The Costs of a South American Vacation

I’m back from my vacation to South America and I had a great time! I am documenting the vacation expenses this time around, which is something I regret not doing last year.   The one thing I love about South America is that it’s very affordable. During this trip the most I paid for a meal was $15. This was at an upscale formal-attire restaurant. In the US $15, may not even cover an appetizer at a similar restaurant.

Now to summarize my spending:

Day 1: Travel Cost Description
Food $37 No lounge access, a delayed flight and stomach problems resulted in sizable food purchases.
Uber $15 I Ubered to the airport due to Metro construction
Day 2-10: Fun Cost Description
Credit Card Transactions $127 These were mostly food purchases but I did buy some souvenirs.
Cash Withdrawal $195 I withdrew local currency from my checking account
Currency Exchange ($135) But I didn’t use all of the currency I withdrew. I ended up having free lodging for my entire trip!
Day 11: Return Cost Description
Food $7  I ate breakfast in the lounge ($0) and for lunch I was only charged for my drink due to an error with my entree.
Souvenirs $12  I bought some last minute souvenirs at the airport.
Day 12: Delay Cost Description
Lodging $157 About 4 hours into my 5 hour layover on Day 11, I learned my second flight was cancelled. I ended up with an extra day of “vacation”. Since I insured my trip, I got a hotel.
Food $33  Eating is a thing that I tend to do.
Ubers $15  Prior to my departure I made a pharmacy run.
Pharmacy Run $36 I had an ear infection. I bought extra toiletries since I knew these were reimbursable.


  • If I don’t include the extra day of travel, I spent $258 on my vacation. Or $122 below my stretch goal.
  • My extra day bumped up my vacation costs to $499. Which was $119 above my stretch goal but $118 below my realistic goal.
  • I anticipate spending no more than $110 the rest of this month, meaning I’ll easily stay within a typical month’s budget (if I don’t include the costs of the extra day).
  • I need to start the claims process with my travel insurer to be reimbursed. I’ll never second guess purchasing travel insurance again!


Pre-Vacay Check-in and Budget

I haven’t been successful with the 9 no-spend days before my vacation. I ended up spending $82.74. I don’t plan on going anywhere else before my trip so that should be the end of the money leakage. Here’s how things went down:

  • $2.85 – UPS – merchandise return
  • $40.22 – Food  work function and I also treated myself on numerous occasions.
  • $6.67 – Target Item Subscription – I forgot to cancel this, but I would need it eventually.
  • $33.00 – Credit Repayment – I’ve been paying back a small purchase at 0% interest. I have been tracking the payments as if they were small purchases due to the small cost. This was the last payment.

Even though I didn’t reach my goal, I’m pleased with my performance. It was hard!! I really wanted to buy some things, but I was able to hold back. Had my spending trajectory continued, I’d spend ~$180 on food and everything else by months end. This is $270 below my usual budget.

My Vacation Budget

So I guess I should share where in the world I’m heading! I’m going to South America for 10 days. I will be spending time in 2 countries. I have three numbers in mind when I think about how much I want to spend on this vacation:

  1. $380 – stretch goal My “stretch” goal would keep my spending within my usual $2,200/monthly spend budget.
  2. $617 – realistic goal My more realistic goal is to limit my spending to what I spend and save in one month excluding the Emergency Fund savings!
  3. $750 – absolute threshold This is my absolute upper bound and it’s what I’d usually spend and save each month including emergency fund savings.

I wish I had kept track of how much I spent on my 2 week vacation last year. But I remember wanting to spend $500. I also remember it being difficult to spend $500 even after spending $200 for a last minute excursion that required a plane ticket and lodging. We’ll see if this trip is similar. So far I know I’ll be spending $110 on lodging.

Net Worth Update – March 2017

I have this horrible habit of throwing my budget to the wind when I notice that I’m falling off the wagon. I figure if I’m already screwing up, I might as well have a good time doing it.  March was one of those months. I went over my budget in several areas, and then I decided to stop tracking my budget altogether.

All things being considered, things didn’t end nearly as horribly as they usually do when I have months like these. I’m at a point in life where I don’t have many things that I want or need to spend my money on, at least not that I can afford. All the things I really want are in the $200+ dollar range and require budgeting, planning and adulting – meh.

Here is where my accounts stand:

Liquid Assets Feb-17 Mar-17 $ Change
Cash & Savings $1,425 $600  -$825
Emergency Fund  $3,009  $3,026  +$17
Short Term Savings $300 $500  +$200
Long Term Savings $144 $154 +$10 
Illiquid Assets Feb-17 Mar-17 $ Change
Brokerage $197  $287 +$90
Savings Bonds $1,315 $1,445  +$130
Incoming $0 $76  +$76
Retirement Accts Feb-17 Mar-17 $ Change
Roth IRA $13,600 $ 14,492  +$892
Traditional 401K $15,364  $17.157 +$1,793
Net Worth $35,354 $37,737 +$2,383
% Change +6.7%

Goal Progress:

Fund/Goal Contrib. Total  Goal Progress
401K $1,476 $5,462 $18,000 30.3%
Roth IRA $810 $2,030 $5,500  36.9%
Emergency Fund $147 $4,471 $5,500  81.3%
Vacation Fund $200 $500 $500 100.0%
Vanguard Fund $10 $154 $3,000 5.1%

I’m still on track for meeting all of my goals! My vacation fund was a super short term goal that I easily met over a span of two months.

Category Budgeted Actual Remaining
Rent $1,650 $1,650 $0 left
Fixed Expenses $100 $87 $13 left
Medical $- $600
Food $200 $286 $86 over
Everything Else $250 $314 $64 over
Total  $2,200  $2,337 $137 over

Rent: I paid the usual: a lot. I choose to live close to work.

Food: I paid only $150 on groceries this month, but I ate out more than usual. I took a friend out for her birthday ($30) and overall was feeling lazy in regards to food preparation.

Fixed Expenses: No surprises here.

Everything Else:

Some extras this month include:

  • $40 in gift purchases for the friends I am visiting next month.
  • $35 for new floor lamps

Medical Expenses: I don’t include medical expenses in my monthly budget (I am reimbursed with my FSA). But I had a couple big expenses this month all of which are related to my health problems.  I still have a sizable FSA, but may have to wait another year to get my wisdom teeth removed. My health costs this year are a little higher than I had anticipated. Still, they are on a downward trend in comparison to last year.

But the way things are going I may have to start a new treatment that would require monthly infusions.  If it works I’ll need it for the rest of my life. This will be fairly expensive. We’re trying one more thing in hopes that I don’t have to go that route, but it looks likely.

Coming in April:

I’m buying no groceries. And will have absolutely no spending for the first 9 days. On the 10th day I’m going on a 10-day international vacation!

My hotel/lodging arrangements are set, and much cheaper than I expected.  I have a general idea of how much I want to spend on this vacation but I’m not trying to make a big deal about it.

If I can manage no spending in the first 9 days, I will have a $200 food budget and a $250 miscellaneous expense budget to use for my vacation. This would be ideal because I may not even have to dip into my savings for this vacation! A business trip soon after means that I won’t be home for most of April and won’t actually need any groceries this month.