We know there’s a huge interest in making money online and specifically in how individuals support their full time travel with online careers.
We already told you how we make money but to further expand on the topic and to help answer some of those elusive questions with real information we will be interviewing fellow bloggers over the next few months and reporting back. We’ll post two interviews a month so make sure you check back for the next part of the series soon.
First up we showcased our friend Sharon over at Where’s Sharon followed in part 2 by Jasper from the epic blog The Travelling Dutchman. Both offered two very different ways for online money making and we’re super excited that part 3 showcases yet another new angle. Whatever your skill and experience, there is something for everyone to learn here.
So now that you’re all caught up, please meet Tom and Jenny from Till The Money Runs Out. We could tell you how amazing these two are, but their interview more than speaks for itself. Here goes…
For those who don’t already know you, please introduce yourself and your blog
We are Tom and Jenny of Till The Money Runs Out. We have been “location independent” since February 2011. We met in San Diego, CA in February of 2010. I was just finishing up Grad school (earning a Masters in behaviour analysis) and Tom was working as an embedded software engineer for a start-up in the medical device industry. We took a one-month trip together to Costa Rica and Panama about 6 months after meeting and decided two things. One, that we definitely really liked each other (like, you know, liked liked each other) and two, that it was probably a good idea for us to sell everything we owned and start travelling the world together. Needless to say, it was one heckuva good trip!
We figured that we would travel until our savings ran out (hence the blog name) and then come home and get “real” jobs in our respective fields. Our biggest concern was having to explain the gap in our resumes to future employers at job interviews! Though we did think of some great responses to that question, we still have not needed to use them. We ended up starting a business together on the road, getting married and are still travelling together 4 years later.
When you decided to embark on a life of long term travel, how did you financially prepare? (Did you save money at home, plan to work on the road or something else?)
We were both in a pretty unique position when we decided to go travelling. We each had a little bit of money saved up ($12,000 total between the two of us) and decided to take the plunge with little to no preparation beyond that. We figured we would possibly WOOF, do work exchanges or take any other opportunity that came up while we were on the road to make our savings stretch as long as we could. We made the decision and then jumped into it so quickly that we barely had time to even think about how long it would take “the money to run out” or what we were preparing for. I remember thinking, “maybe it will just be 6 months, at the very most it will be a year. But then again, maybe after 2 months we’ll decide that it’s a terrible idea and come back and get jobs.” We were really just taking it day by day.
How did you know when it was the right time to quit your job and take the plunge?
It was sort of a “now or never” type of thing. As I mentioned before we were in a unique position when we decided to do it. Tom had just gotten laid off and my current job knew that that I would be leaving to accept another position that used my higher credentials once I passed my boards. We had a little money saved and were both at a turning point in our careers. We knew that if we didn’t grab that opportunity right then we would be on too strict of a career path to take the time for the foreseeable future. So we just plunged. I would like to add here that the majority of people in my life think that I was absolutely nuts for taking off right after finishing my degree with job offers on the table.
How do you make money now?
We make the majority of our income through the company we formed together; Touch Autism, making apps for kids with autism and other special needs. My background and education are with working with kids with special needs, and Tom is an expert in all things geek. When we first started dating I had an idea for a tool I wanted to use with my clients and when I told Tom what I wanted he built me an app. It worked really well, so once we started traveling we put it in the app store and slowly started to build more. We have over 20 apps in the app store now.
In 2013, we had saved enough to buy a house in the bay area. We had some brief thoughts about maybe having a home base there and taking shorter trips. Our house is a duplex and we rent out half of it full-time to cover the costs of the house (mortgage etc.) and rent out the other half full-time on airbnb which pays for most of our day to day travel expenses. We manage both properties as we travel. It’s all about having great cleaners for Airbnb and a great home owner’s warranty! We had envisioned the property as a home base, but it turned out to be a way to diversify our income. I think we spent a total of 20 nights in our “home” in the Bay Area in 2014.
If you make money from your travel blog, how long did it take to monetise? And what tips do you have for aspiring bloggers to achieve the same success?
We do not make money from our travel blog. It’s a labour of pure love. We mostly keep it because I am a travel nerd. I am endlessly interested in travel and wanted to connect with other people who are too. I also rely on travel blogs for information about places and wanted to contribute to that body of knowledge.
As far as app development goes, it took us about 8 months to be making anywhere close to what we needed to fund our travels. Our company grew very slowly in the beginning. We didn’t really even think of it as a company back then, it was more of a fun thing for us to build together. We worked on it steadily for 3 months before we even thought of it as a thing that could make us money. The best piece of advice I have about monetizing any project is to try and not take it too seriously in the beginning. We tested a lot of theories and made a lot of mistakes , if we had thought that we were building our future business we may have been less bold with some of the choices we made. Since we didn’t see it that way it gave us more room for creativity. We were just having a blast throwing stuff at the wall and no one was more surprised than us when some of it stuck.
Have you made any financial mistakes in relation to travel and if so, how did you overcome them?
We make minor mistakes all the time (who doesn’t!?) I am sure we overpaid for cilantro at the market today. Minor mistakes happen and we try to not let it bother us too much. I would say that the number one financial mistake we try to avoid is not doing something because we think it’s too expensive. At the start of our trip (before we were making any money), we met some friends in Ecuador. They were talking about going to the Galapagos and we said that we didn’t think we would because it was too expensive. They said “really?? You are all they way in Ecuador and you aren’t going to go to the Galapagos? Don’t you think you’d regret that?”
It was sound logic and with a little bit of research and a lot of flexibility we were able to do it for much, much cheaper than the average Galapagos trip. We also laid low a little before and after and it all evened out over 6 months, that is we still kept our daily budget as average. BTW keeping a budget is incredibly helpful. We use the Trail Wallet app by Erin & Simon of Never Ending Voyage and cannot recommend it enough.
[Couple Castaway note: Can confirm – we love Never Ending Voyage. If you’re thinking about chucking it all in to travel – go to their site. On many occasions when we were panicked about the decision, that website calmed us!! They also gave us some helpful advice when we needed it. They’re good peeps!]
Now we don’t hesitate. If something seems like an incredible experience we go for it, no matter how expensive. Once we decide to do something I do research and planning to get the best prices possible, but we always make sure we do it. That’s the whole reason we are here, right? When are we going to be back in the same places? When are the opportunities for those experiences going to be there again? I think a financial mistake would be not making the more awesome choice because of money. Our trip to the Galapagos was one of the absolute highlights of our last 4 years.
What are your financial goals? (To earn enough to stay on the road? To buy a house?)
Our goal is to continue running our own business on our own time while enjoying our life. So far we’re doing it, but you never know when the money is going to run out.
Do you have long-term financial plans in place? (Such as a pension/401K, money invested somewhere?) If not, are you concerned about your financial future?
We do have the house, but other than that we do not have any official retirement accounts. We drained those to start travelling, and then again to buy our house. We are not too concerned about the future, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be – it just means that Tom and I both happen to be “that” type of person. We are both such tinkerers that even if every business we are currently running completely failed one day I am sure we would find some other thing to keep us afloat.
We are also quite lucky in that that we both have degrees and experiences in specialised fields so that one of us could probably get a job if push came to shove. The best thing we’ve learned over the past few years is that we need much less to live off of then we used to think. We are pretty frugal and like doing research to find good deals while not sacrificing anything for quality of life.
Seriously, how inspirational are these guys?? When we received this interview a couple of weeks ago Jenny and Tom’s advise was just what we needed at the time and we were really glad to get to know them a little better. We hope it helps you as much as it did us! See you in a couple of weeks for the next one which is with a very clever guy named Will! If you’re worried about missing it please sign up for our newsletter and it, along with the rest of the Money Talks series, will be delivered right to your inbox.