June 2019 Budget & Expenses | Digital Nomads Pursuing Financial Independence, Retire Early (FI/RE)
We’re in New York City! See what our budget and expenses are as digital nomads pursing financial independence, retire early (FI/RE) have been while ‘living’ in the Big Apple.
This is a recurring monthly series where we share our budget/expenses as digital nomads pursuing financial independence, retire early (FI/RE) and traveling continuously and long-term! So, if you’re wondering how our year to date totals break down each month, or what the trends in our budget/expenses are, then check out the series.
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Tip to Make the Most of This Article
If you’re new to Screw The Average we recommend reading through the entire article, as it gives context to the how and the why of how we budget and spend our money. However, if you’re a loyal follower of our Monthly Budget & Expense series then consider skipping to the ‘meat and potatoes’ of it all.
Monthly and Year-To-Date Expenses
We’re often asked how much we budget for our lifestyle of continuous and long-term travel as digital nomads. So we’re pulling the cover off our expenses and sharing what we spend month to month!
Be prepared; we truly Screw The Average when it comes to our budget/expenses. We have many tricks up our sleeves when it comes to saving money, whether it be for travel (sightseeing, airfare, transportation, etc.), day-to-day expenses (groceries, haircuts, toiletries, etc.), or everything else (gear, supplies, odds and ends, etc.).
There are a few reasons why our monthly expenditures are extremely low (relative to most) and dialed in.
+ A Monthly Budget (Or Not)
Budgets have their time and place and do many people a great service. Surprisingly enough though, we don’t keep a budget in the traditional sense because we’re extremely intentional with our decisions, including how we spend money.
Since our living expenses are dialed in, meaning they’re mostly known and similar month to month, and our expenditures are calculated and thought out, we find that we don’t need a budget.
While we don’t keep a budget, as you can see we do track our expenses. This allows us to see trends in our spending and ensure we’re on track. Consider it mindfulness of our finances!
+ Financial Independence, Retire Early (FI/RE)
In its simplest form, reaching (Financial Independence, Retire Early (FI/RE)) means: A) making much more money than you spend, and B) spending much less than you make.
Now whether your put your emphasis on A (make more money) or B (spend less money) is a debate within the FI/RE community and in our opinion a personal decision. And really, either method means living below your means, so ultimately, why not do both?
For us, we’re building FI/RE into our lifestyle. We believe the journey to reach FI/RE doesn’t need to be a 10-20 year grueling grind where it’s the sole focus of life until reached. Don’t get us wrong, we’ve worked our fair share of intense hours and we’ve delayed gratification plenty.
After years of creating a financial, professional, and personal foundation we decided we could incorporate the pursuit of Financial Independence, Retire Early with doing the things we love. We decided that even if it delayed FI/RE a bit, it was well worth it!
Having a dialed-in, lean, and minimalist lifestyle (and therefore budget) offers us increased freedom. We’ve designed our life in a way that allows us, within reason of course, to make our own decisions, do what we want, and have the upmost flexibility.
We find satisfaction in being able to sleep-in on any given day, take a hike, or play a video game when we choose to.
We’re minimalists when it comes to ‘stuff’, allowing us to get up and go at a moment’s notice.
We only take on the jobs, contracts, or clients we want to and say ‘no thank you’ to the ones that aren’t a good fit.
Thankfully big expenses or unexpected bills don’t put us in debt or throw us for a loop. Because we choose not to inflate our lifestyle to the size of our income we’re able to have an emergency fund.
Once in a lifetime opportunities rarely pass us by because we’re ready for them, whatever they entail.
This freedom isn’t just luck (although we are lucky we haven’t been hit by a meteor or become terminally ill), we fundamentally believe we’re in charge of our own destiny and therefore have worked long and hard for these freedoms. We’ve made thousands of rational, logical choices for decades to get to (where we are today).
Long-Term Travel, FI/RE, and Freedom are Fueled by Our Monthly Budget/Expenses
We don’t consider ourselves cheap, although inevitably some will. We’re frugal, as we worry less about cost and more about value. And finally, we don’t feel we sacrifice; we sometimes delay satisfaction but at other times we live quite luxuriously.
Where we place our value and therefore our money may not be where you choose to place yours, and that’s okay. We do however hope that just as we’ve learned from other people, maybe others can take a few things away from our approach.
Follow us each month as we post our actual and full expenses. We’ll share tips on how we saved money and insight into where we spent money!
Don’t miss our Ultimate Gear and Packing Lists! Whether you’re traveling long-term or going on a short vacation, we'll show you how to travel with a single carry-on. We share our packing lists (his and hers!), packing tips, and our favorite gear. Plus, we discuss what we don’t carry and why!
Our Expenses: June 2019
If you’re wondering how to travel internationally, or simply vacation nearby and not spend a fortune on airfare or hotels, then we’d like to welcome you to the world of ‘travel hacking’. See what credit cards we carry, and how we take full advantage of the points and miles we’ve earned.
Notable Expenses in June 2019
As independent consultants our ‘household’ qualified for medical insurance through the Marketplace. With credits and a high deductible health plan (HDHP) our monthly premiums were under $5 (explained in more detail in April).
Now that Shannon is employed and eligible for insurance through her employer, we’re no longer eligible for Marketplace plans.
We evaluated our plan options through her employer and settled on the least expensive option. In comparison to our former HDHP plan, coverage is improved, but the premium is higher (much higher actually!). Coming in at just over $150 a month, our health care budget category has grown 36x overnight! And trust us, it’s not 36 times better.
If you read our budget and expense post from May, you may recall that Shannon got food poisoning while traveling for work. She endured it while traveling from Pennsylvania to London (via Detroit).
To add insult to injury, as her stomach settled and she started to feel decent again, she was hit with a terrible chest cold that sadly became bronchitis.
If you’ve been following us on our adventures, you may recall that we traveled through Leeds, United Kingdom in 2017. While there we experienced the UK health system when Shannon had a ruptured ear drum.
In other words, Shannon knew exactly what to expect, and frankly had an even better experience this time around!
After several days of not getting better she took one of the famous London black cabs to the hospital. From reception directing her to emergency, checking in, being seen by a nurse and then a doctor, to walking to two pharmacies to compare out-of-pocket (private pay) costs, filling two prescriptions (antibiotics and an inhaler), she got back in a black cab all in one hour! Plus, she paid just $22.50 USD ($0 USD for the hospital and doctor and $22.50 USD for two prescriptions).
Again, our hats are off to you United Kingdom. Thank you for everything!
Shipping Stuff ‘Home’
As digital nomads and minimalist we own and carry a very limited amount of belongings. Over 90% of what we own fits in our 36 L backpacks (we love our Osprey Manta AG 36!) and we keep them at about 15 lbs (7 kg).
To keep our bag’s volume and weight low we keep a few boxes of belongings at our home-base (thank you Mom!). As weather and circumstances change, we ship items back and forth so that we’re carrying only what we need.
This month, since Shannon’s new employer doesn’t require business attire, she could finally send her business casual set of clothing back home.
Honestly, we’re not thrilled to pay shipping fees to move ‘stuff’ back and forth, so we try to avoid and limit it as much as possible.
Ultimately though, it’s part of the cost of living as we do!
Trusted House Sitters Annual Subscription Renewal
It’s no secret that we love house sitting! It’s not only our main lodging method but also something we truly enjoy. As we travel and move about so much, the most consistent things in our lives are each other. So, having a cuddly pet to snuggle and play with is comforting!
Nearly all of our house sitting jobs have been through Trusted House Sitters. We’ve used other sites, done research (seriously, spreadsheet and all!) on which sites fit our needs best , and reviewed most of the options out there. We always come back to Trusted House Sitters and you can read more on why in The Ultimate Guide to House Sitting Jobs: Part 2 | The Best Website and a Stellar Profile.
The current Trusted House Sitters subscription rate is $119 for either a homeowner or a sitter. We think charging for both types of users is a helpful feature, as it filters out those who aren’t committed to the service and process.
This month our annual subscription came due, but as we’ve been customers since 2016 Trusted House Sitters is kind enough to grandfather us in at the $99 rate we originally signed up with. Thank you THS (shhhh don’t tell them, but we’d gladly pay $119)!
Notable Savings in June, 2019
Lodging - Gaps Between House Sits
We think we do pretty well at scheduling house sitting jobs back to back. Occasionally though, we have gaps of one or a few days between house sitting jobs. We fill these gaps with Airbnbs or use reward points at category 1, 2, or 3 hotels to get amazing deals on hotel award nights at Hilton, Marriott, Radisson, or Hyatt.
Coming up in August we have a house sitting job in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, NYC. The house sit is about two weeks, but the homeowner will be coming home for one night a few days into the house sit. Because it’s a one bedroom apartment, we’re finding an alternative place to stay that night.
However, what makes this night special from other nights is that it happens to fall within Shannon’s birthday weekend.
So, since we have a Marriott Bonvoy credit card that gifts us an annual free night certificate at any Marriott property (category 1-5), you better believe it’s getting put to good use! Of course this card comes with an annual fee, but along with the free night certificate comes many other benefits that make it well worth it.
Sergio here! It was supposed to be a birthday surprise, but due to the constant flux and travel of Shannon’s job (seriously 18,200 miles traveled in a month) I had to talk to her about it, or I may have been there alone!
For just the tax ($5.50 and no destination fee on this hotel, yay!) we booked a room at the tallest hotel in North America, the Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Times Square. The hotel comes in at 750 feet, which may be the tallest hotel in North America, but no where close to the tallest hotel in the world. That claim to fame is also Marriott’s, as the record is held by one of their properties located in Dubai, the JW Marriott Marquis, which reaches 1,164 feet!
With our Platinum Elite Marriott status (and a call to let the hotel know it’s Shannon’s birthday) hopefully we’ll get an upgrade. Stay tuned… either way we think it’s well worth the $5.50, considering the standard room rate is $350 a night!
Recently on a day out running errands, Sergio lost one of the lenses in his eye glasses. Since he needs them to see, he had no choice but to continue wearing them, sans one lens.
Seriously! Imagine us walking around town, going grocery shopping, interacting with homeowners, all with Sergio missing one lens. It probably went unnoticed by a majority of people, but to the few who noticed it, we can only imagine their thoughts.
We had several laughs over this!
Sergio quickly went to our go-to eye glass store, Zenni Optical, and ordered two new pairs of glasses. We’ve been customers for over a decade and keep going back because we’ve always found incredible deals. Like this time, two pairs of glasses (single vision lens and frames included) for just $31.77, delivered!
Netflix 33% Savings
We love saving money on things we already use and need to purchase. So when we saw a deal on our Discover credit card to save money on a Netflix gift card, we were all-in.
Using our Discover credit card, we purchased a $30 Netflix card for just $20!
Tip: Don’t miss the chance to save $10 at Amazon, just for using your Discover card! *Expires at 11:59 pm on September 30, 2019.
Where We’ve Traveled to This Month
New York, New York
If you missed the news, Shannon accepted a remote, ~75% travel role that requires her to be based in New York City.
If we were your average couple, we’d rent a modest apartment (about $2,000+/month) and settle in. Nothing more to see, don’t pass go or collect $200.
However, since we strive to Screw The Average (be an outlier), we’re going to give it a shot and continue our digital nomad and house sitting lifestyle, just full-time in and around New York City.
So for the time being, rather than travel on a world scope, we’ll be exploring the neighborhoods of New York City!
Far Rockaway, Queens, New York
While Shannon traveled nearly non-stop in her new role (again, 18,200 miles!), Sergio settled down in Far Rockaway, Queens, New York for a house sitting job.
Kris and Take graciously welcomed him into their home that’s just a few blocks from the beach. He and their cat, Stinky (named for always looking as if he’s giving you a stink-eye when he looks at you), became quick friends!
Our tool box is full of resources! From travel hacking to house sitting, digital nomad jobs to privacy and security, financially independent retire early (FI/RE) to entertainment, plus travel hacking (credit cards, miles, points, and rewards), and much much more…
Year to Date (YTD) Expenses for 2019
Half-way through 2019 and we’re averaging about $500 a month. We think that’s pretty incredible!
Where We’ve House Sat in NYC in 2019
Now that we’re house sitting full time in New York City, we’re including a map of all the neighborhoods we’ve ‘lived in’ so far!
Note: The map is live and will be continuously updated. In other words, if your looking at this map after June 2019, you’re also seeing ‘future’ house sits.
London, San Francisco, Paris, New York City, Athens and more?! Trusted Housesitters has allowed us to travel the world on a budget, but more importantly given us an opportunity to make new friends and have cute and cuddly companions along the way. Sign up and start your next great adventure!
Our life has been a bit hectic and chaotic as we adjust to Shannon having a full time role that requires us to stay in a single city. However, as the dust starts to settle, we can honestly say that even with the changes, our life is relatively similar to how it was. And, we still have each other which is what truly matters!