July 2019 Budget & Expenses | Digital Nomads Pursuing Financial Independence, Retire Early (FI/RE)
We’re opening our spreadsheet and sharing our monthly budget! See how we, as a digital nomad couple pursuing financial independence, retire early keep our budget and expenditures extremely low. We think you’ll agree that we’re doing a pretty good job of being outliers!
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.
Disclosure: We may receive a commission for links on our blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very appreciative when you do. Thanks again for your support, we hope you find our posts and information helpful!
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. If you’re already a 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: July 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 July 2019
This month we paid our car insurance for the next six months. Paying it in chunks lowers the rate a bit, relative to month-to-month payments.
You might be thinking, “But wait, didn’t you guys sell your car in 2016? Why are you still paying for car insurance?”
And yes you’re right, we sold our car and haven’t looked back. However, there are a few key reasons for keeping car insurance coverage. There’s a type of coverage called Non-Owner Policy Insurance that comes in handy for:
Car Sharing Services
Borrowing a Car
Uninterrupted Coverage/Continuous Coverage
Lodging - Airbnb
We house sit full time, which means we don’t have a mortgage or rent. Pretty cool, huh?!
We occasionally have a a gap between house sitting jobs that leaves us with one or a few nights in need of a place to sleep. Thankfully, we have a few options for cheap and alternative lodging that we can choose from.
We were fortunate that in July we had a house sit end on the same day that our next one began. This meant no need to find a place to stay any night of July. Woohoo!
However, since we plan house sitting jobs one to three months in advance, we knew in July that we’d have six total days in August where we needed to find housing. We planned one of the nights at North America’s tallest hotel, Residence Inn Manhattan Central Park, and used a Marriott Bonvoy Free Night Award.
Tip: Get your Marriott Bonvoy Free Night Award with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card.
We filled the remaining five nights at two different Airbnbs. Of course, we Screw The Average, so with coupons and gift card deals (July Travel Hacking) we spent $134.73 for five nights. That’s less than $27 a night in New York City!
Notable Savings in July, 2019
High Yield Savings Account
We’re all about making our money work for us!
We miss the days of an easy five to eight percent annual yield, as today anything over two percent is impressive. So, when we came across the Savings Builder account from CiTBank that offers up to 2.20% APY with NO monthly debit card transactions required, we did a double take!
What’s better than making money by doing virtually nothing?
Note: Please visit CiTBank for more information on the account. We always read the fine print and ask questions. We highly recommend you do the same.
A second deal we capitalized on this month was two Amex Offers that we were able to stack. One was $5 off a $10 purchase and the second was $10 off a $25 purchase, both at Staples.
Tip: To take advantage of Amex Offers you need an American Express credit card. We recommend:
Amex EveryDay for no annual fee and 15,000 Membership Rewards Points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
Or build loyalty with Hilton Ascend for 150,000 Hilton Points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Easily worth the $95 annual fee.
Or take your travel to a whole new level with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant! Benefits start with 75,000 bonus Bonvoy points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months and continue with hotel resort credits, priority pass, and much more!
Lodging - House Sitting
Our first stay in New York City was a six week house sitting job in Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York (all of June and half of July). This was fantastic because it gave us a bit of time to adjust and settle into NYC.
Our last day house sitting in Rockaway Beach was the first day of our house sitting job in Long Island City. So, it worked out perfectly when it came to lodging for the month of July.
Note: House sitting isn’t just a free place to stay. It’s a job in and of itself, that comes with the many responsibilities of caring for a home, pets, plants, etc. It’s hard work and anyone who says it’s all rainbows and butterflies is mistaken or trying to sell you something.
For context, the average per night hotel cost that we found in Rockaway Beach was $200 and in Long Island City it was $150. Using this as a baseline for what it would have cost to stay in the same NYC neighborhoods, in the month of July we saved $5,650!
If you forgo a hotel and instead take the average rental price of a one bedroom New York City apartment, we’re still saving $2,980 for the month!
Where We’ve Traveled to This Month
Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York
After six weeks house sitting for Kristin and Take and caring for Stinky the cat, it was hard to say goodbye!
Stinky was an adorable kitty that was the epitome of an old man! He’d earned his name from the ‘stink eye’ he always seemed to give his owners (and us!). He knew exactly what he wanted, which most often was a cool place to sleep, food, or to cuddle with us.
We’re incredibly grateful for the warm welcome and incredible generosity we experienced. Not to mention, six weeks just a few blocks from the beach in New York City!
Long Island City, Queens, New York
The second half of July took us to a house sitting job in Long Island City, Queens, New York to care for Daikon, an adorable dog!
We arranged with the homeowners, James and Shelley, to spend a few hours with Daikon a couple of weeks before they left for vacation. We agreed this would be a good idea for two reasons:
First, James and Shelley would be leaving very early the morning of their trip. So, to meet them and Daikon, and to get a walk through of their home and the responsibilities, we’d need to meet them in advance.
Second, Daikon is a rescue dog, so it was important that he met us with his owners still around to minimize his anxiety and fear.
Luckily, Daikon seemed to warm up to us very quickly!
Our time caring for this little guy was great. He was absolutely adorable and certainly loved his belly rubs. We must mention that he by far holds the record, among all dogs we’ve house sat, for his ability to hold eye contact with us when waiting for permission to eat.
Just look at his doe-eyes, how you can you resist this little guy?!
Interesting fact: Daikon is named after a Japanese radish.
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
Seven months into the year and we’re hovering around the $500 a month range (on average).
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 post 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!
What can we say? Another great month as we start to ‘settle’ in to life in New York City. It’s an absolutely amazing experience to life hack our budget and expenses. Not to mention we get to live in so many different neighborhoods!