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April 2012 Finance Report

Namaste to all you legendary email subscribers. Welcome to my April finance report, as pieced together from a couple of different coffee shops in Kathmandu.

As usual, I’ll share with you all the details of my finances below, along with a few notes that I think you’ll find interesting.

But before we get to that, let me throw out some of the many kindnesses that came my way last month. All told, they ended up saving me a good chunk of money or just making my life much easier in some shape or form…

Paid in Kindness

  • Early in April I went to Thane (north of Mumbai) to visit the in-laws of a friend of mine from New Orleans. They kindly gave me a place to stay for three nights, treated me to several meals, and drove me around quite a bit.
  • In Mumbai I met up several times with a reader named Michelle. She and her husband Nelson proved to be very cool people. As well as letting me nap one afternoon on their couch and engaging me in great conversations, we also dined together more than once. Almost every time, they insisted on picking up the bill.
  • My friend María hosted me for almost two weeks in Delhi, at a nice apartment with fast wifi. María was actually sharing the apartment with a German lady and two dogs, all of whom made me feel very welcome.
  • Fellow blogger Tia Sparkles, who treated me to coffee and a great chat one afternoon on the outskirts of Delhi.
  • A Nepalese chap named Kokil who I met while booking my trip to Nepal. He gave me lots of good advice about Kathmandu and kept me company on the train from Delhi.
  • A reader named Madhura who drove far out of her way to meet me for a coffee in Delhi.
  • All the folks at my new apartment building, from the landlord who gave me a good deal on the rent, to the ever-pleasant maintenance guy, to the landlord’s son who was very concerned about my bowel troubles.
  • A chap named Sachin who helped me find that apartment and drove me around Kathmandu on his scooter to check out a couple of places.
  • Countless friends online and off who suggested diarrhea remedies. (Funny though how much contradicting advice I got. In the end I went to a clinic here in Kathmandu and got some prescription pills that worked well.)
  • The Kathmandu taxi driver who stopped to treat me to a cup of tea on the way back from Durbar Square. I figured he was going to scam me somehow, but it turned out he was just a genuinely nice chap who wanted to show a foreigner a little Nepalese hospitality.
  • A Scottish lady named Jackie here in the valley, who met up with me for coffee and gave me a lot of good advice about getting settled (she’s lived here for years).
  • Annika, Bryan and Matt for helping me test the paid subscription setup before it went live here on DtR. Thanks as well to Andrew, Avery and David who offered more help if I needed it.
  • All those legendary folks who signed up for paid subscriptions, sent donations, or otherwise supported me and my work last month.

(Note: The risk of listing out such kindnesses is that I may accidentally forget someone who was very kind to me during the previous month. My apologies if you did me a good turn and I haven’t mentioned you above. It’s not that I don’t appreciate your generosity; more likely that I just had a brain fart.)

Okay, let’s move on to the more numerical form of currency. Keep in mind that I spent all my time last month in India and Nepal. Diving in…

April Expenses

Food and Drink

Groceries € 59
Pubs, Coffee Shops, Restaurants, Take-aways € 235
Total € 294

Once again I spent way less than I thought here, given that I eat out most of the time these days. I guess it helped immensely that food in India and Nepal is so cheap. In March I spent €331 here.

Housing and Utilities

Two months rent for apartment in Kathmandu € 812
5 nights at Traveller’s Inn, Mumbai € 62
5 nights at Family Peace House, Kathmandu € 50
Total € 924

Almost twice the €470 I spent on housing in utilities in March. If you read my recent article about negotiating, you’ll know that I felt I got a good deal on my apartment in Kathmandu. The catch though was that I had to pay two months rent upfront. In the long run it saves me money, but it doesn’t do this month’s figures any favors.


5 months of travel insurance from World Nomads € 253
Sleeper train from Mumbai to Delhi € 35
Taxis in Mumbai € 31
30-day tourist visa for Nepal € 30
Bus tour to Agra € 28
Sleeper train from Delhi to Gorakhpur € 19
Taxis in Kathmandu € 12
Overnight bus from Bhairahawa to Kathmandu € 6
Metro tokens in Delhi € 6
Rickshaws in Delhi € 4
Rickshaw to Bhairahawa bus station € 3
Passport photos € 2
Train from Mumbai to Thane € 2
Bus from Thane to Mumbai € 1
Bus from Gorakhpur to Sounali € 1
Total €433

No big cruise this month, so way down from the €1185 I spent on travel in March.

Business Expenses

StudioPress Pro Plus (for $50 Blogs) € 265
Web design outsourcing € 91
WooThemes Developer Club ((for $50 Blogs, monthly subscription) € 15
MS Remote Desktop (monthly subscription) € 15
Ecwid shopping cart (for $50 Blogs, monthly subscription) € 14
AWeber email marketing (extra charge for 500+ subscribers) € 8
Socialoomph.com (monthly subscription) € 3
Total € 411

Way up from last month’s €109. The StudioPress Pro Plus package will pay for itself in the long run, as it’s a once-off fee that will eventually be covered by $50 Blog clients.

The web design outsourcing is payment to a chap who’s helping me with $50 Blogs. I have a pretty solid system set up now for basic orders, so it’s just a matter of forwarding the info on to him and he does the work. Cuts into my profits but saves me a good chunk of time, so it’s worth it.

Also, this is the last month that I’ll be paying for MS Remote Desktop, since it hasn’t been working for me since I hit Asia. I’ll have to find another way to cross-browser test client websites.

A quick note about affiliate links
I link to everything I use so you can go ahead and check out the products and services for yourself. However, I only become an affiliate for products and services that I actually like and am happy to recommend. If you click through and buy something via my affiliate links, it doesn’t cost you anything extra, but I get a percentage of the sale price. Please don’t buy anything unless you have a clear need for it.

Gifts and Donations

Facebook contest: 2 tickets to Zumbaton charity event in Baton Rouge € 22
Donation to charity:water for Ben Spall’s birthday € 18
Facebook contest: 3 copies of Travel Means Freedom € 15
Donation to Zapp family in Mumbai € 12
Total € 67

Down a good bit from €106 last month. Given that many of my other expenses were so high, I wasn’t as proactive as I like to be with donations in April. So once again I fell well short of my goal to donate 10% of my income.

I should also note here that I don’t count obligatory tips as donations. You’ll see a couple of tips listed in miscellaneous expenses down below, but they certainly weren’t given out of generosity, more out of a sense of obligation. I’ll only list in this section gifts and donations which are purely voluntary.

You may remember from my Exhausting India post that I gave a little beggar girl a few rupees at the India Gate in Delhi. That donation doesn’t appear anywhere in this report because it amounted to about 10 cents; not even worth counting.

Just before I left India I started experimenting with carrying around food and offering some to beggars who came up to me. Some would take the food reluctantly, obviously preferring to receive money. Even those folks who gestured hand-to-mouth that they were hungry didn’t appear too impressed when I offered them food. One elderly lady at the Delhi train station actually refused my offer of a snack and walked away in disgust. Have to admit though, it left my conscience feeling much better than before when I was offering them nothing.

Facebook contests
For those of you unaware, I do run occasional contests and giveaways via the Disrupting the Rabblement Facebook page. Make sure you’ve liked the page and you’ll see future contests and giveaways posted on your timeline.

Miscellaneous Expenses

AIB credit card government stamp duty € 30
Chase/Amazon credit card foreign transaction fees € 10
Admission to Agra Fort € 9
Toiletries € 9
Admission to InterNations meet-up in Kathmandu € 8
Admission to Red Fort, Delhi € 8
Book: Rework € 6
Book: Living Within Limits € 6
Subscription to Raam Dev’s Journal € 5
Laundry at Traveller’s Inn € 3
iTunes movie rental: Buck € 3
Nepalese SIM card € 3
Currency exchange fees € 3
Printing € 2
Laundry at Family Peace House € 2
Internet cafe in Thane € 2
Postcard and stamps € 1
Pen € 1
Tip for tour guide in Krishna € 1
Tip for stewards on train from Mumbai to Delhi € 1
Total € 113

Down from €171 last month. I was actually paying for two in some cases above (e.g. admission to Agra Fort), as I was hanging out with my friend María in Delhi. Sometimes I’d buy the tickets and she’d buy the food, and vice versa.

Expense Summary

Food and Drink € 294
Housing and Utilities € 924
Travel € 433
Business Expenses € 411
Gifts and Donations € 67
Miscellaneous expenses € 113
Total Expenses € 2,242

Not much different from the €2,372 I spent in March, and again waaaay above my goal of €1k or less. That means I’ve spent as much in the past two months as I’d hoped to spend in five months. Not good.

April Income

Away from the minuses and on to the pluses…

$50 Blogs € 296
Freelance web design € 266
Reader donations (muchas gracias!) € 150
Disrupting the Rabblement paid subscriptions (yearly) € 80
Disrupting the Rabblement paid subscriptions (monthly) € 65
AWeber affiliate payment € 45
A Course In Courage € 36
Coda-Slider donations € 15
Total Income € 953

Down a good bit from €1,425 in March, and the first time since November that I haven’t cracked the €1k mark for income. Combining that with how much I spent last month, April really was a bit of a disaster for me financially.

I only have myself to blame really, as I did much less freelance web design than usual in April, and that’s usually the most reliable way for me to earn money online. I actually turned down several freelance projects to focus more on my writing and setting up the paid subscription model for this site. Speaking of which…

Disrupting the Rabblement paid subscriptions
I have to be honest: I’ve been pretty disappointed with the initial response to this. I had more than 1,600 folks subscribed to my email list before the switch a couple of weeks ago, and I was hoping that at least 2% of them would opt to become paid subscribers. In fact, after receiving lots of positive comments and emails about the paid subscription idea, I didn’t think it would be too far-fetched to see a 5% conversion rate. But as it turned out, only fourteen people opted to pay. Less than 1%. I actually ended up receiving more money via regular reader donations than via paid subscriptions, which makes me wonder if the latter really is such a good idea.

I’ll keep going with it for now though. It’s still an experiment, and I’ll resist rushing to any conclusions.

Where that leaves me

I had €3,574 to my name at the end of March. After applying the most recent exchange rates (I have accounts in both Dollars and Euros), that had increased slightly to €3,603. Taking into account all my April income and expenditure, my total bank and cash balances now work out to €2,379.

Here’s how I’m doing so far in 2012:

  • €24 in January
  • €554 in February
  • €947 in March
  • €1,289 in April

Outlook for May

It’s obvious now that I was overly optimistic with last month’s outlook, figuring that I wouldn’t spend much while earning a lot. At the risk of looking foolish again, I’ll go ahead and predict similar for May. At least this time I won’t have any rent to pay and I won’t be on the move too much. I probably will venture out of the city for a bit of trekking at some point, but hopefully that won’t break the bank. I’ll also be focused on generating a lot more income in May. I don’t feel comfortable having less than €3k in the bank. At that, all it takes is one big, unforeseen expense (like having to replace my laptop), and I’d be fighting to make ends meet.

Feedback welcome

Let me know your thoughts on these reports. Do you find the info helpful? Would you like more detail? Less? If you’re self-employed yourself, I’d also love to hear about your financial adventures.

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  1. A quick note on cross-browser testing – I’ve been using Browserstack lately and would highly recommend it. It’s $19 a month and you can test on pretty much any browser/OS combination you can think of. And, crucially, you can test on mobile devices, which I’d argue are more important to support for most sites than legacy versions of IE. But that’s another debate 🙂

    Great post, as always.

  2. Nialls,
    Couldn’t you leave the subscription selection in place allow users to determine the best way to donate to you? Some might like monthly payments, while others prefer straight donation model. Either way we can contribute to the good work you do and still allow for easy navigation around the site, by not putting content behind a pay model. For hassle factor I’d like you to give it up, but from a financial point of view you need the subscription model.

    1. I think that’s a good idea Nancy. Maybe Niall should have both options – donation and monthly subscription. Maybe another month or two for testing out the subscription model as maybe new readers may want to subscribe.

    2. I may give folks the option to make a recurring donation (those are much better for me because I know in advance when the money is coming and can plan accordingly), but I’ve definitely changed my mind on the pay wall idea.

      1. I see. Good call man. I think you’re idea to experiment with the paid subscription model was a great idea. I bet you gathered some good data and you certainly got excellent feedback from your readers. I call it a successful 😉

  3. My presence in Wisconsin also creates jobs. Why then am I not exempt from paying any taxes? Niall is not pulling his weight so far IMO. This was fine before he began turning profits but now its time to give back (even if its just his time) from all the subsidized benefits and services he is using.

    1. I’ve been far from turning a profit the past two months (more than €2k in the red). Right or wrong, I find it much harder to donate money those months when I’m spending much more than I’m earning.

      My goal for 2012 is to donate 10% of my total earnings. Next year, I hope to have a higher goal. Year after that, higher again.

      I’m seeking improvement, not perfection. As long as I feel I’m making progress, I’m happy with my contributions.

  4. Hey Niall! It’s been a few posts since I didn’t contribute, I’ve been a little busy planning “the escape”…

    I have to say that when the paid subscription came, and the instructions were given, I thought “too much of a hassle… I’ll just donate and consider it my subscription payment” and then there wasn’t button… 🙁

    So, please bring the Donate button back, you’ll see more activity there 😉
    There might be other folks who prefer the paid subscription, but for me its better to donate every now and then.
    So whenever I feel like “inviting” you over for coffee, I just Donate a few dollars, write a long comment, and that will be our coffee chat.
    Hell, I might want to invite over for a juicy steak (For me, and a nice Falafel for You) and have a longer conversation, so a few more bucks and we’re done.

    Keep being legendary!


  5. Seems to be off-topic, but the night train Mumbai Delhi seemed a bit pricey? On giving to beggars, here in Dharamsala the women with children ask you to buy them supermarket food, they return it later to pocket the cash.

    It’s frustrating knowing what the right thing to do is. (Also, I’m pro donate button!)

    1. I think I would have got that train a lot cheaper if I’d booked in advance. Locals in India seem to book trains months ahead of time.

      I’ve heard of that supermarket scam before, too. Sucks.

  6. Hey everyone. Thanks for all the comments. Lots of great feedback and food for thought there. I really appreciate it.

    All things considered and advised, I’m leaning heavily towards killing the paid subscription model and reverting back to the way things were, but with more opportunities for folks to donate if they so wish.

    As I said in the beginning, this paid subscription dealio was an experiment, and I think I’ve seen enough of it now to conclude that it wasn’t such good idea. At least not for me.

  7. Even though I already donated before the subscription model, I debated with myself whether to still subscribe just to show moral support for what you are accomplishing. I have decided to subscribe, but just haven’t gotten around to it due to life. I still will when I get a chance, but it is a hassle factor. Also I find reading the paid subscription model through email tricky. It took me a while to figure out I needed to click on the blog post header to get to the post. Frustrating. And since I never read from my emails originally, it requires extra steps. Once I do subscribe is there a way to get to the post direcly from the blog? I.e. Login? I know as a grandfathered in subscriber, I have access to the special post. However, I could not figure out how to access the post with out going through the emails.

  8. Hey Niall, I think it’s a good idea to stick with the paid and unpaid model, at least for a few months. There are still the conversions of new readers, so I am interested as to what that will look like.

    Based on Andy Hawkins comment, I’m curious as to how many blogs/websites your average reader is subscribed to.

    Either way, I find a lot of value in your monthly reports and I really enjoy vicariously traveling. Keep up the great work, keep learning, and keep experimenting.

    Remember, success is inevitable my friend. Keep moving forward!

  9. Andy Hawkins

    Hey Niall,

    I think the revenue stream, from this side, seems to flow in one of two direction. In one direction we get to feel good, and in the other we get to feel obligated.

    Part of the issue is also the fact that we suffer from information overload. We find great blogs we subscribe to them and then either right away or after a little while we start ignoring the emails because we get so many of them.

    1. Andy Hawkins

      Ooops, premature postulation moment, hadn’t finished what I was saying.

      I know from experience that there are some blogs I’ve subscribed to that right away hit you with an avalanche of posts and very quickly it gets to the point where I don’t have time to read them and they clutter up my inbox until one day I just start deleting them when they come in. A few months later and I get round to unsubscribing.

      It’s the main reason I changed from daily posts on my poetry site to weekly ones. New subscribers would comment for a while and then stop, presumably because they too were suffering from inbox fatigue.

      Give us the option to feel good again rather than obligated.

  10. Great round up Niall.

    A few thoughts on your subscription model.

    One word. Value.

    What value would your reader get from subscribing?

    Perceived or tangible. But why would one pay?

    If you can answer this question, I think you’d have more subscribers.

    Giving an email address and giving even a dollar are two different mindsets.

    Also, people who are famously following this paid subscribers model (Ev Bogue comes to mind) – how are they doing? What are their numbers? Do we/you know?

    As long as it’s an experiment (everything should be an experiment though), it’s worth finding out what others are doing/have done.

    I wish you alllll the best Niall. Stay safe and God bless 🙂

  11. Hey Niall. I mentioned it a few times in the past but I really think you need to bring back the donate button and place it below each every post of yours *not only email). I think last time you mentioned “don’t want to be greedy” in relation to having it together with the paid subscribers option and I encourage you to explore this belief. I don’t think it serves you in the long run. Let your subscribers/readers decide if they want to contribute with a monthly payment or with a one off payment. in both cases it’s from generosity and appreciation. Cheers! P.S if you make the time I really recommend trekking. might not be productive in relation to your business but it really clears the mind and soul…Namaste

    1. Not that every decision you make is up for a democratic vote, but I second this — “bring back the donate button.”

      Looking at your expenses, what gives you a better feeling: your recurring monthly expenses, or your monthly donations? I imagine your readers feel the same way about their own expenses. I know it felt good when I donated via your donate button and will again when I choose to in the future. I’m in the same boat as Irene too, I am trying to minimize my monthly expenses to the essentials. Whether you’re receiving donations or subscription fees, you’re getting rewarded for what you do. I think one way leaves the reader feeling better than the other.

      Also, one way leaves DtR in the open for more people to join in and follow, the other inhibits it. Hard to tweet or Facebook like a good post that’s restricted.

      Just my thoughts for your consideration.

      Thanks again for the finance report and all you do! Helps the future vagabond in me as I prepare for my own trip:)

  12. You really need to start donating more, especially since you are one of the prime consumers of infrastructure (always subsidized by taxes) yet pay absolutely no income tax. You’re getting a “free” 15-30% head start every month and it would be nice to see you donate at least the bottom end of that figure. Great reading as always – very inspiring!

    1. There are many rebuttals to make here, but I’ll just mention it’s an erroneous assumption that taxes and donations must be indirectly correlated.

      1. Mitch you can be a sponge to society if you like but I prefer to contribute. We should pay a minimum 45% income tax rate if we are educated and capable of making healthy livings.

        Paying 0% of taxes is fine if you contribute to society in other ways. I don’t see how donating less than 7% of your income is a meaningful contribution however. The most greedy Republican with tax shelters in the Caribbean and shady accountants pays more in taxes than 7%.

    2. @ron in WI — Niall’s presence in Nepal, India and all the countries he visits is creating jobs. His decision to visit those countries means that taxi drivers, landlords, restaurant owners and shopkeepers now have work and earned income. Creating jobs is a much more sustainable, empowering form of helping others than giving away handouts.

  13. Hi Naill,

    I just wanted to say that I am one of your more recent subscribers and I have totally missed that you change you donation option to payed subscriptions. Maybe others have missed that too and that is why you have so few that start paying. Let’s hope so anyway;)

  14. really looking forward to seeing how you get on in Nepal, Niall. Don’t worry too much about not having much money to travel with- I’m now in month 5 of travelling while still paying off debt- I have no bank account in the black right now…I’m a few £k off that yet.

    Each and every 2 days though, I sit down, work out what I’ve spent, and make sure I work enough to at least cover those expenses. If I don’t (or can’t), I know I need to get more work on the table.

    Oh also, Diarrhea cure (lol), in Marrakesh, we went to a Berber pharmacy- their natural remedy is 3 tablespoons of cumin, mixed with 3 tablespoons of cardamon, scooped up and eat with water. Sounds disgusting, but it actually seems to work!

  15. Hi Naill,
    Woow, that’s a lot of expenses on the housing! I know it’s for two months, the rent, but still. I wonder if it’s not cheaper to live in a guesthouse for 2 months.

    About the income, I personally rather donate then subscribe. 2 reasons: I am minimalizing my life myself and getting rid of all monthly payments is one thing to do, so why would I add one in the form of your blog? Second reason is that I feel obligated and unfree and if I read an article I don’t really like, I’d feel fucked.

    Maybe it’s a good idea to bring back the donate button?

    And ask yourself why it is making you uncomfortable? Because, this value of money…it’s an illusion, right?

    Good luck! And have a lot of fun in Kathmandu!

    1. Oh about my financial adventures…I’m having a 25h work week for a pretty shitty salary. My expenses are about € 850 a month and my income around € 1100, so that gives me a space of € 250 to save, and free flow having a good time with friends. 🙂

      For now this is perfect, because the 25h workweek give me the time to free flow as well.

      I almost reached my goal of € 10.000 that I want before I go traveling. And I really think it’s some kind of mindset. Don’t take more than you actually and honesty need. And make sure that whatever you spend, you spend it on thing that will enrich your life and spend it with a flow of positive energy and love.


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