Early Retirement Update
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Early Retirement Update: January

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January has long come and gone and we are knocking on the door of March already. Luckily, as an early retiree, we largely have no deadlines and can publish these early retirement updates whenever we see fit, dammit.

January was a full month of traveling, eating, and some surprise expenses that we weren’t expecting. Spoiler alert: we’ve already busted the budget one month into the year. Let’s dive in and find out how, and by how much.

If you are interested in the tools we use to keep track of our income & spending at a glance, be sure to check out Mint for budgeting & spending and Personal Capital for income and net worth.

Early Retirement Update: Income


Work in Early Retirement
Here I am ‘working’ on a rooftop in Barcelona

This month’s work consisted of sending out two workout programs. One at-home workout program, and another gym workout program. These two orders came in on the same day which could have made for a busy day of early retirement for me.

Luckily, I’ve largely completed all the leg work on the programs that we offer. In no time, these two customers had their respective workouts, and we walked away $30 richer.

We touched on our new ‘job’ of selling tradelines last month. We are happy to announce that we have sold all our tradelines, and are now just killing time until we need to take the authorized users off and let that cold hard cash roll in. Also, the credit line that we are using has gone up during this waiting period so we are going to be making double the money on all future tradelines.

Very little ‘work’ to speak of, which is just how we like it.

Work Total: $30

Rental Income

Rental Income
Duplex 1 $725
AirBnb $1,429.37
House & Apartment $1,740
Duplex 2 $1,100
Duplex 3 $1,100
Townhouse $581
Total $6,675.37
Early Retirement Rental Income
Filled this vacancy, but had another one pop up.

Another uncharacteristic month of early retirement income from our rentals. We filled our previous vacancy and got to pocket a $250 pet fee in the process. While we also received a security deposit, we don’t consider that income since that will likely be returned to the tenants. Also, depending on your state, the security deposits might be required by law to be in a separate bank account.

While one vacancy was filled, we had another one pop up due to one of our tenants getting deployed. We are sorry to see him go but wish him all the safety in the world as he’s a great guy.

The good news for us is that as of this writing, that vacancy has already been filled. However, we have another vacancy coming up in a few days. Both of these things will get covered in next month’s early retirement update.

The good news is that our AirBnb continues to stay booked & make us much more money than it ever did as a long term rental. If you are interested in turning a rental, or even a bedroom, into an AirBnb to make money on the side, be sure to use our link and receive a $25 bonus after your first booking.

Early Retirement Misc Income

For our miscellaneous income this month, we’ve received $52.01 in interest from our various bank accounts. We are looking closely at changing our primary and business bank accounts to receive some bonuses or additional interest. Mayhaps this will get covered in next month’s early retirement update.

Also, we are happy to report that we made $39.52 in affiliate income from someone purchasing a ticket to the Financial Freedom Summit in St. Louis using our link. We are incredibly excited to be speaking at this event and love any opportunity to spend time with like-minded people. If you are interested in joining us and attending the weekend summit that’ll cover everything from getting debt-free to achieving financial freedom be sure to click here.

If you’re interested in helping support this site, and the content we put out, be sure to check out our Financial Resources, Travel Resources, & Health Resources pages.

Total: $91.53

Total Income: $6,796.90

Early Retirement Update: Spending

We spent January in Budapest, Vienna, Barcelona, Malta, & France. Way more places than we would choose if we were to do it again, but we had a great time. We busted the budget this month but by how much?


To start off the travel category, we took an initially unplanned trip to Barcelona & Malta. One of our house-sits in France fell through so we found ourselves with 3 weeks to fill in Europe.


After our cold stints in Munich, Budapest, and Vienna, we were eager to get somewhere warmer. Luckily, Barcelona was just what the doctor ordered.

To start off our trip we booked 5 nights in Barcelona through Chase Travel for $261.39. For future reference, the Metropolitan Sports Residences is one of the top hotels we’ve ever stayed in. Mostly because it has a world-class gym attached to the hotel, but the view of Sagrada Familia out our window didn’t hurt.

Next up was another stay in Barcelona for 7 nights at Hotel Ilunion Barcelona. This set us back 15k Ultimate Rewards points and $322.10. This hotel was larger and closer to the beach, but the gym wasn’t nearly as nice.

We did use public transportation a couple of times in Barcelona, including from and to the airport. However, the weather is so nice there, even in January, that walking around everywhere is not only easy but even enjoyable. The public transportation in Barcelona came out to $21.22.


Next up on our early retirement travels for January was a week on the small Mediterranean island of Malta. We’ve considered Malta as a potential retirement destination, so we were excited to give it a try. Our first stop was a resort on the northern side of the island which we paid $136.28 for 4 nights.

Early Retirement Malta
Emily looking off our balcony at Hotel 1926

From there, we made our way to Sliema and had a wonderful stay at Hotel 1926. We partnered with the hotel and were compensated with a free stay. However, we did have a local tax to pay of $4.37.

Our unbiased opinion is that based on our experience, Hotel 1926 is the best hotel on the island. If you’re considering going to Malta, this place should be at the top of your list.

While we were in Malta, we yet again used the public transportation system to explore the whole island. Much like Barcelona, the weather was amazing and we spent hours walking along the coast. However, we pretty much rode the busses every day, which came out to $33.40.


Continuing our Eurotrip, we popped over to Southern France. However, when we arrived, we encountered a slight issue.

The train conductors were on strike. According to our information, our train was still on schedule, but that was before the rain began. Due to flooding along the route, our train was essentially canceled.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find this out until after we’d already dropped $17.70 on bus tickets from the airport to the train station. Luckily, there was a bus that would be going to our destination, so we hopped on that bad boy for $22.61. Crisis averted.

With yet another house-sit giving us a free place to stay, we got to cut back a little on our expenses here, for a week. Just outside of the beautiful city of Carcassonne, we found ourselves walking dogs through the vineyards every day. It was a great experience.

Our trip back to the airport via the train was another $16.56, but we didn’t take that trip until the beginning of February.

Early Retirement France
Emily Posted up along the walls of Carcassone

Future Travels

Earlier in the article, we mention that the Financial Freedom Summit is on our schedule for May of this year. Well, we went ahead and booked a room with our FinCon buddy Justin, co-host of the FI Show & writer at Saving Sherpa. We decided to book a couple of extra days on the back end to explore St. Louis again. Our portion of the hotel room worked out to $520.

Amidst all our travels, we decided to go ahead and book our flights back to the US in April. These flights set us back 60k points total and $193.00 in fees thanks to a fuel surcharge with British Airways. However, if we hadn’t booked these with points, this trip would’ve cost us $788.12

‘How do you know that?’ you ask. Well, because we booked it. Unfortunately, during our time in France, my grandfather had a stroke. We were waiting with bated breath to find out his prognosis. When it came back, it wasn’t good. The doctors gave him two weeks to live.

We decided to forego our booked trip to Tirana. Instead, we decided to fly home and spend that time with our family, while we still could. The good news is that we not only got to spend time with my grandfather, and the rest of our families, but he’s also doing better. As of this writing, he’s over a month out from his two-week prognosis, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Emily and I are happy to blow our monthly budget on something as important as time with family, especially when we have an emergency fund and savings outside of our monthly income.

To wrap up our travel expenses, we paid $122.86 for our flight in February from Budapest back to Cyprus.

Travel Total: $2,459.61


Due to our extensive travels, and short term stays, our spending on food was a little high this month. Without a kitchen in our hotel rooms, it can be hard to cut back on costs.

During the first week of the month, we spent $44.82 in Budapest. Some of this spending is from groceries & vitamins, but mostly from restaurants.

Early Retirement Spain
We worked up an appetite climbing up to Los Bunkers in Barcelona for this view

In Barcelona, we spent $166.52 on food. $24.18 of this is from groceries, which leaves $142.34 at restaurants, coffee shops, and gelaterias around the city. However, staying in hotel rooms severely limited our options when it came to buying and preparing food. This easily could’ve been much worse considering we were in Barcelona just shy of two weeks.

Much of the same story for Malta. Malta, on the other hand, is pretty cheap when it comes to food. Happily, we met up with some friends from back in Alabama and got a couple of meals with them. This was a small price to pay for them taking the time out of their day to essentially tour us around their area. Luckily, we crashed the hotel buffet quite a lot and kept the costs low while in Malta. This brought our total food cost for a week in Malta to $45.69.

During our last week of January, we spent $58.58 on groceries in France. Since we were in France for 12 days, these groceries held us over into February.

Food Total: $315.61


Rental Mortgage Expenses
Duplex 1 $393.03 $0.00
AirBnb $318.66 $477.57
House & Apartment $581.53 $1,658.56
Duplex 2 $350.26 $40.00
Duplex 3 $362.97 $40.00
Townhouse $577.24 $0.00
Total $4,799.82

One of these numbers might stick out to you. Our house with a detached apartment had a huge month of expenses for us. One was unexpected, the others were expected, but still not cheap.

We have an agreement with one of our friends, who understands investment properties, to show our vacant rentals. Essentially, the agreement is that she does anything that requires a person to be there. In exchange, she gets 1/2 the first month’s rent when she finds a tenant for a vacant property.

Since she found us a tenant, we shot her over 1/2 the rent. Once the tenants moved in, however, they noticed a leak in the kitchen. $821 later, the leak was repaired, and the damage in the crawl space was rectified.

This is the reason why we set aside 10% of the monthly rent to cover vacancies and repairs. With a vacancy in December, half a month of a vacancy in January, another vacancy coming up, and unexpected maintenance & repairs, having a significant cash buffer means that these expenses don’t worry us nearly as much.

Early Retirement Misc Expenses

There were a few miscellaneous expenses this month, including some medical expenses, our phones, and some ‘entertainment’. Nothing particularly crazy.

Back in August, Emily went and got tested for allergies while we were in the states. The lab was paid $139.13 in October for the test, but we’ve just received the ‘facility’ charge for the office that she actually went to, which was an additional $72.80. So, $211.93 for an allergy test. For the sake of comparison, the same test in Cyprus costs €1

Ironically, I just finished a book that was really eye-opening that I suggest you check out if you’re wondering why the US health system is so broken. The book is called An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business & How You Can Take it Back. Also, for those of you worried, it doesn’t have any political leanings, it’s a straightforward book about the economics of healthcare.

Now that I’ve finished my tirade on the bullshit healthcare system, we can resume our expenses. Our phone bill came out to $42.09 with Sprint. This is a killer deal considering we have and are still using our phones throughout Europe with no issues at all. The Kickstarter plan that we have has since gone up a little, but it’s still a great deal.

We also spent $24.53 on a new backpack. Emily’s €2 purse that she picked up at a thrift store back in November was falling apart, so we ‘splurged’ on a nice new one. Also, we spent $22.20 to tour the medieval Fort St. Angelo in the Grand Harbour of Malta. Finally, we spent $28.87 at a supplement store in Barcelona for a couple of months of vitamins.

Misc Total: $190.49

Spending Total: $7,765.53

Wrap Up

This was our first month of outspending our income in early retirement. In retrospect, our traveling might’ve been a little overzealous. 3-4 weeks in each location is our preferred way to travel, but that went out the window in January with us staying in 5 different countries in one month.

Luckily, we were up $11,559.50 through our first 5 months of early retirement. However, this does start the new year off in a hole. It was bound to happen at some point, but we still aren’t too happy about it.

Income – Expenses = -$968.63

Stay tuned for the coming months to see if we turn this year around and start trending in the positives, or if we are going to be looking for jobs soon.

Monthly Early Retirement Updates:

January: -$968.63


  • Thrifty-B

    Wow you guys have had a busy month fitting in so many countries.

    A while back my wife and I did 8 cities in 2 countries over 3 weeks. We had a great time but looking back it was exhausting and far too rushed.

    I can’t wait till we reach FI so we can do some slow travelling.

    Anyway, thanks for the update and I wish the best for your grandfather.

    • James

      Thanks, Thrifty! My grandfather is cussing out the nurses and therapists at every opportunity, so he’s pretty much back to normal, haha!

      8 cities in 2 countries sounds like a whirlwind. We once did 3 cities in 3 countries in two weeks. It was pretty much a guide on how we don’t like to travel. Luckily, since we’ve FIRE’d we’ve slowed our travels down to spending a few weeks to a month in each location. Hopefully, January was an exception to this trend and we can get back to slow travel for the rest of 2020.

  • Caroline at Costa Rica FIRE

    All those countries are on our list! We did hit France last year and hope to do Spain this year and then Malta TBD (that one is on my list and not really my husband’s so we’ll wait till our shared priorities are visited!). Would love a post on how you partner with travel venues in exchange for freebies. So far we have not tried to do that. We have some of our travel related to our consulting business so defray some expenses that way, but it would be great to have another way to subsidize.
    As for the outsized rental expenses, I totally hear you. We have 10 rental units, and there can be big swings if major work needs to get done or there is a prolonged vacancy. Luckily we have enough units that any one unit doesn’t throw the numbers off, but it still hurts. We just did our taxes, and 2019 was a rough year net-net. But we’re anticipating no major projects in 2020, so we’ll see!

    • James

      Hey, Caroline! We loved all the places that we visited. If we had to rank them though, we would say 1. Malta 2. Spain 3. France 4. Budapest. Spain and Malta are interchangeable between 1 & 2 though. We will definitely come out with a post on how we partner with travel venues soon, so stay tuned for that!
      The vacancies & repairs on the rentals can make the net income ebb and flow, but most of the time it’s foreseeable. Our rentals are slightly more stable than the market, which we’ve come to realize this week! We hope your plans for no major projects holds for 2020 🙂

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