My family of 4 is financially independent thanks to passive income from real estate. Here's what we spend in a typical week.

chad carsonCourtesy of Chad Carson

  • Chad and Kari Carson live in Clemson, South Carolina, with their two daughters.
  • The Carsons are entrepreneurs and real-estate investors. They earn between $100,000 and $150,000 a year.
  • Their real-estate investments generate enough passive income to cover their annual expenses of about $60,000. This steady income allowed them to spend about 17 months living in Ecuador; they returned home about a year ago.
  • For Business Insider's "Real Money" series, Carson tracked his family's spending during a typical week. They spent about $940 on after-school activities, groceries, and a birthday celebration.
  • Want to share a week of your spending? Email yourmoney@businessinsider.com.

Passive real-estate income didn't pay for our lifestyle overnight. In fact, it was a feast or famine struggle for many years - including the 2008-2009 recession.

But 15 years after graduating from college, my wife and I, along with our two kids (5 and 3 years old at the time), found ourselves on a plane with one-way tickets to Cuenca, Ecuador.

Our personal house was rented out in Clemson, South Carolina. Most of our stuff was sold or stored. And we had enough rental income from a portfolio of properties to cover basic living expenses indefinitely (especially with lower cost of living in Ecuador).

This experience living abroad began a new era of financial independence and incredible flexibility for our family.

About two years later, we returned to the United States and our home in Clemson. The rental income did indeed pay for our living expenses (and then some). And we all became more or less fluent in Spanish (although my daughters enjoy correcting my gringo accent and vocabulary mistakes!).

Getting out of the normal work-and-spend grind allowed us to prioritize what mattered to us. We exercised daily. We ate more nutritious, home-cooked meals. We learned something new, just for the fun of it. And we spent a lot more time with family and friends.

Financial independence also gave me time to follow my passion of writing a book and teaching real-estate lessons on my podcast, YouTube channel, and blog.

And my wife Kari built on her passion of teaching English and Spanish. But instead of university teaching with red tape, drama, and meetings, she taught private lessons on her schedule. And she was able to offer her services to whomever needed it the most, whether they had enough money or not.

We returned to the US about a year ago and life is still moving at a reasonable pace. But we're not completely set for life.

For one, exorbitant health insurance costs forced us to recalibrate our budget. We pay almost $1,300 a month (and rising!) for an unsubsidized Obamacare Plan with a deductible of $6,300 per person and $12,600 for the family. But even at a high cost, we're thankful for insurance that doesn't exclude preexisting conditions.

And we still have financial goals to improve our rental property cash flow, pay off more real-estate investing debt, and improve our margin of safety.

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Spending for our family of four averages about $60,000 a year, or around $5,000 a month.

Spending for our family of four averages about $60,000 a year, or around $5,000 a month.

Relatively passive rental and interest income from real estate is our primary source of income. It more or less covers our basic living expenses of $60,000 a year.

My real-estate business, which I own with a partner, also generates additional income that we keep in the business to pay down debt and reinvest in other properties for future growth.

Personally, both Kari and I still produce active income as entrepreneurs using skills that we enjoy. This allows us to continue contributing to retirement accounts and charity, saving money, and paying off investment mortgage debt.

I used to earn active money flipping houses and managing my rental properties, although both are less common for me now. Kari used to earn active money as a full-time college Spanish professor. Now both Kari and I teach private classes for extra money — me through my website and Kari through one-on-one language teaching.

Although it fluctuates from year to year, our total income lately averages between $100,000 to $150,000 a year.

We spend a lot of time at after-school activities, eating meals together, and exploring our town.

We spend a lot of time at after-school activities, eating meals together, and exploring our town.

Our family has two kids in elementary school. So, a typical week involves shuttling kids to school, dance, and other programs.

But as you'll see, we try to incorporate the same activities that made our experience living abroad in Ecuador so special — walking or biking, home-cooked meals, and time together.

And as a side benefit, these same activities that make us most happy are also a lot cheaper than the alternatives!

Here is what a typical week looks like for us back in our home in the US.

On Sunday, we flew back to Clemson from Washington, DC.

On Sunday, we flew back to Clemson from Washington, DC.

We began the day by saying goodbye to our hotel in Washington, DC. We had been there for a week at an awesome financial media conference called FinCon.

We considered taking the subway to the airport, like we did when we arrived. It was easy, inexpensive, and gave us a little exercise walking from the station.

But in the end we played it safe with our schedule and called a Lyft to the airport. At the airport check-in, our rewards credit card gave us free checked bags for our flights.

For food, we made our own breakfast (yogurt, fruit, tortilla wraps with cheese) and lunch (peanut butter and banana sandwiches) from groceries we bought earlier in the week. Hotel and airport food are notoriously expensive — and not that healthy — so we enjoy this approach.

So, most of our costs for the day were transportation-related.

Our day ended with a happy reunion and meal at home with our daughters (8 and 6 years old). They spent a fun week with my parents back in South Carolina.

We biked to school with the kids on Monday and then worked around the house.

We biked to school with the kids on Monday and then worked around the house.

Monday was back to a normal school day routine. One of our favorite parts of the day is a bike ride to school with our daughters.

On this day, we made a quick meal of eggs and toast and then jumped on the bikes for the 1.7-mile ride. Our 8-year-old daughter rides her own bike, and our 6-year-old rides on a "trailer-bike" attached to mine.

I work from home. Occasionally, I visit one of our rental properties or do our real-estate bookkeeping. But property managers and subcontractors handle 99% of daily tasks in that business.

So, most of my professional time each day is spent creating content for my blog, podcast, YouTube channel, and online courses at Coachcarson.com. I also sometimes teach online classes during the lunch hour or in the evenings.

Kari's days vary between teaching one-on-one language classes, volunteering locally in the community, taking language classes herself (French at the moment!), and doing household tasks. This particular day was busy with household work for Kari.

First, she went on a grocery store run to Aldi. Because we had been gone for a week, it was a larger trip than usual. Sometimes we also drop in on farmers markets or other stores to buy a few other items.

After our children arrived home from school on the bus, Kari took our oldest daughter to piano lessons. While there, she paid our monthly bill of $130 to the teacher.

Kari also made a delicious dinner at home tonight. I washed dishes.

From there we helped the kids with showers, stories, and bedtime before getting ready for another day.

Tuesday was Kari's birthday, so we celebrated with cake and beer at a local pub.

Tuesday was Kari's birthday, so we celebrated with cake and beer at a local pub.

Happy birthday to Kari! My daughters (attempted) to make her breakfast before school, and a stack of birthday notes from us made her feel special.

We parked near the school and walked instead of biking. The fresh air and conversations with our daughters during this time before school are priceless. And walking sure beats sitting in the stop-and-go car drop-off line!

The work-from-home day was normal for us. After a meeting, I picked up the richest chocolate cake I could find from Kari's favorite local bakery.

For dinner, the four of us celebrated Kari's birthday at her favorite local craft brew pub. Who says beer and chocolate cake don't mix!

And Kari also picked up some clothing she needed from the nearby local outdoor store as a birthday present for herself.

On Wednesday, we took our daughters to dance class and I played a game of pick-up basketball.

On Wednesday, we took our daughters to dance class and I played a game of pick-up basketball.

We like to pack our kids lunch from home most days. It does save some money, although school lunches are relatively affordable. We like to pack in more veggies and fruits that aren't always emphasized in the school lunch.

Kari and I spend most of our days doing projects from home. Many of them look like work, but not all of them generate money. It's the financial independence retire early (FIRE) life!

When we do meet people locally, Kari and I try to use our ebike. We have one car for the family, so the person not using the car uses the ebike.

An ebike is like a regular bike but with a small motor that can assist with your pedaling. We have a hilly town, so we still get plenty of exercise. But the electric motor means we don't show up quite so sweaty to a meeting and we get there a lot faster!

Both of our daughters went to dance class this afternoon. We paid the $149 monthly fee for both of them.

Kari made dinner for us tonight. And I ended my day with one of my favorite parts of the week — pick-up basketball with a group of friends. A local church lets us use their gym, so it's a free form of exercise and community with friends.

Thursday was a media creation day for me.

Thursday was a media creation day for me.

After a normal school morning, I started my "work" day with a podcast appearance. I was the co-host with Bobbi Rebell on the podcast "Money With Friends." And after that, I batch recorded a few episodes of my own podcast, "Real Estate & Financial Independence."

What I love about the online media world is the flexibility. As long as I have an internet connection, a laptop, and a mic, I can connect with people anywhere.

We had a regular doctor's appointment for one of our daughters after school, and both kids went to a junior naturalist club, where they collect bugs, learn about science, and do all sorts of other cool stuff out in the woods.

That evening we had another meal together at home before doing our normal bedtime routine.

After the kids went to bed, I led a free, educational webinar for 2.5 hours about real-estate investing.

We made pizzas on Friday night and enjoyed them with friends.

We made pizzas on Friday night and enjoyed them with friends.

One morning per week, Kari and I like to have a morning date. We run, walk, or do some sort of exercise together. Then we eat a slow breakfast together so that we can catch up, talk about the kids, or discuss whatever else is going on.

This week we ran in the amazing South Carolina Botanical Gardens in our hometown of Clemson. And after the big meal eating out for her birthday, we opted to eat breakfast at home this week.

I bought drinks during a midday meet-up with an old friend at a coffee shop (yes, I biked there!).

And we bought a few extra groceries, including beer, for a Friday night pizza dinner at our house with some of our friends. This time the kids got involved helping us prepare the food. This learning time together is another perk of cooking more meals at home.

We closed out the day on our back screen porch enjoying beer and conversation with our friends. As the sun set in the South Carolina sky, we listened to the chorus of cicadas and owls in the forest behind our house.

On Saturday, we hiked and had a "low country boil" with friends.

On Saturday, we hiked and had a "low country boil" with friends.

Our family has done a lot of international traveling, including a 17-month-stay in Ecuador where our kids learned Spanish by attending local schools.

But we decided that we don't visit and enjoy the treasures right in our backyard often enough. And in the foothills of the green Appalachian mountains, some of the best natural treasures are the waterfalls!

So this Saturday morning, we put on our hiking shoes, packed a picnic lunch, and headed to nearby Station Cove Falls and the historic Oconee Station trading post.

This is a journal. So, I've got to be honest. Our kids did NOT want to leave the house for hiking.

But sometimes Mom and Dad have to play our parent card and insist. Once we all got out on the trail in the fresh air, it was an amazing experience.

After the waterfall hike, the visit to the historic trading post gave us an opportunity to learn about the history of the area, including about the Cherokee, who originally inhabited this area of the country. And as amazing as the experience was, it was all free!

We ended the day with a party at a friend's house. Kari made cookies and we brought beer.

The hosts cooked "low country boil" (a South Carolina specialty consisting of sausage, shrimp, potatoes, and corn). The food was poured out on a long table, and as is the tradition, we all enjoyed good conversation and getting our hands messy together.

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