Posts tagged budget
September 2018 Money Diary: Adjusting to Life on the Road (and Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!)
I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
— David Bowie, Changes
The Origami Life Blog - September 2018 Money Diary Travels

Changes to The Origami Life Monthly Money Diary

1. We’re no longer disclosing our monthly income  

In keeping with our views in “Stop Counting Other Peoples Money”, we’re curbing some of the financial voyeurism on this blog. In our opinion, knowing someone’s net worth is neither useful nor relevant. Comparing your financial situation to others, whether positively or negatively, is ultimately counterproductive.

Also, keeping it real: now that Jennie’s salary is no longer mixed in with our remote income, it’s no longer in our best interest to publish our profit/loss statement on a public forum. From here on out, we’ll just make a note of whether our household had positive or negative operating margins.

For September, the Jennie/Ivan household was profitable.

2. About 3% of our monthly spend will now be donated to charity

We’re both firm believers in setting the right incentives. Instead of the quarterly $250 donation we used to make, we will now be donating 3% of what we spend each month to charit(ies) of our choice. The more we spend, the more we donate. Consider it a 3% charitable tax on consumption. Another benefit of donating monthly is that we can now sign up for recurring subscriptions to organizations we support.

3. We’ve introduced new budget categories for monthly budget and spending

The Origami Couple - Expenses / Budget for September 2018

The Origami Couple - Expenses / Budget for September 2018


1. Rent and Bills ($1,199)

This category includes cost of hotels/accommodations plus our recurring phone bill ($60 per month), life insurance ($18 per month) and health insurance premiums ($142 per month).

Our major expense in this category was two weeks in a Kauai Airbnb ($975, $75 per night), partly offset by free accommodations in San Francisco (we have amazing friends) and Taipei (stayed with family). In terms of accommodation, Hawaii is likely the costliest place Jennie and I will be visiting this year, so we expect lower rent & bills over the coming months.

2. Eating Out & Entertainment ($481)

Too much good food was had to do it justice here. We try to eat local wherever we go. In Kauai, this means sticking to the cheap staples like taro, fruit, fish and chicken and avoiding fast food chains and anything that’s imported from the U.S. mainland.

3. Flights & Transportation ($734)
Most of this was the two week Kauai rental car ($465 - ~$33 per day) and gas ($60), plus a few Lyft and shuttle rides in San Francisco. Our flight from San Francisco to Kauai to Taipei (with a 12 hour layover in Honolulu) was paid for entirely with airline points ($34 total in taxes and fees).

4. Fees & Visas ($0):

Miscellaneous fees and visas as we cross borders. In September, we were mostly in the U.S., so this wasn’t a factor.

5. Relationships ($63)
This is our way of quantifying our investments in people. It doesn’t have to cost very much. Something as small as sending postcards to friends and family to let them know we’re thinking of them ($8), taking friends/strangers out to coffees and meals etc. Generally, just trying to be more open-minded and considerate of others. One of our goals for the RTW trip is to move as much of our budget from Eating Out & Entertainment (i.e. disposable pleasures) to the Relationship category (i.e. quality time with people).

6. Charitable Donations ($86)

When you get to your little place on Nantucket Island, I imagine you’re gonna take off that handsome-lookin’ S.S. uniform of yours, ain’tcha? That’s what I thought. Now that I can’t abide.
— Lt. Aldo Raine, Inglourious Basterds

Our donations this month went to a $15 a month subscription to ProPublica, with the remainder going to GiveDirectly. Our position on direct cash transfers (while cutting out the charitable middlemen) has been well documented on this blog. I think one of the problems with the rich is that they tend to act like they know the poor better than the poor know themselves. As an authority on myself, I have to disagree.

We’ve subscribed to ProPublica because it’s the only online media outlet that has consistently added value to our lives. Their coverage and local reporting network has exposed conflicts of interest, stomped on bigots, and brought powerful people to their knees. And don’t forget the ProPublica audio tape of children who’d been separated from parents at the border. It’s a sad state of affairs in the media space, when “differentiating yourself” means to have an attention span that lasts longer than five seconds.

Now it’s the consumer’s job to reward ProPublica for it.

September 2018 Favorites: Travels to San Francisco, Kauai, Honolulu, Taipei

Jennie’s Pick(s)

1. Waimea Canyon hiking and sunset drive
Waimea Canyon lookout points and intensive hiking trails really made my trip in Hawaii. During the full day that we went out to Waimea Canyon (which was too short), I had never hiked harder for a more gorgeous view. For anyone thinking of visiting Kauai, come out to Waimea Canyon and spend a few days hiking. It’s a nice reprieve from fast-paced, everyday life.


2. Helena’s Hawaiian Foods shortribs in Honolulu
(Jennie) Best. Shortribs. Ever. Ivan thinks I’m trolling because he can’t eat beef and the rest of the menu items were mediocre, but I’m not exaggerating! It was one of the best grilled/smoked short ribs I’ve ever had. If you’re ever in Honolulu, you have to make a trip to Helena’s Hawaiian Foods. Skip the Kailua pork (and everything else on the menu) and just get two large orders of short ribs, a few scoops of rice/macaroni salad and the haupia for dessert.


Ivan’s Pick(s):

  1. Muir Woods National Monument in San Francisco
    I really enjoyed our trip to Muir Woods National Monument in San Francisco. The entire day was just so wholesome and family-friendly it almost made me sick.  

  2. Kauai jungle cottage (Airbnb)
    Check out our Week in the Life post for more context. After some reflection, I’ve concluded that booking this Airbnb was totally worth the arguments, mini-tantrums, and mosquito bites.

    The way I think about it: Jennie has the memory of a goldfish. So what’s more likely to leave an impression on her thirty years from now? Two weeks spent at some copy-and-paste-job Hawaiian resort or the jungle cottage with a gigantic spider on our window and the outdoor bathroom and shower? Exactly. You’re welcome. Jennie can thank me later.

The Origami Life - Our Goals for Next Month

  1. Continue scaling up our business as expenses decline
    Based on the countries we’re planning on visiting the rest of this year, I expect our costs to come down drastically. This is a golden opportunity to step up our billings and ramp up our profit margins to prepare for the more expensive countries in 2019.

  2. Allocate more of next month’s budget to ‘Relationship’ spend over ‘Eating Out & Entertainment’
    As mentioned previously, it’s not really about the dollar amount. This is just our way of quantifying our time spent with people.

  3. Do a better job planning for RTW excursions. Jennie and I are big proponents of slow travel. We thought Kauai was the perfect balance of travel, work and creative projects. Our time in Taipei on the other hand, was not. As we adjust ourselves to a new way of life, I’m sure we’ll arrive at a more consistent pace and schedule.

Readers of this blog or followers on our Instagram would also benefit from more regular posts!

November Money Diary: The Dollar Vote

Ivan here.

November has come and gone, taking most our daylight with it. These days it gets dark out around four thirty in the afternoon. It’s harder to get out of bed in the morning, as the temperature drops and my biological clock slows down to a crawl. Winter has arrived. An election is over. Donald Trump is now our President Elect. 

Speaking of the vote, you know what’s a better representation of our values as a nation? How we spend our time and where we spend our dollars. A cast ballot every four years is only an expression of what we think we believe. How we spend our hours and dollars is who we actually are. 

Republican or Democrat, show me a random sample size of how you spend your money, and I can tell you just how full of shit you are. In the spirit of self reflection, let’s examine our own spending habits. We’ll show you how we spent our week on Thanksgiving. This year, both our families were still abroad in Asia and we only had each other for company. 

A Thanksgiving Week in the Life of Ivan & Jennie

Day 1

7 a.m.: Thanksgiving Day. Already bought groceries for the week ($65). Wake up and walk to the coffee shop for some writing and conversation. Our usual place is closed so we head to Starbucks ($7) 
12:00 p.m.: Grab some al pastor tacos from our favorite taco truck for lunch. ($11) 
6:30 p.m.: Make dinner at home, then head over to the New Beverly Cinema for a special Thanksgiving screening of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch in 35mm ($16) 

Day 2

7 a.m.: Ivan writes at a local coffee shop. Jennie stays home catching up on her NPR podcasts and sketches on her graphic design tablet ($3)
12:00 p.m.: We meet up at the bus stop and take the hour long bus ride to downtown LA ($3.50)
1:30 p.m.: Walk around Grand Central Market and the Bradbury Building. Ivan sells some books at The Last Bookstore. Spends a couple of hours picking out new books mostly with store credit ($12.50)

Day 3

Saturday. Spend all day at home making ribs, eating Costco pumpkin pie with ice cream and catching up on our shows (we like Westworld and Atlanta) $0 

Day 4

7 a.m.: Ivan writes ($3) 
12 p.m.: Ramen for lunch at Santouka ($17) followed by more lazing about and home cooking for the rest of the day

Day 5

7 a.m.: Monday. Back to work. Morning coffee together ($6).
1 p.m.: Jennie grabs a breakfast sandwich from Eggslut with co-workers near Venice Beach ($7)

Day 6

7 a.m.: Ivan writes ($3). Jennie picks up some bagels for breakfast and lunch ($7)
5 p.m.: Tuesday is movie date night. We picked Arrival. Normally we go to Cinemark on Tuesdays for the $6 discount. Side note: we have a rule where we'll never (ever) spend money on sequels or reboots ($12)

Day 7

7 a.m.: Ivan writes at a local coffee shop ($3)
12 p.m.: Jennie lunches ($7)
6 p.m.: Perfectly mediocre chicken pho at Mama Hong’s in Westwood; we still haven’t found that perfect bowl of chicken pho in Los Angeles yet but Jennie mentioned the beef pho was good ($24)

Total: $142 per week (+$65 worth in groceries)

So What Have We Learned? 

For starters, our finances show that we’re not exactly social butterflies. Or to quote Woody Allen, “we’re not antisocial, we’re just not social.” But the bigger problem might be that our lifestyle is way too insular and centered around personal enjoyment. We have zero connection to our community or the world at large. And how can we claim to be upset about the election results when we haven’t contributed a single hour or dollar to a cause or charity we care about? There is an obvious disconnect between what we believe and what we’re willing to do about it.

Something needs to change. Which is why by the end of next month, Jennie and I will be coming up with a shortlist of causes or charities that we value most, and will be committing either our time or money into supporting them.