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


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

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.

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.

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.)

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?