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Budgeting for Portugal

Before RD goes off on his annual 5-week work trip at the end of this month, we wanted to budget for Portugal, and at least book our flights to Portugal. But since a big goal of ours this year is to save for a down payment, going off on a 3-week long European vacation seemed a bit extravagant. We can afford to go, but it doesn’t mean that we should go if it means sacrificing a bigger financial goal that we hope to achieve.

So after thinking about it for a while, we decided on a pretty good compromise – we’ll reduce our vacation from 3 weeks down to 2 weeks, and spend the additional week off as a staycation where we can get as much autumn hiking in as we can. It actually works perfectly because we still get to go to Portugal, but we’ll also get in a bunch of regional hiking in that we weren’t sure how we were going to fit into the summer months.

Right now we have a preliminary budget sketched out for our (now) 2 week trip:

  • Flights (Vancouver-Azores, Azores-Lisbon, Lisbon-Vancouver) – $2,450
  • Accommodation (14 nights) – $1,200
  • Food – $1,000
  • Car rental (7 days + gas) – $450
  • Transportation – $100
  • Miscellaneous – $200

Our budget came to $5,400 total. We have about $500 in travel rewards points to redeem, so I’m thinking we can do this trip for under $2,500 per person.

For our itinerary, we plan on spending 1 week in the Azores (split between Faial and Pico), and 1 week on the mainland in the Lisbon area. I’ve been to Lisbon, Sintra, and Faro before, but RD hasn’t been to Portugal at all. So it will be interesting to see if it’s as amazing as I remember it being. :)

In order to save money, we’ll be trying to book AirBnB for most of our stay so we’ll have access to a kitchen. Our trend when traveling is to cook most of our meals in our rental anyway, but I’ve added a bit of padding because I’m sure we’ll go out for food more often than usual in Portugal. We also decided to forego renting a car for the mainland portion of the trip. Instead, we’ll just take a train from Lisbon to Porto, and save our car rental for the Azores.

Any suggestions to this budget are more than welcome!

Combining our finances

I’ve always kept my finances separate from my significant other. This was in part because my past relationships just never got to the point where we needed (or wanted) to combine our money, but it also has to do with the fact that over the last 10 years, I’ve become fiercely independent when it comes to my finances.

Ten years ago, I was in a lot of debt. It was stressful and gave me a feeling of hopelessness – that I’d never be able to fend for myself because I was too much of a disaster – especially when I hit rock bottom and realized that I had to rely on someone else (my boyfriend at the time) to help me with bus fare. BUS FARE. I didn’t have money (in cash or credit) to get to work. I cringe just thinking about how horrible that was.

Related: Would you ever date someone who had debt?

When I eventually started paying attention to my money, I promised myself that I’d never be back in that situation again. I worked hard at my finances, saved up enough money for a down payment on a townhouse, and built up a modest retirement portfolio. I also wanted to be seen as an equal financial contributor in every relationship I’ve been in, so I always insisted on paying for my fair share of everything, even if I made significantly less money than the person I was dating. I didn’t want to be seen as someone that a man has to take care of financially.

This mindset has had both positive and negative consequences, as you can imagine. The pros mostly stemmed from my own personal satisfaction that I’ve gotten to a stable place financially. It made me feel empowered! But some of the cons were that I never really considered someone as a long-term partner unless we were on somewhat similar financial terms, and I still have a hard time letting someone treat me to something as simple as dinner – I always have to make sure that I take care of the bill next time. So that it’s fair.

Related: Splitting expenses with your significant other

Earlier this week, RD and I got pre-approved for a mortgage (!). We aren’t actively looking, but we wanted to be ready just in case something amazing comes up. But one of the items that our mortgage broker wanted was a void cheque from the account we wanted our mortgage payments to come out of. So all of a sudden, this kindafar-into-the-future-conversation of combining at least a portion of our finances was something we had to talk about now.

When we first moved in together, we were keeping track of our shared expenses and totaling them up at the end of the month. Then to make up the difference, an e-transfer would be made to the person who spent the most. It was a bit of a clumsy system because it meant we were each combing through a months’ worth of expenses to try and remember what was shared and what was personal. So for the past 3 or 4 months we’ve been using a joint (travel rewards) credit card. That has really helped because I just total up the expenses at the end of the month, and RD sends over his portion of the rent plus his half of the monthly expenses.

Over the past few months, we’ve gotten good at figuring out what expenses are shared and what are personal, so the next step is opening up a joint chequing account (which we did yesterday through Tangerine!) and linking our existing individual chequing accounts to it. We’ll still keep our own accounts because we both agree that maintaining financial independence is important, and will just transfer in a TBD amount of money into the shared account every time we get paid. :)

Related: Would you use a coupon on the first date?

It’s both scary and exciting to incorporate shared finances into our relationship, and I imagine some tweaking to our system will happen along the way. For readers who also incorporate some sort of shared finances with their significant other, did you have any hiccups and modifications to make when you first started out?

A new bare-bones budget

I like to create a bare-bones budget whenever I get a new job or my living situation changes. It helps me understand how much I’ll need to live off of should I ever lose my job (which happened in 2014 when the company I worked for laid off almost half its staff). Since I’ve had my job (and my new home) for almost two months now, I figured it was the perfect time to re-evaluate my financial situation – especially since the last time I created a bare-bones budget was back in February 2014.

So over the weekend, I took a look at my current financial situation. And after calculating how much it would cost me per month, I’m extremely happy to see that Employment Insurance (about $524/week) would be enough to cover all of my bare-bones budget expenses – without having to touch my Emergency Fund.

Related: Can you feed yourself for $100/month?

2012barebonesbudget

You can see I was able to eliminate over $500 from my monthly budget without much effort, and I know that if needed, I could cut that number down even further. Plus, if for some unfortunate circumstance, I had tapped out my EI resources and Emergency Fund, I could rely on RD to help out if absolutely necessary.

Anyway, at some point in 2016, I’ll be testing out this new bare-bones budget for a month – just to make sure I can still do it. I’m confident that I can, but the food budget will be a tough one. It’s been about 4 years since I last tried (and succeeded) at a $100/month grocery budget, but it’s a really good exercise to do every couple of years. :)

Related: 2016 is the year of the Emergency Fund

Is your bare-bones budget up-to-date?

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