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July 2013 Finance Report

Nín hǎo to all you legendary email subscribers. Welcome to my July finance report, as prepared from a lower bunk at a hostel in Hong Kong.

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 better in some shape or form.

Paid in Kindness

Thanks to…

  • Oh for recommending a nearby print shop so I could get my Chinese visa stuff printed.
  • Johann for lending me a slack line, and for the great Parkour training.
  • Andrew for recommending I hold my iPhone up against a wall when recording my videos, to help prevent shake. So simple, so effective!
  • Dean, Mitch, Kai and Spyros for the legendary masterminding.
  • Matt and Jack for some excellent sprint training. Also gotta thank Matt for some excellent training in real-world combat techniques. Subscribe to his YouTube channel for lots of practical health and fitness tips.
  • All the people on the BKK Expats Facebook group. They’ve helped me out quite a bit with several requests.
  • A couple of cool people who kept me company at the Chinese visa place, was waiting in line for way too long!
  • Elderly gent at my apartment building in Bangkok who held the front door open for me one fine evening.
  • Mike at the J.C. for buying my old laptop with no hassles or haggles, and for gifting me a pen 🙂
  • Steve S for the immense amount of Thai business knowledge he dropped on me at The Royal Oak.
  • Rob N for recommending Harry Cloudfoot’s blog to me. Got some great rock climbing tips on there.
  • Kitty, Julien and Tanai for hooking me up with business contacts in Bangkok.
  • Andre P for coming to meet me in On Nut and telling me all about doing business in Thailand.
  • Emmett Cooke for gifting me a copy of The Lean Startup 🙂
  • Tom for meeting up with me in Bangkok for some good chat.
  • Terry for meeting up with me for coffee and dropping a ridiculous amount of knowledge about Thai business culture.
  • David and his Spanish buddy at the rock climbing gym, who showed me a few tricks for improving my skills on the wall.
  • British chap Jay, who attended a first aid course with me in Bangkok and treated myself and another participant to lunch.
  • Carlo and Florence for treating myself and Johnny to a meal and drinks in Bangkok. Great seeing more Irish people taking the leap and embarking on the travel lifestyle.
  • Jeff for meeting up with me for coffee on a Thursday afternoon and dropping a ridiculous amount of business and culture knowledge about Thailand.
  • Chris for sparing time to meet for coffee and chat about his experience living in Thailand.
  • The Tharakiree Hotel in Khao Yai, for letting us check out three hours late 🙂
  • Owen B for the thoughtful email exchange and book recommendation.
  • Tina for taking the time to do a little Toastmasters research project on my behalf and send me the results.
  • Uli from Germany, who I met one day at the rock climbing wall. He gave me some great tips on technique and training.
  • My aunt Mary for the heads up on the Irish Blog Awards, and everyone who nominated me 🙂
  • Random lady near Ari BTS in Bangkok who helped me find a restaurant.
  • Johnny for the free Elite membership to HotSpot shield.
  • The great people at Second Chance Bangkok, who came and picked up a bunch of stuff I wanted to donate.
  • Kind elderly gent at a bank in Bangkok who was happy to count up all my small change and hand me over some crisp notes.
  • A chap named Raman at the rock climbing gym in Bangkok, offering to belay for me.
  • The two friendly security people at the Bangkok MRT station as I was leaving Bangkok, asking me where I was from and chatting nice for a while.
  • Dude on the train to Nong Khai who offered me the spare seat beside him so I didn’t have to type lying down in my bunk bed.
  • Simon and his sister from Canada, who I met at the Nong Khai train station and proved good company on the way to Vientiane.
  • Nice receptionist lady at the RD Guesthouse in Vientiane who let me shower and store my bag there for the bargain price of 10k lak.
  • Cool people at Sinouk Cafe and the Via Via restaurant in Vientiane who happily changed currency for me.
  • Old dude at the restaurant beside my hotel in Hanoi, who took some pictures of me enjoying my first meal in town. Ditto for the English lady on the bus to Hanoi who snapped similar.
  • Dave, Nikki, Liam, Lauren and the rest of the gang from the 24-hour bus from Vientiane to Hanoi. Definitely helps when you can share a rough journey like that with cool people.
  • Alfred, the Vietnamese chap who made sure we didn’t get scammed at the bus station in Hanoi.
  • Carlo and Catherine, from San Fran and Montreal respectively, who let me sit and chat with them for a good hour my first night in Hanoi. Carlo was also kind enough to set up and snap this pic of me selling bananas in the street.
  • Tang Tang, the Vietnamese lady who was selling those bananas and let me take her place for a while. Poor woman had massive bruises on her shoulders from carrying fruit around all day. Tough life.
  • Spanish couple at my hotel in Hanoi who finished up their brekkie in a hurry so I’d have a place to sit and eat mine.
  • Kitty for all the loveliness 🙂
  • And thanks to everyone who read, commented, and shared my writing during the month of July. You People make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside 🙂

(Note: The risk of listing out such kindnesses is that I may 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 most of the month living in Bangkok, but took one weekend trip in Thailand and traveled overland to Hanoi at the end of the month. Diving in…

July Expenses

Food and Drink

Pubs, Coffee Shops, Restaurants, Take-aways € 452 $ 598
Groceries € 177 $ 234
Total € 629
$ 832

About the same as last month. I usually eat two meals at home each day during the week, grab lunch or dinner at a restaurant, and then go a bit nuts with restaurants at the weekend. That will likely change next month though as eating out in Hong Kong figures to be a bit more expensive.

Housing and Utilities

1 month rent for On Nut apartment € 391 $ 517
Water and electricity bills at On Nut apartment (June + July) € 60 $ 79
2 nights at A Dong Hotel, Hanoi € 25 $ 33
3 nights at Tharakiree Hotel, Khao Yai € 24 $ 32
Apartment cleaning € 17 $ 23
1 hour at RD Guesthouse, Vientiane € 2 $ 2
Telephone charge at On Nut apartment € 2 $ 2
Total € 521 $ 688

Also about the same as I spent last month. That one hour at RD Guesthouse was so I could take a shower and get freshened up, didn’t need to spend the night as my bus to Hanoi was leaving the same day.


1-Month scooter rental in Bangkok € 61 $ 81
Agency fee for Chinese visa € 48 $ 64
Vietnamese visa € 48 $ 64
Laos visa € 26 $ 35
Chinese visa € 26 $ 35
Car fuel € 24 $ 32
Bus: Vientiane to Hanoi € 19 $ 25
Train: Bangkok to Nong Khai € 17 $ 22
Bangkok BTS (skytrain) € 12 $ 16
Khao Yai park entry fee € 10 $ 13
Shuttle train and taxi from Nong Khai to Vientiane € 10 $ 13
Scooter fuel € 9 $ 12
Bangkok taxis € 4 $ 5
Passport photos € 4 $ 5
Bangkok Metro € 2 $ 3
Printing for visa documentation € 2 $ 3
Minibus to Old Quarter in Hanoi € 2 $ 2
Scooter parking € 1 $ 1
Highway tolls € 1 $ 1
Vietnamese border fee € 1 $ 1
Currency exchange fee fee € 1 $ 1
Total € 328 $ 434

Somehow down from last months’ numbers of €442/$575. Visa fees were a killer. No regrets about using the agency to get my Chinese visa though. They ask for much less paperwork than the embassy 🙂

Business Expenses

S6 Personal Assistant € 1,139 $ 1,505
SWB writers € 333 $ 440
SWB Personal Assistant € 95 $ 125
AWeber email marketing € 23 $ 30
SurveyMonkey.com € 18 $ 24
Ecwid shopping cart (for $50 Blogs, monthly subscription) € 14 $ 18
PayPal fees € 11 $ 15
Facebook boost post (for free book promotion) € 8 $ 11
Amazon Web Services (ebizfacts.com CDN) € 3 $ 4
Total € 1,644 $ 2,172

Down a bit from €1,833/$2,385 in June. I’ll tell you more about the S6 and SWB projects further down. Other notes…

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

Donation to The Ethical Volunteer € 650 $ 885
Donation to In Search of Sanuk € 76 $ 100
Total € 726 $ 985

Up from last months’ donation total of €656/$853, but still a little short of the goal to donate 15% of my income each month. So far this year I’ve donated €3,861/$5,103, which works out to 14.3% of my income.

The Ethical Volunteer
This was the first time I donated to The Ethical Volunteer. I watched the video on their Indiegogo fundraising page and was really impressed by what they’re trying to do. There are far too many “voluntourism” organizations out there nowadays trying to profit off people looking to volunteer abroad and doing more harm than good in the communities they claim to help. TEV is aiming to fix that broken system. They’ve only got a couple of days left to raise money for their campaign. Head on over and watch the video and see if you’d like to contribute.

Miscellaneous Expenses

First aid and CPR course in Bangkok € 134 $ 177
Parkour personal training (3 lessons) € 121 $ 160
1-month membership to The Racquet Club gym, Bangkok € 104 $ 138
Cop bribe in Bangkok € 48 $ 64
Phone credit € 42 $ 55
Massages € 26 $ 35
Toiletries € 20 $ 27
MacBook Pro repair € 20 $ 27
Bowling € 10 $ 13
Book: Third Circle Theory € 10 $ 13
Book: The Multi-Orgasmic Man € 9 $ 12
Book: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest € 8 $ 11
Book: You Are Not So Smart € 8 $ 10
Book: “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” € 7 $ 9
Book: 98.6 Degrees € 5 $ 7
Subscription to Raam Dev’s Journal € 5 $ 7
Athletic tape € 5 $ 7
Rock climbing belayer € 5 $ 6
Book: Choose Yourself € 4 $ 5
Leech protector leggings € 4 $ 5
Laundry € 4 $ 5
iTunes movie rental: Despicable Me € 4 $ 5
iTunes movie rental: Side Effects € 4 $ 5
Haircut € 2 $ 3
Printing € 2 $ 2
Notebook € 1 $ 1
Total € 612 $ 808

Up a bit from the €571/$743 I spent on miscellaneous last month. I bought quite a few books for the long trip to Hong Kong. A few other notes…

First aid and CPR course in Bangkok
This was one of my functional fitness goals for the year. Learned quite a lot in the one-day course, and I now have a much better idea of what to do in a medical emergency. If you’re in Bangkok yourself and would like to take the same course, you can find details here. Ask for Steve and tell him Niall sent ya!

Parkour personal training
Also part of my functional fitness training. I was taking twice-weekly classes with Parkour Generations Asia in Bangkok, but to learn how to drop safely from a height of 10 feet, I had to get some personal instruction. My trainer Johann was excellent and had me jumping off a 10-foot height and landing in a roll within three hours of lessons. You can see video of one such jump over on Facebook.

Cop bribe in Bangkok
This sucked. I was pulled over for riding my scooter in a bus lane, which I didn’t realize I was doing. The cop told me I had to go to the police station and pay a 2,000 baht fine, and have my license taken away for a month. I asked if I could just pay the fine there and then, and of course he accepted because what he wanted all along was the bribe. Stupid me never tried to haggle him down on the price though. Being underslept and frustrated after a morning wasted at the Chinese embassy, I just wanted to get the situation over with. A few days later I fixed me up a bribe wallet, which should get me off the hook a lot cheaper next time.

Expense Summary

Food and Drink € 629 $ 832
Housing and Utilities € 521 $ 688
Travel € 328 $ 434
Business Expenses € 1,644 $ 2,172
Gifts and Donations € 726 $ 985
Miscellaneous expenses € 612 $ 808
Total Expenses € 4,460 $ 5,919

Down a little from last month’s totals of €4,664/$5,919.

July Income

Away from the minuses and on to the pluses…

Sigma 6 project € 3,235 $ 4,275
SWB project € 793 $ 1,049
On Nut apartment deposit refund € 563 $ 744
MacBook Pro sale € 242 $ 320
Mysterious deposit in my Irish bank account € 67 $ 89
Scooter deposit refund € 48 $ 64
$50 Blogs € 38 $ 50
Reader donations (muchas gracias!) € 17 $ 23
Amazon book royalties € 17 $ 22
How To Live A Life Of Travel affiliate payment € 8 $ 11
Total Income € 5,028 $ 6,647

Up a bit from last month’s total of €4,538/$5,904, and actually a personal best for income in a single month. I’d never cracked the €5k mark before. Of course not all of that income was “earned”, as big chunks came from the sale of my old laptop and getting some deposits back. But hey, I’ll take what I can get!


Sigma 6 project
I can’t reveal too much about this money-making endeavor. Reason being that it’s a partnership that was offered to me on condition that I don’t go blabbing about the whole thing. All I can say is that it involves selling advertising on travel blogs, and my assistant is handling most of the workload for me nowadays. Taking away the expense of my assistant, the profit here was €2,097/$2,770 for the month of July, down significantly from June’s total of €3,029/$3,941.

SWB project
This is the SEO Writing Business (SWB for short) I’ve been running for a few months now. I set a goal in my last finance report that the business needed to pull in a profit of at least $500 in July, otherwise I’d pull the plug and move onto something else. Well, subtracting expenses from revenue in July I end up with a profit of $484, but the $125 I paid my assistant was for work done in June. Not accounted for above is the $424 I paid her at the start of August for work done in July. So really the profit for July was more like $185, which just doesn’t cut it. My assistant has already wound down the business and I’m now officially moving on. I will say though that I still believe SEO writing is a lucrative business. My experiment was to see if I could set up a system, hire an assistant to do all the day-to-day stuff, and barely do anything myself. Unfortunately, that didn’t work very well. My assistant was great, but I believe the business required a month or two of hard hustling from me to really get it running smooth, and I simply wasn’t willing to invest that much time and effort in it.

Where that leaves me

I had €7,052/$9,174 to my name at the end of June. After applying the most recent exchange rates (I have accounts in both Dollars and Euros), that had decreased slightly to €6,960/$9,199. Taking into account all my July income and expenditure, my total bank and cash balances now work out to €7,499/$9,911.

Here’s how I’m doing so far this year:

  • €1,439/$1,970 in January
  • €1,275/$1,655 in February
  • €262/$337 in March
  • €70/$92 in April
  • €1,762/$2,290 in May
  • €126/$164 in June
  • €568/$728 in July
  • €1,816/$2,380 overall

Outlook for August

Not gonna be a cheap one! I’ve already paid out a good chunk to my assistants and dropped a hefty deposit and payment for a room rental here in Hong Kong. Add to that the money I’ll be spending to take twice-weekly Krav Maga classes in August, plus the general high cost of living here in HK, and the expense outlook ain’t good.

Income-wise, hopefully I’ll be able to at least crack the $4k mark, though I never really can predict how things will go with the Sigma 6 project. I do plan to spend much of August hunched over a desk working my ass off on several new business projects. Maybe all that work will lead to some extra income. At the very least, it should keep me off the expensive streets of Hong Kong.

Feedback welcome

Thoughts? Questions? Speak up in the comments below.

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  1. Hey man,

    Awesome seeing these!
    The functional fitness goals is a cool idea, which ones have you done previously and which ones have you got planned in the future??

    1. Hey Jub,

      I wrote an update about my progress at the start of July, the halfway mark through the year. You can read it here: http://v5.ebizfacts.com/functional-fitness-2/

      Since posting that I’ve completed a first aid and CPR course, clocked a 13.1 time on the 100m sprint, crossed a 3m slackline, and landed safely from a 3+ meter height.

      These couple of months in Hong Kong will hopefully seem me progress steadily at the self-defense stuff.

  2. Interesting as always, and I like that you’re trying to automate processes so that you can scale in the future instead of trying to maximize present income.

    I was surprised to see the 2K baht bribe because that is the sort of cash you need for DUI and sometimes even pot possession – specific area and circumstances depending – so I was scrolling down with curiosity to see what it was in your case.

    As you know, motorbikes are restricted from certain roads and certain lanes on some roads. The rules were set with scooters in mind, but no accommodation is made for “big bikes”. I’ve been pulled over several times for these sorts of infractions and it’s basically 200B bribe… but you never know with these things…

    I’m a big proponent of carrying a “primary” wallet where you don’t have anything important, but you still carry copies of your visa/passport/old ID/etc, as well as enough cash to get you around. It is always good to not flash cash around and it’s not just bribe related.

    Looking forward to your HK write ups. I’ve never been, in part because of the fear of bad value.

    1. Yeah, lesson learned the hard way with that bribe, Vito. If I’d had my bribe wallet ready and had pleaded poverty I’m pretty sure he would have just taken one or two hundred baht and been happy with it.

  3. m.youtube.com/watch?v=I8PLJH6OPHM

    If you get an hour free Watch Clive James in Hong Kong…a funny look at HK before the handover to China…you’ll see how things have changed !
    I know a guy who’s working there ,so let me know if you’re up for meeting sometime…he’s having trouble making friends cause he’s in the office a lot!

    1. Hey Aleks,

      Thanks for the link. I’ll take a look.

      Probably best to direct your friend to this blog so he can see if he’d be interested to meet me. If so, tell him to drop me an email.


  4. It’s been interesting watching your spending reports. Income-wise, I make between 6k and 8k USD per month (I’ve broken the 8k a couple of times, but only if I bust my ass hard), but my spending is a far cry from yours.

    I think a lot of that is because I have a semi-permanent base of operations as opposed to yours where you keep having to spend hefty amounts on apartment deposits. Plus, my personal assistant is a live-in, which means I’m trading him his rent + groceries for the bulk of his monthly salary (on top of the 50% book commissions and 10% contract/brand boot camp/consultation commissions).

    For example, Cris and myself only spend about a total of 850 USD per month for rent + groceries here in Cancun, and maybe another 150 a month in entertainment. We rarely eat out though…I notice your monthly take-away costs are upwards of $800 a month (USD).

    Our total costs never really rise above 1k USD per month; that’s rent + groceries + sundries for the three of us….personal assistant + Cris and myself.

    I wince every time I watch your expenses…your income is good, but my god man….you need to cut down on the costs =P

    Granted, you also have a lot of side projects that are costing you money, but have you ever considered doing some more of the bulk work on your own, or just not interested?

    Also…you really need to get another eBook or two up on your site…you get enough traffic and you could easily be breaking a 1% conversion rate on the new readers (my regular rate for new readers is there) plus a 25% or more rate for your regular readers…so there’s a lot of profit you could make by focusing on your own lifestyle-enhancing books as well.

    Food for thought…always interesting seeing how my peers are spending and earning.

    1. Thanks a mil for that, T.W. Much appreciated.

      Believe me, I wince too at my expenses every month! I will be cooking most of my own food in HK in August so we’ll see how that affects things.

      I wasted a good chunk of money in Bangkok with my last apartment, as I could have found something of similar quality much cheaper. That was a mistake. Here in HK I don’t have much choice with apartments. The place I found is nowhere near as nice as my last apartment in BKK, and I have to share with two people, yet it still costs me more. I just have to swallow that cost though if I want to stay here for a couple of months.

      My biggest expenses are my assistants, but I’m happy with them since they make me good money, without me having to do much of anything.

      You’re right that I could do a lot of the work my assistants do myself. However, it’s not that I don’t want to work, it’s just that I’d rather automate what I can and focus on building new skills and trying new business ideas. This month I will be knuckling down and doing a lot of work myself, but nothing that replaces what my assistants do for me. I’m happy paying them.

      Good point about the ebooks. I am seriously considering turning my Course In Courage into an ebook and selling that. Looking at your site I can see that you’ve done a great job of stacking products that your audience would find valuable. Inspiring stuff.

  5. Hey Niall, good to see you still going strong. Some interesting suggestions here, but I believe that the approach you have taken so far has served you well. I also love the percentage donation idea, and I know that approach will be a HUGE factor in everything working out for you.
    Finally, I have had to start skipping through the paid in kindness section, such is the volume of entries! I’m not complaining, it is brilliant to see so many folks are willing to help another human being!
    Pity we don’t see that kind of thing in the news, rather than crap like who Simon Cowell is involved with.
    Keep the journey going man!
    ps – I don’t watch the news much anymore – too depressing

    1. Hey Stan,

      No worries about skipping through the paid in kindness section. I expect most people do the same. Simply too much in there and of little relevance to people not involved directly.

      All the best!

  6. Hi Niall,

    Do you have any concerns that the Sigma project may one day dry up or be canned? I’m guessing not, seeing as you are not concerned about binning the SEO writers project?

    Or is that you think there are better ways of diversifying than that, hence these new projects you mention?

    By the way, I noticed your other product on Clickbank. It got me thinking that you really could put a lot of effort into this and pay off handsomely. Many newbie product creators are burned out after creating the product but really it’s only the beginning.

    Coincidentally, I’m also working on my latest Clickbank product. I’m going all out to get affiliates for it, something I’ve done in the past with great success (and that really is passive income). I’m actually kinda surprised you are not hiring affiliates right here from your blog/subscribers.

    1. Hey Chris,

      I do think the Sigma 6 project will dry up one day. I’m not overly concerned about it though. I figure I’ve already had a great run with it. If it dries up I’ll simply go back to freelance web design if I have to, or hustle with the SEO writing for a couple of months and get that rolling.

      While it’s still going strong though, I’m going to keep experimenting with lots of different ideas.

      By my product on ClickBank do you mean A Course In Courage? I could put a lot more effort into that, but I’m not convinced it would pay off handsomely, very little evidence to suggest so. Although I may actually turn it into a book later this year. Wouldn’t be much work in that and I think it could help some people. I doubt it would make me a lot of money selling on Amazon though.

      1. Yes, a Course in Courage, that’s the one. I was looking at it and your older blog posts the other day and noticed you changed to Clickbank and also use Wishlist Member.

        There’s a lot of great cross-promotional potential there because fear/anxiety/lack of confidence are a factor in so many different health problems for a starter, seduction niche, any anxiety-related niche.

        I really did well when I approached list owners to promote my products. Simple searches on google like:

        name email subscribe

        and other variations you brainstorm could help you there.

        If you want to know more, just drop me an email.

        I think I’ll actually promote your product to my small list in a week or two…..what you have that the typical product owner doesn’t have is oodles of credibility.

        Whatever you try, hope it works out for you and will be interested to follow your progress this month too.

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