Good News, Bad News

Teresa Carey Words 19 Comments

I have good news and band news.

The bad news: In the first month of travel I already went way over my monthly budget. I don’t know how I’ll manage to continue to travel like this for as long as I wanted to, let alone get to distant shores. Here is the breakdown:

Grocery: 331.47

Postage: 13.26

Boat Repair/Maintenance: 30.81

Entertainment: 41.13

Books: 79.04

Fuel: 124.06

Grand Total:619.77

(not included are my boat loan payment, student loan, cell phone, and boat insurance)

Lets take a closer look. Where could I save money? I’ll start with books. I read a lot. Some days I have a lot of time to read. As I meet people during my travels, I’ll trade books whenever I can. But only $79 in one month…thats not a lot on books! Lets assume each book costs about $15, which means I purchased five books. In reality, I purchased three. One was quite expensive, but will hopefully help me find ways to make money along my journey.

I’m a little funny about purchasing books too. I’ll read used books, traded books, library books (which I can’t get because I don’t have residency in any of the towns I go to), magazines, borrowed books, etc. But part of the reason I enjoy books so much is because I enjoy the entire process, from start to finish. I’ll spend hours in a bookstore (thanks to Daddy) looking, reading, collecting a stack of books, and finally narrowing it down to only one or two which I will purchase, but not before I note about ten others that I’ll want to get on my next visit (which I never do). I like hardcover books, and first edition paperback books. I do not like the little fat paperback books that are printed in small type with thin yellow paper long after the book was first published. The reason being that when I return to my boat, I’ll spend a few days looking at, touching, thumbing through the pages, and reading the cover of each book before I finally choose one to start reading. When I’m finished reading a book, they most often still look brand new. Thats how I like it. If its a used book, or if I accidentally get it wet (which happens since I live on a boat), then I still enjoy the book just as much. I read books so quickly because I like to finish them, note them in my book list, choose who I will give the book to, and start the process again. So, sure I could insist that I buy only used books, but then I would miss out on the entire process that I love so much and would probably read less.

How about entertainment. I rented a movie, got a pumpkin, went out to dinner with friends. Next month…no going out to dinner.

Postage: I sent my Daddy a book that he wanted to read. I can’t remember what the rest of the postage costs come from.

The area where I could save the most is in grocery. I could certainty cut that total in half if I stuck to eating instant oats for breakfast and Chef Boyardee every night for dinner. Dinner would cost only 87 cents, less if I bought it in bulk, and breakfast would be even cheaper. But food is one thing I do not pinch pennys on. I don’t buy everything in the store that looks tasty, but I’ll load my cart with as much fresh fruits and veggies as I can keep in my icebox, and friuts and veggies aren’t cheap.

Fuel: There is no two ways about it. Coastal cruising uses more fuel than long distance ocean cruising. Which reminds me that I started this post by saying I had good news and bad news. Now for the good news…I want to cross the ocean! Don’t worry, Mom, it will still be a while until I undertake this adventure (note the “bad news”). I’ll give you a fair warning. But despite the bad news, that I cant afford to take on a trip like that, the good news is refreshing. After a rough start to single-handed sailing, I’m now beginning to think I could really do it. I just need to take care of the finances first, but more on that later.

December 20, 2009: I put together a budget for November as well, but decided not to post it. What is interesting about Nov. budget is that the food expenditure is about 1/2 of October’s budget. I think I did a lot of provisioning of dry goods in October and thats how I spent so much. I spend zero dollars on books, and the other categories were about the same. Unfortunately, there were a few unexpected expenses in November and December that increased the budget, or added a whole new category (like travel home for the holidays)! Ah well. Over time, I’ll begin to see better where my spending is and how I can save more. -Teresa

Comments 19

  1. Nic DeMuth

    I have some books to share…If you are interested let me know!

    East of Eden, My favorite
    Cup of Gold
    The Monkey Wrench Gang
    Stumbling on Happiness
    and the beginning of next year I will have my own book to send!

    American (R)Evolution

    If you are interested let me know where to send em.

  2. Gina Malone

    Rodney and I have had to really cut corners in order to meet our budget and it’s been a real big challenge. This past month we managed to spend $375 on groceries on a family of 4 (granted, one member is a one yr. old, but still)! And that includes eating fresh fruits and veggies (no chef boyardee). I’m sure groceries are more expensive out east, but I think you can do it. Figuring out what we truly “need” has been tricky- but the one thing we do “need” is to spend within our means. Let’s talk soon!!!

  3. RichC

    I wanted to let you know as a “Daddy” of wonderful 23 year old daughter, I appreciate the thoughtful and significant sacrifice to your budget. Love is a difficult thing to reign in … or to ask someone to reign in. Shave the food budget, run the diesel a few RPMs lower, post requests for donated books and DVDs … but continue to shower your daddy with small but thoughtful things. (you can thank Ben for linking me to your blog)

  4. jomamma

    You spent about as much as I did on food last month and I have two grown men living in my house. I cook EVERY night and we eat really well, none of that canned stuff. lots of beef. I think now that you are conscious of how much you are spending, you’ll do better at the store. Are some of the expense the toiletries? Those are always expensive, go cheap on that stuff, TP is TP it’s got no shelf life and all ends up the same in the end. Think green in this department, and use reusable stuff, less storage too. Bandanna for your nose and dish towels not paper towels.

    Have you ever tried putting a tick mark on your grocery list for every $1 you are spending? Say you pick up an item over 50 cents, make a tick mark, if it’s $1.10 make a tic mark. $1.50 make 2 tick marks. Get it? You can come pretty close to your total before you ever get to the check out line. This is a trick I used to use back in the day when I was only allotted $100 for a week for 4 people.

    Your bad news isn’t so bad… and the best news is that you still have your goal in sight and know what you need to do to get there. You can do it!

  5. Rod Bruckdorfer

    Voyaging and life are similar, both are learning processes. Do not give up your dream. Perhaps modify it but always have a dream. You are living a dream that many wish they could but never venture beyond the safety of their shores.

    “What does a person need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat, and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.
    The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

    Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?”

    “Wanderer” by Sterling Hayden

  6. FRAN

    My dear Teresa: if anyone can accomplish her financial goals, you can, there is no doubt in my mind…..and while I tell you repeatedly how proud your dad and I are of you….you know, your “bad news” is good news to me…sorry…..just thinking about it, again, gives me another day of stress…I LOVE YOU P.S. I am praying gramps and grams don’t figure out their computer and read this… know them…..

  7. John

    Fuel, baby, fuel!

    Sail more, motor less. Pretend you don’t have a motor for a week. Sail into the harbor instead of motoring. Wait for the wind and tide to go in your direction. You’ll save fuel and have an entirely different (and more interesting, IMHO) sail.

    — John

  8. Christina

    Often time grocery stores have a discounted section for fruits/veggies that are close to expiring and marked down. If there isn’t a section, ask to speak to the produce manager and see if you can buy some of the fruits/veggies in the back.

  9. NinaG

    I enjoy reading your blog and look forward to living vicariously through you on your sailing adventures.
    I have some income ideas for you.
    I follow a few blogs regularly and want to share two of my faves (one which is coming to an end) but both have great ways to earn a few bucks while doing they do best– LIVING: She has a really devoted following and opened up her Etsy shop online to sell unique Wyoming-esque things she finds and occasionally crafts. You can check out her shop for ideas: I imagine you may find some pretty amazing things on your travels if you keep an open mind. This lady is also an amazing photographer, but you are an amazing writer and there are many people who would pay for that skill. is the blog that is coming to an end as Nick nears Australia. He set up a google search box and asked people to use it. I set it up on my computer at home and work and use it whenever I do a google search. This generates a few pennies here and there for him, but everything helps!
    Fair winds and following seas!

  10. RogerP

    Teresa, all good ideas above, but John’s on fuel was the one I was going to offer. Your trip so far inevitably burned a lot of fuel b/c you are trying to keep ahead of winter as you run south and don’t have the luxury of lying at anchor waiting for a fair wind.

    Time pressure is always — always– the enemy of happy cruising (and the enemy of safety, even more importantly). I’m sure you know that better than I, as it looks like you’ve done far more sailing all over the place. Once the pressure to “get there”, wherever that is, is gone, you might be delighted by how few gallons you use accomplishing a great deal.

    And gratified, too, by how small a footprint you end up with, remembering the ethos of simplicity you’ve done so well with. After all, look at the tonnage that traveled these coasts for centuries on no fuel at all.

    Keep up the great work!


  11. Rick Barlow

    Hi Teresa,
    I have mixed emotions on what I’m about to suggest, but if it helps you in the slightest then perhaps…? There is always the option to request donations via your webpage, ie a paypal button or something very similar. I have donated to other “sailors” via this method, and helped support them in their dreams as I lived vicariously through them (see Is it begging? Meh. Creative fundraising. If this troubles you, you are welcome to seek advertisement of a sponsor and can always increase your literary output in appreciation (hint hint), not that I know anyone who would love that! You might be surprised at how many people out on the cyberseas would be happy to “sponsor” a young gifted ambitious adventuress as she seeks her destiny!

    Now on the topics of books, try the Patrick O’Brian, Aubrey-Maturin chronicles, excellent!

  12. adriftatsea


    Of course, what food you buy has a big effect on the prices of it. If you stick to buying relatively unprocessed staples, like pasta, rice, beans, etc., then your food budget goes a much longer way. Fresh fruit and veggies are going to be a big part of your food budget, but you do have to balance freshness vs. perishability. Dried foods and canned foods are a good way to do that…

    Compromising on the food quality is a really bad idea…but it can be difficult to keep to a budget, especially when cooking for just one and not having refrigeration readily available. Does s/v Daphne have a refrigerator???

    As for books, it helps if you join the Borders and Barnes & Noble book membership clubs, since they often have coupons for fairly significant discounts—just got one for 40% off in addition the to 10% I already get…

    If you’d like to trade books, let me know… I know quite a few cruising sailors and many of them are avid readers and would love to trade books.

    Entertainment is a very variable expense. It is far less expensive to have some people down to the boat and cook for them, than it is to go out and have dinner with them most times. I’ve often hosted a bunch of friends on the boat for a BBQ dinner on the mooring.

  13. Post

    @Gina and Jomamma,

    I agree. I spent too much this month. Like I said at the beginning of the post…I went way over my budget. I did spend quite a bit on provisions that will last a long time, so November should be a smaller budget than October.

    But you suggested that you could feed several on that budget. At three meals each day, there are 90 meals in a month. That’s $3.68 per meal. For a family of three or four….please tell me your secret! My breakfast alone was more costly than that (an orange, two kiwi, and an apple)!

    You aren’t the first to suggest that I add a “donate” button to my blog. I have toyed with the idea, but am not sure how I feel about it. I would be interested in hearing more from my readers. About the sponsorship…hmmm, well, would I have to make great promises like being the fastest or first or something to get a sponsor? Anyway, if you have a tip on a sponsor or donor, email me. I’m curious.

    @Roger and John,
    The early stages of my journey were spent chasing deadlines and meeting with people. There is much less pressure for speediness now. The fuel budget should be less in November. Stay tuned…

    @Everyone else!
    Thanks for the comments. I expect to spend less next month. Trust me. In all area of my budget. Stay tuned….


  14. serial catowner

    Several thoughts, from the “been there, done that” bag…..

    Absolutely, turn off the motor. Absolutely key to become comfortable doing everything without the motor.

    Books, I love ’em. Got several tons. Got space in your bilges for several tons of books? Thought not. Maybe consider the elegantly small Loeb’s Classics, which are, well, classic.

    What you need right now is a “lending library of small boats”. Maybe someone else has already done that and can post a link here. Giving books to someone who’ll read them is so much fun there ought to be some way to do it.

    Maybe not fill the fridge with veggies, but ask the produce manager for some culls that you will use that day or the next.

    In case you didn’t know, Joe Richards, in Princess describes doing the waterway southward in the winter, as does Frederick Fenger in Cruise of the Diablesse.

    Bon appetite, et bon voyage!

  15. jomamma

    I often cook enough for the evening meal to have for lunch the next day and sometimes for two days. I know that would be hard on a boat because you would need to have freezer or fridge space to keep it. The hubby doesn’t do breakfast and I usually have fruit and a granola bar. The 24 yr old son does his own thing much of the time. So maybe I do spend more than what I think I do. But I do know when we eat out we end up spending a whole lot more of the food allowance. Everything is so much cheaper when you make it yourself. I don’t know how you do it…. cooking for one is no fun. It’s actually very difficult, and if you do make a decent sized portion, who wants that twice a day for the next 4 days to keep from throwing it out? Like I said you’ll do better now that you are aware of it.

  16. Douglas

    Could it be the two dollar, three dollar, 4 dollar , syndrom ?

    My wife, being Singaporean Chinese, has explained to me, that they religously budget their expenses for their meals.

    Breakfast shall cost less than SD$ 2.00 ,,, which is USD$ 1.40 .

    Lunch shall cost less than SD$ 3.00 ,,, which is USD$ 2.00 .

    Dinner shall cost less than SD$ 4.00 ,,, which is USD$ 2.75 .

    She also went on to explain that ALL Chinese, save their money !

    She told me that they set their budget first, then save the percentage that they require, or wish , then set the amounts that they can spend. Bottom line, is that they do live with-in their self – imposed budgets.

    My US family never did this ,,,, if we needed more money we just took on more jobs and worked longer hours to pay those bills. The Chinese are not able to do this !

    Much has been written about “cruising” budgets ,,,, but, I have found that you spend all that you have,,, why ,, because, down deep in your mind , you know that this lifestyle is short term, like a vacation, that has an end to it , and that you will have to return to a normal life, when your resources run out.

    I have also found out that No other country, wants you to stay for long,,,, once you have spent your money , or visa time, there, they want you to leave.

    Australia is the worst, about this, that I have found, so far , ( Oz Immigration Hates Yachties there, as does Florida, towards , live aboards ) !

    Your learning curve is steep , right now , it will flatten out, then you will become seasoned ,,, an “old salt” , if you will !

    Your readers including myself, hope that you can find a way around the rules, and find that life of simplicity, that you seek ,,,, but what is the reality going to be ?????

  17. Early Retirement Extreme

    I don’t know whether it would work for a cruiser, but if you can get to the internet every 2-3 days and receive mail, you may want to consider paperbackswap, swaptree, bookmooch, and similar systems. If that doesn’t work, there are always used books on amazon. You’d probably have to give up on the book-store experience though.
    I read a lot, but it’s been a long time since I bought a book new.
    Another thing to consider would be a kindle—if you can keep it out of the salt water.

  18. Adam

    I just stumbled upon your blog today and have been slowly perusing your posts. I know this post was a year ago; but I felt the need…

    The book store experience is obviously important to you. If you look around you should be able to find used book stores periodically. Sure, the books aren’t crisp and new. But the environment is usually so much more interesting. Each of the books has a history. Someone handled them someplace, somewhere. I’ve gotten a kick out of picking up a used book and noting where someone else underlined something that affected them in some way, or made a note. I’ve picked up several signed copies of books that make me wonder: “To Annie, thanks for all your help.” Who’s Annie? A mystery. Plus every used book store has a completely different set of books, usually laid out in a questionable manner, leading to all sorts of surprising finds. It’s an adventure in itself.

    Well, you can tell which kind of store I prefer. A nice bonus is not only are the books a lot cheaper, but that you can trade your old books in to help defer the cost of new purchases.

  19. Lawrence D

    About mostly books, and then at the end.., a three part series on books.
    I LOVE that.
    We are much the same, my wife more than me as I try to cross the digital and audio divide, but we both love books, but especially the printed variety (done right!).
    Books are our friends. 😉

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