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September 2012 Finance Report

Swagatam to all you legendary email subscribers. Welcome to my September finance report, as prepared from a cool little 2-room home stay in Kochi, India.

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

  • Syed in Chennai. He brought me to visit Marina Beach and a really cool temple, bought me bus tickets and sugar cane juice, shared a bunch of interesting stories, helped me have a bit of a breakthrough about why I’m not very good at being mentored… Legend of a chap.
  • Everyone I spoke to on the phone and in person who tried to help me out with the whole getting to Sri Lanka without flying thing. Especially the sailing club people, namely Jose, George and Jolly.
  • Porter dude at my hotel in Chennai who helped me solve my mosquito problem (“You just need to close the bathroom door, sir!”).
  • Madhu in Chennai for meeting up with me at a coffee shop for a good, rabble-rousing chat, and for bringing me some local desserty things.
  • Dhiwakar in Chennai for calling me on my bullshit numerous times, picking me up at the bus station, driving me around, recording one of my videos, sharing some great business ideas, helping me contact a heap of shipping companies, inviting me to his home, feeding me lunch, bringing me out for filter coffee… just a great guy.
  • Taxi driver in Chennai who helped me find an Internet early one morning. And all the other millions of people who helped me with directions throughout the month.
  • Indian dude in the bunk below me on the train to Chennai, who was cool with me plugging in my laptop and charging it up.
  • Gaurab on the bus to the Indian border who let me know when I should get off. He added me on Facebook after and sent me a “nice to meet you” message.
  • Connie for being a cool travel companion from Kathmandu to Chennai, filming one of my videos, offering me heaps of snacks, and splitting the cost of accommodation on two occasions.
  • Dude at the reception desk at the hotel I stayed at in Gorakhpur, who let me use the staff computer for a half hour to get some important client work done.
  • My good friend Niraj in Kathmandu for the going away gift and then making sure I got to the bus station and hopped on the right bus out of town.
  • Jen and Marta and the rest of the great team I’m working with on a big web project at the moment.
  • My buddy Spyros for receiving my new Kindle in the US and then mailing it along to Chennai, where a cool Couchsurfer named Prasad received it and made sure it got to me. Prasad also showed me to a nice restaurant for dinner afterwards.
  • Anthony of Man Vs. Clock fame for perking me up something fantastic via a Skype chat when I was having a tough week.
  • All the legendary Couchsurfing folks in Chennai for helping me out with tips for getting to Sri Lanka without flying. I’m also grateful to a bunch of people on Twitter for the same.
  • Gupta, the travela agent in Thamel, for going through another travel agent on my behalf to secure a train ticket to Chennai, without even asking for a commission.
  • My buddy Enwil in Kathmandu, for inviting me to his house for dinner and introducing me to his family. That was really cool.
  • Justin and Dawn for offering to help me out with an Illustrator file for a client. And especially Amit, who’s offer I accepted.
  • Rajeef at the print shop in Thamel who recognized me from my morning runs and gave me eight passport photos for the price of six.
  • The cop at that traffic checkpoint about thirty minutes outside of Pokhara who let me go without checking my non-motorbike license 😉
  • And thanks to everyone who read, commented, and shared my writing during the month of September. You make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

(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 about half the month in Nepal, and the other half in India. Diving in…

September Expenses

Food and Drink

Groceries € 17
Pubs, Coffee Shops, Restaurants, Take-aways € 272
Total € 299

Down from €365 last month. I’ve been using USB Internet instead of working so much from coffee shops and the like, works out much cheaper.

Housing and Utilities

15 days rent for Sunrise Cottage, Kathmandu € 106
Six nights at Hotel Pandian, Chennai € 68
Two nights at the Global Inn, Pokhara € 15
One night at Royal Residency, Gorakhpur € 13
One night at Hotel Chandra Park, Chennai € 11
One night at the Regal Hotel, Chennai € 6
Total € 219

A little up from the €182 I spent on accommodation in August.


Freighter booking (Sri Lanka to Malaysia) € 976
3 months of World Nomads travel insurance € 174
Vaccinations € 145
Train ticket from Gorakhpur to Chennai € 53
3-month Indian visa € 35
1-month Sri Lankan visa € 16
Autos in Chennai € 7
Bus from Kathmandu to the Indian border € 5
Passport photos € 5
Currency exchange fee € 3
Taxis in Kathmandu € 2
Taxi to Gorakhpur train station € 2
Local bus trips in Chennai € 2
Bus from Nepal-India border to Gorakhpur € 1
Total € 1,426

Ouch! Way way way up from the €150 I spent on travel last month. Booking passage aboard that cargo ship from Sri Lanka to Malaysia was the big killer, and as you’ll see further down there were other associated costs that made the whole thing even more expensive.

Business Expenses

GoDaddy web hosting + domain renewals € 161
Project Shwatantra € 61
AWeber email marketing € 61
Web design outsourcing € 47
Tata Photon (USB Internet connection) € 22
Post Affiliate Pro (for $50 Blogs, monthly subscription) € 16
Ecwid shopping cart (for $50 Blogs, monthly subscription) € 14
ProXPN VPN € 8
Internet cafes / wifi charges € 5
Socialoomph.com (monthly subscription) € 3
Total € 398

Up from €268 last month. The GoDaddy payment was for two years, so I won’t have to worry about that again for a while. Needed the VPN software to connect to a site that was blocked in India. Other notes…

Project Shwatantra
This was me teaching a couple of Nepalese guys web design and paying them for helping me out on various projects. The project has officially ended now that I’ve left Nepal, though I’m still outsourcing some work to the guys.

Post Affiliate Pro
This is for the $50 Blogs affiliate program. If you’ve ever got a friend who needs a blog set up, send them my way. I’ll get them up and running good and fast, and you’ll get a 60% cut of whatever your friend pays. Win-win-win. You can sign up for the program here and grab your affiliate link.

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

Donation to One Girl € 100
Project Shwatantra bonuses € 27
Food for street kids in Kathmandu € 3
Tips for porters at Pandian Hotel in Chennai € 1
Total € 131

Down from the €221 I donated last month, but I’m still on track to donate ten percent of my total income this year.

Miscellaneous Expenses

FedEx shipping charges for new Kindle € 106
New Kindle and case € 101
PayPal fees for freighter booking € 71
Fee for international money transfer € 52
Doctor check up € 49
Customs charge for Kindle € 40
Album: The Essential Bob Dylan € 10
Laundry (several loads) € 10
AIB quarterly banking fee € 7
Gym sessions € 7
Printing, scanning, photocopying € 5
Subscription to Raam Dev’s Journal € 5
Chase credit card foreign transaction fee € 5
Book: Amsterdam € 4
Book: Little Princes € 4
Toiletries € 4
Postcard plan for Project Gonzo € 4
Chase credit card payment protector fee € 3
Mobile phone credit € 3
Pants stitching € 3
New socks € 3
Laundry detergent € 1
Sleeping bag rental for trekking € 1
Sleeping pills € 1
Total € 499

Up from €337 in August, which means that, apart from donations, I spent more in every category this month compared to last.

Some notes on the above…

New Kindle
This proved expensive. I broke my old Kindle so I went ahead and ordered a new one from Amazon.com and had it delivered to a friend’s address in the US. He then sent it along to a Couchsurfer in India via FedEx, and I picked it up while in Chennai. Unfortunately, the FedEx charge and the customs fee meant that instead of paying €101 for my Kindle, it ended up costing me €247. Nothing I could really do about the FedEx charge, but I could have avoided the customs fee if I’d thought to tell my buddy in the US to mark the package as a gift. Ah well, I still love my Kindle 🙂

Total cost for that freighter trip
Taking into account the health screening and vaccinations required by the shipping company, PayPal fees for the booking, and the printing/scanning of all the documentation they requested, that freighter trip actually ended up costing me something like €1,150. Yeah, not cheap. And I’ve had to pay extra since the end of September to rebook for a later date since I’m having difficulty finding a way to Sri Lanka without flying.

Expense Summary

Food and Drink € 299
Housing and Utilities € 219
Travel € 1,426
Business Expenses € 398
Gifts and Donations € 131
Miscellaneous expenses € 499
Total Expenses € 2,972

Almost double the €1,523 I spent in August, but it’s about what I expected. I knew I’d have to spend a good chunk of money trying to get from Nepal to SE Asia. Of course I could just book a cheap flight, but that would be just too easy 🙂

September Income

Away from the minuses and on to the pluses…

Freelance web design € 986
Reader donations (muchas gracias!) € 171
$50 Blogs € 154
Rewards credit from Chase credit card € 39
Web design referral bonus € 39
Invisible Shoes affiliate payment € 19
How To Live A Life Of Travel affiliate payment € 12
Amazon.com affiliate payment € 12
Total Income € 1,432

August saw me bring in a personal best of €2,041, and a few weeks back I announced my goal to start earning €3k per month. I fell well short of both marks in September.

Where that leaves me

I had €3,641 to my name at the end of August. After applying the most recent exchange rates (I have accounts in both Dollars and Euros), that had decreased slightly to €3,608. Taking into account all my September income and expenditure, my total bank and cash balances now work out to €2,142.

Here’s how I’m doing so far in 2012:

  • €24 in January
  • €554 in February
  • €947 in March
  • €1,289 in April
  • €86 in May
  • €542 in June
  • €16 in July
  • €518 in August
  • €1,540 in September
  • €2,116 overall

Outlook for October

Last month the outlook was bleak, but this month I’m more optimistic. No big expenses that I can foresee, and I’ve been working my ass off on several projects that I expect will see me good financially. If everything goes to plan, I’m thinking October could be the first month since quitting my day job where I come out €1k or more in the green. Fingers crossed!

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. I’ve never asked this before but why travel without flying? It can’t be the expense. Is it rooted in fear of flying or something? Hmmm.

    Of course, wish you all the best to earn your target incomes.

    And yes, which Kindle did you buy?

    1. Hey Momekh. Why no fly? Three reasons:

      1) Adventure. I end up in strange places that I wouldn’t otherwise visit.

      2) Challenge. Traveling this way isn’t easy, and so it forces me to be more creative and stretch myself.

      3) Story. People tend to be interested in the guy traveling around the world without flying 😉

      And I got this Kindle.

  2. Hi Niall 🙂 Don’t know if this will work for you, especially in your current location, but… I met an English woman a couple years ago who travels the US by house-sitting. And when she wants to vacation out of the country she finds a house-sitting job where she wants to visit. She never pays rent, just lives in other people’s houses while they’re away. The house-sitting jobs can last days, weeks, months… and one of them she lived there for two years!

    Sometimes the owners ask for the house-sitter to care for their pets too, or water the garden, but you can usually filter those particular ads out if not interested. Also, some expect the sitter to pay for the electricity while staying there, so it’s important to inquire about such things if you ever look into an ad.

    If you’re interested in exploring such options (assuming you haven’t before?), these are the websites she said she uses:


    Some of these links are for US jobs only, but if you can’t use them sometime maybe someone else out there can. The good sites usually require a yearly fee, but compared to the money one saves from paying housing costs it seems like it’s still worth it.? And most let you browse the ads to help you decide if they’re a good match for you to register with.

    I have never done any house-sitting myself so cannot give experienced feedback about it, but want to throw the idea out there in case it can save you a little moola. Maybe if it isn’t useful now you can keep it in mind for future travels. Happy travels! 😀

    p.s. I haven’t officially introduced myself yet – I’m a bit apprehensive :@ But I plan to…

    1. Hey Amy,

      Thanks for the links. I hadn’t seriously considered house-sitting before, but in some places it would likely be a great option for me.

      Thanks again, and looking forward to your intro 🙂

  3. Hi Niall. Good to see you sharing this every month, it’s great reading. A quick question: I thought you used HostGator before but now you’ve signed up with GoDaddy? Why the change?

    Hope you can get across to Sri Lanka soon.

    1. Hey Alex,

      I actually use three different hosts: Dreamhost, GoDaddy and HostGator. I have most of my own sites on Dreamhost, having switched them over from GoDaddy. I’ve just been too lazy to move some over.

      I use HostGator mainly for my $50 Blogs service, referring clients as an affiliate. They had the best package I could find in terms of what they offered to the client and how much they paid per referral.

  4. Hi Niall,

    Looks like a nice track record. I hope you will do better in October.

    Btw regarding the Kindle you could have bought it online in India it would have been much cheaper for you.

    240 Euros in INR is 16,700 Rs.
    You could have got it in less than 7,000 Rs in ebay.in or junglee.com.

    Anyway all the best buddy.



  5. Naill,
    I read the first comment and would love to see a blog post on the books you have read this year. I am always interested in seeing what others are reading because, obviously there are so many out there and I am always looking to expand my horizons.
    I haven’t forgotten about you on the website (child theme issue) but I am holding off because I am going to move from my .net to .com first and then hire you do to the magic in the background, hopefully in time to help your Oct. $$ 😉

    1. Hey Eden,

      No hurries and no worries 🙂

      And a list of all the books I’ve read this year? I may post something like that in December, assuming I maintain my book-a-week pace, which I’m pretty sure I will.


  6. Hey Niall

    This is a bit late, but I just got a Nexus 7 tablet, and it’s the best thing I have used so far for reading ebooks on Kindle. Better than iPhone, iPad, or Kindle.

    Add to that the versatility (movies and google apps) and it is hands down the best thing I’ve bought recently.

  7. Niall, you are ROCKIN’ IT OUT! Love how you’re making all this happen and you’re riding at under 5,000 – this just proves to SO MANY PEOPLE that you don’t need a shit ton of money to live a passion and travel the world.

    I hear you on those customs fee. I just got a package in Israel a few days ago that my brother sent me, went to pick it up, and had to pay nearly $60. Nothing I could do about it.

    The funniest thing was that I actually flew to the states a few days later (earlier than originally planned). There was almost no point to sending the package lol – except for a number of good lessons it taught me.

    Keep rockin’ man. Success is inevitable, and the education you have obtained – which will continue to deepen – is PRICELESS 😉

  8. WOW.That was high expenses, but I was pleased to notice the low cost of hotels in India. You even paid for gym sessions? LOL
    I think there was room for less expenses, but as long as you have the money or make the money, it’s excellent.
    A few questions for you.
    1.Did you have to get vaccinates in India or you just believe in vaccines?
    2. How did you find those low cost hotels? Are they safe and clean?

    1. Hey Bella,

      1. I had to get the yellow fever vaccine to book passage on the cargo ship. I got two other vaccines per the doctor’s recommendation. I know some people are completely against vaccines. From what little I know about them though, they seem like a good idea. What are your thoughts?

      2. Most of the places I’ve stayed in India I found by wandering around and asking about prices, viewing rooms, etc. The place I’m staying in Kochi is the best yet: $9 a night for a big bed in a clean room, big en suite bathroom, and fast wifi. Plus, it’s a five minute walk from the beach 🙂

      1. About vaccines I see them as a Big Pharma trying to make a lot of money off of them. Here in the uS kids get like 40 vaccines until the age of 4 and another bunch of them through the entire life. vaccines have many side effects and in my opinion they don’t help. It’s easy and safer to prevent.
        I’m originally from Europe and I was impressed to find out that US doctors recommend vaccines before going to Europe. To me, this scream loud “we sell vaccines to make money”. However in certain countries there are diseases that are not common in other places, so I would do a lot of research and see how I could prevent it and take some meds with me just in case.
        I intend to go to SE Asia next year or later and I know there are some weird diseases there too such malaria and I know many people don’t get vaccinated. But I would get some info on symptoms and what to do just in case.

  9. Always inspiring to hear about your adventures, Niall.

    Apart from your always interesting financial report, this post has seriously got me thinking about getting myself a Kindle 🙂

    I’m sure you’ll soon reach your €3k per month goal. Keep us posted!

    1. If you don’t have a Kindle (I don’t) then the next best thing is the app. Of all the things I love the most, one has to be having the Kindle app on all my devices. It means I can take me library with me everywhere, I can buy it on amazon and read it seconds later. The only downside: That ‘one-click’ buying thing makes just purchasing every book I want on a whim – way too easy!

  10. Hi Niall,

    I really dig how you start your monthly blog posts with all the ‘paid in kindness’ events. It really makes for some good reading and lets people realise that there is much more happening than just money making in your world – people give each other so much value every single day and but unlike other people you actually go out of your way and record those small kindnesses and help other people see that. very cool man.

    Overall it seems you’re making much more money with your freelancing work than your affiliate marketing. I can’t give you any advice there because I am no better but I wonder how’d you’d leverage what you do so you can get paid more or whether you can make more money via affiliate marketing. Who knows.

    But I dig what you do.



  11. The Paid in Kindness is always my favorite part of these reports. Again, I admire your transparency and sharing these facts, figures and thoughts with others, Niall! Enjoy Kochi, and the onward journey. Looking forward to your report on how you get to Ceylon! 🙂

  12. This comment has nothing to do with your finances but it did come to me when I skimmed through your accounts. And I bow to the fact your make your living through the internet, but that aside…. In the days before internet and mobile phones, travelling in foreign countries was really out there…. no calls to mum every day, no FB likes from friends, no blogging. Somehow, even if you dont talk to mum every day, having internet and being able to uploads photos, get comments and feedback immediately blah blah blah is a bit of a SAFETY BLANKET! Give up the baby blanket… throw away the phone and the laptop, ipad or whatever and ignore internet cafes and REALLY travel guys!!! (and tell us about it when you get back, which will, in turn, enable us to have a life instead of living someone else on line!) cheers

    1. Right, but if I throw away the laptop, I go broke. Either that or pick up jobs in bars and such as I travel, which is work I don’t think I’d enjoy as much as the work I do online.

      There’s a definite trade-off with the work-travel thing. I can’t just take off into the countryside for a week like other travelers I meet, at least not without a lot of preparation. But I’m cool with that trade-off. As they say, you can have anything you want, but you can’t have it all at the same time.

      1. The sort of ‘real traveller’ bullshit such as the above really gets on my tits. It isn’t a competition, it’s about everyone finding the life they really want to live – and that’s different for everyone.

        1. Completely agreed.

          Besides, you can’t really measure yourself against the imagination of someone posting on a blog somewhere in the internet 😉

    2. Well Jackie, you make a choice to read travel blogs, you can always chuck your computer, laptop, iphone etc out into a dust bin and have the life you want. Cheers!

  13. Niall,
    it’s obvious that you think before you spend but I was wondering – when comparing some of your expenses – about how you feel how well the market’s price system really does in determining the real and relative value of products & services.

    See, you spent 247€ for a Kindle that was build somewhere in Asia to get it sent to you somewhere else in Asia. When really it should have cost more than 10€ to manufacture and another 10€ to get it to you.

    For a fifth of the price you paid for the Kindle you got a Doctor’s check up. Now I understand that you love your Kindle but do you think that the value in terms of price compares to the Doctor’s visit?

    1. Oh it’s crazy, no doubt. And if you go a level deeper and think about how I could feed a kid in Nepal for a few weeks for the price of that Bob Dylan album… well, the world just doesn’t make much sense.

      I do see the Kindle as an investment though. No doubt I read a ton more since I’ve had one (about a book a week this year), and many of the books I read help me learn new things and grow as a person, which I like to believe helps me contribute more value to the world.

  14. Wow, Niall… As always, ultra inspiring to read your reports. Yes–absolutely–the “Paid in Kindness” is so simultaneously assuring and stunning. Exemplary of a sort of extended family out there on the road…a special one available only to travelers perhaps…insomuch as I don’t see it in the local Starbucks. There’s no doubt in my mind, if you find the wherewithal to keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll exceed your monthly income goals much more rapidly than the average bloke who never leaves home and opens up a shop to sell widgets… If you did what you’re doing now in the smaller radius of your hometown, it could arguably be seen as market research…getting to know the community at a grassroots level. Insomuch as you’re doing just that around the globe, you’re laying the groundwork for something really, really big. Carry on!

    1. I agree Sean…

      I was reading this picturing… DAMN, Niall is already really RICH… AND the tangible world around you is only going to reflect that more and more.

      Inspiring shit here.