Financial Freedom Sloth

achieving financial freedom one lazy step at a time

Page 2 of 9

The health report – July

Back on track and things are starting to get weird.

Let’s do the weird first. These reports are actually inspiring people?! After Hot and lekkerlevenmetminder, geldnerd also got on board. As I commented on Geldnerd’s post, this is feeling pretty strange to me. I usually do NOT inspire people. What I usually get are strange looks when trying to explain things to people (like why it is no coincidence the biggest derivative exchanges are in protestant countries …). The last time I inspired some people was in the early 2000’s when I got two co-workers to buy Berkshire Hathaway shares. That didn’t feel weird because, well investing is kind of my thing. Health isn’t. Hell, I am the opposite of a good health/sport example. My blog is financial freedom SLOTH for crying out loud! I am lazy! I do not like sports. I don’t even like moving in general. And my approach isn’t even sane (hence why I do not go into details). So for me to inspire other people to live healthier?! We are living in strange days indeed …

And now for the back on track part.

Fase 1: Swimming

Still going strong. I only skipped 1 mainly because I have had an insane busy last two weeks. I had to drop off the Girlfriend in Gent at 15h on Sunday which meant I couldn’t go at my normal 12:30 time. I could, and should have gone at 09:00 am in the morning (have done it a few times in the past). But I have been sleeping less (the heat mainly) so I woke up at 08:00, then thought fuck it and went back to sleeping. Also not helping in the sleeping department is too much screen time in bed. So I am going on a smartphone ban while in bed. I developed a bad habit there and should stop. After all, health is more than just your weight and general fitness level.

But all in all a good swimming month. The rest actually felt great as I was flying through the water after having skipped one session. The rest did my body some good.

Fase 2: a very strict diet

Here is the back on track part people. An almost laser focus.

Date: weight neck chest belly arm
24-10-2017 114 kg 43 cm 124 cm 124 cm 39 cm
15-5-2018 104 kg 42 cm 115 cm 114,5 cm 38 cm
17-6-2018 104 kg 42 cm 118 cm 115 cm 38 cm
15-7-2018 101 kg 41 cm 118 cm 115 cm 38 cm

101 kg! Or very close to the half way mark of losing 15kg!

Actually, those numbers are from 15/07 (I have been so busy I didn’t even get to do this post for the last 5 days, also I am lazy) and have reached the 100 kg mark in the last days. Woot woot and big congratulations to myselfI

I did come to the conclusion I still do not have a good relationship with the snacks. I still view chips and chocolate as a ‘reward’ for being a good little sloth. And while I now have it under control and only very, very, occasionally indulge I need to continue to work on it. Not on indulging less but on changing my attitude towards it.

I have done it for coca cola where I was a real coke addict (at least three cans a day, every day). I stopped (cold Turkey style) and a hard time doing it. I even instituted a coca cola ban in the house. When we bought a few for visitors I got the girlfriend to hide them out of fear of a relapse.

Now we have had a few cans in the refrigerator for a week and zero temptation.

What changed is that at first it was a rational decision and only a rational decision. I knew the coca cola was bad for me (little side notes: Berkshire Hathaway owns a lot of KO shares so the rest of you should definitely not follow my example and stop buying their products, think of my dividends!!) so I made the effort to stop! But every other part of me except my rational part still wanted coca cola. And then, somehow, I made a switch. It was as I finally, fundamentally, one every level of my being now understand that Coca cola was bad for me (again: you all keep buying their products! They have a wide range of healthy drinks too!!). So I think I can finally say: ‘Hello, I am financialfreedom sloth and I am a recovered Coke addict!’

So I need to achieve a similar switch for those unhealthy snack. I also did it for carbs, almost effortless but those snacks … If I am honest, I think it is because a big part of me doesn’t want to. I want to keep those rewards you know. I mean, I am doing good, no? And If I am slim and fit (well getting there), shouldn’t I get to have some M&M’s or Lays chips on occasion? But on the other hand, I usually am an all or nothing guy. It would remain a big weak point and a risk of relapse. It is this internal struggling that, I think, is holding me back from making the switch. It really is a difficult point for me. Honestly, I do not know how or when I will resolve this. Or how buying a bag of M&M’s can lead to some deep soul searching … Fuck, this stuff isn’t easy.

Fase three: fitness

Haven’t started yet. I told you in my last update I didn’t want to!

I actually need to correct that. I went to the local gym to get information and when I was there I realized that what I really do not want to is have to go to the Gym three times a week. See what I wrote there: ‘have to go’. That is not a good way to look at it. That is not the way I view my swimming. Sure, part of me feels like I have to go swimming but I also want to go swimming. I do not want to go to the Gym. So I am not going.

But I also realized I want to do fitness. What I really want to do is train on the Kettler fitness bench that is standing on my parent’s attic. That was always my final goal, the Gym part was to bridge the gap between wanting to exercise now and having our attic finished (two, three years?).

I think I can squeeze the Kettler bench in our utility room once that is finished (October?) and while waiting for that I am going to start with push ups and sit ups. Getting to a hundred will probably take me till October anyway …

Coming up in August are some nice Techno parties, so the health focus might be a little less the coming month. But not going to lie people, looking forward to it with the new slimmer body …

Monthly expense report: June

The half year mark. So time for a round up and see where I am at budget wise. But first the numbers for the month of June.

Income:  2 168 euro

Expenses: 1 520 euro

Savings: 648 euro

income bounced back to it’s normal number of around 2 160 euro since the weird holiday money from last year thing is now passed me. Since I have been on a fixed contract since november last year (which remind me that I really need to do an update on my work situation) there will be no repeat of that next year! Hooray for not having to deal with one of the most complex pieces of legislation in Belgium (holiday money, and number of holidays are really, really complex. Especially if you transition from unemployment/interim work to fixed contract).

Expenses are just above my self imposed  1500 euro mark. But an anniversary gift for a friend turned out more expensive than anticipated because the Belgian post office is a den of thieves! (A USA order clearly marked as costing 24 USD  got magically priced at 64 euro with the import taxes to match it! Thieves I tell you!). I also pre-paid a festival for early September and had an honest to god restaurant visit. A motor shop had a sale out so I also paid 36 euro for so high quality gloves. I only need some descend rain resisted trousers now and I am all set for the next winter on the Vespa. Since I planned on starting fitness in July I also bought some sporting stuff: 70 euro for 4 work out t-shirts (a bit of a shame as I have plenty of work out t-shirts but for the moment they all fall in the ‘good to wear if I lose another 8 kg’ category. Sigh, on the other hand, if I do lose those kg’s t-shirt wise I am good for the next decade). Also got decent sport shoes for 40 euro and spend 40 euro on swimming stuff. So all good there. Listing it all up like that and I come to the conclusion I bought a lot for only 400 euro’s!

The joint account also came in under budget again. But everything left over there goes to the home renovations we are doing this year. But still, under budget for the core expenses is always a good thing.

6 month recap

Total income: 13 077 euro

Total expenses: 9 675 euro

total saved: 3 402 euro

Average income was 2 180 euro a month and average spending 1 613 euro. That is more than 100 euro above my 1 500 euro. The reason is simple: the Vespa. The 600 euro maintenance fee (and my monthly 40 euro gas bill) pushed my expenses higher. If I subtract all Vespa related expenses from my total I had an average spend of 1 455 euro! But I like riding the Vespa. I really, really like it! I even dare to say that most of the time it makes me happy (especially with the current weather). So I am definitely going to keep driving it. It does show that Mr Money mustache was right: riding a bicycle can help a lot to achieve a frugal live!

I did go with a fine comb through my expenses of the last 6 months and eliminating stupid expenses like sandwiches at work (which I no longer due to the diet but that only started in April) and the traffic ticket (stupid, stupid) would have brought my average spending to  1 545 euro. So on average I spend 60 euro a month on stuff that did not increase my happiness (or was downright bad for my health). I’ll try to do better on that front the next 6 months.

But hey, I am well on my way to save over 6 000 euro this year. So saving wise still good. Even after paying for the renovations on our house I should end the year with more savings than I started the year.

The health report – June

In dieting there is always a moment where you hit a plateau en June was that month for me. I feel I need to remind my readers that although my first post about it was in May, I actually started in February with the swimming and on the 1st of April with the very strict diet. I just didn’t get round to posting about it before the 15th of May. So I have been at it for a bit longer than this blogs reflects.

And I didn’t do that bad, it’s just that my body appears to not be very standard but then again, neither am I as a person.

Fase 1: swimming

Still going strong here. Didn’t skip one! Had a visitor last weekend and left the visitor to fend for herself for two hours in my home as I HAD TO GO swimming, lol. I know, very hospitable off me …

Even adjusted my schedule one week because the pool was closed one friday and I normally go Wednesday – Friday – Sunday. Changed it to Tuesday – Thursday – Sunday.

So 4 weeks of solid swimming, three times a week, 2 km each time. For those interested in the details. I do 500 m as warm up, then some stretching and then another 1500 m and then some more stretching. All of it breaststroke. I learned this weekend that breaststroke is more demanding than crawl! I always thought it to be the other way around because you go faster with crawl but that is apparently mainly due to better aerodynamics (hydrodynamics?) of that style. Yay for me. And yes, the most demanding is the butterfly stroke but let’s be honest, that style is nuts and would only result in me swallowing mouthful’s of chloride water with each and every stroke. I also tend to get lots of water up the nose with crawl (free style), hence my preference for the breast stroke.

Fase 2: a very strict diet

well, I wasn’t all that strict this month. Well, I wasn’t all that strict in the evening to be more precise. Breakfast and work day were still very good but I did falter a bit in the evening. This wasn’t helped by the fact the girlfriend went to Porto for the music festival for one week leaving me unsupervised.

Even with the bad evenings I must have been below 2000 kcal because I was at 680 kcal before coming home. And I didn’t pig out that much once home! It’s just well, my body doesn’t do moderation very well.

Here are the stats:

Date: weight neck chest belly arm
24-10-2017 114 kg 43 cm 124 cm 124 cm 39 cm
15-5-2018 104 kg 42 cm 115 cm 114,5 cm 38 cm
17-6-2018 104 kg 42 cm 118 cm 115 cm 38cm

 

You’ll notice almost no change except the chest. Might be an error in measurement or me breathing but I have to say, I do feel more muscular. And all the swimming (24 km in the last month) must have had an impact somewhere. I have been known to bulk up pretty fast (fat when not exercising and muscle when exercising). So I might have lost some fat but more or less added the same weight in muscles with the eating more in the evening (my body reacting to finally getting some more building materials to work with). I do now need a size XL t-shirt and not only because of the belly but also because of my shoulders. Hell, an XL is actually a snug fit around the shoulders now and there is definitely not a whole lot of fat on those!

This is one of the shortcomings of only being able to being able to measure your weight. In an ideal world you should be able to measure fat and muscles. But no cheap, accurate way exists (or I haven’t found it). I’ll know more when I get a full body scan at 95 kg. One thing I cannot deny is I am still carrying around way to much fat.

Fase three: fitness

The old, strict-goals-me would have lost motivation with a zero progress month. This would probably lead to quitting the effort all together and then starting to add weight again.

Now I focus on the good:

– I still feel a whole lot better at 104 kg than I did at 115kg

– I still went swimming and I am faster/in better shape than I was one month ago

– I actually did okay diet wise until the evening

So lessons from this that I need to be very strict on the diet. My body demands it. Some people can quit drinking soda’s and lose 5kg because of that one change. Some can skip a few bags of chips and lose kg’s from that. But the sad truth is, not me. I just can’t eat a bit less and exercise a bit more and expect results.

No!

I need to put my body on a below 1000 kcal a day diet

I need to swim 3x week for 2km

And in need to add fitness to it. I knew this a month ago. The last month has proven beyond any doubt I need to do it!

I have said it before and I meant it. I do not look forward to adding 3 x of fitness a week to my schedule. I am lazy, I like being lazy. A little part of me was still thinking that the diet and the swimming was enough. That the fitness was a corner I could cut. That I could get away with half assing this. A little bit less effort but still most of the benefits! O, how I would love that!

But nope, when it comes to weight loss I cannot cut any corners.

So fitness it is as of the 1st of July.

Thing is, when I do it my body really, really likes it! My mind is shouting that this is the most boring, stupid thing one can spend an hour doing But my body. O my body loves it. My body is shouting more! More! More! Guess it’s time to start listening to my body and give it what it wants.

Monthly expense report: May

Well focusing on my health also helped financially as June seems to consists of working, dieting and exercising and not much else. And since I already paid for a full year subscription for the swimming pool I didn’t spend much on either!

Income: 1 834,53 eur

Expenses: 1 335,90 eur

Savings: 734,53

Income was a bit lower because of the difference how holiday money works if you work interim or fix contract. It’s a boring and very complex subject so I will not bother you with the explication. I actually forgot about it until a few days before I got paid. Then thought I would only get a few 100 euro in holiday money and then when paid I realized I actually got a few 100 euro’s less! Disappointed!! But it is what it is and completely out of my control.

on the bright side, spending was also low so I actually still ended up with a very nice savings amount!

Expenses are low because I hardly bought anything. 1 100 euro went to the joint account and then, well almost nothing! The usual stuff like gas for the Vespa and my cell phone bill. Gifts for mother day and the upcoming birthday of a friend and a new ID-card which cost me 24 euro to get. Like I said, working, dieting and exercising and not much else. But working is going pretty good (even if insanely busy) and I enjoy the exercise so I am actually feeling pretty fine! It just goes to show you do not need to spend a lot of money to feel happy.

May was actually the second lowest spending month for me personally. The lowest month? May 2017! I guess May is a cheap month for us.

I did shift some diet purchases to the joint account. Frankly because my girlfriend insisted on it since she was starting to feel pretty guilty with the grocery spending being 95% for her alone. But this had a very small impact as in the joint account May was actually our least expensive month since I started keeping a detailed budget! Burning fat saves money!!

The health report – May

You often hear people say that your health is the most important thing in life.

And guess what? They are right!

Without health, a big pile of money will not do you a lot of good. And with both my mother and the girlfriend working at an institution for people with disabilities I really, REALLY know that being born with full physical and mental capabilities is a great gift.

Knowing this you would think I would have taken better care of my health but as those who have met me in real life can attest, I didn’t.

Squandering a great gift

Actually, I have really squandered this gift. First off: the last time I was somewhat serious about exercising was in my university years. Since I spend my working hours behind a desk that was not a good move. Second, I got fat. This too started after my university years. A sedentairy life style + eating large quantities of food (because moderation doesn’t really fit my personality) resulted in weight gain. Adding a few kilo’s every year which seems OKish. But fast forward 20 years and I ended up at 115 kg. With a height of 1m78 I had firmly nestled myself in the obese category. Health wise not good.

I also take some other measurements so here is a full overview of my starting point:

Date: weight neck chest belly arm
24-03-2018 115 kg 43 cm 124 cm 124 cm 39 cm

Financial freedom wise this was also not good. There are only two ways to increase the number of freedom years you have. Either you retire earlier or you add more healthy years after you retire. And if there is a sure way to reduce your healthy years in life it is being overweight (well that and being homeless or develop a bad drug habit, neither of which is going to happen).

So one of my big goals apart from achieving financial freedom is getting my weight down to a healthy level and start exercising. It was actually goal number two in my mission statement way back in December 2016.

The lazy side is strong in this one! After formulating the goal it actually took me until march 2018 to really start. I do have a few excuses, most of them crap. So let’s just skip them and get to the positive!

Learning from the past

I did learn from my past mistake of losing weight but never starting to exercise (because I am lazy that way) and also putting up strict goals which I then didn’t achieve. This failure then lead to losing motivation which in turn lead to me abandoning the effort all together. And then gaining back the weight… it was a very bad feedback loop of my own creation.

So this time I would exercise and I would make my goals less specific.

I went for a three fase approach.

Fase 1: swimming 2 km 3 times a week

During my last bout of unemployment I had actually achieved this but my back aching up plus starting a new job had me falter again. So I started it back up again in February. Old habits die hard so I did have the occasional thought crop up in my head that I should reach that goal by the first of April. Luckily it was only an occasional thought and I immediately squashed it by reaffirming to myself that every week I went swimming was a good week. That was a good mindset since it actually took me till the second half of April to get there.

Fase 2: a very strict diet

Originally I wanted to have completed fase 1 before starting this but that was taking a bit longer than anticipated (and I was fine with that, honestly I was!). I also was being pretty fed up with being overweight. Being fine with a not so strict time table is one thing but the weather is improving and I have a few cool t-shirts I’d like to be able to wear this summer! So I started the strict diet on the first of April. How strict? Remember the bit about me not really being a fan of moderation? Well, I hover around a 1.000 kcal a day for the moment. Probably a not too healthy  approach, definitely not very sane. But it is working for me.

On the 15th April I stood at:

Date: weight neck chest belly arm
24-10-2017 114 kg 43 cm 124 cm 124 cm 39 cm
15-5-2018 104 kg 42 cm 115 cm 114,5 cm 38 cm

(No update from today since part of my new approach is not weighing myself too often.)

Fase 3 will be the addition of fitness/weight training 3 times a week. I will probably start with this on the 1st of July for no other reason that the Gym has a 6 months subscription for a 100 euro’s.

I will then exercise 6 times a week for 1 hour. This should get me in a reasonable shape and hopefully prevent me from gaining back my weight once I stop with the strict diet. Well, I’ll probably need to start eating healthier also. Not looking forward to that, let me tell you …

I should end up around 90 kg, depending on how much muscle the weigh training adds. Somewhere around 95 kg I am planning on spending some money to get a full body scan to determine my fat percentage and muscle ratio so I can fine tune the work-out regime. If I would have to guess I think that at present I still need to lose between 13 to 15 kg of fat and add somewhere between 3 to 5 kg of muscle to be in a decent shape. The body scan will give the hard data I need.

I’ll try to make this a monthly series but no promises (after all I am a lazy sloth and I have discovered that I am not a big fan of self-imposed deadlines).

Monthly expense report: April

I both spend very little and a lot in April. I’ll explain below …

Income: 2 188 euro

Expenses: 1 970 euro

Savings: 218 euro

Income wise a very normal month. No holidays, no gifts. So just the normal job income. Job still going good: the work itself is ok and the co-workers and general atmosphere really good. I always knew I would do a lot better in a start up environment (technically we are in the scale-up phase) than the big giant corporation. Point in fact: I was allready asked to transition into another position (perhaps I should have asked for a raise when accepting it?).

Expenses are a lot higher. What happened? The Vespa happened. Well maintenance on the Vespa happened. After driving it for 5000 km it was due for a big maintenance. In needed a new drive belt and rear tire. Also decided to have a small windscreen installed on it (I actually used this as an argument to knock off 250 euro of my purchasing price when buying the Vespa). The bill came to 600 euro. About half of it labor. Which leaves me wondering? Do I learn to do my own maintenance on the Vespa or not? It would require some up front cost in equipment but should be profitable in the long run. And I do really love riding the Vespa. It could even become a way to make some money after retirment because at 60 euro an hour mechanics do not come cheap …

Except an Easter gift for the godchild, gasoline for the Vespa and protein powder (I am on a diet, it deserves its own post. Here is a hint: it’s going great) I actually didn’t buy anything. Hence the ‘I spend very little’ in April. Without the Vespa maintenance this would have been my cheapest month since December 2016! And May is going pretty well also. But I did have the maintenance so it was my most expensive month since keeping a detailed track of my budget (hence the ‘spending a lot’ part). And I still managed to save some money! That’s the advantage of having a decent savings rate. Even when a sizable expense comes up, the only impact is on your savings rate!

In the joint account nothing unusual. No visiting Brussels or going clubbing. We did do quit a bit of home entertainment having friends over for three consecutive weeks (even 1 BBQ for 11 people). So that did costs us a little in the way of food and drinks but the budget didn’t really suffer because of it. Home entertainment definitely is a lot cheaper than going out.

I did put my find of this site to good use and we have now switched energy provider. We should start seeing the impact of this in the coming months. I even made a note in my calendar to do a new check-up next year! Look at me being all organized and shit!

Monthly expense report: March

Things are chugging along nicely. 4,5 Months into my new job I am once more used to the regular pay check and socking away 500 euro’s each and every month. Not going to lie, it is a nice feeling to see the savings account go up, up and up. After a year of not renovationg we are now looking around to have some more work done in our house.

Income: 2 356 euro

Expenses: 1 673,06 euro

Savings: 682,94 euro

Income is a bit higher than usual because easter came early this year! We visited my parents a week before easter so we got our present a week early as well. My parents continu their guerrilla tactics of using every excuse in the book to give us money. They even invent a few of their own. For instance: they give us money when they go on holiday because we told them a few years ago we preferred them not to buy us any local ‘trinkets’. I do prefer the money above some useless crap that will end up on a landfill eventually but really? Giving us money because they went on a holiday? It’s ridiculous and I can not explain it to a sane person. On the other hand, I also have no sane explication why I just do not relent and let them pay for our last home renovations …

Expenses are more or less the same as last month. But this month I did not have a faulty hard drive to replace. So where did the money go to?

Well, 50 euro went to a very stupid thing. I got a traffic ticket for the Vespa. Remember when I bought the Vespa I said it made me feel like a 16 year old again?

Well, I am riding it like a 16 year old as well. Difference is I now have a plate (50cc motorcycles did not use to have a number plate when I was young). Police is also a lot more active in trying to issues speeding tickets. It is a stupid waste of money. It also highlited the difference between me and not so furgal ffriends. When I told a friend about it she just shoughed her shoulders and was like, ‘yeah speeding tickets happen, just pay it’. Because she looks at it as 50 euro expense on a 2 350 euro income. That is only 2,2% of the monthly income. Not worth to overthink.

But I have a (self imposed) budget of 1 500 euro AND 1 100 euro of those are going to the joint account to pay for life necessities (house, heating, food …). So in my mind, my monthly budget is only 400 euro. And wasting 12,5% of it on a speeding ticket sucks big time.

There was the Flemish health premium to be paid (51 euro) and the mutuality (86 euro). Ridiculous low amounts compared to health premiums in the USA but I am not too happy with them anyway (there is a lot that could be improved upon in our health system). They are also expenses you can not do anything about …

In the fun category we went to Brussel and visited a few multimillion homes like villa Empain. They are great to visit and look at but I rather not own one of them (the parents of friends of us used to own a country estate in every sense of the word. The heating bill alone was above my total annual budget and that was 15 years ago when they finally came to their senses and sold the money pit). But we drank and ate our way through Brussels so it was not a cheap day. But 60 euro’s well spend!

We also went clubbing. Usually not a big fan of it. But some friends roped me into it and the girlfriend definitely needed some good fun so we went. At 120 euro for the both of us not exactly a cheap evening. But great fun. Still, I prefer the home approach as my drinks selection puts most clubs selection to shame (no, in my world Bacardi is not an A label Rum) …

In the joint account we got hit by insurance costs (all of them at once even) and we also paid a visit to Ghent (and pizza) form the joint account. But previous months had us well under budget there so we are still good for the year.

All in all I had a fun filled month for a 1 700 euro budget. 1 500 euro definitely is a stretch as the first three months (and last year) show but 1 700 euro I find very comfortable. And the goal of all this bookkeeping isn’t actually to see how low I can go but to determine at what level of spending I achieve optimal happiness. After one year and 4 months of budget keeping the amount appears to be around 1 650 euro a month. I’ll see if I can lower it a bit in the next 16 months …

On the topic of lowering the expenses. My inner sloth was pretty happy with discovering this site. It provides a very easy and lazy way to switch energy supplier! An estimated 250 euro savings for 5 minutes of work? I’ll take it!

Our house (not following the FIRE rules)

Everybody seems to be writing about their housing past and present and it is something I had planned to write about as well. Mainly because our situation is 180 degrees opposed to what most people aiming for early retirement would do. Where most talk about future downsizing and living small we went big! Really big!

But first a little bit of history.

Up until we bought this house (now 8 years ago) I have always rented. The girlfriend however bought a small house in Ghent about twenty years ago. Total purchasing price after renovating the roof: 57.000 euro. That gave a mortgage of a grand total of 350 euro a month. So when we got together I moved in with here. I started paying rent with a little twist. We agreed on a rent of 200 euro a month (far cheaper than my previous place!) but since her house still needed some renovations I paid it in lump sums. One year of rent gave her 2.400 euro which she then used to make some improvements to the place (often executed by me and my dad). Up until this point we were following the FIRE rules: living small and cheap.

After a few years we wanted to move, the neighborhood we lived in was not improving (actually getting worse, a clear sign being when our Turkish neighbors starting moving out due to the rising number of East-European Roma moving in). The girlfriend had always wanted a big garden with room for animals. So we started looking. I had one iron rule: I would not sell any of my investments to fund the purchase or the renovations. in practice this meant our budget was limited to what we could borrow from the bank and even there we were conservative: we wanted to be sure we could pay our mortgage even if one of us lost his job. This limited our purchase price even more. So we had a self imposed limited budget but wanted lots of land. To reconcile these two facts we had to resort to geographic arbitrage.

Moving to the countryside

We first looked around Ghent but property price had really skyrocketed. We then looked closer to my parents but there too it was more land = more money. We finally ended near Tienen (it has the same time commuting to Brussels than Ghent) where land is/was still affordable. We landed on an old farm sitting on 2 800 m² of land. In all honesty, we bought it for the garden because even back then we knew the house was too big for just the two of us.

How big? Around 350 m² for the house alone. Not counting a 25 m² utility room (still needs to be renovated) and not counting the numerous outbuildings we have no idea what to do with (the cat does seem to like them, so there is that). We have the barn (there are parts of the barn attic the girlfriend has not been, ever), the stable, the garage, the work shed and then, because we ran out of names, something we call the green gate because the door is green and ‘the shed next to the work shed’ is just too damn long. Hell, ‘the shed with the green gate’ was too long so it just became ‘the green gate’. It is not uncommon for us to have the following conversation:

Do you know where item X is, I cannot find it in the utility room?

I probably put it in the barn with the garden equipment or the work shed.

*going outside, checking it, coming back inside*

Nope, I probably put it in the green gate.

*takes the key, goes back outside*

5 minutes later: damn it is not there either, where the hell is it?

No idea, it will turn up eventually

2 months later: hey I found item X!!

You did! Where was it?

In the green house!

The green house when it was nice and tidy

We have 4 bedrooms for just the two of us. And that is not counting the 100 m² attic (still needs to be renovated) which I will probably convert into a home fitness/cinema room eventually because well, more bedrooms would be futile and what else should we do with it?

We might, might, try Airbnb in the future but at the moment neither us is big on having strangers in the house (we have done workaway in the past).

So while it certainly did add some years to our early retirement date (had we stayed in Ghent i would probably be done about now) we were pretty smart how we went about it.

Being stupid, the smart way

Even though buying a way too big house that needed extensive renovation derailled our retirement date with several years we did do it a pretty smart way.

First off: we sticked to our budget. Purchasing prize was 185.000 euro. Or as one bank office manager said: you got the garden for free (we saw it the other way around: we paid for the garden and got the house for free).

We borrowed at a low rate: 3,6% and then refinanced it down to 2,6%. And I am currently looking to go even lower than that.

The girlfriend made a very, very nice profit on the sale of her house in Ghent. About half of that was invested (GBL for those curious), jump starting her stash. The other half was used for renovating the house.

We renovated while already living in the house (the three months our kitchen and bathroom got renovated were no fun). Hell we are still renovating! We have got about 5 years and another 50.000 euro to go.

pretty happy with our living room since it looked like this at a certain stage

We will probably end up putting 350.000 euro into the house (purchasing price + all renovations). A sum we did not want to borrow. By spreading the renovations over 10+ years we limited our borrowing costs. And can actually afford the house!

We both like watching house shows and honestly, I have seen a lot of properties being sold for 350.000 or more where the house is so, so uninspiring average. And I don’t do average very well. This house is many things but average it is not.

For our quality of living it has been a big change. Even with all the renovations being done.

We are both people who need space to be alone. We got that in spades.

It is also a lot nicer where we live now. One year we drove to Croatia to go on holiday. Two weeks later we drove back home. The holiday feeling persisted right up to the moment we drove into our neighborhood. This drop in holiday joy, just by driving into our street really reaffirmed we needed to move.

Our current place is the complete opposite: this summer I went to our local bakery to get some bread. The sun was shining, I was driving my Vespa down some nice country road and I actually felt like I was on holiday! In Ghent we were probably the richest people in the street. Now I doubt we make it into the top half. And it may not be politically correct in these times to say but wealthier neighborhoods in general means nicer neighborhoods.

It all comes down to happiness. Although Ghent is a great town we were not happy living where we lived then and we are pretty happy living where we live now. Yes, this means working some extra years but in this case it is a sacrifice we are both more than willing to make.

Monthly expense report: February

A short month which unfortunately didn’t translate in low expenses.

Income: 2 180 euro

Expenses: 1 671,60 euro

Savings: 508,40 euro

No more gifts this month so back down to the normal income of the job. As predicted last month I now ‘earn’ about 50 euro more per month thanks to the tax reform that took effect.

Expenses were 1 670 euro or 170 euro above the goal of 1 500 euro. But as also mentionned last month one of my hard drives failed in my Synology NAS. Replacement cost was 200 euro. Without this I would have reached the 1 500 euro goal.

Another goal was spending less money on unhealthy sandwiches at work. This month was a low for me at only 53 euro! This was due to february being a short month, me taking some holidays and eating the seaweed bread I mentionned last month. I did need to buy more seaweed but for 85 euro I think I got enough to cover the whole year.

I also became the godfather to a friends baby. So a 100 euro gift there. This will probably become a recurring item as, finance wise, I have big plans for the little rascal.

I did have a 50 euro pure ‘fun’ expense and we also had carnaval in my home town. It’s free to go, we have a chest full of outfits from previous years  and since we usually buy in bulk we didn’t even have to buy any beer for it this year!

All in all I could see myself coming pretty close to the 1 500 euro goal this year with only two exceptions. First is: going on holiday. What we are planning would cost less than the holiday money I will receive but it would still push my budget above 1 500 euro. Second: a new PC. Knowing me, that would cost more than the holiday and kill any change I have got in coming close to my goal. Not sure what I will do there. For the moment I just keep using the old PC which is getting slower by the month (also hoping for a price drop in graphic cards, damn you crypto mining fools!).

In the joint account we did keep our self imposed limit of only going to the fries shop once a month (yeah for ourselfs!) and groceries were just under 300 euro (mainly due to February being a short month). Everything else was pretty standard.

So from an income and expense view February was a pretty good month. Investment wise, not so much ….

An unpleasant experience

Well, we had a drop in the market. Finally. Let’s be honest, it was long overdue. And actually it wasn’t even that much of a correction.

Being an active investor sinds 2000 this isn’t my first drop and it definitely wil not be my last one. But it was my first one with a huge leveraged position. Which did add a little bit extra spice to the whole experience.

The broad overview is this. On the first of February my stash stood at 289 722 euro. The 5th February it would reach a low of  253 860 euro. That is 35 862 euro gone poof.

The reason: the strong drop in AB Inbev which first eliminated my buffer and then continued to plunge down.

How did it feel? Well, imagine somebody putting on a glove with spikes on the inside and then cupping your balls.

Day 1: there is slight pressure. You are thinking you are not liking this (and if you are me, a small part of your brain is also thinking, ‘Hey, if it was a beautiful woman doing it, I might find this kinky’ 😉

Day 2: the pressure increases. Gone are all thoughts of it possibly being kinky. Ugly ogre or the most beautiful woman in the world. It doesn’t matter. There is pain, so much pain.

Day 3: you hear craking. There is not supposed to be any cracking down there! What the hell is making the cracking noise? Also pain, so much pain. Please, please let it stop!

After trading hours you take stock of the situation. The biggest question you have is this: have I been an idiot? How stupid was it to put a construction on AB Inbev with it trading around 95 euro? Was it a bad price?

Well it isn’t a really cheap price, I knew that going in. But they do make a ton of money. They will continue to make a ton of money. The dividend is healthy and assured. They will pay down there debt, making either room for more dividend or new acquisitions. I read Dream big and know those guys are efficiency freaks, squeezing an ever increasing free cash flow out of their operations. I read almost every interview with Alexander van Damme. He is smart, high up in the management and already owns a ton of shares of aB Inbev but on 10th January he bought an additional 500.000 shares via patrinvest (and the time before he even bought at  101 euro).

If there is one guy on this world who nows the value of AB Inbev it’s him. And he just put in 48 million euro at 95 per share.

Also, I knew there might me a change of a correction. It’s why I reduced my leverage. It’s why I chose a stable dividend paying stock for the construction because  the dividend covers the financing fees. As long as I do not get a margin call I can keep the position for all eternity and even get some positive cash flow out of it! And a margin call was still a long way out!!

All of a sudden the pain was gone! My head cleared.

And then it hit me like a freight train! I actually could make a profit from this drop. If AB Inbev would eventually go back to the 95 euro level I now had an opportunity!

You see, the construction has two legs. And one of them had a very nice profit. The other leg just had an even larger loss. But that loss would disappear if AB Inbev rebounds. But part of the profit on the other leg would then also disappear. Solution: take the profits on the one leg. Then wait till AB Inbev rebounds enough and only then deploy the second leg again. I could actually make a lot of money of this drop!

So day 4, this morning, I woke up with a shiny new pair of metal balls and traded the shit out of the drop.

If it all works out, and AB Inbev does bounce back I will have made an extra 14.000 euro. If it starts dropping again I just sacrificied another 1,7 euro of downward protection because now I am fully exposed to any price movement in AB Inbev. Do me a favor: drink more beer!

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