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May 2014 Finance Report

Bem-vindo o’ legendary email subscriber. This is my May finance report, as prepared from my apartment (aka Casa Gringo) in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

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. Keep in mind that I started off the month in Bolivia, and then spent a few weeks in Brazil looking for an apartment before finally moving into a place on the 23rd. Diving in…

May Expenses

Food and Drink

Eating out € 186 $ 253
Groceries € 149 $ 203
Total € 335
$ 456

Up from the €288/$399 I spent in April, and not surprising since I spent most of the month in Brazil, which is a lot more expensive than Bolivia and Peru. Luckily I had access to a kitchen in most of the places I was staying, so I was able to do my own cooking and save some money that way.

Housing and Utilities

Rent at Casa Gringo in Belo Horizonte (1 month) € 497 $ 677
Deposit for Casa Gringo € 111 $ 151
Rent at friend’s apartment in Belo Horizonte (1 week) € 83 $ 113
6 nights at Samba Rooms Hostel, Belo Horizonte € 81 $ 110
3 nights at Ocean Hotel Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro € 50 $ 68
1 night at Jadanga Hostel, Santa Cruz € 10 $ 14
1 night at El Misti Hostel, Rio de Janeiro € 10 $ 13
1 day at Wild Rover Hostel, La Paz € 2 $ 3
Deposit for 1 night at Hostel Vitoria Regia, Campo Grande (never stayed there) € 2 $ 3
Total € 845 $ 1,152

Way up from last month’s total of €157/$218. I was staying in very cheap accommodation in Peru, but here in Brazil the prices are high, especially with the World Cup around the corner. We managed to get the apartment here in Belo Horizonte for less than 50% of the listed price, and we’re paying month-to-month instead of everything up front, but it’s still quite expensive.


Corumba-Rio de Janeiro buses € 111 $ 152
Rio de Janeiro-Belo Horizonte bus € 26 $ 36
Santa Cruz-Puerto Suarez bus € 10 $ 14
Taxis in Santa Cruz € 9 $ 12
Taxis in Belo Horizonte € 6 $ 8
Taxi in Rio de Janeiro € 5 $ 7
Local bus in Belo Horizonte € 4 $ 6
Taxi from Bolivian border to Corumba € 2 $ 3
Taxi from Quijarro to Brazilian border € 2 $ 2
Taxi in La Paz € 2 $ 2
Local bus in Rio de Janeiro € 1 $ 1
Taxi in Uyuni € 1 $ 1
Bus station tax in Santa Cruz € 1 $ 1
Bus station tax in La Paz € 1 $ 1
Total € 180 $ 246

About half of the €353/$490 I spent on travel in April. The Corumba to Rio trip took two buses and about thirty hours, hence the high price. Once I had that out of the way the rest of the month was pretty cheap for travel.

Business Expenses

The Foundation € 439 $ 599
Web design outsourcing € 136 $ 185
SaaS research outsourcing € 73 $ 100
AWeber email marketing € 22 $ 30
Elance € 11 $ 15
Thesis WordPress plugin € 4 $ 6
Amazon Web Services (ebizfacts.com CDN) € 1 $ 1
Total € 687 $ 936

Up from the €553/$767 I spent on business last month. Notes…

The Foundation
This is an online course teaching people how to build a software business. The $599 payment in May was the last of a half-dozen over a six month period, so a total investment of $3,594. I’ve received criticism for investing so much money in a training course and that criticism is somewhat justified since I have no tangible results to show for it just yet. Now that I’m settled in Brazil, I’m putting in consistent time and effort to make use of what I’ve learned so far. Hopefully by August I’ll have something to show for it.

Gifts and Donations

Total € 0 $ 0

Down from €8/$11 last month, and way short of my goal to donate 15% of my income each month. I’ve been holding back on the donations for several months now. In 2013 gave away $7,000 and ended up minus about that much for the year. While I’ll still try to hit that 15% mark overall this year, I won’t be selling myself short to do it.


Total € 0 $ 0

Down from €7/$10 last month. I haven’t been reading very much since I got off the cargo ship in March. The past two years I’ve read a book a week on average, but I’ve decided not to put pressure on myself to do that again this year.

Miscellaneous Expenses

Uyuni hospital bill € 472 $ 643
Brazilian SIM card and phone service package (1 month) € 23 $ 32
AnkiMobile app € 20 $ 27
Nightclub entry fees in Belo Horizonte € 20 $ 27
Electric shaver € 17 $ 23
Chase credit card foreign transaction fees € 15 $ 20
Laundry € 15 $ 20
Malaria tablets € 10 $ 14
Cover charges for samba parties in Belo Horizonte € 7 $ 9
Toiletries € 6 $ 8
Nightclub entry fee in Santa Cruz € 5 $ 7
Telephone cable and connector (for router in apartment) € 4 $ 5
CPF Number (Brazilian ID number) € 2 $ 2
Postcard and stamp € 1 $ 2
Printing insurance documents € 1 $ 1
Total € 616 $ 840

Way up from the €63/$87 I spent on miscellaneous in April. That hospital bill was a killer (you’d think it would be cheaper in Bolivia), but luckily my insurance will reimburse me for most of it.

Expense Summary

Food and Drink € 335 $ 456
Housing and Utilities € 845 $ 1,152
Travel € 180 $ 246
Business Expenses € 687 $ 936
Gifts and Donations € 0 $ 0
Books € 0 $ 0
Miscellaneous expenses € 616 $ 840
Total Expenses € 2,663 $ 3,630

Up quite a bit from April’s expense total of €1,429/$1,982.

Biggest regret?
My three biggest expenses last month were the hospital bill, the final payment for The Foundation, and a month’s rent for the apartment here in Belo Horizonte. But I feel fine about all those expenses. What I most regret spending money on last month is the entry to those nightclubs in Santa Cruz and Belo Horizonte ($34 total). I remember going to a nightclub in Peru back in April, hating it, and vowing never to go to another one. And yet I went to three more in May. Each time I wondered why the hell I let myself do it again.

May Income

Away from the minuses and on to the pluses…

Freelance web design € 1,157 $ 1,578
Book sales: The Cargo Ship Diaries € 58 $ 79
Reader donations (muchas gracias!) € 28 $ 38
Amazon book royalties € 26 $ 35
Total Income € 1,269 $ 1,730

Less than half the €3,045/$4,223 I pulled in last month. A good chunk of my April income was thanks to kind DtR readers who sent me donations. Thank you all again for that.

In May I was kept quite busy with freelance projects carried over from April. Some of them I’m still working on and should receive final payments in June. It fast became apparent last month though that, in my desperation to land a few gigs back in April, I sold myself short on price. As a result, I found myself feeling way underpaid on several projects.

But hey, that’s how it goes. First you take what you can get, then you get super busy, and then you raise your rates. I’m right at the raising-my-rates stage now, as I’m working around the clock and can’t justify taking on more projects unless they pay well (i.e. at least $60 an hour).

Where that leaves me

I had €3,061/$4,244 to my name at the end of April. After applying the most recent exchange rates (I have accounts in EUR, HKD and USD), those totals shifted a little to €3,114/$4,246. Taking into account all my May income and expenditure, my total bank and cash balances now work out to €1,642/$2,239.

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

  • €891/$1,202 in January
  • €550/$759 in February
  • €1,105/$1,525 in March
  • €1,616/$2,241 in April
  • €1,394/$1,900 in May
  • €2,324/$3,145 overall

Outlook for June

I’m expecting my expenditure to be lower and my income to be higher. I’m planning to work a lot and aside from another rent payment I don’t have any big expenses due. Having settled in an apartment I can get into a good routine and have solid work days without distractions. I’ll also be getting my insurance payout this month.

In short, I’ll be very disappointed with myself if I don’t finish at least $1k in the green.

Feedback welcome

Thoughts? Questions? Speak up in the comments below.

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    1. Objectively, nothing. Many people enjoy nightclubs, and more power to them.

      But personally, I’ve found that I rarely enjoy the experience of a nightclub. It’s difficult to talk to people, it’s overly image-conscious, it’s expensive, and it’s often hot and crowded. I’m also more of a morning person, so I’m not a huge fan of staying out late.

      About the only thing I enjoy about going to a nightclub is letting loose on the dance floor, but after a half hour of that I’m pretty much done.

  1. Hello Niall, Thank you for sharing so much detail. Best of luck to you for getting into the Black (or Green). Lots of good things usually come out of challenges.

  2. Hi Niall, I enjoyed reading your finance report. I hope you get your insurance money soon from your stay in hospital. I know what you mean about the cost of a 30 hour bus journey. In 2012 I went to Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Uruguay. I found the bus fares very high in South America. I needed two of them or three if I didn’t want my daughter on my back. Rio is a lovely city though it was pricey beyond belief. I don’t go to nightclubs anymore since they are the same all around the world. Good luck with your finances in June.

  3. the idea of a report it´s cool, helps to keep track of everything. I also have the same regret sometimes…going out and spending money in bars or clubs. As long as you don´t over do it, I think its fine. Plus, its part of getting to know the culture, don´t you think? Happy travels!

    1. Thanks, Deborah.

      In my experience, nightclubs aren’t much different the world over. Going to a house party, a local fair, or a street party… now those are interesting cultural experiences that I’d never regret. Much better than a nightclub.

  4. Good luck and courage for this month’s hard work ahead, don’t forget to let off some steam and enjoy some World Cup celebrations!

  5. Why did you end up in the hospital, Niall? How long did you end up staying?

    Also, when does access to The Foundation disappear? Do you think it’s going to work out?

    1. Hey Radhika,

      I got really bad altitude sickness while in Bolivia and spent a day in the hospital. After that I was fine.

      Apparently I’ll have access to The Foundation materials indefinitely. They don’t shut people out after the six months of payments are done.

      Will it work out? I don’t know. I’m still hopeful. I really haven’t put forth the sustained effort yet to say that it’s good or bad. The process they teach still seems really smart to me, and the material is solid. I just need to implement and see what happens.

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