Money

July 2022 Early Retirement Update – Alpine Rivers, Lakes, and Mountains Edition

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We made it back home! We’ve been back in the USA for a few days and now that the dust has settled, I’m here to recap the last month of our early retirement adventures.

During July, we spent a week in Croatia. The we departed Croatia where we spent almost two weeks in the Julian Alps in Slovenia. After our alpine adventures, we returned to Croatia for a weeklong stay at a farm in the hills outside the town of Samobor. Toward the end of the month, we left Croatia and headed east where we spent a week in the town of Eger, Hungary. 

While in Slovenia, we revisited some favorite places that we visited on our last trip to Slovenia five years ago (covered in two previous blog posts on Ljubljana, Slovenia and the Julian Alps).

Financially, we had an excellent month. Our net worth shot up by $125,000 to end the month at $2,718,000. Our income of $2,743 in July was slightly less than our expenses of $2,947 for the month. 

Let’s jump into the details from last month.

Income

Investment income totaled $395 in July. Our equity index funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly at the end of March, June, September, and December. As a result, we had a rather small amount of investment income last month. Here’s more on our dividend investments.

Blog income totaled $1,747 for the month. This is slightly higher than the average blog income I’ve seen in 2022. 

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) dropped to zero in July. I had to postpone some consulting sessions due to really bad internet connections at our Airbnb’s in Europe during the first half of our trip, so I pushed some consulting revenue to August. But August will likely be a slow month for consulting income as well. 

Tradeline sales income totaled $175 in July. This is lower than the past couple of months but still a nice chunk of change for minimal effort. August tradeline sales should be significantly higher. I ramped up my tradeline sales in 2020 and discussed it in a bit more detail in my October 2020 monthly post and in my July 2021 monthly post

For July, my “deposit income” totaled $36. This income comes from cash back and incentive bonuses from the Rakuten.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals (some of which was earned from you readers signing up through these links). 

If you sign up for Rakuten through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Rakuten, you’ll get a $10 sign up bonus

The Virje Waterfall in the Soca Valley. When we were here five years ago, just after a torrential rain, the waterfall was thundering with immense amounts of water. This time around, it was fairly peaceful.

July Youtube income totaled $167. Youtube only pays out when you exceed $100 in accumulated revenue. Recently, my Youtube earnings have been just under $100 per month on average, so I’ll be getting paid a bit under $200 every two months.

Here is the Youtube channel for the curious. It’s random travel videos, birds, kids, and a couple of DIY videos. There are only a few main videos that bring in most of the traffic (and revenue!).

The final $220 of income for July came from credit card cash back and bonuses. I received a $25 credit from my Fidelity card from a spending promotion they ran in the spring. I also received $195 in reimbursement from my Capital One Venture X card. The Venture X came with a $200 reimbursement for spending on short term vacation rentals and I had a $195 transaction last month that triggered the reimbursement. I’ll get another $5 if I spend more on vacation rentals during 2022. 

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Expenses

Now let’s take a look at July expenses:


 

In total, we spent $2,947 during July which is about $400 less than our regularly budgeted $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year). Travel spending represents almost all of our spending from July. 

Detailed breakdown of spending:

Travel – $2,749:

We spent the whole month of July traveling in Europe, hence the much higher than normal travel spending. 

The largest single travel expense in July was a $900 gift card purchase that I used to pay for our back to back cruises in October. I have a little bit left on the gift card that I’ll use to cover the mandatory gratuities on board the October cruises.

The remaining $1,849 in travel spending was for our day to day expenses in Europe. That means we spent about $60 per day in July for everything other than lodging and the car rental. 

Where did the money go? It’s an educated guess because some of the money was ATM withdrawals and I wasn’t tracking every euro, Croatian kuna, and Hungarian forint that we spent in cash. 

Here is a rough estimate of what we spent in Europe during the month of July:

  • groceries, toiletries, household supplies – $500
  • restaurants – $600
  • gas for the rental car – $200
  • parking and tolls – $150
  • admission fees to various attractions – $400

Groceries and Restaurants

We spent about half the month in Croatia where the restaurants were relatively cheap and plentiful. So we dined out a lot in those places.

However, when we were in Slovenia, the restaurants were much higher priced (and offered less variety and worse quality!) so we cooked most of our meals at our Airbnb. There are pros and cons to staying in the middle of nowhere.

Pro: it’s beautiful and peaceful and quiet and we are surrounded by nature.

Con: restaurants are more sparse and the few restaurants available know they have a monopoly on your dining dollars. And they don’t have to worry too much about quality because you’re a tourist and you probably won’t come back anyway! 

“Wild deer stew” but we think it was really a mix of “wild boar” and beef. The side dish is homemade gnocchi. We ordered this from our Airbnb host in Samobor, Croatia, where he runs a little restaurant downstairs from our apartment on the weekends. $11 USD for a big hearty serving
More good eats from our Airbnb host’s restaurant. This is “štrukli” (pronounced “shtrukli”). It’s a stuffed cheese pastry roasted in a creamy cheese sauce. $4 USD for these two štruklis. The airbnb host hand-delivered our meals to our apartment where we could dine in the comfort of our own home.
A grilled meat platter for two from Sevnica, Slovenia (Melania Trump’s hometown!!).
This is a traditional dish served all over the former Yugoslavian countries and the Balkans. The red sauce is “ajvar” (pronounced “ayvar”) that’s kind of like tomato sauce or ketchup but with mashed up roasted bell peppers instead of tomatoes. I think this was about $12-14 USD.

Gas, Parking and Tolls

Our rental car got about 43 miles per gallon. And gas was “only” $4.50 to $6.50 per gallon, so we really didn’t spend a ton on gas (about $200 in July). The tolls during July weren’t too bad either. We drove down the Istrian peninsula one day and spent about $25 on round trip tolls for a couple of hours of driving.

Otherwise, the tolls were just a few dollars here and there, plus $15 for a one week toll pass for Slovenia. We had no problem staying on local roads for the first week in Slovenia, so we avoided the $15 toll pass charge for the first week. 

Parking wasn’t too expensive overall compared to parking in the USA. In most places, the parking ranged from $0.50 to $1.50 per hour. Since parking was so cheap, I didn’t try too hard to find free parking options. Instead, we parked close to the places we were visiting so we could spend more time and energy exploring the attractions instead of walking to/from the car. 

However, charging for parking is a lot more common in Europe than it is in the USA. As it turns out, we had to pay admission fees to various attractions, and on top of that, pay for parking as well. But at least it’s just a few dollars where we visited in Europe instead of $10-20+ for parking in the USA at some attractions. 

Admission fees/experiences

We didn’t really spend that much on admission fees and tickets for sightseeing. And when we did, the prices were fairly reasonable. For example, the amphitheater in Pula was about $30 for the whole family. The Postojna Cave in Slovenia was about $115 for the five of us, and it included a train ride into the cave (and back out again!). 

We bought a combo ticket for several attractions near Lake Bohinj in Slovenia. For $160 total for the five of us, we got a round trip cable car ride to the top of a mountain, a hearty meal at the top of the mountain in a ski lodge, plus a round trip boat ride across the lake, and admission to a thousand year old church. Two days of outings and a hot meal for $160 for the whole family is a great deal. 

At the top of Vogel Mountain after the cable car ride, looking down at Lake Bohinj.
Mrs. Root of Good on top of the mountain relaxing and enjoying the view.

Spending philosophy

I’ll just add a quick note on our travel spending. We just kind of spent whenever we wanted on whatever came along. We focused on getting a good deal when possible and economizing when it made sense. We paid for the attractions that we wanted to see. We dined out quite a bit when restaurants were decent and not jacked up tourist prices. We drove the rental car all over exploring, even though gas was $6.50 per gallon in most places. 

In the grocery store, we mostly grabbed whatever looked good and fresh and unique instead of trying to get the cheapest staples possible. 

The goal hasn’t been to minimize our spending for a long time. Instead, the goal is to maximize our value per dollar spent. We know we could spend about twice what we are currently spending, so we don’t need to be particularly frugal at this point in our financial journey. Maybe if the stock market crashes, we’ll tighten the purse strings and spend less money. But for now, when we are traveling and unique food or experiences cross our path, we will consume them! 

After paying the entry fee to get into this old Roman amphitheater, I realized we could have seen roughly the same views by looking into the amphitheater over the exterior fencing that extended around the circular structure. But I don’t regret spending the money to go inside. Just to walk around where gladiators used to fight was pretty cool. And we got to explore the basement where the wild animals were kept before the fights.
We visited the Postojna cave five years ago. It’s kind of pricey at almost $30 per adult ticket, but also incredible inside. And one of Mrs. Root of Good’s favorite places from our last trip. So we shelled out the money and stopped by the cave on our drive to our first Airbnb in Slovenia. The cave was just a few minutes out of our way, so an easy detour for us.

And of course we still maintain a frugal tilt in the background of our spending. I love getting travel for cheap/free. It’s like a game to me.

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Utilities – $159:

The total utility spending back home in Raleigh was $159 last month.

We spent $40 on the electric bill and $98 for the water/sewer/trash bill. The natural gas bill, which provides heating and hot water, totaled $21 for last month.

These bills included a little bit of usage in June before we left home. Included in that total utility spending is almost $100 per month just for the connections, regardless of how much water, gas, or electricity we actually consume. 

Roman ruins in Rijeka, Croatia.
This tunnel stretches for a quarter of a mile underneath the city of Rijeka, Croatia.
While staying in Rijeka, we took a day trip about 30 minutes away to the island of Krk. We explored the winding alleyways of Krk City while there.

Healthcare/Medical/Dental – $40:

Our current 2022 health insurance is completely free thanks to very generous Affordable Care Act subsidies that we receive due to our low ~$45,000 per year Adjusted Gross Income. 

The “American Rescue Plan Act” passed in March 2021 makes the Affordable Care Act premiums even cheaper through 2022. Households with modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGI) below 150% of the federal poverty level get select silver-level health insurance plans completely free. 

For the adults in the household, we spend $20 per month ($240 per year) for a basic dental insurance plan for each of us (or $40 per month in total). Our routine dental exams and cleanings with the occasional x-ray have increased in price recently. The cost is now $125 (no x-ray) or $170 (with x-ray). 

With two routine visits per year, we will spend almost $300 per person. A $240 insurance plan provides those same services for free. And we get some minimal level of insurance if one of us needs a filling during the year. 

Gas – $0:

We didn’t spend anything for gas for our minivan in Raleigh because we weren’t home! 

Cable/Satellite/Internet – $0:

We generally pay $18 per month for a local reduced rate package due to having a lower income and having kids. 30 mbit/s download, 4 mbit/s upload. Right now the cost of the internet service is temporarily reduced to $0 due to the “Affordable Connectivity Program”. 

Looking down at the Soča River gorge. The crystal clear water was probably 20 feet deep but it’s totally transparent. During times of heavy rain, the entire gorge can fill up such that the river is 60 to 80 feet deep!
A more tranquil section of the Soča River. From our Airbnb, we hiked about a half mile down to this swimming spot on the river.
A wider section of the Soča River a few miles downstream from our Airbnb. The mountain in the background is right next to where we stayed.
The field across the street from our Airbnb near Bovec, Slovenia (in the Soča Valley)

Total Year-To-Date Spending for 2022

Our spending totaled $20,104 for the first seven months of 2022. This is about $3,000 less than the $23,333 we budgeted for seven months of spending in our $40,000 annual early retirement budget.

In early August, we finally got the financial aid award for our daughter’s community college program. She will get $3,200 in grants and scholarships for the fall semester. Tuition is $1,400 and books should be under $500 so she’ll probably have a bit over $1,000 of “free” money per semester. It’s good to see the costs and financial aid falling in line with what I was forecasting. And our 529 will remain untouched for now. 

The island in the middle of Lake Bled in Slovenia.

This week, we go to the DMV for our oldest daughter’s driver’s license exam. Assuming she passes, the much higher auto insurance bills begin once she’s licensed to drive. When I requested a Proof of Insurance certificate, our insurance agent told me it would be about $1,000 per year to add her onto the policy. That’s about what I was expecting. 

Which brings us to the next big expense. We hope to buy a new used car for our daughter to drive to community college (and maybe ferry her siblings around some!). Used car prices are finally starting to drop since February. I hope car prices continue that downward trend all summer so we won’t be paying $10,000 for a 15 year old Ford Escort. A little tiny baby recession in used car prices will be a welcome relief for us. 

Overall, our spending looks good for the rest of the year. But this might be the year that we finally break the $40,000 spending level that we have budgeted for all along. And that’s totally fine because our portfolio has gone up quite a bit since I retired nine years ago, even after adjusting for inflation. 

Monthly Expense Summary for 2022:

Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:

On the way out of the Soca Valley, we drove through the Vršič Pass to get to the northernmost part of Slovenia. The views were incredible.
More Vršič Pass views.
We stopped by Lake Jasna to enjoy the views of the clear water and play in the rocky riverbed.
The Zelenci Springs, where water bubbles up from the floor of this little pond and forms the start of the Sava River. The Sava criss-crosses eastern Europe and eventually merges with the Danube River in Belgrade, then continues on to eventually flow into the Black Sea right next to Ukraine.
The clouds gave us a surprise rainstorm on our outing in northern Slovenia. So we took shelter in a pizzeria for lunch! At this point of the trip, we were just a couple of miles from both Austria and Italy.

Net Worth: $2,718,000 (+$125,000)

Last month we were down $177,000 and now we are back up $125,000. We almost made up all the losses from June. Most of the year we’ve been treading water at just a few hundred thousand dollars under the $3 million mark. I think we’ll make it to $3 million eventually. Maybe in a few more months. Or maybe in a few more years! 

Our income remains pretty decent from the various little side hustles I have. And our expenses remain somewhat moderate. So the net worth fluctuations don’t mean a lot since we aren’t necessarily pulling a ton of money from our portfolio every month. I mostly document the big net worth moves here for entertainment purposes for all of you reading this! 

For the curious, our net worth reported above includes our home value (which is fully paid off). However, please note that I don’t consider my home value as part of my portfolio for “4% rule” calculation purposes. I realize folks ask me about that every month so I just wanted to state that here for clarity.

The Gradna River flows through Samobor, Croatia. We walked along the water and enjoyed the views from the multiple bridges tucked between buildings along the river.

Life update

After a busy summer, I am looking forward to the slower pace of fall (and the cooler weather!). The kids will be fully back in school soon and we’ll have more tranquility in the house. 

I’m looking forward to more bike rides, reading some books, finishing the computer game I started in February, and catching up on my Netflix queue. We’ll also be going on a 10 day cruise in October.

Soon we will start planning our next big adventure for the summer of 2023. South America might be where we visit. That was our plan for summer of 2020 but a certain virus had other plans for us (and the rest of the world). So we’ll see if we can do a reboot of our summer 2020 plans, or if we decide to go somewhere else.

Stay tuned! 

Are you ready for summer to be over? Was it a good one for you?

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