Sunday, 1 November 2020

FI49,37 forwards

Just as there is a need for a bigger boat in the film Jaws, we need of a bigger scale to describe how serious the pandemic situation is. The real numbers are double the highest level, so bad and serious are bad and serious, just more so.  We are lock-down even if it isn't officially declared, and we are sitting calmly on our bums (This is a real quote by the Dutch minister of health, "when the national pandemic authority tells you to sit still on your ass, you sit on your ass, met je kont op de bank zitten".) 

So while the world is raging in fury outside, we have closed the door and live in our bubble.

And oh we are in a bubble. I fear the day we will need to re-enter civilization again. Our language deteriorates into shared grunts, the sauce is happily licked off the plates after dinner and we have invented our own celebrations. With winter solstice as the main party we will this year celebrate twelve historical astronomers or physicists with one arriving with presents, one per day from 10 December (2020) onwards. The list is chronological from Ptolemy to Hawkins. Extra celebrations for Lucia and the Gregorian New Year. As I am a natural pagan and and he is scientifically trained, this is our new ritual.
Silly?
Ridiculous?
Oh, yes, wonderfully much so.

This is our safe house and we hold a month of basic supplies. We are not going anywhere and we are not going to evacuate. So we are eating up and using up the content of the camping equipment, the bug-out bag and all luxury articles. All travel kits are used up and the miniature bottles are kept for re-use. They will be refilled when we pack up to go somewhere next time.

Most important progress in the last month, is that we finally managed to do the annual renovation project. After 2017 Closet, 2018 Bedroom, 2019 Office, it was time for the more limited 2020 bathrooms.
We have painted the walls and the pipes of our toilet and our shower room. As in most Dutch apartments, these are separate rooms. Neither room needed much work beyond painting. The toilet needs a new vinyl flooring but as soon as we can find somebody to sell what we want, it is an easy job to put in.
We had everything we needed, including brushes and paint. No cost and actually very little work. Huge difference and a great sense of achievement. 

Inspired by the story in Graham Green's Travels with My Aunt, we have taken to travel with wanderlust from room to room in the apartment. We eat in different places with enjoyment. Instead of the normal dining room table, we for example made a French bistro in our kitchen for a romantic meal. We dined out in French for a week. Our kitchen really isn’t big enough for a table but since we now work at home, a bar table has been constructed in front of the window. It gave the man a much needed working space. Sure, it is in the way and makes opening the oven dangerous but it is only temporary. The French Bistro was so close to the stove that it was probably more a teppanyaki bar than a bistro. But since it is only temporary... It is temporary, isn’t it? It is! Surely!! Aaaaa...

We also have had a pick nick in the walk in closet; packing a basket, putting a blanket down, sitting on pillows. It was funny and uncomfortable. There was also an unexpectedly warm day so we had a summer lunch on the balcony, dressed in white and complete with lemonade and mixed salads. The beach lunch in the shower room, complete with candles and water dripping, was also funny as well as uncomfortable. Bathing costume required and no, it is not really big enough for two. But none of that really mattered, it creates changes and break habits so much appreciated. A little crazy goes a long way in creating fun.

Money is not a worry. With a financial independence number (FI) of 49,37 the last weeks has seen a drop. We all know why. I have decided to not even bother by the chaos in the world. Nothing I can do about it, nothing I want to do about it and survival is worth a lot. The financial independence number is calculated as the sum from adding all assets I have control over, and dividing with my annual budget (not costs, just the budget) and hoping that future dividends and interests will take care of cost increases. The FI-number dropped to 40 in March 2020, and has came up again. It can drop to 30 for all I care. If it lasts thirty years, the pension funds which are not included in the above number as they are outside of my control, will have been paying out for almost fifteen years. There will at least be something to live on even in worst case scenario. Even that, should be better than now.

So we have enough and will be focusing on health, love and independence from now on. 

This month I have been outside ten times, made candles from old left overs, sewn some more garments, harvested the last of the balcony garden, studied languages, and sorted through documents for next years tax declaration. Later on I will make home-made sushi for tonight which we will eat sitting on the living room floor dressed in kimonos (bathrobes actually, but nobody will be able to tell).
Have fun.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

FI52,16 - fixed position

This is a report from inside the second wave of pandemic. Amsterdam is in a high-risk region and my neighbourhood is the worst of the worst. I am fully enclosed by risks and still (again) at home. There is no end in sight and not light in the tunnel. This is it and there is no point in complaining.

I try to be strict with myself and try to control my own thinking: Focus on the positives. Be for the specifics, never against the unspecific or unidentified. Always accentuate the good, regardless how marginal. 

We have made lists of lovely and inspiring things in our lives.

- Sewing and knitting and some embroidery: continuing to entertain us, and to occupy our time, thoughts and creativity. There is enough in the house for a several more months of projects.

- Gardening: The balcony is giving its last tomatoes and the last pod of the runner bean is hanging to dry. The great enjoyment is to see the bell peppers ripening from green to red. Also still growing herbs (parsley, basil, thyme, mint etc.) as well as mangold for eating. The Jerusalem artichokes will stay on the balcony over winter together with the trees (plum, oak, acacia, bougainvillea) and the sprouts until they are eaten.  

- Food: Finding and correctly storing staple food, cooking from scratch, experimenting with flavouring of said staple foods, and developing techniques to develop said staples into new dishes is continuing. This months new dishes include home made pizza dough, pancakes from scratch, toffee candy and aubergine (eggplant; a despised vegetable that we finally figured out how to enjoy eating).

- New hobby is music: I have dug out my renaissance recorder (alto, F tuned). It will take time to get the finger reach to where it was and need to be. So I follow a beginner course on Youtube to rehearse old knowledge (and gain some new). I think my neighbours can endure it.
There has also been attempts at drawing, painting and printing; uncertain if any of those interests are going to stick around though.

- Language: Another new hobby is to work through one of the free on-line language training courses for all the languages I speak, or used to speak. It goes fast as it starts from beginners level, and it will be interesting how far I can get in the different ones before I get stuck and need to start studying.

- Sport: Sport is currently enjoyed more in theory than in practice due to health issues. That means watching football (international) wherever it is being played, cycling, fencing, and triathlon. I dream in the sofa to be just like them. Although a part of my cultural background, I just can not get into ice hockey.
I do go for a walk outside every day, often late in the evening, and always away from people. We are discovering immensely interesting things in my neighbourhood that I never have seen before, or noticed or understood what it was. Amsterdam is truly the most fascinating and most beautiful city in the world and I am very happy to live here (and that I have somewhere to live here). The city gives me a lot of joy.

- Family and friends is an area with difficulties. Family are mostly filled with neurotic idiots, and I am becoming more and more estranged from them. Friends instead, are receiving more attention. Neither me nor the man have high social needs, although we are both starting to crave people. I made myself a list of lovely people I know or have met in my life. I am making a point of reaching out to them one by one. This social outreach program is of course completely virtual and on-line based, which actually has its advantages. 

- Money: This is not a hobby that is taking any time at the moment. Solid investments just keep on ticking away until there possibly could be an end to the misery in the outside world. Counting all assets, subtracting all debt (currently some taxes pending) and dividing the remainder with the amount I have identified as my annual budget. I live on a lower amount but this is the budgeted for the year. The sum gives me the number of years I can live on my assets before they run out. Currently the assets gives me 52,16 years. I do not intend to leave an inheritance and I hope (fingers crossed) that inflation and price increases are covered by dividends and interests. I now solidly count the assets to take me beyond my own life expectancy. It is time to make some decisions based on that fact.

- Work: I still work and although it is not a hobby, it does keep me connected with other people. That part is nice. It fills my agenda and I enjoy my free time more. But there are issues and concerns with the current work place. I am able to fill my agenda without them. There will be a day when I tell them that I will leave, it will be soon, and possibly also only based on the fact that I can.
They do not know that.
It is my secret that I do not need them.
It is my secret that I will leave.

But right now: I am fixed in, locked up, and not going anywhere.



Friday, 4 September 2020

Sparresan

Jag är helt ointresserad av aktier och finanser. Jag har ändå lärt mig hur det fungerar och med femti årsbudgetar i sparande gör jag numera som jag vill.

Min sparresa började med att jag sparade papperspengar i ett fotoalbum när jag var liten. Jag betalade min egen språkresa som tonåring. Jag flyttade hemifrån efter högstadiet och levde på studiebidrag, studielån, extra- och sommarjobb till långt efter en lång universitetsexamen. Det var glada dagar och nätter, men sus och dus är billigt som student och studielånet räckte väl till då. Utlandsjobb, utbytesår, språkstudier, massor av projekt och jag hade alltid pengar tillgängliga.

Efter examen gjorde jag inte mycket annat än jobbade hårt i femton år om jag minns rätt. Levde för jobbet, gjorde inget annat. Förutom på semestern, då gjorde jag alltid något svårt, stort eller långt borta. Resa med studier, jobb som volontär i uland, fjällen i fyra veckor med tält ensam; jag bröt alltid fullständigt jobbmönstret.

Och jag hade alltid pengar. Varje år gick jag igenom kostnader, planerade och budgeterade i samband med deklarationen. Sedan fick det vara så resten av året. Varje år blev det mer inkomster och mer kvar. Jag fick rådet att öka sparandet, inte utgifterna, med varje löneökning. Så sparandet ökade. Livsstilen förblev relativt oförändrad. Jag köpte ett hus med sparpengar. Jag betalade av studielånet. Det fanns inte mycket mer jag ville ha. ”Jobbet betalar” eller så var det gratis. Jag hade ett väldigt litet liv vid sidan av jobbet.
 
När allt det där jobbandet hade landat mig utomlands 2008 och 2010 när det inte var kul längre, påbörjades en otroligt svår process för att hitta ett annat sorts liv. Jag började med pengarna; sparade mer och sänkte mina personliga kostnader ytterligare. Med en sex dagars arbetsvecka fanns det ändå ingen tid. Ju mindre kul jobbet blev, ju högre blev sparkvoten. Över några år sålde jag dessutom bilen, huset, bohaget och gav bort det sista. Jag hade minimala boenden i två länder, ett förhållande i ett tredje och levde i kappsäck. Då behöver man inte mycket. Det gick givetvis inte i längden.
 
Långsamt förändrades min jobbidentitet och jag ersatte den med ett eget jag, ett annat jag. En person som inte definierades av jobbet. Med över tjugofem årsbudgetar i tillgångar sa jag upp mig. Tre länder och fyra språk blev två av vardera. Det blev ett nytt jobb utan statusprofil fyra dagar i veckan. Jag utvecklade mina egna intressen. Ytterligare några år senare packade en professionell flyttfirma ihop knappt tjugo flyttlådor och en matta. Det blev ett heltidsförhållande, ett heltidsjobb och bara två språk. Där är jag nu.

Jag har försökt låta bli att jobba. Jag gick i 'tidig pension' men trivdes inte trots att jag var fullt upptagen. 
Så jag sökte mig tillbaka till arbetslivet, denna gång på än högre nivå än tidigare. Levnadskostnaderna har inte gått upp, förutom engångsinvesteringen i ett par omgångar jobbkläder. Jobbet är inte min identitet utan min sysselsättning. Dessutom gör ytterligare inkomster framtiden ekonomiskt ljusare och den abnorma sparkvoten under pandemin, gör den delen av framtiden bekymmersfri.
 
Jag ska lära mig att inte vara beroende av deadlines och challenges. Jag ska lära mig att jag är tillräcklig ekonomiskt fri. Jag SKA gå i 'early retirement'. Jag lovar mig själv det. Men tydligen inte före femti och inte än.
Långt tidigare än de tror på jobbet dock. 
Mycket långt tidigare.
Det är mitt hemlighet.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

FI50,57 - day dreaming

Ja-ja, yada-yada, toi-toi-toi, what about it. Another month, nothing new. The world as we knew it is still coming to an end. 

Sure, the money is available (FI50,57), safety is available (working from home), health care is available (free testing and functioning public health care available for all) and the weather has finally cooled down. 

BUT - it is difficult to enjoy it with all the drama in the world. I focus on friends and acquaintances (avoiding drama queens, toxic friends and news from similar countries) I am trying to accept that the change is here to stay. I remember when Aids came into my reality, when casual and unprotected sex was not to be had no more. If feels similar, life is like sex is with a condom and at 2 meter distance.

I focus hard on enjoying the little things. Those things are becoming smaller and smaller and the joy is possibly a little forced at times. The inner city balcony garden provides the last tomatoes, salad, basil and other herbs while continue to grow large bell peppers, beans, sprouts and Jerusalem artichokes. The home made corona clothing collection has been shown on the (virtual) cat walk, worn and enjoyed. 

Income from work continues and is not included in my FI-summary (also not including future pension rights as I have no control over them or any property values - as I own nothing).
The current spending is ridiculously low because we only eat and do little else.
The savings are very high, but I recognize that it contains a lot of deferred costs that will come later... maybe, hopefully.

This month, I broke the glass in our push-down cafetière coffee pot. A new pot would cost around €60, a replacement glass around €30. Removing the broken glass, I went looking at home for something that would fit the unbroken handle. A glass from something else was found. It is possibly from a milk frother originating in the happy 90s spending sprees, currently used as a vase. It fitted so well that only some adhesives was needed to complete a fully functioning cafetière. Violá, a no cost solution. 
It gave me also the project to clean through all glass and reconsider its alternative uses, as well as repacking everything in the storage box that holds all left-over and double kitchen paraphernalia currently not used. There is a replacement cafetière available for when I break it next time. I have no illusions.

The month has seen an accumulation of shoes. It is such a rare thing, I must blogg about it.
I am very picky about shoes. It is not easy to combine size, fit, style, comfort, durability and price. This year I have worn out two pairs. I bought one pair of sneakers in the spring (€45, full price, fully satisfied). Now I have bought two used pairs of my favourite brand (discontinued 2017) on-line. I cycled over 20 kilometers round trip to try them on and pick them up directly and safely. Thank you lovely lady for listing them on-line although not worth much money. I also bought one pair new at a reduced-reduced price from an outlet shop around the corner early one morning totally spontaneous. Total spend €17 for the three pairs.
We spent a Saturday polishing all shoes to spit-shine, using existing product and brushes with instructions off the internet. My available shoes and boots will last me the next five years. We also cleaned and repacked all shoe care paraphernalia while at it.

Day dreaming in detail is the new lifestyle. I really try to keep the spirits up and not curse to much when talking about the current situation. I do try to develop ambitions and plans.
It involves attempting to be allocated a garden allotment for next year, at least within 10 kilometre from home (not a chance, not even for all the money I have, but very pleasant to dream about.)
It also involves planning for a several month long bicycle trip to go to and through my favourite part of Europe (as an alternative to the gardening project, possibly entirely impossible but very nice prepare for with focus on gaining strength, stamina, fitness, health and strong teeth).

Most days include some form of escapism into a detailed alternative reality. It is hard.
Even the perfect life in Amsterdam becomes boring when focus must be on protecting myself against the people who does not protect themselves.
Financially Independent is great, but I wish my outer world could be bigger. I'll perk up in a week or so.

Sunday, 2 August 2020

FI48,71 back in

The curve is turning up again. Covid is not over yet. Second wave is coming. The Netherlands had restrictive recommendations against travelling here, but we just became a high-risk country too. At least my region, my town and my neighbourhood. The Dutch intelligent lock down lasted four months, and after three weeks with limited opening up of society, I fully expect to be locked back in again quite soon. Intelligent lock down is Dutch for "you know what to do and do not need to be policed about it".

But tourists do not stay at home. No-no! The mandatory quarantine is disregarded as nobody is said to be checking, but that is not how it works here. Looking at you Sweden, what you do in your own country is one thing, but bringing your lack of understanding of the pandemic to other countries is beyond blåögt. Netherlands is not New Zealand. The borders cannot be closed.

Old Zeeland, and both Holland's are all high-risk areas again.

Consequentially, we have rebuilt our two week food stock to be able to handle a full quarantine again (still no yeast available). We have picked up new books to read, patterns and threads for sewing, and I have been into the office and restocked the home office with office material. We have been out cycling avoiding popular and even pretty places, but increasing stamina and distance. We can do this, we are not desperate or even bored - but oh boy, I am so tired of protecting people who ought to know better. I will continue to protect myself though.

My annual goals are divided into Health, Intellectualism (for lack of a better word), Finances, Pleasures and Home (including friends & family). I try to look at them each month to see where more attention is needed.

The financial assets are invested to be, if not recession proof, at least with long term savings in mind. The financial independence number, dividing assets with my annual budget, is currently at 48,71. The recession will come also on the markets where I have my assets, but it is fine. I do not include pension rights in my assets as I do not have any control. I have no house, car, jewellery or debt to calculate. I still work so this is not a concern.

Plans are made for the five year and the one year perspective. Dreaming and having thought through ideas of future pleasures, makes enduring the present so much easier. We dream about a two month cycling trip to one of our favourite places, passing a lot of our other favourite areas. Dreaming and planning are important mental tools for us to stay optimistic. We read, sew, garden, cook trying to develop more skills. They are not as high-brow intellectual or as international as they used to be. The mental stability is currently more important.

Health is fine, but fattening up. The home storage of remedy medicine is rebuilt. I have been to the dentist for cleaning. Teeth are the first thing to be damaged by unhealthy life style. This is money well spent but I need to pay more attention to this. We still work out ten minutes every morning, and have a daily physical activity of some sort, minimally the daily walk in the neighbourhood. The weekends have included running or cycling in deserted areas,  especially on days with bad weather or during early mornings to avoid people. In the worlds most beautiful country, even the weekend closed industrial areas provide charming picnic places. We are very very lucky that I managed to get relocated permanently and legally before the outbreak.

The friends are kept in touch with, sharing difficulties, life hacks and solutions. The family connections deteriorating week by week. Caring for old relatives is currently our main stress and concern. There is a lot of fear and most respond to the feeling of being scared, with acting out in anger and with blame. Not a happy family situation. The man and me work hard on our own relationship. We know that together we are stronger, better and happier than apart. My reptile brain demands security as a solitary cave dweller when communication becomes difficult. I work hard on trying to be a civilized human. Less of a brutal, raging, blood-thirsty, burn, bludgeon and pillage Viking re-enactment. That dna-derived behaviour need to be avoided in these sensitive times.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

FI47,9 coming out

With the first day of the month in the calendar, I count all my assets that I have direct control over, and divide them with the annual budget I live within.
The Financial Independence number for 1 July 2020, is 47,9 (+3,5). It means that I can live 47,9 years on the available assets as long as I stay with the current budget and that price increases are compensated by interest or dividends from the assets. This is probably too simplified, and the value of assets are no certainty in the future.
I have not included state pension from any of my countries, no private or work pension funds that I have no direct access to, and I own no car, jewellery or property any more. Either way, I included the value of a home as an asset, as I always would need somewhere to live.
 
During 2020, the assets have varied from a FI value of over 50, to a low of 42 in February, and then up again. The markets where I have my assets has recovered and my assets with them. The coming recession makes it unlikely that the assets will be advancing in the next few years.
The FI-number 3,5 refers to assets on another market, to be invested in something providing happiness for my old age. I am unbelievably lucky, and I thank my 2010-self who made serious financial lifestyle changes, and my old selves who made choices every day since then, enabling the current situation.
Extreme saving ratios over the last few months makes the future even better.
The financial target for 2020 may or may not be reached, and even without a job, I should be ok as long as I avoid negative lifestyles.

The health target is the new focus, with weight creeping up during lock-down and the amount of meditation going down. I have started running again (again, and again), and with the Netherlands coming out of the first wave, cycling around the country is the new weekend activity. If I can keep the work stress down, the spread of infection is slowing even further, and I do not go bonkers and start crawling the walls, the health target should be ok for the end of the year.

I have a pleasure target for the year, and although it is very difficult to advance these four months, I do focus on including my identified pleasures every day, week and month. We were lucky to have had a long cultur-filled weekend in Madrid the week before the closure, and we have been lucky to have had a long bicycle-wild camping trip this week right after the opening up. We are slowly coming out of our bubble, careful and protective as bears after hibernation, but we are out (pride month or no pride month)! No social activities, no groups in public places, no indoor visits. There will be plenty of time for that later, I can stay with social distancing for a long time yet.

With the heavy work load, the lock-down and the mental need to stay active avoiding thinking and brooding too much, the intellectual target has not been advanced. It may even have declined. I have not spent many full hours reading in the last four months. Different targets for different times. The last couple of months have seen cleaning, cooking, baking, sewing, gardening, knitting, embroidery and making a paper theatre. Not intellectual, but clearly more beneficial mentally.

Connections with friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances have either been too much, and in some cases too little. We will need re-socialisation after this, similar to old cats from the shelters. I am even less people friendly and fool enduring than before. I intend to stay working from home until forced to return to the office (beyond the monthly visit to check the post). I love working from home.
Stolen from OneVikinggirl
Covid-19 did this.

With the constant attention between difficult meetings, the balcony vegetable plants are delivering a daily abundance of food. We daily eat sugar snaps, chard, herbs and looking forward to the tomatoes, beans and Jerusalem artichokes to ripen later.

The annual targets health, pleasures, intellectualism, and family & friends remain to be higher in focus while the economic target will take care of itself - or not. The pandemic rules, and I cannot fight it. I can only protect myself and the people in my close area. So I do.
I have sewn a lot, using material already at home, such as a duvet cover. It resulted in unfortunately matching trouser, shirt and mouth cap.
I could be one of the von Trapp children.


Monday, 1 June 2020

FI47,28 and safe-ish

For the first day of June 2020, my financial independence number is 47,28 and for the fist day of May it was 45,82. It is bad, but has been worse and is a lot and I am still FIRE and fine.
The number means that the financial assets are currently available for the next 47 years, as long as I stay in my current budget, unless anything unexpected happens, the costs stay in line with the compensation of the dividends and interests gained by the financial assets. Which they of course will not.
So I hold on to my cheap life style, my cheap living accommodations, my free hobbies and my man. It is good and it can stay good for a long time. I still hold my job as it is currently fine. A new manager is coming (again! third in 11 months) but this one I think I actually look forward to.

Amsterdam is has been in intelligent lock-down since mid March, I have been at home since late February. We have been in quarantine twice for fourteen days in that period. The people around us and Amsterdammers in general have been relatively intelligent about the lock-down and the rules about social distancing. Of course it helps that we are allowed out daily together, and in shops on our own. The curve has come down, the exposure to the virus is reduced and we have all learned new routines. The new normal is starting to become normal. At least people over thirty seem to behave (relatively) sane and intelligent.

Between colds, we are still running (early in the mornings), cycling in the weekends (early in the morning and staying away from the pretty places).
My work is quite intense, and I work harder and longer than before. In between, the man and I grow our balcony full of eatable plants, sew clothes from the existing fabric in the house, deep clean the house and continue to go through our belongings. I have only gained four kilos through reduced movement and comfort eating. I also have volunteered to teach my home language on-line and the man manages his family computers and electronic needs at a distance.

Physically, we are relatively safe and doing fine. Mentally it varies between days. 
I am not bored, I can keep doing this for a long time, but I do notice that our bubble is closing in on us and we are becoming unsocial. We will need re-assimilation and social training soon.

I try to focus on now, here, the benefits to come. For example, that Amsterdam will not be over-run by cheap tourists again. We are taking our city back, moving out on the side walks, closing the crap shops selling souvenirs, kicking illegal or over priced subletting to tourists out, and instead providing housing for the people who live and work here. You all will be guests in the future, and will be expected to act as it.
I hope.

I enjoy that is nice to sleep with the windows open with no drunken screaming on the streets (only tourists, the Dutch do not sing on the streets). It is so nice to not hear the constant sound of roller-bags over the cobble stones (only tourists, the Dutch have bicycles and bicycle bags).
It is so nice to hear all the different languages on the street and know that it is because we are already an mixed society with people coming from all over the world.

There are benefits, although even a incurable optimist like me will have to look hard sometimes.
Stay safe, keep breathing, wash your hands.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

FI42 and physically safe

Safe, content and out of risk.

This is basically the only thing relevant these days.

I have been working from home since early February, with colleagues in China in quarantine since the beginning of the year and I am looking be at home until at least beginning of June; at least.
I work full time, more than full-time, and all on-line systems work fine. I still have my job but have no illusions about any future work security. Work for the man is drying up. I'll just continue to do and plan to do my job until they stop paying me.
Thank heavens I like my job, where I live and who I live with (and I am reminding myself how happy I am to not living with some other people).

My bean, pea and tomato plants are doing very well, and wait for the weather to become warmer until they can go live on the balcony. A few paprika and a few kale are coming too. This year I have been able to care for them daily, almost hourly and finally managed to grow plants from seeds. The man focuses on different salads, thyme, basil, parsley and other herbs.

We have food in the cupboards, and the shops are full of food. Being a bit of a ´prepper´ has really paid off this year (as well as last time some years ago when the distribution chain for the supermarkets fell through). It is simpler for us than for most as we don't eat meat. Dried, canned, packaged and fresh root vegetables can be stored a longer time as the fat content is lower. Some bottles of different liquid fats, oils or butter stores a long time. We already had this at home together with a few cans of sardines for if the food cravings develop and the animal concerns decrease. We do one visit to our local shop but only once a week and trying to support this family owned store rather than a supermarket chain.

The man and I try to focus our in-house life more on doing things, rather than just watching and reading. Gardening, cooking, cleaning and de-cluttering get more attention than otherwise, but also starting up projects involving sewing (we are each making a pair of trousers), acting out theatre plays together, dancing, and making hiking plans. We talk about learning languages, drawing, writing stories, and other ambitious projects but it does not happen, so it just remains an ambition.

Health is fine; morning exercises, rope skipping and shadow boxing are still a normal part of the morning routine. I work on keeping the immune systems active (cold showers, garlic, healthy eating, sleeping well and anything that does not cost money). We are still allowed outside for individual activities in the near area so we both go running early in the morning a few times a week. Not far, not together and staying away from all other people. We will still be fat and unfit when we are released, but hey ho... Alive is the target, healthy is the ambition, fit is just something to dream about.

Friends and family are all in-house, behaving badly, but at least without contact with others. (Being from the Scandi countries, most family and friends have very little physical contact in their normal daily life anyway, no social kissing, very little hugging and strangers and acquaintances are kept at distance.)

The financial situation is disastrous in monetary specifics, but without concern in specifics of financial independence. The financial independence number is still sufficient for a 4% withdrawal rate to cover my personal annual budget as it is current. Beginning of February gave the financial independence number (total assets divided by annual budget) of 50,15 years, beginning of March 47,39 years and now beginning of April 42,82 (equivalent to September 2019, and the value of an apartment later).

So all is crap, but could be worse, and is much worse for some of you and many others,

          I try to focus on everything, anything still good. Anything. 


Saturday, 8 February 2020

China

I continue to break our kitchen porcelain.

One of the two smallest side plates (assiettes) recently went to pieces during dish washing. Unfortunately it was not the one that already had a chip and lived on borrowed time. It was the good one. There is a high chance that we will have no small side plates after the kitchen clean out I do now.

I have a very high resistance to disgusting but chipped china is not acceptable for food preparation. We'll hang on to it for another month or so. The entire family is coming for the annual party and we will need all plates available then. We don't use them very often and really do not need to replace it. If we're lucky, somebody will break it for us.

I recently also found a large crack in one of the largest coffee glasses.
I did not do it! (At least not that I am aware of). It has not officially yet been classified as broken but it is definitely on its way out. I still did not do it! However, it is not a major problem as the trash gods recently gave me a very nice double walled tea glass in glass.

The man however crushed one of our beloved porridge plates the other day. While doing dishes he dropped something less cared for, on top of it. The dropped item did not break but the porridge bowl did. Now we are down to four porridge bowls out of the six we bought some four years ago cheaply in a restaurant outlet wholesaler. This is the longest time we've had bowls surviving in our kitchen. We can live with four and do not need to replace anything yet.

Sadly, one of the a dinner eating bowls is showing wear and tear. It is not yet actually chipped or cracked but there are clear signs of distress. Strangely, because the other identical one has no wear at all and we always use both. It doesn't matter. They were gifted to the man at least fifteen years ago - possibly even included in another purchase - and has well earned their existence. We started thinking about how we could replace them since we use them all the time. Then we started measuring how much food each bowl actually held and compared it to the breakfast bowls (half size) and the enormous restaurant styled dinner plate-like bowls we never use thinking them way to big (same size). So we'll just use what we have until and also after the beloved dinner bowls break.

We still have five normal sized dinner plates (all white but three different versions) and if needed, four fancy gargantuan sized restaurant styled dinner plates that we only use for pancakes (portion control stats with the size of the plate, you know). It could look like need but it really isn’t, not even really a want.

If the china breaking isn't going to increase, there is nothing we need in the kitchen this year.
But that is not a promise.

While my colleagues in China and all over Asia are either quarantined or with no production going, and we all being perfectly safe, I clean the kitchen and wash my hands.

At the beginning of the month, my financial independence number was (in years) 50,15 (plus 2,6 in my new currency). Even with a possible financial market decrease, I start out very safe and I have a pantry stocked with at least two weeks worth of dry and canned food that is not needed anymore.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Second step

Yesterday, I had a stern talking with myself. It made me sound quite angry, but I was disappointed with myself because I have become sloppy with my ambitions since I went back to work.
It is time to shape up!

If you have taken the first step to save and live frugally, these are the second steps.

Quit indulging yourself, you can live in the real world.
You are not a hothouse flower. If you already live in the real world, announce it proudly. There is no pride in being sensitive, difficult and particular about pointless things.

- cancel media subscriptions, cable, gaming, all except basic Internet, data and phone.
If you live in an underdeveloped Internet country and you have only one provider, lower your expectations and support competition and anti-monopoly. (I am looking at the US, not Nigeria.)

- turn the lights off when you walk out of a room. Teach yourself, train yourself, it is worth it financially and if you can’t change enough to do this, keep dreaming financial stability and forget financial independence.

- turn your heating down, keep non-used rooms cold, close doors, don’t buy an open floor plan house in difficult climates needing too much energy to heat or cool. Move around if you feel cold. Then put socks, slippers and a sweater on. Shorts is not indoor clothing in the winter for frugalists aiming for financial independence.

- stop shop. If you need anything and continue to need it a week to a month after you put it on your need list (or a year depending on you own rules) then you can start looking for it. I intend to wait at least week with purchases up to €10, I do wait a month if up to €50 and for anything above, unlimited waiting until the want becomes a need.

- buy smallest, cheapest and used. For a new fridge your need is less than you think. The smallest is the only choice if eating out. Used is everything, especially furniture, bikes, cars, clothing. If clothes does not survive one owner, then it will not survive you either.

- Buy cheap wine and basic food. You can’t tell the difference anyway and you may not like expensive wines enough to make the price worth it. Put your own effort into the food, instead of paying for fat and salt. It is tacky to leave the price tag on you shopping so nobody will know what you paid anyway. If your friends do know, and you care about them knowing, you should forget the dream about financial independence on you own. As long as you live in the eyes of others, you will stay spending on conventional levels.

- establish a neighbourhood; live, work, train, interact and use the social services in the same place. Make the distances as short as possible between your fixed points in life. Travel is an occasion, a rare adventure, it is not for work. Stay and make connections in your surroundings. It will make your work independence so much easier.

- drink water, eat more veg and beans than meat and cook most of it yourself. If you don’t trust yourself to boil an egg, find training, and a change of attitude to allow yourself to try. Allow yourself to eat all cake and biscuits (cookies) you have made yourself.

There is no social pride in being incompetent with everyday task. 
Learn to sew, fix a puncture on the bike, take care of a car, find the way by reading a map and knowing more than one language, at least at base level.

- identical socks are a time-, concern- and money-saver. Start with 20 pairs of identical socks. Replace when you have less than a weeks worth left. Same with underwear. Even if you do not need to pair underwear and bras, eliminating the need to chose will make you day easier.

- care for the clothes you own, use them until they are unrepairable. If you have more than you need, stash the best away until later, until the current is worn out. Keep it unused until what you use is unrepairable. You do not buy anything then, you will have free clothes available. Keep your weight. Don't bother about style. Stay healthy. Drink tap-water if safe. Use sun-cream every day.

These are not the truths anybody else need to agree with me about.
I want to agree with me and stop fooling myself.
You can argue with yourself and make your own agreement.

I do however know that I, as well as you,
we need a lot less than we think and we already have a lot more than we think.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

2020


This year starts with ambitions and dreams.
The targets are
Health,
Intellectual Pursuits (used to be called Studies, now also includes Work),
Economy,
Pleasures,
Home (including Friends&Family)

Health
The daily activity targets continue with the 10 minutes belly exercises (in my case combined with rope skipping, push ups and yoga/tai chi stretching) and recently also working on adding ten minutes of meditation to it when there is time. The daily activity also includes a daily walk, sometimes combined with grocery shopping, sometimes with trash searching and sometimes only used to walkie-talkie about the events of the day. Twenty to forty minutes and because we live in inner city Amsterdam, there is always something new to discover, something odd to see, some adventure to be had.

The daily three minute jobs are not a daily occurrence but a common expression to combat stagnation, restlessness and is used to make oneself feel good and in control.
It is not the big jobs that create a sense of control. It is those really tiny jobs that does not take three minutes usually. They still take months to get around to. Dusting the ventilation grill. Painting the last strip of the wall. Nailing up the skirting board that fell off. Mending a sock. Fastening a button before it falls off. Dusting a book shelf (the one). Wiping a window sill. Picking up the scissors and moving them to their real place to be. You know, those little things.

The target includes sub-targets for weight, food, exercise, teeth, health concerns and the ambition to use sun cream every day without fail.

Intellectual pursuits
For 2020 the ambition is to concentrate on my favourite things to do. Breathing, thinking and doing nothing. Perhaps being active in creating activities such as baking, knitting, gardening - entirely without ambitions for results of course.

I still dream about finishing my thesis for a Master in History, but the ambitions fluctuate on a scale between just doing it to get it done and doing to do it well for eternal fame and fortune. Doing it well always wins, and also means I do nothing about it (beyond daydreaming and gathering quotes).

The target includes sub-targets for work, work training and personal training through free on-line courses. This target is dangerously close to my Pleasure target.

Economy
I have a financial independence number of 50, meaning current assets will last 50 years with the current budgeted costs. It does not include pension rights which will start paying out at a level of a (current) monthly need in fourteen years. I also have two years and very limited pension rights in my new country. Even I consider that enough financial security for when I need to start living off it. For the coming year, I continue to calculate my Financial Independence number on the first of every month, but I will not focus on it. I also own nothing, no car, property, furniture or valuables.

I have a job currently. It pays handsomely and mostly contributing to the other targets. It pays current costs and adds to assets above. When it ends, if it ends, or when I want it to end, the assets will have grown a bit. Until then it is important the annual spending has not grown with it. No extra frivolities!
The job costs me extra in clothes however, but I try to keep it as low as possible by only buying clothes for work once a year. I have managed to keep a running tab on all money spent on clothes this year.
The target has sub-targets for accumulated assets at specific times during the coming year, as well as an entire annual budget calculation with all fixed and flexible costs budgeted together with the man.

Pleasures
The pleasure target is simple, breathing, thinking and doing nothing. More difficult to do well than one may think.
The target also includes running, cycling, hiking and going to see interesting things. The budget includes a weekend away per month. We use the budget to go somewhere special for a few days a year and then hike or cycle and camp as much as possible in the country (still so much to see). Last year we went to Antwerp for a weekend and to Paris for three nights, providing us with plenty of new experiences to pursue from the comfort of our home for months. We go to Madrid for three nights in February and already read everything we can get our hands on about it. (Both returning for the first time together so very specific about what to do and experience.)

Home
I have a home with the man and I am properly, legally registered and on the lease and everything. I do not own any property this year and I have taken it harder than expected to not have a "base". It is only a mental thing, but I need to work on this.

Friends &Family will also need work this year. Family is no less complicated than last year. There has been no improvement but possibly an acceptance that my family should be kept as far away as possible. The man's family is lovely but possibly also because they are already kept at a distance. The age of our respective mother's are causing concern, but only one wants to be cared for. As said, complicated.
The ambition for friends is double this year. Continuing to keep regular connection with lovely friends now around the world continues to be a target with sub-targets to ensure specific people are connected with at regular intervals. Trying to find more lovely people in my new country is the new ambition. 

That is 2020. It will of course change during the year. Some plans will change because they always will, others because they will have to. Trying to be flexible, trying to own as few physical belongings as possible to stay light and trying to be as mentally and intellectually filled up as possible.


Do you define ambitions for the coming calendar year?