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I recently returned from a business trip to Canberra (pronounced Can-Brah), Australia. Canberra was amazing, although the travel time, not so much. This was my first time 26-hour plane ride, and the trip only lasted 6 days. However, it was totally worth it. I saw kangaroos lounging in a park, I experienced driving on the left side of the road, and I accomplished a lot of work.
Needless to say, it took me awhile to get back on track. I was very jet-lagged as Australia is 15 hours ahead of the DC area. My days and nights felt all jumbled up. I felt like a zombie.
Per Diem Rate
A really nice perk I received while in Australia was a per diem rate to spend on food and lodging. Although, if I went over that amount, it was my responsibility to pay the difference. This is a double-edged sword. If you spend wisely, you can theoretically make additional money on a trip. However, the downside is that if you spend more, you could end up paying out-of-pocket.
Fortunately, I was able to find a hotel that came in right at per diem. Since I wanted to enjoy some exciting food options at night, I went cheaper on breakfast and lunch so that I could splurge on dinner at night. Even though I could spend around $100 on food each day, the money went quickly. Australia is a pretty expensive place to live.
Starving in Sydney
When I got off the plane in Sydney, Australia, I still had another flight to go. At that point, I was starving. Airplane food has never been known to be a first-class dining experience. I can also attest to that, as the food was pretty bland and left me unsatisfied. So, once we landed in Sydney, I was on the hunt for a filling muffin to scarf down before I hopped on my last flight.
Even though I knew airport food was expensive, I was in for sticker shock when I learned that a muffin would cost me $10 in Australia. Being sleep-deprived (I could barely sleep at all on the plane) and so hungry, I looked past the price and ate the most expensive muffin of my life. Sadly, it did not live up to the billing.
While I thought the muffin was expensive, when I arrived at the hotel in Canberra, I was offered a breakfast buffet deal that would cost me $35 each morning. Even more pathetic, it was a continental breakfast of basic toast, fruit, and coffee.
Needless to say, I found an Aldi close by and bought myself some breakfast bars to save on breakfast.
If I didn’t buy those breakfast bars, I have no doubt that I easily would have exceeded my per diem allowance for food. Dinner often came out to $50-$60 per evening, including drinks. Even though I didn’t drink, when it came to splitting the bills, we usually just split it equally. It wasn’t worth the hassle of trying to separate alcoholic beverages out.
How Much Each Day Costs
During my 26-hour return flight back home, I started to think about how much money I really needed to live on if I was put on a per diem at home. Could we really live off of $100 a day?
Since all I had was time on the plane, I started to play around with my Personal Capital account to determine how much I spent on a daily basis. The results were eye-opening.
Would I be able to live off $100 per day?
The short answer is yes, if it were only food. However, if it included everything, unfortunately that would not be possible.
Surprisingly, our family of four spends around $140 a day. This includes food, charity, housing, social security, and health insurance. Those five categories alone account for more than 80% of our total daily expenses.
How does that compare to the average family?
It is pretty much in line.
The average family, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the U.S. spends $157 per day, on average, on expenses.
Average Top Five Expenses
They are pretty much the same as mine. Housing, food, transportation, social security, and healthcare.
For you loyal readers, you may be wondering how my housing costs make my top 5 since I paid off my mortgage.
Well, paying off the mortgage doesn’t do away with property taxes, which is my second highest expense, after giving to charity.
When you swap out giving to charity with transportation costs of the average American, you can see that we basically share the same type of expenses.
For the most part, we Americans have the same basic needs. Outside of a few categories, I would expect the majority of Americans to follow the same pattern.