Wednesday, 1 September 2021

FI63,85 - another month

Quarter past three in the afternoon on a Thursday in the middle of August, the miracle happened.

Every task in our living room was done, it was fully cleaned and everything was straightened and organised. An impossible miracle that it only took five years and thousands of little projects to accomplish. The sofas were vacuumed, blankets clean, all pipes painted, lights dusted and cleaned, curtains straight and dusted, floor mopped, floor lists wiped, wooden furniture oiled, windows cleaned and the book cases decluttered, dusted and straightened. 

I looked around and could for the life of me think of anything that needed to be done. I could not even think of anything that could be done that would be an improvement.

Fifteen minuets later we ate knäckebröd with cheese laying in the sofas, under blankets with crumbs everywhere and everything was back to its normal state.
I started making a list of things that could be done in the kitchen.

I am a project person and I manage my projects at home although quite different than I did at work. At home dreams are often tried out as a daydream first. Then a possible target (not a promise or a commitment, just to see if it would work).  Each target is then broken down in sub-targets. Each sub-target gets a project.
Each project moves in three-minute steps whenever any of us wants to do something useful at home.
Occasionally, the morning coffee will include a conversation about what to do that day. Occasionally, that will lead us to think of the list of targets (usually sub-targets only). Is there something clear that could be done for any of the targets? What could be the next step? What can I do in three minuets?

Sometimes we need to do a little extra thing today, for ourselves in the tomorrow, to place us in the position that allows miracles to happen. Saving on something strictly not necessary expense or working more hours for some extra income may not matter today. A lot of 'today's' later - it will look like a miracle has happened. The impossible only takes a little longer. More three-minuet jobs and persistence.

We did a three minute job some years back when we started learning about gardening and started growing vegetables on the balcony. We also registered onto the Amsterdam waiting list for an allotment.

Over the years we have volunteered to earn extra points, visited and dreamed with every available garden, applied for steadily more and more derelict gardens as our desperation increased. We have talked to everybody about our dream, hoping somebody would offer us a way around the waiting line. When we registered the waiting time for our favourite park was 3-5 years. During the pandemic everybody dormant in the queue have applied and currently it looks like a seven to ten year wait.

We decided to put the project on hold, the dream was draining us. 
Our downstairs neighbours talked about their allotment park, but it is on the other side of of the city and we have no car. It just felt too far away. We cycled and camped instead and as our cycle range increased, their park came closer.
Four houses became free in the beginning of August, and we applied for two of them. We were offered one of them and a very, very nervous process started. (We are not exactly stress-resiliant and neither were the owners or the representative of the park.) 

Tomorrow we move in to the allotment. It is an off-grid tiny house with solar panels and gas canisters, where no permanent residency is allowed (allotment, koloniträdgård, volkstuin). A well built house, a small shed with shaded plot of land with trees to dig our vegetable garden into. We own the houses and rent the land while sharing community costs with the gardening park. It took a chunk out of the savings at the moment the stock-market slowed down. With a financial independence still on 63,85 years (dividing the sum of assets with the current annual budget) there is room for some home-grown potatoes and beans.

Friday, 27 August 2021

ERE5 - Free occupation

 ERE 5 - Find a free hobby

On the path towards, or while living with early retirement/financial independence, saving, reducing and changes are needed. One of the changes is to find a hobby that is free, and preferably saves money as well.

Many bloggers aim to turn their blogging into their free hobby with the aim to make money out of it. These are prevalent in the bloggosphere because that is the point of their life. The purpose of my life not to make money on the internet.

Hobby is of course a stupid word.
I understand it to mean all the activities I do just because I want to, and can stop doing if I want to. (Doing dishes, although relaxing, is not a hobby as it must be done.) Hobbies are those things that keeps one occupied without somebody telling you what to do (aka work). 

I have read several blogposts by highly efficient people who successfully have taken to making and saving money motivated by the dream of "not having to work". Then they realise that "not having to work" could mean "not working" and then realising that they have already build all sheds they need and have nothing to do - while still working. That is the moment they worry that they will not be able to occupy themselves without work. Doing nothing without (being) a project manager. 

This is why it is important to know what you want to know, what you want to do when you are not working. Thus - find a hobby.

Living with FIRE/FI/ERE can be really expensive if your hobby is luxury travelling. There is an almost no saving target or amount of assets, dividends and continued income that can sustain such a lifestyle. Thus - find a free hobby.

Honestly and brutally, if you can't occupy yourself without spending money, you are not ready for FIRE/FI/ERE and more change is needed.

One of the first persons I knew to be talking about financial independence was someone I had known since mid-teens. I was flabbergasted that he would give up his job for the dream of nothing. I completely understood the money part of it (although not interested at the time) but I did not understand his "to do nothing". I knew first hand how hard he had worked to get the skills to be allowed to do what he did and how he had never shown any interest in the slow, simple, outdoor lifestyle. (Think airline pilot dreaming about wood carving having no knife skills.) He still talks about financial independence, now for money, and as far as I know, that is all he does. Yes, I judge and snicker.

My hobbies are breathing, thinking, reading, writing and recently sewing and growing food. I walk, run and cycle and I spend time on shoes, sport clothes and bicycle maintenance. Cheap, almost free and very time consuming.

All my hobbies could cost a lot of money to do. Breathing classes, meditation sessions, book club, writing courses, or university studies (outside the Scandi-countres where schools are free). There is also an endless amount of money that could be spent on gardening, fabric and patterns and sewing machines without even starting to talk about the cost of gym or club membership.

Currently, nothing I do makes any money. I try to keep the spending down by buying almost nothing new (saving seeds, curb side picking pots, fabric etc) and maintaining what I have (caring and cleaning, self servicing sewing machine and bicycle etc). It takes time, it is not always fun, sometimes I don't want to do it and I need to wait for inspiration - but that is the whole point of it! 

A free hobby takes time, because that is the purpose of a hobby, and of a life style without having to work and living frugally it needs to be free.

If a free hobby requires an initial spending, however low, it is not a free hobby. It could be a hobby and that is one step forward. But if time is spent throwing a gifted a frisbee around, then it is a free hobby.
Do you have a frisbee already that you do not use and will throw out so you can get a better one that you think you will use? If you think about it, you might realise that it is neither a hobby nor free. It is instead consumption disguised as an improvement project and your hobby is to do improvement projects.

Nothing really wrong with that. I too frequently go into this trap. "Oh I want that thing, and with that thing I could do that, and I will like it and continue doing that, and don't have to buy that thing and can even sell what I make for money." But it isn't free, and perhaps not even a hobby.
I think of Penny and Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory, season 2, episode 18 when Penny make Penny-blossoms and her hobby gets introduced to financial theory. She stops making them because she can not make a profit, even though she initially did them only because she liked doing them.
The profit from a hobby is in the doing, not in the shareholder value of your future Microsoft company.

If your hobby must make money to be worthwhile, see the link in the ERE5 above for an incomplete list of hobbies that could earn money. 

If your hobby should save costs or break even on amount spent/not spent, then you can look at what you spend money on to find what you can do yourself. Paying to have your nails done today? Your hobby could be to do your own nails. A lot of "free hobbies" are in this category. I cut my own hair, using 20 year old scissors and it takes me over two hours every time. For free (-ish as scissors where once bought).

If your hobby is time consuming, and does not cost you money, and gives you pleasure; it is truly a free hobby.
Let me know what your free occupation (aka hobby) is. I have struggled to find an example of something I do that has never cost me or anybody else any money. (I was gifted a sewing machine at 21, still use it at 53 and sew from scrap and trash. While that makes it a cheap hobby which saves money, it is not a truly free hobby.)
Maybe I am too hard on the definition of "free" but I want to avoid allowing myself to spend money on future uses when I know that I often do not continue to use stuff I buy and instead just get rid of it. That is not frugal, not free and most certainly not the way to FI.

Monday, 2 August 2021

FI 64.31 - Fire & Retire

Fourth wave of the pandemic! It appeared exactly one week after restrictions eased up. Within two weeks, the number of infections were back on the level of December (when the first lock-down was introduced).
First out of sensible behaviour were the young and the impatient; meaning the un-vaccinated and the not-fully vaccinated. As well as the liars, cheaters and forgers of vaccination certificates, of course.
And the tourists who should be in quarantine but think that because nobody is checking on them, they do not need to. Own responsibility for the common good when travelling, anyone? Anyone??

How could it go so wrong in the Netherlands? Allowing politicians to rule over medical and public health, that is how. It is well known, so no need to repeat it.
Political decisions are different than safety recommendations.
Annoyed I am again back in my bubble entirely created by the inconsiderate.

So I focus on the happy things, my own life-style. These are my FIRE & RETIRE activities anyway.

Growing projects - The balcony is doing fine but the weather has not been favourable for anything else than peas and tomatoes. Luckily I have lots of that. Obviously we are not going anywhere so I have started a second batch of peas, sugar snaps and beans. If any warmth is finally coming, there may be enough time to harvest. It will have to stop raining at some point, it just has to.

Travel projects - We live in the most infected area of the most infected city of the country. Trying to stay away from everybody here, not using public transport, and without access to a car, we can only take our bicycles and our tent and go onto the emptier country side. Avoiding people there too but at least we get a change of scenery. Some of our cycle trips get quite long. We needed to get a practical job done and ended up cycling around 250 km in three days while camping out. We are very proud of ourselves that we managed to push ourselves so hard and accomplish our task.  (It IS convenient to live in a small country.) Afterwards we needed days of rest, completely exhausted. But now we know we can do it if need to.

Sewing projects - I finished all my Corona1-projects before the end of lock-down1. So with the current situation, I am starting a list with Corona2-projects. Again sewing from scraps, the stash and adjusting existing clothes (often given by the trash-gods). I am now focusing on training and learning further skills so the fabric does not have to be perfect ('cause the sewing will not be). Slippers, espadrilles, hats, coif (for my medieval costume), underwear and drafting my own patterns to so that something might actually fit me in the future. I also adjusting clothes to fit me better. During the last two years I have only spent money on underwear and bicycle clothes. (I keep a list of all money spent on clothes.)

Renovation projects - I have pin-pointed another pipe-painting project for the apartment and I am slowly breaking it down into three minute tasks. It is not going fast. It is a very boring project. Our apartment has pipes for water and heating everywhere (former industrial building) and it is a seemingly never-ending project to get them all painted properly. This time it is the living room pipes. It will cost nothing as all equipment are already available at home. The only spending is the time and the will to do it.
(I have the first and hope to wake up with the second one day.)

Money projects - I am not especially interesting in making money, so my savings are more about NOT spending any money. I focus on not needing and to make do and mend. Our water kettle was leaking but could be fixed from the outside with some silicone glue. (I have another almost unused kettle hidden away since a previous office closed and I took the four kettles home instead of throwing them out. The quality is not good and they last about 18 months. The longer I can make this second-to-last kettle last, the longer I do not have to spend money on a water kettle.) I put new soles into the lining of my indoor-slippers and they are now better than they were when new. I mended my bicycle bag with a patch. I made chutney using the unripe fruit dropped from the balcony plum tree. (Gather, let them soften indoors for a week or so, rinsed well, threw away the bad ones but keep the rock hard ones. Boil with sugar and vinegar to make chutney.)

I also cut my own hair but it is not really a saving as I have cut it myself for more than ten years. (I am as good as a bad hairdresser and less annoying. Since I do it for free, I am the better option.) It came out fine.

Intellectual projects - I study Dutch almost every day. I read a lot of history of Amsterdam, especially around my house. I am also reading about cognition in neuroscience and philosophy, focusing on consciousness and awareness. To develop my sewing skills I copied some projects from a (not-free) course on-line. I have books, patterns and instructions, and the internet is full of free advice so I am sure I will be able to learn those new techniques.

My sick leave is hopefully soon coming to an end. Then it will be time to publicly FIRE & RETIRE.
I will not lack things to do. There are many things I like to do. (The man is Fire in his own right but will keep his business for when fun projects comes along. Some of the things he likes to do can be invoiced.)

I don’t read many blogs and I comment even fewer due to the technical difficulties. I follow some about lifestyle, some about FIRE, some by really interesting people and almost none writing about money. I have already paid the price for my assets and I now just interested in hanging on to it.
There are also too many blogs about spending money (camouflaged as being about saving, but are actually only about consuming). Few bloggers talk about the price for assets. Working as hard as possible for as much money as possible while NOT spending it is the quickest way to FIRE (or ERE if you wish). Dreams about that early retirement are necessary to endure the dog-years during which the assets are accumulated. However, when FIRE is reached, when the assets have been accumulated, the time is best spent on not spending so there is no need to make more money. Say I.

If you read blogs about money, first check if the blogger has any money (or need for money). If the blogger is broke and dreams about the rich lifestyle, the blog is not about providing advice. It is a vehicle to provide an income for the blogger. Which affects the thinking of the blogger and may not be very relevant to me.

I have currently assets covering my annual budget (higher than my annual expenses) for the next 64.31 years (hoping future interests and dividends will cover cost increases and market failures, which it should). So I am say it can be done but it is not necessarily a luxurious lifestyle.

Saturday, 31 July 2021

ERE4 - Phone & subscription costs

ERE 4 - Drop the cell phone plan

I have no mobile phone plan or cell phone subscription. I dropped that a long time ago. I have a mobile phone with a cash only SIM card. The few apps I allow on my phone are only allowed to update if on the home wi-fi-network. It is not allowed to use mobile data (I can turn it on if I need to. My need, not theirs.)

On the ERE road to Early Retirement (or FIRE) or while maintaining it,  an eye must be keep on the tiny daily costs. Starting with the subscriptions. All subscriptions. Anything that is an automated withdrawal. Everything, including what you have contracted and agreed to, in order to be connected.

Beyond the mobile phone, it can also include the land line, all data or internet connections, TV-channels, film providers, photo services, anything you have spent money on this last year.
You know what it is. It is everything that provides grounds for communications is targeted in this step. Your communication out and their communication in. 

My advice regarding communication subscriptions is to have none. None. Never ever. Always buy what you will use when you need it - and then let it expire or cancel. Wanting is not needing.
There are of course reasons to break this advice and you know perfectly well what is a need, a convenience and a want. Three very different things.

I have a cash card mobile phone provider. I top it up when needed and let it run low when I don't. I add money to the pot what I need and I use it when I need it. Even if it is months later. This way, I am in charge and can decide to use or not use. Sure, I may get cheaper service for one month signing on to a subscription, but I still will have to pay when I don't. Without subscription, I chose everyday how to live. The last years I am rarely away from home, never use the phone when running errands (I may have it but I do not use it.) I almost always use free wi-fi networks (never accessing banking or private information) if I need to look anything up when out of my own network. I am not available all the time, I don't have everything all the time but my time is free so I can figure my need out eventually.

I usually have a museum discount card. I pay for twelve months in one go and I always let it run out. I renew for another twelve months when I visit a museum the next time. Sure, I have to pay a start-up fee every time I renew, but I have so far always paid less in total per museum visit. Currently of course, this is in hiatus.

I have no other standing subscriptions (except my health care insurance which does not option to be billed, but that is strictly not a communications subscription). I have no subscriptions to on-line services such as media outlets, news channels, pay-wall news papers, or photo providers. I also have no subscriptions to magazines, food deliveries or any other providers of socks, books or tulip bulbs (monthly or otherwise).

In our household we have no standing subscriptions except for our general internet provider.
They are a nuisance but with the internet connection also comes a mobile phone service for the man and his business, and the basic TV-channels for on-line access. We have cancelled the business phone land-line, as well as the general TV service.
Our TV is now instead connected it to an old DVD-player for film nights.
It made a small but over time substantial saving.
It also gives us more time to do things.
Such as spending time on not spending money.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

FI61,14 - A.C.

Everything I want to do, is worth doing. I am saying yes to any adventure and everything unknown.
-Would you want to come/go/do...? -Yes (doublecheck... think...), ding-dong-done.

Anything I have to do, is worth doing quickly.
Schloff, schloff, zing, bang, bosch (doublecheck... think...), ding, done.

Paraphrasing unaccredited advice above, but it is my new approach. Together with:
That is not my job even though I know how to do it.

The Financial Independence number is currently at 61,14 meaning that I can live many years on my assets without further income as long as the the interests, value increases and dividends equal the cost increases and I stay within my allocated annual budget. I am FIRE double up and need not do anything else.

The annual budget is used to divide the total amount of assets. I have a lot of shares, funds and financial assets and nothing else. I have no house, car, jewellery, or anything else of value. I have no further financial expectations and I am leaving my job. 53 years old. Foreigner where I live.
Contract to a rent-protected apartment in a great location. Two bicycles, camping equipment and a sewing machine. Clothes and a few hundred books. Nothing else, even the furniture at home isn't technically mine. I am stress sensitive and have developed an enormously lazy attitude to performing work.
That is it. Not much.
I can sew, knit, grow food, cook, clean, renovate, organize, summarize, memorize and take a fight. In a several different languages.

My primary asset is my partner, the man. He reminds me not to get involved, to not take on new injustices, and he cooks most of my meals. He is much less of a planner than me, and I learn much from him. 

One of my best qualities is that I am (and thankfully also the man) very, very-very easily entertained. Our shared interests are specific and broad ranged, and we have interests unshared with the other. Odd interest, obscure ones (read: nerds).

Corona lock-down is over (for this time), we are both fully vaccinated (not expecting full security so still using distancing). We are allowed to travel. The first thing we did was to eat dinner at the neighbours.
The second was a biopsy - which came back entirely negative so what the lab had been drinking that day, nobody knows. But I will continue to donate to cancer research.

The first trip we did was just for two nights at a small farm/camp site. Just cycling to see places where castles used to be and roughing it. Broke a tent-pole and decided the malfunctioning gas burner was beyond repair. Went back home for repairs, replacements and some other tasks, then out again. We load up the bicycles with everything we need for three days and then we can be out unlimited time.

We made a list of everything we had set out to do as corona-projects and while we waited for vaccinations to mature, we were trying to work trough the issues. That included finishing up all sewing projects started during lock down. I still have to finish the ties to my cape (yes, cape. Everybody should have a cape. Do you have a cape?) The man still needs to redo the lining in his west. Otherwise, done.
No new projects are allowed until these old ones are finished. 

The 2021 annual renovation project is not as ambitious as previous years. This year we are only replacing all silicone sealants in kitchen, bathroom, shower and around outside doors. I adore a perfect strip of sealant, just as beautiful as an immaculate weld. Unfortunately, my level of skill is not high enough. It is upsetting but necessary to rip out the old leaking, sometimes mouldy, but otherwise perfect joints, and put in clean, closed but amateurish replacements. Hey-ho, I'm the only one suffering (and the ants, they do not get in any more).

The rest of the summer will be spent watching football, cycling, all sports in general at a high level and executing as much of it myself, however again amateurish. Joyfully, but amateurish.

The balcony is full of peas, beans, tomatoes, herbs, salads and other experimental plants. I will happily abandon them to go sleep in my tent as often as I can. 

There is nothing really of concern (except the tourists descending on us again with their bad behaviour) (and with that a fourth wave of corona and a new lock down.) It is 2021 A.C., baby. (After Corona). 

Until then (expected by September) I plan to be outside as much as I possibly can.
And be easily entertained.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

ERE 3 - Food

ERE3 - Food

Grocery shopping

On the ERE road to Early Retirement Extreme (or FIRE) and when maintaining it, the third step to focus on is how to feed oneself cheaply or for free. I went through this step in 2010, and again in 2015 (text here) but so much has changed since then and I have changed so much, that it is time for a revise. 

Buying items of food, even with discounts, is not necessarily about feeding yourself cheaply. Marketing companies and food shops, want us to buy what they want to sell, or find difficult to sell, by offering a discount. The discounts are always in their favour. Mostly discounts are only offered for expensive or outright over-priced process food. Once we have been used to eat ready made pizza, they can remove pizza flour from the assortment as the over-head cost is too low. Buying more with coupons is not the solution to lowering the cost for food.

Get the food: The primary aim of cheap food is of course to not shop it at all or at least not paying for it. No stealing though; stealing is not free. Growing ones own costs time and if yours, like mine, is free, it is worth spending it on harvesting. But the cost of seeds, energy, equipment, mulch, rent and waste must be less than the price of the equivalent produce grown by experts (commonly called the agricultural sector). I would not grow potatoes for any other reason than learning how to do it. On my tiny Amsterdam balcony, there has been a bucket in a corner with a potato providing one large potato meal - once. Nice to eat, good to know, but not worth the space it occupied in comparison what the farmers and gardeners outside town can produce it for. So I buy potatoes and all other vegetables needing space or depth. I grow herbs, spinach, mangold (chard) and salads, as well as tomatoes and peas because they smell lovely when growing. We also have a plum tree on the balcony. Outside town we have found a derelict plot with black berries that we pick in the summer (strictly not legal but not strictly illegal).

What food to get: The cheapest way to save money on food is to be a vegetarian. At least to start with the vegetables and limit the amount of meat to 100 gr per person per meal.

The cheapest way to get food is to buy staples and base your eating around those items. Staples are what you can store a lot of and can use as a base for many different dishes over a long period of time. Staples are commonly dried or comes canned. Common items are rice, pasta, oat meal, salt, pepper and canned tomatoes. Others are lentils, bulgur, couscous, peas, dried spices and herbs, pesto, tomato purée, onions, garlic and potatoes (unless your entire home is heated). Adding fresh vegetables of the season as available will make endless different meals. Only buy the sort of food you actually like eating! No point ordering pizza from a kitchen filled with spinach.

One of the cheapest filling foods is lentil soup. Filling, nutritious, cheap and endlessly variable in taste. When the month is to long for the income, lentil soup is better than despair and debt (or drain and death). Search on-line for recipes, there are endless variations. Red lentils does not need soaking, cooks in less than 20 min even without pressure cooker. Cook enough for several meals. Re-heat the leftovers with a different spice to change it around. Red lentils is cheap staple food in all shops (except the ones selling to hipsters and newbies). Personally, I’m not fond of soups, preferring stews so I reduce the amount of water and eat it on top of pasta, or rolled in a tortilla or on bread, or next to something else left over.

I always buy two or more of everything I normally use when they are on sale, even if I don't need them at that moment. I always buy 5 kg bags of potatoes, and all dry staple foods such as rice, bulgur, couscous. I have a tiny kitchen but I find space for five kilos of rice. I know I will eat it eventually. (Our kitchen and house have no bugs but you may need to look into secure storage containers before bringing large amounts of food into the house.)

Shopping list: Always have a shopping list going. Write down what runs out that you want to replace (not everything used up will need to be replaced). Write down what is needed for some special meal next week. Write down what is wanted when you want it. Anything on sale that caught your eye. Look through the staples, what is running low and what is there already plenty of in the house. (By accident we bought three bottles of oil one week and we will not need any in a long time!) Cross off anything on the list that you don’t really need before going shopping. Make a separate list for each shop. Re-writing the shopping list somewhat following the order of the shop you go to, will make it easier to come home with what is on the list. Then off you go, and buy only what is on the list. (That is the idea at least.)

Currently while still in the pandemic, we go to one supermarket, one specific day a week (when they have recurring low price on one of our staple foods). We buy our staples, milk and cheese. We will drop into our local vegetable shop (a.k.a an ethnic local shop) when we walk past if it looks quiet. The pandemic has really brought our food costs down even though the man usually does the shopping and he is a lot less stingy than I am. I thought I was good at staple foods but the pandemic has really taught us some really cool things.

We have no car so we go shopping with big bags and bicycles. There is a limit to how much we can bring home each time. There is also only the two of us to cook for and the kitchen is tiny so no need to hold more food than the two-three weeks. There are also plenty of shops to choose from within cycling and walking distance all is quite manageable. The bicycle bags holds 30 litres per bicycle, two persons can bring 60 litres of food home in one go. That keeps us fed for a very long time. 

Adventurous food: Experiment with the cheap food as base. We try to explore different flavours or cooking techniques from the staple foods. During the pandemic lock-down, we have had a potato week when we worked our way through that section of all our cook books. We have worked with spices; one week with horseradish, a week of caraway seeds, and we are currently working our way through all available onion varieties. So far we have not been bored with the food. Before corona (B.C.) we rarely ate out so always with the intention having a real food experience. In the last 15 months, we have only had take-out once from a local Korean place (so we walked to pick it up). Now we make those dishes too ourselves at home for a fraction of the cost. We were in the time also given a meal box from a super-fancy gourmet restaurant for one (that we shared) and we were reminded what really, really excellent food tastes like. I will happily spend a lot of money in that restaurant and it is a reminder not to spend any money in other (cheaper, less tasty) restaurants at all.

It is a question of food expectations. During our lock-down (just ended with remaining restrictions) we have both lowered and raised our requirements regarding foos. At home, the food does not need to be spectacular, just varied.
In a restaurant or somebody being paid to cook for me on the other hand - oh, my - if it is really gourmet good food, it is worth any amount of money.
But if it is not, and it mostly isn't, I'd rather eat sardines on black bread in the park or at home in my pyjamas.

Thursday, 3 June 2021

FI60,26 - Free (terms & conditions)

 Yeah, no, I couldn’t be bothered to count my money on the first of this month. So many good things happening at the same time!

I got vaccinated (got the ‘flu’ for a few hours and a sore arm for a few days but no 5G so that was sad).

The weather went from 12 to 25 degrees C in a few days and it finally stopped raining. From late winter to high summer in days.

Therapy is wrapping up with highs and lows.

I have a new ‘job’ one day a week, doing my profession in the context of my hobby. That will give me identity, structure, connections and development enough for the future. 

The old job is being wrapped up without disagreements (fingers crossed).

Taxes are paid.

Physical stamina is in development and weight decrease in progress.

The balcony garden is growing nice salad for every meal and other veg for later.

I have a good stack of books to read and write about.

The man has been awarded the Order of Saint George for support in slaying the dragon and saving the princess. I have given him an IOY for six months of unwavering support to use whenever.

The FI-number on 3 June (not even end of office) is 60,26. This is assets divided with the new annual budget, meaning it will last me beyond my life expectancy (if interest and dividends cover price increases). Since I live below my annual budget, unless something unexpected happens most should already be included in the budget, it should be ok.

Saint George and the princess are waiting for full vaccination impact but it looks like life restarts around summer solstice.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

FI58,69 - Fit-ish

Spring is fickle and April is unpredictable.

We have finally been able to take our touring bicycles down from their wall mounts. I have squeezed the corona weight into the padded bicycle (elastic) bicycle shorts, and gone out for trips. Some shorter just for a change of scenery, some long and lasting a full day. Spring is here after all. We are still limited to where we can or want to go, primarily by people behaving irresponsible, but there is still plenty of unexplored territories within the 40-60 km radius. Polders, ik hou van jou.

It takes time to build up physical fitness. The pain eventually turn into muscle and stamina. Keeping at it with varying amounts and intensity is the only way to do see change. Lycra is elastic and hides many more sins than one thinks. In the Netherlands, cycling is the standard means of transportation. Most people cycle everywhere and in all weathers. Very many also cycle for exercise, and quite a few are dead serious about cycling professionally or at least obsessively.
It used to be common to see people dressed in full business gear, high heels and all, cycling to work with laptop briefcase in their bicycle bag and the tie flapping over their shoulder. Bicycle gears are optional and rare for city use. Stable granny-styled bikes are needed to survive the parking situation and, at least in Amsterdam, to order manoeuvre the tram tracks. Most business people are still working from home and those going to work do real work and does not dress up for it.

Nobody has been anywhere for a year, and everybody has full cabin fever, lappsjuka.

We are old but still so far, too young for the vaccination programs. The man is hoping for an invitation by the mid month and if all goes well (knock on wood) we should both be vaccinated by the end of the month. The invites are sent out by birth year so it is the access to vaccines that is now the only obstacle.
If I would get corona now, it would feel as if being shot on Armistice day.

The financial situation is progressing as the markets have been rising the passing month. It may be the last large rise, it may be going into recession from next week. My personal FI-number is 58,69 following the increased annual budget since the beginning of this year. The FI-number is the sum of all my assets minus my debt (currently only some taxes) (excluding house, car, jewellery because I have none of that, and also excluding pension rights as I do not control them), divided with my annual budget. The FI-number shows how many years I can live on my current assets under the condition that cost increases are covered by interests and dividends in the future. The FI-number exceeds my life-expectancy so I am unconcerned but very grateful.

The mental situation is progressing. I am doing therapy and it is as everybody knows, THE MOST difficult thing you can do in your life. It takes real bravery. It does get worse before it gets better but it does get better. Hard, hard, hard but progressing. Slowly.

I have managed to get some focus back so I am slowly trying to progress with some sewing projects, to get them finished. The green shirt and the green sports skirt and the brown vest are all staring at me. My dear old scatter brain wants to sew something new, new, new, new, but I force myself to quiet down (I only allow myself to make patterns, not actually cut fabric for new projects before the current garments are finished).

Society around me is slowly opening up. Shops opened this week (with restrictions) for the first time since January. Bars were allowed to open for a few hours if serving outside (and many other restrictions). People are flocking to the terraces even in the rain, as if their lives depended on it. The third wave is coming and only the fast advancement of the vaccination program will reduce its impact. People are going mad, and I am hovering indoors away from them. All societal interactions are still on-line with rare and short accidental meetings with neighbours.  

In 2019, we scheduled today as the first day of our next great adventure.
We are not going on any adventures today, and possibly not at any time in 2021.
Our only goal is to survive and so far we are doing well (-ish).
Liberation will come.
Until then, on 4 May, we will remember the dead, deported and suppressed through a national remembrance day. The day after, Befrijdingsdag, we will celebrate the liberation of the Nazi WWII occupation.
Hiding from corona has been simple in comparison.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

ERE2 - Stuff

 Decluttering and managing stuff

This step on the road to ERE (or FIRE) is not about how to buy stuff cheaply. Buying, even with discounts, is not about managing stuff. It is not about storing. It is not about replacing.
This step is about knowing what you own and using it (up). This is about organizing, managing and letting go of what is not useful. This step is about Not Shopping, at all if possible.

I went through this step of managing stuff and uselessness in 2010, and again in 2015 (text in English here). It was each time a long process of organizing and let go of a lot of not-necessaries. I de-cluttered my life in 2008, 2013 and 2019. Each time dropping about 70% of all belongings. 

Now in 2021, I mostly own only stuff I like, use, will use and care for. I could probably pack up and move myself anywhere with a few days notice and using only a car. However, I still regularly go through my stuff to know what I have, rethink what I use and appreciate what I own. I make sure it still works and is safe. I do not really clear out to de-clutter anymore and I do not throw out anything functional. 

I organize and I use up. I am not a minimalist. I am a frugalist.

I use what I have. I burn my candles, use my fancy soaps and wear my silk shirts. I cut and sew the gorgeous fabrics bought on trips and I drink the souvenir teas. Exquisite matches from Shanghai an Rio di Janeiro light our candles and burn bad smells. Last years seeds, both bought and collected, are grown this year too even if we had planned differently. I only do the activities I have the items available for or can get in the food shop (easy to promise as all other shops are closed here and have been for months, delivery services over-whelmed and I hate post-order crap).

I do own and keep things that I have no real use for, just because I like them and already own them. I keep them so that I can use them when I want to. One example are ski clothes and the cold winter jacket. I now live in the Netherlands and skiing is rarely offered. But when it was, I could quickly say yes (although the ski trip had to be cancelled) because I was ready. Also, when the temperature dropped to minus 10 C for the first time in three years (mid Feb this year), I was comfortable. 

While going through all winter clothes, a lovely yellow winter scarf was looking a bit noppy. It should be a simple job for the little de-nop machine but I could not get the thing to work. I took it apart and after half an hour, I knew it was impossible to repair it (and why). The electrical parts went to the electrical waste collection. Instead I dug out a comb and a razor blade came out. The scarf is now fine and I hold less unworkable electronic stuff.

Similarly, our towels were looking a bit sad and the question about replacements had been raised. A bright flash of inspiration, and we gout out the beach towels to use instead. We are not going to go to the beach with towels in a long time and possibly never like that again. Now we towel ourself with huge things of the highest hotel quality. It is wonderful. I sewed a decorative seam on the old towels which are kept for other uses, to remember that those are stinkers.

This task has also prompted me to take a hard look on using some of the unusable heirlooms I store. I especially think of my grandmothers prizewinning home woven towels from home grown linen, still with the tag on them from the 1931 county agricultural fair. (True.) Some have been damaged in storage and will be used directly as soon as the current kitchen towels wear out (which came used from an office I temporarily worked in).

I also think of my aunt’s broaches that I love so much but rarely use. I also think of my dresses from India and Guatemala that I don’t wear but appreciate. I do however plan to unpack my first editions of my favorite books and read them as the author saw them first published. I also hold a lot of books but very few films, even less cd's, and just a few cassette tapes. All are reread, re-watched and reheard on the well maintained old audio equipment needed.

What I clearly do not need, I sell, donate or gift. I provide things to the neighbourhood free book cases, the free stuff boxes around the town. Within our house, it is not uncommon to offer furniture or books to the neighbors and we traded a bookcase for a bottle of wine with next door’s before corona. I have sold some items online making some unexpected money from nothing. Just the last two months, I have created at least a cubic meter of extra space in our apartment.

For this (first?) corona year, I have worn a very limited number of clothes, and I am happy to say that I have finally worn them out. I am also very happy to have stored a bag of good clothes in the larger sizes that I a few years ago, managed to come down from. The illness/lockdown/winter weight has made me needed bigger trousers. It was lovely going ‘shopping’ among old favorites. It was even more wonderful to be comfortable wearing jeans again. Feeling comfortable makes me feel like moving more and going out on safe walks an cycle trips. It may not do a lot for the weight, but one issue at the time. I am thinking the worn out clothes, all black and grey, could possibly be cut up and sewn into a patch-work blanket, but I am not sure I need another blanket. Any reuse ideas for office trousers worn shiny and baggy like pyjama’s? The fin, functional and good quality office clothes, now a size or two too small that I bought for the new job in 2019, have been packed up with everything else in that size. I do not need it now.

What I need will be provided for, possibly also by the trash goods. I live in an affluent country in a generous city. There is a tradition to put your un-wanteds on the side of the road and there is a tradition to pick it up. The lilies of the valley do not spin, so to say if you are so inclined, and I will not worry about it. The Calvinist-Weber group of philosophers are horrified but that is their interpretation of their holy texts.

In the last years I have completed several projects with free or already-paid-for stuff, using it up and finishing it off.

Neighbors left over paint renovated my little apartment for free.

Bright silk curtains to liven up living room came from a free cycle site.

Used shoes in favorite discontinued brand was bought from a second hand site.

Wants have been snatched up when available in second hand shops, such as a running jacket.

Finding stuff for free or cheaply is not the issue. The attention need to be brought to not acquiring stuff for free or cheaply if it is not needed.  I have more project to do and will tackle one item at the time.

Keeping the burden light, makes movement easier.
The moving mind is eased as soon as the stuff is manages.

If you think you are ever moving on, clear now and to be ready for opportunities. The stuff you hold will block or burden you from that move. It will make it more difficult to accept opportunities when they arrive. The stuff may trap you from your dream.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

FI57,54 being myself

 "Cosimo [Medici, 1389-1468] the head of the family, was particularly fond of living in the country and used his time in his villas to demonstrate to the rest of the world the simplicity of his republican lifestyle. Clad in the simple grab of a country dweller, he loved to cultivate his own garden. He would prune the vines while his in-house scholar, Marsilio Ficino, read aloud to him from the works of the Greek philosopher Plato."
Text from: 15th Century Paintings by Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen. Illustration:Procession of the Magi, painting by Benozzo Gossoli, 1459.

I dream of gardening with a philosopher reading to me.

I have decided to come out and proudly be myself. I am an intellectual. There, I said it.
I will no longer hide behind superficiality and contemporary superficiality. I am coming out as a liver, lover and reader of poetry, art history, philosophy and science of society, sociology, history, geology, geography, machinery, physics and history. Money is a means and I have paid enough for mine.

I love deep thoughts and knowledge. And trains. I love trains, especially steam trains. And pumps. Wind mills. Most mechanical machinery. Some chemistry. Most research methodology. Some philosophy. I loath Aristotle.
I love breathing. And thinking. Thinking and breathing are my favourite things to do.
So that is what I will continue to do.

We are adjusting to the near future.
There will be three months of intensive therapy to deal with the work-burn-out (hopefully).
There will be around three more months before we can be vaccinated (fingers crossed).
I hope these three months will give the physical ability to exercise again so that at the end of the three months I have managed to build up some stamina again.

Then - after those three things and three months from now - our next life phase will begin.
The FIRE - ERE - FI phase of our lives.
We are adjusting to the astonishing realisation that it will be here soon.
Enough time to finish those last corona-projects.

For the last ten years, on the first day of each month I have counted my assets. This month the financial powers that are, the financial markets I don't care much for but happily use, have provided an All Time High. The total amount of financial independence is 57,54 years. It is beyond my life expectancy. 

I calculate this FI-number by counting all my assets that I have control over (excluding pension rights). I would not include a house value as I always will need somewhere to live (but I don't own the house where I live). I would deduct all debt in my name (but I don't have any currently, even all taxes are paid). Then I divide the assets with an appropriate annual budget (including taxes) and this is in my situation the annual budget I lived within before corona. (Of course currently way to big but that is going to be temporary.) (It is!) The result is a description of how long I can live on my assets without income (hoping that value increases, interest, dividends will cover cost increases, inflation and any financial losses).

The FI-number will keep me in learning, in books, in running shoes, in bicycle and in vegetables for the rest of my life. Beyond that, I only need the man. And he pays for his own stuff with his own FI-money.