Ouch, April has already passed us by and I haven’t even posted my March report! The reason is simple: the Covid-19 lockdown in Belgium has me working from home. And after working 8 hours behind my desk at home I just don’t feel like sitting more time behind that same desk!
On all other accounts the lockdown doesn’t post any problems for me. I have never been a ‘people’ or ‘shopping’ person. So no big changes for me on that front.
The weather in March was not all that good either so I didn’t really miss being able to go somewhere or invite friends over.
Health wise I definitely ate way too much crap during the first weeks of the lockdown (which started the second half of March in Belgium).
But this is the financial report. So how are my numbers for being half a month in lockdown? Pretty good!
Income : 2 385,20 euro
Expenses: 1 433,45 euro
Savings: 951,75 euro or 40%
Income is once again very boring. Just my wages from work + 66 euro from my health insurer.
Wohoo, inside of the budget of 1 500 euro!
But I have to admit, I did cheat a bit. I bought a 400+ euro matras at Ikea that I put on my debet card and that cost will be coming in April. The reason is mostly smoothing out spending. With the lockdown approaching I knew I wasn’t going to be spending a lot in April. So instead of having a big bump in March and then a big drop in April I used the debit card to even that out.
Anyway, enough talk about my cheating ways: I only spend 333 euro above my fixed 1 100 euro contribution to our joint account!
And I even had about 120 euro health insurance costs (53 euro for a forced government plan and the rest for my personal insurance).
Not good was my increased spending on bad food once again. I really went all out on that front and I am really happy I was succesful in turning this around in April. But that’s a story for next months expense report.
Most countries in Europe are now in lockdown (either a hard one or a
soft one) and our freedom of movement has been severly limited. The
financial markets have taken a serieus beating it probably also feels
as if our financial freedom has been limited as well. But personally
I do not look at it this way.
As far as the stock market crash goes: this too shall pass. I have been investing long enough to witness the dot com crash and the 2008 financial crisis and I can assure you that a few years from now the current market panic will mostly be forgotten. Probably replaced by an all new ‘crisis’ dominating the headlines.
As far as striving for financial freedom goes, the current crisis has
only strenghtend my resolve.
For me, those who already achieved financial freedom are those who are the least impacted by all of this. They had the lowest change of getting sick since they had no need to commute to work. And now that the lockdown is in effect they do not have to worry about their job or income. They also have the most flexibility time wise to take care of their children if the schools in their area are closed, to help others or to explore other more local leisure activities. Actually, there is a good change they allready know those locale activities. The lockdown is, in a way, is forcing more people to live like a mustachian: no more eating out, bike more, live your live more locally …
Which brings us to
the people trying to get to financial freedom. Mr Money moustach
proposes to live close to work (and thus not waste hours commuting)
and I for one am pretty happy I no longer needed to take public
transport to go to work. Something tells me that my infection risk
was a lot lower on my Vespa then it was on our overflowing commuter
Since all of us in the FIRE community live below our means we also have the financial resources to gt through this crisis. We can afford to buy all we need. The worst that can happen to us is that the most frugal option is not available. But the only impact that will have is on our savings rate. For people living paycheck to paycheck the impact will be real and will mean not being able to buy food or pay rent/mortgage, utility bills …
articles are starting to appear that it is the poor that are being
impacted the most by the lockdown. Estimates are that around 1
million Belgians will end up on temporary unemployment? At the moment
around 600,000 already are. Our government has boosted the pay-out as
the temporary unemployment system was never meant for prolonged
periods of time and for these big numbers. The max pay out was 1 450
euro a month and has been pushed to 1 600 euro now. For me this would
fall within my self imposed monthly budget and I would be fine. A lot
of others will not be. Our government has also promised help with
utility bills and asked banks to be flexible in regards to mortgage
payments and such. This indicates that our government knows that lots
of people will not be fine finance wise. We in the FIRE community are
the lucky ones. Or at the very least, the well prepared ones.
For me personally the impact at the moment has been very limited. We have always bought our non-perishables in bulk as that is the most frugal/efficient way to buy that kind of stuff. The only difference was that instead of using those bulk purchases completely before buying new I resupplied two weeks back when only half was used up. And the only reason for this was convenience as I wanted to avoid the supermarkets when the shit hit the fan. So we had a well stocked pantry when the hoarding commenced. I looked at the long lines outside supermarkets on television and was glad to be a lazy, frugal weirdo because sloths do not do long waiting lines!
I also bought extra animal feed as the bags weigh 25 kg which makes me the only person being able to carry them and I wanted to avoid having to lug those around if I fell sick. Again, a decision based in convenience and laziness and not fear of stuff running out.
I work from home now
so my income will not suffer. It would take a complete and total
economic collapse before my company would move us to technical
unemployement (actually, in that case we would probably have more
work ..). The girlfriend works in healthcare and as such has a decent
job security at the moment. So our income will not suffer.
Health wise we are
fine for the moment. With one confirmed Covid 19 infection at the
girlfriends workplace, chance is high she will fall sick in the
coming weeks. We will see if the government has plans to boost that
pay-out too, But if not, as mentionned above, only our savings rate
will suffer …
A short month should mean a cheap month, right? Let’s see if the numbers reflect this as well.
Income : 2 355 euro
Expenses: 1 509,12 euro
Savings: 845,88 euro or 36%
If my January income was boring, February income is even more boring! Only my wage from working, that’s it! It can not get any more simple than this. I am still hoping to be able to unsimplify my income by adding a side hustle. I have a few ideas …
Oh damn, just outside the budget of 1 500 euro! Well, not really …
I actually did better than the numbers show. Knowing I was going to be pretty close within my budget I went on a little shopping spree.
I stocked up on some anti-abrasive gel for all the swimming I am doing again. 3 times a week in the water for 45 minutes + and skin starts to hurt in some places. I stoked up not only because of the left-over budget but also to avoid any delivery fees so I am now good for close to a year.
With still some money left over I also purchase a fine single malt whisky. The Glenlivet 15 years, french oak reserve is worth every eurocent it cost me. And it did cost me 5 350 eurocent. I do not drink a lot of whiskey, but when I do I like it to be of excellent quality. And over the past years my stock has been slowly dwindeling down. If I keep staying within budget as I have been for the last two months I will use those opportunities to replenish my supply …
Also in the fun category was carnival which set me back 68 euro. Which does proof that you can be both frugal AND anti-semitic 😉
I also paid the last part of the glasses I bought in January: this cost me 47 euro but I will be getting a 60 euro refund from my health insurance. This refund unfortunately was not paid into my account in February.
In the bad category:
I did spend 67 euro on food I shouldn’t have bought. I really need
to remind myself that this could have gone to another bottle of fine
Concerning the drop in stock values which, by a wild guess off me, had my net worth drop by around 25,000 euro in less then a week I refer to this great post of JL Collins.
Bottom line is I really don’t care and neither should you,
With Februari half gone, and me finally being caught up, I better hurry up with the my January expense report before I fall behind again. Especially because January was pretty good.
Income: 2 512 euro
Expenses: 1 505,90
Savings : 1 006,10
euro or 40%
January income was pretty simple. My normal wage from working and a 200 euro end of year gift I got on the 1st of January.
January is boring in this regard. But if boring means a 40% savings rate boring is good!
In January I was almost within my self imposed budget of 1 500 euro.
It is especially impressive if you know that I had to pay a 130 euro speeding ticket. I blame the Vespa, the Vesap blames me. What can I say, we have a toxic relationship in this regard.,,
I also paid 100 euro for new glasses because well, I am getting old.
A dentist visit cost me 13,50 eur (did I mention am getting old?)
On the fun side, I visited a friend in Ghent and went to see the
latest Star Wars at the Cinema. The grand cost for all this fun was
And then the expenses I am most proud off: 32 euro for our locale swimming pool as I have been ramping up my swimming (I do not trust myself enough to pay for a yearly subscription – yet). And only 45 euro spend on food stuff I shouldn’t have bought. The diet is going more or less well. Not perfect but I have let go of ‘perfect’ in this regard. ‘Good enough’ will do. If I keep up the ‘good enough’ food wise and ramp up my swimming I should – eventually – be alright weight and health wise.
Which reminds me that I own you guys a health report …
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.
And let there never be any doubt about my laziness!
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
So before diving into 2019 here is that recap:
Three year recap
2017 had on the income side a 5000 euro gift from the parents
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.
expenses had nothing exceptional either.
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:
annual spending is slightly above 20 000 euro
that spending is pretty much irrelevant from how much income I make.
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
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
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 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!
in telecom was a 350 euro smartphone and Clothing : 114 euro
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!
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.
I have now owned and used – intensifily – my Vespa scooter for 2 full years and with all the articles about the cost of owning a car I found it intersting to see how much the Vespa has set me back these last two years.
When adding all the costs a few things became clear. Fuel costs me
around 45 euro a month with me filling up about 5 times a month with
a 9 euro refill each. I also seem to have a trafic ticket once per
year but wiht the fine increasing each year. 2018 was the cheapest at
50 euro, 2019 came and I got a 75 euro ticket and for 2020 I already
am at 130 euro.
* gulp *
I bought the Vespa back in 2017 for 2 750 euro and I tought the I made a semi frugal choice. More expensive than continuing to use the electircal bicycle we allready had but definitely a lot cheaper (and more practical) than a second car. This recap was somewhat of an eye opener concerning the semi-frugal part of that statement.
Fun, practical choice or not ?
Let me start by
saying I still really, really enjoy using the Vespa to go to work
(see also the speeding tickets).
It is fun and it is the fasted most practical way of getting to work. Last May my work moved to very near the Leuven train station. For me this move had zero impact but a lot of my co-workers had to stop using their car and switch to public transport via train.
Nine years of commuting to Brussels has instilled me with an all consuming hate for the Belgian railway company.
With the move of our
company, many co-workers made the switch to the train because getting
to the building means facing a huge traffic jam and there are only
six available parking spaces in the building itself. And those
parking spaces are for the management. The rest of us got parking
space a10 min walk away from the building.
So using a car is
Using the train is also out because, well I hate them! But it would also mean driving to the train station (10 min), waiting for the train (5min on a good day), riding on the train (10 min, also on a good day) and then a 5 min walk to the office. All in all 30 min which is the same time I need now. Except I am completely flexible when I leave and do not get frustrated on an almost daily basis by the Belgian rail company and there frequent delays (did I tell you I hate them?)
No, the best way to get to Leuven is by bicycle or scooter for me. And I really enjoy using the scooter so to answer the question. Yes the Scooter, for me, was a fun, practical choice.
Frugal choice or
Now the good part! The numbers.
This is using the
Scooter every working day for a total distance of 40 kms per day, and
a few more when i go swimming. So around 10,000 km a year. That’s a
lot of km’s to do on a Scooter
In 2018 I spend on
the Vespa 2 456,40 euro on maintenance and gas. Then I need to add a
95 euro insurance cost and let’s put amortisation at 275 euro a
Grand total cost for 2018: 2 826,40 euro
yes that number gave
me sticker schock as well. With an annual cost for a car being
estimated to be between 3 000 and 4 000 the Vespa was barely cheaper
than a car. In that big amount was a 1 000 euro of extra maintenance
because of a faulty cylinder head which should not have happend. But
it did happen.
But without eh unforseen big maintenance and average year of using a Vespa scooter should cost around 1 800 euro right? Let’s take a look at 2019 wher eno unforseen maintenance costs happened.
In 2019 I spend for
maintenance and gas (and the speeding ticket, didn’t forget that
one) 1 279,20 euro. Insurance was again 95 euro and let’ keep
amortisation at 275 euro for the year.
That brings the grand total cost for 2019 to: 1 649,20 euro
Whoow, I need to say I am reliefed at that number. It makes a scooter about half the price of a modest car. So not that bad after all. Add in the fact that I kinda, maybe negotiated a tax free bicycle remuneration of 160 euro a month and my home – work transport is basically free.
On the other hand: I
spend 1 650 euro a year on getting to work!!
bicycle would cost almost nothing and take only a little bit longer.
And I could use the exercise, just ask my wasteline!
So is the Vespa scooter a frugal choice or not? Compared to a second car? Yes it is. But compared to a decent electrical bicycle with roughly the same purchase price? Nope. Even with amortisation and maintenance a decend electrical bicycle would only cost you around 400 euro a year. So I am spending 1,200 euro more a year.
For me, all this made it once more abundantely clear I need to get my ass moving on the electrical bicycle front. The girlfriend has one I can use, I just want it to go a bit faster. So I need to do this ASAP! Even if I only use the bicycle for half of my workweek I should still be able to save around 500 euro a year.
Income stood pretty high in December mainly because of work. There
was the normal wage of 2288 euro but in December we also get
our end of year bonus. The bonus amounts to 1 426 euro.
This end of year
bonus is in many compagnies, mine included, described as a 13th month
of pay. Personaly I really like this description! It is a bit like
being paid extra work time without needing to do the extra work! I
have even started to look at our performance bonus and holiday money
in that way. The nice thing about loking at it from that perspective
is that it makes me realise I am actualy paid for 14,5 months of work
but I only need to do 10,5 months of work (I have 30 days of holiday
at my workplace).
Profit from ticket arbitrage and a small christmas gift make up the difference. When I was writing the post about my search for a side gig and how I tried my hand at ticket arbitrage I noticed a good opportunity. So I decided to give it one last spin and pocketed a quick 60 euro profit.
The higher income
did push my savings above 50% for the third time this year. It just
reinforced my decision to find a money making side gig (perhaps one
which some of my readers will not hate) in 2020.
Expenses this month are all boring. There was some gift buying for people. A health insurance thing that needed to be paid (Americans will get a laugh out of it: it was 46 euro and covers 6 months). A visit to an eye doctor which thanks to the health insurance only cost me 20 euro and I bought new shoes (30 euro).
And yes, I once again spend to much money buying food at work. This is bad financially and health wise. One the plus side, in the last week of Decembre I finally seemd to have relaunched myself into the diet and swimming. Only two weeks in so we will see what the future will bring for my big butt belly, but it is going smooth for the moment.
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 average Belgian 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).
I am not a certified financial advisor and do not hold a license from the FSMA. Everything written on this blog expresses my own personal journey and opinion and is pure entertainment. It is never an advice on what how and where you need to invest. If you need this advice, then please reach out to a financial service expert
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