Traveling as a lifestyle requires budgeting. It isn’t like vacationing where you might spend what you need to to have the “perfect” break from life. This is our life.

Now that our housesit on Lake Atitlan is over and we are on the move again, we are attempting to live on an average of $40 US/ day total. That’s $20/per person. It helps that we are in Central America (El Salvador to be exact) where our dollar goes further. But what exactly does $40 get us everyday?

When we lived in Brooklyn, NY $40 could buy us one of the following:

* An order of take out from our favorite sushi place (including tip)
* One trip for two to the movies (how going to the movies costs $40 in the US is still a mystery to me….)
* One pair of sneakers (and not the fancy kind)
*  A cab ride from midtown Manhattan to our house in Brooklyn (depending on traffic)

Granted, New York City is not the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of “budget” destinations (although there are some incredibly budget friendly ways to exist in “the city that never sleeps”… another post for another time). Still, one cannot argue that $40 doesn’t buy much in most places in the US.

So, what is $40/day getting us here in El Salvador? Take a look at our budget for the past few days. Three days is not a full picture of a budget but it will give you an idea of what we are spending here in Playa El Tunco, El Salvador.

Wednesday: (A day of sun and surf…and grocery shopping)
* One night’s accommodation in a private room at Lay Back Hostel, a very well run place that is steps away from the beach in El Tunco- $16
* Bus fare to and from La Libertad, to buy groceries- $1
* Groceries for lunches of breakfasts (tortillas, peanut butter, bananas, eggs, and honey)- $7
* Bus fare to and from La Libertad again because we liked the beach there- $1
* Delicious dinner of fish tacos, including tip- $8
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Grand Total: $33

A beautiful evening scene at Playa El Tunco.

A beautiful evening scene at Playa El Tunco.

Thursday: (A day of exploration in the surrounding area)
* One night’s accommodation at Lay Back Hostel (the owner overcharged us $2 on our first night so it came off our hotel bill for this night)- $14
* Breakfast- 2 pupusas made by a friendly lady down the road- $2
* Transportation on local buses to and from Joya de Ceren, a UNESCO World Heritage site- $7.40
* Entrance into Joya de Ceren- $5
* Snacks and water – $.95
* A very filling dinner of vegetable egg rolls, and stir-fried veggies from a local Chinese place, and pupusas- $12
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Grand Total: $41.35

Some of the Joya de Ceren ruins that have been buried under volcanic ash for centuries.

Some of the Joya de Ceren ruins that have been buried under volcanic ash for centuries.

Friday: (A day of work before we head off to a new location)
* One night’s accommodation at Lay Back Hostel- $16
* 3 Papusas for breakfast- $3
* One smoothie and one bag of chips for lunch (Aaron ate leftovers)- $3
* Fish tacos, one hamburger, french fries, and stir-fried vegetables for dinner- $14
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Grand Total: $36

Enjoying banana, honey, peanut butter wraps- our go-to lunch when on the road.

Enjoying banana, honey, peanut butter wraps- our go-to lunch when on the road.

So far, so good! We could trim a dollar or two here and there by staying in a dorm room or ignoring the delicious looking egg rolls at dinner…. Sometimes we do those things, and sometimes we don’t. There are travelers who are far more budget conscious than us, and others who couldn’t imagine spending only $20 per person a day! We seek balance when we travel- some days we scrimp and save, some days we indulge in a heftier (and pricier) dinner. Most importantly, we strike a balance between the days that we need to pay out money to see the sights and experience new things and the days where we can find free things to do (like walking along the beach).

Getting some work done in a hammock. Work days aren't so bad when you can do your work in a hammock by the ocean....

Getting some work done in a hammock. Work days aren’t so bad when you can do your work in a hammock by the ocean….

The days when we are traveling to a new place inevitably incur additional costs. We try to take local transportation and cook at “home” on those days to keep our costs to a minimum. We also both hold the mentality that we do not “have” to spend $40 a day, we can spend less. We are finding that, in the end, it usually balances out.

$40/day is a completely doable budget for a couple traveling in El Salvador. What can $40 buy where you are?