Just read an article by my friend James over at RetirementSavvy on the fairness of taxes. I think I lean the same way. This year I paid zero in US taxes and feel a little guilty about that (I’ll write about this one later) but for some reason my old homestead, The Netherlands, took some of my hard earned money, 19 years after I left it. Talk about taxation without representation.
This year my Dutch passport expired. No big deal, I’ll hop over to the consulate in Chicago (one town over) and get it like I did 5 years ago. I wish, as part of spending cuts in the Netherlands (everyone was hit by the recession) they stopped issuing passports in several of the Dutch consulates. I had to appear in person in Washington DC, Miami or San Francisco.
So what would that cost me?
- Passport fees: $140.00
- Shipping fee (when completed): $20.00
- Single day round trip to Washington DC: $503.00
- Taxi: $140.00
- Food: $25.00
Total cost for renewing my passport: $828.00
That’s right, simply renewing my passport would cost me over $800.00. What do I get for that? I guess the privilege to travel but that is about it. Unfortunately, I need that privilege as most of my relatives still live there. Family first ,then …..
I certainly hope that all Dutch expats in the US are doing really well. I am, but being retired and living on a tight budget this still represents a lot of money.
Did I settle for that? No, I actually turned this into something great (and surprisingly not much more expensive). Instead of flying out on my own to Washington DC, we decided to make this a road trip. A family of 4 packed in the Prius for a 6 day trip from Milwaukee to Washington DC. It had been many years since Mrs MI10 was there and it’s important for the kids to visit such a great place.
How did I turn a one person trip to DC for over $800 into a 6-day vacation for four into an endeavor that ended up maybe a $40.00 more? It’s all about the hotel points. Bet you were wondering when those came in.
My former career as consultant meant I spent half of my first 17 years in the States on planes and in hotels. Out on Monday, back on Friday. My air-miles were depleted during our last vacation to the Netherlands but I still had loads of hotel points. Mostly from my previous stays but also lots from my affiliated credit card.
Here is what the trip for 4 ended up costing us:
- tolls: $74.54
- 2 nights stay Doubletree Cleveland: $0.00 (actual price $272.00)
- 3 nights Embassy Suites DC: $0.00 (actual price $1,053.00)
- parking: $114.00 (not covered by points)
- Passport fees: $140.00
- Shipping fee passport (when completed): $20.00
- metro passes: $124.00
- Food: $329.56 (bit steep at $66/per day)
- Gas: $69.00 (that’s right 1600 miles at 44 miles/gallon. Go Hybrid)
- All the great sites: FREE (Washington DC is awesome to visit)
Total cost for our 6 day road trip to DC: $871.10
Cost without hotel points would have been: $2,196.10. Hotel points saved me $1,325.00.
Point of this article? Well first and foremost: Whenever you stay at a hotel, sign up for their loyalty program. Every point left behind is money wasted. Being a fan of credit cards, I even get thousands of hotel points without a single night’s stay.
Secondly, I guess it is expensive to be Dutch but that won’t apply to most of you.
Thirdly, the road trip explains the absence of new posts in the last 2 weeks (well that and the fact I completed my self-made 3D printer. If you think it’s done when you built it, you’re sorely mistaken. It takes a lot of calibration. but I digress).
Good luck reaching your financial goals.