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2019 Financial Recap

2019 Financial Recap

2019 was the year of financial awakening for me. It was the first full year of living debt free and taking my finances seriously. It was the year I dived into the FI/RE movement and saved & invested the most in my entire life. It…

Net Worth Update #2: December 2019

Net Worth Update #2: December 2019

December 2019 Net Worth: $139,179.17 (+$7,482.30) December was a month of reflection and gratitude. Although I wasn’t able to go back to see my family, my boyfriend and I celebrated Christmas together and had some time to relax before the new year. My net worth…

How to get your financial life together in 2020

How to get your financial life together in 2020

2019 is coming to a close, and there are only 24 days until the start of the new decade. The next few weeks will be a whirlwind of scrambling to buy last-minute Christmas gifts, finishing up work tasks before the holidays, and setting new year’s resolutions. 

If one of your resolutions is to get your financial life together, here is a list of financially responsible things to do in 2020 to accomplish just that.

1. Track your expenses

There is a saying – what gets measured gets managed. This holds extremely true for your finances. Tracking allows you to see exactly where your money is going.

You may be surprised by what you discover – or it may not surprise you at all. Either way, understanding how you spend your hard-earned money is the first step to getting your finances together. 

There are several ways to track your spending:

You can download an app (like Mint) that connects to all your bank accounts and automatically imports all the transactions for you.

If you are spreadsheet-savvy, you can choose to manually track your expenses in Excel or Google Sheets. Or if you are the pen-and-paper type, you can write in a notebook or planner.

There are many ways to do it, but it’s important that you choose a method that works for you that you can stick to.

2. Calculate your Net Worth

When setting up your finances, one of the most important places to start is calculating your net worth. Your net worth lets you understand your current financial situation and gives you a baseline for tracking your progress.

How to calculate your net worth:

1. List your assets (what you own) – Include cash, money in your bank accounts (savings and checking), the value of your investments, your car, and the market value of your home

2. List your liabilities (what you owe) – Include student loans, credit card debt, mortgage, car loan, and money borrowed from friends or family

3. Net worth = Assets – Liabilities

One of my favorite tools to track my net worth is Personal Capital. It is a free app that allows you to connect your financial accounts to give you a real-time view of your net worth (so you don’t have to calculate it yourself) and your progress over time.

Whether you calculate your net worth manually or use an app like Personal Capital to do it for you, knowing where you stand financially is important. 

3. Budget

The b-word is scary to the majority of people. It sounds boring, complicated, and restrictive, but it doesn’t have to be this way. A budget is simply a way to assign every dollar a job. 

The process for budgeting starts with 

1. Figuring out how much you will make that month

2. Listing out your expense categories (i.e. rent & utilities, groceries, eating out, transportation, shopping, fitness, etc

3. Allocating your income to each of these categories until you run out of dollars to allocate – this is called a zero-based budget

This process of allocating dollars typically happens at the beginning of the month. As you spend money throughout the month, you will track your expenses (per #1 above) and sum up your categories to compare your actuals vs. your budget (what you determined at the beginning of the month). 

Budgeting allows you to allocate money to areas of your life that you value. For example, if you value health and fitness, you may budget more money in those categories than shopping. You have the freedom to control how you budget!

4. Save a 3-6 month emergency fund (& open up a high-yield savings account)

No matter what, life happens. This is why emergency funds are important. It is recommended that you save 3-6 months of expenses to cover any unexpected events that may happen. It’s also important that you save this money in a high-yield savings account.

If you already have some money sitting in a savings account that is yielding 0.01%, you are losing money! There are many high-yield savings accounts out there that are offering more than 1.5% interest for your business. It’s time for you to break up with your bank because you deserve better. 

5. Start learning about investing

If you haven’t started already, 2020 is the year you start investing! It is extremely difficult to build wealth by simply saving in a regular bank account. Investing allows your money to compound in the market, which is just another way to say that your money will work for you. 

If you are completely new to investing, reading and learning about it is one of the best things you can do for yourself. I recommend starting with The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins. The book is easy to follow, very tactical, and gives you a great start to your financial independence journey. 

You can also start taking small steps towards investing. Look into your company 401(k) and ensure that you are contributing to get your employer’s match. Then increase your contributions by 1% each year. Look at the funds that are available in your employer’s 401(k) plan and start investing the money you are contributing.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Income Report #1: November 2019

Income Report #1: November 2019

For a while, I have been thinking about posting monthly income reports on my blog. However, I struggled with being this transparent at times. I would worry about how others would perceive me, if I wouldn’t be motivating anymore if people couldn’t relate to me,…

Net Worth Update #1: November 2019

Net Worth Update #1: November 2019

Welcome to the first of my net worth series! I decided to start posting monthly updates to track my progress from $100k net worth (which I hit in July 2019 at 26 years old) to multi-millionaire. I am excited to document my journey and hopefully…

How I spent less than $1,500 on my vacation in Greece

How I spent less than $1,500 on my vacation in Greece

Hello and welcome to my first blog post! If you are coming from my Instagram, mywealthdiary, you will know that I just got back from a vacation in Greece. After my last post on how much I spent on my trip, I received a number of requests to explain how exactly I did it. Trying to cram all of this content into an Instagram post didn’t seem feasible, so I decided that creating a blog would be best. So here is the information that you’ve all been waiting for!

A few points to call out before I dive into the details.

  1. All expenses listed are mine only. I split all my costs evenly with my boyfriend, who went on the trip with me
  2. The whole trip was cash-flowed
  3. We used a credit card with no foreign transaction fees
  4. If there is anything I didn’t cover or you have more questions, please let me know and I am happy to answer

Now to get down to the nitty gritty details!

Overall Budget & How I Kept Track of Spending

The key to not letting a vacation leave you poor & broke is to plan, plan, plan. Make sure you create a budget and stick to it! Before my trip, I did some research on costs in Greece. Then I added everything up in my favorite tool, Google Sheets, and came up with a budget of $1,600.

Keep in mind that the categories you create aren’t static – you can adjust the amounts in each category based on how the trip goes. Whenever I had a spare moment, I would add up my spending and balance my budget to see how much I had left in each category. This helped me understand where my money was going and what I could decrease and increase. For example, I quickly realized I was spending the most on food & eating out so I increased that budget and decreased transportation because we ended up walking most of the trip.

Tracking Daily Spending

Every day, I would jot down the date, euros spent, the dollar conversion, and a description of what the expense is in my Notes app on my phone. This was an easy way to track my spending each day on-the-go, which I would consolidate with my budget throughout my trip.

Flights

Total spent on flights = $65.24.

Round-trip flight from Boston to Athens = $0. I used points to book my flight for free (yay travel hacking!). I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which has amazing travel benefits. With this card, you get 50% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. I used 45,526 points, which equated to $682.89. By just being smart about how I use my credit card (i.e. treating it like a debit card, only spending if I know I have the money, and paying off my balance every month), I was able to score a free flight! Whooo!

We took Turkish Airlines, so we had a layover in Istanbul, Turkey each way. I had never taken Turkish Airlines before, but the whole experience was great. The flight attendants were all so nice, the food was delicious, and they added nice little touches like providing pouches with eye masks, socks and slippers, and lip balm. They also gave us a special gift (rose facial toner spray) for Mother’s Day, which was really sweet. Overall, we had a very comfortable travel experience with them – highly recommend!

Flights from Athens to Santorini & Mykonos to Athens = $32.62 each, $65.24 total.

We took Volotea for our flight from Athens to Santorini and also for our flight from Mykonos back to Athens. You could also take a ferry, but we decided that a flight would be easier and much cheaper. The check-in process was super easy and the flight was very short (less than an hour). By the time the plane takes off, the captain announces that we are landing. I would say that if you are planning to island hop, you should take a flight to Santorini or Mykonos, then take a ferry to and from the other islands. It just saves you a lot of time. Plus, it’s more cost-efficient.

flight to greece

Accommodations

Total spent on accommodations = $541.61.

We booked AirBnb’s for all our stays. There were a lot of options (ranging from very expensive to dirt cheap), so we were able to pick places that accommodated our needs.

Athens

1. Our first AirBnb in Athens was located in the center of Athens, with a balcony and an incredible view of the Acropolis. The place itself was really small but we went with it for the location and view. We stayed here for 2 nights for a total of $107.72. $53.86.

view of parthenon from airbnb in athens

2. Our second AirBnb in Athens was on our last night in Greece. We needed a place to stay before our flight the next day. This place was perfect because it was walking distance to the train station that took us straight to the airport. It was super modern and cute, with a balcony where we watched the sunset on our last night. We stayed here for one night for a total of $91.08. $45.54.

minimalist bedroom of airbnb in athens

SantoriniFira

In Fira, we stayed at a house very close to the city center. The place was comfortable and I liked the fact that there was a TV we could watch Netflix on at the end of the day. We stayed here for two nights, for a total of $205. $102.50.

Santorini – Oia

Man is Oia expensive! We looked at some of the cave houses, but most of them were upwards of $200 a night. We luckily found this beautiful villa in Tholos, which is a short walk from the main area of Oia. It is close to the beach and has an amazing private pool with a gorgeous view of the Santorini country-side. The sunset view from this place was unbeatable (see picture of killer sunset from the pool below). It really was a treat to stay here. We stayed here for 3 nights, for a total of $499.68. $249.84.

Mykonos

In Mykonos, we stayed at a studio in the heart of the island. It was nice to be able to stop by the place multiple times throughout the day if we needed to rest or change clothes. We stayed here for 2 nights, for a total of $179.74. $89.87.

Transportation

Total spent on transportation = $129.91.

Ferry

Total spent on the ferry = $47.

We took a ferry from Santorini to Mykonos. We ordered our tickets online on https://www.ferryhopper.com/. There are different boat options that you can go with.

  1. SuperFerry – this is a big boat that usually takes about 3-4 hours to get from Santorini to Mykonos. The tickets are cheaper, around 42 euros per person.
  2. SeaJets – this is a small boat that is faster than the SuperFerry. It usually takes about 2.5 hours to get from Santorini to Mykonos. The tickets are more expensive, around 66 euros.

We went with SuperFerry and got the cheapest deck tickets, which cost $94 for two people. $47.

The ferry port is in Fira, and the easiest way to get there is by taxi which costs 20 euros. The ride down is a little scary because you are literally driving along the steep cliffs from the highest point of the island down to the ferry. Once you get down to the port, there are lots of cafes and restaurants you can sit and chill at until your ferry arrives. If you ordered your tickets online, make sure to pick up your tickets from the ferry office (there’s a fee of 50 cents). Be sure to head to your gate early to stand in line because it starts to get hectic when everyone is trying to board.

The ride itself was very smooth and pleasant. There were lots of seats available, so we were able to lay across the seats and take a quick nap. There is also a cafe where you can get coffee and snacks. There is Wifi, which you need to pay for. Since the trip was long, I decided to bite the bullet and pay for it. It cost $3.93. Keep in mind that it’s a one-person use Wifi code, so don’t think you can fool the system like we did by trying the code on both our phones. Lol it doesn’t work. We also explored the top deck, which was nice to feel the cool breeze and see the water.

Taxis

Total spent on taxis = $35.18.

There are taxis that are available for you around the main city, but make sure you have cash for these rides. My boyfriend and I thought credit card would be accepted everywhere, but taxis were the one exception. It was quite the surprise when mid-taxi ride, we learned that we needed cash and had to ask the driver to make a pit-stop at an ATM. Moral of the story: always have some cash on hand.

Public Transportation

Total spent on public transportation = $47.73.

Athens had very accessible public transportation from the airport to the city center. We took the train, which cost 10 euros one way. We ended up taking this multiple times to and from the city. In Santorini, our AirBnb host helped us arrange a taxi to pick us up from the Fira airport to the town for 20 euros. We also took a bus from Fira to Oia, which was easy to take and only cost 1.60 euro one way.

train from athens to airport

Food. LOTS and LOTS of Food.

Of course, my biggest expense on the trip (aside from accommodations) was food. Can’t fully experience a new place without trying all the food, am I right?? Total spent on food = $539.56.

A for Athens. This was a cocktail bar & restaurant on the rooftop of the hotel A for Athens. We went earlier in the day, so we were able to get seats without a reservation. The view really was amazing. We got seats directly facing the Acropolis and the city center. We ordered drinks and shared a moussaka and calamari. The only negative thing I have to say is that the service is extremely slow, which is normal in Greece, and they charged us for bread and bottled water (even though we didn’t ask for it). $47.10.

Side note on tipping. This was our first sit-down meal in Greece, so we weren’t sure how tipping worked. I learned, after the fact, that tipping in Greece is nice, but not obligatory. If you receive good service, it’s recommended that you tip between 5-10%. In many cases on our trip, the waiter would ask us directly if we would like to add a tip to our bill. We often ended up tipping 15% or more like we would in the U.S., but the service was never amazing. Everything is Greece runs extremely slow, so be prepared for long meals and slow service.

rooftop view of parthenon in athens

Santorini Wine Restaurant – Fira

This place was AMAZING. I made a reservation online a couple weeks in advance, based on recommendations on TripAdvisor. I was really hoping to have outdoor seating, but the waiter assured me that we wouldn’t want to be sitting outside with the wind and cold (it had rained earlier in the day). Although I was a little disappointed, the interior of the restaurant was just as nice and we enjoyed our delicious food in the warmth. I ordered grilled octopus as an appetizer and cod for my main dish. I especially loved the presentation of each dish – highly recommend this restaurant! $67.67.

Pelican Kipo – Fira

We loved this place so much, we went twice for breakfast! The restaurant has the most amazing environment, with palm trees and gardens surrounding the tables. What really made the place special was the pianist who was amazing. The vibe of the whole place was magical and the food was delicious. You get freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee, bread with jam, butter & honey, and an omelette with greens all for just 11.60 euros. We were really happy with this place. $13.

Passaggio – Oia

Once we arrived in Oia, we found another breakfast place we loved. This restaurant was a bit more pricier than Pelican Kipos in Fira, but the food was still amazing. The chocolate banana pancakes that were included in the breakfast was the cherry on top. $20.19.

Melitini Restaurant – Oia

After doing some research on best places to eat in Oia, this place came up as the top restaurant on Trip Advisor so we had to give it a try. Melitini is a tapas-style restaurant, so we ordered multiple dishes to try. We ordered the smoked cheese saganaki (which is straight cheese & heaven on earth), grilled octopus, spetzofai spicy sausage, meatballs with yogurt dip, and the orange pie (which was amazing). $34.51.

Kastro Oia Restaurant – Oia

Watching the sunset in Santorini is a BIG, BIG deal. All the tourists gather around 7 pm and claim their spot on the stairs and the castle for the best views of the sunset. We got lucky and were able to make reservations at Kastro Oia Restaurant for dinner. We decided to go with their fixed 3-course “Sunset Menu” which was fitting.

We ordered wine and sangria, then started the meal off with tuna tartar, followed by mussels, and the main course – lobster. As the sun started to go down, it got chillier so we got blankets from the restaurant (bonus points!). By 8 pm, we were surrounded by tourists ready with their cameras. We probably had the best view on the island! We enjoyed our fruit as we watched the sun go down and everyone clapped when the sun finally disappeared into the ocean. It was truly a magical experience. An expensive, magical experience. $101.74.

santorini sunset view from restaurant

Captain’s – Mykonos

This tapas place in Mykonos was amazing as well. It was right next to the water front, so we were able to people watch while we enjoyed our small dishes. We ordered calamari, grilled vegetables, chicken saganaki in red sauce and feta cheese, fried cod, and cheesecake. $33.20.

Snacks

We had a lot of gyros, baklava, and gelato during our time in Greece. My favorite gelato place was Lolita’s in Oia. So, so good!

Activities & Sights

Total spent on activities = $202.22.

ATV’s

Renting an ATV and riding it around the island is big on the Greek islands. There are two big companies that you can rent ATV’s from in Santorini:

  1. Drossos
  2. Vazeos

When we went to Drossos, they told us we needed an international driver’s license in order to rent an ATV from them. Vazeos did not require one, as long as you had your national license, so we went with them.

Usually, you rent an ATV for a 24 hours, but my boyfriend was stressed about keeping it for that long so we returned it after a couple hours of driving around the island. Because we didn’t go very far, we didn’t need to refill the gas. So the total ended up being $56.04. $28.02.

Santorini Photoshoot

My boyfriend and I (well, mostly me) thought it would be fun to do a Santorini photoshoot. I saw an AirBnb activity where a photographer will take professional pictures of you around the island.

It was definitely a bit awkward at first as we were trying to pose for the camera. But we got used to it after a while, and it was fun to see new photo op spots around Santorini. The photographer knew what he was doing, so he helped us feel comfortable and pose naturally.

The experience was a bit pricey, but the beautiful pictures made it worth it! $140.54 per person.

Attractions

Most of the activities and sight-seeing that we did around Greece was free. We didn’t sign up for any tours or excursions. We decided to just explore ourselves and save the money.

In Athens, we paid $67.32 for 2 tickets to see multiple attractions around Athens including:

  • Acropolis and Slopes
  • Ancient Agora
  • Hadrian’s Library
  • Aristotle’s School (Lykeion)
  • Temple of Olympian Zeus
  • Roman Agora

$33.66.

Souvenirs

In the past, I would buy a bunch of souvenirs for my friends & family. I would lug home magnets, cups, shot glasses, and keychains that would eventually break, get lost, or just be forgotten. As part of my financial and minimalist transformation, I’ve realized that pictures and memories are far more valuable than cheap souvenirs.

On this trip, my boyfriend and I looked for one thing that we could hang up in our apartment that would be meaningful. We live in a small space, so we are very mindful of what we bring into it. In one of the shops, we came across a handmade painted plaque of Santorini that would be perfect on our wall. So we bought it for 7.50 euros and didn’t look at anything else. $4.21.

The best part of the trip were the sights, which were FREE and mind-blowing!! See the amazing pictures below.


Overall, this was an amazing trip that didn’t put a huge dent in my May budget because I planned for it and made sure we were under budget. I created beautiful memories, ate lots of good food, and have a ton of pictures to always look back on. This trip definitely ignited my passion for travel again. Travel hacking is key to taking affordable, budget-friendly vacations to dream destinations.

Now that I can cross Greece off my travel bucket list, I’m looking forward to planning my next vacation. Only 74 more countries to go before I hit my life goal of 100 countries!