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 was the year I started my IG account @mywealthdiary to track my financial progress for the whole world to see.

Highlights of 2019:

I turned 26 years old!!

Travel hacked a trip to Greece with my boyfriend. We went to Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos for a total of 11 days.

Hit my 1 year anniversary at my new job!

Moved to a new apartment, which saved us approximately $1k a month. Pictured below is our previous, very expensive studio.

Went on mini-trips around the east coast (NYC, Maine, upstate NY)

Where did my money go in 2019?

Here is a diagram of where my money went (http://sankeymatic.com/build/)

My full-time salary flows into three categories:

  • Taxes: 23%
  • Retirement Savings: 21%
  • Income: 55%

I also had additional income from side hustles, as well as dividends and interest that helped me to increase my savings rate.

Net Worth (+$88,545.66)

I started 2019 with a net worth of $50,633.51 and ended the year with a net worth of $139,179.17, which is an increase of 174.88% or $88,545.66. This was the first year I seriously tracked my net worth every month, which helped me see my upward trend and motivated me to keep saving and investing.

Cash (+$16,393.14)

I’ve never had more than $2k in savings and didn’t understand the importance of an emergency fund. So I made it a goal to save a 6 month emergency fund of $15k. I also started using sinking funds to save for short-term goals, like Christmas gifts and travel.

401k (+$24,987.53)

I started a new job in November 2018, so I rolled over my previous employer’s 401k into a Rollover IRA and started a new 401k account at Fidelity. I was able to max out my 401k for the first time this year, and saw an overall increase of $24,987.53.

HSA (+$3,453.94)

This was the first year I’ve had an HSA because I was always under my dad’s health insurance. When I turned 26, I immediately signed up for my employer’s high-deductible insurance plan and started a new HSA account at Fidelity. My employer contributed $562.50 and I contributed the rest.

Roth IRA (+$8,244.41)

This is my second consecutive year of maxing out my Roth IRA!!

Rollover IRA (+$17,998.36)

My previous employer offered a pension that vested once I hit 3 years of employment. When I switched jobs, I received the pension payout of $9,155 and was able to roll it into my existing Rollover IRA. The rest of the increase was from the market change!!

Brokerage (+$17,556.08)

After maxing out my 401k, HSA, and Roth IRA, I contributed what was remaining into my brokerage account. The total I invested was $12,633.20.

Income: $102,537.07

In 2019, I learned about the value of side hustles and focused my energy on finding additional streams of income aside from my full-time job.

Full-time job earnings: $81,232.45

As part of my job as a business consultant, I earned $58,115.60 after pre-tax deductions and taxes. In addition, I contributed $21,750.06 to my 401k and HSA, which I consider income since it is money earned and saved. My employer contributed $683.66 to my accounts. I also get a phone reimbursement of $65/month as part of my workplace benefits, so my total amount received was $683.13.

Based on these numbers, my total earnings from my full-time job in 2019 was $81,232.45.

Side hustle earnings: $10,517.01

I made $1,384.32 on cash back and bank bonuses. These included cash back from Rakuten, a sign-up bonus from Chase of $300, and other credit card cash back deals.

I made $400 from research & surveys. I completed two research opportunities where I received $75 gift cards for my time. I also had a 45 minute interview where I received a $250 gift card.

I tried to be more minimalistic in 2019 by not buying new things and selling items I wasn’t using at home. I was able to sell $249.74 worth of items on Offer Up and Facebook Marketplace.

I made $6,985 from referring and promoting on my IG platform, mostly from SoFi Money and Personal Capital.

Other income of $1,497.95 covers gift card money and miscellaneous money.

Other: $10,787.61

As mentioned in the Income section, I received a pension payout of $9,155 from my previous employer. I also received $198.16 for keeping my emergency fund in a high-yield savings account. In addition, I reinvested $1,434.45 of my dividends back into my portfolio.

Expenses: $32,055.96

I spent a total of $32,055.96 in 2019. My goal was to spend less than $30k, but this was the first year of tracking every penny. This is now my baseline.

My necessary vs. discretionary spending shows that I spent almost $11k on things like travel, eating out, shopping, and gifts. My goal for 2020 is to keep expenses below $28k, which I am hoping is realistic if I can cut back on my discretionary expenses (pray for me, y’all).

My 2019 monthly average was $2,671.33. Here is a breakdown by category per month. Please note: some of these expenses are split with my boyfriend and only capture my half.

Necessary expenses: $1,758.32

Housing: $1,428.27

We were originally living in a luxury apartment in a 490 square foot studio that was $2,642.50 a month ($1,321.25 for my half). This is considered a good deal, since the actual price is $2,900 a month but was lowered due to concessions we received when we signed the lease.

When we learned that the rent would be going up next year, we decided to move to a cheaper apartment. In order to secure the apartment, we had to pay a broker’s fee of 1 month’s rent (bleh), first and last month’s rent, and a security deposit of 1 month’s rent. So we essentially had to pay 4 months of rent in June.

So all in all, we were able to save some money on rent, but had to pay the price for it up front. I am hoping that the housing costs will average down over time in 2020.

Utilities/Internet: $66.14

Water and heat are included in our rent, so we only have to pay for electricity and internet. Our electricity is usually pretty low (~$35-40 a month) and internet comes out to $52 a month, which my boyfriend and I split. Some months are higher and some are lower, which is why the average comes out to around $66.

Groceries: $155.02

I try to meal prep and cook at home as much as I can. I pack lunch for work every day and will only go out to eat on the weekdays if completely necessary. Otherwise, we will go out to eat on the weekends for enjoyment. $155 a month is pretty standard, as my boyfriend and I split the grocery bill.

Transportation: $78.73

I don’t own a car and live in a transportation-friendly city. Plus, I usually walk to work every day to save money and get my steps in! I will occasionally Uber on weekends if I go out.

Healthcare: $30.16

My healthcare costs are usually very low. This covers my copays and annual contacts supply.

Discretionary expenses: $913.01

Entertainment: $17.26

I normally don’t spend a lot on entertainment. We watch the occasional movie in theaters, but staying in and watching Netflix or having a board game night is our version of entertainment. We also consider going out to eat our way of spending quality time, so we will often do that on weekends.

Restaurants & Eating Out: $137.48

This is usually our “fun” budget, so we will go out to eat once a week or so. Never anywhere super expensive or fancy (unless it’s a special occasion), but we enjoy eating out.

Shopping: $168.68

My phone stopped working at the beginning of the year, so I had to invest in a new phone which is why my shopping spend was so high. I also bought some new clothes for my trip to Greece.

Travel: $164.89

In addition to our trip to Greece, we also made some small trips to NYC and upstate NY to visit friends and family. This added up in terms of travel costs, but definitely worth it!

Gifts: $337.61

Besides housing, this is my biggest expense category. This includes birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, and money to my parents. I bought plane tickets to Canada for my parents for their anniversary and also send them money every month to help supplement their income.

Miscellaneous: $87.09

Here is a breakdown that shows where every dollar went in 2019.

Savings & Investments: $70,023.94

In 2019, I was able to save & invest over $70k! I was able to max out my 401k, HSA, and Roth IRA, fully fund my 6 month emergency fund, and invest money in a brokerage.

My 2019 pre-tax savings rate was 54.85%. My post-tax savings rate was 68.29%. I achieved my goal of saving more than 50% of my income!


2019 was a year of growth in terms of making money, saving money, and learning about how to manage money. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished in a year, and I am excited to see what 2020 has in store for me!

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 increased $7,482.30 in December, $5,143.07 of which I contributed through savings and investments. The market continued to go up throughout the month, which helped boost my overall net worth growth.

Cash Money (+$181.58)

Checking Accounts (+$101.78) – At the end of every month, I leave a buffer for my rent money of $1,875. Otherwise, I try to leave as little money in my checking account as possible. I know this isn’t what most people do, but I like to have my money working for me!

Emergency Fund (+$122.61) – I have been adding an additional $100 a month to my fully-funded 6 month emergency fund of $15,000. I’m not sure if I want to continue doing this, but my plan is to not touch this money unless completely necessary. It is sitting in my Wealthfront high-yield savings account

Parents’ House Downpayment (+$557.19) – I was able to put some money into my SoFi account, which is where I have my parents’ house downpayment. My goal is to save $40k in the next 2 – 3 years, so my plan is to put at least $500-1,000 a month towards this goal

Christmas Fund (-$600) – I took out $600 in cash for my Christmas gifts, so now that fund is completely depleted! Time to start saving for 2020!

Investments (+$7,201.29)

401k (+$1,234.48) – My employer match finally kicked in this month. My company does not provide a match for the first year of employment, but now that I am past my 1 year mark, I receive 50% of 6% (FREE MONEY!!) This month, I contributed $180.68 and my employer contributed $121.16. 2019 will be the first year I max out my 401k!! So exciting!

HSA (+$380.39) – I contributed $289.48, which means that including my employer’s match of $562.50 in April, I was able to max out my HSA this year

Roth IRA (+$396.67) – I maxed out my Roth IRA last month, so this is just the gains from the market 🙂

Rollover IRA (+$1,2247.89) – Gains from the market!

Brokerage Account (+$3,941.36) – I contributed $3,188.20 this month and the rest of the increase is from the market

Liabilities (-$99.40)

Rent Payable (+$0) – This is the rent money that needs to get paid! It comes out of my checking account at the end of each month. My boyfriend and I split the rent, so my half is $937.50

Credit cards (-$99.43) – My goal is to pay off my credit card balance in full each month, since I treat them like debit cards. However, I go over some months, and that is perfectly fine!


I am excited about my growth in net worth and financial knowledge in 2019, and I am looking forward to what 2020 will bring!

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

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, or if my accomplishments would be discredited because of what I make.

I want to start out by saying that I am not posting this to brag or make anyone feel bad. There will always be someone out there making more than you. I’ve learned that comparing myself to others is only a waste of time, and that it is better to focus on how I can grow, improve, and be better. If anything, I use others’ success stories to motivate myself!

This leads me to my income reports. The purpose will be twofold (1) It is a way for me to document the growth of my income over time as I invest in more side hustles and (2) hopefully, it will inspire my readers to track and pursue their own income growth as well.

For some context, I currently work full-time as a consultant making $105,000 annual base salary. Outside of my 9-5, I manage @mywealthdiary, a personal finance Instagram account where I share my journey to multi-millionaire.

Now let’s dive into the details of November’s income report.

Total November Income: $10,423.19

November was a 3 paycheck month for me based on my bi-weekly pay schedule, so I made $2,591.62 more than a normal month.

I also made an additional $2,648.32 through side hustles.

Some of my side hustle income came from the following:

  • Had a 45-minute call with a marketing company and received a $250 gift card for my time
  • Sold some clothes on ThredUp for an easy $33.31 on items I’ve been looking to get rid of for a while
  • Used an offer on a Starbucks coffee purchase using my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card and received a small discount of $0.27 and got $119.98 cash back on my Amex Blue Cash Preferred credit card
  • Made $1,900 through SoFi referral bonuses, which means 39 people signed up through my link (yes to opening HYSA’s and making your money work for you!!)
  • Received $160 worth of Amazon gift cards through Personal Capital
  • Made $25.30 of interest on my high-yield savings accounts at Wealthfront and SoFi
  • Only made $2.46 in dividend income this month 😦
  • The $157 of other income includes some money I made playing poker with friends and a $100 Amazon gift card I received from signing up for the Amazon Prime Rewards credit card.

My goal is to increase the income I make outside of my 9-5 job. I hope that by documenting every penny I make, I can continue to grow my side hustles and generate multiple streams of income until I no longer need my full-time job! I also hope that being this transparent helps someone out there gain the motivation to work harder, find more side hustles, and get their financial life in order before the new year!

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 inspire along the way.

November 2019 Net Worth: $131,696.87 (+$10,929.48)

November was a great month financially. I received 3 paychecks (based on the bi-weekly payment schedule this year) and the market went up. My net worth increased $10,929.48 since last month, $9,736.22 of which I contributed through savings and investments.

Cash Money (+$2,087.26)

Checking Accounts (+$36.03) – I tend to move my money out of my checking account as soon as I get paid, so at the end of every month I end up with a small buffer to get me by until the next paycheck. It’s a good thing I manage my money closely – definitely do not recommend this!

Emergency Fund (+$126.23) – I hit my emergency fund goal of $15,000 in September, but I’ve decided to continue to add $100 a month

Parents’ House Downpayment (+$1,925) – If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you will know that I have a goal to help my parents save for their downpayment on a house. My parents are 10 years from retirement, but do not have much saved yet. Their biggest goal has always been to buy a house, so I am helping them accomplish their dream! I started saving in September and set a timeline of 2 years to save about $40-50k

Christmas Fund (+$0) – I already reached my goal of $600 for Christmas presents, so I haven’t added anything since September

Investments (+$11,192.17)

Vanguard Accounts only (Roth IRA, Rollover IRA, Brokerage)

The market has been good to us this month. As you can see, my investments have gone up significantly but I’ve also been pouring money into my accounts to hit my savings goal of $7k this month, which I’ve surpassed!

401k (+$1,179.53) – I contributed $565.40 to my 401k this month, which means the rest of the increase resulted from the market growth. It has officially been 1 year since I joined my company, which means my employer match should start soon. Hopefully I can get some of that free money before I hit $19k in contributions this year

HSA (+404.52) – I contributed $434.22 this month. I am $476.92 away from maxing out my HSA this year

Roth IRA (+$440.58) – I maxed out my Roth IRA at $6,000 last month, so the increase came solely from the market (whoo!)

Rollover IRA (+$1,774.11) – Haven’t contributed anything to this account since I rolled over my old 401(k) so this increase is from the market

Brokerage Account (+$7,393.43) – I contributed $6,635 this month. My goal is to invest $10k in my brokerage account by the end of the year, and YTD I have invested $9,395 so I am almost there!

My Asset Allocation

I am a fairly aggressive investor and am heavily invested in US stocks (mostly through VTI and VTSAX). I have a sprinkling of International stocks and US bonds. Now that I am capturing my asset allocation every month, I am going to be more mindful of how I diversify and rebalance my portfolio.

Liabilities (+$180)

Rent Payable (+$1,875) – This is the amount that I’ve left in my checking account to pay for rent. My boyfriend usually venmo’s his half of the money and the rent is paid to my landlord from my account. The money is scheduled to leave my account usually on the last day of the month or the first day of the next month.

Credit cards (+$180) – I strive to pay off my credit card balance by the end of every month, but sometimes they will spill over into the next month and I am perfectly okay with that.

Savings: $9,736.22

Expenses: $1,818.21 total spent

Wants vs. Needs

I was within budget for my necessities this month. Most of my living expenses are fixed, except for groceries which I work hard to maintain. However, I did go over by a little in the wants categories. I ended up sending $200 to my parents on a whim and spending money on mywealthdiary stuff (the blog + domain). I am pretty happy with the low spend month, but would like to increase my personal spending next month. I think I’ve been too restrictive lately, which has helped my savings goals but feels bad in my personal life. Gotta work on balance!

No Spend November: 13 no spend days

At the beginning of the month, I set a goal of 13 no spend days. By no spend, I mean spending literally $0, so I included bills and other necessities in my challenge. I set this goal so I could accomplish my other goal of saving and investing more than $7,000 this month.

How did I do my no spend month?

I used a planner to track my daily spending. I highlighted the days where I spent $0 and wrote the dollar amount on days I did spend money. This helped me keep accountable and on track to meet my goal. To keep spending low, I did the following:

  • Went grocery shopping and packed lunch for work every day
  • Drank the free coffee at work and always had snacks on hand for when I would get hungry during the day
  • Walked to work to save on transportation and get exercise
  • Decluttered my stuff and realized how much I already own
  • Didn’t go crazy shopping on Black Friday

So that was my month, how was yours? Overall, I think this month went really well financially and I am excited to start preparing for 2020!

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!