January 2020 – China, Dowry and Coronavirus

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January 2020 Update

It is already time for the first monthly update of 2020!

And January 2020 was relatively quiet. We had a nice party for the new year. Finally, I have been to China in the last week of the month. And I will still be there a few days of February as well.

From a financial point of view, it is not a good month. But this was expected.

We went to China for about ten days. We went there with Mrs. The Poor Swiss to visit her family. And we celebrated the Chinese new year. Normally, this is the best time for us to visit since the family is all together.

However, given the current state of China because of the new virus, this was not the most exciting vacation we ever had. People were afraid of going out, and most things were closed. And some of the members of her family did not come in fear of the virus. And since most of the internet is completely blocked, there was not a lot I could do. But it would have been challenging to plan for this.

Let’s see in detail what happened to us in January 2020.

January 2020

The first month of 2020 went by very quickly. We did not do much, but it still was fast. We had several things during the weekends of this month. But no big event except going to China.

In 2019, I started having issues with my knees and back. So this month, I decided to see a doctor. Unfortunately, they did not find anything. So they are sending me to a specialist. But I already paid more than 400 CHF for this. It is pissing me off to spend so much for no result. And all that while paying a ton of money to the insurance itself.

We are still looking for a house. I met with my bank to make a reasonable estimation of how much we can afford. We found a perfect house that we were ready to visit, but it was sold before our visit. It is pretty sad. We also found out another good one, but it is too expensive for what it is. We may visit once we come back from China, but we are not going to offer that much.

With all that happened this month, we still managed to save 44% of our income. It is a great result. It is more than I would have imagined.

Visit to China

The main event of this month was that we went back to China. I wrote some of this current post while in China. We went there for the Chinese new year. Mrs. The Poor Swiss went there two weeks advance. I then joined her, and we came back together.

To save money, we did not take direct flights to Hong Kong. But I think this is a mistake. I could not convince Mrs. The Poor Swiss of spending a bit more money. But the trip killed me. A two hours drive, followed by a two hours flight, a four hours layover, and an eleven hours flight is too tiring for me. And finally, we have to take a ferry and a car. I will not do that again. Next time we go to China, we will take better flights. It is not worth saving the extra money.

The main issue with the trip was that we were in the middle of the new coronavirus epidemic. A lot of things were closed down. And people were afraid to get out. So we saw very few people and mostly stayed at home. When we went out, we took face masks for safety.

When you combine that with almost no internet (everything is blocked in China), it was quite dull. But I do not see how we could have planned this better.

Fortunately, neither of us has any symptoms of the virus. We will still isolate ourselves once back in Switzerland for safety. But it should not be an issue.

We waited a bit too long there, I think. But once we saw that some borders were closing, we decided to leave two days in advance. Fortunately, British Airways let us change our flights for free, given the situation. But we should have probably tried even earlier. We will be more careful with escape planning next time!

Expenses

Here are the details of our expenses for January 2020:

  • Insurances: 1090 CHF. Average. Our health insurance and law insurance.
  • Transportation: 287 CHF. Above Average. Normal gas bills and the parking at Zurich airport during our trip.
  • Communications: 119 CHF. Average. Internet and phone bills.
  • Personal: 2551 CHF. Well above average. We paid for the dowry and about 400 CHF for medical bills for my knees (for no results).
  • Food: 236 CHF. Below average. We did a lot of groceries for chocolate and candies for China at the beginning of the month. But then, nothing for two weeks. It makes our overall food costs very low.
  • Apartment: 1247 CHF. Just our rent.
  • Taxes: 799.45 CHF. Standard taxes for the year. It will soon increase.

Overall, we spent 6331 CHF this month. It is significantly more than we want to spend each month.

But we knew before that we would not reach our goal this month. Given the dowry and the fees from the trip to China, we could not spend so little this month.

Nevertheless, we are still saving money this month. And this is the last year I have to pay for my dowry!

2020 Goals

Let’s take a look at how my goals are doing at the end of the first month of 2020:

Our goals as of January 2020
Our goals as of January 2020

Overall, I feel like we are in the correct direction for our goals. However, there were a few hiccups this month. I did not transfer money to our third pillar before going to China. So I will be late for this goal. But this is not a big deal. I will do it in February.

We are also a bit short on the income and net worth goals. But this is not so bad since next month my ESPP shares will help the net worth and in March, my bonus should help my income.

I did not reduce any bill this month. But I know of one I can reduce next month. I do not know about the three others, but I will find out!

Our spending goal is starting badly. We were expecting that because of the dowry. Hopefully, we will be able to compensate for that during the other months. We will see how it goes.

My blogging goals are going well. The blog saw a significant rise in users this month. And an even greater rise in page views. It is really good. And the income from the blog was pretty high. However, January is generally a great month for personal finance blogs. We will see how that goes next month. But I am pumped!

I have been able to do a lot of updating work on the log. But I started with some easy removals of posts. So the progress will slow down. But I am not worried about this goal

I managed to lose two kilograms in January! It is a pretty good start. But I weighed myself before going to China. So I am pretty sure I put on at least one extra kilogram there.

As for the gym, I did not manage to get there as much as I needed. I was lazy during the Christmas period. And then I lost several days by going to China. On top of that, my knees are getting worse, so I try not to push my luck. And after coming back to China, I will work from home for two weeks, so no gym.

Net Worth

Let’s see how our net worth is doing at the end of January 2020:

Our Net Worth as of January 2020
Our Net Worth as of January 2020

Our net worth was not very eventful this month. Which is not a bad thing. It is continuing to increase at a nice rate.

The next month should be more eventful normally. I should receive shares from my ESPP plan. This should add a few thousand CHF to the net worth. And in March 2020, I will receive my bonus (yet unknown amount), and this will make another nice bump.

Since we are trying to buy a house, we are now almost entirely in cash. It means fluctuations in the market will not have much effect on our results. But this also means that our returns may be lower.

The Blog

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January 2020 was a good month for the blog. After the very slow month of December, January started recovering the traffic. This month saw 25% more users on the blog than last month. And there were 40% more page views. It is a really great motivation for me!

There were a few hiccups while I was in China. Since I did not get access to my mails, I could not handle them. I will try to improve that the next time.

Since I made the blog significantly faster last year, my AMP pages are now slower than my regular pages. So I am starting to see how does my traffic goes without AMP pages. I have currently disabled them. It seems that my traffic did not change with this. If by the end of next month I still have the same traffic, I will keep them disabled. There is no point in having AMP pages if they are slower than regular pages.

I also cleaned up the menu. There were too many links there, and it did not make complete sense. Now, it is simpler and more logical. I also cleaned up a bit the sidebar. I am considering removing it completely. Half of the people are on mobile already, and they do not see it anyway.

Since I had written many posts in advance, I had the time to do many updates on the blog. But I started with the easy ones.

I deleted several old posts that had no value and almost no views. I do not want my new readers to find these posts. I also consolidated some posts together. I think this makes the blog better! I plan to update many more articles this year. I already have seen some results this month on articles that got more views after they were updated.

Unfortunately, I almost could not do anything while in China. I planned and bought a VPN subscription that was supposedly working in China. Unfortunately, this was not the case. And obviously, you cannot download any VPN from China. So I could not check my email. And I could not use any of my spreadsheets or any service I am using for this blog.

I managed to write a little but not nearly as much as I wanted. It is not easy without any means of doing proper research. So I am way behind schedule on the blog, unfortunately.

As usual, here are the three most-read articles of January 2020:

  1. TransferWise versus Revolut. This post has been the post with the most views for many months now.
  2. Revolut Swiss IBAN. This post does well but still gets four times less traffic than the first one.
  3. Revolut Credit Card. This post always does well but is a more reasonable amount of traffic.

It is a bit concerning that the same articles are always at the top. I would like to

What about you? Which was your favorite article of January 2020?

Next Month – February 2020

We had several things planned for February 2020. But we canceled most of them. Since the coronavirus can stay dormant, we are going to isolate ourselves as much as possible for 14 days. After that, we have a nice weekend planned for Valentine’s Day.

From a financial point of view, our finances should be back to a normal level. We need to be more careful. This month it was a lot of spending. But I am glad this is the last year I have to pay a large dowry. And we will probably not go for the Chinese new year in 2021. But this is far! And since I will receive my ESPP, it should make a nice growth to our net worth.

What about you? How was January 2020 for you?

Mr. The Poor Swiss

Mr. The Poor Swiss is the author behind thepoorswiss.com. In 2017, he realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut on his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2019, he is saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

14 thoughts on “January 2020 – China, Dowry and Coronavirus”

  1. Sorry to hear about your trip. At least you and Mrs. TPS made it back safely as got to see some of your families there.

    I like the new menu of your blog. It’s like you de-cluttered your “home”page. I’m always de-cluttering mine but I’m also adding new stuff. It’s fun to test things out though!

    My favorite blog posts of yours are your book reviews and these financial updates. I think it’s not bad that your top 3 posts continued to stay at the top spot. It means you’re at the top of your game in terms of SEO for those posts. I’m trying to just get ONE to land on the front page of Google in 2020. SEO is kind of like a game for me now haha.. and I play to win :) although I’m a bad player at the moment.

    1. Hi MBF,

      Yes, going back safely and not being blocked there is the main thing.

      As you said, it’s really fun to test things out. And I already see the results, more people click on the important things than before!

      I am surprised your favorite posts are about my book reviews, there are not doing very well :P
      Yes, of course, it’s great to have top posts. But this means that if these posts are removed from Google, I will lose a lot of traffic. But it’s not a huge deal indeed. I need to put new articles at these top positions now :)
      Good luck landing one post on the front page. This is a great goal! If you produce quality content, this will occur eventually.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Yes I like the book review series because not many personal finance blogs are doing it which makes yours quite unique. Plus I’m always on the look out for interesting books cause I love reading! Keep up the good work! :D

  2. It’s a bit pity that we could not do many things in China , but it’s already a big thing to come back safe. And restart a nice 2020.

  3. Do you have a blog post where you talk more about the dowry and why you pay it? To me it’s like something from 1820, not 2020. I’m kind of stunned to read about it next to articles on cutting-edge low-cost currency conversions etc!

    1. Hi Andrew,

      No, I do not have a post about that. I completely agree that it feels out of this age!
      But this is still the norm in China and my wife is Chinese. And I actually managed to pay a very low one.
      I think it’s pretty sad. Because of that, many young people do not marry because it’s simply too expensive. And many family are simply looking for a son in law that will give them as much as possible. This is is not very sane.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Good to know you are both well after your trip to China. It is not a nice situation they have there.

    By the way, usually when I travel to China I use a free vpn named Turbo VPN, it is not the best one, but it works more or less (I would say around the 75% of the time, which is quite ok for a free vpn).

    It is funny to hear about the dowry matter because I will have to face the same situation next year as my wife is chinese as well. I will pay the whole amount at once, I never thought about the possibility of paying the dowry in many ‘installments’! :D

    We are both sharing one of the personal goals for 2020, which is learning chinese. I want to achieve a HSK 3 level (only spoken for now), althought I struggle, not easy at all… xD

    Good luck with your knee and back issues! I hope is nothing serious!

    1. Hi Salva,

      Thanks! It’s indeed not great there right now.

      Thanks for sharing your VPN. I tried NordVPN this year that was supposedly working in China, but it didn’t work a single time. So it seems like Turbo VPN is much better.

      Haha about the installments, it was actually an idea of my wife to ease the pain on me. Chinese are laughing when they hear that ;)

      That’s interesting. You are more ambitious than me! I just want to improve my Chinese, I do not plan to get any certificates. I struggle a lot as well. Even though I remember many words, Chinese people do not understand me when I speak… It’s quite unmotivating to learn this language.

      Good luck with your dowry and your Chinese!!!

  5. Hello everyone reading this,

    I would like to share my story!! (honestly I just need to talk, my friends just dont care about investing! and your super blog i found out weeks ago about finances where other people like the subject seems a good place)

    I really wanted to start my adventure in investing so the last 4 months i read day in and day out about the subject. I am really fond of passive investing and starting with a global ETF seemed just about right to start. I prepared my emergency fund, no debt to pay, made a nice excel with all payments every month, found a broker online that i liked and last 20th february i bought my first bulk of shares of the ETF (i bet you are already seeing where this is going xD x,D QQ)

    Oh boy, was it a bad time to enter the market (i should have known, with the bulish market we got since jannuary) but i didnt want to time the market. Now my investment depreciated +10% in less than a week and everyday i wanted to sell (but i didnt lol). Now I understand why everyone says “sell high and buy low” but easier said than done!

    Im still thinking about selling monday to stop the loss, and enter at another time… but this is timing the market. But this virus story is far from over and the market can very well fall more 10%.

    Now, next week is March and if i am to follow my nice excel i should do my first monthly deposit (it would average a bit the price per share even if it is way lower than my initial investment) but my motivation is also in the red like the markets :P i admit im a bit lost.

    Do you have any friendly advice for this newbie investor?

    What a way to start investing my friends! I just needed put this all out, so i can come here in 3 years and laugh about it!!!!
    if you read it till the very end, thank you very much kind soul.

    Wishes of a nice March to everyone.

    1. Hi Alice,

      First of all, very good of you to start investing! The most important is to get started.
      Now, I agree that this may not have been the best time to start investing. But the problem is that there is always a better time to start. So if you wait for the best time you do not invest at all.
      And congratulations on not selling!
      You need to remember your goals for investing. I am guessing that you set a term for investing. If you are investing for the very long-term, you should really not worry about this.
      “Sell high and buy low” is actually a bad strategy because it only relies on luck. Always buy and never sell is a much better strategy.

      If you have set yourself a strategy, I would recommend you to keep to it.
      You knew we were very high, so it is good if your next payment ends up lowering your price.

      I know it’s hard, but the worst you can do right now is sell. But you have to realize that it may take a year for the market to recover.

      Stick to your strategy and do not look at the market every day. You have an emergency fnd, you have no debt and you seem to have your budget into control. It seems you are fine!

      Let me know if you have more questions :)

      1. Thank you for your advice.
        I didn’t sell, instead bought more this month as planned. Its for the long run, 10 years minimum and now i feel dumb for panicking last week :)
        Its still is going down (i know i shouldnt look at the market every day, still need some work on that) but now i see as an opportunity to buy cheaper. In 5 years i may be paying more for the same thing!

        Thank you again, this volatility could very well keep me away from investing for years. Im happy i didnt give up :)

        1. Hi Alice,

          Good for you!

          You should not feel dumb. Emotions are normal and everybody is the same. The important thing is to not let them decide for you :)

          Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your investing!

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