How I earn and spend my money – January 2011 finance report

 

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As many of you know, I quit my 9-to-5 job back in November and I’m currently transitioning into sustainable self-employment. The plan is to earn the majority of my income online so I can travel indefinitely and work from anywhere with an internet connection, like a geeky Jason Bourne.

One of my main goals with this blog is to lay down a blueprint so others can learn from my journey and achieve their own freedom.

The biggest problem with leaving 9-to-5 is giving up the steady paycheck that comes with it. You’ll often have to endure a few lean months before you begin to see real money trickle in from your entrepreneurial ventures. That’s where I’m at right now, and I’d like to reveal exactly what that’s like and how I’m making it work.

I plan to post these finance reports once a month, so you can see how much my lifestyle costs and how I afford it. If you’re not interested in all that stuff, no worries. Just skip these posts.

Three quick notes to help you understand how I track my finances:

  • I round my expenses up and my earnings down. The idea here is that I’ll be left with a few extra Euros at the end of each month and I can go buy myself a nice frock or something.
  • Earnings don’t count until the money is in my bank account or the cash is in my hand.
  • I record what I spend and earn each day in a spreadsheet on Google Docs, or just on paper if I don’t have Internet access. I try to track absolutely everything.

Let’s get into some numbers…

January expenses

€385 – Rent and utilities

Rent accounts for €375 of this. I just moved in at the end of December, so the utilities haven’t really caught up with me yet. This expense will be higher next month.

€336 – Miscellaneous business expenses

Although I technically can (and will when it comes time to do my taxes) classify expenses like rent and utilities as business expenses, I’ll keep them separate for the sake of this exercise. Let me break down the total here a little more:

€233 – Groceries

“Groceries” accounts mostly for food, but also a few miscellaneous items I pick up at the supermarket like toilet paper, mouse traps, etc.

€111 – Pubs, coffee shops and restaurants

I love meeting up with people for a chat in a pub, coffee shop or restaurant every now and then. The total above accounts for 21 different chats :-). This expense would be much higher if I drank alcohol, but I’ve given that up for the year as a prolonged experiment.

€31 – Miscellaneous personal expenses

This total is made up of three trips to the gym (€7 a pop), plus my unprecedented haircut last week.

€20 – Education

I’ll break this one down, too:

I actually bought another book in January, but it was via an Amazon.com gift certificate so that absorbed the €7 cost.

€16 – Entertainment

This accounts for trips to the cinema, theatre, museums and sporting events. The most expensive show I saw in January was the Snatch Comedy improv gig last Sunday. Admission was €10 but it was worth every penny.

€10 – Travel

Very few travel expenses for January. The total here accounts for five local bus trips.

€4 – Donations

This consists of the odd Euro given to buskers, and the occasional homeless person. Not accounted for is the spare change I usually throw into coin boxes around town (I try not to keep any change below 50c).

I also gifted a copy of Getting Things Done (affiliate link) to a friend of mine in the US, but the €8 for that came out of my gift certificate balance on Amazon.com so we won’t count it here.

€27 – Unknown

When I added up all my expenses for the month and then figured out the difference between my start and end balances, I was left with €27 unaccounted for. I have no idea where that money went. I can only assume that I forgot to make note of an expense or two during the month. For closure’s sake, let’s just say I spent it on medication for a sick puppy.

Total expenses for January: €1,173

That works out to much more than my estimated weekly expense total of €230 that I mentioned in a previous post. If I subtract the unfortunate expense of replacing my hard drive, I’m right there at that €230 mark. Of course, unforeseen expenses are expenses nonetheless, and I can’t pretend they don’t count in the grand scheme of things.

January earnings

Um… not much to say here, since I didn’t earn a single penny in January. (Thankfully, February has already been much better ;-))

Total earnings for January: €0

Where that leaves me

I could afford not to earn any money in January because I’d saved up a solid chunk of change before quitting my 9-to-5 back in November. I also cashed in my retirement plan, which has left me with a nice cushion to work with. My bank and cash balances at the start of January added up to €9,718. At the end of the month, I’m down to €8,545.

Outlook for February

I could certainly afford to go another few months without earning any money, but I’m eager to get some cash flowing in the positive direction. As such, I’ll be focusing a lot more on income generation this month. Sticking with my original 4-month plan, I’m aiming to release a paid product at the end of February, and I’ll be diving into some serious affiliate marketing via Corbett Barr’s course.

I’ve also got a sizable check about to clear as payment for a website I just relaunched for my brother’s business (If you’re looking for fancy stairs in Ireland, he’s your man). I still have some work to do there, with a bonus incentive for some SEO magic.

As for expenses, I may end up spending even more money in February than I did in January, since I’ll soon be booking flights and accommodation for Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit in June. I’ll have to take advantage of all that there is to be learned from the Travel Hacking Cartel to keep the cost of that trip down.

Feedback

Let me know your thoughts on these reports. Do you find the info helpful? Would you like more detail? Less? If you’re self-employed yourself, I’d also love to hear about your financial adventures.

Finally, a quick hat tip to Raam Dev, whose nomad finance reports served as much of the inspiration for me to start similar. Check out his latest report here.

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14 Comments

  1. Hey Niall!

    I’m really excited to see that you’re starting this! I think it’s so awesome (and helpful!) to see how others are spending in relation to what their goals are, etc. Seeing as how we have similar goals (and a similar transition away from the 9-to-5), it’s even more interesting for me to see your journey. Looking forward to the next report! :)

    • Thanks for the inspiration, Raam! I’ve already found tracking all my expenses to be very helpful. It’s so easy to throw money away on stupid things when you’re not giving it your full attention.

  2. Hey Niall,

    Really interesting, and I’ll enjoy these. I’m looking at exactly this myself if I go full time/part time as a composer and how easy/difficult it will be money wise.

    Thanks man :)

  3. Great idea neil, it’ll be interesting following your finances throughout your travels.

    By the way, I hope the puppy is feeling better ;-)

  4. Hey Niall,

    Thanks for sharing this with us all. Just wondering, do you usually spend money through a card or through cash/paper bills? I ask because I’ve noticed sometimes that when I withdraw cash, I want to withdraw it in small amounts but then I spend through it quite quickly, usually on food. Then instead of withdrawing cash again and again, I tend to just use my card more and more. And then I’m sure you could relate at some point, the number of swipes on the card could be harder to track over the course of an entire month (or maybe not?) What are your thoughts? Have you experienced that one particular method works better than the other?

    In any case, great info for us all to use here. Thanks again brother!

    • Hey, Darshan. Good question.

      I use a combination of cash and cards. I don’t have a strict system yet, but I’ve been trying to withdraw €80 in cash every Monday, and have that as my food/entertainment allowance for the week. I don’t always stick to it, but it keeps me conscious of how much I’m spending and how well I’m sticking to my budget. It’s become my little weekly challenge to see if I can do it.

      The thing with cash though is you need to make a note of each transaction or keep your receipts if you want to track expenditure accurately. It’s easier with cards because you can just look back through your online statements and see what was spent where. I generally don’t find the manual cash tracking to be a chore though. You just have to develop the habit.

      One more thing I just thought of that helps me keep expenses low: I try to go a couple of days a week without spending any money on anything. Of course, I need to have the fridge stocked in advance to do that without starving myself ;-)

      I hope that helps.

  5. now that was an interesting blog

    Amazing and well done buddy

    most people when they start off with no income the last thing they do is give money away to buskers or collection tins

    be interested to know how you are generating income online

    cheers

    • Thanks, John. Ideally I’ll be donating a lot more than €4 per month going forward. I’ll also be revealing all my plans for making money online in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

  6. Looks good Niall, once you start replacing that income a little it will become easier.

    I would be interested to know your feeling on disclosing your financial’s publicly. Do you feel it could have any negative consequences or that it is neither really good or bad, at the end of the day?

    • Hey Joel. I don’t see any serious downside to disclosing this information. It’s just numbers after all. I won’t be going into detail about what bank accounts I use or anything like that.

      I had a discussion with a friend of mine on Friday. We were wondering why people are so reluctant to talk about money and disclose real figures. I think the best explanation is that money is seen as a status symbol, and we worry that people judge us based on how much money we do or do not have. I’m pretty much past all that though, so I don’t mind sharing such info. I think it will help my readers understand my journey better and hopefully inspire them to go after their own dreams.

      Of course, there’s a good chance I could be missing something obvious here and there are intelligent reasons why people don’t disclose their earnings online. If anyone can think of any, I’d love to hear them.

      • Thanks for the response Niall.

        I don’t really have the issue in disclosing financial information due to the status problem. I more so feel the problem as I see it is opening up possibility of people targeting people based on the financial picture they paint.

        I am just interested to know if this has been a thought, in connection with how transparent you are in sharing firstly about your finances, however also about so many of the experiences you have, and places you visit.

        Joel

      • I guess the reason I’m unconcerned is that I try hard to live my life in such a way that I won’t be ashamed or embarrassed if the whole world was to know every little detail.

        I know privacy is a touchy subject, and I respect other people’s right to it, but I figure that if I’m living with honesty and integrity then privacy isn’t such a big deal. I suspect many people (not all!) guard their privacy so closely because they’re afraid of what other people will think of them. They don’t want their work colleagues to know how they act around their old college buddies and vice versa.

        Regarding my finances specifically, I doubt I’ll be targeted anytime soon. I’d probably have to be earning six figures before someone would invest the time and energy it would take to swindle me. These finance reports are meant to help people understand how I bridge the gap between 9-to-5 and self-employment. Once that point has been made, I expect I’ll stop doing them.