Spending Our Days: Q1

Accounting! Everyone’s favorite subject, and conveniently in the wake of tax season. Or maybe it’s not tax season anymore. At this point, we can’t even remember what state we’re in or what month it is. Mitchtember?

We’ve been diligent in our tracking of expenses and mileage for many reasons, not the least of which being that we want to help all remote employees and aspiring adventurers understand what a year-long investment in trekking through the U.S. looks like.

Keep in mind, we’re not exactly slumming it here… the goal is to experience what makes each region attractive, within reason. Not much different from the lifestyle anyone leads, assuming they live in a magical place that boasts beaches, mountains, dust storms, waterfalls, deserts, swamps, skiing, two-stepping, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, rodeos, alpine slides, grizzlies, gators, dolphins, lobster, tacos, and gumbo.

What you’ll see below are our first three months on the road, bucketed into the following:

  • Lodging: anywhere we pay to rest our heads, including campgrounds, Airbnbs, hotels, etc.
  • Meals: yep
  • Activities: basically anything that doesn’t go in our stomachs but costs money
  • Mileage: the only non-dollar item being tracked daily

Alrighty… less yaps, more stats. Here are our cumulative costs:

Through February:

Through March:

Rogue Trip's budget for March

Through April:

Rogue Trip's budget for April

The Quarterly Recap:

Lodging has moved steadily downward towards $7/day, thanks to the beautiful weather affording many a night spent sleeping in Odie. Honestly, we’ve had maybe one uncomfortably hot night in Phoenix, and one teeth-chattering wake-up call after a snowy night in Denver. Plotting our route to hit good weather has certainly paid off in this respect.

Originally, we had budgeted for $40/day. Look closely and you’ll notice we’ve spent a total of $623 to date on what is basically three months’ rent, or $200/mo. Pretty awesome. Of course, that meager van life bleeds over into other expenses…

Meals are increasingly going over our $60/day budget, due in part to the fact that we can’t cook anything — a cost savings worth remembering if you’re considering a higher-priced vehicle like a panel van or an RV. Then again, we knew we wouldn’t be cooking anything from the start, so if we’re over our estimate, it means we underestimated. It’s possible that Mitch carrying over his three-restaurants-a-day strategy from Brooklyn has something to do with this. He promises we’ll eat fewer meals in the future, which is a fairly ominous promise to offer up.

Our most frugal food finds come from Whole Foods, but man… we’re still talking around $15 for the two of us to grab breakfast or lunch there. Even the rare roadside McDonald’s cheat day approaches $15 in some regions.

Lastly, one of the other causes for bloated meal costs comes from our obligation to be decent humans to the friends hosting us. Granted, most of these folks are so damned nice that they treat us to a free bed and take us out to dinner, but whenever possible, we obviously prefer to take them out. So, a bit of fuzzy math there, as a $0 lodging night is negated by a $50 tab for food we didn’t eat. No complaints here — just worth noting if you’re eager to draw up a road trip budget.

Activities have really soared, from $17/day through February to $33/day by April. Here’s a fancy chart that helps to explain why:

Our daily Activities average belies the reality of the trip, as most of the stuff you’d imagine to be an “activity” (hiking, sightseeing, etc.) is free — though we did decide in February to start tracking a lot of our coffee shop visits as activities, simply because neither of us drink coffee and so the agenda of such visits is usually to grab wifi and a bathroom. Food and drink are often the last things on our minds in those situations.

At any rate, the big offenders in Activities are pretty easy to spot:

  • Late February saw us plop down $200 at a Biloxi craps table, just to pass the time because Biloxi had nothing else going on
  • The last day of March was skiing in Breckenridge, to the tune of $401. Geez.
  • Mid-April horseback riding in Moab ran about $250

Mileage has picked up as we’ve moved west, at this point averaging 107 miles/day. That’s been a pleasant surprise, mostly thanks to the country being more internet-friendly than we imagined — in turn, we’ve been able to work while taking longer day trips. Interestingly, our most problematic area for connectivity was in the initial week of driving (through Georgia), which made for an ominous sign of things to come. But, they never came. At least, not until Utah, which does not seem interested in the internet at all. Good thing we took vacation days for that chunk of the country!

Through April, we’ve done about 10,000 miles, which is a nice… milestone. Oh, I get what that word means now.

For the poindexters in the crowd, here’s a graph breaking down where we rolled all those miles:

Thank you for attending Rogue Trip’s first quarterly budget meeting. We do have some other expenses, but they didn’t seem to be worth tracking on a regular basis. Gas, for one, can just be estimated after we’ve finished the trip, based on mileage. Then there’s the fact that we both inexplicably lost one shoe at some point along the journey, so new kicks were in order. And of course, all this cruising through America’s one-horse towns that make their money speed-trapping tourists was bound to bite us in the ass at least once… don’t spend it all in one place, Dove Creek, Colorado!