Were We Spending Too Much in July? You Tell Me…

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Were We Spending Too Much in July? You Tell Me…

Our July adventure is officially over and now I’m wondering if we were spending too much throughout the month.

As most of you already know, we’re moving to Panama later this month.  When we booked our flight earlier this year, my wife, Lisa, wanted to wait until the end of summer to fly out so we could go on vacation with her side of the family first.

Because of that, we were running a month-to-month lease on our apartment for the last few months.

Well, Lisa had a brilliant thought to end our lease a month early and use that money to spend the month of July as vagabonds floating around the country.  The idea was that without the cost of rent and utilities, we could stay in different places and do a bunch of fun things for maybe the same cost.

I loved it… and boy, what a ride it was!  We were so busy having fun for the entire month that we barely had a minute to think!

The questions though are: How did we fare money-wise?  Did we overspend and blow our budget for July?

Let’s go through how our adventure went and then we’ll see how we did on our costs!

Kelleys Island

We stayed at Kelleys Island for the Fourth of July weekend.  Actually, a little longer than just the weekend – Thurs, 7/4 through Mon, 7/8.

Normally, that could run a decent penny to rent a place there for that long, but my cousin owns a cottage on the island.  He gave us the hookup for that time.

In fact, he gave a lot of us the hookup.  A bunch of my extended family stayed up there as well for a few of those days so we all got to hang out together.

It was fantastic to have an opportunity to spend some time with everyone there before we move out of the country.

Although the lodging was free there, the ferry across ran us around $80 for the roundtrip!  And then, of course, there was a “smidge” of alcohol and plenty of food.  Still, considering we just stayed there swimming, boating, fishing, and just hanging out, it was a cheap trip by far!

Great Wolf Lodge

Once we left Kelleys, we headed over to Great Wolf Lodge.  If you’re not familiar, it’s a big indoor water park.  We’d never been there before, but we had a blast!

We only stayed there overnight but did the water park on both days.  The whole trip there was a surprise for Faith and she loved every minute of it.

This wasn’t cheap (around $250 for the hotel and water park tickets), but it was well worth it.  We all loved the water slides and I was ecstatic to not have to even think about putting on sunblock!  Plus, going on a Monday meant that it was much less crowded.

The weirdest part was that we found out while we were there that our good friends were there at the same time with their kids.  How strange that we would run into close friends on the same weekday at a place that’s a couple of hours away from home… what are the odds?!

Cedar Point

After Great Wolf Lodge, we took a break and stayed at a cheap hotel near Cedar Point for the night.  We were all whupped and made that a low-key day.

But the next day, we headed right to Cedar Point and got there right when the park opened.

Faith’s never been tall enough to do the bigger coasters even though she’s a big fan of the ones she’s been able to get on… until this year.  So we immediately went to my favorite ride, the Millenium Force, figuring that we’d ride the busier coaster early before the crowds shuffled in.

But we got right on the coaster without much of a wait.  Faith loved every minute of it.

Heading to the park on a Wednesday the week after the Fourth of July turned out to be a great move.  We were far from having the place to ourselves, but the wait times we had were next to nothing.

Normally, riding some of the coasters there might have a couple-hour wait… not for us!  I think the most we waited for any ride was 20 minutes, and even that was a rarity.

The biggest problem we experienced was that is was insanely hot.  It was in the mid-nineties with barely a cloud in sight… ugh!  We broke the heat by doing a couple of water rides and by going through a splash pad (some play fountains) during the day.

Looking back on if we were spending too much for Cedar Point, that’s debatable.  It’s crazy expensive, but we did get a good deal.

Tickets are a ridiculously stupid price of $73 for anyone over 48″ tall!  Say what??!!  And somehow they now started charging another $20 for parking.

We ended up getting a deal on tickets back in February during their pre-season “Everyone Pays Kids’ Price” sale.  So they ran us $45 each – a much more reasonable price for ’em.

Throw in the stupid parking charge, taxes, and junk fees and the total was $169.39.  Still expensive, but nowhere near as bad as it would have been without the discount.

And for one of the best amusement parks in the world, it was worth it for my daughter to be able to experience it before we leave the country.

Spending too much on food wasn’t a problem either.  Yes, we bought Dippin’ Dots because well, they’re amazingly awesome, but that was it.  We brought our lunch and ate in the car in the air conditioning, which in that heat, was also amazingly awesome!

Kelleys Island… Take 2!

Yup, Kelleys Island again.  Right after we left Cedar Point, we headed back to Kelleys.  We caught the last ferry at night and stayed at my cousin’s place again.

This time it was just the three of us and we stayed a couple of nights there just relaxing and enjoying the lake.  We needed the rest and this helped a lot.  We did some swimming but that was about it.

We definitely didn’t have a problem with spending too much this time around either.  Yes, we had to pay the $80 for the roundtrip ferry ride again, but that was really it.

We still had plenty of leftover food and beer everyone had left there from the Fourth of July weekend.  And the lake’s free so no cost there either!

There’s no cell service or Internet service at my cousin’s house.  Although that’s normally fantastic, I did want to get a post wrapped up and published while there, so I needed a signal for a short bit.

That gave us an opportunity to head into town, get a beer, and bum off of one of the bar’s WiFi connections…


Didn’t happen!  Fail!

We had initially planned to go camping from 7/14 – 7/16, but the weather was going to be way too hot.  Besides that, we still needed some time to recuperate from all our fun, so none of us were too upset about pulling this from the schedule.

Instead, we stayed at the in-laws for a couple more days of rest, so you can scratch the idea of us spending too much money during this time.

Columbus Zoo

Then it was off to the Columbus Zoo.  We stayed at a hotel for two nights there putting the trip to the zoo in the middle of those days.

I love this zoo!  We’d been there previously years ago and it’s still a great place to visit.  The staff does an excellent job of actually talking to you and filling you in on the animals.  Unfortunately, there’s not very much of that happening at the Cleveland Zoo.

We had a great time here and, with it being a Wednesday, it wasn’t very busy (loving this retirement thing!).  Unfortunately, it was crazy hot again – mid 90’s.  And you know that walking around in the heat can take its toll on you pretty quickly.

We used the air-conditioned buildings throughout as a way to break up the heat throughout the day.  That worked well and allowed us to see even more animals there.

Tickets to the zoo are normally $21.99 each and $16.99 for kids.

So get this… Lisa found the ultimate deal for the zoo there.  Apparently, this isn’t too well known to folks outside of Columbus, but if you take their COTA bus to the zoo for $2, they knock the price of a zoo ticket down to $3!!

Our hotel happened to be about a mile or two from the bus stop.  We left our car there, hopped on the bus (clean and air-conditioned!), paid $6 for the three of us, and headed to the zoo.

Sure enough, we handed our bus ticket to the employee at the zoo ticket counter and it cost us $9 for the three of us to get in!  Taking into consideration the cost of the bus tickets, this ended up saving us just shy of $55!

That’s one way to avoid spending too much!  $55 is nothing to wince at… it’s all about finding the deals!

Just keep an eye on the bus schedule so you can make sure to catch it to get back to your car (no problems here!).

Cousins’ house

We continued to head south from Columbus and worked our way down to Portsmouth Ohio.  We visited Lisa’s aunt and uncle and then spent the evening at her cousins’ house.

They were gracious enough to open up their house to us to stay for the night.  Another win on not spending too much.

We ordered pizza, had some beers, and just hung out talking all evening… perfect night!

I’m mad that we didn’t take any pictures, but just know we had a great time hanging out with them!

South Carolina

When we left Lisa’s cousins’ house, we made our way toward South Carolina.  We divided the drive up and went a little over four hours the first day.  We ended up staying at a hotel in Kingsport, TN.

That worked out well since we were well-rested and only had a three-hour drive until we got to the house we rented in South Carolina on Sunday 8/21.  You might be thinking ocean, but you’d be wrong.  We wanted a house on a lake with a pool and hot tub and that’s exactly where we stayed.

We spent the week with my in-laws and my brother-in-law’s family.  It was a great week of hanging out, swimming, fishing, and spending time on the lake.  We rented a pontoon boat and spent some quality time on it with everyone out on the lake.

The in-laws took care of us and footed the bill for the entire place… that was amazingly generous of them!  So we weren’t spending too much on lodging.  However, we did have plenty of other costs throughout the trip – groceries, beer, a couple of lunches out, etc.

Additionally, the cost of the pontoon over a couple of days was a decent chunk of change.  We split the cost with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and between the boat and the fuel, our half of the cost ran about $400.

It was a great week, but there were a lot of tears when we parted ways.  They headed north back to Ohio and we started making our way west.

Go West Young Man!

Westward ho!  We took our time heading toward Texas stopping off at hotels here and there.

I do have to stop and say that my daughter is a rock star.  Google sent me my “July in Review” email and one of the things it stated was that we spent more than 60 hours in a vehicle this month.  Take a look at the space Faith had throughout this trip…

Atlanta, Georgia

The first day we stopped in Atlanta to visit an old friend of mine since high school who moved there a long time ago.  We got together with both him and his wife for a late lunch.  It was great to see both of them again, even if it was only for a couple of hours.

Birmingham, Alabama

We stopped off and stayed just one night in Birmingham.  We were just using it as a stop on the way so we didn’t get a chance to take in the sites.

It was great booking a last-minute hotel though.  We stayed at a beautiful Hyatt Regency for $84.87, out the door!

New Orleans

We took a detour and stopped off for an overnight stay in New Orleans next.

To get from our hotel to the happening areas, we hopped on a streetcar.  That was something none of us had ever done before, so it was a fun little touch to our trip.

We only crossed over Bourbon Street (we have a 9-year-old with us, people!), but walked around everywhere else.  Then we had a really good dinner at Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House.

And finally, we stopped off at Cafe Du Monde to get some beignets to go before heading back to our hotel.

I’ll be honest, my wife and daughter really enjoyed New Orleans, but I wasn’t that impressed.  It just seemed too dirty and even unsafe around there.  Don’t get me wrong, we still had a great time (memories are what you make of ’em!), but I wouldn’t have any interest in going back.

Deep in the heart of Texas!

The journey continued toward Texas.  We stopped off at a hotel in Beaumont for the night and then carried on.

Finally, we made it to my brother and sister-in-law’s house near the Austin area on 7/31!

I won’t go into too much detail since this is a July recap, but we’ve been staying with them for the past week and having a great time.  We’ll be here until we fly out to Panama on 8/21.

In the meantime, we’ve established ourselves as residents of Texas and are working on all the other changes we need to make before we leave.  Mix that in with some fun like swimming, a lazy river ride, and some fun things planned like a rodeo attendance, and it should be a great few weeks!

The cost of our July adventure

It became more complicated than I anticipated to talk about our costs due to a bunch of different variables.  Our expenses for the compared months had differences like when things actually posted, rental property maintenance costs, weird carryovers, etc.

I wanted to focus on making this a more apples-to-apples comparison of our related costs for the adventure.  In other words, would it have been more beneficial to have stayed in the apartment versus running around as vagabonds for the month?

So I decided to break the costs down based on the selected categories.  Note that our overall total expenses for the month were higher than what you see but things like medical bills and other fun were irrelevant and not included.

I picked two random months to compare against: February 2019 and June 2019.  I kept them more recent since using the numbers of living in our house with a large mortgage a year ago wouldn’t have been a fair comparison.  Instead, the months were while we were in our apartment.

February 2019June 2019July 2019
Dining Out$148.10$660.66$518.5
Groceries / Shopping / Alcohol$504.79$509.91$600.90


Overall, we ended up staying at 8 different hotels throughout the month!  That’s a heckuva lot of hotels!  And that doesn’t even count all the other places we stayed like Kelleys, our South Carolina house, etc.

But, we were able to take advantage of our flexibility in traveling to score some great deals throughout.  I’ll be talking in a post soon about how this can dramatically help you avoid spending too much when traveling.

With the generosity of family and friends mixed in, like staying at my in-laws’ house or my cousin’s house at Kelleys Island, we saved a ton of dough.

In lodging costs alone, we spent $891.37.  That might sound like a lot of money, but don’t forget how many places we stayed throughout the month.  I also lumped Great Wolf Lodge in that category even though the $250 cost included both the hotel and the water park tickets.

Additionally, if you compare that to our rent costs in Feb or June, I think we did just fine on that end.


Obviously, we knew this would be an area where we’d tip the scale on spending too much.  When you’re driving across the country versus sitting at home retired, your fuel costs tend to go up significantly.

We also had a minor repair done on the car before we left Ohio that ran us about $150.

Then to top it off, we had some car problems while in South Carolina.  Luckily it turned out to just be a bad battery, but it was bad timing and we had to just take what we could get.  That ended up costing more than it would have if I could have just done it myself.

Dining out

This one’s an interesting one.  Even though we did some grocery shopping along the way and would make our own lunches, we knew there’d be more dining out costs than usual.

What I didn’t anticipate was that June would be the month of spending too much.  That’s because we had sold all of our stuff and had to finish off our food.

You can only make so much out of what you’ve got left before you need to start eating out a little bit.  That made June the highest of the three compared months.

Groceries / Shopping / Alcohol

I was surprised to see that our costs weren’t that much higher than normal for July in this category.  I feel like a fish for as much drinking as we’ve been doing and I felt like we did a lot more grocery shopping than normal.

I guess when you’re living day-to-day you don’t need to buy as much in the area of groceries since you’re not stocking up!


When your month revolves around Cedar Point, Great Wolf Lodge, Columbus Zoo, etc., you might as well accept the fact that you’re going to be spending too much on entertainment.

$600+ is a lot more money than we’re used to blowing on entertainment in a single month.  But, we spend a lot more than that when we take a vacation, so that makes me feel a little better about it.


We knew the utilities would be considerably less for the month.  It’s pretty much a gimme that when you don’t have utilities, you shouldn’t have any utility bills.

The exception to this was our Internet service through Spectrum.  They told me that they couldn’t pro-rate the cancellation and that I would need to pay for the full month of service only though I only needed a few days of use.

I love that everyone’s bailing on cable and competition is starting to arise on the Internet provider side through the cell phone carriers (that’ll be especially relevant in the next couple of years through 5G!).  It’s about time monopolies like these cable companies start to feel a bit of a pinch.

So, were we spending too much?

July ran us $821.96 more than February and $709.95 more than June.  There were times throughout the month I thought our total cost would be a lot higher and times I thought it would be less.

It was definitely an interesting experiment regardless.  And really, the difference in cost seems reasonable when you consider all the value we got throughout the month.

Kinda makes me want to be a vagabond forever… except I don’t think I’d have the energy to do it!

What do you think?  Were we spending too much on this adventure we had?

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

18 thoughts on “Were We Spending Too Much in July? You Tell Me…”

  1. Richard Engelhardt

    Bottom line – $7/8 hundred for a month long vacation is cheap money. Shelley and I had free tickes to a Ducks game this past Friday night & free tickets to an Indians game on Sunday. W/parking, the beer & peanuts & CrackerJack & hot dogs and,etc,etc – plus having dinner at Delmonico’s on the way home Sunday – we managed to spend about $250/$300 (mostly beer for yours truly 😀 😉 ). Back in March – in Vegas – we were killing off a $400 bill every day! So – yeah – you guys did great!

    1. Haha, it might be impossible to not run off a triple-digit at Delmonico’s, but a few beers will definitely jack up the tab! And now you’ve got me wanting to go back to Vegas again… thanks for that! 😉

  2. When you’re on vacation it’s way too hard to optimize everything, and around $1000 more for a month of traveling isn’t that bad at all.

    It looks like you guys had a ton of fun! Faith’s old enough she should remember a lot of it too.

    You can optimize your new lifestyle once you get to Panama 😉

    1. We definitely didn’t nail the even-steven strategy for the month, but yeah, what we spent wasn’t bad at all for what we got. Good point about Faith remembering it, too – I never understood taking real young kids to places like Disney World and dropping all that cash for them when they won’t remember it at all.

  3. That’s really good! You guys are doing the homeless thing right. 😀
    Most people spend way more than that at home. You guys had an awesome month and only spent $3,500. I’ll have to rethink being tied down to a house.
    It’s great that you have a huge network of friends and families. Looking forward to reading more about Panama.
    Nice job.

  4. $163? That covers parking and a single Disneyland ticket. Plus, at Disney you are guaranteed to spend 1-2 hours in each major ride line.

    Sounds like a winning month to me.

    I’ve got to get out of this place….

    1. Haha, I haven’t been to Disney World since I was a kid (never been to Disneyland). But my wife spent a lot of time setting up wishes for families to go to both places when she worked at Make-A-Wish and I’ve heard my share of excruciating stories all around. I’m glad my daughter never really had any interest in going there!

  5. I love this post! Several years ago I made $6000 doing a 2 day show. I took a 6 week trip out West & spent most of the $$ but also bought items to resell when I got home. It was the best trip I ever took. Did stay with relatives along the way which helps. So glad you & your family did this before you move as you’ll always cherish these memories. Your daughter is a saint traveling in a tight space. Kids are so resilient. Thanx so much for all you share! Here’s a dumb question: how do you pronounce “Boquete”? Is it Boket? Or Boquet (like a Boquet of roses)? Just curious!

    1. That sounds like an awesome experience, Debbie! Glad you had chance to take advantage of an opportunity like that!

      As far as Boquete goes, here’s a link from Google Translate. Click on the speaker icon under the word in the left pane to hear the pronunciation. We found out we were saying it wrong until we went down there a couple of years ago. 🙂

      1. Thanx Jim! I hope you intend on continuing your blog after you move. I’ll be curious to hear of your new adventures in Panama!

  6. Hi Jim,

    I think that the amount is well spent. I believe that you and your family had an enjoyable July 2019. It is not considered to be much, taking in account that you have been on the road for almost the entire month. Furthermore, I believe that the amount does not hit $40,000 per annum. Faith will have fond memories of this month.


  7. Hi Jim, welcome to Austin. I have been following your blog and it has been extremely inspiring. If you are willing, it would be awesome to meet up in person before your trip to Panama.

    1. Hi MK, I truly love hearing that – thank you. I wish I had her from you a little sooner – I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it work on this trip. We have quite a number of tasks (and some fun) already lined up. It also doesn’t help that we sold Lisa’s car so we’re now relying on my brother and sister-in-law for transportation until we leave in a few days! 🙂

      I’m actually a little taken aback that folks have reached out and want to get together. Maybe when I come back for a visit, I’ll look into doing a meet-up.

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