Ever since I could remember, I have had a problem with numbers. I was great in math. Actually I loved numbers, the more the merrier. I mean,I have a real problem with numbers. The sort of problem that I am sure they must have therapy for. I just can’t get enough of them. (You have seen the multi sheet Excel spreadsheet I track my spending with, right?)
If my sister weighed under 100 pounds, I would try to starve myself to drop down below 100 pounds. It didn’t matter to me that I was five inches taller than her.
If my mother checked out the maximum number of books from the library, I would have to check out the same number, even if there was no way I could read them in three weeks.
If my sister wore a size six shoe, I would squeeze my feet into a size five and a half. Yes, very painful.
If my best friend got a 85 on a test, I wasn’t happy until I scored a 90. Then I would be dissatisfied with the 90 and shoot for a 100, even if the professor prided himself on not giving perfect scores.
And on it went.
When my new best friend got married, I had to be the bridesmaid with the smallest dress size. When she got married for the second time I had to make sure that my gift was more expensive than any other she received.
When I got into college, I had to have more boy friends on the hook at one time, than my roommate did. If one of the other cadets laid down four star lines to get a navigational fix, I had to lay down five.
When I became an officer, I always tried to put in more overtime than the other officers. I always had to work longer and harder, but only when there were numbers that I could show off.
If my husband had 75 CDs, I had to have 80 CDs.
When I started walking every day, I had to log more miles each day than any of my friends. Maybe this is why none of them would do an Apple Watch challenge with me.
When a friend bought an investment, I rushed to make 15 investments. Of course her one investment turned out to be not too bad, but all I had to show was 15 bad investments.
Eventually I became a minimalist traveler, due those bad investments. As I sold most everything I owned I became obsessed with low numbers. Three shirts, two pair of pants, three boy shorts, two bras, and etc. I would read other traveler’s blogs and study their numbers, to see where I could shave things off.
Woe is the unsuspecting traveler who strikes up a conversation with me in an airport lounge. My side of the conversation usually goes something like this. (You didn’t think I was really listening to the other person did you?)
Why yes, I am on the fight to Copenhagen.
Let me move my bags for you to sit down.
Yes, this is a Rick Steves Travel bag.
Oh, yes, I travel carry on only.
You would be surprised at how little you need to carry, once you realize that other countries have stores.
Right now I am carrying 12.9 kilos, total. That includes the clothes I am wearing. I would really like to get down to 11 kilos, but I have to carry one or two kilos of OTC medications.
When I started my journey I was carrying 193 items I am down to 114. The 193 items weighed 19.4 kilos …
The conversation, goes from packing, to maximizing travel reward miles, low low to budget numbers. The numbers I have on the top of my head are bad enough, but when I get up a full head of steam, I pull out the Excel spreadsheets. I am really proud of those spreadsheets. (As a side note, I am down to 106 items but up to 13.8 kilos. The extra weight is because leaving Warsaw I had few OTC pills left over. When I got here to Medellin I had a 90 day plus supply.)
I know I will never get over my obsession for numbers. It is a part of what and who I am. Though my compulsion for lower or higher numbers has occasionally led me to unfortunate outcomes, it has also allowed me to be good in math. Being good in math allowed me to be a accurate navigator, and a skilled cargo specialist. It would have been much harder to be a competent Marine Surveyor without a a good handle on numbers.
When I first packed my bags and hit the road, I had no idea how much money it was going to take me to live. I knew how much money I had coming in from my tiny pension each month and how much money I had in savings to tide me over until Social Security payments kick it. These were numbers that weighed on my mind compared to 90k I used to spend every year. Face it, when there was always another ship over the horizon, I spent money like a drunken congressman.
From September though December of last year, I really didn’t have a budget set. I was keeping my spending spreadsheet up, learning how much I needed to live the life style I wanted. It wasn’t long before I noticed that I wasn’t going to have dip into my savings. I would have had a bit to add to the savings, but … Apple. I thought I had broken even for those months, after upgrading my electronics.
This year I changed how I keep track of spending. Last year, all monthly payments were listed on the monthly sheets. I decided, that I only wanted the monthly totals to reflect my spending in the countries I was currently in, so that I could judge which country was the best value for me. Also, when I order something to be delivered to my friends house, I put it on the sheet which covers the US, for the day, I expect to pick it up from her house.
Things like the rental of my storage unit in Hawaii, my phone bill, and my digital subscriptions are projected for the year and have their own section of the spreadsheet’s cover page. The other day I was wondering what my actual in-country cost of Ecuador had been. I pulled up the 2018 spread sheet and edited it to be in line with my new method. While I was at it, I checked Quicken and found the actual dollar amounts I had spent on various fixed expenses. I found that I had actually overspent my income by $84 USD last year.
I subtracted that amount from this year’s income. Okay, so I am a little obsessive, but I want people to know exactly what this adventure is costing me. Sometimes when I am reading blogs about budget tavel, I notice that the writer isn’t mentioning things like their expenses back home. It is kind of like when a minimalist traveler brags that they are traveling at 10 kilos, but doesn’t include their electronics bag, because that is business stuff. My electronics bag weighs in at 4.2 kilos.
I do have to keep an eye on myself. I have caught myself thinking, “I if I can avoid buying groceries for the next four days, I can get my average daily spending for this month down to $25.00 USD per day!” Okay, okay, yes, I did spend the last four days of July eating things like crackers with catsup, to keep the numbers down.
That was a bit of a wakeup call. I have come up with some new rules for myself, starting with eat well. My rule used to be “Save 20% of your income.” I started getting obsessed with making that 21% or … My new rule is that I will spend 80% of my income each year, and no more than 80%. I am also setting up some minimum rules for other things; no less than three shirts, three pairs of pants, two bras, three pairs of socks, three pairs of boy shorts and etc.
I have gotten my packing numbers down as low as they can go, unless I give up things I really need. I am concentrating on finding things that weigh less then the ones I have. I might blow this trend if Apple comes up with a pro laptop with a halfway descent keyboard. We will have to wait and see if I can keep control of my numbers obsession well enough to force myself to spend a reasonable amount of my income.