Musings

Getting enough (passive) income to travel

workharder

I think this post was inevitable, even if the title makes me cringe. But there comes a time when you start to wonder if your blog can start to make money for you. Or you start thinking about ways you can keep an income going while still seeing the world.

I first started out blogging on an old (but free) WordPress account as a way of keeping people who were interested in what I was doing updated, until I became dissatisfied with the sloppy way my own posts and pictures were laid out. But to say that I bought my own domain, researched WordPress themes and paid for hosting was merely an idea to make money off blogging is absolutely false. More like, to satisfy my own organisational impulses and the pride I wanted to take in having a pretty website that I could feel happy about each time I logged in.

This was however, also the time when travel blogging had long taken off. So people were making money off their travels in ways I couldn’t fathom and blatantly showing off their successes on social media.

It got me thinking.

The truth is, travel takes money. Managing finances while on the road can be hard. But I’m not yet prepared to quit my boring job yet, even though it doesn’t pay as well as I’d hoped or as stable as I think.

So, back to getting the money flowing while on the road. These are the things I’ve read about so far, tried and failed at. I’m still experimenting with different things to do though, and I’m not sure if any of them work yet.

I’ll add more methods I’ve used as I go along, but feel free to write and tell me what you’ve done.

Earning passively

This would only work if you already have a large following. Every click on the advertisement embedded on your page will contribute an amount of money to you and the program you’ve chosen to be an associate of. If you’re a book blogger, you can be an Amazon associate. For travel bloggers, there’s always Booking.com’s associate program. The latter is what I’m part of, so if anyone clicks on the ad on my page and books something with my id embedded in the link, I’ll get a portion of the fee they pay.

This clearly, hasn’t happened yet. 

Some groundwork is necessary though. Social Media is a perfect way to get a fanbase, so to speak. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest…you name it. Write, tweet, share enough about yourself and you might convince thousands of people to follow you. Building up a following has always been tough for me. I’m introverted, paranoid about my own privacy, suspicious about every kind of online log-in and site, so writing about anything personal makes me think more than twice.

Selling things

Teach at Udemy

Are you good at teaching? Do you have solutions to problems that people are looking for? Do up a course for Udemy. Break down what you know in bite-sized chapters and get people to learn what you already know. The information is all out there on the internet, but as I’ve been told, people will pay for information that is structured and clear.

The Gig Economy: Etsy, Fiverr, GigBucks

If you’re good with offering digital services, Etsy, Fiverr and GigBucks will be the place for you. Etsy’s terrific if you already know your niche, be it creating graphic templates to selling handmade and/or vintage clothing to people who will pay for specialised work.

Fiverr and GigBucks are microjobs (better known as Gigs) sites, if there’s such a term. Get paid for doing things that can range from offering your website-making services, photography skills or even giving health and nutritional advice for small amounts of money.

Click-working (Or better known as User testing)

There are websites out there that actually pay you for user testing and many times, all you need to do is quite literally, click on the mouse button to get paid. The truth is, they do pay a pittance (somewhere between $0.01 and $0.05 for say, a minute of two of your time, but if you’re the multi-tasking sort who can concentrate on blogging, listening to music while reading some article online, this might be for you.

Generally speaking, my experience with these is that tests are more sporadic than you think and the payout even more so, but some people do have more luck than others in getting passive income this way.

Usability Hub 

The whole point of UsabilityHub is to get public (and possibly anonymous) feedback on what works (or doesn’t work) on a website. A quick test usually involves choosing your preferred look of a website and answering questions about why you chose what you chose. The payout per test is $0.01 and the tab you have open will need to stay constantly open for you to catch a test. It’s not terribly consistent though, and I stopped altogether when it took me months just to get earn $10. UsabilityHub only pays out when you hit $20 worth of tests conducted.

UserTesting

Speak your thoughts out loud as you navigate your way through a website, saying what works and what doesn’t. There’s a test to go through before they approve you as an official tester, which I didn’t get past, so that’s as far as my knowledge goes.

Userlytics and TestingTime

I can’t personally vouch for these yet, but they’re just a few number of sites that I’ve come across in my research. All you need is an email address, an Internet connection, and typically, a Paypal account where they can transfer funds.

Investing

Hop on the Cryptocurrency train

Cryptocurrency (and Blockchain technology) has to be the hottest thing in recent months. I don’t proclaim to understand all of it, but the media is filled with heaps of articles that decry this trend, laud it and analyse it.

The good part about investing in Cryptocurrency is that, well, people like me can do it. But it’s in its infancy, and volatility is the only consistent thing about it so far, unlike traditional, fiat-based assets. The bottom-line isn’t known – we get financial giants giving dire predictions – and the warning is as always, thoroughly research what you’re choosing to trade or invest in.

Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin and Ripple…these are just the few cryptocurrencies that has been making waves in the last couple of months, thanks to their meteoric rise in value. Very briefly put, you can buy and sell coins from an exchange such as Coinbase, Gemini or Kraken, link your bank account to it (after you get your identity verified), then start buying. Use a wallet to store your coins (if they’re stolen, they’re gone), but keep in mind the transaction fee each time you move your coins around.

I’ve found some basic but good guides here if you want to get started:

How to trade Cryptocurrencies for Beginners

Guide to Buying Cryptocurrency

A Beginner’s Guide to Investing in Cryptocurrency


This is by no means an exhaustive list; this is a post that I imagine I’ll be revisiting as I add (and remove) ‘methods’ that work (or don’t). I’ve only scratched the surface and have yet to find a way that’s feasible and profitable for myself.

Have you found something that works for you? I’d be happy to hear what the rest of the travel community is doing.

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Planning

Dollars & Sense: 10 things to note when budgeting for a trip

coins

The problem of trying to figure out how much cash to bring on a holiday is something that typically doesn’t have a good solution. Overdo it and there’s so much excess cash that sometimes tempts you to spend it on things you don’t need just so you don’t have to convert them back to your own currency. Under do it and you’ll be searching out another money exchange counter in no time, which frankly, wastes precious time.

When I used to do bi-annual 2-week trips to Europe about a decade ago, I went on a strict budget and told myself that no matter what, this fixed amount – do or die – was going to have to see me through. It clearly didn’t always work, particularly when I sneaked in a purchase or 2 with a credit/debit card in some seedy places.

Most people go about budgeting like this:

  • ask someone who went to the same place you are going how much they thought they spent
  • (in cases where nobody is around to ask), start asking on online forums
  • wait till the last minute, panic, come up with a random figure to bring and just wing it

None of these methods are very helpful (the last one even more so). And you find yourself either trying to do stupid things to save costs near the end of your holiday (“Who needs to spend on laundry? I will wear the same pair of underwear for 3 days – I know I can do it!”), using a credit card in some seedy venue, then fretting about your card getting cloned or trying to change money at a money changer when you can’t speak the language and don’t recognise the currency properly and so are almost guaranteed to get cheated to some degree.

I figured that there had to be a practical way to get an estimate of how much money to bring on a holiday. After nights of desperate browsing and calculating, it seems I somehow hit upon a sort of method of doing just that.

The general idea behind this is to:

  • note down any costs which are fixed
  • try to estimate those costs which are variable (in foreign currency)
  • total the whole lot up
  • figure out how much you need in your home currency to change for that amount of foreign currency

What you are trying to do is to make sense of madness, so some boundaries must exist. Please note that this will only work when some basic conditions of your trip are met before you go on it :

  • you know where you are going (the exact location)
  • you know the length of the trip
  • your accommodation is booked ahead of time
  • activities/side trips are mostly booked ahead of time
  • you spend responsibly while on a holiday

If you are backpacking to a general region, aren’t sure exactly which countries/regions you will be in or how long your trip will last then this won’t work for you. Or if you are the sort who likes buying a round for the entire bar in every bar, this isn’t for you, either.

But if you meet the conditions above, here then, are a rough series of steps to figuring out how much to bring. First, though, figure out the fixed expenses, such as air tickets, pre-booked activities and tours, hotel accommodation charges, transportation and prepaid SIMs.

1. The length of your trip

This is the first thing you figure out since this determines how many days of expenditure are involved. Even if some of the days are partial, note those down since you will need to spend money on those days as well.

2. The number of meals needed

Food is one of the most straightforward expenses you will need to budget for. Although this is a variable (who knows what you will eat for each meal? – more on which, later), you still know how many meals you will need to have. A few things to keep in mind here :

  • Is breakfast is included as part of your stay at your place of accommodation?
  • Are meals provided on flights? (assuming you can stand airline food, of course)

These may be meals you don’t have to budget for as they are already provided.

What you will end up with is a list resembling this :

e.g. for 4 nights
Incoming flight at 10am, outgoing flight at 2pm
4 breakfasts (breakfast provided on incoming flight)
5 lunches
4 dinners (dinner provided on outgoing flight)

3. Planned activities

Any planned activities such as tours are fixed costs. Note these down.

Some of these will insist on payment in cash only, not necessarily in the currency of the country you are visiting (e.g. some tours ask for payment in US dollars only). Remember to take these into account when changing currency!

4. Other fixed costs

There are typically some other costs which you will know of ahead of time, or at least have a rough idea of. Classic examples are transportation costs to/from the airport and possibly mobile phone card costs. Note these down as well since they are generally known values. A google search like ‘prepaid SIM card cost in [insert place]‘ will bring up many threads that will give you an estimate cost.

5. Estimating daily costs

This is where things get a little tricky – you have pretty much removed the costs which are static. Now we try to estimate the variable costs as best we can.

To do this, we need an estimate on the daily costs of living in the places you will be visiting. You can find this on websites such as Expatistan (www.expatistan.com). The information there is crowd-sourced and should give you an idea of the daily costs for various activities on your trip.

6. Meals

The easiest variable cost to deal with is meals. You already know how many meals you need for each meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner). Using the information taken from the website, you should be able to calculate an estimate of how much your meals should cost. A few tips here :

  • In some cases (typically dinner) you may find more than one cost option listed on your cost estimate website (e.g. a meal at a budget restaurant vs a 4 course meal at an Italian restaurant in an expat area). Always use the more expensive choice in your estimates. Overestimating is good.
  • I find that budgeting dinner for 2 people is a good idea, since this puts you in a position to pay for a possible partner or date. At the very worst, it will mean you can manage a more fancy dinner or have a bit of spare cash on hand, never a bad thing. Think about those lovely seaside dinner places on holiday.

7. General daily activities

The next is a list of general daily activities you might undertake. This can be a bit tricky but typically, there are few things that will get done every day on a holiday. Examples of these are :

  • a cab ride
  • a museum trip
  • sitting down for a coffee at a cafe

Of course, this varies from person to person and you should tailor this for the sort of things you might do daily while on holiday.

The general idea is if you think you might do it, then factor it in. Err on the side of caution. Multiply this estimated daily cost against the number of days your trip is and you have another estimated cost dealt with.

8. Daily spare cash

This might be the hardest thing to estimate but looking at the rough costs of various things the website gives you for the place you are going to will give you an idea of how much this can be. Multiply this by the number of days you are spending in the place and you should have a buffer of spare cash, just in case.

9. Adding it all up

Add up the fixed and estimated costs for your trip and round up to the nearest. Again, overestimating is good. You now have the estimated amount of cash you need in foreign currency.

10. Currency conversion

The final step is to calculate how much you will need of your own home currency in order to change for the foreign currency or currencies you will need. I use currency conversion websites for this (e.g. Oanda) and then add another about 15% on for the amount of home currency I should exchange. This is to take into account getting a crappy exchange rate at the money changer.

Hopefully, this should give you a workable sum of cash to use at your destination. In practice, I typically end up with a bit of extra cash which I have to change back to my home currency. While this isn’t terribly efficient since I almost definitely lose some value in changing currencies back, I’d rather have extra cash at the end of my trip and be prepared for contingencies than find myself short of cash.

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