April Finances Overview: Digital Nomad Costs in Utah and Nevada

When we put together our travel budget, we expected the month of April to cost us about $3,627 total. It’s April 29 as I write. I’m going to see how our actual April finances stack up against our original financial projections.

Spoiler alert: we almost doubled our projected April expenses due to some surprise splurges on big-ticket items. On the flip side, I also ended up earning almost $1,000 more than I expected for my first month of full-time freelance work. I paid off my entire credit card for the first time in over six months.

April Finances Overview: The Actual Spending versus the Projected Expenses

Ok, this is straight up embarrassing. Cringeworthy, really. But we’re going to be honest here.

We more than doubled our projected expenses for going out to eat, didn’t put any money away in savings, and essentially didn’t spend money on lots of anticipated necessities (like car maintenance and taking care of Barley). Instead, we bought an iPhone X and a drone.

But we’re being honest, so let’s look at the real April expenses in comparison with the expected costs.

Darker red is more extravagant overspending. Ligher reds and greens are closer to projected expenses, while the dark greens are where we overestimated our expenses.

So. Let’s go through this line-by-line and see where we should make some adjustments.

  • Airbnb/Rent: we spent an extra $121 here, but that’s ok with me. We expected to have one week of free “rent” in Durango while we were Couchsurfing, but our host ghosted us. We had an emergency week of Airbnb to pay for. All things considered, this line makes sense and I’m not upset about it. Verdict: acceptable mistake.
  • Gas. We probably underestimated gas costs and should reassess this line item. We forgot that this Saturn Vue gets pretty mediocre gas mileage on its best days (we’re used to my old Honda Civic, which got 40+ mpg regularly). With a spare tire and storage on the roof, it’s not surprising we underestimated gas. Verdict: re-assess estimation.
  • Groceries: we massively underestimated our grocery costs. Considering that we haven’t thrown out much food and aren’t eating artichoke hearts every day, I think we just messed up this line item. Verdict: re-assess estimation.
  • Student Loans: we were spot on. Not surprising, since we just pay these automatically. Verdict: no change.
  • Car maintenance: we didn’t spend anything here. We probably won’t spend $150 regularly, so perhaps we should re-assess and instead budget for intermittent large costs, which is more realistic. Verdict: re-assess estimation.
  • Car insurance: same as student loans, this is on an automatic withdrawal system. Verdict: no change.
  • Health insurance: we expected this to be zero, and it was. Verdict: no change.
  • Barley: we actually spent less on Barley than we expected. We’ll monitor this to see if it’s a trend or a fluke. Verdict: monitor, re-assess after another month or two.
  • Misc. International Costs: irrelevant for now. Verdict: no change.
  • Put away for taxes: As a full-time freelancer, I have to put 30% of my income away for taxes. We didn’t have a true estimate for this ahead of time. We’ll estimate following months based off of this month. Verdict: re-asses estimation.
  • Savings: Andrew didn’t put any money away in savings, but Kayla put $175 into her Acorns account. We don’t actually have a ton of separate savings accounts, so we are going to change this line item. Verdict: re-asses estimation.
  • Business: not much to say here, it was an expensive month for domain renewals. This line is likely to ebb and flow a bit based off of timing of yearly renewals. Kayla also went to a conference, so there’s a cost in there too. Verdict: acceptable mistake.
  • Restaurants/Alcohol/Dates: this is straight up embarrassing. We spent nearly triple our anticipated budget on going out to eat. To be perfectly honest, we probably should re-assess our budget for how much we’ll really spend going out and bump it up a bit. We also need to develop some impulse control and stop eating out so much! Verdict: re-assess and stop overspending.
  • Shopping: this month was probably a fluke in this department. I ripped my only pair of jeans, so we went shopping for jeans. Then I finally decided to upgrade my iPhone 4 to an X so that I stopped dropping calls and could take beautiful photos. Andrew bought a drone, which cost him $1,000 alone. He also bought a new camera bag and some other bells and whistles. Verdict: stop overspending!
  • Gifts: we spent a bit on gifts, but not much this month. Verdict: acceptable mistake.

The bottom line is that Andrew and I go out to eat way, way, WAY too much. And we spend too much money on gear.

April Financial Overview: Actual Income

On the plus side, I actually ended up making almost $1,000 more than I expected for the month of April. I guess this pays for my iPhone, but it doesn’t cover the over-spending on going out to eat.

I expected to make $1,500 at first. Instead, I made nearly $2,500. Andrew made more or less what he expected, thanks to his regular job.

My income comes from several streams currently:

  1. Freelance writing. I made a bit over $1,000 from several different freelance gigs. The majority of these writing gigs are recurring, which is great. They’ll keep coming for months if all goes well. My favorite gigs this month were writing for K9 of Mine (an old favorite, they basically built me up as a freelance writer), KennelTrainer.com (a new client for me that hires experienced trainers and vets to dispense awesome advice), and PlantSnap (a new client that I got through Andrew and our friend Ben, where I get to write about plants instead of dogs).
  2. Web design. I built several websites in April for other dog trainers during a promo. The sites were ultra-cheap for them, allowing me to build my portfolio. As time goes on, I plan to dramatically increase my rates and build fewer sites. I made about $800 on website design. I didn’t finish several of the sites, so the second half of their payment should come to me in May. I did finish the sites for Respectful K9 and Paws and Stone Training.
  3. Other freelance gigs. Finally, I have a recurring gig as custom email writer for Cavalry HQ. I keep this gig separate from my other freelance writing gigs on my budget, and it netted me about $200. Not much, but I’m hoping to lean into this recurring gig more in the future.
  4. Leftover income. I also got my final paycheck from Denver Dumb Friends League, which was just under $600.

The Bottom Line for our April Finances Overview:

It’s time to revisit our budget projections for this trip and start to reign in our spending on expensive gadgets and going out to eat. We also are going to revamp our budget a bit to reflect higher gas, grocery, and date night spending. We also will compress our savings projections and edit our car maintenance projections to be more cyclic.

Here are our new projections for May through December of 2018. We will see how May goes, and if we need to update any other anticipated costs. You can view this budget as a Google Sheet, too.


Author: Kayla

Kayla is a biologist, writer, and web designer. She’s passionate about animal behavior, the science of habits, and anything outdoors.

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