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April 2021: Income, Expenses, and Costs of Living in Kiev and Kharkiv, Ukraine

Happy May everyone! Summer is officially here and I have never been so excited to see the sun again. It's crazy as one of the reasons I left Sri Lanka was because I got tired of the heat and endless summer and needed a change. Coming to Ukraine in March was a shock as I went from +37c to -7c  which is the equivalent of 98f to 18f degrees. It was interesting to see a change of season, a bit of snow, and experience something drastically different. But two months of cold was enough and I don't know if I'll manage staying here during the winter again as my body and DNA just isn't built for the cold. 


Income wise, when people ask me how I earn money, it's hard to answer as as of now, I have very little active income, almost none. My in person events company has basically closed for the past year and has been operating at a loss, basically providing a small negative cashflow. Even though two of my dropshipping stores are doing extremely well, my partners haven't paid me in over a year as they've been doing all of the day to day work. So as of right now, I'm spending a lot more than I'm earning, but thankfully and luckily, the stock market has been rising, and I was smart enough to have invested 50% of everything I earned these past 7 years into it. That decision has been my only savior, as without it, I'd be broke today and living a drastically different life. Here's everything I did, earned and spent this last 30 days here in Ukraine. 





Kiev vs. Kyiv vs. Kharkiv


I started the month in Kiev, Ukraine, which is actually now more accurately spelled Kyiv as the former is the Russian spelling and pronunciation while the latter is in Ukrainian. The problem however is no one outside of Ukrainians and a small handful of others know that, and spelling things out as Kyiv has been confusing. At first I though I'd do my part and try to help the cause by labeling my Youtube Videos and posts as "Kyiv, Ukraine" but very few people clicked or watched them as they had no idea where Kyiv was. By changing the titles to Kiev, Ukraine, my impression click though rates grew back to normal, and I decided that it's not my fight to fight. I do try to add both spellings in the videos, titles, covers and descriptions to help the cause, but it's not my job to try to educate the world on this topic.


The other city I traveled to this month was the student city and old capital of Kharkiv which is actually close the Russian border. But for whatever reason, maybe since it wasn't a popular city anyways, the old Russian name of Kharkov actually never stuck, and they are both so similar anyways that either spelling is understood. I honestly never thought I would go back to Kharkiv as even though it was a fine place to live for a couple months back in 2019, it just isn't as appealing as Kiev as there's much less to do. I wrote a blog post on Kharkiv, Ukraine during my last trip here that is helpful if you want to know where in the city to stay, the neighborhoods, and costs of living here. 


I really wanted to love Kharkiv as the city itself is laid out better, is more walkable as it's mostly flat, and I love that there are parks everywhere that you naturally walk through during the day and don't have to go out of you way to visit. The metro is also easier to use and more functional, and prices for almost everything are much less, especially rent and housing. If I was a student, or on a tighter budget, I would 100% live in Kharkiv instead of Kiev as it's literally half the price for many things including rent. Restaurants, bars and food prices are also 25-30% lower in many cases, and since it's a flat, walkable city, you never actually have to take a taxi anywhere in the city center unless you chose to. But even then, since there's much less traffic compared to Kiev, it's also cheaper. 








Where I Traveled



On the way back from Kharkiv I decided to stop by the small city of Poltava for a few days to check it out and to visit a friend. It was actually my buddy Engin's idea, whom you may remember from Sri Lanka as we met there. His fiancé Elena is from Kharkiv originally so they went there to visit her family and friends. It was nice having old friends here in Ukraine as well as a fellow Youtuber to go on trips with, as otherwise I don't think I ever would have went to Poltava. Most Ukrainians have never even been there.


It was an easy trip though as it was on the train line ride back to Kiev, splitting up my journey into two. As we were just two guys, we decided to stay in a private room in a hostel, which added to the adventure. I felt a bit silly as I was still paying for my Airbnb in Kiev, had an apartment that I just bought sitting empty waiting for the paperwork to finish, and actually still had a night left at my Airbnb in Kharkiv. But luckily none of it was too expensive, and it was perfect timing as I was able to give my last night to Elena who actually moved into the Kharkiv Airbnb that I had found as she loved it so much.


Poltava itself was actually a super charming city with a beautiful old town. It's another place that i'm surprised how few people visit as it's definitely worth checking out for at least a night or two. I may even go back there again in the future now that lockdown is over restaurants are open for dining in. Here's the first two videos of my time in Poltava, the food tour will be on the channel tomorrow if you are subscribed. 










Costs of Living



Ukraine is a tricky place as you can literally spend as much as you want, on the upper end of the budget, or you can live relatively cheaply. But honestly, anyone who is trying to bootstrap a business,  on a budget, or wants to save money, don't come to Kiev. While technically you can survive in Kiev, just outside of the city center for around $700 a month as plenty of locals do it, but it won't be an ideal life. On that budget you'll be sitting on public transport, stuck in traffic, and eating at home most days. Or you can do what many young Ukrainians do and share a small apartment with 2 other people, similar to what people do in Manhattan. You won't have much privacy besides your bedroom, but at least you'll be in the center, and be able to eat out easily. A three room flat, which is technically a 2 bedroom plus a converted living room, can be as low as $600 a month, making your rent divided by 3 affordable. 


But since I don't want to share a kitchen, bathroom, and not have a living room, I'm happy to pay more and live in my own private apartment. Honestly, if I was on a tight budget, I would either live in a smaller city like Kharkiv, or I would live in Asia full time in Thailand or elsewhere. Being poor in Ukraine isn't fun, and although there are some nice things to do here that aren't expensive, the real magic is if you can spend $3,000 - $4,000 a month here or more as that's when you can really enjoy life, take taxis everywhere, eat at nice restaurants, get massages, join a nice gym, go to the sauna, and be generous with friends. Also you need to budget for random things happening here in Ukraine like random hidden fees when you use your credit card or withdraw cash, getting scammed, or overcharged for things that you have no control over. 


The first month I was here I spent way too much and felt like I was going to the ATM either third day to withdraw the maximum limit of $450. However in this past month, I've settled down, stopped going to fancy restaurants and bars as often, and have started to calm down a bit. I think it's a normal phenomenon whenever you're in a new place, which is another argument why slow travel and spending a minimum of 4-6 months in each location before moving countries is ideal. A lot of the expenses included picking up the check and treating friends to dinners or drinks, taking both guys friends and girls out to dinner, paying for their taxis sometimes, and other nice to dos that weren't actually required. I feel very fortunate to be able to be in a position where I can be generous without hurting myself financially too much, especially this month during lockdown where a lot of locals are having salary cuts, and spending more on transportation to get around as the Metro and other public transportation isn't working.


Here's what I spent for the month of April not including the $1,000 a month I spent my parents for their retirement, nor the business expenses and costs of buying the apartment, lawyer, and permeant residency fees which all added up to be another $5,000 or so for the month. Below are just the costs of living for April 1st-30th, 2021.



Rent, Airbnb Kiev: $700
Rent, Airbnb Kharkiv: $239.38
Hostel, Poltava: $18.83
Deposit on New Property: $4,000
Taxis, Uber, Bolt, Uklon: $160
Train, Intercity: $45
Gym, Pool: $30
Massages and Sauna: $140
Restaurants: $380
Bars, and Clubs: $220 
Supermarkets: $210
Random/Cash: $100
Debit Purchases: $1,036.03
Internet Data: $4.32 

Expenses for April: $7,254.42

*Total costs of living for April were $3,254.42 not including the apartment deposit. 










How Much I Earned



This category is a bit tricky as I technically didn't earn anywhere close to $7,254 this month which would mean i'm cash flowing negative each month. Luckily I have enough in savings and investments to keep me afloat and going during these months. I've also managed to spend a tiny bit less than I did in March, but a lot of that has to do with the restaurants being closed and also me being in cheaper location for part of the month. 

Unfortunately I also made a lot less than I did in my previous months. My main source of active income has been my Youtube channel, and this month since moving to Ukraine and making content here, my earnings have dropped in half to just $748.50 this month which basically only pays for my rent here in the city center. Luckily aside from that I still have a few sources of income including the dropshipping stores I built following Anton's method which have continued to do extremely well this past year, even though I'm still battling with my partners to get paid out my share of the profits. 

My other sources of passive income are still working, but have slowed down since I haven't paid attention to them lately. My biggest source of other income is all from investing and I'm lucky as right now the stock market has been on a bull run and increasing by $20,000 a month lately. The downside however is just as quickly it can swing $20k in the other direction, which is why I never count those earnings until I actually cash them out and sell, like I did with shares of MGM, HAL, SYF this month for a 300% gain during the 1 year and 1 day I held them. I had to free up some cash to buy the apartment here in Kiev, and it was perfect timing as I only bought them last year as a gamble and they have all paid off since. Learn more about it by listening to my quarterly updates on the Invest Like a Boss Podcast if you're curious to know more.











Goals, Thoughts, Plans



This past month has been overall fantastic. It's funny to be able to say that as my income was extremely low, my expenses super high, and I was living under red zone lockdown the entire month. But even then, I really enjoyed my time and felt like i've made progress this month. My knowledge of the Russian language has been improving as I've been making it a habit to study a bit each day and speak it more often. I went on a few really incredible dates and although I'm planning to keep my personal life private, I can say that i'm looking forward to the month of May and being able to go for more walks in the city center and in the parks as the weather is improving. 

Although it has been a huge headache and list of responsibilities to deal with buying the property while applying for permanent residency, it's nice to see the process moving along and making progress. And even though the earnings from my Youtube videos has cut in half since moving to Ukraine, I don't regret it one bit as I'm genuinely enjoying the change of pace and the process of making and editing videos here. It's something unique that is creatively fulfilling even though it's not yet financially as much so. You can check out and subscribe to my Youtube channel here if you haven't already.

My goals for May will be to finish closing on the property and finally get the keys so I can start planning and renovating the apartment before moving in. I'll also have to leave the country to activate the temporary residence permit, which is a bit annoying needing to fly again, but will make for an interesting trip somewhere. I'm also happy that as of next week my gym will be open again so I can get back to training, even though I'm actually still in decent shape as I've been doing pull ups and working out at home 4-5x a week regardless of the gym being open or not. My biggest goal for the month will be to spend more time practicing Russian and improving even more. Let's hope for another good month.



Johnny FD




With love from Kyiv, Ukraine,


Johnny FD










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Post a Comment

  1. How was your April everyone? What are you looking forward to most in May?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Welcome to Dhaka Bangladesh someday Johnny.i am your biggest fan.thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I never considered Bangladesh before, but i'll keep it in mind!

      Delete
  3. Been following you for a while, great stuff my dude. Israel should be on your list of places to come, I'll show you around. The surf here is off and on, but its awesome when it does fire. Cheers to another amazing month of progress, Russian is a bit tricky, but you'll get the hang of it, there's ton of Russians here as well btw, in some cities all you hear is Russian & Hebrew, lucky for me I know both :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the invite but the groups of Israeli tourists I've met while traveling have put me off from wanting to visit. But I have a feeling that people in Israel itself are very nice and it's just the travelers straight from the army in large groups that aren't the best representatives of your country.

      Delete
    2. I know exactly the type you're talking about. We're ashamed of them as well lol. Israel is a melting pot of people, so there's a bit of everything. I would say that you gotta know where you should go and not go, but most of Israelis are welcoming and warm.

      Delete
  4. Hey Johnny!
    Will you attend the Nomad Fest in Bansko?
    Speaking of which...any plans for a potential future Nomad Summit? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Filippo, I won't be going to the Bansko Nomad Fest this year, but it's good they've having an event there. But unlike them where they already have the venue and a community of people already locally there, the Nomad Summit would be a huge risk if 100+ people need to fly in somewhere and we need to pay for a venue. We'll see what happens later this year, but 2021 doesn't look good.

      Delete
    2. Yes, I was thinking about 2022 maybe?
      Well, fingers crossed!
      I hope you'll continue organizing the Nomad Summit :)

      Delete
  5. Be blessed ! Some helpful tips!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Johnny, why are you not practicing BJJ ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll get back into it soon that i'm settled down and have a place to keep a Gi again.

      Delete
  7. Replies
    1. The title of this article is: "Income, Expenses, and Costs of Living in Kiev and Kharkiv, Ukraine"

      Delete
  8. Hi Johnny, what would you miss out on by living in Kharkiv instead of Kyiv? I don't need a lot of "entertainment" or activities, but just wondering if it would be too depressing/provincial/boring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kharkiv is more of a student city, so there's plenty to do, but more what college kids would do. Bars, restaurants, lakes, etc.
      But there won't be many big networking events, Operas, Ballets, expat meetups, etc.

      Delete
  9. Just found your blog. How come you don't use Google translator for Russian? I know trying and struggling might be best to learn to speak language, but do you get by using Translator app? Thanks for your content.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I use it once in a while when needed, but it's not always convenient to use in the real world.

      Delete
  10. Hi Jonny. Missing you here in Sri Lanka. so inspired with your Travel like a boss vlogs.
    BTW,
    Can i know what theme are you using for this blog?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey Jhonny...am following your YouTube channel since a month and loving your videos...very genuine content...you give a feeling of a very pure and kind soul...

    Came across your blogs and lovin them...hope to meet you someday soon and travel together..

    Cheers..

    P.S. utmost respect for taking care of your parents

    ReplyDelete
  12. John you are way too generous with friends. I'm old enough to be your mother, and you really don't need to pay for other people's drinks and taxis etc. Wait until your YouTube increases. Did you buy TWI apartments? I x 37k and 1 x 138k or are they rented? Yankee wally youtuber

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's fine, money is better spent on friends and food than anything else. =)

      The $37k apartment is rented out, the $145,000 is waiting for furniture still.

      Delete
    2. Fair enough! Thanks for answering. You seem like a clever man with your money so I'll shut up now! Much love x

      Delete

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