Reflections !

So where should I start with reviewing ‘Our Initial Retirement Trip‘ ? At the beginning would be good place I suppose and the beginning was really when we made the life changing decision to both give up secure well paid jobs, sell our home and all of the contents. This was not a decision that was made on a whim, it started probably six years prior to actually driving away into the sunshine. Prior to that, we regularly took the Motorhome out for short and long weekends, for longer trips within the UK during the school half term holidays and then every summer we would spend nearly four weeks touring different Countries within Northern Europe. All these trips had one thing in common, we never wanted to come back, we always wished we had more time !!

I did have the advantage of having previously lived in both the Netherlands and Germany for a period of around eleven years, so driving on the right hand side of the road in Right Hand Drive vehicles was something I was used to doing. We were not new to this lifestyle, ‘Big Momma’ being my fourth Motorhome so we had some basic knowledge of both travelling within the UK and Europe and probably more importantly, living in a confined space and being together for virtually twenty-four hours a day.

What we didn’t have was the experiences of :

‘Not being pitched up on a Campsite’,

‘Not being connected to mains electricity’,

‘Not having to manage without a fully serviced washroom with proper flushing toilets that we didn’t need to empty every few days’,

‘Not having to go without un-limited supplies of hot water for showers’

‘Not having to live off a limited budget’ !!

So, we had done a lot of ‘dreaming‘ for many years before we actually took the plunge and mentally we were prepared !!

One of the most crucial factors was of course “Could we afford to do it” ? There are very few books or blogs that actually specify what the costs were by the people who had gone before us. You can make a lot of ‘guesstimates’ but without ‘real’ costings how do you know whether you have enough finances to support this serious ‘lifestyle’ change ? Being a ‘Compulsive’ planner I made financial spreadsheets that covered every conceivable cost and my first few ‘guesstimates’ reflected that there was no way that we could afford to do this !! I used to ‘scoff’ at people when I read on forums that they could manage on £8k a year ! Having now seen how ‘economically’ we managed to do it, doing it the way we wanted to, then I would say that it is completely feasible to manage on £8k a year, but we couldn’t manage on that and maintain the ‘on the road’ lifestyle that we want to live ‘our’ particular dream !!

Fortunately, after writing Emails to some people who, at that time, were currently ‘on the road, who very graciously shared their very ‘personal’ financial information with me, it certainly made me go back and re-assess. But wouldn’t it have been nice to have been able to have just laid your hands on this information ? If only those book and blog writers had included this information in the first place ? So, when I started this blog, knowing that their may be others who like we once were, still at the ‘dreaming’ or ‘planning’ stage and looking for information, I said that I would tell it like it is, good bits as well as the not so good bits and I promised myself that I would try to provide information on ‘what it cost us’. That word ‘us‘ is very important, we are all individuals and choose this ‘lifestyle’ for very many ‘different’ reasons, with very many different vehicles and very many different ‘budgets’ so the costs of actually doing it will vary and be dependent on an Individuals needs and requirements.

I had often stood on my virtual ‘Soap Box’ on the forum that I regularly contributed to and declared that we did not want to live the ‘frugal’ lifestyle, we wanted to be able to travel to different countries and sample different cultures which did include sightseeing and eating and drinking the local produce, but this would have to be done within an allocated budget. The burning question is “Did we achieve that” ?

I religiously kept comprehensive records of ‘all’ our daily expenditures, however our budgets were broken down into ‘Daily’, ‘Weekly’ or ‘Monthly’ allowances. The general statistics provided below are for the period from the moment we disembarked at Santander on 14th October 2013 to arriving back to the Port at Bilbao on 16th January 2014, a period of 94 days. However, because of the way I allocated and calculated the expenditure the Finances are for 12 weeks (84 days).

The total mileage covered, Port to Port, was 2,143 miles and ‘Big Momma’ averaged 22.6 mpg (Imperial)

Of the 94 nights we spent 14 on Campsites, 21 Wildcamping and 59 on Aires 

The following breakdown of costs is for 84 days (12 weeks)

Campsites/Aires £384.72 (£4.58 per day)

Diesel £385.43 (£128.48 per month)

Groceries (including the Wine/Beer) £725.93 (£60.49 per week)

Personal Expenses £664.41 (£7.91 per day)

Laundry £30.73 (£2.56 per week)

LPG/GPL £58.54 (£19.51 per month)

Road/Bridge/Tunnel/Vignette Tolls £00.00

We calculated that over that 12 week period our average weekly costs were £187.48  

Could we have economised on our expenditure ? The straightforward answer is Yes ! 

1. We moved around quite frequently, primarily because we were on a time constraint, but if we were fulltiming proper we would not have moved so frequently which would have reduced the monthly ‘Diesel’ consumption.

2. We used Campsites on 14 Nights, even allowing for the use of the ACSI discount card, knowing what we know now (Isn’t hindsight great), we would not use Campsites unless absolutely necessary. As long as your van has all the on-board essentials then Aires (or Wildcamping) are a much more economical alternative. We need to invest in a spare ‘Cassette’ for the toilet and then we could extend our stays at ‘Wildcamping’ locations and make more use of the ‘Free Aires’.

3. We booked onto a Christmas Rally, this cost us for the Campsite pitch as well as a Camping Card International (CCI) (which was required !) Plus the cost of the postage for it to be sent from the UK to Portugal and then the cost of the ‘Christmas Dinner’, we would not do this again.

4. We booked to go to a ‘New Years Eve’ Party, we may well choose to do this again but not doing it would have saved a large chunk of the budget.

5. Being more selective on the purchase of general groceries e.g. Purchasing from a Supermarket is certainly less expensive than the local independent shops (Baguette in Supermarket €0.37 as opposed to €0.95 in local bakery).

6. When electing to ‘eat out’, eating out at lunchtime and availing yourself of the ‘Menu of the Day’ is pretty good value as opposed to paying the ‘normal’ restaurant menu prices during the evening.

There are a few ‘other’ things that when you plan your finances that you may wish to take into consideration:

1. The above expenditure does not include the costs associated to Insurance/Service/MOT/Road Tax, this will vary on individual ‘Vehicles’ and Drivers

2. The cost of ‘Return’ cross channel transportation (Ferry or Eurotunnel)

3. Any additional Insurance requirements e.g. Medical, Dental, Pets, Visiting other Countries not covered by standard policies

4. Costs associated to ‘Unscheduled’ maintenance or repairs

5. Our ‘short’ trip was during the ‘Winter’ periods where ‘Wildcamping’ was tolerated, such places may not be available during  the busier traditional ‘holiday periods’ and during such periods the availability of ‘Free’ Aires may not be as easy to locate

6. Costs associated with additional transportation e.g. Ferries to other destinations e.g. Morroco

7. Costs associated to ‘communications’ – Mobile phones etc

Memorable Highlights ?

Gosh ! There really were so many, almost every new place we visited and even the drive to get to those places, the scenery was stunning. The people that we met, the locals in the towns or villages where we stayed or visited, the International band of fellow Motorhomers that we met on our travels.

For Shazza it was the Wildcamping at the lighthouse near ‘Carvoeiro’, the location, the sandy cove, the town itself and the food.

For me, well I didn’t have just one memorable highlight that stood out above all others, but I would certainly list the ‘lunch with vultures’, ‘kayaking on Baragem de Caia’, ‘Portuguese New Year Eve Celebrations’ and the ‘Nature Park at Cabarceno’ as being some of the best.

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7 Responses to Reflections !

  1. Ste T says:

    Morning! Just looked at your costing Eric and they pretty much mirror ours for the three long tours we have done, 3, 5 & 4 months, over three years. Your average weekly costs were about 20 quid less than ours, but we allocated slightly more “personal spending” than you did, but it was still within our pre-planned estimates. Where some people might be tempted to over spend is if they budget as though they were on their normal holidays, which isn’t possible because “battering the plastic” isn’t an option when full timing. I agree it could be done on 8 grand-ish but if you add on all the exemptions you’ve mentioned I think about 10-12 is a reasonable figure for anyone wanting a “guesstimate”!
    If you do get a decent 5-6 month contract with the club it should give you a good 5 grand, to see you through the winter, without too much trouble. It will give you a bit more but if our experience is anything to go by your first months wages will be spent on bits and pieces to make you life comfortable on site!

    Your next “adventure” starts now!

    • Hi Ste, thanks for that, we averaged £150 per month during the first month but that was because we didn’t need Diesel, LPG or much groceries expenditure. I didn’t actually include what our actual ‘budgets’ were for each category as I didn’t think that was particularly relevant, but suffice to say that we were well within all our budget allowances :0)

      We will use my pensions as our ‘on the road’ finances, if we get the CC jobs then both wages will go straight into our ‘Savings Capital’ for ‘life after fulltiming’ :0)

      What bits n pieces are you referring to ?

      Back on the road proper in ‘Big Momma’ on Monday, we are currently sat in our hotel room in Stratford-upon-Avon just relaxing, watching TV and having a coffee. The CC re-imburse our expenses, what a life eh !

  2. Dreamcatcher says:

    Thanks for a well written and candid blog. I agree with most of the conclusions you have come to regarding places to stop and not wanting to be on a permanent shoe string, budgetwise.

    • Thanks Ivan, I hope now that this blog will help give those thinking about this lifestyle an accurate picture of what it was like for us as ‘novices’. The ‘Reflections’ post will, I hope, assist others in at least forming their own financial plan. But the important thing is that there is ‘No right or wrong’ way, just the way that ‘you’ the individual wants to do it :0)

  3. Cassandra says:

    You have missed the most important detail out of your costings!

  4. noggin says:

    Good information Eric, very useful for those of us about to venture. I do think that £7.91 a day on cigarettes means you are either buying expensive cigarettes or smoking too much! I converted to Golden Virgina and a rolling tin a few years back (once I’d left the corporate machine) and that only costs me about £16 a week, less if bought in Dubai – it’s only £2.70 a week then – plus the papers/filters. Good luck both with the CC, it’s in the bag! (just waiting for you to turn up on site & empty it!).

    • lol :0) None of the personal expenditure was related to buying of cigarettes, I had allocated separate funds for those from pre-travel financial funds !! Although for the future, I either have to stop !!!!! Or they will have to be allocated for out of our budget !!

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