achieving financial freedom one lazy step at a time

Category: full year recap

One year working from home

Consider this my ‘one year of living with Covid’ post. If you had your fill of those you can skip this post as it will barely mention any financial stuff (which was also the reason why I didn’t mention anything Covid related in my 2020 full year recap post.

Although Covid was already present before, the first real impact in my life was when the spread of Covid-19 forced Belgum in it’s first lockdown. This made working from home obligatory for everybody that could. From one day to another, the roads in Belgium were empty.

Working from home

This went pretty well for me. At my work this had always been a possibility but was usually only used for the occasional day when a big delivery was expected or a contractor was performing some renovations at your home. So the possibility already existed. This made planning for a full shift where everybody was working from home all the time easier.

My girlfriend works in the healthcare sector so there was no working from home for here. The only real problem we had was that our office room was not yet fully renovated. Which meant my desk was in the living room. This was a bit annoying for the girlfriend since she sometimes had a weekday off. So I did occasonally go for one day to the office. It wa sa bit strange being with only 2 or 3 people in an office meant for 60+ people. But that did make it VERY safe to go to work for me off course.

My office with a cheap 5 euro desk since my real desk is a ’70s monstrosity that weighs a ton and I am planning on moving that behemoth only ONCE

Once our office room was finished (only thing left to do now is placing the skirting boards) I moved into the office room and since then working from home has been smooth sailing. I do not miss the daily commute to work and since June I got in the habit off doing my fitness exercise during my lunch break (more on this in my upcoming health report). I do realise we are lucky in this regard as we have a large house with a seperate office room and enough space to put some fitness equipment. The large garden also helped (no full parks for this guy!)

The small orchard part of our garden during spring last year

Health during Covid-19

We did have a big scare when the girlfriend was infected with Covid in March (the perks of working in the health sector!) mainly because it was early days of the pandemic and there were many unknown about the disease then. It’s also a scary disease because it attacks the lungs and difficulty of breathing is very scary. No hospitalisations was required. No hospitalisation is a good thing but with the difficulty of breathing and the fact we sleep in seperate bedrooms did have me worry A LOT during the worst days of her infection. I worked from home and I did have two mornings were I quietly snuck into her bedroom to go check if she actually was still alive or not. In all honesty I am a bit mad at our government for dialing up the FEAR dial a bit too much here.

I myself never caught Covid, despite being in the same house as the girlfriend for the whole two weeks and we aren’t actualy clean freaks either. And in the meantime the girlfriend has made a full recovery and health wise we are both fine at the moment.

Financial impact

Since we both kept our job and kept on working during the pandemic (well except the two weeks the girlfriend was sick) there was no impact on our income. Covid did have us spend less I think. For me it probably is a wash as I am a pretty frugal guy under normal circumstances and I did buy some home party equipment. But the girlfirend, who does enjoy going out, reports she did save more the last year.

Laser, smoke machine, I love the internet and it’s ‘no matter how crazy you can buy it here’ powers

Mental health

Mental health wise we both are pretty fed up with the whole situation. Living 100+ km form friends and family has made us some of the most isolated people in Belgium during the last year. We had a garden party with 11 friends in July, a very small party in our living room in August with 4 people and we went to see some friends in Ghent in December. And that is the full sum of us being social for the last year. I had about 20 work days where I saw some co-workers (and work is buys, so not a lot of time for socializing), the parents a couple of times and a few neigbours- at a distance.

I am not a people person, but this shit is starting to be ridiculous. I also did a pretty good job at ignoring the news, before Covid. The pandemic kind off sucked me right back in. And honestely, there was a reason I was ignoring the news. Our news sucks, our government sucks (at several domains, the handling of this pandemic being the biggest one off course) and I long for the days I can all ignore it completely once more …

We can now again meet up with 10 people in our garden. I am now eagerly awaiting the return of some better weather (a hail storm just past over our house yesterday afternoon) and then I am planning on having back to back garden BBQ’s and outside parties.

Last year I had almost no change to use my fancy new Rocketstove

2020 full year recap

It is starting to become somewhat of a habit to do these full year recaps on the first of February.

Which immediately anwsers the first question: yes I am still as lazy as I was back in 2019.

Since I liked the overview I did last year I will be continuing it this year. This is going to just be a financial recap of 2020. I am saving the whole covid stuff for a ‘1 year working from home recap’ which I will try to do on time . On time being 15 march 2021 as that was the start of the first lockdown in Belgium and since that date I have perhaps been to the office a grand total of 20 days.

4 year recap

2017201820192019 corrected2020
Income30 86227 76539 22134 22132 064
Expenses20 71920 04728 32020 20720 228
Savings10 1437 71810 90114 01411 836
SR32,9%27,8%27,8%40,9%36,9%

Recap conclusions

The trend from the last years seem to continue:

* my annual spending is slightly above 20 000 euro

* that spending is pretty much irrelevant from how much income I make

The sidegig did not materialize in 2020. Let’s hope I have some better lucki in 2021 on that front.

2020 numbers

Income

Income was 32 064 euro.

Working for the Boss man brought in 31 441,67 euro. The reason this is lower than 2019 is because I did not get a double bonus this year. My company has no ‘double bonus’ policy. It was very exceptional for me to get one last year. So this year is actualy a return to normal.

Gifts were 530 euro. With no new car to buy my parents didn’t see any reason to give me any extra gift except for the normal birthday, christmas and such gifts.

Covid did bring my little experiment with ticket arbitrage to a screeching halt.

I also got 89 euro back from my health insurer.

Expenses

Expenses totaled 20 228 euro.

Predictably most went to our joint account since we use that to pay our mortgage, utilities, food .. My half of all these bare necessities has cost me 13 400 euro in 2020.

Theoretically I could live on this amount. It wouldn’t be any fun at all, but I could, well exist on it.

The Vespa cost me 1 367,15 euro. Honestely I thought this was going to be a lot lower since I have barely used it since March when the pandemic hit and I started working form home. But I was close to needing some maintenance when the pandemic hit. So I didn’t really save that much on maintenance (890 euro) this year. I only saved on fuel and that isn’t the main cost of having the Vespa. Not needing any maintenance in 2021 will be the big savings consequence of working from home.

Extra food was 1005,55 euro. I am going to be honest, the only reason this is lower than last year is because of the pandemic and working from home. Working from home means the shop is further away. So just external circumstances, not an improvement in my discipline.

Gifts were 264 euro. Hey, the girlfirend doesn’t get a shiny gift every year.

Hobbies: 449 euro. Most is actualy trying to get a side gig off the ground but since it is not bringing in any money at all I have put these expenses under hobby.

Random fun: 1 019 euro. With nowhere to go I bought several games on steam. But also a laser and fog machine to be able to have the club experience at home (no lockdown parties here but I do hope social restrictions can be lifted somewhat so I can put this equipment to use again).

Restaurant: 145 euro. This is one restaurant visit with the parents because hello Covid.

Sports: 174 euro. This was 64 euro for swimming until the pandemic shut this down and then 110 euro for extra weights for my home gym

Telecom: 150 euro because I have a very cheap mobile viking subscription.

Health spending was 60,5 euro at the doctor/dentist and then another 164 euro at the pharmacy (mainly glasses for 147 euro). Not getting sick turns out to be cheap.

Hobbies: 449 euro Most of this expense is actualy trying to get a side gig off the ground but since it is not bringing in any money at all I have put these expenses under hobby.

Clothing: 92 euro

Travel: 1 220 euro. This amount covers our 10 day holiday to Portugal.

If I repeat the exercise of last year and look at the money i spend on stuff for me I liked buying I end up with 2 333 euro. A little bit up from last year but not by that much. Most of the up can actually be explained by games on steam and one could argue if these are that good for me. On of my goals last year was to spend more on funn stuff for myself but I honestely struggeld with this one. It seems I just don’t need more stuff.

2021 goals

Making goals for the new year is pretty futile since Covid is making a lot of things uncertain. Main things are still that I need to lose weight and get a somewhat interesting, fun side gig.

2019 full year recap

With the end of Januari being here I realised I had not yet done the full year recap of 2019.

And then digging through my archive I realised I never did one for 2018 either.

Oops

And let there never be any doubt about my laziness!

Doing a 2018 recap a year too late seems a bit silly to me but with three full years under my belt a small three year overview might be interesting.

So before diving into 2019 here is that recap:

Three year recap

2017201820192019 corrected
Income30 862 27 76539 22134 221
Expenses20 71920 04728 32020 207
Savings10 1437 71810 90114 014
SR32,9%27,8%27,8%40,9%

2017 had on the income side a 5000 euro gift from the parents

2017 I went on a holiday and bought the vespa for 3 000 euro

2018 income was just my wages at the current employer. It was my first full year of working at my employer so I didn’t really get any profit bonus as those are calculated on the previous year. Holiday money also is a complicated mess (due to 2017 being in part unemployed and the other part filled with interim work) with me actually having to pay some back.

2018 expenses had nothing exceptional either.

2019 on the income side once again had a 5 000 euro gift from my parents to our new car purchase.

This off course means I had a 8 113 euro expense for said car also. If you correct the car purchase from 2019 I feel those corrected numbers reflect my spending a lot better.

three year recap conclusions

Two broad conclusion can be taken from the above:

* my annual spending is slightly above 20 000 euro

* that spending is pretty much irrelevant from how much income I make.

The second point is proven by 2018. This was a low year on the income side because no gift from the parents and the first year at the new employer (so no profit bonus, no holiday money that year) but my spending remained pretty much the same.

Logic then dictates that as my income goes up so should my saving and especially my savings rate. The 2019 corrected numbers clearly demonstrates this. Hell even with the car purchase I saved more in 2019 than 2017 or 201! The conclusion is I need to boost my income with some type of sidegig.

Lets dive a little bit more into the numbers of 2019

2019 numbers

Income

Income was 39 221 euro.

Main part of the income was work: 33 510,27 euro

Gifts stand at 5 345 euro. The main one being 5 000 euro from the parents for the car and the remainder being the normal birthday, christmas gifts and such

My litle experiment with buying and selling tickets did bring in 135,40 euro but it is clear that as a side gig I need something better (and also more legal in Belgium).

And I also got 130 euro back from our health insurer

Expenses

The bulk of my 28 320,21 euro spnding went to our joint account:

13 800 euro. Understandable as this money pays our mortgage, all house related costs (like heating, electricity) and the food for both of us.

The new car purchase was 8 113 euro

The Vespa cost me 1 649,20 euro (as I showed in this post)

Extra food 1 311,5 euro. This is a bad expense!! It annoys me in particular as it was just too many sandwiches, pizza and candy bought. Add it all up for an entire year and it is a pretty decent amount. And + it made me fat again! This category needs to be lower in 2020 and thus far Januari has been good in this regard. 11 more months to go!

Gifts stand at 1 226,5 euro (with 826 euro being for the girlfriend)

Hobbies 593 euro

Random fun: 614 euro

Restaurant: 300 euro

sports: 120 euro

Buried in telecom was a 350 euro smartphone and Clothing : 114 euro

I include these last two because of this: of the 28 320,21 euro I spend in 2019 I only spend 4 629 euro on what can be considered ‘fun’ stuff. The remaining 24 000 ish euro are fixed expenses I had to do (one could discuss the car purchase ..). En out of the 4 629 euro 1 226 euro was gifts, or stuff not for me! On myself I only spend 3 400 euro on stuff I liked spending money on (well, I liked buying the gifts but you get what I mean). And that includes 1 311 euro extra food I should not have bought.

Bottom line: I only spend 2 019 euro on stuff for me I liked buying and was actually good for me. That amount is the sum of the hobbies, random fun, restaurants and sport categories! It is around 10% of my expenses. It is also scary realising how low this number actually is!

2020 goals

So my goals for 2020 are finding a decend side gig that can push my savings rate higher, drastically lower the extra food purchases (idealy some of these expenses are shifted to the sports category) and spend more money on fun stuff for myself! And all the while stay below 20,000 euro in total spending.

2017 full year recap

Looking back at 2017 I can only conclude it was a pretty good year. Financially we made great strides and got a lot closer to our Financial freedom (more about that below).

On the overal happiness front it is a bit of a mixed year.

I bought a Vespa and riding it does make me happy.

I didn’t lose any weight. My current condition is not good and being 25 kg overweight can not be healthy. Should make it a priority for 2018.

I did find a pretty cool new workplace but I actually enjoyed being at home a lot more. I came to the realization that for the last three years I actually only worked 8 months (or less) every year. The realization that having found a cool new work place also means working full time for the next three years (at the least) makes me a bit sad to be honest. What can I say? I really enjoy being lazy at home …

The girlfriends job started to suck this year. Which had it’s impact. She is at the moment finishing the last days of a six week medical leave, it wasn’t enough … . Work should improve again as of April. Should …  . We are not getting our hopes up as for the last few years when things for one of us started to look up, things for the other person turned to shit. A kind of perverted back and forth game of job related misery. Quiet frankly and honestely, we are both a bit sick of it. Come April – May I should be a lot more secure in the cool new workplace (only started mid November) so if things are still crap at the girlfriends workplace we will use the stash as fuck you money and either greatly reduce her working hours or just have her quit all together. A shame because we always thought she could keep her job even after fire. It is possible at her work place to only work a couple of hours a week or replace people during a few months in the year, thus making it a perfect post-fire workplace. So we always thought the girlfriend was set for post-fire and it was me that would be looking for the odd job each year. Enter idiotic managment …  Sigh.

But onto the financial recap of the year!

Personal spending

My personal income in 2017 was 30 862.70 euro.

Work: 17 084,62 euro. I was a bit surprised at the low number but I shouldn’t have been as I only worked 7,5 months this year.

Unemployment benefits: 6 452,83 euro. I collected 4,5 months of unemployment benefits in between jobs.

Gifts: 5 405 euro. Thanks mom and dad! On the other hand, their portfolio increased 14% in 2017. Their default option is to keep the money sitting in a savings account (way, way to much cash in savings accounts!) or some crap product of the bank. On their own, they maybe would earn 2% on it. Looking it from that way, I am making them money! And quit a bit more than 5 405 euro at that! Hmm, perhaps I should let them pay for our remaining home renovations …

Withdrawal from the stash: 1 750 euro. I took some daytrading profits from the table. I had planned to take all daytrading profits to hurry along our home renovations. But UVXY puts have such juicy returns I am plowing all off the available cash into that. I still need to break the news to the girlfriend. She will not be happy …

The remaining 170 euro was refunds of health care costs and such.

Of course, my stash increased in 2017 with 42.000 euro. Which is a cool 11.000 euro more than what I had as income and about 2,5 times what I earned by working.

If I take the stash into account (I usually ignore it) total income would come to 72 862,70 euro! And only 23,45% of it came from work!! If I consider the unemployment benefits as a kind of tax refund (and in a way it is) well, then my taxes for 2017 have to be in the low digits category. Ten, perhaps 15%? I ma too lazy to calculate it in detail but with all gains in the stash being untaxed, gifts untaxed and only work being taxed. Yep, didn’t pay  a lot of taxes this year … At least, when I hear a politician saying something stupid again I can find solace in the fact that I didn’t pay for it this year …

Personal expenses came to 20 718,93 euro. That gave me an average savings rate of 32,87%! (ignoring the stash earnings here, otherwise I would be at a crazy 71,56% savings rate). This is an average spending of 1 726,58 euro a month. Not that close to my 1 500 euro goal.

But I should deduct 1 500 euro for the Vespa (I used a tax refund to pay for the other half, yes I know, I made a bit of a mess of it …). So deducting that and I am at 1 600 euro average per month. That amount does include some fun:

I have Hobbies for 941 euro (mainly swimming , graphic novels and the raspberry pi) and a random fun category for 390 euro (carnival, cinema tickets, drinks with friends …).

My holiday in lazarote cost me 1 208,50 euro

If I deduct all these ‘fun’ lines my personal spend was 16 680 euro or 1 390 euro a month! But what is life without some fun in it?

On the basic expenses front, the main cost was towards our joint account: 6 800 euro. This is my half for our mortgage, utilities and food for the both of us. if it seems low, well we had a tax refund which we used to cover those expenses for some months. (Yes, I know, I made a bit of a mess of it, will do better this year, I promise).

Clothing came at 333 euro. I bought some pants and shoes. This year: shirts!

Here is a fun fact for my American readers. Health costs in 2017 were 116 euro!

I did spend 1 355 euro for food on myself. This is mainly food bought at work (i.e. sandwiches). I feel bad about it because A)bringing my own food should have been cheaper, B)bringing my own food should have been healthier. See the above mentioning of not having lost any weight. So I was actually spending money to remain unhealthy. Yeah, not happy about it!

Joint spending

If I look at our joint acount. The big categories are the mortgage ( 11 213,76 euro) and utilities 3 678,63 euro (electricity, gas and water) and then the car (2 110 euro). Bicycles, or a Vespa, really are a lot cheaper! Groceries (both food and cleaning stuff) for the two of us was 5 151 euro. That is around 430 a month. Ok, but not that great. There is definitely some fat to trim here.

Insurances set us back 1 508 euro. But that covers the house, car, Vespa and personal liability. I need to have a look into our insurances and see if a cheaper alternative can be found but I also would like to include a general insurance for legal counsel (as attorneys can become expensive fast) so I do not think any savings will be found in this category this year.

Food for our animals: 851 euro. But we love our animals so this went under hobbies.

Restaurant was 818 euro and my personal account had another 100 euro or so in this category. Some restaurants were fancy (like 280 euro for four people) but we also put our local fries shop here. health, and money wise, we go a bit too much to the fries shop.

Even in our joint account we have a random fun line, which was mostly fun, for 486 euro.

Conclusion:

If you do not buy a Vespa I think you can have a nice and even fun life with about 1 600 euro a month. I ‘think’ because this was the first year of budgeting and I definitely made some mistakes.The division between personal and joint account does not always make it easy and then there is the question how to tackle tax refunds or the meal vouchers I get from work … For next year I am going to focus more on the spending part and skip the savings rate completely. Also trying to get it as close as I can to how it would be when we would be FIRE. Still learning. Hopefully still improving …