***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 expense and blogging 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)||$6,984|
I got a job title promotion in July to Senior Engineer which came with an 8% raise! I am still enjoying the new money for no additional stress. 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 between companies. Nonetheless, I got a bump from pay grade 14 to 15.
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.
My one investment in VBTLX, the Vanguard Total Bond Market Fund continues to pay out its ~$50 each month. I am seriously considering getting rid of this fund and just going 100% in on VTSAX instead. I only have about 10% in bonds and it really doesn’t seem to do much good or bad. It is just mediocre. Since I don’t plan on taking out money from my investments in the short term, we don’t need to have a “safe” investment that doesn’t grow much. We shall see. Will continue to contemplate this for another month.
August 2017 saw lots of spending. Some of it I knew was coming and others I did not intend. Let’s see how I did.
I sent our titanium tandem out for modification in July and worked with the builder to get the frame modified and returned. I was hoping to get it back in July before Mrs. Atypical got home, but it ended up coming down to the wire, arriving on Friday before we left on Saturday morning to go race on it. The total cost for the modification was a steal at $485, considering I got 2 couplers and a lateral tube added. When I purchased the bike originally, the couplers cost $200 each, so I got modifications and additional tubing all for $85 after paying for the couplers! You really can’t get a better deal on titanium bikes than you can in China if you are willing to deal with designing your own frame. Titan Cycles built the frame and did the mod for me, even adding in a completely custom spoke holder.
August saw us travel a good amount. It started with a trip to Inner Mongolia over Mrs. Atypical’s birthday for me to go race some international races. My entire trip cost was covered including flights, food, and transportation, leaving me to only have to cover flights for Mrs. Atypical. The trip was awesome allowing me to get a break from the heat in Southern China and go feel strong again racing in a very strong field equivalent to a Pro/1 race in the US. The trip had 3 races all of which were fun, but the purpose of the trip was for the 185km race which was epic!
We were home for less than a week before I headed back off to Xingyi in Guizhou province to race another 160km race by myself. I was under the impression that my flights were once again covered since the flyer said so, but my team manager has not, maybe will not, reimburse me for the $200 of flights. This really pisses me off and leaves me probably not racing for him again if I have to fly! Nevertheless, the trip was spectacular and the scenery to die for.
During my time in Xinyi, Mrs. Atypical headed off to Guilin with a friend that was visiting from the US. They had a great trip in Guilin and then to Hong Kong after it was all over, spending a not so meager $385 in 5 days total. That is $77 per day. A good long term traveling expenditure is $50 per day or less. With a couple that works out to be $36,500 per year. Nevertheless, she had a wonderful time exploring with her friend, and even went for bike rides without me!
Outside of all of our fun traveling this month, we also got hit by a huge typhoon leaving wreckage everywhere. It was the first time I have ever witnessed the power of these storms during the day time. Growing up, they always came at night.
Outside of our travel and bike modification, our expenses were normal.
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.
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.
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.
August 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…
August saw continued traffic growth! Finally, I am getting people to consistently come and read my content. After 7 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 352% growth!
- August: 3055 pageviews 138% growth!
As can be seen from the daily view above from Google Analytics, my traffic continued to grow throughout August. The one large spike in there with ~400 pageviews was from someone sharing my How to Become Rich post on Facebook. I never was able to figure out who it was, but they are obviously a lot larger of a site than I am. My newfound success in August can be attributed to 2 things:
- Pinterest optimization from the Billionaire Pinterest Course by Paul Scrivens
- Scheduled Pinterest pinning using BoardBooster. If you want to see growth on Pinterest you need to be scheduling pins. It makes it so much easier!
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 August: 2,500 pageviews, actual pageviews: 3,055!
Goal Traffic for September: 6,000 pageviews Stretch Goal: 10,000!
Guest Post Goal August: 2 guest posts, Actual Guest Posts: 0 🙁
Path to get there: Continue with scheduled campaigns 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 $5,524 in August and were able to save the majority of that into investment funds. The rest was spent galavanting around China and enjoying ourselves away from work for a change.
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, 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 among other side sources in the works. Keep an eye out next month for more on my planned money making ventures. 17 months from now, the plan is to transition from side-income to only income and be free.
How was your August? Are you heading towards financial independence as well? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.