Friday, November 1, 2013

Laos Goals: Money

This post may well be boring to most people, but I'm a budget nerd at heart and I have some big goals I need to organize. Thus, I'm about to show my hand and get all detailed about my income and expenses in the interest of having some sort of accountability thanks to the fact that I put it out on the internet. I know many people don't like talking/thinking about money, but I say get it out in the open and know what you're working with. Plus, talking about what I'm doing after Laos keeps me motivated to stay in Laos, and I'm not too proud to admit that I need that motivation. I'm just warning you, this cartoon is the funniest thing in this post (and it's not even funny, so...).

Edited to add: There is some dumb stuff at the end that's sort of okay in terms of levity. 

Here's what I'm working towards:

Come June 15th of 2014, I want to roll out of my contract with enough money saved to sustain me through the end of December without income. That will give me a 6 month hiatus to chill out after a long and hectic year of full-time grad school, full-time teaching, and 24-7 living in Laos with my life to deal with (you know what I mean). On the most fragile gossamer strands of tentative plans, those 6 months will consist of 3 months dirty drifter backpacking (you'd think SE Asia, but honestly, folks, ol' Gadget Cat might just wanna shake the dust and hop a plane to another hub) and, much more firmly, 3 months of time stateside. I hope to be in the U.S. all of October, November, and December to hit the home run of the best holidays of the year with dearly missed family and friends. Places and time might change, but right now I really, really know that however I dice up those 6 months I need them to be at my disposal to dice. I really, really know that.

Here's what I'm working with: 
I take home $1,500 a month. $750 is deposited in my USD checking account and the other $750 is converted into the local currency and deposited into my LAK account. As a result, my baseline "Do not drop below this or you're a jerk" savings plan is $750 a month. I won't touch the USD account. If I do that for the next 9 months, I will have a $6,750 baby. Since I'd like a nice, round number to aim for, let's say I save an extra $28 a month to bump (this analogy just never ends, huh?) the savings up to $7,000.

To save that much, I'll need to live off of $722 a month. Here's a breakdown of my fixed expenses, which are $290 a month:

Rent:                             $150 (actually $300, but I'm getting a $1,500 travel reimbursement that                                                   pays back the other half)

Internet:                         $50 (so expensive, but I have to have it for school)

Electric:                         $75 (even more expensive, because I'm getting the special screw the                                                     foreigner rate, but that's a post for another time)

Water:                           $15 (over estimate since the first bill, for two weeks, was $3)

That leaves me $432 a month in discretionary spending. I don't drink, smoke, or do recreational drugs, and I don't care about buying fancy electronics, or going clothes shopping, or buying random crap for my house. I eschewed a motorbike and bought a bicycle, which I have already paid to have serviced (new brakes, new tires). That means I have $108 a week to feed and entertain myself, and buy random household items as needed. I've already dropped the big wad of setting up life in a new country cash, so if I can't stick within $108 a week then I have serious problems.

If all goes according to plan, I'll be able to leave Laos come summer and live off of $1,166 a month for my 6 month break. That's more than I will have lived off of monthly for almost an entire year, so it's safe to say that's a comfortable figure. The only debts I have are student loans, which are not due during full-time grad school, and which are in post-grad deferment for 6 months after graduation. Ah, it all makes sense now, doesn't it? Taking 6 months off post graduation is not only what I need, it's what I would do anyway because it will be the last time for a long time I can do something like this. Once my student loans come due I am going to aggressively pay them down to get them off my back as soon as possible. I just want a bit of a breather, some down time, and some family home time before I launch into that battle.

I'm going to track my spending for all of November, starting today, to see where it's all going, and I'll see how all of this works in real life come December 1st. I know that you are probably thinking "I cannot WAIT to hear an update, the suspense is going to KILL ME!" Bated breath, antici

       pation- I'm sure it's too much excitement to bear. Try to calm down. Maybe you could make a countdown chart? Something like those primary Christmas calendars where you affix a single cotton ball to each day for a month, until you have created a nasty-sticky, matted cotton beard to give context to the creepy Santa eyes/nose/mouth free-floating above the date boxes. Just a suggestion.


  1. You inspire me (to both travel and figure out a way to save money)! Good luck with your tough year.

    1. Thank you, I can always use some luck! :)

      The book that inspired me about money and living is "Your Money or Your Life". I highly recommend it. It altered my perception of money, completely, in a fundamental way that just clicked and made everything easier. It's been around a looooong time, so it's easy to nab used or to get on Amazon for super cheap. I've recommended it to several friends, all of whom went on to pay off all their debt, make big savings, have huge life changes, etc.

      Thank you again, so much, for helping me during this tough year with the guidance on the grad classes. I feel overwhelmed from being behind, but at least I know what's up ahead.