July 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 our 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.

Income

IncomeAmount
Company Match$629
Expat Income$1,397
Interest Income$4
Health Program$435
Salary (Mr. Atypical)$6,984
Total$9,448

I got a promotion! Woohoo, go me!

Actually, it was just a timing thing, but it came with an 8% raise or ~$500 per month and a higher level for bonuses. In the corporate world they use pay grades to scale salary brackets. Apparently, there is no standard on how much each pay grade gets paid. Nonetheless, I got a bump from pay grade 14 to 15. Along with that was a new title, Senior Process Engineer. Sounds official, right? I have 5 years experience with the company, so I auto qualified for the bump to senior. Awesome!

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 $6,984 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.

We had our health program at work, Virgin Pulse, payout this in July. All we have to do is upload our daily steps and activities over time and go to the website for various easy challenges to make an extra $1,000 per year. It is works attempt to get people to act healthier and decrease the health insurance cost burden.

Expenses

ExpensesAmount
Business$25
Entertainment$0
Fees$6
Food$276
Home$325
Insurance$74
Medical Expenses$53
Shopping$213
Taxes$1245
Travel$134
Utilities$29
Total$2,380

July 2017 saw little spending on my shopping slush fund until the end of the month buying birthday presents. What truly amazes me about the our spending habits now is that our monthly cost without taxes is ~$1,100. That brings total cost for the year to $14,400 a completely and totally frugal amount to live on.

I did send our titanium tandem out for modification this month and worked with the builder to get the new drawings done. I was hoping to get it back in July before Mrs. Atypical got home, but it is still in production. This leaves me with ~$500 charge that will likely land in August for bike mods.

Mrs. Atypical took a volunteer work trip to Tagong up on the Tibetan plateau / grasslands of Sichuan in July. She was gone for 3 weeks working and getting all of her housing and food paid for while there. Our travel cost for July was $134, the total cost of her trip. We even got the flight costs reimbursed by my company through the expat package spousal allowance.

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 July. 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. It was upsetting the first few weeks of the month when apparently the restaurant was changing families. It was closed for 2 weeks while Mrs. Atypical was gone and I really needed some good noodles.

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 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.

Business Expenses

BusinessExpense
Blogging$25
Photography$0

Blogging expenses in July included our Google Suite payment for use of custom domain names, BoardBooster account, and our blog hosting held at the highly recommended Digital Ocean.

Still no business income from 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.

Blogging Update

July saw a few more changes to this blog and it’s secret sister travel blog that we also run. You may have noticed the opt-in for Financial Independence 101…

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Along with the opt-in, I also did major site redesign. I hope you all like it.

Blog Speed

July was spent developing my new theme for Atypical Life that is based on the Gantry framework

I built 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.

With the home development environment up and running, July saw the completion of development of a new theme for this 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. I based the theme on Hydrogen, which is one of the starter themes from Gantry to show you what it can do. The development of the theme required writing about 400 lines of SCSS or simplified CSS, and then coding a few custom plugins and options to work with Advanced Custom Fields.

I am very happy with the results. After all the testing and time put in, I am now able to consistently get sub 1s loading speeds on the home page in the US and ~2s loading speeds everywhere else the Pingdom checks from.

I tried other free theme frameworks as well, but none of them were as easy to use as Gantry. Gantry had a fairly visual builder for general layout and had all of the basic CSS already written, so I only needed to add in custom CSS. To me, that is the point of a theme framework. It provides a great starting point that is already complete as is, but can be styled to look better. I also tried these other free theme frameworks:

  • Make
  • Cherry Framework 5
  • Timber
  • Sage

I am sure these other frameworks work well, but for me as newbie developer, it was easier to customize one that is already complete than it is to build from scratch.

Traffic Growth

July saw my first real substantial traffic growth! Finally, I am getting people to consistently come and read my content. After 6 months of writing and more or less nobody reading it, it is relieving, to say the least to have over 1000 pageviews for the month.

Here are the numbers so far:

  • April:  188 pageviews
  • May:   199 pageviews
  • June:  283 pageviews
  • July:   1280 pageviews

 

As can be seen from the daily view above from Google Analytics, my traffic continued to grow throughout July. My newfound success in July can be attributed to 2 things:

  • Pinterest optimization from the Billionaire Pinterest Course by Paul Scrivens
  • Joining the Rockstar Finance Forums and participating there.

The main takeaway from Paul’s Billionaire Pinterest Course is 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.

Check out and follow the Atypical Life Pinterest account here.

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.

So How did I do on my goals?

Goal Traffic for July: 1,000 pageviews, actual pageviews: 1,280!

Goal Traffic for August: 2,500 pageviews

Path to get there: Continue with 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!

Savings

In total, we made $7,068 in July 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. 1.5 years from now, the plan is to transition from side-income to only income and be free.

How was your July? Are you heading towards financial independence as well? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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