May 2017 Atypical Life Income Report

***This post may contain affiliate links. I do not recommend products that I have not personally vetted and love myself.***

Welcome to the fifth monthly income and expense report from the Atypical Life family. We are pleased to share this with all of you, so that you may have the inspiration to achieve financial independence and freedom from the man sooner. As an atypical family, this income and expense report will look very different to most family budgets, however, it is 100% real and is achievable under the right circumstances.

I share my finances to inspire others to reach for freedom earlier. I hope to demonstrate:

  • Income can be generated in multiple ways. The regular 9-5 job is not the only way to make money and is also the best way to be a slave to the man.
  • Lowering expenses is really the path towards financial freedom. The lower your expenses, the more you can save. Also, with lower expenses, it takes fewer savings to live on.
  • Side Income can allow you to be free from the man sooner than just saving.
  • It is possible to have low expenses.
  • Becoming an expat is a great way to financial freedom
  • To keep me accountable.

Tracking Your Money

Keeping track of your money is the number one way to reach financial independence. We track all of our income and expenses and then analyze it all at the end of the month for you.

Using Personal Capital is the best way to aggregate all of your accounts into one nice easy view. With your accounts spread across so many different platforms, it is hard to get a whole picture of your finances. Personal Capital gives you a view of where you are, if you spent too much, saved too little, or went into debt. Keeping track of your Net Worth on Personal Capital is super easy.

The best part of Personal Capital’s service is that it is free! It fits in perfectly with our frugal sense and allows us to track and reach financial independence faster. Check out their retirement planner to estimate how far away you are from retirement. It is one of the best I have seen for those of us pursuing FIRE.

If you haven’t started tracking your finances, it is not too late to start. Give Personal Capital a try and you will soon be on your way to being a personal finance guru.

Income

IncomeAmount
Company Match$570
Expat Income$1,266
Interest Income$5
Dividend Income$49
Other Income$317
Salary (Mr. Atypical)$6,467
Salary (Mrs. Atypical)$334
Selling Stuff$1,372
Total$9,008

My company has a fairly generous 401k match of 9%, as long as we contribute 6% to the 401k. This goal is very easy for us to achieve, as we contribute 50% of our income to the 401k. There is one caveat to my 401k contributions, though. They are only calculated on salary, expat income is not included, so 50% of $6,466 goes to the 401k each month to prepare us for financial independence. The 401k matching contribution is free money and we make nearly $6,000 per year from it. May was just another normal month for us in the Atypical household. We had our regular salary and our wonderful, but regular expat income. This expat income is a 20% location premium or hazard pay in expat vernacular. It is additional income for us that is grossed up by the company, so we do not have to pay taxes on it.

Selling stuff on Ebay

The big ticket item here is selling stuff. We sold all of our old Nikon camera gear this month and made a tidy little profit. Since we switched camera gear to Olympus mirrorless cameras over the past year, we no longer have a need for all of the Nikon gear that is heavier and bulkier. All together we sold a Nikon D7100, 50mm prime, 35mm prime, Tokina 11-16mm wide angle, 105mm macro prime, and Sigma 18-250mm superzoom.

We sold all of the camera gear on Ebay in the US after sending it home with my parents. I love selling on Ebay because it is easy and straightforward. Ebay has made it increasingly easy since I have been using the platform to sell. Now, they help you through posting and they will allow you to print the shipping labels at home. Ebay also makes it very easy to get paid with PayPal.

Ebay Pros:

  • easy listing of products
  • free listing of 50 products per month
  • huge marketplace with access to millions of prospective buyers
  • easy to get paid
  • prepaid shipping labels

Ebay Cons:

  • final value fee of 10%
  • PayPal fee of $0.30 + 2.9%
  • auctions don’t always go to the price you expect

Overall, using Ebay is worth it for the convenience, but if you have the time and patience Craigslist and Facebook can lead to larger value on your sold goods.

Selling on Facebook

We also managed to sell some of our other things around the home that we no longer use on a local buy/sell Facebook page. This worked out wonderfully because we were able to get rid of gadgets and equipment that is too big/bulky to sell on ebay. It also has the major benefit of no transaction cost since it is in cash. The only downside to selling on Craigslist or Facebook is having to do the selling in person and not having access to as large of a marketplace.

Expenses

ExpensesAmount
Business$345
Entertainment$0
Fees$110
Food$277
Home$325
Insurance$74
Medical Expenses$0
Shopping$0
Taxes$1,065
Travel$147
Total$2,343

May 2017 saw my lowest monthly shopping expenditure ever! We spent $0 on things this month. Since I started tracking my finances in 2012 after graduating college, I have not had a single month with no discretionary shopping expenses. Our low expenditures for May prove that it is possible to not buy stuff. After 5 years of buy, buy, buy, you can rid yourself of the habit and only buy the things you need.

We got hit with a $95 fee on our Chase Sapphire Preferred card that we got last year. It had an awesome signup bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points and then we earned an additional 15,000 points over the past year. Because I forgot when exactly we signed up for it, I did not make the call to have it lowered a tier to the free plan. $95 is a small price to pay in the end for $600 worth of points.

Our insurance for the month is on an accrual basis because we paid for the year entirely in December. We dropped our company sponsored health insurance that cost us $250 per month and the company $750 per month in favor of a local insurance company that was ~5300 RMB or $890. This covers us for all medical expenses in Greater China and also qualifies us to use the supercharged investment vehicle, the HSA.

Our grocery and dining was normal again in May. Our dining budget is always pretty small because we don’t eat out very often and when we do, our favorite restaurant cost $5 for the 2 of us. We get 兰州拉面 pulled noodles from a noodle shop within walking distance of our apartment.

Our travel cost for the month was a weekend to Hong Kong where we hiked the Maclehose trail. We spent 3 days hiking over the Dragon Boat Festival. The transportation to and from Hong Kong was the majority of the cost because backpacking is essentially a free activity. When choosing vacations we usually search for the cheapest option in order to travel. The cheaper and slower you travel, the more you can travel.

The HSA Experiment

Our HSA, currently residing at HSA Bank, incurs a fee of $2.50 per month for a balance under $5,000. We will incur this fee and an additional $3 per month on that account, so we can keep all of our HSA money invested at TD Ameritrade and buy VTI, the best possible investment vehicle. VTI is the ETF equivalent of my favorite mutual fund VTSAX, Vanguard Total US Stock Market Admiral Shares.

The investments made into the HSA will save us a good amount of tax for 2017. At the 25% tax bracket, if assumed the HSA contributions are taken off the top, it is $1,688 in tax savings. I will be in the 15% tax bracket after all of our savings so, even there our tax savings are $1,013. These savings help to accelerate our path to financial independence.

Taxes

Everybody hates taxes. They eat away at our income and we never even get a chance to see it. Taxes were 45% of our expenses for May totaling $1,065.

There are 2 certainties in life, death and taxes. ~Benjamin Franklin

After doing a review of my tax situation, I approached my tax preparation company about reducing my estimated taxes for 2017 and the future. I showed what I would save into pre-tax investment vehicles:

  • $18,000 to the 401k
  • $5,500 Mr. Atypical Traditional IRA
  • $5,500 Mrs. Atypical Traditional IRA
  • $6,750 to the family HSA
  • Total Value of $35,750

This is able to reduce my taxable income significantly, and when combined with personal and standard deductions on the 1040, it brings our taxable income very low. The purpose of reducing our tax withholding is because we know best how to take care of our money. The government obviously does not know what is best for me. We can put our money to work as soon as possible by investing in VTSAX and VTI, without waiting for a tax refund at the end of the year. This can gain us upwards of 12 months of compounding growth (or decline…). It also allows us to raise our contributions throughout the year to achieve a healthy total portfolio to pursue freedom sooner.

I would never use a tax preparation company right now if it was not provided by the company. Taxes are not nearly as complicated as they are made out to be. Due to the tax equalization policy that my company implements for us, we have to have a professional tax preparation firm handle our taxes.

Business Expenses

BusinessExpense
Blogging$57
Photography$70
Selling$219

Business expenses for May were mostly the expenses associated with selling all of our gear on Ebay. The remaining expenses relating to blogging were BoardBooster and the WP Offload S3 plugin. We had to have 2 more of our Olympus camera parts repaired this month. We repaired our Olympus Tough TG-4 because of a broken zoom switch, and our brand new to us Olympus 12-40 mm f/2.8 zoom broke the lens mount. Luckily the repair guys in China for these goods are pretty good and very cheap. The cost was only $50 for the lens when in the US it would have cost closer to $150.

Blogging Update

May saw a few more changes to this blog and its secret sister travel blog that we also run. All of these changes were behind the scenes, so hopefully, there wasn’t much to notice on the actual site.

Blog Speed

After the major revisions of April, May slowed down on the web development front. Last month we migrated our WordPress installations to Digital Ocean and got a huge speed boost, both from better hosting on a VPN and server side caching of the site.

The last step of our transition to a faster website experience for all was to add a CDN or content delivery network. Since we used the WP Offload S3 plugin by Delicious Brains to move all of our media onto Amazon S3, it only made sense to use the Amazon Cloudfront service for our CDN. After setup, the website wasn’t faster to load in the US, but the experience in other locations around the globe was greatly improved. We saw a very big difference here in China which makes it worth it. Plus, Amazon Web Services is free for the first 12 months of use as long as you stay within their free use parameters. For a new site, that is not an issue.

Traffic Growth

May certainly saw some gains in traffic growth. It is certainly nothing to write home about yet, but hey, at least I am getting somebody to read it every day. I would say that is a huge win compared to the days and weeks with no pageviews before!

Paul from the Billionaire Blog Club started a new program this past month called Blog 180, where he is starting a blog along with us. This is a very cool program because he sends out assignments each week to perform to help your blog grow. I have been keeping up with the assignments and hope to have several new free email courses rolled out to you in the coming weeks.

After getting BoardBooster and Pinterest setup and rolling last month, I am finally starting to see some traffic off of Pinterest. It would seem, I need to continue to look for more group boards to post to and continue generating awesome content that everyone wants to read. That’s a given, right? Maybe, maybe not, because sometimes you are inspired to write about a topic when it is interesting and not overly useful. Coming to you throughout the coming months will be more and more awesome useful content to prepare you for financial independence.

Check out and follow the Atypical Life Pinterest account here.

Traffic growth hasn’t really started too much yet, but after having prepared, I am confident it will begin soon.

Savings

In total, we made $6,665 in May and were able to save the majority of that into investment funds. It was a very successful month financially, but that doesn’t matter if we did not enjoy ourselves. We should not kill ourselves to reach financial independence. There may be a point where you are being too frugal in the pursuit of financial independence. You should enjoy life all the time, knowing in the future it can be even better.

“Love the life you have, while you create the life of your dreams.” ~Hal Elrod

Soon we hope to have side income from our blogs to add to our monthly income report. 2 years from now, the plan is to transition from side-income to only income and be free.

How was your May? Are you heading towards financial independence as well? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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Comments

  1. Pinterest (Boardboosters is already paying off) brought me here! I enjoyed reading your report. We recently decided to track our net worth also. Changes things, you know?
    What were your page views for the month

    1. My pageviews for the month are still very low. I am getting <1,000 pageviews per month. Working hard to generate some more traffic. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. Tracking your net worth can be really helpful in the pursuit of financial freedom. It allows us to see absolutely where we are and be able to plan for where we are going. Without it, we are just shooting in the dark.

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