Portugal, Spain, Azores—30 Days for $4.5K! (Oct. 2023 Update)

Read how we traveled from the US to Portugal and spent 30 days exploring Iberia and the Azores for just $4.5K! Plus, see our monthly FIRE budget!

Continuing from last month, our big trip to Iberia occupied most of our month! We continued our way through mainland Portugal, a dip into northwest Spain, and back to Portugal for a trip to the Azorean island of São Miguel. We wrapped the trip up by October 19, which brought us to an even 30-day trip. Check out our trip analysis below to see what we found worth spending our time and money on.

Besides traveling, we continued our tradition of donating to one of three nonprofits, this time helping others have a holiday season. You can read more about them and vote for your favorite in the poll below!

Each month, we track our income, spending, and savings to stay on our FIRE path and share it with you. Please keep reading to see our monthly updates, tips, and charity reviews.

Budget Update

If you’d like a more detailed description of our typical monthly cash flow (like our jobs or housing situation), check out our previous budget updates.

In the Sankey diagram below, the income on the left matches our expenses on the right.

Our Monthly FIRE Budget for October 2023 is broken down into our expense categories in a Sankey Diagram. Our donation to a holiday support nonprofit will come from our Reader Fund (DAF).
Our Monthly FIRE Budget for October 2023 is broken down into our expense categories in a Sankey Diagram. Our donation to a holiday support nonprofit will come from our Reader Fund (DAF).

We’ll run through the income and expense sources for the month and remark on any interesting items.

Income Summary

October’s income fell off a cliff. In fact, we had to suck over $4K out of checking just to cover our spending shortfall! Let’s dive into some exciting income-related categories and see what happened.

Last month showed a healthy stream of quarterly dividends. This month’s much smaller income came from our ownership of Seagate ($STX). Ultimately, it just flowed right back in through DRIP.

We earned $238 in dividends.

Several of our credit cards offer statement credits for purchasing with certain companies. Chase cardholders are eligible for statement credits with Gopuff ($10/month). Between the two of us, we can get back about $100 from Gopuff credits. That’s pretty great considering most of our Chase cards have no annual fee.

Chris’s AMEX gold earned $10 back for dining.

We earned $155 from Anthem for overcharging on previous insurance, too.

We received $265 in statement credits. 

Laurel Road no-fee checking accounts earn a $10 monthly bonus for making direct deposits of at least $2,500/month. In addition, Chris received a $108 check from the WMATA metro system for cash unused on an old travel card.

We earned $118 in cash back.

Expense Summary

From our $5,147 monthly budget, we saved and invested about $291.

After subtracting our credits and savings, we spent about $4,590 on living expenses.

That’s 107% of our FIRE budget from 2021 ($4,281/month).

Let’s break down some of the more exciting details.

Food & Dining

As mentioned last month, our food expenses tend to vary a lot while we travel. Let’s see how we did with the rest of the trip.

Our grocery spending came to about $411. That’s only a few bucks off of our spending from last month! That’s impressive for having been in Europe for much of the month.

We routinely fixed breakfast or dinner at home. Dining out all the time might sound great—but it gets old after a month!
We routinely fixed breakfast or dinner at home. Dining out all the time might sound great—but it gets old after a month!

It’s worth noting that about $110 of our grocery costs was covered by credits from AMEX/Chase for Grubhub, and Gopuff.

It certainly helps to have amazing access to fresh vegetables, fruits, breads, and more in every city. Central markets like this—and quality grocery stores—were a real treat!
It certainly helps to have amazing access to fresh vegetables, fruits, bread, and more in every city. Central markets like this—and quality grocery stores—were a real treat!

Restaurants, Fast food, Alcohol & bars
Our dining-out expenses saw a much larger increase. Restaurants rang in at about $255, alcohol & bars at $75, and fast food at $53. But, we had some great experiences!

Naturally, we had to do some wine tasting while we stayed in the Douro Valley. That’s Portugal’s most famous vineyard region and where the grapes for Port wine come from.

Wine and Port tasting at Quinta de Cidrô in the Douro Valley.
Wine and Port tasting at Quinta de Cidrô in the Douro Valley.

Of course, we also had to try some proper Port wine while in Porto. Our private tasting and tour of Cálem exceeded expectations!

We had countless, wonderful sit-down restaurant experiences, too! We loved how a standard protein-focused “plate” would include veggies and rice or potatoes. We weren’t very good vegetarians, though!

…And no, we didn’t skip tasty treats and specialty dishes.

Lots of yummy desserts!

We spent $794 on food & dining this month. 


Continuing our itinerary from last month, we spent another 19 days between Portugal, Spain, and the Azores. Our trip planning all worked out and we had a blast!

Chris’s parents joined us from September 30 to October 10, too! We shared in some expenses (like splitting a large Airbnb and guest house). Let’s have a look at our personal travel expenses.


Below are our hotel, guest house, and Airbnb stays from October 1 to 19:

WhenWhereDescriptionNts.Cost ($, USD)Reward Pts/Miles
10/01/23Coimbra, PTAirbnb My Oasis3310.98
10/04/23Porto, PTRVA Porto Central Flats
10/06/23Lamego, PTQuinta da Portela314.0822,873 Amex MR
10/09/23Salamanca, ESCastillo del Buen Amor
10/10/23Folgosa, PTQuinta Da Azenha
10/11/23Ponta Delgada, PTYellow Flat One Azores
10/13/23Capelas, PTSolar Pontes2152.37
10/15/23Formoso, PTThe Handmade House3213.56
10/18/23Porto, PTOporto Airport Hotel10.005,836 Chase UR

And, here are some photos in order of where we stayed—

Quinta da Portela (4 bedroom, Douro Valley):

Castillo del Buen Amor

Quinta da Azenha (B&B, Douro Valley):

Handmade House and Solar Pontes (Azores):

Over the course of October, we spent a total of $1,219 on completed hotel stays. We did have some tricky ways to reduce our expenses: discounted Airbnb gift cards and a $100 credit from Citi for using their portal to book a hotel. Not to mention the use of a little under 30K reward points to offset about $450 in hotel costs.

6 out of 9 stays included breakfast, some were massive buffets!

Overall, we spent about $68/night staying in modern apartments, a family-run Quinta on a vineyard, a 13th-century castle, and a cottage overlooking the Douro River.

We really loved the variety of places we stayed in different experiences. Everything from concierge hotel service to a real feeling of being brought into the family. The cultural experiences we were able to absorb from our stays were worth even more than places to sleep!

Rental Car & Taxi

In order to explore Portugal, Spain, and the Azores we rented an additional two cars in October. Portugal has a lot of tolls which we added to the rental car cost.

We also took a bunch of Ubers throughout our trip in October. The rides cost us a total of about $65 but would be hard to avoid. Many of the trips were with Chris’s parents to avoid overlong walks or to train stations or airports.

We shared the cost of the Portugal/Spain rental, tolls, and Ubers with Chris’s parents.

Air Travel

Cheap direct flights from Porto to Ponta Delgada with Ryan Air!
Cheap direct flights from Porto to Ponta Delgada with Ryan Air!

We booked roundtrip tickets from Porto to Ponta Delgada in the Azores. At $194 for the both of us, it seemed like a steal! We managed to avoid Ryan Air’s baggage charges and skated by on just our fairly small backpacks as personal items without issue.

We spent $1,602 on travel this month.

30 Days Travel Summary

Now that we’ve discussed our October travel expenses, we can combine our September expenses from the same trip. That’ll give us the total cost of our trip between Portugal, Spain, and the Azores for 30 days.

We’ll include all expenses we incurred for the trip—even groceries, restaurants, and gas for the rental cars. But we’ll skip expenses that we incurred during the trip that were not part of the trip (for example, our utility bill back home in Virginia).

Some of the best experiences are free—like catching this old steam locomotive maintenance!
Some of the best experiences are free—like catching this old steam locomotive maintenance!

Trip cost table

Let’s take a look at our total trip cost. In the table below, you’ll find four columns:

  • Description: a short summary of what the expense was for. We’ve included some basic geographical information for things like flights or hotels.
  • Cost: our incurred expense in US dollars for the described line item. In some cases, this appears as zero. If a travel currency like hotel points, airline miles, or a credit card reward certificate covers the total expense, we record a zero here. In some cases, there’s a minor fee in addition to using points/miles for surcharges or taxes.
  • Rewards Pts/Miles: we maximize our credit card rewards and frequent traveler currencies to cover the costs of our travel wherever possible. You’ll see a short description of the type of certificate or currency that we used.
  • Estimated Value: when using a reward from the previous column to cover an expense, we record what we would have otherwise paid for the line item. This gives us a sense of our savings.

The table is generally in chronological order. Expenses from September (last month) are also included.

We still incurred expenses at home (mortgage, utilities, etc.)—but these do not appear as part of our trip costs.

DescriptionCost (USD, $)Rewards Pts/MilesEst. Value (USD, $)
Flight—IAD→OPO (Roundtrip)0.0070,873 AMEX Pts1,063.10
Flight—OPO→PDL (Roundtrip)194.14
Hotels: 30 nights total2,324.3634,000 Chase/AMEX Pts510.00
Car Rentals: 18 days total (3 rentals)248.03
Gas & Fuel: rental cars216.91
Public Transit: train, bus, bike, cable car192.30
Taxis & Uber140.00
Dining: restaurants, fast food, coffee shops482.24
Alcohol & Bars75.29
Amusement: tickets, tours, entry fees127.72
Mobile phone: eSIMs1.00
Total4,457.96104,873 Points1,573.10

Trip cost discussion

Ultimately, it cost us about $4,458 to travel around Iberia and São Miguel in the Azores for 30 days. That’s about $149/day or around $75/person/day on average. That’s all-in—food, fun, shelter, and transit!

Had we not cut our expenses by $1,573 through the use of travel rewards programs, we would have spent about $201/day or nearly 35% more.

One thing we’d like to reinforce is that while this blog is about personal finance and financial independence—that is not the focus of trips like this for us.

We thoroughly enjoy them. If we want to buy tickets for an experience, try a new food, or tack on flights to a nearby island (hello Azores!) for a new experience—we do it.

FIRE isn’t about deprivation, it’s about freedom!

Simply being able to research, plan ahead, and have the flexibility to travel on off days during shoulder seasons massively cuts down on costs. And, it cuts your queue times and crowds!

How Much We Work

We like to keep track of how much time we spend doing work that is paid.

Let’s add this month to the list…

MonthChris (Hours Worked)Jenni (Hours Worked)
May 202041108
Jun 20203896
Jul 202036120
Aug 20203948
Sep 20202776
Oct 202026104
Nov 20202757
Dec 20202857
Jan 202125102
Feb 202124104
Mar 202124106
Apr 20212385
May 20211729.75
Jun 20211966
Jul 20212130.25
Aug 20212316.5
Sep 20212628
Oct 20212249
Nov 20212151
Dec 20216427
Jan 20223280
Feb 20222963
Mar 20221470
Apr 20221521
May 20221436
Jun 2022612
Jul 20221345.5
Aug 20221596
Sep 20221254
Oct 20221434.5
Nov 20221272
Dec 20221116.5
Jan 20231088
Feb 20231181.5
Mar 20231247.5
Apr 202381
May 202316100
Jun 202310109
Jul 20231248
Aug 2023 16 54.5
Sep 2023920
Oct 20231422

Our work schedules came in about as we expected considering we were traveling.

Net Worth Update

Net worth is not our primary measurement and can understand it can be discouraging if you’re working yourself out of debt. We also understand it’s difficult to be transparent with our readers without divulging this information so we continue to do so.

Account breakdown

The market keeps chugging along and so do our investments. From a high level, our assets and liabilities are shown in the data table below as of October 31, 2023.

DescriptionValue (USD, $)
Roth IRA142,291
Traditional IRA12,924
Real Estate409,800
Miscellaneous Assets51,642
Checking & Savings34,349
Net Worth2,015,648
  • Miscellaneous assets include specific investments we’ve made in physical assets (think collectibles) and treasury bonds
  • Amounts do not reflect the value of the businesses Chris owns or their assets, which should appear as income to us over future years
  • Jenni’s Prius is omitted

The S&P 500 was down about 2.2% for the month. Just a little less bad compared to last month.

We lost a bit less with a decrease of 1.3%.

Overall, our net worth decreased by around $27K.

Net Worth History

DateAmount% Change
July 2020$1,555,289
August 2020$1,597,3342.7%
September 2020$1,566,393(2.0%)
October 2020$1,568,1820.01%
November 2020$1,720,1139.6%
December 2020$1,810,8645.3%
January 2021$1,860,9962.8%
February 2021$1,878,1540.9%
March 2021$1,918,2692.1%
April 2021$2,010,8494.8%
May 2021$2,049,2131.9%
June 2021$2,093,8962.2%
July 2021$2,092,153(0.1%)
August 2021$2,130,7611.8%
September 2021$2,070,730(2.8%)
October 2021$2,151,2723.9%
November 2021$2,095,273(2.6%)
December 2021$2,160,2353.1%
January 2022$2,055,292(4.9%)
February 2022$2,058,0010.01%
March 2022$2,134,4283.7%
April 2022$1,968,069(7.8%)
May 2022$1,975,5690.04%
June 2022$1,868,397(5.4%)
July 2022$1,975,6085.7%
August 2022$1,878,352(5.2%)
September 2022$1,735,997(7.6%)
October 2022$1,820,2874.9%
November 2022$1,920,6355.5%
December 2022$1,866,513(2.8%)
January 2023$1,953,6914.7%
February 2023$1,882,656(3.6%)
March 2023$1,969,5664.6%
April 2023$1,981,9340.6%
May 2023$1,995,2470.7%
June 2023$2,092,4794.9%
July 2023$2,189,8214.7%
August 2023$2,140,296 (2.2%)
September 2023$2,042,865(4.6%)
October 2023$2,015,648(1.3%)

Previous Donation Winner

As the number of displaced persons continues to soar above 110 million, worldwide, we thank you for your votes for HIAS Inc., this month’s poll winner. This organization helps refugees, asylum seekers, and displaced people get settled into new places.

Donation letter to HIAS, Inc.

Our Reader’s Fund seeks to leverage the principles of FIRE to build a lifetime of giving.

Thank you for your participation in our polls over the last 39 months. We’ve given over $4,800 to deserving charities with your help in deciding which organizations to donate to.

Polls are now open for our next round of candidates: Holiday Support Charities.

Charity Round-Up

For the past two years, our end-of-year charity poll has had a holiday theme. To stick with that tradition, we’ve chosen three organizations that spread the holiday spirit and bring joy to families in need. The holidays should be a time of happiness and joy. When one is down on their luck, this can be a hard goal for them and their families to meet without some support.

These three organizations aim to spread some holiday cheer in a variety of ways. Each has excellent charity ratings to ensure our donation will have the most significant impact. We invite you to learn more about them and join us in donating to one of them by casting your vote.

Summaries below include the impact metrics and a link to their Guidestar profile which details the nonprofit’s operations and transparency.

1) Prison Fellowship Ministries

Why? Prison Fellowship Ministries extend their congregation to families of the Angel Tree Program. Children of incarcerated parents are delivered gifts on behalf of their parents on Christmas. Throughout the year, they also help send kids to summer camps and host sports camps.

Where? The United States.

What? Prison Fellowship Ministries is a Christian nonprofit organization for prisoners, past and present, and their families. The Angle Tree Christmas program, which started in 1982, is now active in all 50 states and helps around 365,000 incarcerated people each year. This program provides a way for the incarcerated parent to send a personal message and a gift to their loved ones, as well as a free bible.

[Guidestar] [About]


Why? CARITAS aims to bring hope for the Holidays by hosting a variety of holiday activities for those working through homelessness or recovery in their emergency shelters. A Holiday Shop, filled with locally donated items, provides more than 300 participants with necessities. Festive cheer bags are distributed containing a new pair of PJs, socks, and a pair of underwear. Holiday crafts and decor are set up at the shelters to help make this season seem not so bleak.

Where? Richmond, Virginia.

Our Notes: CARITAS is a non-profit organization that operates as an emergency shelter for those in housing a crisis, creating a safe space to heal and time to rebuild. Participants receive a hot meal, breakfast, and a bagged lunch. They have the opportunity for fellowship, laundry, and a place to shower. During their stays, case management works to move clients from shelters to permanent housing. Once they are stable, CARITAS continues to help by:

  • Getting participants into the workplace.
  • Providing furniture and essential household items at minimum costs for their permanent housing.
  • Offering recovery residences to provide temporary shelter in sober community apartments for those recovering from addiction.
  • Hosting those in need of additional recovery at The Healing Place: A 9-14 month residential recovery program.

[Guidestar] [About]

3) Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots

Why? The Marine Corps Reserve delivers hope to children during Christmastime and beyond. They’ve been getting toys and books to kids who need them for the past 75 years. To date, 652 million toys were distributed to 291 million children.

Where? The United States.

Our Notes: The Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program helps make the holidays special for children across the United States. Their program is simple, collect and distribute toys. Its success comes down to those getting the word out. Financial support provides for public education of the program and helps the 800 local coordinators and 40,000 volunteers have a successful annual campaign. Beyond the holidays, they support kids year-round with:

  • Fostercare toys.
  • Books for literacy programs.
  • Native American reservation toys.
  • Youth Ambassador Program: children helping children.

[Guidestar] [About]

Nonprofit poll

After reviewing the list above, please take a moment to vote for which nonprofit you think will put funds to use in the best way.

This poll is no longer accepting votes

Which charity should we support this Holiday Season?
13 votes

(Have trouble using or seeing the poll above? Some reader tools or apps may not display it. View this page in a browser or use this link to our Reader Fund page which has a copy of the poll!)

Thank you for taking the time to vote!

One of our primary goals with TicTocLife is building a stream of giving within the FIRE community and that starts with knowledge.

Want to hear about the results? Sign up for our free FIRE Insider newsletter! We send it out every few weeks and include the monthly poll results and donation winners. You can see an archive of the FIRE Insider and sign up here!

What’s Next

With our last big trip of the year closed, we’re hoping to settle down a bit throughout November. But, we still have a few trips left.

November includes short trips to Cancun, Mexico, and Nashville, Tennessee. We’re celebrating with friends in the sun and catching some great music—hopefully!—with another group of friends for a birthday.

Finally, we’ll be in the Phoenix area for a week in December to see family around the holidays. Busy times ahead, but we’re looking forward to some time to focus on home and ourselves.

The holiday season is nearly upon us!

…And, yes, we still have the second post in our series on FIRE and marriage coming soon!

One of those awesome experiences that doesn't cost more than time and some guts—exploring an abandoned hotel in the Azores!
One of those awesome experiences that doesn’t cost more than time and some guts—exploring an abandoned hotel in the Azores!

How are your holidays shaping up this season?
Let us know in the comments or on Threads and X (Twitter)!

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By Chris

Chris began his financial independence pursuit in 2007 as he learned basic personal finance from Get Rich Slowly as an aspiring web designer and novice investor. After several missteps, he learned the secrets of financial independence and began his pursuit of freedom.

He reached financial independence in 2018 with $1.2M and two businesses. He began the process of transitioning to early retirement in 2020.

Learn more: Meet Chris.

4 replies on “Portugal, Spain, Azores—30 Days for $4.5K! (Oct. 2023 Update)”

Mind-boggling that you only spend $248.03 on a rental car for 18 days. Does that include all taxes and fees? How about insurance?

Is that the normal price, or did you get it on a special? Where did you book the rental?

You would be lucky to only spend that much for 3 days in the U.S.

For comparison, we rented via Costco for 8 days in Honolulu. Total cost was $642, or $80 per day.

Hey TK!

Yeah, believe it or not—that’s right! All-in cost. Rental insurance is provided by our higher tier credit cards (Chase Saphire Prefered or Amex Business Platinum). Although, some have forced included CDWs and what not depending on the country/agency.

Prices have definitely come down on rentals as compared to the pandemic time and supply constraints. It helps to be renting in shoulder seasons like during this trip, too.

And, we did split one of the rentals with my parents who were along for that part of the trip.

Some more details I gleaned from our internal spreadsheets:
– $108.99 for Sixt in Porto (w/Amex Plat discount)
– $90.63 for Discover Cars in Ponta Delgada ($50.37 covered by other travel party)
– $98.78 for Sixt in Lisbon (w/Amex Plat discount)

For at least the past year of travel, these seem to be the sort of per-day rates we’ve been paying. We do tend to shop around, though. We’ll use Autoslash to do the initial pass and then start to look for other discounts (like that Amex Plat one) or look into local rental agencies that are well rated.

I can imagine Hawaii is exceptionally expensive. Though, one would think, it’d be similar to the small islands of the Azores…apparently not!


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