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September 2013 Finance Report

ປະຕິສະຖານ to all you legendary email subscribers. This is my September finance report, as prepared from a coffee shop in Vientiane, Laos.

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 spent most of the month living in Hong Kong, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Diving in…

September Expenses

Food and Drink

Pubs, Coffee Shops, Restaurants, Take-aways € 216 $ 292
Groceries € 137 $ 185
Total € 353
$ 477

Down from last month’s total of €379/$500, and the least I’ve spent on food and drink all year. I made a conscious effort to save money on food in Hong Kong, preparing the same three meals at home each day and usually having a fourth meal at one of two cheap restaurants near my apartment.

Housing and Utilities

~3 weeks rent for Hong Kong apartment € 384 $ 520
3 nights at A Dong Hotel, Hanoi € 36 $ 48
1 night at Green Forest Hostel, Nanning € 9 $ 12
Total € 429 $ 580

Way down from last month’s total of €1,171/$1,548. August was more expensive because I had to fork out for a hefty deposit on the apartment, and pay a full month’s rent.


Bus: Hanoi to Vientiane € 23 $ 31
Train: Shenzhen to Nanning € 20 $ 27
Bus: Nanning to Hanoi € 18 $ 24
Hong Kong metro € 4 $ 6
Lantau bus pass € 3 $ 4
Hanoi motorcycle taxi € 2 $ 3
Currency exchange at Hong Kong border € 1 $ 1
Shenzhen metro € 1 $ 1
Total € 72 $ 97

Down from €174/$240 last month, when I spent quite a bit on visas for China and Vietnam.

Business Expenses

S6 Personal Assistant € 913 $ 1,236
AWeber email marketing € 73 $ 99
Video editor € 19 $ 25
Facebook ads € 14 $ 19
PayPal fees € 10 $ 14
BufferApp.com LINK € 7 $ 10
Amazon Web Services (ebizfacts.com CDN) € 4 $ 5
Total € 1,040 $ 1,408

Down from €1,462/$1,932 spent in August. I’ll tell you more about the S6 project 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

Location Rebel memberships giveaway € 552 $ 747
Beer and chocolates for Hong Kong flatmates € 19 $ 25
Total € 571 $ 772

An increase from last months’ donation total of €436/$576, and almost exactly hitting the goal to donate 15% of my income each month. So far this year I’ve given away €4,868/$6,588, which works out to 14.4% of my 2013 income.


Models € 8 $ 10
The Stand € 6 $ 8
‘Salem’s Lot € 5 $ 7
Growth Hacker Marketing € 2 $ 3
Total € 21 $ 28

Down from the €47/62 I spent on books in August. I recommend all the above except for The Stand, which I abandoned about a quarter of the way through. Apparently I got the expanded edition with lots of extra chapters put it, and it showed since it was a really slow read with lots of fluff getting in the way of the story. Meanwhile, Models is the best book I’ve ever read about dating/attraction for men, and Growth Hacker Marketing is like a lean version of The Lean Startup.

Miscellaneous Expenses

Phone credit € 19 $ 26
Locksmith for HK apartment (locked myself out) € 10 $ 13
AIB quarterly banking fee € 5 $ 7
Toiletries € 5 $ 7
Subscription to Raam Dev’s Journal € 5 $ 7
Haircut € 5 $ 7
iTunes movie rental: Coffee and Cigarettes € 3 $ 4
Laundry € 2 $ 2
Total € 54 $ 73

Way down from the €294/$389 I spent on miscellaneous last month. A friend recommended I watch that Coffee and Cigarettes movie but I was pretty disappointed by it, lots of pointless scenes. I was hoping for some deeper meaning in there.

Expense Summary

Food and Drink € 353 $ 477
Housing and Utilities € 429 $ 580
Travel € 72 $ 97
Business Expenses € 1,040 $ 1,408
Gifts and Donations € 571 $ 772
Books € 21 $ 28
Miscellaneous expenses € 54 $ 73
Total Expenses € 2,538 $ 3,435

Down quite a lot from last month’s total of €3,962/$5,237, and my least expensive month since February.


September Income

Away from the minuses and on to the pluses…

Sigma 6 project € 2,316 $ 3,135
Wood Egg project € 731 $ 989
Hong Kong apartment deposit refund € 572 $ 774
Reader donations (muchas gracias!) € 74 $ 100
Web design € 44 $ 60
A Course In Courage € 21 $ 29
Amazon book royalties € 21 $ 29
$50 Blogs € 19 $ 25
Total Income € 3,798 $ 5,141

Up from last month’s income total of €3,045/$4,026.


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 €1,403/$1,899 for the month of September, down from August’s profit of €1,656/$2,191 and the fourth consecutive month the numbers have dropped. I made some optimizations to this business last month and everything runs a bit smoother now, and I’m sure I could double the income from it if I just put in the time. I’m hesitant to do that though. I don’t see much of a future in the business and I’d rather devote time and energy to other projects that I can be transparent about and which provide more value to the world.

Wood Egg project
This payment was for the completion of my work as a researcher for the 2014 Thailand Startup Guide. I poured a ton of hours into the project, going above and beyond what I felt was warranted given the reward. But hey, as my dad always says, if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right. I received some good feedback about my work so maybe this will lead to other opportunities down the line. There was also the intangible payoff of rubbing elbows with lots of entrepreneurs while doing the research.

Where that leaves me

I had €6,641/$8,780 to my name at the end of August. After applying the most recent exchange rates (I have accounts in EUR, HKD and USD), those totals had shifted slightly to €6,513/$8,815. Taking into account all my September income and expenditure, my total bank and cash balances now work out to €7,703/$10,425.

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
  • €917/$1,211 in August
  • €1,260/$1,706 in September
  • €1,473/$1,994 overall

Outlook for October

Pretty confident I can keep expenses down below the $4k mark again. I might even be able to stay below $3k if I stay as disciplined as I was while living in Hong Kong. I plan to stay put in Chiang Mai, Thailand for the last three weeks of October, and I can live quite cheaply there.

Income-wise, I have nothing major in the pipeline this coming month, so I’ll be largely dependent on the Sigma 6 project to keep me going. I would like to spend one solid week optimizing that and then leave it alone altogether while I immerse myself in other money-making endeavors.

Feedback welcome

Thoughts? Questions? Speak up in the comments below.

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  1. Hi Niall,

    Thanks for doing this. I went through your reports and they are fascinating (I like numbers, you know..). Inspirational too.
    Looks like you are having a good life.


  2. Hello Nial. I am glad that you are up in Chiang Mai at the moment. I haven’t had many emails so have got myself re listed to your email. I am very interested about where you are planning to go after Thailand. Well done with your journey so far.

    1. Hi Maxine. Thanks for signing up to the new list 🙂

      As for where I’m going after Thailand, most likely Australia, but I need to do some research and planning the next few weeks before I’m sure.

  3. Looking forward to reading Growth Hacker, thanks for that and just bought via your link. I’ve had Lean Startup on my Kindle for a year and cant seem to get past the first 10 pages, lol.
    I am looking forward to your Chaing Mai report, I hear it’s inexpensive but have never really seen numbers that support the statemements, at least with you I know I’m seeing the real deal.
    Safe travels,

  4. Niall,

    I notice you still have a little income from $50 Dollar Blog. Now that I have started to bring up a new blog (as strongly suggested by both you and Sean Ogle), I can see what a huge bargain you have offered. Next to a bad toothache or slamming the door on my head, I enjoy opening a new hosting account. I was hoping Hostgator would have a better user interface than GoDaddy, but I guess not. Anyway, I would recommend to other blog newbies that they avail themselves of your services at least the first time out. I think they will be happier if they do.


  5. Thanks Niall for sharing your expenses. I look at them twice a year max but they always inspire me as I live also in the 2nd most expensive city in the world (Oslo) on a very tight budget as well. Your finances always bring me new perspectives! 🙂

  6. Are you in the process of starting a new venture or business, Niall? If the goal is to get that $100k, your current income amounts to less than $60k. I understand that you’re revamping the site and your focuses, but how does that contribute to your goal?

    I don’t think your spending matters as much as how much money you’re bringing in. Frugality can only go so far until it gets uncomfortable. Then, the $100k goal means nothing.

    Just my 2 cents.

    1. I hear ya. I don’t expect to earn the same amount each month for the next year or so. I have a few things in the works with the potential to earn me quite a bit, but nothing that it makes sense to talk about yet.

      Stay tuned though. I’ll let you know how I’m doing 🙂

  7. I am really glad you like “Models”! To go as far as saying it’s best, I agree full-heartedly.
    Otherwise hooray for an inexpensive month^^

  8. I didn’t like Coffee and Cigarettes either. Jim Jarmusch has made way better movies, like Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Dead Man and Broken Flowers.

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