Use Mobility to Win Back Your Time + The Real Cost of Living in Bali

Use Mobility to Win Back Your Time + The Real Cost of Living in Bali post image

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Way back in 2007, when I was putting in 60+ hour weeks in the office, 20+ hours behind the wheel of my car, and checking emails 24 hours a day, it was the idea of winning back my time that struck me the most while reading the 4 Hour Work Week.

Considering cash, mobility, and time as an interrelated system was incredibly powerful for me. As an employee, I thought I was working purely for cash. Post 4HWW I realized I could trade time for more mobility and cash, or trade my mobility for more cash and time, etc…

I knew immediately the currency I wanted to maximize was time.

One of the most popular trades people make after reading the book is trading in their time and cash for mobility– or “traveling.”

Trading mobility and time for cash is “hustling.”

Trading mobility and cash for time is “building.”

If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, travel is a dangerous (but seductive) choice.

4HWWers who respond to reading the book by jumping off on a round the world trip are generally delaying entrepreneurial ambitions.

If you choose to travel before you’ve built a scalable source of cash flow, you might have a few years having the time of your life– but when your bank account bottoms out, you will likely find yourself back in a job.

By squandering your time and cash, you could be giving up and a once in a lifetime opportunity to develop skills that could give you a great deal of personal freedom for decades to come.

Something else bothers me about the travel choice. It has a lot in common with a consumer mindset. Since you have enough cash to go out and see the whole world, you’ll go do it now, rather than building a lifestyle and a business that would make that kind of spending– in both time and cash– sustainable.

Not altogether a bad thing– just not my bag.

If I had to make a bet, I’d say it’s the people who value their time, and it’s very close cousin, their work, who are most successful at making the lifestyle work.

That’s why I’ve always been interested in the concept of baselining.

Baselining = Building

Baselining is moving to a controlled cost environment where you have a fairly clear idea of how long your cash runway is. Your runway in months is your savings, minus your emergency fund, divided by your monthly expenses. For example– since it costs about $1000 a month to live in Bali, if you have $6000.00 in savings, your cash runway is about 6 months.

I love having debates about the tradeoffs of baselining in different locations. Me and the TMBA boys are currently having it out about Bali vs. Philippines– you can see my earlier post here about baselining in Puerto Galera, Philippines at Badladz resort.

So without any more blabbing… here’s what I think it could cost for an internet marketer to come live here in Bali. Prices are quoted monthly. You could be way more hardcore than what I’ve listed below, and I know people who do it. I didn’t go this way with the budget– the reason is that most internet lifestyle guys I’ve met just don’t go hardcore. They spend too much time drinking coffee at cafes and blowing off steam in clubs in the evening.

To reflect that, I’ve built a lot of fluff in to the budget below, with the exception of your international travel outside of affordable Singapore visa runs. If you’ve got the freakin’ eye of the tiger you can do way better than this. Getting bare bottom prices on stuff (reducing your cash outlay) generally takes a lot of time. No shit!? :)

How Much Does it Cost to Live in Bali? (see video of affordable apartment below)

Basic monthly expenses, with a lot of fluff and luxuries built in:

  • Centrally located apartment: $150.00 USD (if you live in the southern peninsula, half the price, but not much to do…)
  • Electricity bill for apartment: $30.00 USD (if you install an A/C, if not $10.00 USD)
  • Wireless 3G internet FOB: $60.00 USD (Max3, unlimited service @ 768mps down… faster speeds available at limited usage)
  • The inevitable WIFI cafe camp-out sessions: $180.00 USD 
  • 3 Local Meals a Day: $264.00 USD
  • Your caffeine addiction: $141.00 USD
  • Honda Automatic Motorbike $60.00 USD (note you could always get a push bike)
  • Your lush party lifestyle: $150.00 USD
  • Fuel: $17.00 USD
  • Visa: $30.00 USD (Get a 6 month social visa before hand, you’ll need to run to Singapore every 6 months).
  • Run to singapore every 6 months (amortized): $35.00 USD
TOTAL:  $1,117.00 USD

Video example of an affordable apartment in a top location.

I started making this video for the folks in my mastermind group, but I figured I’d throw it up on the blog after so much interest in my last post about Bali. The type of apartment shown on the video is called a “Kos.” They are primarily marketed to Indonesians which is why the rates are so good and the shower water is so cold.

In the video you can see some brief shots of our house here in Bali. If you’d like to see a detailed home tour, and what you can get for $1500 USD monthly here in Bali, check out this post. I’m experimenting with doing more video stuff here at the blog, which is why there is all the over the top stuff. I’m basically just toying around with iMovie. I even got Final Cut Pro X now, but I’m a little intimidated to start using it.

Some auxiliary expenses / prices to consider:

  • Large Bintang beer at store: $2.50 USD
  • Large Bintang beer at bar: $3.00 USD
  • Cocktail at jet-set style bar: $10.00 USD
  • 2 liters of Diet Coke: $2.00 USD
  • High speed wired internet service to house or apartment: $150.00USD, 1.5MEG down, 12 month contract.
  • Rack of Pork Ribs at Naughty Nuri’s: $14.00 USD
  • Bottle of wine at restaurant: $35.00 USD+ (spirits are heavily taxed in Bali)
  • High quality cup of coffee: $2.25 USD
  • Western style gourmet burger / fries meal or similar: $8.00 USD
  • 2 Veg, 2 Protein Rice Lunch at local restaurant: $1.50 USD
  • 1 hour professional massage: $6.00 USD
  • Taxi ride to airport: $3.00 USD
  • Round trip flight to Singapore: $120 USD.
  • Monthly rent on 3BR villa in central area: $1300 USD (paid in advance annually).
  • Full time cleaning maid: $110 USD monthly.
  • Average round trip air faire to the US: $1400.00

Sure, those are hypotheticals… what about you?

Our estimated running costs for the TMBA compound in Seminyak, Bali, is $25,000 USD annually. That includes all of the expenses for the interns like meals, household stuff, and the help. The house itself was 150,000,000 Rupiah for annual rental + daily gardening staff. I pull $900 USD from the company monthly to cover my local expenses, which basically consist of Diet Coke, Bintang, good coffee, and local food.

I’m interested to hear your favorite baselining locations.

Cheers from the compound,




PS, we’ve got 2 new interns selected and moving in to the house as we speak. Congrats to Simon Stock and Aamir Chistie. I’m looking forward to big things from both of these guys.

Published on 07.25.11
  • Hey Dan,

    just read your post and i wanted to workout my own baseline too so i thought i might as well write it here instead of a piece of paper so i can share it with all your peeps.

    i left the uk in 2005 and been based overseas since. being in such a lush environment such as a tropical island/beach makes me work my ASS OFF so hard when i need to (im a internet entreprenuer), in order to be able to stay here longer, so i think living somewhere hot and tropical is working for me, it gives me something to loose :) lol.

    anyways….. i lived in a few places in the Phililipines, and i my business has been an up and down rollercoaster in terms of income so my lifestyle has varied alot. here it is…

    2005-2007 – boracay island beach life (ballers package)
    rent monthly = $600 (includes bills)
    food monthly = $700 (eating out all day in restaurants)
    party lifestyle = $400 (partying in clubs 4-5 times per week)
    Visa monthly = $30
    flights back and forth to manila – boracay every month for fun = $100
    Jet skis, scuba diving, boating, fun stuff = $200
    Transport by tricycles = $20 
    TOTAL= $2030 per month.

    2007  – 2008 Manila City life.
    rent monthly = $300 (studio condo)
    Electric + water + Internet = $80 + $20 + $20 = $120
    food monthly = $300 (eating out in hard rock and TGI’s 2-3 times per week)
    party lifestyle = $100 (partying once a week?)
    Visa monthly = $30
    Fitness first platinum membership (worth it) = $70
    Taxis = $100
    TOTAL = $1020

    2009-2010 Back to boracay Island (business is hit by recession)
    Rent Monthly = $40!!!!!! includes bills (room is alrite actually though)
    food = $100
    party lifestyle = $50 (drinking more on the beach/dive shops instead of clubs)
    visa monthly = $30
    transport = $0  (two birds with one stone, get fit and save money)
    TOTAL = $220 per month for everything, my entire monthly spend! people think its not possible but it definately is if your in a tropical place, it doesnt cost anything to swim in the sea and enjoy the sunsets. something i learnt during 2009-10.



  • Dan

    Kris great stuff… ballin in Boracay!? Where did you live in Manila! That’s an impressive figure there. I spent a shit ton there, especially on food and rent. 

  • Alias Alex

    Hey Dan, 
    It has been about an hour since I ve been consuming your blog like a dog after a week without food. How come? Since my last visit to Bali and it has been about 3 years now, I have sworn to myself that I will be back. 
    I am now working on 3 projects online. Once of them is generating good income that allows me to pay off an old sin of mine. My goal is to travel in the next couple of months to stay there at least for a month. Now the last time I was there I paid myself a nice stay in Nusa Dua… However, this was during solid 9-5 days. lol. However, the only thing I was doing was partying in the MBARGO. What a waste I guess, but I was in good company. The information you provide here is invaluable to me, however, if you think that your connection is slow, you should check out my USB modem in that f*** Russian village I am in. Dont ask me what I am doing here. lol. So watching Videos is a big deal here and it would take me hours to download. Nevertheless, I will make it there soon. Is there a way to come an visit the compound… I am really curious what you are up to… OK. Let me continue consuming that good stuff…

  • Olive171074

    I stumbled over your blog searching infos for Bali as i will travell there in june, i used to live in bali 17 years ago.
    I probably gonna stay for longer again this time, maybe we could meet up onetime and have a cold Bintang together

  • Dan

    nice for sure! 

  • Pingback: One Year After My Tropical MBA Internship | Phoenix Abroad()

  • Alex

    Can you share with us how to find an apartment for a decent price? I’m also currently in Bali as well and looking for a place to settle and work my internet businesses. Any tips on finding accomodation?

  • Dan

    There’s no simple way right now, there are some Indo facebook personalities that help, but it helps to speak bahasa. Best to pound the pavement, AirBnB and check out the Bali Advertiser.

  • Awesome stuff.. I’m currently working through all your “Live in Bali” type articles at the moment. Booked my ticket for September a few weeks ago.

    Super inspirational on here. Especially because people in my life wonder what the fuck I’m going to Asia for haha.

    Love that Brother Ali track!

  • Dan

    Cheers Drew appreciate the low! Best of luck with you adventure.

  • Boulder Basti

    Hi Dan,

    And also other readers. The article is from 2011 and I was wondering if it is still possible to live in Bali for 1000 USD per Month.

    Best regards, Sebastian

  • theoretically you can, but you’d have to live outside of the main souther area… if you lived in Amed or around Ubud or the Bukit, and you kept your shit really tight, and stayed on a social visa, you can do it. People in these areas more realistically spend 1500-2500 monthly. If you live in Seminyak, you could easily double/triple that.

  • Boulder Basti

    Wow. Then its going to be CM or HCMC at first. Thanks for your time.

  • No question the energy level required to keep 1K budget in those places significantly lower.

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