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Hold On Or Let Go?

Hold on or let go? Choosing the quick cash vs. the slow burning route

Life has felt a lot more relaxed lately. In the past month I’ve had several free weekends and they have been glorious. There is less of a rushed mindset and it all has to do with quitting my side job.

My main side job for the past several months has been English tutoring. I worked at a language center teaching classes of 2-6 kids. It was fun but the workload started to really take a toll on me. You know, the kind of toll where even getting up to eat food is a chore. 🙂 

A bit of a background on this. In Thailand there are three main ways parents have their kids learn English. The first is to have them go to a school where there are English teachers that teach them 2-4 hours per week. This is the most common scenario. The second option is to sent them to a fancy school that has a dedicated English program where they get the majority of their lessons taught in English. This is a pricey option that requires a semester tuition payment. The third option is to send kids to an evening and/or weekend language center where they learn English in a small group for two hours per week. A lot of English learning Thai kids have a combination of options one and three.

The school I teach at for my full-time job has a dedicated English program where most lessons are instructed in English. They also have lessons in Thai and two Chinese classes.

My school pays a very good salary in comparison to many other schools, so I feel lucky. But I knew that in order to save up some more money and also pay down more debt, I would need to pick up additional work. Enter tutoring and various side hustles.

In terms of side hustles, I have done some basic design and website management work for people.  It hasn’t been a lot but it was something.

Tutoring, the other extra money making endeavor, is one I originally only did two classes per week of. The language center I worked at was new and I was one of only two teachers. I liked the classes I taught. Very quickly as more students started to enroll, my boss gave me more classes. I was excited at first! More money!

New students and classes kept pouring in and my tutoring paychecks started to become a very good sized amount. There was just one problem: I never had any time off.

Mondays through Fridays during the day I would work at my full-time job. Then on Mondays and Wednesday nights I would have private classes at the language center. On Tuesdays and Thursday nights I would do blog work. Over the weekend I would work up to 14 hours tutoring several classes.

Let me tell you, hearing 3-6-year-olds screaming and jumping around for several hours a day really makes you think about whether you want to have kids or not. I would always be super worn out. On Sunday nights I would come back to my apartment, climb into my bed, and try to write while sighing every few minutes. When Mondays rolled around, I had to do it all again for my full-time job.

I felt constantly “on” all the time and it was so draining.

I wanted to quit and work less hours but I kept thinking about building up my savings and paying off debt. How bad do I want it?

I’m still currently in debt (only student loans) there isn’t a ton left on them but I do want them gone as fast as possible. The question I ask myself is How fast do I want to pay them off while still having some sort of life?

Working 7 days a week is good in the short term but it isn’t sustainable. Eventually, a crash will happen. Last month I finally quit my language center tutoring job. It was difficult to do but I knew it needed to happen.

I was at a crossroads for a while deciding whether to hold on or let go. Did I want quick cash or the chance to really build something I liked (which is this blog). 

Is it better to chase quick cash or go the slow burning route? For me, I want the latter. Doing a quick cash side hustle is fine if you’re main purpose for the money is to pay off debt or ramp up savings. However, if you want to build something that allows you to learn new and practice new skills and satisfy your personal development, choose the slow burning route.

Which one would you choose? 

How I Live Well On $1,200 a month

I live well on $1200 per month. It doesn’t have to be super difficult. Although it does help to be in a good area and have a frugal can-do mindset.

This is about how I live well on $1200 per month. It doesn’t have to be super difficult. Although it does help to be in a good area and have a frugal can-do mindset.

I get a lot questions every now and then from people about how I’m able to live on such a small income. Short answer? Location matters a lot. You want to be in a location that has a low cost of living. Although you don’t want to choose someplace solely for its ultra-low cost of living. Doing that is a recipe for disaster in the form of being bored out of your mind in a place where there is nothing to do.

Nobody wants that! I don’t want it either.

Right now I live in an area near Bangkok, Thailand. Two common things come to people’s minds when they think of Thailand: gorgeous beaches with huge limestone rocks in the background (those are Thailand’s southern islands) or they think of the crazy Thailand scenes they saw in The Hangover 2.

Well, my living situation doesn’t involve either of those things. Bummer, since I really did want to meet Zach Galifianakis!  My living area does suffice, though!

I ended up in Thailand back almost a year ago when I moved abroad to teach English here. I’ve been teaching at a private school in an area near Bangkok and have been loving it. I’m the only male Kindergarten teacher in the whole school and one of the few in the entire school’s history!

My salary for the job is 43,000 baht per month. Per current exchange rates as of this writing, that comes out to about $1,223 USD per month. Crap. Poor right? Not really.

Thailand is known for having a low cost of living. The Bangkok area and South can get pricey since they are where hoards of tourists go but places up North like the popular digital nomad city of Chiang Mai has a really nice low cost of living.

Let’s break down where my monthly salary goes.

Rent (5,500 baht)

I don’t need something super upscale for living. As long as the place doesn’t have a bug problem or crazy people, then I’m good. The apartment complex I live in is kind of dated. The walls are bland and a little dirty. There is no pool or gym or any fully staffed office. I live in a 400 square foot one bedroom apartment. The rent is 5,500 baht ($156.43 USD) per month.

There are definitely higher end options. Several other teachers at the school live in a more modern apartment complex with a pool, gym, and rooms with modern looks and appliances. However, it does come with a cost. They pay between 9000 to 12000 ($256-341 USD) baht for their apartments.

Utilities (1,350 baht)

My electric bill costs around 650 baht per month, give or take. Internet (15 mbps download/1.5 mbps upload) costs 650 per month. The speed is enough to stream things like YouTube and Netflix with ease. My water bill, and this is the one I really love, is only about 50 baht per month! Some months it’s higher, like one time when it was 80 baht, but most of the time it’s lower. I can’t believe the water bill is so cheap!

Food (8,500 baht)

If you’re ever keen on visiting Thailand, you’ll probably hear how it’s best to avoid western food and focus having most of your meals be local food. It’s because the local food is way cheaper. You can get street cart dishes for around 40-60 baht. The area I live in doesn’t have an abundance of street cart food as Bangkok does so many of my meals come from the mall or a nearby market. Every now and then I do like to buy some Subway or other western food. I like Pad Thai and other Thai dishes but sometimes I just need something familiar and more filling (since the Thai dish servings are small).

A minor problem I have is that there is no kitchen in my apartment. There is a kitchen sink off in one corner of the living room. That’s it. There is no stove, no microwave, and no dishwasher. Not even a countertop. Just a kitchen sink with a small part next to it to put sponges and stuff.

This isn’t too big of a deal since I, and many Thai people eat out for many of their meals. Since I’m a single person, it’s cheaper to eat out than try to cook myself. I can usually get breakfast stuff for under 40 baht ($1.14 USD) and lunch and dinner stuff for under 100 baht ($2.84 USD). I don’t even have my refrigerator plugged in! If I ever need a cold drink all I have to do is run down to the first floor outside where the Family Mart is.

Cell phone (420 baht)

It’s common to get data only cell phone packages. Since many of the people here communicate via the Line App for text messages and calling, all you really need is a good size data package. I pay 420 baht per month for 4.5 GB of 4G data. Way cheaper than the average American cell phone bill. I love it!

Gym (1,500 baht)

Gyms are pricey here! Not sure why. My $20 former Planet Fitness membership is small compared to what I’m paying now, which is around $43 USD. Eh, it’s not ideal but I’m okay with it. I’m one of those people who does use their membership. So at least I’m not wasting the membership away!

Miscellaneous (3,730 baht)

This is mainly reserved for any weekend travel but it’s used for other things. Every so often, I buy pencils, poster boards, and other office supplies when making educational materials for my class. This category also includes my laundry service which is around 400 baht per month.

A cool thing in Thailand is they have these laundromat services where you drop off your clothes in the early morning and pick them up in the afternoon. These laundry service places will wash, dry, and fold all your clothes for you. It only costs around 100 baht to get it done every week! No having to fold clothes and remembering to do laundry!

Wednesdays is discount movie day and movie showtimes are only 100 baht ($2.84 USD). When I go, I try not to get popcorn and a drink but I sometimes end up caving and getting it anyway.

Almost all of the foreign English teachers, myself included, don’t have cars. We usually use a mix of public transportation and taxis to get around. I can hop on the BTS Skytrain and take a 37-minute ride into downtown Bangkok for only 84 baht.

Grand total: 21,000 baht total expenses ($597 USD)

Savings: 22,000 baht ($626 USD)

Total salary: 43,000 baht ($1,223 USD)

This budget isn’t set in stone. Like all budgets, it fluctuates but I try to keep it tame. I’m able to save a good portion of my paycheck every month and I’m happy about that. Sometimes I do tutoring to make extra money (usually between $350-600 extra per month) but at the moment I’m not doing it. So this is how I live on a roughly $1,200 USD per month income. Let me know if you have any questions!

Emotional Spending is Awesome

Our emotions have a big impact on our spending. Nourish this with some generosity and gratitude. Click through to find out different ways to practice generosity in your day to day life!

Making decisions based on your emotions is usually a recipe for misfortune. In fact, personal finance 101 discourages emotional spending. But…emotional spending is awesome in certain situations.

Why do I say this? Because right now the world feels very bleak. A part of my brain is telling me it’s always been this way. It still doesn’t help the emotional part of my mind from thinking about all that’s going on right now. People are scared, they feel afraid, angry, and unsure of how to continue to move forward.

The past few months have left people to try and make sense of the environment around them and how to foster growth and change in the face of active resistance. It’s been confusing, sad and frustrating. Providing budgeting and saving tips feels empty without addressing the emotional impact people have had lately. All the money tips in the world won’t help if your emotional confidence doesn’t feel full.

Formulating words, messages, and bonding with others. Connecting with people and letting them know they’re understood has been more important than ever.

In times of negative emotions and bleak outlooks, generosity becomes critical. Helping one another out and being there for people. There are a few ways to do this. Donate money or donate your time. Look up organizations that need help and see if you can donate a set amount to them. Find charities whose mission you passionately agree with and get involved with helping them out.

Below is a list of some popular organizations you can learn more about and consider donating to. Use a site like Charity Navigator to figure out the financial health and accountability of different charities.

Planned Parenthood: There has been lots of talk of defunding Planned Parenthood. For decades the organization has provided reproductive health services to women at affordable costs. Half of your donation will go to your local Planned Parenthood affiliate and half to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Donate here

Center for Reproductive Rights: advocates for reproductive rights, access to birth control, and unbiased information on reproductive health. Donate here

National Resources Defense Council: They work to safeguard the earth, its people, plants, animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends. Donate here

Trevor Project: They provides 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth. Donate here

National Immigration Law Center: fighting for the rights of low-income immigrants through litigation, policy analysis, and advocacy. Donate or find out how you can attend a training here: Donate here

NAACP Legal Defense Fund: provides legal assistance to poor African Americans and civil rights and voting rights activists. They bring lawsuits against any violators of civil rights.  Donate here.

Do you want to voice your concern to Senators and representatives? Call them! Talking on the phone is a weird foreign thing nowadays but calling (compared to tweeting or Facebooking) is the most effective way to reach them. Find their phone numbers here. Find your congressional district here.

For personal finance, consider getting involved with the Rockstar Community Fund. They do various initiatives focusing on helping one another out, spreading joy, and helping people kick down their debt.

Aside from donating money and voicing concerns, find other ways to connect with people and help out. Take time to express gratitude to someone you know, whether it be an old friend, family member, or someone else. Make discussion a habit and don’t rely too much on survivorship bias. Learn from others outside of your circle and viewpoint. Understand different perspectives and scenarios.

Practicing generosity, using your emotions, opens you up to a new state of mind. For me, it helps me appreciate what I have and develop a develop a deeper motivation for going after stuff.

Emotional spending is awesome and can be used for good. The “spend” part doesn’t always have to involve money. Generosity is spread in many ways. Make time for it. 

How do you practice generosity? 

Grow The Gap

Or in other words, Why picking sides between spending less or earning more isn't thinking of the full picture.

Or in other words, Why picking sides between spending less or earning more isn’t thinking of the full picture.

Gaps are important. Write that down and say it three times! Haha. It’s true, though. Gaps are important and they’re talked about all the time. Usually, it’s with emergency funds (growing the gap between bank account zero and a few months of expenses).

In terms of building actual wealth? It’s so important. When it comes to your unique money management, what is best? Spend less or earn more? How about neither? Let me explain.

There is a rifle debate in the personal finance world of whether to focus on cutting back and spending less or, on the flip side, earning more. In fact, when you get on the path to being better with your money, the first step mentioned by several financial blogs, podcasts, and people is to comb through your monthly expenses and see where to cut back.

Cut the cable subscription, cut down on eating out, stop getting lattes, and stop going out and spending so much on entertainment. There is even extreme tips about cutting out all junk food, cell phone service, TV, downsizing to just one car, foregoing all fun and letting your soul die…(<—maybe not that last one).

You might balk at the tips and think about how you don’t want to do without certain things because you want to enjoy life. But then you read crazy inspiring stories about people who have paid off mountains of debt. Ahhh, those “person paid off [insert crazy amount] of debt in [insert a super small amount of time]” stories everyone loves to read.

The people who have paid off the debt talk about how they cut out a lot of their expenses and lived minimally. They detail how doing without cable and kicking their latte habit were the big reasons they don’t have the debt monkey on their back anymore. You read the stories, while sipping with your *bomb-tastic* delicious Starbucks mocha, and think about how you need to give up monthly indulgences. The thought sounds blasphemous. You look down at your latte and whisper “I’ll never let you go” a la Titanic-style.

Growing the gap in personal finance. It's all about growing the gap between what you spend and what you earn! Click through to read!

Switching between browser tabs, you stumble upon the other side of personal finance: earning more. The blogs tell you like some sort of fantasy fairy godmother that earning more is the more important side to focus. After all, there is only so much you can cut back on. Earning more is infinite!

As it turns out, earning more money doesn’t have to be something solely achieved through promotions at work or getting a higher-paying job. There are lots of different money making opportunities. Some of them require going on and getting extra part-time work. Others are about making money online.

So which one is better to focus on? Spending less or earning more? It’s neither and here’s why. Size matters.

When it comes to money management and reaching your financial goals, it’s all about growing the gap.

What is the gap?

The gap between what you earn and what you spend. You want to grow this area as much as possible. Pay attention to it, treat it like a precious little puppy and help it grow. Growing it will help you reach your financial goals faster.

And let’s be honest, most people, especially twenty-somethings, have lots of savings goals they want to hit. There are weddings to save up for, other people’s weddings to save up for, a three to six-month emergency fund, house downpayment, travel fund, personal development, and more.

It’s important to tend to both sides to increase the gap. There are always ways to cut back even if you’re frugal and there are always money-making opportunities to be done.

I used to dismiss the whole “spend less, cut expenses” advice of personal finance. I thought I was good with money. Back when I was working my first job entry-level job out of college, I thought I was a pretty frugal person. I didn’t have a car payment, I didn’t buy lots of clothes and go out a lot. With my entry-level wage, I thought I was saving all I needed to save. It wasn’t until I started more closely tracking my spending and doing no-spend challenges, did I realize that there was usually room to cut back.

Being more conscious with grocery shopping, I was able to cut my food budget further. For my cellphone, I got a slightly cheaper provider. Even on an entry-level wage, not making a lot of money, there were still areas I was able to cut back in.

Since I’ve gone through the cutting expenses part, my focus lately has been on giving some TLC to the other side: earning more. Because, as mentioned earlier, there is unlimited potential when it comes to earning more. I like that and I’m sure you do too.

It’s all about growing the gap. Stretch each side as much as you can! It’s a journey that requires tenacity. I’ll be keeping you updated on how it progresses for me. 

How do you go about growing the gap between what you spend and what you earn? 

What I Would Tell My 22-Year-Old Self

What would tell your 22-year-old self about navigating life? These are my lessons learned.

Ah, to be 22-years-old again. Young. Full of life. Everything is ahead of you. Life in your early twenties is often a time of fast changes. You graduate college, move different places, start new jobs and begin to figure out what you want and don’t want out of life. It’s a time period of exploration.

Although, a time of exploration usually leads to many confusing periods. You don’t know if you want to stay at this job. You’re not sure if you want to keep doing this career. Should you switch careers? How do you change careers without having to go back to school? Should you break up with your significant other? Why is dating so hard? Oh, and crap, you forgot to turn off the A/C before leaving the house.

As Taylor Swift so eloquently put in her pop anthem “Feelin 22”, you’re often happy, sad, and confused all at the same time.

When I look back on my 22-year-old self, I see a guy who sort of knows what he wants out of life but feels confused amidst all the constant changes. Being young and fresh out of college, a lot of options are pushed at you.

Older adults look at you like you’re an alien when you say you’re not sure if you want to buy a house. According to old fuzzy logic, homeownership is the best thing there is. Renting is just throwing money away *eye roll*. You understand what people are saying but you can’t even imagine saving up the ungodly amount needed for a down payment on a house.

Material possessions get pushed on you at every corner. It’s all under the guise of ‘you deserve it!’. Buy a new car because your old one just won’t do anymore. Go out to eat constantly and call it networking, or brunch, or both. Get the nicest apartment, sans-roommates, that you can get. Those student loans are fine. Just paying the minimums on them is fine (spoiler alert: no it isn’t). 

So, my younger self, a lot of things are going to get pushed on you during your twenties. There is going to be an intense pressure by society, peers, and family to constantly be upgrading your lifestyle. Don’t fall into it.

Lifestyle inflation can be a dangerous thing. Don’t contribute too much to it. Let your friends pass you up. They can have their nice cars, restaurant food, big houses, and debt. Focus on you. Stay in your lane! Figure out your why, find your goals and chase them like there is no tomorrow.

Relax and breathe. There is no need to be so stressed out at this point in your life. Right now, you’re relatively string-free. There is no mortgage, kids, or partner holding you down. Relax! Take deep breaths! Everything will work out.

Life is an experience. Learn to enjoy the ride!

*record scratch*

*freeze frame*

Yeah…no. Let me explain. I actually am 22. Right now. Right at this very moment (I just had my half birthday last month!). So why am I writing a list to my 22-year-old self when I am…22? It’s because I’ve been noticing an alarming trend in many of these “what I would tell my younger self” articles. The people writing them seem to almost romanticize their younger self. It’s as if they’ve lost touch with how things were in the situation they look back on.

Let’s assume you just saw a person get in a fender bender. No one gets hurt but the person’s car gets totaled. The people in the car accident would, fittingly, be distraught and stressed. They just totaled their car and they’re already stressed enough about money. After a few years pass, the person looks back on the ordeal and gives a faint smile. I would have told myself to not be so stressed! They reminisce.

It’s easy to offer advice like that. Advice that downplays past situations and even sort of romanticizes them. College commencement address speakers love to offer the ‘embrace failure!’ advice. It’s easier to say that than think about a 22-year-old scraping by with very little after going through a setback.

So, what would I tell my 22-year old self? Listen to advice that doesn’t lean too much on survivorship bias. Remember to take risks, but have them be calculated risks. And most of all, pay attention to advice that doesn’t overly romanticize past times.

To other twenty-somethings out there, I’d refer them to this article, which is filled with solid, sound tips. It’s a good, informative read, sans all the fluffy romanticism. 

What do you think of those “what I would tell my younger self” lists?

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