We are back! Thank you to everyone who commented or emailed over well wishes for the wedding & honeymoon. We had a lovely day which absolutely flew past and a nice long honeymoon out in the baking Florida sun experiencing all the theme parks and unhealthy food. We’ve came back tired, fatter and quite a bit poorer but very happy for the memories made. I thought I’d share with you some of the financial thoughts from our time away in America, this is a finance blog afterall!
Brexit finally has an impact
We’ve all been reading about the impact Brexit has had on the economy and currency however it’s difficult to actually feel a direct impact until you suddenly need to convert money to live abroad. The last time I went to America, you could get 1.6 dollars to a pound. This time it was around 1.25 dollars to a pound, a 22% decrease and boy was it noticeable. Suddenly we became 22% poorer than the last time we visited and that was without taking any other factors into consideration.
Things have gotten expensive
I have fond memories of $6 burgers and $4 pizza buffets from previous trips to the states, none of that could be found this time. Even leaving the poor exchange rate aside.. things have gotten much more expensive in the tourist areas of Orlando. It was a bit of a double whammy as we knew the exchange rate would hit but were not expecting prices to have increased as much as they had as well.
Thank god for the Weights and Measurements Act
Aside from the actual cost of things, the next biggest headache was the difficulty in realising what you were actually buying. There seems to be no standardisation of sizes, especially for alcoholic drinks. A typical menu item will just say “Beer: $8” but give no indication of what size of beer it is you’re purchasing. I was served everything from 330ml coke can sized beers right up to a 24oz ‘tall boy’ glass which is more than a pint (UK & US pints.. because apparently they are different?!).
Why does nowhere display prices?
So you know that your money isnt worth as much as it used to be… that things are more expensive now… and that you don’t actually know what size of item it is you’re purchasing… What else could they throw at you to make things more confusing? That’s right; lets not display the price anywhere! This wasn’t a universal problem but was certainly noticeable in a number of different establishments. No prices listed on any of the outside, overhead or table menus for some/all of the menu options. Very annoying.
The price you see isn’t the price you pay
I have a newfound love of the way VAT and tips are handled in the UK. The price you see quoted in a shop or restaurant is always the price you are expected to pay. If you want to leave a tip, well that’s up to you and you’re free to calculate how much. No such luck across the pond where sales tax is not displayed anywhere. Items will be prices up at usual amounts like $5.99.. but then have sales tax added on at the till bringing everything up to odd amounts like $6.38. Also the complete requirement to add on a 20% tip for anything remotely resembling a service. I totally get that in the US they handle the ‘minimum wage’ loosely and tax people based upon perceived amount of future tips, but it’s just the annoyance at constantly having to calculate and remembering to increase every bill every time to include this. Towards the end of the holiday we found ourselves purposely seeking out Nandos style counter service restaurants (order at the counter, food brought to table) just to that we weren’t expected to hand over 20% of the entire meal cost just for someone writing down the order and bringing it out to us.
It’s so easy to spend on credit
Back in the UK I do almost all of my spending on debit cards. Every time I spend anywhere I can instantly see the amount disappear from my account’s available balance. over in the US we were totally reliant on our Halifax credit card as it offers 0 fees on foreign purchases and a perfect exchange rate. Because of this, items took a long time to appear on the statement and add to the overall debt balance. Without the immediate feedback of account balance dropping that I usually get from debit card spending I found it far harder to keep track of ongoing costs as we went along. I can see how easy it is for people to completely loose control of their spending when everything is spent on credit card and they won’t have any immediate repercussions.
And so while it was lovely to take a break from work, matched betting and bad weather.. I am glad to return back home, at least if only because I know how much things are going to cost!