Cost of Living in Indonesia

by Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical on February 18, 2011

One of the most common questions we get asked is how can you afford to take a 1 year sabbatical?  Isn’t it really expensive?  Up to this point I’ve had a particular number in my head of what our monthly expenses would be but I really didn’t have a definitive answer.  So I thought it was time to do some serious research and get some numbers to crunch.

Cost of Living in IndonesiaWe really want to estimate as closely as possible what our monthly expenses will be in Indonesia so that we don’t have any unexpected surprises once we arrive there.  These would include not only our expenses in Indonesia (utilities, food, entertainment, transportation etc.) but our expenses back home (insurance, storage fees etc.) as well.

Thankfully we have family living in Indonesia so the information on cost of living there was just a phone call away.  I wanted to get a good feel for how much things cost there so I had my in-laws get the cost of what I considered to be some basic necessity items and core expenses for our family.  This isn’t meant to be an all-encompassing list of expenses a traveler might face while in Indonesia but I think they cover the basics pretty well. 

Step one in my process was to Google ‘cost of living in Indonesia’ which led me to a site called Numbeo.com which allows you to compare cost of living information worldwide.  The data on the site comes from user input and is free to use.  I used this as a starting point for the items that I would have my in-laws research.

Here are the categories I used to determine cost of living:

  1. Restaurants/Entertainment –  I wanted to get an idea of what the cost of eating out would be as well as entertainment like going to see a movie.  Obviously everyone’s idea of entertainment varies but I thought that ‘dinner and a movie’ would be something everyone could relate too.  There is also lots of variation in terms of restaurants from ‘street food’ to high end establishments.  My pricing is based on a local middle of the road restaurant.
  2. Food/Markets – Groceries are a huge part of our monthly budget here in the US.  It seems that prices keep going up and up.  I wanted to get the cost of some of the staple items we use on a daily basis.  We also want to start eating healthier while in Indonesia so I included the cost of lots of fresh fruit. YUM!!
  3. Transportation – You’re going to have to get around some way so transportation costs will come into play.  There are lots of ways to travel in Indonesia from flying, train, bus, taxi or becak.  For this list I only included the cost of a taxi and gasoline.  We’ve rented a car and a driver before but according to my in-laws this is not a common practice any longer (except Bali) so I didn’t include it as I wasn’t confident in getting an accurate cost.  By the way, the cost of gasoline in Indonesia is subsidized by the government and served up by the liter.
  4. Utilities – We are fortunate that we are able to stay with family during our 1 year sabbatical so we don’t have to worry about finding a place to rent so I didn’t include any rental prices in my table (see the Numbeotable in the spreadsheet for rental pricing).  But we will be chipping in to pay for utilities so I included the basics: electricity, gas (mainly for cooking stove) and garbage.  I also included mobile phone with text and Internet.  There are several options in Indonesia for Internet including wireless, 3G, cable and/or DSL.  I haven’t really explored what is available where we will be staying but I know from past experience it was pretty slow.  I’ll definitely need to find new options.
  5. Clothing & Shoes – We don’t go clothes shopping a lot but one can only assume that with growing boys we’ll need to buy new clothes on occasion.  I included things like pants and shoes (I should probably price out shirts as well).
  6. Wellness – These include personal items like toothpaste, shampoo, soap and getting a haircut.  I have heard that supplements and vitamins can be very expensive in Indonesia and I’ll need to research cost on those items.  They are not included in this cost analysis.

So those are the categories I used for this initial round of cost of living analysis.  If you would like details on specific items you think I should include please let me know and I will give the in-laws a call and research it for you.  Obviously there can be much variation in many of these categories and items depending on what an individual’s lifestyle is as well as ones connection with locals for getting better deals.

The Cost of Living in Indonesia Spreadsheet

I took all the categories and prices and put them into a spreadsheet (see below).  You can also download the full cost of living in Indonesia spreadsheet here.  I’ve set it up with formulas to convert from local currency (rupiah) to dollars so if you want to update it with current exchange rates just update the number in the field next to ‘exchange rate’ (H3).

Tab 1 contains the 6 categories I created and the cost of items in that category that I got from my in-laws. I also included the cost that the website Numbeo.com had for the same items (when comparable).  I was happy to see that the cost differences between the two were not really that significant for most items, although clothing was a big exception (see side notes in the spreadsheet).

In tab 2 I included a copy of the numbeo.com categories and items taken directly from their website for your reference. They had more items and categories than I decided to work with.

  Rupiah Dollar

Restaurants/Entertainment

   
Meal – per person 20000 2.25
Coke/Pepsi/Soda 6000 0.67
Teh Botel (bottled sweet tea) 2500 0.28
Water (0.33 liter bottle) 2000 0.22
Movie  20000 2.25

Food/Markets

   
coffee (per kg) 15000 1.69
fruit – mango (1 kg) 8000 0.90
fruit – papaya (1kg) 8000 0.90
fruit – orange (1kg) 8000 0.90
fruit – rambutan (1kg) 6000 0.67
fruit – banana (1 kg) 15000 1.69
rice (1 kg) 10000 1.12
Water (1.5 liter) 7000 0.79
Milk (1 liter) 12000 1.35
1 Loaf of Bread 12000 1.35
Eggs – Free Range (1 dozen) 10000 1.12
Cheese (1 box)* 16000 1.80
Chicken – Free Range (1 whole)** 40000 4.50
Beef (per kg) 60000 6.74
Pork (per kg) 40000 4.50
Fish (per kg) 35000 3.93

Transportation

   
Taxi (5 km within city) 50000 5.62
Gasoline (1 liter)*** 6000 0.67

Utilities

   
Electric 500000 56.19
Gas 180000 20.23
Garbage 10000 1.12
Mobile Phone (text+Internet)**** 40000 4.50

Clothing & Shoes

   
1 Pair Pants (adult)***** 50000 5.62
1 Pair pants (kids) 20000 2.25
1 Dress***** 100000 11.24
1 Pair Shoes (adults)***** 150000 16.86
1 Pair Shoes (kids) 75000 8.43

Wellness

   
toothpaste 3000 0.34
shampoo 16000 1.80
soap 3000 0.34
haircut (men) 20000 2.25
haircut (women) 30000 3.37

What’s Next?

My initial thought before we started researching the cost of living in Indonesia was that we would need somewhere between $1000-1200 per month so around $15K minimum for our 1 year sabbatical.  We asked my in-laws what they thought we would need per month and they thought $400 per month so there was a huge discrepancy there that needed to be looked at.

Based on this initial research I feel pretty good that we won’t need as much for our 1 year sabbatical in Indonesia as we had originally anticipated.  In future posts I’ll be detailing exactly what I expect a month will cost us based on our personal family situation.  Needless to say having a place to stay rent free affords us the ability to live pretty inexpensively even for a family of four.

For anyone that has traveled and lived in Indonesia I’d be very interested in hearing your experiences with what your typical monthly expenses were.  Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me directly.

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Dudy February 18, 2011 at 3:03 am

Hi Matt, a little note about haircut cost: I usually have my wife cut my hair who will do it for free, but sometimes just feel like going to one of those hair salons in the malls, where it usually costs me 15,000, or using the service of the many street side artists who will cut your hair for as low as 6-8,000.

For internet, if you plan on updating your blog as regularly as you have (I am an RSS subscriber of your blog, btw) you will likely need more than 40,000 a month. The most basic plan for Telkom Speedy, which is the most widely available provider in the country, costs 75,000 a month.

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matt February 18, 2011 at 11:14 am

Hi Dudy! Thanks for the additional information. Good advice on the haircuts. We have been cutting the boys hair ourself for years now. I may start doing my own since I started getting it cut very short. Cost of Internet and performance has always been a concern for us. I distinctly remember in 2005 it being very inexpensive (Internet cafe in Bandung) but also very slow. I’m not even sure what services are available in my in-laws area. We did have some friends say that they could get 2Mb unlimited service (DSL I think) and quoted us $70/month. I’m assuming there are different tiers of service depending on your need? I’ll have to check out Telkom Speedy and see if I an get that at my in-laws. Thanks for being a subscriber! Maybe we can meetup in Jakarta after we arrive. Cheers!

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gabriel January 18, 2014 at 12:26 pm

hi buddy, just for infos i live in yogyakarta,central of java, its very nice and clean here,everything is very cheap and cheap lol, i rent a big house in the main road (gejayan area) for only 20 juta rupiah/yr, the foods is super awesome, and the best thing is i got $17/hr for teaching german in wisma bahasa, so this is just like great holiday with a good pay :)

ps: internet is pretty fast in my area,or you can try in novotel for super speed internet for free

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admin April 5, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Sorry for not approving and replying to your comment! I haven’t checked in here in such a long time. So busy since being back to US. Yogyakarta is a great place! I really enjoyed it there when we visited in 2005. How did you go about landing a gig teaching German?

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Ayngelina February 18, 2011 at 8:28 am

It´s interesting how much cheaper it is to live elsewhere. I´ve been traveling through Latin America for $1000/month but if I chose to stay in one place I could easily live on half that.
Ayngelina recently posted..Peru seduces with pisco sours

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matt February 18, 2011 at 11:31 am

It really is interesting Ayngelina. I definitely feel fortunate that we have a place to stay virtually rent free which really reduces our cost. Hopefully this can get people thinking that it doesn’t have to be as expensive as one might think. BTW…those pisco sours sound interesting.

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Amy February 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm

I think budgeting is the hardest part of the trip. For our trip I have in my mind that we will be spending between 1000-2000 for our family of four per month. But how can you really know until you get there? Some countries will be more expensive, some countries less, and as Ayngelina says, if you settle down, down go your costs. Because we have no real set itinerary and more time than money, budgeting is just an educated guess. But I do know that it will be cheaper (and yummier) than our life here in Canada!
Amy recently posted..10 Reasons for Long-Term Travel With Children

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matt February 21, 2011 at 11:24 am

Hi Amy! You have a really good point. It’s great to do the research before but you really don’t know until you are on the ground. It really does come down to just a good educated guess and hopefully that is enough to make it all work. We are definitely going to pad our estimate by quite a large margin for unexpected expenses. It’s nice to have that safety margin.

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Peter West Carey February 18, 2011 at 2:55 pm

I’ve never thought of living in Indonesia but you expansive info is awesome, as is the pointer to Numbeo.com. Thanks!
Peter West Carey recently posted..Photo Of The Day – American Buffalo

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matt February 21, 2011 at 11:25 am

Hey Peter! Yes, stumbling upon Numbeo.com was great as they really offer a lot of free and useful information there and the ability to compare between cities and countries. And I was happy to see that the costs they listed matched pretty closely to what the in-laws were telling us.

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Judy February 19, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Hey Matt!

I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for posting a detailed account of your process in figuring out the economics of taking a year long sabbatical. I think money is a major factor as to why people choose not to follow their hearts and live/travel abroad for an extended amount of time.

As my service in Guatemala draws to an end (only 6 more months), I find myself worried that $6,000 USD (my readjustment allowance) will quickly run out as I travel through Latin America (my goal is to travel for 9 months) before grad-school.

I have to remind myself that if I stay longer in one place (slow travel) and live and eat like the locals I can save a lot of $.

Currently I am spending $125.00 USD a month to cover my basic living expenses and this includes gifts for others, unlimited internet (slow but does what I “need”) and one volcano climb a month. I am lucky in that the peace corps provides health care, mobil phone minutes and I have worked out an arrangement that keeps my modest room rent-fee.

Please keep posting more financial reports as they are ever so helpful!

~judy

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matt February 23, 2011 at 12:22 am

Hi Judy! I’ll definitely be posting more detailed financial reports on what we ‘expect’ our costs to be but part of me thinks we are not really going to know 100% until we are on the ground. And when we are on the ground I’m going to make sure to detail a very accurate account of what it takes to sustain a family of 4 in Indonesia.

I love your goal of traveling for 9 months. I can understand your concerns and fears though. As I commented on your blog though, go where your heart leads you and you’ll never fall short of your dreams.

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Lily Leung (Explore for a Year) February 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Hi Matt,

Great discussion and thanks for the link to Numbeo, that’s the first time I’ve seen that site so it’ll be helpful for future countries I visit, especially for staying in one area for an extended period of time. One thing I really like about Asia is the purchasing power of our North American dollar. Just by giving up my (almost) daily $4.10 Starbucks Frappucino for a month before I started travelling saved me enough money to eat lunch everyday for a month, which is almost unreal.

- Lily

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matt February 23, 2011 at 12:35 am

Hi Lily! I bet you have lots of good financial information now that you’ve been on the road for a bit. As I am discovering it doesn’t take as much as one would think to live in Asia. It’s funny how one of the first thoughts people have (myself included) about RTW travel or sabbaticals is that they are expensive and that you need a bundle of money to do it. But you can obviously do it on the cheap if you really want to and are able to stick to a budget both before and during travel.

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Micah February 26, 2011 at 1:57 am

Great stuff here, Matt! I’m also looking to travel through SE Asia on as slim of a budget as possible. I’ve read RTW blogs where a duo spent upwards of 40k over the course of one year (yikes!) – it’s nice to know the 15k range is still a possibility (if you aren’t hoping to fly to every corner of the globe and don’t mind staying put for a month or two). Will definitely be checking back to see how Indonesia is treating you!
Micah recently posted..The Temples of Tikal

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matt February 26, 2011 at 2:19 am

Thanks Micah! Yeah, I think if you can stay in one place for a bit longer period of time it can be pretty inexpensive. We’re lucky in that we can stay virtually free (except for utilities) with family so our expenses are reduced significantly. Are you thinking of heading to Indonesia? We are definitely going to do our year on a shoestring budget. Best of luck on your travels. I’ll be following your journey.

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Micah March 2, 2011 at 1:09 am

I’ve got the same sort of situation going on in Taiwan – staying rent free for my first few months there. It definitely helps! I’ve thought about hitting up Indonesia but have no idea where to begin. It seems like a pretty intimidating place, travel-wise. Any suggestions for a budget conscience newbie such as myself?
Micah recently posted..The Temples of Tikal

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical March 2, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Hey Micah! The most intimidating part for me was the language barrier. In the bigger cities there are quite a few people that speak English but on the outskirts which is where we will live I struggled without having a translator (my wife). The cities are big, the traffic is intense and for me it was easy to get overwhelmed. But that said I really love it there. I guess my initial advice would be to first learn a bit of the basic language. Check out learningindonesian.com where they have a whole series of free podcasts. Maybe you can find a friend in Indonesia who can help? Come over when we are there and we’ll have a great time. I rely heavily on my wife and family there so not sure I’m the best person to offer up advice. If you ever have any specific questions let us know. If we don’t have an answer we know plenty of people in Indonesia who will know. Cheers!

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Micah March 5, 2011 at 11:50 am

Thanks Matt! I’ll definitely give you a shout if/when I make it down there. At least I’ll know 1 person living there, right? Ha!
Micah recently posted..The Temples of Tikal

Pauline July 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Hey Matt,

I realized you posted this a while back, but I just stumbled across it today. I am originally from Indonesia, but I am now living in Toronto, Canada. My parents still live in Indonesia, so I do go back every now and then.

Regarding the cost of living, I think a lot of it depends on where you actually live (i.e. big city vs. outskirts of town). In Jakarta, $400/mth is probably not enough as things are ridiculously expensive there. However, if you are living in Bandung, for example, $400 would probably be enough to cover your basic needs.

As with any other country, there are always ways to find deals and discounts in Indonesia. Matahari carries lots of basic attires (sandals, pants, shirts) with a relatively decent pricing. Sogo (one of the more expensive department stores carrying brand name clothings) also has amazing sales every now and then. And you can always learn to bargain in the more traditional market places (like Mangga Dua in Jakarta).

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical July 22, 2011 at 12:50 am

Hi Pauline! Yeah, I realize that cost varies depending on what region of Indonesia you live in and of course what lifestyle one lives. The prices that I had in the spreadsheet were from my in-laws in Bandung. When we are in Indonesia I will be updating this chart. When you mentioned the traditional market it reminds me of the last time I was in Bandung and I wanted to go to the traditional market with my mother-in-law but she was upset about that because she wanted to get good prices and said that if she was seen with a bule there the prices would go up. So she made me go in after her and then she pretended that she didn’t know who I was. Whatever it takes to get a good price I guess. How often do you get back to Indonesia?

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Pauline July 22, 2011 at 10:32 am

Hahahahhahahaha… I didn’t think of that! Your mother-in-law is absolutely correct, though! People think bule in general have lots of money and they often try to mark-up a lot of things because they know the power of foreign currency. I go back every 2 years or so. It’s amazing how much things change even within the span of 2 years. And I gotta say, I ADORE Bandung! It’s so much nicer (and cooler) than Jakarta and it has amazing food (Siomay Bandung!!).

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical July 22, 2011 at 10:44 am

It’s been 5+ years since we have been back to Indonesia/Bandung and the reports from friends that have been there recently is that it’s really changed. So much traffic now and everyone and their sister has a motorcycle now. But it’s such a great place and you are right the food is amazing. One of my favorites is martebak manis. I don’t remember the street in Bandung that it is on but there is a small shop there that sells the best. Always have to go there many times when we are there.

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Tristan July 30, 2011 at 11:14 am

Interesting post, Matt, and I love the detail. This has to be one of the hardest parts of the trip, especially when you’re going for an extended period of time. Thanks for sharing the link to Numbeo.com too.
Tristan recently posted..Strike While The Iron Is Hot: When to start learning a language

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical July 30, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Thanks Tristan! Numbeo is a great resource. I’m planning to update this information with much more detail when we are on the ground in Indonesia. I’ll probably travel to a few smaller cities just to compare the differences.

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Ibrahim Risyad August 19, 2011 at 9:41 am

I come from Indonesia, and what you write about the actual cost of living is too expensive .. bandung requires only $ 300 / month to get a comfort to me

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical August 19, 2011 at 10:37 am

Hi Ibrahim! Thanks for commenting. I think everyone has a different version of what “comfort” means to them. It’s encouraging that you think $300/month is enough for your comfort. I’d love to keep this spreadsheet and information as up-to-date as possible so if you have some suggestions or changes that I should make I’d love to hear them. Feel free to contact me. Hope all is well with you. Cheers!

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Ibrahim Risyad August 19, 2011 at 1:50 pm

comfort level of each person is different, let alone you are newcomers, so I think the vendors will make a more expensive fare for you and the other entrants:)

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical August 19, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Hey Ibrahim! I’ve definitely experienced the increased fare for the bule. In fact one time we went to a traditional market and my mother-in-law didn’t want me going in there with them because she wanted to get a good price. Haha!! So they wanted me to wait in the car. I’ll just let me wife do all the purchasing. What I would really like to get further information on is cost and speed of Internet in Bandung. Any ideas?

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Billy August 29, 2011 at 5:15 pm

This is so helpful; we hope to go to Indonesia soon! Maybe when you are in our neck of the woods we can meet you there!!
Billy recently posted..Family Spirituality

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical August 29, 2011 at 10:22 pm

I hope we can definitely meet in Indonesia Billy. That would be so much fun! As soon as we get on the ground there I plan on making a more detailed version of the spreadsheet with much more information and more family specific information as this is turning out to be my most popular post by far.

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Nana May 2, 2013 at 9:21 am

Hello

I have plans to move to Indonesia. Have no knowledge of the country. I have four children. it would be nice with some advice. Ty all

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical May 11, 2013 at 11:02 am

Hi Nana! What a great adventure you will have there. Are you moving for business? If you have some specific questions shoot me a message using the site contact form and I’ll do my best to answer them. Cheers!

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dan May 29, 2013 at 3:19 am

thx for the info of cost of living. i want to visit for a long term on a shoestring budget myself.
i’m drawn to it’s rich culture and wonderful people. maybe u can update us on your trip. thx

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical August 20, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Hi Dan. Indonesia definitely has a great and welcoming culture. We really love it there. I realize now that I’ve really let this blog go. I need to work on some new content and get it posted.

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Jan August 18, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Hello Matt,
I hope your family’s trip to Indonesia was a great experience. Were you in Bandung living? I can’t remember. The question I have is about your actual cost of living that you experienced. My husband has been in Bandung for 2 yrs now and getting him to give me any actual information is like pulling teeth, lol. Can you tell me in USD what the gas prices are, cost of a new motor scooter, and basics as far as internet and the gas for cooking? Just wondering, Thanks so much if you can answer those few questions.

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical August 20, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Hi Jan! We had an incredible experience in Indonesia. We stayed in Bandung for 3 months and then spent 2 weeks exploring Bali. Fun times!

I am trying to find the time to put together a more detailed report on the cost of living in Indonesia based on our 3 month stay there. Unfortunately I have been keeping quite busy with several freelance projects and it’s been put on the back burner. I saved all of our receipts for the entire 3 months and just need to parse through them and organize and categorize spending.

In the meantime you can check out our 1 month sabbatical report which lists our expenditures for our first month which should give you an idea of what the cost of living in Bandung is.

http://www.1yearsabbatical.com/1-month-sabbatical-financial-report/

I’ll see if I can’t put together a more comprehensive report and post it here.

So what is your husband doing in Bandung for 2 years?

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical March 5, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Micah! Absolutely man! Definitely give us a shout. We’d love to meet up with you, take in some sights and eat some incredible food.

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