Here we are again, a little over a year since my first post on Freedom 33 last August. And what do you know – it has been my least productive and most expensive month yet! I won’t dwell on it – I was on a trip and have been working on some other personal projects a little more. Let’s just chalk it up to a good healthy summer break. But I am back! And as you can see, I spent a lot in August!
Something Good – Costa Rica is ‘aight.
Last month my something bad was my trip to Costa Rica. Of course, this wasn’t because I was expecting to have a horrible time, but more because the money I would spend on the trip would represent more than the amount I will likely exceed my spending goal of $18,000 CAD for 2018 by. In terms of my Resolution and my spending goals for the year, it was hard to deny that this qualifies as something ‘bad’.
With that said, I have absolutely zero regrets about my decision to make the trip nor virtually any other part of the journey. I will probably do a better breakdown of my trip, including highlights, costs, thoughts, etc. soon, but for now I can at least say that I completed the trip more or less in budget, and got very lucky with conditions and surfed the most amazing waves of my life – truly world class stuff.
There were some things I spent more on than planned like shuttles and taxis, and some things I spent less on than planned, like a rental car (inversely correlated indeed), but all-in-all I spent about what I thought I would. To me this is a good sign that I am both learning to both create better, more realistic budgets as well as stick to them.
What can get lost in this wonderful world of frugality and logic that is FIRE (Financial Independence Retirement Early) is the joy of life and the serendipity it brings to even the most well-planned agenda, especially when it is being lived somewhere outside of our current zone of comfort. The priceless thrill of meeting new people that you genuinely connect with based on interests and shared experiences, seeing new places and feeling all the sensations that go along with them from the stickier air to the warmer water.
Something Bad – blew it, again (bigtime).
To deflate my tires at least a little bit, and to provide the usual details about my spending failures, I will not completely overlook the fact that I overspent by more then 125% this month. In total, I spent $3,430.59 in August, $1,930.59 more than my goal! As I had predicted in July, I am currently projected to overspend my $18,000 CAD spending goal for the year by $1974.53 less than the total amount of my trip ($2,103 CAD)
Last month, I used a stock photo of some plastic bottles to represent our overconsumption. This month, out there in the real world where real connections of all types are made, I was able to collect some of my own photos to use for this purpose in the future. And I was able to truly understand that the products I use are ending up on these beaches – a reality we tend to remain very insulated to in our everyday lives, especially in large cities removed from natural spaces. Thus is the power of travel and adventure.
While roaming the beaches of southern Costa Rica, one of the most environmentally preserved and protected areas on the planet, I found an endless (literally) amount of garbage of all shapes and sizes, mostly plastic. Just while getting in and out of the water surfing and placing in my shorts pocket what I could until I got back to my hostel, I was able to collect a lot of garbage in just one week. The photo above was collected in just one session. This was only a drop in the bucket.
Something Learned – we’re already rich.
Within this world of relatively affluent people from developed nations that is the FIRE community, it can be hard to maintain perspective. We spend our days tracking every little expense and, because we have set goals for spending or earning, etc. tend to feel disappointed when something ‘unexpected’ occurs that derails our goals, such as an unforeseen expense that puts us over our budget at the last minute, for example.
In this way, we often fail to see the forest for the trees. That is, the bigger picture. For example, it was quite important to me to stick to my spending goals of about $40 CAD per day during my trip. Considering that this was outside of transport and accommodation costs, I figured this should be well within reach. And In the end, it was, as I spent an average of $37.70 on things like food, ice cream and beer (including transport, airfare, accommodation and all other costs, the trip cost $150 CAD/day, and this could be greatly reduced with a little effort or an extended stay).
On my first night in Costa Rica, I was staying in San Jose near the airport before catching an extremely early flight the next morning further south. I checked into my hotel and went for a walk to find an ATM and maybe a bite to eat. After visiting the money machine, I saw a bar I walked past.
Outside was a friendly looking guy and we started to chat*. He told me he had just arrived the night before with his 3 children from Nicaragua. After experiencing the violence in Managua first hand (he showed me a cut on the top of his head received during a clash between protestors and the military), he decided to get out of dodge. He was outside of this bar wiping down people’s cars and motorbikes, hoping to earn some tips. We chatted for a bit longer, and I wished him and his country well. He didn’tr eally ask for money, but I believed what he was telling me and suddenly realized how much more valuable a dollar was to him than me. I gave him C20,000 (Colones), or about $35 USD. Partly because I didn’t know the currency well yet, partly because that was the smallest denomination of bill that the ATM dispenses, and partly because a couple of dollars just didn’t seem to do justice to the situation.
I don’t think I need to say much more here about how absurd and ridiculous it would seem to this man, and so many others in the world, that I consider myself frugal while trying to spend no more than $18,000 CAD per year and making international trips, all while mundanely writing about it and thinking that this is interesting to even less frugal westerner. Because, of course, to him, I am a very rich man indeed.
*I am often looking to have short conversations with folks in public to allow me a little extra Spanish practice as I go through my day. It is also a helpful compliment to my tendency to remain introverted whenever possible.