New Leaves

Palatka, FL

The First Month

Mar 04, 2013 by Bonnie

This post is for those who are interested in seeing how the $50 a day budget is coming along.

Here’s a summary of what we’ve spent this first month (28 days):

Food (ranged from $68 to $139 a week): $426
Entertainment (admissions, etc): $112
Van expense (mostly gas): $508
Misc. (anything else): $63
TOTAL: $1109
Divided by 28: $39.61

Now some notes about our experience.

FOOD: We soon discovered that when we visited with others, taking our hosts out for a restaurant meal was a big budget-buster! We haven’t been in the habit of eating at restaurants and hadn’t realized this. We did this twice, and if it hadn’t been for a gift card we used, it would have been even more of a problem. This lesson learned, the next time we visited someone, we cooked a nice meal for them, which was much less expensive. 25% of our food expense was for two restaurant meals. I should say, though, that it’s important not to take advantage of people, and to do something nice for those who are letting you into their lives. No matter how welcome you are, it’s still a disruption, and it’s important to be thoughtful.

While eating at restaurants can get pricey, and should be done as a special treat rather than an everyday occurrence, eating off the dollar menu at fast food places rivals cooking for ourselves when it comes to cost. Nutrition is another matter, but sometimes, when it’s too cold or rainy to cook outdoors, or when we’re in a hurry, the dollar menu comes to the rescue!

This month, we enjoyed eating out in the natural world much more than eating indoors. We are very thankful for the excellent city and county parks we have used. While it would be nice to have cooking facilities inside the van, it’s even nicer to eat outdoors.

ENTERTAINMENT: Over $90 of that expense comes from our one indulgence, a snorkeling trip to a coral reef off Key Largo. We thoroughly enjoyed that trip, and felt it was worth the cost, but we also passed by a lot of possible places to visit, such as the Ringling Estate in Sarasota, and Silver Springs here near Ocala, not purely because of budget restraints, but because there was so much else that was interesting too, and free to boot! We’ve decided that we will visit places with admission fees only when we really want to see them, and not indulge in them too often.

VAN: We have covered 2084 miles, so that comes to 24.4¢ per mile. With more city driving this past week, fuel economy is down to 16.5 mpg. At first it averaged 17, so when we get some more highway miles on the trip, that should improve.

We spent about half the days on our own, and the other half visiting with others, which was a nice balance. I think we covered more miles in less time than we had thought, because the work we’re planning on doing in Georgia is coming up sooner than we had expected. Even though we’ve been in Florida more than a month, it still feels like we’re racing through the state. I’m hoping that we can spend whole winters down here in the future and fill in some of the stops we wish we could have made on this trip.