July 2019 Financial Update – Exploring Cambodia and Thailand Edition

The Root of Good family just got back to the US after an eight week adventure in Southeast Asia. We spent the month of July split between Cambodia and Thailand. 

Now that we’re rested up and mostly recovered from the jet lag, I wanted to take a break from life and share our July financials before we get busy with all the back to school activities coming up soon.

Our net worth dropped ever so slightly from $2,114,000 to $2,112,000 (a $2,000 drop). Income remained strong at $2,777 for the month of July, while our expenses remained moderate at $1,961.  

Let’s jump into the details from last month.

 

Income

Investment income totaled $1,707 in July. Our equity mutual funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly at the end of March, June, September, and December with some payments arriving at the beginning of the next month. Here’s more on our dividend investments.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, totaled $1,036 for the month of July which is lower than average. Some checks were sitting at home in the mailbox waiting for me (held at the post office actually). I deposited these in August so next month’s blog income will be a bit higher. 

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) dropped to zero for the month of July. August and September will be a lot busier with a few sessions already booked and several other people interested. 

The “deposit income” totaled $33. This was cash back and incentive bonuses from the Ebates.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals (some of which was earned from you readers signing up through these links).

If you sign up for Ebates through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Ebates, you’ll get a $10 gift card. 

 

 

If you’re interested in tracking your income and expenses like I do, then check out Personal Capital (it’s free!). All of our savings and spending accounts (including checking, money market, and five credit cards) are all linked and updated in real time through Personal Capital. We have accounts all over the place, and Personal Capital makes it really easy to check on everything at one time.

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Tracking spending was one of the critical steps I took that allowed me to retire at 33. And it’s now easier than ever with Personal Capital.

 

Expenses

Now let’s take a look at July expenses:

 

In total, we spent $1,961 during July which is about $1,300 less than our target spending of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).  “Travel” expenses made up almost the entirety of our monthly spending in July, which makes sense given we were vacationing in Thailand and Cambodia the entire month. 

 

Detailed breakdown of spending:

 

Travel – $1,818:

We spent the first half of July in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia. We spent the next month (from mid-July through mid-August) in Thailand. The $1,818 spent during July covers all of Cambodia spending and about half of our time in Thailand. 

We didn’t track different spending subcategories within the larger “Travel” bucket of expenses. From taking a quick look at the Personal Capital expense tracking, I pulled together a rough breakout of costs:

  • $1,000 – ATM withdrawals spent mostly on food, drinks, and entry fees to museums, temples, and palaces
  • $400 – Angkor Wat admission tickets and a driver for three days
  • $150 – Grab cars (the Uber of Southeast Asia)
  • $50 – Bus tickets x5 between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai
  • $200 – Everything else, which was mostly groceries and restaurants

We had already paid for all of our lodging through Airbnb ($40 discount when you sign up through that affiliate link). Air transportation was also prepaid (from Cambodia to Chiang Mai, Thailand, and from Chiang Rai to Bangkok). 

 

The White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

 

$1,800 for all of our travel expenses for a month seems pretty reasonable. We ate out or ordered take out for all meals, and took Grabs (basically Ubers) everywhere we went around town. We got more coffees and boba teas than I want to count. Copious amounts of slushies and ice cream may have been consumed by three children of ours.  We paid admission fees if the attraction seemed interesting.

We basically spent whatever we wanted without worrying about costs. That’s not to say we didn’t think about the value of what we were buying. We ate local food which was usually $1-3 per plate and mostly skipped the ethnic cuisines that were $5-10 per plate. We walked a few blocks when ordering a car would have been ridiculous and inconvenient. And we generally bought boba tea and drinks where they were a buck or so instead of $2-4 at the fancy cafes. 

 

Khao soi (chicken curry on noodles), soup, and fried noodles in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We enjoyed delivered meals like this for USD$7-15 every day.

 

Take out food delivery in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Soup, noodles, curry, fried rice.

 

Utilities – $75:

The water bill was $75 for July which represents water consumed in June before we left Raleigh for the summer.

In previous months I prepaid $600 on the electricity bill to hit the minimum spending requirement on a credit card. I also prepaid our natural gas bill for two months. As a result, July utility charges didn’t include electric or natural gas. 

If you want to score some free travel from credit cards, there are several cards currently offering 50,000 points or more. These points can be redeemed for $500 cash or $500+ in free flights or hotel stays. Compare travel credit card deals.

 

Healthcare/Medical – $44:

Our 2019 healthcare premiums are $31 per month thanks to very generous Affordable Care Act subsidies that we receive due to our low ~$40,000 per year Adjusted Gross Income. The benefit of being “poor” on our tax return.

The remaining health/medical expense came from a $13 bill for copayments on lab tests from my last doctor’s visit in May. 

 

Cable/Satellite – $15:

$15 for one month’s internet service. We qualify for a local reduced rate package due to having a lower income and having kids. 30 mbit/s download, 4 mbit/s upload.

 

Telephone – $11:

I’ve kept an old basic cell phone active for a decade just to have international calling if we get in a pinch while traveling. I reactivated it for another year for $11 (a grandfathered T-Mobile prepaid plan).

Now that I have Google Fi for cheap international cell and data service, I don’t think I need a back up phone any longer. We used Google Fi all over Southeast Asia and it worked perfectly. I also bought a SIM chip for $1.50 just to get a local phone number to activate local apps but never used any data on that SIM. 

 

Free food at the Miracle Lounge at the Bangkok DMK Airport. Free lounge admission if you have a Priority Pass. 

 

Total Spending in 2019

 

Through the end of July we have spent $15,418 which is approximately $8,000 under the $23,333 budgeted for seven months of our $40,000 annual early retirement budget

We are back home in Raleigh now, so our baseline monthly costs will be a bit lower than they were during the summer when we were traveling full time. At least until we start booking travel for our big summer 2020 trip! Tentative plans are to visit South America, probably Argentina and Chile. 

As for other big spending in 2019, we don’t have too much on the radar. After a long summer on the road, I’m looking forward to doing very little at home and relaxing for a while. Fortunately that costs almost nothing. 

 

View of the rooftops in Phnom Penh, looking at the Mekong River in the distance. Very peaceful.

 

Monthly Expense Summary for 2019:

 

Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:

 

Take out food from a little halal muslim restaurant just around the corner from our Airbnb in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Fresh chili fish, fish curry, massaman beef curry, and roti.

 

 

Net Worth: $2,112,000 (-$2,000)

July itself was a rather boring month in terms of net worth fluctuations. The stock market went up some during the month but went back down by the end of the month. Our net worth dropped by $2,000 during July to end the month at $2,112,000. 

The first couple of weeks of August have been “interesting”. Lots of wild fluctuations in value but our net worth isn’t doing too bad right now. 

 

 

Update on Life In General

We had a blast during our eight weeks in Southeast Asia. Another “trip of a lifetime” that we seem to take every year to a different location around the world. 

A quick trip recap:

  • food was good but similar to what we have at home since we cook a lot of Thai/Southeast Asian cuisine
  • weather wasn’t too bad – it felt like the summertime heat and humidity in Raleigh
  • very few mosquitoes
  • Thailand is noticeably more “first world” than Cambodia and Vietnam, yet didn’t come with a large price premium

 

One of Mrs. Root of Good’s “must sees” on the trip – Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

 

After a busy summer on the road, we are enjoying being back home in Raleigh. The first few days back were filled with recovering from jet lag and reuniting with friends and family. 

We have one week before school starts for the kids, so the next week will be filled with back to school activities. Our oldest child starts high school!

With one kid each in elementary, middle, and high school, that means three sets of back to school orientation, three sets of correspondence, and three sets of school-specific rules and expectations, along with helping our daughter adjust to life in high school. Life is about to get a lot busier! 

As fall approaches, I’m looking forward to some cooler weather so we can enjoy our new hammocks while the kids are in school. I’m also looking forward to riding my bike on the city’s trails since I wasn’t able to ride a bike all summer while on vacation. It’s time for more fun and more leisure!

Well that’s our July in review. Thanks for tuning in! 

 

 

How has your summer been so far? Looking forward to what fall has in stock for you?

 

 

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38 comments

  1. Welcome back! Sounds like another amazing trip.
    I know you don’t mind the cold, but Argentina and Chile can be pretty cold during our summer. Depends where exactly since they are fairly big countries, but still. Just go to Colombia instead 🙂

    1. The cold is the one thing giving us pause. I think I can handle it (I wear shorts as long as it’s above 32F outside!) but I’m not sure how comfortable it’ll be for “chilling” outside, strolling through the park, etc. I want to visit Colombia too sometime!

      1. Oh man, that is some serious tolerance to the cold. I loose the shorts and put on the pants when it gets below 65F 🙂
        If the Mrs. and the kids feel the same way you do, then Argentina and/or Chile should be no problem. I’m obviously biased on Colombia, but impartial friends I have brought from the US also loved it. In any case, the beauty of the FIRE life if you can do as many or as few countries you’d like, at your own pace 🙂

        1. I’d love to go to Colombia and I’m investigating Peru/Ecuador/Colombia/Brazil as potential free stopovers if I can find a good airline routing that permits it.

  2. Hi Justin. We are considering Cambodia/Thailand/Vietnam in 2020 or 2021. I would love to see more details of your trip and the trip planning you did.

  3. Hi Justin! It is always amazing to see that the money making machine you put together keep on delivering isn’t it? As for Thailand, would you be writing a detailed article (similar to what you did when you visited Mexico) that would included you favorite sights, tips and eventually sharing more details about your spending? We already got our flight booked (Chiang Mai) and plan on exploring the country for at least 2 months so any additional insights would definitely be really appreciated. And good luck with the back to school activities!

    1. I hope to get out several posts on Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand over the next couple of months. Chiang Mai is a good starting point for Thailand. I definitely liked it more than Bangkok – way better place to “chill” and relax as it’s a little cheaper and a lot quieter. Traffic is way better there too!

      1. Yeah, I like Chiang Mai better too. Bangkok is way too busy and traffic is nuts.
        More stuff to do, but who wants to sit in traffic all day to get there.

        1. And once you’ve done all the things – then you’re just left with all the traffic to get anywhere! We went out on a Friday night to go to the aquarium at the big mall and traffic was NUTS. And from our bedroom and our shower we could see the big expressways and main east-west roads (Rama IV I think??) and it was packed for many hours around rush hour, with traffic barely moving. Even busy at 10-11 pm at night!

  4. It’s a shame your vacations get in the way of timely blog updates ;-).

    I started exploring renting our house out in the summer to travel. Since it’s a tourist area, it seems we might be able to get around $18,000 to $20,000 for the 3 months. There would be some costs involved with that (realtor, clean-up, utilities, wear and tear, etc.), but I’m thinking we could do some great vacations in the next few years when the kids are older. I’ll certainly grab some of these tips to keep costs low.

    1. I’ve thought about renting our house out too. A better estimate of us is probably $3000-4000 net after all those fees, plus I’d probably have to spend $5-10k to fix the place up (new paint, new flooring, misc repairs, etc) before renting it out. Probably a good way to pay for some of those upgrades after a few years, but it’s also a lot of hassle. For the amounts you’re talking about, it might be a lot more compelling!

  5. High school!!! Do you think she’ll go for NCSSM? Ours is starting first grade in a new town and we’re ready for the structure of the school year again.

    When we lived in Florida, our plan was to travel during summers like your family. Now we’re in an opposite climate in Wyoming, where we want to stay home to enjoy summer and escape for two weeks during winter break. We’ve never traveled internationally with our daughter, so I’m curious what we could do in two weeks (flying from Denver).

    Will you be at FinCon?

    1. We probably won’t aim for NCSSM as our local high school offers similarly advanced courses and there’s a strong core of very advanced students much like NCSSM (and coincidentally it makes it harder to get into NCSSM since there will be so many applicants from our high school and they limit the # I think).

      I won’t be at Fincon this year. You?

      As for destinations from Denver – Mexico would be an easy warm weather relatively inexpensive destination. Even the central parts around Mexico City are pretty decent weather-wise in the middle of winter.

  6. “Thailand is noticeably more “first world” than Cambodia and Vietnam, yet didn’t come with a large price premium”

    Exactly what I found. That’s why I love Thailand. The kindest people, the place with the most convenience and first world comfort (after coming back to North America, I wasn’t used to old fashion keys in our condo, because the condo in Chiang Mai had keyless entry cards), yet it’s less expensive than other SE countries we’ve been to.

    I’m impressed that you only spent $1800/month for all 5 of you! That’s incredible even for SE Asia! (I think we spent nearly that much just for the 2 of us).

    Welcome home and excited to hear about your future adventures!

    1. That $1800 doesn’t include $400-500/wk for lodging nor the flights (admittedly only a couple hundred bucks!!). Still a great value overall but definitely more expensive than our baseline spending in the USA.

  7. I did a similar trip in December spanning Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong. Had a blast in Thailand cause it was so cheap and yet more similar to developed countries in terms of pollution and cleanliness. Also not a huge language barrier.
    What was most surprising to me wrt Cambodia was the unofficial guides and kids selling trinkets knowing so many languages. Guess when Tourism is the biggest industry you got to hustle

    1. I found Thailand to have the most English speakers. In Cambodia the trinket sellers knew a few phrases and some numbers but that was about it! The Cambodian Uber drivers rarely spoke English.

  8. Welcome back! Looking forward to reading more details and seeing photos of your trip to SE Asia. I always like to read about world travel.

  9. Looks like a great trip Justin! As usual, you impress me with how little you guys spend! I guess being in SE Asia probably helps in that department!

    Anyway, thanks for the great write-up. Makes me want to travel to Thailand!

  10. Great trip and thank you for posting. I am aiming for next year. Also, I visited Turkey last year and loved that place; it’s beautiful, cheap, developed infrastructure, great food and very kind people as well. Not to forget tons of historical sites…

    Thanks

    1. Turkey looks interesting. I haven’t looked at it lately. Was the political turmoil an issue when you were there? Though it’s probably no worse than the general political landscape in SE Asia!

  11. Now following your blog and adventures, thanks. Happy to see that you report your portfolio income and blogging income.

    I will be in same boat, where I need to make half a living as well as living off of the portfolio income.

    Looking forward to going through more of your site.

    Dale

  12. South east Asia is great affordable holidays for us too. Family of 5 from Perth Western Australia. We can get there for couple hundred dollars return and it’s closer then flying to East Coast of Sydney.

  13. Hi there! I was wondering if you are including you wife’s expenses in the report. Things like her cell phone, haircuts, clothing, etc.

  14. Everyone is raving about Chiang Mai. I’ve been to Thailand twice but only visited Bangkok and Pattaya. I really need to visit the mountains area and check it out.

    My only concern is visiting Cambodia because I heard there is a lot of poverty and a good friend of mine got attacked there. If I’m going to SE Asia, I’d rather visit Vietnam or Malaysia than Cambodia.

    As for the upcoming fall season, things should be interesting and I think it’s time to hedge your stocks by purchasing gold & silver. A lot of insiders on Wall Street are selling off their shares and the Buffett Indicator (Total Stock Market Cap / GDP) is really high. Perhaps it’s a good time to rebalance things in case a bear market approaches.

    1. The mountains are a totally different vibe than Bangkok – much slower. Probably a lot quieter than Pattaya too.

      Don’t be afraid of Cambodia – much of the crime is random over there. I’ve heard others tell of crimes in Thailand and Vietnam too.

  15. Justin,

    Can share more details on the mountains? What is the aptitude in the mountains like? I can sense the mood in the mountain when you mentioned on the “slower” and “quiet”. The word of “secluded” comes into my mind.

    WTK

    1. I’ll have an article on the Thailand segment of our trip eventually 🙂

      Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai aren’t really secluded as they are each decent sized cities. Just a lot smaller than Bangkok with a lot less traffic. Better place to relax and enjoy a longer stay, though there is less to do as a tourist.

  16. It takes courage and dedication to travel with 3 kids on these long trips. Impressive numbers on the spend side of things. Nice pictures too.

  17. What a great summer you and your family has had! Although, just from the takeout, I can see why Thailand is the plastic garbage capital of the world. From Wikipedia:

    Thais use 70 billion plastic bags a year. The country is a major contributor, along with China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, of up to 60 percent of plastic pollution in oceans. Thailand’s 23 coastal provinces dump an estimated one million tonnes of garbage into the sea each year.

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