***This post may contain affiliate links. I do not recommend products that I have not personally vetted and love myself.***
Welcome to the sixth 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.
Also packed in this income report is all the learnings of the blogging experience with detailed analysis of what is working and what is not. Follow along and you can learn from me.
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.
|Salary (Mr. Atypical)||$6,467|
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. June was the first month this year for us that our contributions to the 401k went to the after-tax 401k instead of the normal 401k because we maxed out the $18,000 limit in 5 months! Super stoked about that.
Another annual quarter ended in June. And with that comes dividend payout for all of my Vanguard mutual funds. The yield on the mutual funds was 0.5% or 2% annual dividend income. This is not a super high dividend amount if you were focusing on dividend income. However, if you are investing for compound growth, then dividend income just adds more to the pile for compounding. I managed to make an additional $883 for doing nothing, so I can’t complain.
June 2017 saw the continued costs of my sport of choice, cycling. Almost all of the $248 spent on shopping this month was refilling my toolbox of spare parts for my bikes. I bought 4 new spare tires and 5 new chains that hopefully should last me about a year for my fleet of bicycles (6 and counting in China…). What truly amazes me about the our spending habits now is that our montly cost without taxes is ~$1,200. That brings total cost for the year to $14,400 a completely and totally frugal amount to live on.
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.
No travel for the month brought our expenses lower than most other months.
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.
Everybody hates taxes. They eat away at our income and we never even get a chance to see it. Taxes were 48% of our expenses for June totaling $1,076.
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 Form 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.
Blogging expenses in June included our Google Suite payment for use of custom domain names, starting up a trial server over at Linode, and our blog hosting held at the highly recommended Digital Ocean.
Still no business income for our 2 blogs. We did make one referral to our sister blog last year for ~$10, so that is where we stand so far. We have worked with the very helpful affiliate marketing course by Michelle over at Making Sense of Cents, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. We have taken the first steps towards making affiliate income, now we just need the traffic to realize the hard work.
June saw a few more changes to this blog and it’s secret sister travel blog that we also run. You may have noticed the new opt-in for Financial Independence 101…
Along with the new opt-in, I also did some more site redesign, but the large site redesign is slated to come in July while I have time to experiment with different theme networks.
After the major revisions of April, June slowed down on the web development front. I have been pretty happy with the migration to Digital Ocean. Performance is much improved over Bluehost, but the big change that I like the most is full control over my VPS. There is no software installed for you that you don’t need. I used EasyEngine to build the WordPress installation in no time at all and also use it to turn out development sites. If you do not want to mess with configuring your own server from the ground up, which is what Digital Ocean is all about, then I would still recommend sticking with Bluehost and using a good caching plugin like W3 Total Cache.
I started to build a development environment on my home server for playing with theme development. It took an inordinate amount of time to set up because I used a new to me Linux technology called LXD to host the virtual machine. I am sure it is super fast in the US to build and works miracles, but over here in China where the internet speed is abysmal, it took forever and kept failing. After weeks of research and work I finally have a development site up and running at home. It shows me the true speed that WordPress can work at if you don’t have to factor in bad internet connections.
Coming in July will be the development of a new theme for this site and likely its sister site based on the Gantry 5 framework from RocketThemes. Gantry 5 is a free open-source network that plays along nice with my frugal mentality.
June continued to see improved traffic over May! Hells yeah! It’s nothing to write home about yet, but it is comforting and motivating to see it increase. This will be the first month that I share the numbers.
I track our stats using Google Analytics. I started using Google Analytics in mid-March, but I didn’t understand how it worked and traffic was so low that I don’t count that period as accurate measurements. At the time, I didn’t know you had to explicitly exclude signed in admin views and views from your home. Consequently, the traffic in March was mostly me viewing Atypical life. Here are the numbers so far:
- April: 188 pageviews
- May: 199 pageviews
- June: 283 pageviews
As can be seen from the week to week view above from Google Analytics, my traffic has continued to grow slowly, but steadily. Hopefully, in the coming month or 2 as my Pinterest profile continues to evolve and improve my pageviews will be 100 on a day-day basis versus week-week. Then we can work to improve further.
One thing you learn as a new blogger is continual improvement. Always work on something new, improve something else. As my dad always quotes:
Improvise, adapt, and overcome.
I have gotten Pinterest rolling better this month. I once again put out a huge blast of 30 emails one day to apply to group boards and got accepted to about 33% of them. This was the acceptance rate the first time around as well. Seems like that might actually be the norm for getting accepted to group boards even if they are not closed. Paul over at Billionaire Blog Club opened up Billionaire Pinterest this month, which was his 3rd revision of his Pinterest course in 9 months. It was a great course and helped to hone in a new strategy for me going forward. The main takeaway for me was not all group boards are treated the same. Only pin to group boards that are relevant to your niche. Broad/general group boards are worthless and can actually hurt your chances of making it to the home feed.
June also saw me start a redesign of all of my pins and start to make 2nd and 3rd pins for my posts. I found Spark by Adobe and started to use it to generate interesting pins. I find it even simpler to use than canva which is already super easy to use. I also learned how to hide the extra pinnable images on the page, so they show up with the Pinterest button using CSS classes.
As can be seen here, I started to see traffic generation from Pinterest in mid-May and then it became more consistent in June as I got rolling with more group boards. Now, I have a consistent looking amount of traffic coming from social, so it is time to up my game using what I learned from Billionaire Pinterest. I am switching my BoardBooster account from random campain posting to group boards to scheduled where I have control over what, when, and where everything posts to better target engagement from my group boards. Hopefully, the new strategy will pan out.
Check out and follow the Atypical Life Pinterest account here.
Goal Traffic for July: 1,000 pageviews
Path to get there: Start with the new scheduled campains on BoardBooster, apply to more group boards, target SEO and keywords while writing posts, and promote, promote, promote. It is time to start reaching out to other bloggers for help. I plan to comment more on others blogs and hope to guest post a time or 2 this month.
Traffic growth is real, but it is time to get this snowball rolling and make an avalanche of traffic!
In total, we made $7,025 in June 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. Don’t think you have to choose one over the other.” ~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 June? Are you heading towards financial independence as well? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.