I had all intention
to be all caught up with these monthly expense reports by the
beginning of the year but that turned out to be a very nice theory. I
used decembre mainly to relax and charge my batteries so I could
finally restart the diet and swimming. A more disciplined healthy
life style will actually be beneficial to my finances both in the
short term as the long term. So it is really something I need to
tackle. But more on that in the December expense report. Let’s get
the November one done first.
Income: 2 387,10
Expenses: 1 622 euro
Savings : 765 euro or 32%
Not a lot to say
about the income of November, just my normal wage + a 100 euro gift
from the parents.
Expenses would have stayed below the 1 500 euro mark were it not for
black Friday at the end of the month. But I feel I got some nice
frugal purchases, so no regrets there.
For the royal sum of
28 euro I got three steam games at black Friday and a fitbit charge 3
set me back 89 euro thanks to the black Friday promotion. The fitbit
is off course a desperate attempt to try and get a bit more
discipline health wise. Buying food at work was improving in November
but the transition to full on diet was not yet made.
* sigh *
expense was 30 euro for a 10 turns card for the swimming pool.
Swimming is still too infrequent to justify an annual subscription.
* hangs head in shame *
Also in the fun part of the budget: a cinema visit (the joker) with the girlfriend for a total cost of 34 euro. Yes, expensive candy was purchased at the movie theatre …
* hangs head in double shame *
More practical expenses were website hosting costs (150 euro) and 2 sweaters (61 euro). When three female co-workers gang up on you and demand you start wearing better clothes at work you know it really is time to update the wardrobe a bit. Dress code might be nearly non existing at my work place but I was apparently pushing the hobo look a bit too much…
That is it for November, one more of these for December and we can get to the full year recap which I personaly always find the most interesting to read from other bloggers.
October was a pretty average month with one exception. Read below to
Income: 2 320 euro
Expenses: 1 822 euro
Savings: 497,80 euro
This was pretty
simple this month: only my wages from working.
Once again I spend
ot much on food at work. November was better in this regard so I am
hoping this was the last really bad month I had food wise.
We also wend to a decent restaurant with me picking up the check for the girlfriend. This is a food expense I do not regret as the food there was excellent and the friends accompagnying us there will soon be leaving for Portugal. As of next year we will have friends living in Protugal, Japan, Thailand, Dubai and Israel. So we are not lacking travel options for the future. We will off course be travelling to Menorca next year . Menorca, where we know nobody …
The last main expense which I do kind of mind is the one that pushed me over my budget for the month. The Vespa needed maintenance again. This came in at 470 euro. The simple fact is i am driving using it for about 11,000 km a year which means stuff will need replacing every year to keep it purring happily. This time it was the drive belt, next time probably a tire. I kind of blame myself. The plan for October last year was to have a fast electrical bicycle so I could cut my use of the Vespa in half. This would also double the time inbetween big maintenance jobs, effectively cutting that maintenance cost in half as well. Did I do this? No I did not! Why you might ask? Probably because I am a lazy sloth.
The last year I have been thinking about and searching for a side
gig. I have two main reason for this: my savings rate and life post
I now have pratically three full years of a more or less detailed
overview of my income, expenes ad savings rate. I will dig more into
that with my full year recap but with regards to the savings rate the
picture is pretty clear:
In 2017 the savings
rate was 32,87%
In 2018 it was
And in 2019 it will
be somewhere between 28% and 30%
So my savings rate hovers between 28% and 32%. Comparing this to the averageBelgian this puts me in the top 20% of savers (the articles do not mention a savings rate but do mention saving amounts and I am consistenly over 500 eur per month). But in FIRE circles this is a pretty low rate.
No my aim is an average expense per month of 1 500 euro. But over the
last 3 years I was closer to 1 700 euro. Achieving my goal here would
bring me closer to a 40% savings rate. But I have been trying to
lower my expenses for three years and not getting very far. Perhaps I
am more set in my ways then I thought. It might be time to start
looking at the income side of the equation.
Life post retirment
As I explained in this post way back my life post retirement working a little bit each year was always my plan. In my exit strategy post I already mentionned a side gig might be the best way to earn the 7500 euro tax free money each year.
My conclusion from that post still stands. If you want a somewhat interesting side gig you will need to work at it regulary so during the year it needs to be something location independent and also somewhat time flexible.
The search so far
One path for a side gig we are exploring is the possibiliy for the girlfriend to make some extra money as a DJ. The gift I got here back in July was not just a gift but also – in part – an investment in a possible side gig for her. The main reason for this is that she is music crazy and at the very least she will have a hobby she likes. With some luck this hobby will get her some paying gigs. Since flexi jobs have been created mainly for pubs and events we are hoping she could get paid as a flexi job which would permit her to earn an additional tax free amount of 6,000 euro per year. If not, there is always the self-employered as secondary activity route. From friends we know it still is a sector with a lot of payments under the table so the effective tax rate for this route should remain pretty close to zero. It is a somewhat location independent side gig since techno has now become a global phenomenon (a former co-worker of me is now earning his living as a DJ in Thailand) and it has some time flexibility because your gig times might be fixed, but you have some flexibilty when you do the preparation of your crates, cues, loops and samples (yes, I am picking up the lingo as well). Well, flexibility as long as your preparations are done before the gig off course. We’ll see how it goes.
During the last year I also tried my hand at what I would call ticket arbitrage.
A lot of venues now sell their tickets in waves, ranging from 5 to 25 euro. I saw an arbitrage possibility. Where this used to be an activity limit to somebody living in a big city and with local connections, internet has changed the game completely. You can now buy tickets online and thanks to the ticketswap site you now have a safe and secure way of selling them online as well. I had a bit of a learning curve and did it more out of curiosity as doing this in a structured way in Belgium is illegal (legal in Netherland apparently). But my little experiment did show that yes, you could make some money from it.
My profit was 107 euro on an invested capital of 559 euro or a 19% return in six months! And invested capital was actually lower as I reinvested previously earned profits again. One of my high earners (high earner is relative, we are talking 50 euro profit here) was a Laurent Garnier gig where I almost double my money in less than one month. Selecting events that will completely sell out is key.
It was also a learning stage where I mainly only paid attention to the line up of 1 club. One hour of searching resulted in 6 more clubs who offered tickets in waves (and that was me only looking at the Netherlands and the UK). Ticketswap operates in 29 countries. The United States being among those countries! Of course the more countries you start working on and the more clubs/events you add the more work this becomes. Scale this up and you will need to have soms sort of administrative tool to keep track of everything (although google agenda and google sheets will get you pretty far). It will be ‘work’ to earn a decent amount with this. But with this kind of return a capital of 25,000 euro could get you a 5,000 euro return every 6 months!
It is a location independent gig and somewhat time flexible. Buying the tickets is the only fixed time you have and is something that can be done from your mobile as well. Actually, all of it could be done from your mobile. I kind of liked it but as said, unfortunately illegal in Belgium to do and the present job doesn’t leave me with enough free mental energy to make a serious go at it. I might snipe a few events right and left to make a quick buck in the future and the girlfriend will use it to lower her cost of going out herself (buy 6 tickets, sell 5 at a profit and go for free yourself!). But I continue looking for something that scales easier and takes less effort (I am a sloth after all).
Income for September was my normal wage of 2 258 euro + a few
reimbursments of previous medical costs for a total of 130 euro. The
130 euro was mainly from a dentist visit. After more than 10 years I
finally got around to visiting a dentist once more. New photos and
some serious cleaning needed to be done but most of the cost was
luckily reimbursed. Also happy to report I still have all my remaning
teeth and remain filling free. Yeah for good genes!
Expenses stayed low in September. There was a local music thing but
with free entrance and only 10 euro spend on food and drinks it was a
very inexpensive afternoon.
We also went to Draaimolen festival in Tilburg. At 65 euro a lot cheaper than going to Amsterdam for Dekmantel. And what a setting! And some great sets! Choises had to be made. With Ki/Ki I can add another name to my ever increasing list of top DJ’s.
Me and the girlfriend were somewhere among the people here, a little bit more to the right. For those wanting more of Ki/Ki than this short snippit, below you is a full hour for your enjoyment.
Even with expenses low I am not happy with the month as I once again spend too much on food at work. I could actually have remained below 1 500 euro this month if I hadn’t ordered all those pizza’s at work!!
Smartphones are great! Betraying my age I would even say mobile
phones are great! Being able to make calls on the go! And sending
texts! My 20 year olds mind was blown away.
Let us not forget where we come from and take a little trip down memory lane with me.
I bought my first mobile phone when I was still a student because
being a student in Belgium meant you had to go out in the rain and
from a payhone call your mom at least once a week. Since all students
had to do this this usually also meant waiting in line (did I mention
the rain?) for other students to finish their call home. This at
least gave you the excuse to keep the call short. After two years of
this I was tired of the whole process and as the first one among my
friends I bought a mobiel phone. Students didn’t have mobile phones
in 1998! Hell, most students didn’t have a laptop back then. Some
lucky ducks got an older model laptop from their father if that
father was lucky enough to buy his own laptop from his work when that
work upgraded to a new model. For all your computer needs the
university had computer rooms.
I didn’t used that
cellphone (a nokia 5110 which for the life of me I can not remember
how much I paid for it) a lot because phone calls and texts were
prety expensive back then. So I stil had an excuse to keep those
calls to home short!
That Nokia 5110 lasted me until I went to work for a mobile network operator. Let me tell you, having access to free handsets an virtually unlimited network acces was a pretty nice company perk back in the early 2000’s! I stayed with that mobiel operator till 2006 and they did try to expand the capabilities of the phones/network but with very limited success. It just was all so cluncky… And then came the Iphone in 2007.
The birth of the smartphone era
The Iphone made a big splash believe me. Not immediately available in
Belgium people asked other people going to the USA to bring them back
one. I had a friend goind to the USA and she had like 6 orders for
Iphones on her first trip and 8 or so on her second trip.
You might think I
was among those ordering but no. I was actually pretty late to the
whole smartphone revolution. One reason was that smartphones were
really expensive back then (around 500 euro) another was that I
really didn’t see the use. At home I had a desktop with a nice big
screen which gave me access to the internet at ADSL speed. At work I
had a desktop with a nice big screen which gave me access to the
internet at even faster speeds. A smartphone had a small screen and
the mobile network speeds were very slow then.
My first smartphone would be a refurbished Samsung Note 2 because it had a really big screen size and with edge/3g the mobile networks finally offered a somewhat decent speed. I think that phone cost me around 300 euro way back. Loved the big screen, never used the stylus.
I was hooked! I mean, I was already hooked to the internet and finally a truly mobile way to access the internet was available. I was so hooked that for my next smartphone I even bought a brand new flagship phone in the form of Nexus 6 from google and the price of 600 euro
It was a great phone and I enjoyed it a lot. When the battery started to falter I even thought about replacing the battery myself and coaxing another year out of the phone. But the headphone jack was already broken for a few months, the charging connexion only half worked and the volume button was starting to become pretty loose. It was time to look for a new phone. And altough the Nexus had been a great phone I felt 600 euro to expensive for a piece of tech that you will only use for 3 to 4 years.
Inflated flagship phones
The phone landscape had changed over those last few years. Where
flagship phones used to be 600 euro, they had jumped up to 800 euro
end then, finally topped the 1,000 euro! Honest to god, these are
crazy prices! Especially because there are now a whole range of mid
prized phones (and with mid-prized I mean around 300 euro, the Moto G
range comes to mind) that are more than adequate for most peoples
needs. Most people use their phone still for calling, texting (via
whatsapp now, no more SMS,) some facebook and instagram and that is
it! Most 150 euro smartphones are great for that. The 300+ euro
smartphones are already hugely over spec’ed for most peoples uses.
And if you do need heavy duty spec’s beacuse you use your phone for a lot of stuff there are a lot brands challeging those flagship phones in spec’s at a lot lower price. Thing is, they do not advertise them all that much.
Huawei for example has a subbrand Honor that is a lot more affordable but is hardly advertised in Europe, although it is easily available in Europe.
You have to remember advertising is something compagnies do for the things they make the most money on. Which is never the thing that will give you the best value for your money. So look at the stuff they are not advertising. Like the Huawei honor series.
Now I am a pretty heavy user of my phone: listing to music via soundcloud or plex, managing my synology Nas from the phone, keeping tabs on our finances, reading books … So I had my eye on the pocophone 1 when it appeared on the smartphone scene because it offered incredible technical spec’s at a pretty low price. So I was on the look out for either the pocophone 2 or an even lower priced pocophone 1 because of the launch of the 2.
But Xiaomi decided to kill off the pocophone subbranded and released it as the Xiaomi Mi9 (named Redmi K20 in the rest of the world I think). Luckily for me they also launched a slightly cheaper version with the Xiaomi Mi 9t (I really couldn’t justify the pro version even if it was only 50 euro more expensive).That is what I ended up buying for 353 euro. With a great battery life, brillant screen and already three camera’s on the back I really can not think of anything more I would want from a phone. Yes, perhaps an even bigger screen. But if I need a bigger screen it usually means I am going to do some work and then I still rather use the desktop than my phone.
Different levels of frugal
All of this goes to show there are a lot off different levels of frugal. For me, with all the use I get from my smartphone a 350 euro phone is pretty frugal. Especially compaired to the current 1,200 euro flagships out there. Others will consider this still an extravagance and stick with more basic smartphones for a 150 euro’s. And then you have the true weirdo’s who will go without a smartphone completely! But that’s just crazy 😉
In august I took two weeks of holiday, relaxed and went to a festival in Amsterdam. Let’s see the impact of all of this on my finances,
Income: 2 421,43
expenses: 1 894,60
Savings : 526,83
euro or 21,76%
Income was a somewhat average 2 421,43 euro. This was my normal wage + a birthday gift from the parents. I gave to say that the Belgian system isn’t all that badly organized for your holidays once you are in a fixed contract with a company. You use your official holidays and you don’t even notice it in your paycheck! And on top of that they even pay you some extra holiday money in June!
Festivals are expensive! Dekmantel festival cost me 150 euro. And that was only food, drinks and uber to and from the venue. Not included are the actual tickets and our stay in a AIRb&b in Amsterdam. Those two items were another 330 euro. So all in total this festival cost me close to 500 euro. Now I could see it as a remplacement holiday since I didn’t have a real holiday this year. And from that viewpoint it is not that expensive. But if you look at it as just ‘going to a festival’ it is definitely expensive. The main reason for this was the fact that festival was near Amsterdam. Staying in Amsterdam is expensive. And then using an Uber to and from the festival (too far to just walk and no convenient public transport) also added to the cost (damn those surge pricing!).
The festival was fun and it’s a good thing to know one can still properly rave hard at age 45 but Amsterdam is just a too expensive city to visit frequently. Especially because that same weekend there is a cheap techno event in our own town (less than 1km from our door actually).
In august we went to see Once upon a time in Hollywood in the cinema. The tickets were free but a cinema visit always triggers me into buying way too much junkfood at way to high prices. Sigh, not good for the wallet and not good for the wasteline.
And since I was on holiday we also squeezed in a restaurant visit. A Belgian classic: fries and mossels.
All of the above actually barely broke my budget for the month. It was the purchase of a smartphone that pushed me way over budget this month. For 353 euro I bought a Xiaomi Mi 9t but I’ll give that it’s own post.
To sum it up:
Dekmantel festival, a cinema and restaurant visit and a new
smarthpone and I still saved 526 euro in August! I really can’t
understand how other people succeed in spending all of their money
every single month.
I promise this is the last post about cars for many, many years to come I hope. But I did find the post of JL collins about the cost of a car really interesting. JL Collins is much better at keeping track of his expenses than I am (I am lazy after all). And he has been doing it for a lot longer than most of us have.
I already knew cars are expensive. There is a reason I didn’t own one till I was 35 and a big part of me being able to build up a stash can be attributed to me not owning a car. But I still found it quite a shock to see his number at 5,000+ USD per year. Gulp!
I then ran my own number for the last 2 years we had our old car and I arrive at an annual cost of around 3,000 euro. And these are the numbers for a second hand car bought for 8,000 euro when it was 4 years old. JL Collins numbers also show the last years are the cheapest and I also know I had a big maintenance bill before I started tracking our numbers. So realisticaly speaking we should be more around 3,500 euro to 4,000 euro cost per year with the 1,000 euro difference with JL Collins being explained by our lower amortizing costs because our car was cheaper than his.
Damn, cars are expensive!
For me and my girlfriend this is almost one full month each year we need to work just to pay for the car we mainly use to get to work! I know it’s crazy but we all do it!
I am curious if other people have other numbers? If so, please post them!
Now, taxes do play a big part in these expenses: 20 biljoen euro of our money flows to the government via our cars each and every year. But even taking those into account we do pay a lot of money for being comfortable while moving.
A small reminder of a simple fact
Mr Money mustache already knew it back in 2011: you can get rich by using your bike more often.
But sometimes we need to remind ourself of these simple facts. The rise in electric bicycles means that you now can cover greater distances faster. And car sharing services are popping up in more places, even our countryside!
Or perhaps we should all just switch to a velomobile?
After two incredible months with a 73% and 54% savings rate I spend
decided to spend a lot of money in July which had my savings rate
drop to 8,8%. Here are the numbers.
Income: 2 382 euro
Expenses: 2 171,80
Savings: 210,20 euro
or a measely 8,8%
Not much to tell about the income in July. Only the normal monthly salary this month. Bonusses, unfortunately do not come every month 🙁
Personal spending was pretty normal. I did spend 50 euro visiting the festivities at Ghent. Since we used to live in Ghent their annual festivities is always a good excuse to meet up with old friends. The girlfriend usually stays with some of those friends as there are many, many parties to attend during these 10 days.
So where did I do spend all the extra money on? Simple, on a gift for the girlfriend.
Our gift policy as a
couple is pretty basic: we don’t exchange gifts. Both of us prefer
to have less stuff than more stuff. And if we want something it is
usually something pretty specific. Which means you better ask us
exactly what we want instead of just buying it. Also, if we want a
specific something we, after carefull considering if we really want
it, most of the time we buy it. Which means that when a birthday or
holiday comes around there is nothing we want. So we stopped
exchanging gifts a long time ago. We do try, and do not save, on
trying to spend quality time with each other. But that is usually a
Why the gift now?
Because the girfriend on occasion often doubts herself too much. She has been a big music/techno fan since her youth. But this was always passive: listening to music, going to parties. Which had me often wondering why she never did anything with it as it cleary did bring her much joy. Now I know, it is not because you like something you need to actively do something with it but we are speaking about a pretty obsessive passion here. It also became clear that she didn’t do something with it, not because she didn’t want to but because of to much self-doubt. The ‘what if I suck at it’ fear. I don’t think our talking resolved the self doubt, but she did come to the conclusion that the only real downside of trying was some wasted time (not that big a deal since we would otherwise spend it watch TV shows, nothing wrong with netflix by the way 😉 and a couple of hundred euro’s on DJ gear. Most of it we probably could recuperate by selling the gear. Or we could just keep it and really improve the sound quality of our little home parties.
So once convinced she would try her hand at Dj’ing another difference between our personalities showed itself. The girlfriend is, in my mind, slow to act. Now I am a big fan of taking once time to gather all the relevant inforation and such but for me, once the decision is taken you go for it. No more waiting, no more delays, no more what ifs but go, go, go. And the girlfriend was taking her goddamn sweet time! Talking about december where she and a few friends might take some DJ lessons and then only buying the equipment after…. Given the avalanche of youtube clips that can show you everything you ever wanted to know about DJ’ing and the fact we actually have two DJ’ing friends I found all her justifications for not diving in complete nonsens. So I did a deep dive into the world of DJ gear and emerged a week later with a big order at the bax music shop and 826 euro less in my account.
What 826 euro gets you is this:
She did wait to buy a laptop and first hooked the set-up to our desktop computer. Something which made for a very full desk. Once she discovered she actually liked dJ’ing she did buy a laptop and I spend a Saturday afternoon constructing a somewhat rude but perfectly usable DJ table. Which now makes for a pretty full living room …
In a previous post I explained why we decided to buy a new car which is usually a big No No in FIRe circles. But not only did we buy a new car, we actually wanted it financed! Something that is an ever bigger NO NO in FIRe circles.
The reason for wanting to finance the new car was pretty simple: 0%
interest rates! Yes, thanks to our current low intrest
environment you can actually borrow at 0% to buy a car!
You see, I have also
always been of the opinion one should only borrow for the purchase of
a house (and even then keep your borrowing amount low). But the low
intrest environment we are in has definitely changed that. If
possible I would be financing everything I buy at 0%!
Buy now, pay later!
Much later preferably!
can not finance everything at 0%. But a new car, that was definitely
As a side note, am I the only one that finds it very strange that 0% car loans exist but that mortgages are still between 1% and 2%? Surely a car loan must be more riskier than a mortgage. Houses, for one thing are rarely involved in total loss accidents.
Unfortunately borrowing for the car was not possible.
We have no idea why not. You see Renault does not actually provide the loan. They use Alphacredit. Which are, and I am choosing my words carefully here, a bunch of assholes. They are assholes because they refuse a credit and then do not tell you why. Apparently, by law, they only need to give you the sources they checked and that is it. In our case that was the National bank of Belgium which keeps a tab on all open loans a person has. You can check this database yourself and as expected we only have our mortgage there. Which is logical since we have never borrowed for anything else than that. We also pay that mortgage on time. I have spend a lot of very annoying phone calls to Alphacredit and got exactely nowhere. The customer support you get is very well trained in not giving you any more information than, ‘here is the list we checked and used to come to our decision about your loan’.
Even now, 8 months later, I still have no idea why the loan was refused. My net worth is around 350,000 euro, I am on track to save 10,000 euro this year (and that is just me, the loan would have been both on my name and the girlfirend) but apparently I am no good to loan 7,000 euro at a 0% rate …
The only thing we can think of is that somwhere somehow there was a mix up with somebody else because when registering our information the garage owner said we appeared to have a file at the internal bank of Renault itself. Which isn’t logical as neither of us have ever bought a car from Renault. Or had any other dealings with Renault.
I have to admit I took this pretty personal. I mean finance is kinda ‘my thing’ and then being refused for a petty loan really, really annoyed the hell out of me. But after banging my head against that wall for a few weeks I decided it wasn’t worth the time and frustration so we just paid the car in cash. The whole ordeal did change my mind about the size of our emergency fund, it’s back to 10,000 euro now!
Still bummed I didn’t get the 0% loan though!
One thing I did
notice that the sales person at the garage got really worried when
she had to tell us the loan was refused. I got the impression that
this wasn’t because the bad news she had to tell but more being
worried that she would lose the sale … is a 11.000 euro purchase
reall that big a problem for a lot of people? I mean, I would have
preferred to spread it out over 3 years at that sweet, sweet 0%
intrest rate but after my double bonus and holiday money (and not
going on a holiday) my part of this purchase isn’t more than a one
time blip in my excel overview. Are we FIRe people really that far
from the norm?
After the stellar income month of May (where I almost cracked the
6.000 euro income from work) June was a slow transition back to a
more normal income.
Income: 3 641,14
Expenses: 1 670,50
Savings: 1 970,64 euro or 54,12%
Yes June was the second month this year of me saving more than 50% of my income. It just shows I need to work on my income side to push the savings rate higher.
Income for the month was my normal wages + the holiday money from work. We didn’t go on a real holiday this year so the holiday money all went straight to my savings account. The bulk of my savings this year actually come from the big pay out last month and this month. The savings account was quicker than I thought back in shape after the big expense of paying for the new car in March.
June expenses were pretty average. I did go bowling with friends but
at 20 euro that was a pretty cheap night out. I also purchased a
house warming gift for friends who bought a house with pool (they are
not the frugal kind). I did think the house warming party would turn
into a gay orgy near the end of the evening but that did not
materialise so with hindssight I definitely should have gone for a
different house warming gift 😉
With the first heat
wave we also visited a local swimming pond. Not too many people,
decent food and a low entrance fee means I didn’t break the bank
for this either.
Expect for the holiday money June was a pretty average month. With me still spending too much money on food at work. My wasteline continued to suffer (which perhaps explains why the orgy never materialised .. Surely they didn’t wait till we left … did they?!!)