Budget – January 2018

I feel pretty good about our first overseas month. We did not achieve our goal budget nor were we able to offset it enough with our income. However, I think we learned a lot and are ready for the challenge that February brings. 

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!

Our goal budget for this journey is $200 per week, putting us at $1,000 to spend for the month of January.

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: $10
    • Includes three meals, one cup of coffee, and two cans of soda or beer.
  • Average Daily Lodging: $12
    • 1/3 of the month in a hostel dorm and 2/3 in a private room.
    • Includes WiFi with VPN, English speaking front desk, and free water.

Money Spent: $1,534

Income: $305

Overall Net: – ($1,229)

Week One Net: -($507)

We had a difficult start to the month with a number of unexpected expenses, along with the travel expense to Guilin (which was planned as a temporary overage). It’s been much colder here than we anticipated, and therefore needed to purchase jackets. The AirBnB apartments I had picked out for our time in Guilin didn’t have heaters in them, so I ended up booking a slightly more expensive hotel for us to stay at. And Josh had some technical issues that required a purchase of Microsoft Office. We spent $507.

Due to Josh’s technical issues, we were unable to make any money to offset the expenditures. We made $0.

Week Two Net: -($123)

Week two was much more acceptable. The big purchase of the week was tickets to the Seven Star Park at $17 each. We spent $138.

Josh was very excited to have a desk to work at and immediately took on some jobs on UpWork. They each take a while to pay out, but he was able to get a quick article written for a client. We made $16.

Week Three Net: -($95)

Our major purchases for the week were a cruise to Yangshuo for $24, new hair clippers for Josh for $20, and birthday breakfast for me at Starbucks for $12. We ended the week spending a tiny bit over budget. We spent $209.

Josh really got into the swing of things this week, with plenty of time to write and only a couple of hours a day for UpWork. Those couple of hours earned him an article on CannaHealth and a job writing biology lesson plans for a charter school. We made $114.

Week Four Net: -($106)

We transitioned from Guilin to Yangshuo this week; normally that would mean the purchase of train tickets, but in this case we used the Li river cruise tour bus as our transportation. The food in Yangshuo is a little more expensive than Guilin, cutting into our meal budget a bit. Still, our only big purchase of the week was the advance payment of our private room for the next week at $99. We still wrapped up the week slightly over budget. We spent $256.

Josh edited a CV for a client and wrote another CannaHealth article, collecting us $145 for the week. The USD and CNY conversion dropped this week, which was a bit of a bummer. The earned $145 gives us ¥927 to spend in China, but last week, the same $145 would have given us ¥943. A ¥16 difference isn’t much, but amounts to a six pack of beer, 8 trips on the bus, or a large breakfast for two.

In some exciting news, I made $4.66 through my Amazon links! Thank you guys so much for using my link to buy your Amazon.com eGift Cards!! We made $149.

Week Five Net: -($321)

This was another good week. We watched our spending a little more closely and were able to spend more of our time hiking since the sun finally came out. Our big purchases of the week were train tickets to Chengdu at $125.

As it is the first month of the year, we also had a couple of subscriptions come due that we had forgotten about ($15 for New York Times and $95 for our Visa annual fee). We spent $341.

It was a slow week for work, pulling in only $20 on UpWork. We made $20.

This is our first month overseas, and overall I feel OK about it. We did not achieve our goal budget, nor were we able to offset it enough with our income. However, I think we learned a lot and are ready for the challenge that February brings!

Chasing the Dream

Last night, I submitted my first piece of fiction for publication.

[Originally posted on The Academy]

A while back I ran across this excellent cartoon depicting a section of “On Writing,” by Stephen King. The first few panels really hit me in the feels, because it depicts King describing his “dream” writing desk. Growing up, I always told people I wanted to be a scientist of one sort or another, because even then I knew writing wasn’t a practical career choice. Everyone wants be to something when they grow up, but how many people actually get there? What reason did I have to think I was any different? So I went with the achievable and smart choice, when really I was fantasizing about my writing room.

Let’s take the tour.

The first thing you’ll notice is the view from the window.  Sometimes there’s a lake, sometimes there isn’t, but the pines are always there, close enough that I can watch the squirrels chase each other up and down the trunks, but far enough away to allow for a nice yard. Under the window is my desk. It’s a little bigger than necessary for its function, but I like to decorate, so I need that space. The desk, like everything else, is a dark cherry color. It’s got everything a desk needs: a blotter; a brass lamp with one of those green glass shades; a decorative typewriter that I’ll try to actually use once and just end up making a huge mess with; and quirky desk toys scattered about for character. To the right is my little library, with bookshelves built right into the wall and soft leather chairs for reading (and maybe enjoying the occasional scotch and cigar). To the left of the desk is one of those old-fashioned refrigerators with the white, clamshell doors and a latched handle. This is my sanctuary, my little hideaway where I can slip into other worlds for a while and no one will notice that I’m gone.

Sadly, this place doesn’t exist. Yet. But I’m working on it. Last night, I submitted my first piece of fiction for publication. It’s a short story, a psychological horror tale about an incarcerated protagonist whose life is slowly becoming a waking nightmare. It’s got a little bit of social commentary, maybe some insight into the realities of life, and even some science. Also bugs. Lots of bugs.

I have no idea if it’s going to get picked up. I wrote it, after all, so of course I think it’s good, but it could be a real stinker. It’s just under 6,000 words, and I had to fight for nearly every one. It went through 4 drafts (one was eaten by the Microsoft OneDrive cloud gods — curse you!) before ending up in its finished state, and even now I’m thinking about making a couple tweaks. As the saying goes, “Perfection is the enemy of the good”; it’s time to let it go and see what the editors have to say.

This is the first time I’ve felt like I’m really treating my hobby as a career, and it feels good. All the little things that have been rattling around in my brain are finally starting to coalesce into something real. This first submission, while a small step, is the first one toward making my writing room a reality.

I can’t wait to break ground.