One of my financial goals last year was to take a trip to the US, but we ended up going to Europe for two months (life is hard, I know) in the end, my second European trip of the year (very hard indeed), and the US were postponed… until now!
We made the decision at the end of the year, and will be going with BF’s sister and her boyfriend. There was a cheap flight on Spirit, $220 return for Guatemala to Ft Lauderdale, FL, plus $30 for a suitcase on the way back, because we plan on buying half a mall over there haha.
I used to make fun of middle-upper class Guatemalan who go to Miami once or twice a year just to go shopping, but after living in the jungle for over a year, I have to admit that consumer goods are pretty scarce. For example, if you want to buy a fridge in my town, you have about three places to go. Those three places will each have two or three fridges, limiting your choice to under a dozen at best. When I was shopping for a fridge, I wanted to look into the ones with an ice making machine, and there were only two options, in the whole town, both of them overpriced models from the previous year.
And that is a pretty good range of choices, because if you want to shop for clothes, 90% of the supply comes from the paca. The paca means packed clothes and those are second hand clothes coming from the US’ Salvation Army and other thrift stores in bulk, probably sold by the pound. I suspect there are some clothes that were donated “to the poor Guatemalans”, and some people make a business out of selling them. If you are really, really patient and like to browse for hours, you may find a real gem once in a while, otherwise, most of the stuff is dirt cheap, generally under $1 per piece, but it is not my idea of shopping for clothes. In my town, we don’t have one name brand store, and the few clothing stores showcasing brands like Nike or Abercrombie are just selling cheap imitations.
You can find most big brands in Guatemala City, at a 20 to 30% markup compared to the US. So when a flight is just $220, it is understandable that people go shopping to the US.
Miami is not one of our usual cheap travel destinations, but we should be fine still. We won’t be paying for accommodation, as BF’s father had a house in Miami that is now shared by his siblings so we stay for free for two weeks. Even better, we rented our room on Airbnb and will have a guest for a full month, paying us $800 to stay! That covers both flights and our round trip to Guatemala City.
The Miami house comes with a car, so I just rented a car for a day from the airport, as it is cheaper than a taxi for four, and we’ll take it back the next day when we go to a nearby mall to start our shopping frenzy. Because in spite of all those savings, it will still be an expensive trip. Remember if you are renting a car you should know you need to provide proof of insurance, Debenhams worldwide travel insurance can help you figure that out, otherwise the rental company will charge you an expensive daily fee on top of the rental.
I am not a big shopper but BF has been complaining for a while about me always wearing the same thing, and I have lost over 10lbs from the running so I can use a few things.
And I am not planning on going to Europe this year, so this is my one chance to treat myself at affordable prices. This is my shopping list:
I just bought a basic laptop three months ago but I sort of hate it, and my village is a great place to unload unwanted electronics for a reasonable price (I sold my old laptop to the maid for $200, so I think I can get at least 80% of purchase price for that one), so I am thinking about buying a super slim Asus UX21, which costs around $800. And a laptop case while we’re at it. I had a cool red one but lost it somewhere.
My old laptop was an Asus Eeepc and I loved it, it lasted almost four years, so I trust the brand and want to get another small light laptop. I want to look into the ones with solid state hard drives too, but I don’t want a Mac. $900 with accessories
Next big item, about $100 for a pair of running shoes, mine should be a bit worn by then and that should last me until the next trip to Europe. Will have to try a new brand as my first two pairs were from a French brand that doesn’t market in the US. I plan on flying without the old ones and testing the new ones over there in case I need to return them. I want an armband for my iPod as well, and maybe a running bra. $150
I live by the beach and have no nice bathing suit, which is a real shame. Mine are all dark blue or black and they have lots their stretch so that is a must buy as well. About $100 I guess, I am all ears if you know a nice brand as I am not familiar with US swimwear brands. $100?
I need a few t-shirts, a pair of jeans that fit my new bottom, maybe a dress, I have been checking that awesome site Worn on TV where you can see where to buy the beautiful dresses girls wear on your favorite TV shows, I liked a few from Revenge but can never remember which ones. Anyway, I have half a dozen dresses which are all nice, all fit well, and that I almost never wear, because in the jungle, who cares really, but I enjoy dresses so I may get one if I see a really cool one. A few formal tops or blouses would be nice too, but are not a must. $500
BF arranged a Victoria’s Secret delivery for my birthday, which was a really cool surprise, but once more, as I won’t go abroad again in a while, I want to stock up, 100% cotton underwear is hard to find around here and the heat makes it a must have. Too much information! Moving on. $80
Yes, Guatemala is a tropical country where it is hard to find a decent pair of flip flops. My favorite are Ipanema’s Anatomic models, which have an anatomic sole instead of a flat one. They are super comfy and sturdy, but I wear them every day and my last pair broke, so I am on a
$3 cheap imitation from the market at the moment They died. I really need a new pair. They cost about $12 and Amazon has free delivery so I can shop from the sofa. $20
That one is optional, but we are going to fly without a bag ($30 for a carry on, come on Spirit!!) and fly back with all that stuff. I plan on taking an empty soft bag with me so I can fill it up, but if I find the perfect laptop bag like the one I had my eyes on for black Friday, or a small suitcase with wheels, it will probably make the shopping list. $150
I am sure there will be other gadgets for the house, or a book, or something else. But since the weight is limited on the plane, I hope it won’t be too much. $100
Total: around $2,000.
Thank goodness the flight and accommodation are covered. I think I will save more than the price of the flight compared to buying the same items in Guatemala.
The plan is to fly with the clothes I am wearing, flip flops, and a small backpack with my laptop, toothbrush, running gear and a change of clothes. All the rest I plan on buying over there.
I think a day or two at the mall will be more than enough, maybe even too much, I plan on ordering some stuff online before we leave so it gets there when we do, and I have two weeks to try and return if needed.
Other things I am excited about
Let’s stop with the superficial stuff, I am really excited because I have never been to Florida, most of the things I have seen from Miami are from Dexter….
Road trip to the keys
Since we have a car, I’d love to take a road trip to Key West, maybe stay overnight, have a slice of Key lime pie and some seafood, swim, and whatever else there is to do. Do you see Cuba in the distance on a clear day?
Yes, I live on the beach, but in the middle of nowhere. So I am excited about seeing the ocean, walking/running along the coast, people watching, and a complete change of scenery.
I heard there were crazy things in Miami, artificial canals with multi million houses, the Art Deco old town, the beach front… And as a real estate junkie, I also did a bit of homework and saw some really, really cheap properties. Maybe I’ll come back with a new rental property, who knows!
And even if I don’t, I love looking at houses and buildings everywhere I go, imagine how people live, what their routine is like, and so on.
All you can eat seafood!
When we crossed the US with a motorcycle in 2011, BF and I used to have lunch at those Chinese buffet restaurants, it was almost as cheap as McD, $10-$15, and you could eat a great variety of sushi, shrimps, sometimes even oysters. Sure, they aren’t the nicest restaurants in town but the value for money is incredible, if you are smart enough to go for the high protein, cold options. If you eat fried rice you’ll be full before you can “bankrupt the place”. That was our game while traveling, we would sit there for hours, watching fat people go after two plates of noodles while we stuffed ourselves with peel and eat shrimps.
BF told me Miami had some awesome buffets, with crab legs, oysters and raw fish so we are in for several treats!
I will check the calendar for concerts or events while we are in town, hopefully something nice will come up.
After so much being on the road, I am super happy to go to one destination only. Get to know a place really well, enjoy the small things you wouldn’t pay attention to if you only had a day or two in town.
Have you been to Miami? What can you add to the must see attractions? Which is the best mall?
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Its amazing how everyone always craves what they don’t have:
“Yes, I live on the beach, but in the middle of nowhere. So I am excited about seeing the ocean, walking/running along the coast, people watching”.
There are always a lot of people on the beach near where we live (especially in summer) and I long for it to be in the middle of nowhere with nobody walking/running along the coast, etc…
$2000 seems like a pretty good shopping trip, but I like how you’ve thought everything through and compared it to where you live. I guess they don’t have price comparison websites in Guatemala!! 🙂
I know, it is always like that, although I am happy with the deserted beach most of the year. When our neighbor comes with jet skis and makes a lot of noise it is unbearable. But the place lacks people watching spots!
There are no online shopping sites in Guatemala, well there are two or three but they look like they were made in 1999. For example you have to go shop at the supermarket, then you can get free delivery, but you can’t shop online for groceries. Computers, forget it.
Man tough job travelling to cool places. Miami is a city I want to go, have you ever wanted to come to Hawaii?
I’d love to visit Hawaii, but I have only been to the West Coast once, and not for long enough to include a Hawaii trip. Flights are pretty expensive from Guatemala, and I’ve read everything is expensive in Hawaii as well. Although after visiting Norway last summer everything should sound like a bargain. I am starting to look into house swaps and Hawaii is on the list, that would save a bundle already.
Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies says
Have fun in Miami, Pauline! And enjoy Key West, too! The one thing – you might want to google Key West and check for a place to stay before you go. We didn’t do that our first time and it ended up being a giant Harley Davidson festival and there were no hotel rooms and the streets were just filled with motorcycles and bikers/biker babes. =/ We stayed a few hours, but with no place to stay had to come back that night.
that must have been quite the experience. I thought it was a 2 hour drive but it looks like at least 4 so that makes for a big day if you can’t sleep. I’ll look it up, thanks for the recommendation.
Matt Becker says
Wow, lots on the list! I’ve only been to Miami once and it was only for a few hours, and it was with my grandparents so I definitely didn’t really get to experience the city. I have a friend down there that I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time but have never made the trip. I’m looking forward to seeing how you like it.
I think it will be pretty different from the last U.S. road trip but exciting!
Mrs. Snarkfinance says
It is funny how where people live can dictate the kind of vacation they desire to have. I can buy literally anything where I live and at times the choices can be suffocating, and so I crave the simplicity of small town life as my vacations (and eventually living situation). I have not been to Miami, but my brother used to live there and said it was the best place to get into bad things.
haha, that’s not part of the plan :). I’ve been roughing it on a motorcycle around Europe for 6 months and the U.S. as well so a comfortable holiday is kind of new.
I hope you have fun in Miami, Pauline!!! It’s okay to shop sometimes….sounds like you really need some things!
thanks! yes it’s like all the shopping of the year will be concentrated in one week so overall it’s not so much.
jane savers @ solving the money puzzle says
Jealousy is one of my stupid spending triggers. When I read things like this I do get jealous, even though I am very excited to hear about your adventure, and sometimes I shop to make myself feel better.
Miami, beaches and shopping sound wonderful. I will get there one day and I will not be jealous while I wait.
Make a jealous box and throw all the shopping money in there, to fund the next holiday!
John S @ Frugal Rules says
Sounds like an awesome & full trip Pauline! I’ve never been to Miami. I’ve been to Florida a few times, probably not enough as my Mom would say since she lives there lol, but not as far south as Miami. Sounds like you’ve got some shopping to do, but at least it’s for some fun stuff. 🙂
I don’t know how long I can survive in a mall but worst case they have wifi and I’ll sit in a corner while the others shop…
If I were in your position I am not sure I would want a rental property in the US. I don’t know what they would require for tax purposes, but knowing what I do know about the US tax code it will probably become a huge pain in the butt.
Looks like you have a nice little vacation. Enjoy!
it is actually pretty easy to own property as a foreigner, either in your name or as a LLC, which sounds safer for rentals. However FL has huge property taxes for non owner occupied properties, to tax all the sun birds and rich latinos, so it is quite expensive to own a place. My boyfriend’s house is worth around $250K and they pay over $10K per year in taxes. That does include a car though but I am sure it is not the bulk of the expense. So if you have a mortgage on $250K plus $1,000 a month in fees, You would have to rent quite high to make it worth your while. Just dreaming!
FI Pilgrim says
My brother lives in Miami but I haven’t been down to visit him yet. Maybe I’ll pick up some idea from your future posts on what to do when I finally go down there!
That is the perfect excuse for a visit! No hosting costs if he can have you over makes for an affordable holiday.
Done by Forty says
My wife noticed the same thing with clothing in rural Peru: it seems like there are whole businesses set up to mark up the stuff that could not sell at Thrift stores in the States. I couldn’t believe how much used clothing was selling for down there. We had an idea to start a charity, which actually just gave away clothing from thrift stores…but then thought that might have unintended negative consequences for the economy there. Don’t know.
Have a great time in Miami, and good luck scoring some deals!
Hey Pauline, it’s awesome to see that you’re going to Miami! I spent quite a bit of time there and have to give you some advice. There are certain areas of Miami that are like being in the middle of a battle ground. While you’re there, try to steer clear of Carol City and Liberty City…Little Havana and Little Haiti are also pretty bad areas. But, if you stay in the nicer areas, you’re going to have a great time with no need to worry.
Josh R @ CNAFinance.com says
Have fun in Miami Pauline! I’m sure you’re going to take some awesome pictures for us…right?
Joe @ TheFreeFinancialAdvisor says
Crazy! Come to Texarkana! Free accommodations! Two restaurants! Heaven!
MIAMI! Maybe next time….
Enjoy the low, low prices. I’ll be dreaming of seafood buffets from here…
I’ve never been but I did watch Real Housewives of Miami! Looks like a pretty fun town. I hope you enjoy. It’s about zero degrees Fahrenheit where I live… some sun and warmth sounds heavenly
KK @ Student Debt Survivor says
I’ve never been to Miami, which is sort of silly because my dad lives in Florida, and I could have gone during one of my trips if I’d really planned ahead. I’m told Miami has great bars, restaurants and nightlife. I love Cuban and Latin inspired food and I’m sure there’s no shortage in Miami.
Sounds like you will be quite busy on your shopping trips, but fun too I’m sure. I’ve been to Miami once but only saw a small portion of it when my friends wanted to go to the night clubs. I don’t even remember where we went but the dinner we had that night was really good. Have fun on your trip!
That must be some hindrance having to shop in other countries, but if you can afford it Miami looks and sounds great (I’ve never been there either). But we’re fine here in the most parts of Europe. London, Paris and Milan are only a few hundred miles apart (London to Milan = 596m). And Europe has plenty of places to visit, though maybe not many are as alluring as Florida.
Buck Inspire says
Miami’s a fun town! I stopped by during a vacation to Disney World. I remember the Art Deco on the beach front. You’ll have a blast. Good luck with your shopping!
Even though I live in the first world (Australia) I always do my shopping in Europe or the US. Prices are better, the styles aren’t all the same as here (and not everyone has the same stuff) and I have the time and cash to burn :p
Congrats on the weight lose from running. I stopped running, but got into a habit in Dec to walk most mornings, and now I add a little jogging. I plan to do a marathon (21km) in July, so I need to regain my running fitness.
I see what you mean with “everyone has the same stuff”. Good luck with the marathon training, that’s huge!
Miami! The original beach heaven! Additionally, I’d like to invite you in Charleston SC for your vacations. I am sure that you will love the place.
Jet Ski Rental Guy says
That round trip from Guatemala and back to fort lauderdale for 220$ is super cheap, and nice write up by the way!
Sun Life Water Sports says
i totally agree on the Asian Buffet, we do the same here in Fort Lauderdale, me and my friends go and eat all the seafood we love, like you can eat fish and oysters and more for 8$ where if you go to the store you cant even buy for that much there either…its so good