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Nomad Financial Report for February 2011

At the end of every month, I publish a financial report stating my income and expenses for that month. I do this to help show what it's like living the lifestyle of a digital nomad and to keep myself accountable for my spending.

This past month has been a whirlwind of amazing experiences. Witnessing the final launch of space shuttle Discovery changed the way I view life (again) and put me in a deeply reflective state; it left me speechless and struggling to compose my thoughts for weeks (which explains the lack of new posts).

Attending the second NASA Tweetup and reuniting with everyone who helped me discover that love really is enough has been just as amazing as the first time we got together.

Their collective passion for space is incredibly contagious and their ability to see beyond the weird quirks and extreme contrast in personalities -- accepting each other for who they are -- speaks directly to the humanity in every single one of us.

This blog isn't about personal finance but having promised to publish this monthly financial report, I felt it holding me back from publishing anything else. I'll be writing more about my experiences in the coming weeks.

Housing

Housing Expenses

The first three weeks of the month were split between staying at my parents house, crashing at the office in Cambridge, and staying at friends' houses. During the last week of the month, I stayed in Florida while attending the NASA Tweetup and shared a house rental near the beach with several friends from the last time I was down there.

I'm still amazed by how low-cost renting a house can be if you've got a few people sharing the cost. It would be hard to find even a cheap hotel around here for less than $100 a night, but we had an entire house for a little more than $100 a week per person.

Food

Food Expenses

Last month, food expenses were higher than I expected, but this month it was even worse. I try to eat as healthy as possible, so I usually opt for spending a little more in return for getting something that's healthier. A large portion of the restaurant expenses came from the first week in Florida where I went out to eat with friends during the NASA Tweetup.

I'm discovering that living on the move makes eating healthy and keeping food expenses low very challenging. If I could, I'd eat oatmeal every morning for breakfast, but it's not feasible to carry around oatmeal when I live out of one backpack. Of all my expenses, food is the one area where I need to put more effort into keeping it down.

Travel

Travel Expenses

The first three weeks of the month were a lot like last month: My mom or dad gave me a ride to the train station and I took public transportation into Boston to work at the office. I also borrowed my parents car a few times, refilling the tank with whatever gas I used.

Towards the end of the month, I flew to Florida and shared a rental car with friends from the NASA Tweetup. We rented a minivan and split the cost between five people, making the cost very affordable for an 8-day rental.

Other Expenses

Other Expenses

The other expenses for this month are a lot higher than usual, namely the dentist appointment and the cash injection for ActualWebSpace, my small web hosting business.

The Epcot ticket I purchased while in Florida is a perfect example of an unnecessary expense, but spending the money and walking around put me in a very contemplative state. The friends I went with (3D ninja lessons!), and the thoughts and realizations I had while I was there made the expensive ticket worth every penny. I'll be writing more on those thoughts in the coming weeks.

The Huaraches barefoot shoe kit was another expense that wasn't necessary, but I've been trying to find ways to replace my shoes and clothing with more sustainable options. When I learned about the Huaraches, they made perfect sense for both running and daily use. I've been wearing them a lot while in Florida and they're absolutely amazing.

Going over 500 newsletter subscribers caught me by surprise as I had forgotten that Aweber goes up by $10 per month. I'm not earning any income through this blog, so the extra cost feels a bit hard to justify. I took another look at MailChimp and it looks like they've upgraded and improved their software quite a bit since I last looked at them. That said, I really like Aweber's interface so I'll be sticking with them for the foreseeable future.

FreshBooks easily paid for itself this month as I picked up several new freelance projects and used it for tracking time and generating invoices.

Expense Summary

Summary

I use Google Docs to track everything, updating the category totals on a daily basis (sometimes even right from my iPhone). Tracking expenses is becoming more automatic now that I've been doing it for two months, but as the habit forms I find myself thinking less and less about how much stuff is going to cost and instead focusing on just writing down the numbers.

With tracking becoming more automatic, more effort is needed to assess expenses. The food and other expense categories were much higher than I expected and while some things were necessary (e.g., the dentist and ActualWebSpace cash injection), I definitely could have worked harder at lowering my food expenses. For the month of March, keeping my food expenses down will be a primary focus.

Housing expenses were lower than last month, but that's because I asked my dad if I could postpone helping him with house bills so that I could pay for expenses while in Florida. On February 22nd I flew to Florida and shared a house and a rental car for a week with seven of my NASA Tweetup friends.

I'm really impressed by how cheap it is to fly from Massachusetts in the Northeast, to Florida in the South. If you book ahead, you can get a one-way ticket for $89, almost the same cost as the cost of flying from Delhi to Bangalore in India.

Income

Income

I was pleasantly surprised by several referrals on Twitter that brought me unexpected work towards the end of the month. A big project that I've been working on for my previous company is coming to an end, so I'll need to start looking for more work while I focus on building my own business.

As I mentioned last month, the services I offer include PHP software development, Linux server migration, WordPress plugin development. If there's something I can help you with, please contact me.

#

Last month I was thinking about moving back to India, but after seeing a space shuttle launch and having my childhood love for space rekindled for the second time in five months, I'm now considering moving to Florida instead.

The two final launches for the space shuttle program happen over the next five months and if I go to India I will miss both of them. (I've already decided to stick around until next week to catch the Atlas V launch and possibly the return of Discovery.)

Moving to Florida will definitely make finances more challenging, but I think it will be a great way to experiment with living as a digital nomad in the United States. I already know how to live on $200 a month in India, but how cheaply can I live right here in the US?

I also feel a strong pull towards the space community. There seems to be a very important connection between how we reach for the stars and why we care about the Earth and each other. A hundred years ago we were riding horses for transportation. A few days ago, I watched humans ride into space.

Within the span of a few generations, we went from using animals for moving us around to building machines capable of flying to another planet. I cannot think of a better example of how we are capable of absolutely anything we put our minds to.

We decide what we're capable of achieving. We set the limits. Humans are creatures with the ability to shape reality based around what they perceive as possibility.

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19 Comments

  1. Interesting idea of living in FL and seeing how cheaply you can live in the U.S. It’s somehow easier to live so cheaply in another country where the lifestyle around you allows for that. Here it’s much more challenging. I find myself acquiring stuff and still driving around the city where I live despite the fact that I want to have a more sustainable lifestyle.
    I was struck by how your numbers added up in the end– it’s astounding how much we have to spend no matter how we try to cut costs. I always try to think of ways to cut food costs, but it’s really hard.
    Best wishes for wherever you choose to live! I look forward to seeing what comes next.

    • Thank you, Jenna!

      I definitely find it challenging to live in the USA and stay frugal and minimalist. Everything here seems designed and set up for a non-nomad lifestyle. It’s tough to travel without a car, eat fresh healthy food cheaply, and otherwise just live more sustainably.

      But I think that’s why I’m so interested in doing it. I’m sure it will difficult, but I know it’s possible!

  2. Hello again Raam,
    I took the time to read all your report and I found it interesting when you spoke about the cost of food.

    I will never forget how much I learned about managing food costs when my family and I were on welfare (social assistance) and we still found ways to afford organic food.

    I am going to start posting in about one week tips on how to buy organic food inexpensively on my site so you (and other readers too!) can pick up a few ideas to save you money or you can fire me an email with a question. The tips are from the ebooks I wrote.

    By the way I remember the weight of oats and lentils on my back everyday when my lady and I travelled for 13 months. They were heavier than the water.

    Enjoy a wonderful day and I bet the experience of seeing the shuttle was amazing.

    David

  3. Raam,

    I’m so impressed by your precision in tracking your expenses. I have a hard time getting my head around tracking money, but I think my time is coming soon. You seem to be doing incredibly well. Perhaps you can lower your food expenses, but food is also vital to life.

    It’s good to hear that your view of life continues to evolve. The more we open, the more deeper and profound our view becomes. There are always more subtle levels to be revealed.

    • Hi Sandra,

      The precision tracking is only possible because I’ve made it a habit to update the expense categories on a daily basis. I never let a single day go by without updating them and that ensures that I don’t forget to expense stuff!

      Ever since choosing a nomadic lifestyle, my life seems to evolve on a daily and weekly basis. Life is such an incredible adventure and it feels so good just to be alive! 🙂

  4. Damn, I really wish I could have came out for the launch and met up Raam. I went on vacation to New Orleans so I totally missed out 🙁

    That’s awesome about plans for moving to Florida. There are some expensive places but you can definitely find some very affordable spots.

    You should definitely check out the Tampa area some time next time you’re down (Ybor, St. Pete, Tampa, etc).

    I searched and searched and finally found my place here in Leesburg that’s really affordable. Get this: $225 a month in rent, daaaang! There are places out there because Florida was hit pretty hard when housing crashed. Lots of opportunity down here too for freelancing.

    Shoot me a tweet next time you think about coming down – could show you some of the places around my area or give some tips on FL travel.

    • There’s another launch on April 19th! I’m definitely going to be here for that one… I’d love to meet up then. 🙂

      I was actually in Ybor a few days ago to meet James Schipper (@LiveCollarFree). There’s a very good chance I’ll be moving down to Florida. I’ve got a friend on Merritt Island who just had his roommate move out, so I might stay with him. My only problem is transportation… I have no car and I really don’t want to get one if I can help it!

      I’ll definitely shoot you an email when I know for sure if I’m moving down.

  5. Hi Raam,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few days now so I guess it was time to say hi and chime in. I loved this article because I’ve been toying with the idea of embarking on some sort of extended travel deal (not sure if full-on nomadic but it sure sounds tempting!) and the one thing that kinda scares me is the financial aspect of it. Thanks for your transparency and openness; it helps those of us who want to do this. Good luck with your possible move to Florida!

    Rick

    • Hi Rick,

      Thanks for chiming in and saying hello!

      The financial aspect of travel seems to be biggest unknown for a lot of people who are interested in traveling — it certainly was for me before I started! I think more than anything, a little planning ahead will go a long way towards making you feel more secure. If you can get an idea what things will cost, you can create a budget for the few weeks or few months you plan to travel. Then all you need to do is stick with that budget on a daily basis and you’ve got nothing to worry about. 🙂

      Feel free to send me a message if you ever have any questions or want to talk more!

  6. Raam,
    We continue to be just blown away by your heart for transparency and willingness to continue growing in the direction of your life’s path. If that ends up including Florida, it will be a tremendous opportunity to explore economical living in an inspiring U.S. location and will be fascinating to see how all of that unfolds. We struggle too in food and gas for the moment, since many of our freelance jobs are on the opposite side of the island, but we also continue to explore the possibilities of moving to a midpoint village and using more of the public transport.

    No matter whether you move or not, we’d love to visit with you soon about a 2012 Go Slow Summit (a major meetup of minimalist, slow travel, etc. bloggers in Kauai, #GoSlowSummit) we’d love to see you here! We’ve got great info for you and/or friends on really nice shareable rentals and great hostels (right on the beach) 🙂 And you are so right that it’s amazing how much you can save in accommodation expenses when you share the expenses!

    • Thank you, Gena! The Go Slow Summit sounds really interesting and I’m sure that info on sharable rentals will come in handy! There’s something about the ocean and the beach that fills me with peace and energy and I plan to spend a lot more time on or near the ocean this year (in Florida or elsewhere). I’d really love to visit the two of you this year! 🙂

    • Thanks, Bethany! Just wait until you see the report for March… my expenses are quite a bit higher! I find food to be one of the most challenging things to keep low, especially in the United States.

  7. You can totally eat oatmeal on the run. Make baggies of plain, instant oatmeal, put in some ground flax seed, a bit of maple syrup granules (also called maple sugar, expensive but lasts long time), spices, dried fruit etc. Have a small container with you to mix it with. If in a hotel room use the coffee maker with out any coffee in it to make hot water… or many places you may stay will have a kettle. Even in an airport you can get a mug of hot water. Mix hot water into your oatmeal, cover tightly and let sit for 5 minutes. All the best, Courtney

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