People often assume we must be rich to do this. To take a year with the family and cross the country. Hahahahahahahahahahahaha, ummm, yah, this is extremely laughable if you know us at all.

How do we afford this anyways?

Working Remotely

While I did quit my part time job, we are fortunate in that Bal can work on the road. He works remotely at home so now he’s working remotely as we move. Though this offers up plenty of flexibility, it is certainly not an easy endeavour. Logistically trying to plan where to stay and when we move is challenging. So too him having to adjust to new environments to set up his ‘office’ everywhere we go. The uncertainty of if wifi will be good, if the space will be adequate, time difference, it is not an easy task!

Renting Out Our Townhouse

Since we have a mortgage to pay, we can’t pay a mortgage and accommodations while travelling. The second key ingredient to being able to leave for the year is renting out our townhouse. Sounds easy enough but oh my good god, has brought us some challenges! Our first renter we had a signed lease from, backed out 5 days before our departure. We hadn’t even left yet!

In a flurry of stress and chaos, we find another but they last a month before getting a job elsewhere. Apparently, according to the cleaner I had come in, this was not the most respectful renter. I’ll leave it at that. Ugh.

Thankfully, our tenants now seem fabulous.

Oh crap, KNOCK ON WOOD, ahhhh- have I gone and jinxed myself?!!!

Budgeting by Month

Basically the goal is to spend what we’d spend at home. We have less bills- no electricity, heating, cable or internet costs- but still have our phones and now increased gas spending. (See girls math calculations of gas below!) We have $2000 to work with for accommodations, would like to stick to or even lower our food costs and will no doubt spend more on sightseeing.

August

‘Sharing’ the road with crazy ass farming machines. How to yield, pass, survive?!

We exceed our budget for August, the big month of crossing the country, but only by a few hundred dollars. There will be no additions to the savings account this year! Accommodations are helped by staying with various family for over a week and by camping as we cross. Since we say yes to pretty much everything we want to do, because, well, we’re doing this thing(!), our entertainment costs are high. Cheers to that though right?!  The other big expense putting us over budget is, of course, gas.

Kaya and Brennyn’s homeschooling assignment of Calculating Gas in the next section.

September

A couple hundred dollars over budget. We stay in Montreal paying $1500 rent and don’t drive as much so gas costs are down. Metro passes, city excursions, along with a weekend away to Mont Tremblant and Ottawa add up the bills. Still saying yes to most things because who knows if/when we’ll be back.

October

Totally blow the budget! Oops. Having longer stay rentals definitely brings the accommodation costs way down. Since it’s too cold for camping, we have a night here, a few nights there between motels, hotels and cabins before one full glorious week at Maggie’s on Cape Breton Island.

Along with increased accommodation costs, we are also on the move travelling through the Gaspé, New Brunswick, and Cape Breton Island bringing gas costs back up.

Fortunately, we are in nature, our favourite place, and that is free! Minus the whale watching, ferry crossing and lobster rolls splurge…

November

Finally, we are on budget! We are in Halifax paying $1650 for the month, gas costs are down and we’re eating at home. We even put a good dent in those over-budget months bills.

December

Looking good for on-budget though Christmas costs means nothing leftover.

Budgeting Gas Costs to Cross Canada- A Math Lesson

What we’ve all been waiting for!

Fun math lesson for the girls, though I’ll admit, also slightly terrifying to be confronted with the reality of these results. Both girls add the receipts and Kaya also works on her division figuring out averages.

Here, their calculated results:

Monthly Gas Receipt Totals

  • August $792.92
  • September $246.98
  • October $338.96
  • November $205.93

Average Gas Prices $/L by Province (Cheapest to Most Expensive)

  • Manitoba 0.886
  • Saskatchewan 0.989
  • Alberta 1.019
  • Quebec 1.034
  • BC 1.12
  • Nova Scotia 1.138
  • Ontario 1.143
  • New Brunswick 1.21

Reflections

  • Back home as non-commuters we spend between $100-$200 a month on gas depending on if we have any road trips in the month.
  • These totals are actually not as horrifying as I feared. Back home, commuters pay I’m guessing $500 a month in gas? I’m not even sure but to cross the whole country (and not going in a straight line by any means) this seems reasonable to me.
  • BC is lower than expected but I guess we hit it right filling up in the Interior and the Kootenays, cheaper than lower Mainland prices.
  • Filling up in Manitoba felt like winning the lottery!
Was so exciting I took a picture!

Strategies and Challenges to Staying On Budget

Granted, we go over budget the first 3 months so who am I to have any decent strategies?! Do as I say my friends, not as I do! Ha! Wait, no, bare with me here:

  • I go over budget, but carefully. For our family, going whale watching, upgrading from the motel to cabin, splurging on the girls adventures like ropes courses and mountainside pipe coasters, and sneaking off for a quick trip to Ottawa for some government on-the-road-schooling are worth going over budget for. No regrets.
  • However, I do so with the knowledge that December brings that magical 3rd paycheque in a month.  We will use that to pay the extra costs and start 2018 with zero debt. There is method to the madness!
  • One person in the family should know and respect the budget and if you’re going over, know it 😉
  • Month long stays often bring big discounts on VRBO or AirBnB.
  • For shorter stays, last minute deals have been fantastic. This of course, requires you being comfortable with the unknown and risk being in a place you would never otherwise choose. Definitely not as easy as it once was backpacking the world as a 20something! Ha! To be honest, we’ve always found something and more often than not, find something better as prices have dropped. This works best outside of prime vacation days of course!
  • Last minute bookings leave room for negotiating.
  • Making most of your own food, just as at home, saves a ton of money. The downside of this has been when we book a month stay at somewhere like Montreal, we now have a full kitchen to make our own food, but means we can’t eat out at all the amazing restaurants of the city! It’s really all about compromise. We get the infamous smoked meat, bagels and poutine but have to forego checking out the amazing array of ethnic foods around every corner.
  • Research the best credit card for your travel needs. There are so many. Bal and I both have cash back ones that give back 2-5% back on certain categories. Mine is for accommodation and groceries, Bal’s has the best cash back rate for entertainment and gas. Covering our bases!

Summary

You do not have to be rich to travel long term with your family. If, like us, you are not rolling in the dough, you will probably require work that you can do remotely. Maybe this is in IT or with an innovative company or is entrepreneurial in nature. If this is not your current situation and you dream of travel, finding these opportunities is your first step.

Having a mortgage means you will need to rent out your home. Easier said than done and yet, it CAN be done. If you have no mortgage, lucky you, you are free to rent anywhere you want. Be openminded!

Budgeting from there is a lot of give and take. We can’t stay in the prime locations or eat out whenever we’d like but we have learned to love the metro and savour those eat-out splurges. We are not able to do everything we want but we can selectively choose our favourites wherever we go. This makes us more grateful for the opportunities we do take as well as more open to explore the wonder beyond the well-known.

Taking a year to travel with the family is a dream. A dream that includes obstacles, budgets, stresses and worry. Be realistic about this, get budgeting and go live the dream(y challenge)!

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