If you were guaranteed to spend $20,000 more than you earn over the next year, no matter what you did, no matter how hard you worked, how would you spend that year?

We haven't fully explained the most mind-blowing part of our year of travel - it's not going to cost us anything. In fact, we have the very real possibility of ending the year in a better financial situation than we would have if we had stayed home and I had kept my full-time job

To illustrate how this is possible, let's look at a budget of income and expenses assuming current income of $100,000 (see the spreadsheet below). 

This budget is hypothetical, it is not our actual income and expenses. However, it is roughly proportional to the calculations we made when deciding whether or not to travel for the year. 

The "Home" scenario assumes the status quo, that we are at home, working, with two kids in childcare. The "Travel" scenario assumes that I quit my full-time job, Erin continues to work part-time remotely, we take the kids out of childcare, we rent our house out, and we spend a year traveling the world. 

This hypothetical budget assumes that in the "Home" scenario, both parents earn the same hourly rate, but one (Erin in our case) works roughly half the hours, which splits the income into thirds $33,000 / $67,000. Again, this is not our actual income.

It also assumes that in the "Travel" scenario, we maintain Erin's $33,000 income by working remotely, but Tim's $67,000 employment income goes away. The house is rented out for the year with utilities included. 

Finally, we are maintaining the same savings goals in both scenarios for retirement, college, and medium-term savings (i.e. our next house). We treat those as fixed, necessary costs that we cannot reduce. They're already less than they should be (again, these are not our real numbers). 

In either scenario, we spend $20,000 more than we earn during the year. $14,000 of this is planned long-term savings, not current spending, but it's still coming out of our cash on hand. In either scenario, we would have to come up with the $20,000 by some combination of spending down our cash on hand (we try to maintain 6 months of expenses in accessible accounts), taking on debt (credit card, home equity, bank of mom and dad), and reducing our untouchable $14,000 of long-term savings contributions for the year. 

We're going to lose $20,000 over this year. We've just decided to spend that doing something we've always wanted to do as a family, rather than working our butts off to pay other people to spend time with our kids. 

There is one critical difference between the two scenarios.
In the Home scenario, Erin can only work a maximum of 21 hours a week, which is the time she gets in the office during the three days the kids are in childcare. With snow days, sick kids, appointments, etc., some weeks would be less hours than this, so it is unlikely that we would earn the budgeted income in the Home scenario. We would stand to lose even more than $20,000. Similarly, I would not have the ability to generate any additional income since I would be working over 40 hours a week for a fixed salary. 

This changes in the Travel scenario. Erin is now able to work more than 21 hours if needed during busy weeks. If she wants to supplement the part-time income from the firm she primarily works for, she can take on her own clients (need graphic design work? Email us!)

In a purely theoretical, "imagine-if," comet hitting the earth type of scenario, I could also take on some work (need songwriting work? Email us! I do architecture, too).

There are a few big picture line items that make the Travel scenario comparable to the Home scenario, despite giving up 2/3rds of the employment income:

1. Rental Income - Obviously, the income from renting our house out covers about half of the missing income. However, we still have to pay for all of the house expenses, utilities, and some additional expenses related to leasing it, plus pay for our own rental housing while traveling. 

2. Travel Housing - We are trying to minimize our travel housing costs by traveling to places with relatively low rents / cost of living, house-sitting (free housing in exchange for watching pets and property), and accepting the gracious invitations of our family and friends to stay with them. 

3. Childcare - As much as we love our childcare providers, childcare in the greater Boston area is not cheap. Ours are at the lower end of the cost spectrum. The spreadsheet below budgets $20,000 for the year for two kids, three days a week. Again, this is not our actual cost but is representative of the lower end of Boston prices. 
This is part of the reason why it makes so much sense for us to take this trip now before the kids are in school, to avoid this childcare expense for both kids. 

4. Income Tax - Perhaps the most serendipitous aspect of the Travel scenario is that by giving up 2/3rds of our income, we are depriving state and federal governments of 2/3rds of the taxes they would have taken from us in the Home scenario. This alone is reason enough to take the trip. 
This is very dumb math, I don't know what the actual tax difference would be. I suspect that because of graduated tax brackets our taxes will be even lower than 1/3 of our current taxes. 

5. Rental Income Tax - Rental income is likely not to generate much, if any, tax obligation, because we can deduct costs like interest payments, utilities, condo fees, broker fees, maintenance expenses, etc., plus the depreciation of the house. For example, a $300,000 house would be depreciated over 30 years, resulting in a $10,000 deduction each year (again, dumb math). So if you rent out a house for $25,000 for the year but have $10,000 in interest payments, $10,000 in depreciation, and $5,000 in other costs, it shows up as $0 income on your tax return. 

6. Healthcare - Sticking it to the health insurance companies is the second most serendipitous aspect of the Travel scenario. This deserves it's own separate blog post and spreadsheet, which I hope to write soon. Long story short: 
For years we have been purchasing Erin's health insurance directly since she is self-employed. It would cost us around $12,000 in premiums for one of the cheapest family plans with a reasonable deductible and co-pays that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will allow us to buy. 
This comprehensive plan would not cover us outside of the U.S., so we've cancelled it.
When traveling, we will buy travel medical insurance which is less than half the cost of comprehensive insurance. When back in the states, we will buy short-term medical insurance, which is less than half the cost of comprehensive insurance. 
Because we don't have comprehensive insurance, we will have to pay the Obamacare and Massachusetts "tax" fines, but they're not that much. Even with the Obamacare fines, our health insurance costs are half of what we would be paying for a comprehensive plan. 
These short-term plans cover medical events, not regular appointments, so we will pay for any appointments out of pocket. Big deal, a year of appointments costs less than one month of a comprehensive insurance premium. 

7. Travel - We already had the flight to England booked, so our additional travel costs are for planes, trains, and automobiles to get around Europe, plus additional flights to wherever we go in the spring. Some of these costs are offset by savings on what we would have spent on our car in the Home scenario. 

...and what a meal it was. Yes, that is a chicken gizzard salad.

Above all, we have challenged ourselves during this year to live well, cheaply.

We've just spent a month in France and ate our only meal out at a restaurant the day before we left. We've drooled past every bakery and looked enviously at Marseillais lounging at sidewalk cafe tables with a glass of wine in hand. We're not even going to Paris. I spent two weeks in Switzerland and didn't ski the Alps. 

Sure, we've stopped for snacks here and there, and there, and there, but the reality is that dining out with our kids in a restaurant with slow service isn't that enjoyable, and we don't have a babysitter (know a babysitter in Lisbon? Email us!). 

It's not that we're depriving ourselves, we're just being selective about our experiences.
Instead of a $10 glass of wine at a cafe with the kids squirming in their seats, we got two $5 bottles to enjoy at home after the kids are in bed (we tried the $3 bottles and decided to ante up for the $5 vintages, which are pretty damn good in France. In Portugal, $5 buys you the best bottle in the store). 

We went to Marseille because nearby Nice was one of the few places we could fly to cheaply from Zurich, we got a cheap but great apartment in Marseille, and we could get from Marseille cheaply to our next house-sit in Brittany. These are not necessarily our dream destinations, but we don't need them to be. We've had memorable, unique experiences everywhere we've gone, and we're living the life we want to live.

There have been countless times when we've said longingly, "If we didn't have kids..." or "If we had the money..." but we know that that's not what this trip is about. We need to make this year work, and we're challenging ourselves to make small sacrifices of our material desires to make this abroad life a success.

Luckily, the best things in abroad life - the beaches in Devon, the meadows in Cambridge, the walks in Yorkshire, the scenery in Zurich, the sound of Marseille, the sky in Brittany, the sun in Lisbon - are free.  

Without further ado, I give you the spreadsheet:



(This is not our actual income or expenses)


Budget Category

“Home” Scenario

“Travel” Scenario





$ (100,000)

$ (69,000)

$ 31,000

This is just an example to illustrate how we did the math, based on an assumed income of $100,000. it is not our actual income or expenses.

Dad - Employee Income

$ (67,000)

$ 0

$ 67,000

$32/hr x 40 hrs x 52 weeks, including cash value of benefits

This is an example only, it is not our actual income.

Mom - Self-employment Gross Income

$ (33,000)

$ (33,000)

$ 0

$32/hr x 20 hrs x 52 weeks

This is an example only, it is not our actual income.

House Rental Income

$ 0

$ (36,000)

$ (36,000)

$3,000/mo with utilities

This is an example only, it is not our actual income.


$ 85,000

$ 68,000

$ (17,000)

Car/ Transport

$ 6,500

$ 3,050

$ (3,450)

Insurance, gas, maintenance, tolls, parking, registration, public transit

Keep one car registered and insured. Assume minimal gas and maintenance. Increased public transportation.

Food and Drink

$ 8,500

$ 7,500

$ (1,000)

Groceries, restaurants / bars

Assume savings by traveling to places with a lower cost of living. Less dinners out (no baby sitter while traveling!) More light meals and snacks (cafes, etc). 

Healthcare / Personal Care

$ 12,950

$ 7,100

$ (5,850)

Insurance premiums, out-of-pocket costs (copays, deductible), dental, gym/ yoga, haircuts

Cancel comprehensive insurance coverage while traveling. Travel Medical Insurance while outside U.S., Short-Term Medical Insurance while in U.S., plus Obamacare penalties. Pay full cost of non-emergency appointments out of pocket. Minimize appointments during travel year.


$ 20,900

$ 32,700

$ 11,800

Mortgage, property tax, condo fee, homeowner’s insurance, utilities, maintenance, rental broker fee, travel housing rental

Assume $2000 increase for loss of owner-occupied property tax discount. All utilities, security system, and basic cable / internet included in rent. Allow for increased utility and maintenance costs. Add rental broker cost. Assume $1000/mo for 10 months travel housing, minus some house-sitting.


$ 2,150

$ 2,150

$ 0

Personal Liability, Life, Disability. Homeowner’s & Auto in separate categories above.

No change in coverage while traveling.

Kid’s Expenses

$ 20,300

$ 500

$ (19,800)

Childcare / pre-school 2 kids x $67 x 3 days/wk, Kids’ stuff

No child care while traveling. 

Other Expenses

$ 11,200

$ 7,400

$ (3,800)

Cash, Business expenses, phones / Wifi hotspot, Pets, Household items, Clothing, Gifts, Charity

Pay-as-you-go phone sim cards. No dog walking while traveling. Less household and clothes purchases.


$ 2,500

$ 7,600

$ 5,100

Flights, trains, rental cars

We had already booked the England flight. Cheap flights / trains around Europe. Additional flights in spring. Assume $400/mo for 8 months car rental.


$ 21,000

$ 7,000

$ (14,000)

Dad - Taxes

$ 14,000

$ 0

Federal, State, Social Security, Medicare

Mom - Taxes

$ 7,000

$ 7,000

Federal, State, Social Security, Medicare

Rental Income - Taxes

$ 0

$ 0

Assume a net loss in taxable rental income after deducting mortgage interest, expenses, and depreciation.


$ 14,000

$ 14,000

$ 0


$ 14,000

$ 14,000

Retirement, Kids’ College, Medium-term investment (i.e. down-payment for next house)

Maintain existing savings goals


$ 20,000

$ 20,000

$ 0


$ 6,000

$ 6,000

$ 0


Mom “Break-even” income

$ (33,000)

$ (33,000)

$ 0

Income needed while traveling to break-even with the “Home” Scenario

Average Hours per Week



$32/hr x 52 weeks

Mom Cash-flow-positive income

$ (53,000)

$ (53,000)

$ 0

Income needed to avoid spending out of savings or taking on debt.

Average Hours per Week



$32/hr x 52 weeks

“Home” Scenario only allows a maximum of 21 hrs/wk due to childcare hours. “Travel” Scenario allows for more potential hours.