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December 2011 Finance Report

Szervusz to all you legendary email subscribers.

Welcome to my December finance report. This one makes it a full year since I started tracking everything I earn and spend, and I plan to post a full financial summary of my 2011 on the blog in a few days time so you can see how I did overall. For here and now though, let’s dive into the details of what was easily my best month of the year.

Finishing strong, aw yeah!

December Expenses

Food and Drink

Groceries € 232
Pubs, Coffee Shops, Restaurants, Take-aways € 114
Total € 346

Up a little from €320 in November. I was living at a friend’s apartment for most of the month and so cooked up a lot of my own meals. Eating out is pretty cheap here in Budapest though, so I’ve had little hesitation to do that when convenient.

Housing and Utilities

Three nights at the Loft Hostel, Budapest € 47
Total € 47

Down from €95 last month. Huge thanks to my buddy Mark for hosting me at his apartment in Budapest. That saved me a good chunk.

If you’re ever in need of some legendary SEO work done, no better crowd than Mark’s company, HigherClick.


Indian visa fee € 63
Iranian visa fee € 61
Vaccinations € 43
Budapest Metro tickets € 39
Taxi in Budapest € 7
Postage for visa stuff € 6
Passport/visa photos € 4
Total € 223

This was €328 in November, so down a good bit. As you can see from the above, I didn’t actually travel a whole lot. Most of the expenses are related to my upcoming dash to India. Still working on getting a visa for Pakistan.

Business Expenses

WooThemes Developer Club € 93
AWeber email marketing (3-month subscription) € 46
USB stick (lost my old one) € 24
MS Remote Desktop (monthly subscription) € 15
Ecwid shopping cart (for $50 Blogs, monthly subscription) € 13
My Ecover Maker € 3
Socialoomph.com (monthly subscription) € 3
Internet usage at library in Budapest € 2
Total € 199

Up quite a lot from the €49 I spent here in November. Some notes…

WooThemes Developer Club
Here’s a tip for any budding web designers out there: Never build a website from scratch. It’s like trying to reinvent the wheel. I build pretty much all my websites with WordPress nowadays, and sometimes invest in a premium theme to save me even more time getting things looking and working as needed. When it came to redesigning this site last month, I invested in a subscription to WooThemes, easily one of the best theme shops out there. I started with their Headlines theme and spent some time customizing it until I got what you see now.

MS Remote Desktop
I originally signed up for this so I could run some Windows software that I had purchased, but it’s proving more useful these days for checking how the websites I build display in Internet Explorer. Since the company running this service is based in NYC, it also means I have access to a machine with a US IP address, which comes in handy every now and then 😉

This is working out pretty good. Check the August site progress report for more details.

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.

Miscellaneous Expenses

Hungarian bath house admission (so good) € 13
Walking tour of Budapest € 10
Phone credit € 10
Book: Uncertainty € 10
Book: God Is Not Great € 9
AIB quarterly banking fee € 8
Ice skating € 8
LoMásTV monthly subscription € 8
Toiletries € 7
Laundry detergent € 5
Subscription to Raam Dev’s Journal € 5
Louis CK video (love that guy) € 4
Light bulb € 2
Printing € 2
Postcard and stamp for the grandma € 2
Donation to some homeless dudes € 2
Club cloakroom € 1
Club toilet € 1
Love Drop subscription € 1
Total € 108

Way down from the €270 I spent on miscellaneous bits and pieces in November.

Expense Summary

Food and Drink € 346
Housing and Utilities € 47
Travel € 223
Business Expenses € 199
Miscellaneous expenses € 108
Total Expenses € 923

Nice! I was able to keep my expenses to triple figures in December. Last month I went a little over the 1k mark, spending €1062.

December Income

Away from the minuses and on to the pluses…

Freelance web design € 698
$50 Blogs € 413
A Course In Courage € 160
Donations (muchas gracias!) € 136
Unique Article Wizard affiliate payment € 83
Total Income € 1,490

December was a very busy work month for me, but it all paid off in the end. I did actually earn more back in February, but I’m calling December my best income month of 2011 because the money rolled in from lots of different sources, so I didn’t have to rely on one high-paying project.

Diversification, tis nice.

As you can see, quite a lot of my income came from freelance work. How am I finding my clients? For the most part, they’ve actually been finding me. I’ve been lucky enough to get some nice referrals and haven’t had to go chasing folks. I was pitching for jobs quite a lot on oDesk a few weeks back, but all that effort only led to one paying gig.

Where that leaves me

I had €3,193 to my name at the end of November. After applying the most recent exchange rates (I have accounts in both Dollars and Euros), that had increased to €3,299. Taking into account all my December expenses and earnings, my total bank and cash balances now work out to €3,864.

A quick summary of how I did month-by-month in 2011:

  • €1,173 in January
  • €292 in February
  • €741 in March
  • €22 in April
  • €672 in May
  • €872 in June
  • €449 in July
  • €1,070 in August
  • €629 in September
  • €513 in October
  • €81 in November
  • €567 in December

Yup, December was the first month all year that I actually earned more than I spent. Better late than never, right 😉

Outlook for January

I feel I’m getting into a good rhythm with the freelance work. The more clients I work with and deliver for, the more referrals I seem to be getting. Actually, things are going so well that I find myself on the brink of having too many clients to handle. All that work contributed to me spending an average of 59 hours per week in front of my laptop in December.

Yeah. Hardly ideal.

To try free up a bit more of my time so I can, you know, go outside and stuff… I’ve just raised my freelance rate from $30 per hour to $45 per hour (which is actually still quite low compared to the rates some of my web designer friends are charging). Hopefully this change will help me earn €1k or more in January while spending less than 50 hours per week in front of my laptop.

As an extra incentive for me to work less, I’m on the hook to pay a $40 penalty to my Mastermind group every fortnight if I go over 50 computer hours per week. I’m using RescueTime for tracking.

As regards expenses, I haven’t been very frugal to start the new year. I’m staying at a hostel now and eating out quite a bit more, so that all adds up. Plus, I hope to hit the road again soon and at least make it to Turkey before the end of January, so that will require some spending. Might be tough to keep under that €1k mark for a second consecutive month.

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. Josh Lipovetsky

    OH YEAH! Niall puttin’ in WORK! 59 hours per week sounds like torture to me. And a chance to have bad posture. Good thing you got the handstands going. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing these reports, and congrats on being in the green!!!

  2. Wooohoooo! Great work! Congrats!

    Good luck on your Pakistani visa. I hope it will work out for you… 🙂

    From now of expences on travels will go down… one day you’ll be a rich guy 🙂

  3. Woooh!!! Yeah Niall, that green’s looks sooo sexy!! Glad you’re finally making it happen. I love that you post these updates.

    Good luck with the travels and I hope you can keep the money steadily increasing with the hours steadily decreasing. Digging the new layout by the way. 🙂

  4. Niall, I echo Jen’s congratulations – so glad to hear that your work has resulted in greater momentum for you 🙂 It’s encouraging to hear from another entrepreneur who’s building up their business – I appreciate the openness with which you share. Thanks again!

  5. Finally in the green! Self-employment is a ridiculous grind that takes tremendous sacrifice in the short-term but is well worth it in the long-term.

  6. Nice man! Keep it up amigo! This shit is inspiring. Keep in mind you are doing all this AND traveling the world at your leisure. Many would be happy to break even to do the same 😉 Keep going, keep going !

  7. Hey Niall, I’ve always followed these monthly updates with great interest and have been rooting for you. Congratulations to you for all the hard work you’ve been putting in which is paying off. I really love that you are so honest and open about sharing the financial part of your journey. Again congrats!

  8. Congrats Niall! I was really anxious to see this month’s report to see how you were doing. It’s great to follow your journey, and I am happy for you now that you are in the black. Keep it up!

  9. Alejandro Reyes

    It’s awesome to see everything is working right for you Niall, I think I will follow your example and start tracking everything. Somehow it feels like I could have more idea of what’s going on with my money now that I left my 9-to-5.
    Thanks man!

    1. I highly recommend the tracking. It makes you so much more conscious of your finances. And if you publish everything online, you find yourself thinking twice about buying some things. I try hard to avoid throwing away money on something stupid, since I know I’ll have to admit it to lots of people later!

  10. Congrats on going in the green, and thank goodness you have raised your rates. About time, my friend! 🙂

    I think 2012 is definitely your year. Enjoy reading about it!

  11. Great information. It’s the first time Ive looked at your financial report. It inspires us to try and keep a track of ours this month. I’d like to see where the money comes from and goes to.
    Congratulations on getting into green territory ! Kate

  12. Congrats on being in the green! That’s wonderful.

    And yes on the web design don’t-build-from-scratch – except some clients of mine insist on it! But they pay accordingly.

    I just started doing web design full-time (as opposed to on the side for a few years) and I recently landed 2 full-paying jobs, one of which is big. I used to do either free or low-paying to start and have been too busy to even work on my own site and blog! But that’s a good thing and it’s all from networking and referrals – so I’m happy to read that you’re getting work that way, too. It beats trying to compete against everyone else online.

    Glad to see you bumping up your hourly rate, as well. $30 was cheap, $45 is low, so there’s room to go higher eventually.

    1. Thanks, Johan! Glad to hear you’re getting plenty of work, too 🙂

      I’ll let demand drive my pricing. If I still find myself too busy at $45 per hour, I’ll raise my rates again. Ideally I’d like to be down at about 35 hours per week total computer time. In theory, at $45 per hour, all I need is to work 10 hours per week and I’ll easily cover my expenses every month.

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