Maybe it's practice, or perhaps it's just luck, but we're under budget for the September costs. That makes it two months in a row. Have we found the secret formula?
It's difficult to tell, because July, August and September have been slightly unusual months. For the first two we were on vacation quite a bit, and in September I spent some time away from home to take Sam to university. I don't think the university trip would have made too much difference to our costs, possibly a little less on groceries as I stayed with relatives and ate their food, so an extra bonus in that I didn't have to cook!
It will be interesting to see what the October costs look like, because that should be a normal month. We have nothing unusual planned, and it's just Sally and myself at home now that both kids are either working or studying away from home.
Our costs for September were £2,831 ($3,494) which was well below the budget I've set of £3,700 ($4,567), and this is even after costs of £500 ($617) for car insurance and £200 ($257) for my entry to Boston Marathon. The full costs are:
The Boston marathon entry has been a series of surprises. The first surprise was that I'd actually managed to run fast enough in the Prague Marathon back in May (you can see my Prague race report here) to get the qualifying time, which was a good surprise. The not so good surprise is the entry cost of $250, and I still have to book and pay for my flights and accommodation. If it wasn't such a historic event, I'm not sure that I would be entering, but I'm looking forward to visiting Boston, if not the pain that will no doubt come with the run.
I read an interesting post by Frugal Asian Finance about living in an expensive city (she lives in Washington DC). I certainly complain that the city where I currently live is much more expensive than where I will make my forever home - not that I've figured out where that will be, although I do think about it a lot. In particular, groceries and going out costs are expensive for us, so I had a quick look to compare what I'm paying in Dubai to what the costs might be in the UK or USA.
For Groceries, the costs in the UK (I used Sainsbury supermarket to price check) and the USA (I used Walmart to price check) are around 75% of the cost in Dubai. And if I went to a lower cost grocery store such as Aldi, then the saving would be even more. That's good news, because it shows that when we relocate to either Europe or the USA, we will immediately expect to see a 25% saving on grocery costs, and even more if we shop somewhere like Aldi. Also, until June this year, we were grocery shopping for a family of three as Sam was still at home, so we should also see a reduction as we now need to shop only for Sally and myself. Just a reminder that included in groceries is anything that we buy from the supermarket, so it includes food, laundry and cleaning materials, personal hygiene stuff, loads of cat food(!) etc. I think that if we were shopping in Europe or the USA, and for just Sally and myself, then we would comfortably reduce our grocery bill by 35% or 40%, so even the lower figure would reduce our average monthly cost by £233 ($288).
I also had a look at going out costs, although I only checked this against the UK. I compared the cost for a meal out at a mid range pub restaurant and found that the cost in the UK would be around 50% to 60% of what it costs in Dubai. If I conservatively take the 60% figure, that would reduce our average monthly cost by £174 ($215).
The UK restaurant that I used as a comparison is The White Horse, in Cambridgeshire. It's a 13th Century Coaching Inn, which is mentioned in the novel 'Nicholas Nickleby', written by Charles Dickens. I went there in the summer and think it's fascinating to imagine the people who must have stopped there over the centuries to eat, drink, rest and change the horses on the stage coach routes to and from London.
To give a flavor on our going out, in September we ate out four times, went to the cinema once, and went out to a bar once. That's on top of our coffee shop visits.
One last thing, I had previously subscribed to Babbel, an app to try to help me learn French. I've kind of fallen off the wagon with my efforts recently, and decided that I wouldn't renew the subscription. Not realizing it was a rolling subscription, I thought I'd just let it lapse but then I noticed the money for the next period was automatically taken from my bank account. I emailed Babbel and, although they said that I should have cancelled it ahead of time, they agreed to refund the amount as a goodwill gesture. I would prefer it if they issued a subscription reminder before taking the money, but I'm still pleased with the customer care they showed me once I contacted them. Well done Babbel. People are often quick to complain, so I thought I would give them a shoutout for doing something well and behaving in the right way.