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October 2011 Finance Report

Hallo und herzlich willkommen to all you legendary email subscribers.

Welcome to my October finance report, as put together on the banks of the Main here in Frankfurt. 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. This is the first report since I started my round the world trip without flying, so it should give you an idea of how much it costs to travel through Western Europe.

Let’s dive in…

October Expenses

Food and Drink

Groceries € 228
Pubs, Coffee Shops, Restaurants, Take-aways € 197
Total € 425

This is way up from the €289 I spent on food and drink in Ireland the previous month. I wasn’t able to cook much during my two weeks in England, so I ate out quite a bit, and then the food in Amsterdam didn’t prove to be especially cheap either. I’m already looking forward to Eastern Europe and beyond, where I’ll be able to order a large meal in a nice restaurant for the price of a small Dutch coffee.

Housing and Utilities

Three weeks rent for apartment in Amsterdam € 400
Three nights in London hostels € 59
Total € 459

This was €164 last month, when I spent most of my time living rent free with my parents in Ireland. I saved quite a bit on accommodation during my two weeks in England, thanks to legendary people offering to host me as I traveled through. The €400 for the apartment in Amsterdam was also a pretty good deal, as the asking price for the place was €800 a month. In case you missed it, I wrote about my negotiating strategy here.


Train from Durham to London € 69
Train from Liverpool to Durham € 55
Bus from London to Amsterdam € 54
Bus from Amsterdam to Frankfurt € 42
Train from London to Brighton (plus return) € 34
Two-week bike rental in Amsterdam € 30
Trains in London € 18
Buses in London € 10
Taxi in Durham € 6
Amsterdam metro € 6
24-hour locker rental at Amstel station € 4
Bus in Brighton € 3
Parking at Devil’s Dyke (near Brighton) € 2
Total € 333

In September I spent €290 here, most of it on insurance. This past month I spent a lot on actual travel, as you can see above. Lesson I had to learn the hard way: Always buy your bus and train tickets a few days in advance. Works out much cheaper that way.

Business Expenses

MS Remote Desktop (monthly subscription) € 14
Domain renewals € 14
Ecwid shopping cart (for $50 Blogs, monthly subscription) € 13
AWeber email maketing (extra charge for 500+ subscribers) € 7
Socialoomph.com (monthly subscription) € 3
Printing € 1
Total € 52

Way down from the €325 I spent last month. Some notes…

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

SIM cards and phone credit (see note below) € 32
£10 note left in London phone box before heading to Amsterdam € 12
Scarf (twas a little chilly in Amsterdam) € 10
Book: A Guide to the Good Life : The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy € 7
Mouse trap (never caught the crafty fecker) € 6
Padlock (for hostel lockers) € 6
Donation for Couchsurfer tour of Amsterdam € 6
Donations to street performers € 6
Polaroid photo at Couchsurfing party € 4
Pub quiz € 3
Incense € 2
Book: Minimalism: Essential Essays € 2
Bus station toilet in Liverpool (couldn’t hold it) € 1
Love Drop subscription € 1
Total € 98

SIM cards and phone credit

I used to categorize this as a business expense, but I’ve decided to throw it under miscellaneous now since I don’t use my phone for business purposes at all. I bought an English SIM while in England and a Dutch SIM while in Amsterdam. I just pop those into my jailbroken iPhone and can call and text from a local number, which comes in pretty handy. Methinks it’s only worth the investment though if you plan on staying in the same country for at least a week or so.

Expense Summary

Food and Drink € 425
Housing and Utilities € 459
Travel € 333
Business Expenses € 52
Miscellaneous expenses € 98
Total Expenses € 1,367

Up from last month’s expense total of €1,131. My goal is to keep my monthly expenses under €1k, but I expected that the first month or two of my trip would be expensive given the countries I’m traveling through.

October Income

Away from the minuses and on to the pluses…

Freelance web design € 347
$50 Blogs € 278
Donations (muchas gracias!) € 89
Affiliate earnings from Living On Purpose € 78
A Course In Courage € 45
Amazon.com affiliate earnings € 11
Affiliate earnings for Unautomate Your Finances € 6
Total Income € 854

Getting closer to my goal of earning at least €1k per month. October actually saw me crack the $1000 mark, even without counting the donations. So that’s nice.

Where that leaves me

I had €3,717 to my name at the end of September. After applying the most recent exchange rates (I have accounts in both Dollars and Euros), that had decreased to €3,608. Taking into account all my October expenses and earnings, my total bank and cash balances now work out to €3,107.

A quick summary of how I’m doing so far this year:

  • – €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

Outlook for November

So I’m still in search of my first month in the green. November 19th makes it exactly one year since I quit my 9-to-5 job in New Orleans, and I really thought I’d have this whole self-employment thing figured out by now.

Unfortunately that’s not the case, but I’m pretty sure I’m at least headed in the right direction. As mentioned in last month’s report, I’ve started looking for freelance web design work on oDesk, pitching a few jobs there. I haven’t gotten any bites yet, but all it really takes is a couple of big projects to make my month profitable.

Meanwhile, I’m continuing to push on with $50 Blogs. I’ll be getting back into the marketing side of that this month after spending the last few weeks creating content and making various tweaks. Still lots of room for improvement there.

(By the way, if you know any cool people in need of some web design services, send them my way. I work fast, deliver quality, and offer a competitive price. Check some of the site’s I’ve created and testimonials I’ve received for my $50 Blogs service here.)

As for expenses, I expect this month to be tricky, too, as I travel through such countries as Germany and Switzerland. Nearer the end of November though I should be hitting Eastern Europe, which will be a very welcome relief to my bank balance.

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. One quick suggestion. put the donate button on each page. I wanted to donate but I could not find it for at least 3 pages 🙂

    1. D’oh! Great suggestion, Tal. And thanks a mil for the donation! I’ll be redesigning the whol site in time time for the new year, so I’ll be sure to make the donate button easier to find then.

  2. Three ideas:

    1) Charge more for your development services (beyond your $50 blog offer). You can scale your hourly rate by geography, by corporate vs. non-profit vs. individual dev work, by client volume, or whatever. (I’m sure you’ve thought of this, however…but I think the quality of your work warrants exploring it again, perhaps.)

    2) Convert you salable courses and publications to video. You’re presently moving through naturally interesting backdrops, settings, and scenarios to contextualize your teaching.

    3) Put a “Course in Courage” on Amazon.

    4) Increase your advertising spend and/or narrow your target market. (E.g.: what if a “Course in Courage” was re-tooled and re-targeted to the travel market? Then you’d be advertising on travel sites. Or: what if it were for geared toward men attempting to overcome fears related to approaching women? Then maybe you could advertise on dating sites… (Plentyoffish.com is just opening up their advertising platform. It’s an interesting market, and you can specify super well-defined advertising targets…and its cheap.) The guest post stuff you’ve been doing is great…and, obviously, there’s a co-marketing advantage there.

    5) Explore an outbound sales strategy. For instance: in the course of working with existing clients, make it de rigueur in your pipeline or funnel of dev related communications, to solicit leads. Call or e-mail at least 5-new potential clients–cold-calls–per day. My own biz really needs to start doing this, I’ve come to understand. It’s difficult to do that on the road, I’m sure. It’s difficult to do it even while being perfectly at home! Also difficult to do it when you’re the developer AND the salesperson. (As if you didn’t have enough to do, right?) But: I really believe–in addition to offering a worthwhile service–sales are central to the success of any business…even a one-man shop…and so, beyond product development, an active sales effort is central to the business’ growth prior to the exhaustion of any available financial runway. In fact, some people would say: bag the sales even before fully developing a worthwhile service or product to offer in the first place. That would be the principal means of validating the financial viability of your biz. (Insomuch as $50 Blogs is a service that you don’t deliver till it’s paid for, you’ve sort of done that in any case… But maybe you should offer your next course before you’ve even written it?)

    Keep it comin’, Niall! Really great stuff you’re posting.

    1. Really appreciate all those ideas, Sean. I’m hesitant to pour even more time and effort into A Course In Courage, but I’ll definitely be trying out some of those other suggestions. Cheers!

  3. Keep going mate, you’re on the brink!

    Any thoughts of purchasing a push-bike if you’re going to be Europe bound for a while?

    1. Hey Andrew. If I was staying some place for several weeks it might make financial sense to buy a bike and then sell it on again when I leave, Not sure I’ll be in any one place for that long in Europe though.

  4. Keeping track of expenses is something I do not do enough of while traveling. Thanks for inspiring me to take it more seriously, even when I’m not traveling.

  5. Niall, thanks for sharing. It’s great to have an idea of what I may be able to expect in terms of expenses when I hit the road after the first of the year.

    I love following your ventures! Hope all’s well with you.


  6. Hey Niall, great to see this. I think you’re well ahead. If you keep (or increase) your income at these levels you;ll be in the black pretty soon. One question; as you are a toastmaster are you considering attending any meetings on your travels?

    Stay safe man

    ps I loved the war on art.

    1. Hey Stan. I attended a Toastmasters meeting while I was in Brighton. Would love to visit more on the road when the opportunity arises. The club I was in in New Orleans often had visitors from around the world. Pretty cool way of meeting people while traveling.

  7. I have never read your finance reports but I felt curiosity itching this month 🙂 It is very interesting and I bet hugely helpful to those planning on “flying solo” 😉 It also helps me have a better idea of your hard work and all the effort you’re putting into this, its inspiring. Your comments on how you thought that you’d had it all figured it out by now brought this to mind: “The moment you can visualize being free from the things that hold you back, you have indeed begun to set yourself free.” Have a great time Nilo 🙂

  8. Wondering if the National Health covers you in these countries…(hope you won’t need it ) but just curious. Fun to follow you, keep well, have fun. Good luck this month Niall. 🙂

  9. Yes, head east as you say! You’ll be able to live on that $854 once you’re in cheaper places. Hope that happens soon so you’ll keep a nice cushion of your savings.

    1. Hey Robin, thanks for following 🙂

      I could post in US dollars but it would take up a lot of extra time with the conversions and such. If there is a high enough demand for it from readers I’d consider putting in the extra effort.