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

 

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*** Explanatory bit for new readers / skip this if you know the dealio ***

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 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.

*** End of explanatory bit ***

March expenses

€50 – Rent and utilities (- €330 compared to last month)

The total here accounts for my share of an electricity bill. No rent payment for April since it’s my final month living in Cork and the cost is covered by the deposit I paid back in December.

€53 – Miscellaneous business expenses (- €82 compared to last month)

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

€249 – Groceries (+ €63 compared to last month)

“Groceries” accounts mostly for food, but also a few miscellaneous items I pick up at the supermarket, like toilet paper and deodorant. I made a conscious effort to shop less in Tesco’s this past month, and more in small local stores. That cost me more money, but I feel good about it. Support local business and all that.

€90 – Pubs, coffee shops, restaurants, take-aways (+ €6 compared to last month)

This is mostly meeting people for a chat in a pub, coffee shop or restaurant. Remember that I’ve given up alcohol so I spend next to nothing on a night out.

€44 – Miscellaneous personal expenses (- €9 compared to last month)

Two trips to the gym and a new pair of jeans. The possession count has risen to 63.

€164 – Education (+ €66 compared to last month)

In detail:

  • €100 – Birthday money used to buy an Amazon.com gift card. That means a whole bunch of books.
  • €57 – Tyler Tervooren’s Guerrilla Influence Formula (affiliate link, review here)
  • €7 – Toastmasters guest fees (2 meetings, 2 different clubs)

€6 – Entertainment (- €12 compared to last month)

This accounts for trips to the cinema, theatre, museums, sporting events, that sort of thing. In February I rented out two movies (7 Pounds and Scott Pilgrim).

€132 – Travel (- €914 compared to last month)

Way down from last month since I didn’t have any long-haul flights to pay for. €82 was spent booking hostel accommodation for the World Domination Summit in June. The rest of the total accounts for several bus trips.

€30 – Gifts and Donations (+ €27 compared to last month)

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). Also bought a book and some flowers for a special lady ;-)

€166 – Miscellaneous fees and expenses (+ €148 compared to last month)

This accounts for whatever I can’t write off as a business expense, but wouldn’t exactly call a personal expense. Stuff like bank fees, processing fees, postage costs, all that jazz.

Deets:

  • €80 – Passport processing fee (getting it renewed, will be good for 10 years)
  • €53 – TurboTax fees (for 2010 US tax return)
  • €20 – Annual fee for AIB business credit card
  • €8 – Passport photos
  • €3 – Tax forms postage
  • €2 – Tax forms printed

- €22 – Unknown (+ €35 compared to last month)

After working out all my other expenses I’m left with €22 unaccounted for, but this month it’s a plus rather than a minus. Perhaps my calculations are a little off, but more likely I arrived at this cushion from rounding all my expenses up. Feels like free money :-)

Total expenses for March: €962 (- €1,072 compared to last month)

I finally came in under €1k for the first time this year, though I would have missed that mark again if I wasn’t off the hook for the final rent payment. Living in Ireland has definitely proved more expensive than I expected. Just one more month of it before I head to Spain. I hear the cost of living is lower there.

March earnings

€0 – Web design (- €1650 compared to last month)

No income from web design this month, but still working diligently on my brother’s stairs site. There’s a €500 bonus due to me if I can pull off some SEO magic.

I should note that I’ve actually been turning down freelance web design gigs. That type of work is a nice fallback for me if I get stuck and need some money, but I’d rather generate income from my efforts on this site, and also through consulting and affiliate marketing. Building up those streams should serve me better in the long run.

€100 – Cash gift

A birthday gift so I could buy myself a voucher for Amazon.com. Not typical income, but since I’ll be using the voucher and not my own money to buy books, I figure I better list it here to be thorough.

€50 – Consulting (+ €0 compared to last month)

I spent a couple of hours earlier in the month advising a local business on social media strategy and content syndication. I was happy to help them out, since I love what they do and hope to see them create a stronger presence online.

€51 – A Course In Courage

As mentioned previously, eight people signed up for the first run of A Course In Courage. I’m hoping to sign up a lot more than that when the course reopens for registration on April 18th. I’ve been working hard on the marketing side of things lately.

€20 – Affiliate earnings (+ €14 compared to last month)

I made one sale of Benny Lewis’s Language Hacking Guide (affiliate link). Thanks to whoever bought that. I’ll be getting reacquainted with Benny’s guide myself next month, trying to pick up a chunk of Spanish before I head off to live in Burgos.

Total earnings for March: €221

Minus 20% put aside for tax: €44

Leaves me with an income of: €177

A quick note on the above: I’m intentionally going over the top by accounting for 20% tax. It will never be that high since I’ll have a certain amount of tax free allowance and I can write off a lot of items as business expenses, but I like to put aside that little bit extra just to be safe.

Where that leaves me

I had €7,814 to my name at the end of February. After applying the most recent exchange rate (I have accounts in both Dollars and Euros), that had shrunk to €7,686. Taking into account all my March expenses, earnings and taxes, my total bank and cash balances now work out to €6,900.

A quick summary of how I’m doing so far this year:

  • - €1,173 in January
  • - €641 in February
  • - €785 in March

Outlook for April

I didn’t expect to earn much in March, but I have higher hopes for April. I believe I know what it takes to relaunch A Course In Courage successfully and get a bunch of people signed up (I’m aiming for at least 50). It’s just a matter of putting in the work to make it happen.

It’s also possible that I could crack the SEO code for my brother’s website and receive that €500 bonus before May rolls around.

As for expenses, I don’t foresee anything too crazy in April. Methinks I have a good shot at spending less than €1k for the second straight month.

Feedback welcome

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.

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  1. This is really interesting for me, since I live in Southern Spain and I find your average person here could live (and lives, considering the job situation and the lower salaries) on a lot less that 1K. The passport fee, for example, seems ludicrous (I just spent 11 € on renewing my ID card – our equivalent to a passport). If you consider sharing a flat you’ll be saving a lot on rent as well. Eating and drinking (either alcohol or non-alcohol) out is pretty cheap when you know the area and avoid tourist traps, and if you buy locally you can actually save quite a bit of money on groceries. I’ve been self-employed most of my life and I’ve had ups and downs… at my lowest point I was probably spending €150 on groceries (for two people), 380 € in rent (for a fantastic three bedroom house in a village near Granada) plus an average of €60 in utilities per month. Add on 250 € in social security (since I’m self-employed), plus some small tax amounts. With the current recession really affecting Spain, people here are getting pretty good at living on a ridiculously small budget!