Following up on some questions and comments that reached me after I talked about why I wasn't in Afghanistan. This is also a bit of an expansion on a previous post about preparing for an embed that dealt with costs and other financial matters (along with non-financial costs I think).
Any embed has costs, even when one is not actually embedded. The process itself has costs (visas and such), and once you hit a certain point, you are going to have recurring monthly costs. I recently outined some of the costs for an organization, and here's a rough idea of what you can expect to spend each month:
Now, let's look at this in a bit more detail.
Insurance is expensive, and even with good policies at good rates, it still costs a bit. With premiums, charges for paying by credit card, and all the other fun joys of modern insurance, I plan on $850 a month and hope for the best. For me, I carry two policies: one is pure life, the other is health. This was the best deal I could get from a U.S. provider (always looking to improve, if you provide insurance to contractors or others, drop me a line). I actually wanted a bit better than I could afford, but...
Communications is your cell phone, it is internet provider fees, and it is the other joys of establishing com from remote locations. It may be paying the local provider who is able to sell services on a FOB, or it can be hooking up to paid wireless at an internet cafe or even a coffee shop. It is the fun joys of insanely expensive texts and overseas calls. It can and should include getting a local phone. The figure here is the minimum you can expect to pay, and if you get a sat phone with data, you need to plan on doubling or even tripling this cost.
Miscellaneous is just that. It is getting to the PX to buy whatever it is you need that you forgot, the things you've run out of, etc. It is going to a local coffee shop, or actually eating at something other than a DFAC (or an MRE). It is also about being able to slip some funds to someone to buy extra on a supply run, so that the unit as a whole has some treats. In fact, to do this right, you really should double those costs.
Travel is one you need to budget each month, though you may not do any travel each month. The hard part on this one is that you will be doing travel at some point, and you honestly need a kitty for it. The travel is likely to be in the $1-2k range per trip when going from the U.S. over to wherever, and local can be as much or more (and will quite often be quite interesting in and of itself on local carriers). The odds are good you are going to end up stuck at a hotel for a day or even a week or more at some point. The figure I have here is unrealistically low, to be quite honest.
Okay, I have indeed gotten some donations, but not a lot. That doesn't surprise me, as I am not yet overseas doing the things people are willing to pay/donate to read. Heck, I'm not doing much here. So, why do I or any other embed need donations here?
First, even though I am not yet overseas, to get the embed activated with ISAF as part of trying to get it activated with the unit, I had to start the insurance. So, that means I am paying that $850 a month as I go.
Second, I am paying the base communications fee each month, which is my phone with unlimited data and voice, an overseas plan, and other delights. Given that I have been making calls overseas working things, there are those wonderful charges on top of things (yes, I've added Skype to the phone, but not many in the defense worlds and ministries are allowed to use it). So, there is the $250 a month easy.
Third, I do have travel costs. The trip I took that was supposed to be the start of my travel to the AOR ended up costing more than $2k with airfare, baggage fees, hotel, car rental, etc. Right now, since my car was sold, I have to rent vehicles or fly to travel. That costs.
Fourth, you do still have your regular monthly bills, such as credit cards, regular insurance, etc.
Fifth, I did self-finance a lot of this. My home is gone, and I can say that trying to sell a house you bought at the top of the market on the downside of the market is not a way to make money. I sold things, though not my body as a nickle at a time just doesn't add up fast. I did have money, but every month of delay (let's call it four) was at least $1.5k a month in additional costs with not being able to transfer the house and such.
Right now, I have the chance to go with a unit to the NTC for some of what they are doing there. A good story, but it means renting a car for two or more weeks, hotel costs, gas, etc. It is still cheaper than flying and spot rental, but...
Money drives an embed and can make or break it. It is true that once you are with a unit, you no longer have to worry about food or a place to sleep -- you may have MREs and spot to throw down a bag or bivy, but you will have food and a place to lay your head. But, it is not that all expenses magically stop. You still have to pay your civilian bills, and you have to plan or save for the expenses that come irregularly but with a price tag. You still have to provide your ongoing expenses.
That's why donors and sponsors are needed for almost any embed unless you are major media or a major organization. It is why you see me point out the donate button at the new site (don't forget, sites and maintenance cost too), and ask for your help. It is why you should, if possible given the economy, support freelance embeds. If you want good reporting, honest reporting, and not-the-slant-of-the-day, it costs.