August 2019 Budget & Expenses | Digital Nomads Pursuing Financial Independence, Retire Early (FI/RE)
We’re incredibly fortunate to be digital nomads who house sit full time in New York City (one of the most expensive cities in the world) and still pursue financial independence, retire early (FI/RE). We’re able to do so by keeping our budget tight and our expenses trim.
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. 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: August 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 August 2019
Paying Taxes… With a Credit Card
When employed by a company, you have the option of having your state and federal taxes withheld from your pay check. If you’re working independently the burden is on the individual to pay their taxes.
Best practice is to pay installments of taxes quarterly to the state and federal government to avoid any penalties, fees, or interest charges for owing more than $1,000 at the end of the year.
As digital nomads, we find ourselves in this situation. Last year we were penalized for not having paid the state throughout the year and owing too much when we did our taxes for 2018. We learned our lesson and are making payments to both the state and the federal government through out the year.
The good news is that we can pay our taxes with a credit card. This is a great travel hack to meet minimum spends on credit cards and earn those huge signup bonuses!
We took advantage of a minimum spend requirement on our new IHG credit card by paying a tax payment with it.
Between everyday spend and paying taxes, we met our minimum spend and are now simply waiting for the statement to close so that we can receive our points. By our calculations, a $24 fee for 120,000 IHG Reward points is well worth it!
VPN Subscription for Secure Web Browsing
This month we renewed and paid for our VPN service, Private Internet Access (PIA). For secure web browsing, when we’re on a public network, we always enable a VPN.
We, well really Sergio, is always keeping his eye out for the best VPN service and PIA continues to be our go to because it’s consistently rated as the best year after year. It allows multiple connections (five), offers a global presence of over 3,000 servers, has gateways in dozens of countries (30+), and has a strict ‘zero log’ policy.
This past April, when the motherboard in Shannon’s computer stopped working without warning, we learned a very important lesson. We’re not usually advocates for purchasing extended warranties, but it seems warranted due to our lifestyle. As digital nomads our livelihood depends on having a working computer wherever we happen to be.
Our computer needs are unique because we’re consultants who travel out of one bag and need to minimize weight and volume in our backpack. It’s not unheard for us to run virtual machines, do video and photo editing, and undertake extensive multi-tasking. Therefore, we looked for the best value when it came to cost, features, performance, upgradeability, and weight in a laptop.
All things considered, we ultimately chose the Lenovo ThinkPad Ts series as our laptop of choice. And, we were incredibly fortunate that Lenovo allows customers to purchase a warranty after the fact (a post warranty)!
Additionally, we’ll also get coverage of plastics (external case and cosmetics). We never would’ve considered this before traveling full time, but we put our laptops through a lot (4 continents, 26 countries, ~80 cities, countless flights and trains, lounges, coffee shops, hotels, etc.).
So, that backstory leads us to our $249 business expense this month. Sergio’s laptop was reaching the end of the time frame in which we could purchase a warranty after the fact. As to not miss the window and end up in an even worse situation than Shannon’s dead motherboard in April, we purchased a warranty for his tried and true laptop.
Notable Savings in August, 2019
One of the personal care items that’s hard to avoid is haircuts. It’s not hard to walk into a salon and spend $30+ on men’s haircut and $50-75+ on a woman’s haircut, especially in New York City.
Over the years we’ve found ways to save on haircuts, even when traveling full time and internationally.
This month we took full advantage of having a house sitting job near the Parisien Beauty School in Long Island City, Queens, New York. In fact, the school had a new barber program and Sergio scored a free cut and fade!
Shannon didn’t get a free cut but a $10 female haircut is nothing to sneeze at. We were both very happy with the results!
Lodging - Airbnb Gift Card 50% Off
We took full advantage of the deal and purchased a $60 Airbnb gift card for only $30!
Being that we use Airbnb to fill in our lodging needs between house sits, we’ll gladly take 50% off!
Birthday Fun - Sightseeing and Hotel in Manhattan
We celebrated Shannon’s birthday this month with a stay at the tallest hotel in North America, Marriott’s Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Times Square!
And, since we have a Marriott Bonvoy credit card that gifts us an annual free night certificate at any Marriott property (category 1-5), our stay was free (plus $5.50 in taxes, which landed on our June budget)!
We projected that the taxes would be well worth the stay and that our Platinum elite status with Marriott would get us a few extra perks. Our projections were correct…
We enjoyed amazing views of the city and Times Square from the 64th floor (one floor from the highest floor) and while the room wasn’t huge (it’s NYC after all), it came with a well equipped kitchenette.
We checked in early on Friday and spent the day exploring the city. To Shannon’s delight, Sergio had planned an itinerary full of surprises! Classic New York City food, a juggling lesson in Bryant Park, and famous must see attractions.
Where We’ve Traveled to This Month
The beginning of August was the end of our house sitting job caring for Daikon in Long Island City, Queens, New York. Before our next house sitting job, we found ourselves with a two night gap where we needed to find a place to stay.
Airbnb to the rescue! We booked two nights at an Airbnb with a private room and en suite restroom.
Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, New York
It’s always sad to say goodbye to a pet we’ve cared for, however it does mean we get to meet a new pet. Or in this case two!
We excitedly made our way to Brooklyn Heights this month to care for twin cats, Toretto and Hobbs (Fast & Furious anyone?!). These guys were super curious about absolutely everything, very playful, and also cuddly. We definitely bonded with these boys!
It can’t go without being mentioned, the view in this apartment is spectacular. Every time we looked out the windows or were on the balcony, we were in awe! Plus, the neighborhood was great and we were steps from a subway stop and a few blocks from the well-known DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood.
A huge thanks to Barry who graciously invited us into his home and gave us the chance to have such a wonderful house sit!
Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan, New York
After a couple nights at an Airbnb in Brooklyn, post our house sit with Toretto and Hobbs, we made our way to Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan.
Exiting the Subway and being right in the middle of Columbus Circle and steps from Central Park definitely put into perspective of how great the location of this house sit was. Ten minutes in either direction and we were at Times Square, Central Park, or the water front.
To top off the location, we also had gracious homeowners and an adorable Jack Russell Terrier, Buddy. Every pet we take care of has their own unique personality, and Buddy certainly had his!
He got excited every time we turned on the TV and barked to protect us from the ‘bad guys’ on screen. He also had a mission to take down coffee grinders, Roombas, and anything that beeped (the A/C and microwave in particular). We got several laughs and really enjoyed our time with this little guy!
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
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!
It’s always interesting how a month with a large incidental expenditure, like $249 for a laptop warranty can make it feel like we increased our normal monthly budget considerably. Because our budget is so lean a purchase of $249 increases our budget by over 50%!
Ultimately, keeping such a lean budget allows for us to not sweat the occasional large expense.