Every Dollar I Spent in 2021 As An Expat In Amsterdam

Every year I do a recap of how much I spent. 

Here are the previous breakdowns for the last few years:

In 2021 I moved from Santa Barbara to Amsterdam and made it my goal to spend more. I gathered every expense and sorted them into categories for this report. Here is every dollar I spent in 2021!

The Year In Pictures

Let’s start with a recap of the year. Before I left, I tried to squeeze as much of California adventures in as possible.

Note: some links in this article are affiliate links, meaning if you click through I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

woman hiking in overlapping mountains
Breathtaking views in Big Sur, California
FM biking down a path
A mountain biking mechanic

Then in April, I packed my bags to move. Here’s everything I brought with me for a move across the world for an indefinite-amount-of-time:

suitcases and a backpack

Then I set out to explore as much of The Netherlands as I could. 

hyacinth fields

Admittedly, my international move did mess up my expense tracking– I don’t have my European bank accounts linked to my normal software. That will make this post a little harder to put together than years past, which was made easy by Personal Capital (my money tracking tool of choice). Let’s see what I can cobble together for 2021.

How Much I Spent in 2021

I admit to being a bit trepidatious about this report. I know the trend for my spending has increased exponentially, but will it put a damper on my FIRE plans? When it comes to calculating how much money in investments it would take to retire, how much you spend per year is one of the the most influential variables.

I can’t know until I figure out the damage, so here we go!

Adding Up Each Expense Report

Every month I write an expense report, which helps with the total tally for my yearly number. Note: these are expenses for just me.

MonthExpenses ($)Expenses (€)
January$1,245€1.110
February$2,515€2.243
March$1,079€963
April$1,077€961
May$3,214€2.868
June$4,734€3.979
July$3,016€2.556
August$4,370€3.704
September$2,833€2.508
October$2,543€2.250
November$2,696€2.386
December$3,459€3.061

I didn’t pay rent in March and my company covered accommodation for the month of April. However, even without rent my expenses remained high as I paid for travel, utilities, things for my new apartment, and donations. I don’t have corresponding expense reports for those months, but I went back and retroactively collected all of the expenses for this post.

The total is… $32,781 or €28.590! All in all, I spent about $2,732 (or €2.420) per month. 

$ 0
Total Expenses in 2021

This total is much more than last year, when I spent $19,863.

According to Numbeo, the estimated monthly costs for a single person in Amsterdam before rent is $1,052 or €933. Since my rent is €1.700, that means if I spent about as much as an average single person and included my rent, it would be a total of €2.633, which looks about right in line with what I’m spending.

This really drives home for me the difference that housing costs can make. Last year my rent for half of the year was $500 per month and $1,320 for the rest of the year. In Amsterdam I pay about $2,000, and it shows!

Here is the breakdown of where every penny went.

Monthly Bills

Rent $16,771 ~€15.428

I live in a very central part of Amsterdam, just outside of the main rings of canals. I pay a premium for this location. 

Google Map screenshot of Amsterdam

Therapy $1,500 ~€1.362

I got a therapist who specializes in the area I needed help in before moving. She does not take insurance, so all costs are out-of-pocket. Dr. X has offered to cover this expense, reimbursing me for this line item in the past and for future appointments, so this might not show up in future expense reports.

Last year I spent $625 on therapy

Utilities $1,403 ~€1.291

My utilities bill went up when I moved, partly because I am no longer splitting the bill with a partner. The average is about €165 per month which includes gas, electric, trash and water. 

Last year this cost was $185

Insurance $914 ~€840

I paid in full for my health insurance in June. I picked a high deductible plan (my deductible is €885). With my plan I will be reimbursed 100% in hospitals covered by my insurance provider. This includes: general practitioner, treatment and hospital stay, medical specialist, medicine, maternity and obstetric care, and ambulance transport. 

Last year I paid for car insurance and renters insurance which totalled $629, but this year I didn’t have either. This line item is now just health insurance!

Internet $344 ~€316

The price doubled since moving to my own place as I pay the full price rather than splitting.

Last year I paid $258. 

Phone $177 ~€163

My phone bill is amazingly cheap. It’s about ~24€ a month, which includes the extra 5 I pay for unlimited international calls.

Last year I paid $0. (Work covered my phone bill before this) 

Housecleaning $400 ~€368

I pay in cash from a withdrawal I made in April, thus the housekeeping bill didn’t show up in any of my expense reports. However, my landlord recommended a housecleaner who does a phenomenal job, and after the first time she came I was hooked. We never had cleaning services growing up, so I never thought about hiring anyone in my past apartments. However, it has been unspeakably nice to come home to a place that is made up in a way I never really seem to be able to achieve. 

Last year I paid $0

$ 0
Monthly Bills Total

Food

Groceries $1,545 ~€1.421

There were two months (January and October) where I spent nearly nothing on groceries. This brought the average down, so I spent about $137 per month on groceries. However, there were also some spendy months too where I ordered in groceries from a local service called Picnic.

Last year I paid $1,915

Restaurants and Takeout $2,289 ~€2.106

I rarely ate out before the pandemic, and even during the first year when COVID-19 hit. However, this year I fell back on ordering food frequently. I can hardly believe I spend 4x as much on restaurants and delivery, but it makes sense because I’ve been meeting a lot of new people by going out to eat. I’m also no longer splitting an entreé when I go out, like I used to with my partner, and I order whatever I want off of the menu. 

I once had an unlimited food budget, but it was on someone else’s dime. For now I can see this type of spending continue, but it seems like an easy win if I decide I want to save more to cut back on eating out or ordering in.

Last year I paid $518 on eating out expenses.

zoeteaardappel
Obsessed with the kits you can buy at the local grocery store with all the ingredients you need, this one is for sweet potato and green bean "stamppot", a traditional Dutch dish of mashed potatoes and veggies.
$ 0
Food Total

Travel

Flights/Airbnbs $1,404 ~€1.292

The majority of this was my flight home to go to a friend’s wedding. Aside from this, I also flew to Croatia and visited my sister in Luxembourg.

Train and other transport $215 ~€198

With no car, I take the train most places when I leave Amsterdam. 

Last year I spent $675 on travel

$ 0
Travel Total

Moving Expenses

Stuff for the apartment $830 ~€763

Last year I had two categories for moving, furniture and general merchandise and home improvement. This year I lumped everything I got for my apartment in a single line item. Because my apartment came furnished, I only had to buy a few things. 

Last year I spent $1,705 on moving

Here's a photo with some things I bought for the house: candles, plants, wall art, ergonomic foot rest, speaker, etc.
$ 0
Moving Expenses Total

Automotive

Fuel: $20

Other than that… nothing! I don’t have a car anymore, yay!

$ 0
Automotive Total

All The Fun Stuff

Electronics $1,016 ~€935

I bought myself a new iPhone 12 mini as well as a few other electronic gadgets. 

Personal Care $802 ~€738

For a gal who always had home haircuts, and never dyed my hair since that incident in 6th grade…. this year I perhaps went a little overboard in the salon cuts & dyes category. However, I’ve been really happy with the big changes handled by professionals. I doubt this level of spending will continue. I will continue spending on personal care, but will likely ‘cut back’ on the salon visits (pun intended).

Last year I spent $208 

Health $720 ~€662

Most of this cost is starting a gym subscription. Some of it is for vitamins, allergy meds, and other health-related costs. 

Last year I only spent ~$50 on the gym. I didn’t have this category last year, as the costs were lumped in with “Personal Care”. I split it into two categories this year. 

The bike I bought helps keep me healthy 🙂

Gifts $604 ~€555

I tried to be more generous with gift giving this year. 

Last year I spent $418 on gifts

Entertainment $463 ~€426

From Dutch movies on rooftops to kayaking the canals, I expected this line item to increase this year. I did a lot of really entertaining things!

Last year I spent $131

Fees $396 ~€364

Anything like gathering bureaucratic documents, fees for transferring my HSA, as well as a fee for my Southwest Airlines card. Also re-upped my WordPress subscription for the blog.

Last year I spent $451 on fees

Clothes, Shoes & Jewels $335 ~€308

Because I am the queen of fashion, obviously. 

I bought that scarf at the Albert Cuyp market in Amsterdam

Charity $300 ~€275

I had a goal previously of donating $100 per month. I followed through for the first couple of months but did not continue this practice through the year. This is partly because I also stopped being diligent about publishing my expense reports, which was usually my reminder to pick a charity to donate to. As it is, I hope to save a charity cash cushion in order to open up a Donor Advised Fund before retirement.

This year I donated to Friends of the Earth  and NRDC (National Resources Defence Council ) to focus on environmental justice as well as  Girls Who Code to tackle the gender gap in software engineering careers.

Last year I gave $480 to charity

Education $175 ~€161

Dutch books, a museum pass, and other educational things.

Last year I spent $131

Pet care $75 ~€69

The cost of fostering 3 cats before their forever home adoptions.

Last year I spent $150

Miscellaneous $108 ~€99

The expenses I’m not really sure about. This could be paying someone back for a FB marketplace item, or for a meal here or there. 

$ 0
Discretionary Expenses

Conclusion

This year was a radical experiment in spending as much as I wanted on things that would bring me joy, from a solo-apartment, to anything that struck my fancy in a store window and even *gasp* buying groceries without looking at the price. Even though this was a possibility before, I still lean more intrinsically frugal. This is an important data point for me. With no self-imposed guilt-limit on spending, the max I spent was just under $33k. 

If I use the back-of-the-napkin math for the FIRE number related to a $33k a year spending average, I would need:

$33,000 * 25 = $825,000

My current net worth hovers at around $700,000 depending on the market (which is fluctuating a lot during the time of writing). If I want to continue this type of lifestyle, I will likely need to put in a few more years of work before retiring comfortably. However, there are certainly categories I could cut down on heavily if I wanted to leave the workforce sooner. Most of the increases were in discretionary expenses and also lifestyle adjustments that I could easily halve (like getting a roommate or living in a cheaper country). There is opportunity in almost every category to cut back if necessary. 

This is essentially the maximum amount of spending I can do as a single person with no partner or children. It’s a great data point to have for FIRE planning. Overall, I learned a lot about intentional spending from an entirely different angle this year. 

What About You?

What were your yearly expenses for 2021?

Do you have spending goals for 2022?

Do you have any thoughts about my 2021 spending?

Share in the comments below!

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12 Comments

  1. This was a super cool post! I loved your graphs you made. I think I need to up my game when presenting graphical data on my blog. Seems like you’re having lots of great experiences after the big move!!

    1. Thanks! Luckily I had the graphs on hand from my last expense report, so just had to add some data!

  2. It was so interesting to read this report! The first thing that struck me was that really, your expenses did not go up tremendously much, even with your express intent to not worry about expenses and focus on self-care. Especially when you consider that you are now shouldering the full amount of rent and utilities living alone. Do you feel like the self-care was beneficial? (I would expect so and certainly hope so!) It makes me think about the benefit of loosening up my budget a little bit and not stressing about the small indulgences that might create a large feeling of luxury in my life…a coffee out, grocery store treats, new socks, or in my case more sock yarn to knit myself some new socks. 🙂

    1. I definitely think the self-care was beneficial, though even more than that there is the self-care of not worrying how much I spend, even if it’s more or less than usual. The “not worrying” piece was probably the best way to treat myself! I was also surprised that the indulgences didn’t actually add up to much more, and that it was really only the rent and other monthly costs that made a difference. I say get that sock yarn!

  3. Lovely to hear from you again,it seems ages since you last posted.I’’s interesting that despite spending on what you wanted,you still didn’t actually spend an enormous amount more which probably means you can still save a lot of money but also treat yourself more.You sound happy and I congratulate on this as it’s not easy to have a break up,move overseas,start a new job and also manage emotionally.Well done

  4. Fun read! Always interesting to see what things cost in places outside of the US. For renting a downtown apartment w/o s roommate, that’s really not bad! Also very cool effect you have on the total $$s. I’ll have to check out how to do that 🙂

    1. I’m glad to get the second opinion on the housing. It seems so expensive but maybe relatively it isn’t too bad. The effect comes from Elementor if you use that through WordPress!

  5. I don’t think you’ll ever regret spending a little extra to make this experience abroad the best it can be. I’m glad you’re happy and prioritizing yourself. 🙂

  6. I love this comparison of your spending in the US compared to The Netherlands. I think many people wonder what it would be like to live somewhere else and what it would cost. Europe is obviously not the cheapest option in the world however it is not that bad considering some of your increased spending is simply because you are paying rent for just you, in a prime location (good for you) and because of an increase in going out as the pandemic evolved.
    I am interested to know how the taxes compare between the US and Europe. I heard from someone today that depending on the tax bracket, people pay a huge percentage of their salary in taxes. The payoff might be all those wonderful benefits like paid maternity leave and government subsidized healthcare. I am wondering if the taxes are truly that high or if it is just hype.

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