Budget – February 2018

There seem to be a bazillion nomad bloggers out there talking about how cheap it is to travel, but very few are open about their finances. We’ve gotten quite a few questions about how we can afford to travel full-time, so we’ve decided to open up the books and do a monthly post with the details of our budget. The hope is that these posts will help prepare others who are thinking about jumping into the nomad life, and help us re-assess our spending habits. Enjoy!

There seem to be a bazillion travel bloggers out there talking about how cheap it is to travel, but very few are open about their finances. We’ve gotten quite a few questions about how we can afford to travel full-time, so we’ve decided to open up the books and do a monthly post with the details of our budget. The hope is that these posts will help prepare others who are thinking about jumping into the nomad life, and help us re-assess our spending habits. Enjoy!

Our goal budget for this journey is $200 per week, putting us at $800 to spend for the month of February.

We did not live a life of the rich and famous, but we didn’t go without either. China is quite suitable for $800 per month for two people.

  • Average Daily Food Cost: $11
    • The time at our house sit included two home cooked meals and one meal out.
    • Outside of the house sit, we ate out for all three meals. We also enjoyed one cup of coffee and three cans of either beer or soda per day.
  • Average Daily Lodging: $7.50
    • Two weeks in the private room at the Yangshuo hostel were $14 per night.
    • Two weeks in our house sit were FREE.
    • One week in our two different dorm beds at the Chengdu hostels were $11 per night.
    • All of our lodging included Wifi, VPN (expect for three days), and free water.

Money Spent: $1,128

Income: $387

Monthly Net: -($741)

Two Month Total:

$692 (Income) – $2,662 (Spent) = -($1,970) 

Week One Net: -($178)

Despite some big nights out, we still came very close to sticking to our $200 budget. We rented a scooter for a day, ate a big meal of beer fish, and had a date night with a fancy Indian dinner and two import beers. We spent $202.

We reached our goal of 2,000 views on the blog for the month of January. I’m still not famous, but I feel pretty awesome!! I even made a little bit of money from AdWords (the annoying advertisements on the bottom of the page) of $0.46! May not be much, but that is enough for a small breakfast here.

Josh had a couple of long-term jobs on UpWork, so he was only able to close one contract for the week. We made $24.

Week Two Net: – ($149)

Week two was a travel week. We caught a taxi to the bus station in Yangshuo, a bus from there to the train station in Guilin, a train from Guilin to Chengdu, then a subway to our hostel in Chengdu. That adventure set us back ¥100/$16. We stayed at The Mix Hostel in a dorm room for a couple of days. The price was decent, but we lacked for comfort.

But the exciting news of the week was our house sitting job!!! We moved out of the hostel and moved into our house sit in Southern Chengdu where we watched a dog in exchange for a free place to stay. So, we went rent free for the next 12 days!! Whoop! In addition to our free accommodations, we had a great kitchen that allowed us to buy groceries which also saved us a ton of money. We spent $171.

It was another slow work week. We made $22.

Week Three Net: -($493)

In general, we did pretty awesome this week. We had one day where we spent nothing and three other days that were under $14. We really got into the swing of things eating more at home and only purchasing what we needed, when we needed it. However, as you can see from the sub heading, we still had a couple of really big purchases. First was a new charger for Josh’s computer. We tried to put it off for as long as we could, but both realized that we were selling ourselves short by sharing a computer. So, we bit the bullet and purchased a new charger at the Apple Store for $99. We also purchased our plane tickets to Kuala Lumpur for $313 (two direct flights). The ticket prices are amazing, but really cut into the budget. We spent $525.

Josh wrapped up one project for $23 and I made $10 on my Amazon.com eGift Cards link!!  We made $33.

Week Four Net: +$78

This was our hardest week due to the move out of our house sit, into a hostel, then into the more expensive city of Kuala Lumpur. Even with a $50 gift card applied, we are still paying 58RM/$15 per day for the 14 nights we booked at our KL hotel. That only leaves us with 43RM/$11 left to spend on other expenses per day. Thankfully, food and transportation are fairly cheap, but still not enough to keep us under budget. We have gone over our 101RM budget every day since we have arrived in KL. We spent $230.

Fortunately, all of those big projects Josh has been working on are finally getting wrapped up. He edited a woman’s non-fiction novel, wrote an essay about intermittent fasting, researched and wrote an article about drug testing, and summarized another research paper for CannaHealthWe made $387.

For our second month overseas, we still have not met our budget goals, but we did get much closer AND came in under $800 for the month’s total net. Overall, we feel pretty good about it. Some learnings this month were:

I have 50% of the rest of our journey booked with house sits. My goal is to bump that up to 75% by the end of next month. That should save us quite a bit of money on food and lodging, but will add to the travel costs (although that was going to be an expense regardless).

Josh and I also had a long talk about his UpWork “career” and have decided to pull back a little bit. He is going to continue to write for CannaHealth, but will otherwise focus more on his short stories. We put together a plan for the month that would have him doing brand building and creative writing for at least five hours per day. I think he will enjoy this much more and, if we start now, will hopefully start making some money at it within the next few months. It’s a risk, but one we are willing to take. I’ll update you on his work in a couple weeks.

Please check out our new branded Facebook pages:

The Places We Live Facebook Page

J. Brandon Lowry (Writer) Facebook Page

Work Update

An update of our work and income for the month.

If there’s one question we’ve been asked more than any other, it’s “How can you afford this?” Most people are a little hesitant; after all, it’s a bit taboo to just ask about someone’s finances. For us, though, it’s not an uncomfortable question at all. We completely understand that this lifestyle is new and confusing to just about everyone, including us!

Basically, this trip is our attempt to follow our life-long dreams and give one final shot at being “everything we always wanted to be” before settling down with a white picket fence and a yard full of dogs and kids. Both of us have goals that we’ve never even tried to reach before, and we found ourselves with an opportunity to really give these new careers 100%. The trade-off is that we lose some stability, for a while at least. For now, these are our jobs, and how we plan to keep on living.

When I grow up, I want to be a travel show host… or at least a travel writer like my heroes Rick Steves and Samantha Brown. I’m writing this blog, spending at least 2-3 hours on social media each day promoting the blog, and planning adventures that are blog-worthy. Right now, my official work title is Travel Blogger and I make money whenever my readers click on ad links on my page. This month, I made $0.57!!! It may not sound like much, but I did literally nothing more than exactly what I wanted to do. As someone who has spent many years getting paid to do things I didn’t want to do, this is a pretty big deal.

WordAds Earnings ‹ The Places We Live — WordPress com
This is my payment summary for the month: $0.57!!!! I’m famous!!!!

Josh wants to be a writer. He is quite a bit more cautious than I am, and therefore doesn’t feel comfortable without having a little bit of “real work” on the side. So, Josh does a little bit of science and freelance writing on Upwork making an average of $200 per month so far. One of his ongoing gigs is translating scientific papers about cannabis research as a PhD news author for CannaHealth.org.

News CannaHealth org
One of Josh’s first publications for CannaHealth

Josh’s real focus, however, is on creative writing. He is 55,000 words (159 pages) into his novel and has written several short stories and flash fictions. His goal is to publish as many of his shorter stories as possible to improve his exposure and improve his chances of signing with an agent. So far, his publications have been limited to “exposure pay”, which means he gets a place to post his stories where a lot of people will read them, but it doesn’t pay any money. He has been applying for paid publications and has been rejected from a couple, but he has been keeping his head high and continues to submit.

He got his very first exposure piece published last week through The Weekly Knob, a website with over 9,500 followers that “prompts writers to write.” Every week, it provides writers with a random prompt to write about. Last week’s prompt was “Bowling Ball.” The submitted stories must be central to the prompt word and is recommended to be under a six minute read. Josh submitted his embellished story about the time he stole a bowling ball in college and was awarded with Editor’s Choice!

The Weekly Knob
Josh’s first publication on The Weekly Knob

Not including the sale of our car and all of our wonderful Christmas gifts, our income was $216 this month. It is not even close to our goal of $800 per month, but we are trying to remember that we are starting over with our careers. It took us a long time and a lot of work to get the salary we wanted with our last jobs. We are going to be patient and stay determined to give our dream jobs everything we have!