584
- Utilities: $0
Total Adjusted Spend (subtracting luggage replacement costs): $5,892
This is for everything we spent in March for two adults (my wife and I).
Note: all expenses for any business I have are run through those businesses directly and do not reflect on my personal spending. Any business expenses above are for new items not related to existing businesses.
Expenses covered with credit card points
- Flight from Malaga, Spain to Milan, Italy: I booked these back in July 2018. Our two tickets would have cost $224.14 USD but I paid with 22,414 American Express points
- Airbnb in Lake Como: We booked 8 nights for $645 but covered the charge with 64,500 points from my Bank of America Rewards Card.
- Hotel in Venice: We booked 4 nights via HotelTonight for $384 but covered the charge with 38,400 points from my Bank of America Rewards card.
- Airbnb in La Spezia: We booked 9 nights for $738 but covered the charge with 73,800 points from my Bank of America Rewards Card.
- Hotel in Milan: We booked 2 nights at the Doubletree Hotel via HotelTonight for $148 but covered the charge with 14,800 points from my Bank of America Rewards card.
- Flights from Milan, Italy to Bangkok, Thailand: I booked 2 business class tickets on Air Italy with American Express points. Our two tickets would have cost approximately $2,178 USD but I used 217,880 AMEX points
- Hotel in Bangkok Thailand: We stayed at the Pullman King Power hotel for 6 nights for $738. I covered the charge with 73,800 points on my Bank of America Rewards card.
Total value received for free from credit card points: $5,055.14
Note: optimizing credit card point redemption and accumulation has become a bit of a hobby for me. We’re lucky to rack up a lot of points with our personal and business credit cards. A while back I optimized everything for the maximum points accumulation possible based on our spending.
The cost of getting our luggage stolen
The majority of this month’s expenses went towards replacing all of our belongings that were stolen.
Our two beloved Away suitcases (with all our belongings inside) were stolen at some point on our train from Milan to Venice, Italy. They were placed in a luggage rack at the back of our train car, completely out of sight. Feeling particularly tired that day, we never thought to keep a close eye on them.
It wasn’t until arriving in Venice that we realized they were gone. In a state of shock, we filed police reports, and then aimlessly wandered Venice to seek out basic essentials for the night. Needless to say, it was a horrible experience that affected us for weeks.
Once we both itemized everything, there was well over $12,000 of belongings between our two suitcases. Electronics, clothes, shoes, etc. Now that we’re nomads, almost everything we owned was in those two suitcases. Thankfully, our backpacks with our computers and passports were with us and not taken.
How much we spent acquiring replacements for our stolen belongings
I track our finances closely, so I tagged exactly which items were purchased as replacements. All in, $8,407 was spent this month to purchase replacements of our stolen items. Those costs are reflected in the Shopping and Clothing categories above.
This means IF our luggage was never stolen, we can subtract $8,407 from this months expenses ($14,299) for an adjusted total of only $5,892 for March.
Will insurance cover anything?
There’s a chance my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card will cover up to $3,000 each. That would be a big help. We also carry SafetyWing insurance in addition to our state-side health insurance policies. SafetyWing has a travel insurance component as part of our plan.
Both insurance claim processes have been insanely difficult and time-consuming. This is surely by design so some people just give up. Although I’m holding out hope we might get an insurance check at some point though. I’m also not counting on it, though. A thank you to my assistant Carin for helping out with this ordeal.
2. Thoughts on this month’s spending
Aside from the stolen luggage fiasco, there were a few things expenses this month that stood out.
Auto & Transportation: $626 was much higher than normal. Our rental car for Lake Como less than half of the total. So what was the rest from? Taxi’s during our few days in Milan.
Italian taxi hailed via an app like MyTaxi starts the meter when they accept your ride and begin heading towards you for pickup. This is stupid because as a customer you have no way of controlling how close you are to them. One of my cabs had already racked up $15 before I even got into it. Our taxi to the airport was $115 alone. Madness!
I’m in Italy where Uber is not allowed. The alternative is MyTaxi and it is BAD— Marshall Haas (@marshal) March 24, 2019
The meter starts BEFORE you get in the cab – when they accept your ride.
🤯 So the 8 mins it took for them to drive to pick me up is charged. Meter was already at $11 when I got into the cab.
Entertainment: nothing too out of the ordinary this month – most of the $540 was for things like Netflix YouTube Premium, Spotify, App store purchases,
Travel Expenses: the majority of our travel expenses were for train tickets around Italy. The only other item was an $89 fee with EasyJet to upgrade our seats and checked luggage.
Phone & Internet: $164 of the $239 was for our T-Mobile plan while we’re traveling. The remaining $75 was for a wifi puck rented from Europcar. This was incredibly useful during our time in Italy. Often it was used as our primary internet connection for work and Netflix.
Services: Our two year wedding anniversary was spent in Bangkok, so Jaimie booked us an amazing spa day for $209. The remainder was a few old doctor bills from 2018 that finally reached me via snail mail.
Comparing to previous months
NOTE: For the below numbers, I’m going to use the adjusted monthly spend, after taking out expenses related to luggage replacements. That adjusted number is $5,892 for March
- +/- last month: we spent $603 more this month than in February 2019.
- +/- monthly average last year: we spent $2,533 less this month than we did on average last year.
- +/- this month last year: we spent $105 more than March 2018
3. Where we lived, worked, & traveled this month
Our feelings towards Italy after this trip surprised us. Jaimie and I were most looking forward to our time in Italy, but so far it’s been our least favorite destination. Don’t get me wrong, the country is insanely beautiful. But it just isn’t fun for longer than 1 week. Many unpleasant interactions and unhealthy food lacking in variety really turned us off.
While we did meet some really nice people, we had many unpleasant interactions. Lots of attitudes, rudeness, etc. Arriving in Thailand near the end of the month was a stark contrast. You don’t get nicknamed The Land of Smiles without being filled with tons of happy people.
We both love pizza and Italian food… but if we wanted something healthy in Italy, forget about it. Most restaurants serve the exact same dishes. It was incredibly difficult to be healthy in Italy. Thailand was a real treat though.
Lake Como, Italy
- Where we stayed: Airbnb Plus
- Length: 8 nights
We started the month in a cute cottage on lake Lake Como and spent our days working in front of the fireplace. In the mornings and evenings, we’d walk around little towns and the lakefront trails. It was quiet in March, presumably due to it being low season. Many restaurants and hotels were completely closed. Below are some of the many photos I shot.
- Where we stayed: this hotel
- Length: 4 nights
Going into it, we had heard you can see Venice in 24-48 hours. I would agree with this sentiment. It’s romantic but small and easy to see everything quickly.
When we were shopping for luggage replacements upon arrival, it would inevitably come up in conversation that our luggage had just been stolen. Not once was the response one of surprise. Upon hearing the news, recipients would shrug and nod with a “yeah, it happens a lot”. That was depressing to hear over and over again. I guess theft is quite common.
La Spezia / Cinque Terre, Italy
- Where we stayed: this Airbnb
- Length: 9 nights
Jaimie and I spent our honeymoon in Paris and Cinque Terre a couple of years back, so the little towns in Cinque Terre have a special place in our heart. We did a few hikes between the towns. After each, we’d grab pizza and gelato, then watch the waves crash into the rocks.
- Where we stayed: Double Tree Hilton Milano
- Length: 2 nights
Feeling exhausted from moving around so much, we pretty much stayed in the hotel for 2 days straight like hermits. We got out for dinner but that was it. I can’t say much about Milan because of this.
- Where we stayed: Pullman King Power Resort
- Length: 6 nights
We LOVED Bangkok. It completely exceeded all our expectations. Thai people are some of the sweetest in the world. It wasn’t just hotel staff either… people on the street were so sweet. Feeling down from our time in Italy, the comfort of a nice hotel with a pool and healthy food was a welcome change.
Everything including taxis was remarkably affordable. Our 45-minute cab ride to dinner across the city was 141 Thai Baht, which converts to $4.40 USD.
We spent our 2 year wedding anniversary in Bangkok and enjoyed a rooftop dinner one evening, then a spa day and time by our hotel pool the following morning. The spa day included a bunch of fun but weird therapies, like rose
We’re spending next month (April) in Bali, Indonesia. We’ve rented a villa and will be staying put all monthlong. Bali is supposed to be very affordable and have plenty of healthy food options.
I’m hoping for a much cheaper month in Bali and to get back on a regular schedule again. If we like Bali, Jaimie and I discussed staying for a few months. We miss having a basic routine that you lose when you’re moving constantly.
Lately I’ve realized how a regular routine is so directly related to happiness.— Marshall Haas (@marshal) March 24, 2019
Being a nomad and getting to travel / work around the world has been fun, but man is it hard to keep a regular routine with constant change.
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