The evolution of my Friday’s

Today is Friday and I’m ready for the weekend! ‘Friday’ is a bit of a loose concept with 7 day shift work but, as it is, I actually have the whole weekend off.

Friday has always been a great day for me during my career but for different reasons.

The very early years (Work sucks years)

I hated work. I hated having to get up for work. I hated the customers. I suffer from social anxiety, so customer interaction was painful. How times have changed there but I will get to that in another post. Anyway, it was painful and I hated every minute of it until I left for the day. I had almost no friends and the weekend was an escape for a couple of days. Friday was basically the end of a week of suffering, so it was a day I looked forward to.

The middle years (The drinking years)

One day, I was invited out by a colleague for a drink at the pub. I had honestly barely touched a beer to that point and had never been out socially. Anyway, it was almost like that scene in Old School with Will Ferrell when he drinks after a period of abstinence. I was totally uninhibited. I was singing, dancing and generally being loud and having fun. I woke up feeling terrible and threw up but the memory of the fun I had was there.

Friday night became ‘go out drinking night’. The purpose of which was not to have a quite drink and be merry but to drink to get drunk.

Sadly, the need for alcohol became a crutch for any social event. If there wasn’t alcohol involved, I wasn’t going. I considered myself charming and interesting as a drunk and dull and boring when sober. I was more likely irritating and loud as a drunk and yeah, maybe I was dull and boring when sober.

Anyway, people change and my colleagues moved on to get relationships, got married and have kids. Not me though, I stuck to my Friday night commitment to get drunk. I would spend the entire week recruiting people to go out with me on Friday night. Friday night was party night, Saturday was hangover day. My only saving grace during this time was my passion for gym training or even more days would become drinking days. As you can imagine though, my Friday nights (and sometimes Saturdays as well) cost a lot. Alcohol alone cost a fortune, add on a meal, cab fare to and from, lap dancing, etc etc. Ok, I’m joking about the lap dancing…..but there was that one time….

I eventually found a couple of regulars that shared my passion for drinking on a Friday and seemed to have the same inability to sustain lasting relationships. For far too many years, and long past the age when I should be there, I frequented night clubs dancing and drinking.

I was standing there one Friday night at some stupid hour of the morning in a drunken stupor under neon club nights when I observed that everyone around me was almost 2 decades younger than me. It was a sobering moment and I decided that things had to change.

Unfortunately, my friends wanted to continue the drinking lifestyle. I didn’t want to offend my friends and also didn’t have the willpower to decline, so I continued on with Friday night drinks for some time yet.

The only way out I could see was to escape. I sold up my home and moved interstate. Perhaps a drastic step but it was the only way I could see to get out of the situation I was in. Initially, I wasn’t that successful. I would go to pubs in the new city by myself and drink. Eventually though, the frequency of the pub visits reduced until they didn’t occur at all. I would occasionally grab a couple of beers to have on a Friday night while watching football or a movie on TV but that was it. I was drinking because I like the taste of beer, not to get tanked.

The next stage (the spending years)

Financially, the next stage was no more productive then the ‘drinking’ stage but at least it was healthier. Friday night meant that the weekend was tomorrow and it was time to buy things. If I wasn’t buying something or looking for something to buy, I didn’t feel that my weekend was productive. Sometimes it was just something little like a new plant and sometimes it was something much more costly, like trading in my car or motorcycle for an upgrade.

It became very clear that I was bored. I had no goal except to…actually, I didn’t know. I seemed to be in an aimless mission to nowhere and was getting there fast.

Now (The Frugal Years)

I had a health scare! What a blessing that turned out to be. It gave me the realisation that I was mortal and so was my family. I would die one day and who knows when they day might come up. I packed up shop, quit my job and moved closer to my family.

After securing a job (and grateful I was that I got one very quickly) and I bought a new home. Somehow, the reality of mortality came with an understanding that I had to consider my financial future. I sold the high performance motorcycle I had and bought one that was practical. Riding 300kms an hour wasn’t necessary and was well beyond my courage/stupidity level anyway.

I bought a house that was suitable for me. Not too big, was a reasonable commute to the city and most importantly, didn’t have an excessive mortgage.

Frugality started to influence my life. I didn’t socialise outside of work. I started to buy things based on need rather than want. I avoided further liability purchases and tried to limit my larger purchases to those that would create value, such as home improvement.

Finally, to create a purpose for the new saving mentality, I set a goal. Early retirement to Thailand. Everything started to make sense and had a reason. I wasn’t saving money for the sake of it, I had a reason to work hard, hustle for a buck or two and make some sacrifices. The new goal is almost constantly in my mind and directs how I live my life now.

Of course, I wish I hadn’t waited until my early 50’s to wake up but as the old saying goes ‘better late than never’.

 

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Saving dollars & cents – Do what you love and..hopefully..money will follow

Filling my head almost constantly lately has been thoughts about how I would accrue additional money to fund my dream to retire early.

I have honestly found it quite frustrating that nothing suitable to my skills was coming to mind. I don’t have any particular skills that I could utilise to increase my savings. Additionally, as I work on a rotating shift, it’s not really that practical to schedule in a second job.

Last night, I was browsing eBay and Gumtree (I believe it’s equivalent to Craigslist in the US) for second-hand furniture. I’m always on the lookout for an item that needs a bit of TLC or something quirky. I realised that I browse these sites every day and I generally spend my time away from work upcycling and restoring furniture. I have always kept the item to add or replace items I have already in my home.

It occurred to me that I should attempt to make some extra income doing what I do anyway for fun. Keep an eye out for run down furniture, give it a sand, make minor repairs, oil and generally present well in photos and see how I go.

Initially, I’m looking at pursuing this with low cost items or finds dumped at the side of the road. This way I’m not taking a big financial risk should I make nothing or lose some money. Should I find that I’m generating a good return for my individual restoration style (and my admittedly limited skills), I will start looking for bigger and more expensive projects.

Today I purchase a cute little dining table for $10.00. Totally solid but perhaps just a little on the tired side. I also picked up an old chamber pot seat for $20.00. Definitely on the quirky side and probably a limited market but I will tidy up and see if there is a dollar to be made. Ideally, I would like to double my money but we will see how we go.

Only started today, so will give it a red hot go and post my efforts and outcomes when I get some things sold…or not.

Saving dollars and cents – My morning coffee

I’m old enough to remember when there wasn’t a café on every corner selling speciality coffees. Go back a few years earlier to that and those corners were probably pubs instead.

Anyway, back in the ‘olden days’, you could still get a coffee in a café but it was normally to accompany a meal and it was often served from a jug that had been percolating for hours. The coffee was often rough and only served the function of providing a caffeine hit.

Move to today and you can barely walk 20 feet without coming across a café, van, pop up shop or any hole in the wall that is big enough to fit a coffee machine and a human. The term barista has now a common place word, whereas in the past it was normally associated with a poor spelling for a lawyer.

Over the years, it was my practice to grab a coffee on the way to work to start the day. To me, it was a nice treat to start the day and get me going. Over the years also, the prices have gradually (and sometimes not so gradually) increased and increased. Most recently, I was often paying $4.50 for my morning coffee but occasionally found I was paying up to a dollar more. Many shops I’m assuming trying to justify their prices by a speciality coffee blend that had been sourced from some exotic country from the excreted remains of a camel and pressed individually by hand through a blessed cloth…ok, maybe I’m stretching that part a bit.

Even at only 1 coffee a day, I’m was spending over $30 a week on my morning coffee. Multiply that by 52 weeks and its over $1600! The math isn’t hard if you are a 2 or 3 coffee a day person. It really starts to add up to something significant..

Just out of curiosity, I did a quick Google to find out the breakup of my morning coffee cost. The following table was indicative of what I found.

Though the $3 figure is obviously a bit dated, it provides a reasonable idea of how the cost is made up. Based on this chart, the product associated with my morning black coffee is only $0.35. The majority of the money handed over is for labour. While I definitely won’t argue that a worker should be paid, the coffee normally takes around a minute to make. That’s a pretty decent hourly rate, with the majority presumably going to the owner. I don’t want to get into a big economical debate though, with the main point being that it really adds up to buy my morning coffee.

Anyway, as I’m pursuing the frugal way, my morning coffee is now instant coffee. It took me a while to get used to the taste. While not offensive, I can’t say the instant coffee compares to a barista coffee. I drink black coffee, so it’s hard to mask the taste of terrible coffee so I do tend to spend a little more to buy a good quality instant coffee just to improve the taste slightly. That said, I’m probably talking $2-3 dollars more a can, which still works out massively cheaper than barista made coffee.

My best rough calculation is that I’m spending less than $100 a year now for coffee versus $1600 for barista coffee. That’s $1500 a year that will now be going towards paying off debt and making steps towards by end goal of early retirement.

 

De-cluttering – One Way to Focus a Messy Mind

With my newly developed mission to retire to Thailand in 5 years, I was sitting in my lounge contemplating how I will achieve this. While trying to think, I was constantly distracted by the things around me. There were half completed projects, cleaning, an excess of furniture and décor items and many other things that made it difficult to focus on my goal. 

I did manage to come to one focussed thought and that was that I have too many unnecessary distractions and I had to clean house, initially literally, to achieve a mentally clean house.

First step – Assess the mess

I simply looked around me. I started to list items as follows:

  • What items have a functional use
  • What items make me happy
  • What items haven’t I used in 6 months and have no immediate plan to.

I approached this process to my immediate surrounds as I sat in the lounge. The post photo is just a few of the items that immediately jumped out at me. As my living area is not that large, I had obviously accumulated far too much crap. The process defined what to keep and what needed to go.

Second step – Complete projects

I determined to finish projects before I started anything new. I have so many projects that are half done. Some furniture restoration, landscaping and home renovation. I get started on one and get half way, get distracted by something new and shiny change and start something else. I started to list projects that I had outstanding and prioritised for completion. I decided my first project would be the landscaping, which I ended up completely within only a few hours. One off the list, which gave me a sense of accomplishment and reduced one item from my mind clutter. I will note here that I haven’t had a kitchen sink for 3 months, so maybe that should be pretty high up the list to get sorted out!

Third step – Clean up the crap!

I had to clean up. This is perhaps that simplest step and the one that will have the most immediate impact. I have a terrible tendency to pile things onto counter tops, table tops…really any flattish surface. It obviously looks messy and annoys me and does nothing to keep my mind at ease. I started with the kitchen. A packed things away, threw out things that were inexplicably just sitting there and tidied up surfaces.

Fourth step – One step at a time

I decided that I shouldn’t try to do everything at once. I know this is what has caused me to fail before and probably will again. I get all hyped up and start cleaning, start gardening, start doing this and that. In the end, I only touch the surface of the problem and see no real progress and get overwhelmed. I just end up adding to my list of unfinished projects. Focussing on one thing at a time will get a task completed and show a positive result. A structured way to approach this is to create a task list and prioritise. Ticking off items on completion will give a tangible visual that things are getting done.

Fifth Step – The purpose for the surplus

This is an extension of the First Step. After I determined what bits and pieces that I no longer needed, I had to decide what their next purpose would be. Options were as follows:

  • Sell stuff that I considered had potential to make money. I have listed items on eBay and Gumtree and hopefully will make some money to contribute to the goal. Once everything has been sold, I will blog the final amount.
  • Give to charity. This applies mostly to my clothes. I have clothes that have travelled with me across 3 states over 8 years and still haven’t worn. Time to let go for someone that may need it and doesn’t have the means.
  • Recycle. There are recycle centres that are available that let me dump certain items for free.
  • Dump the rest. Smaller items I will dump in the bin and the medium sized items I will throw in the back of the ute and take to the tip. As tipping fees apply to the rubbish weight, I will save some of the bigger items for a council kerbside clean up next month. The pick up is limited to a trailer size equivalent but as people tend to ‘shop’ the kerbside, items are usually taken to allow me more room for something else.

Well, that’s the plan for now. I may tweek it as I progress to include more de-cluttering ideas but this is the start.


Sugar vs Sugar – Which is sweeter to your pocket?

Though I have only recently been approaching frugality with focus, I have always had the approach that I (1) buy the best priced product if it is of comparable quality and (2) that I do not want to purposely give more money to large corporations to make them larger.

During a recent shop, I had to purchase some white sugar. I won’t name any brands but it was obvious that there was a huge disparity in cost. A 1 kilo branded sugar cost $1.90 and a generic brand cost $1.00. A further bit of research found that there were a number of different brands of sugar with prices varying from just under a $1.00 a kilo to $2.14.

Clearly, with this cost disparity, there must be a difference in the ingredients that make one superior to the other. Imagine my complete lack of surprise to find that the sole ingredient in every package was 100% cane sugar!

Perhaps where the sugar was manufactured resulted in the cost difference? An army of cheap labour from overseas maybe? No, they were all produced in Australia.

Finally, the taste must be considerably different, resulting in the significant extra for the branded product? Low and behold, the ones I have tried all tasted like…sugar! Go figure!

My only assumption is that I’m paying for a recognised brand name, which has yet to pay me for my loyalty, or that only less attractive sugar canes are harvested for the low price brands.

I reckon my money is better in my pocket than fattening someone elses. Look around and keep it to yourself.

Living on a former income

So, the first change that I have made is to have a quick overview of my spending. One thing I have always done is increase my spending every time I secured a promotion or higher salary. This usually results in me obtaining more things I want but don’t necessarily need. I then sell the item almost with fail for a loss or just fill my home and garage with stuff.

In November 2016, I secured a new job. The base salary was almost exactly the same as the previous job I had but with the benefit of shift penalties and overtime. Both shift and overtime were in no way applicable to my previous job, so the only option of obtaining more money in the role was to gain a promotion or wait for incremental pay rises.

In my new job, shift penalties are standard, adding between 12.5 and 15% per hour for an applicable shift. If I secure a shift on a weekend or public holiday, additional penalties and overtime apply. Subsequently, though a bit inconsistent, my pay has been considerably more than my previous job. The lowest being around $150 to nearly $700 net more per fortnight.

It occurred to me recently that I was able to live comfortably on my old salary. (It is strange how the mind seems to work far more logically when there is focus and a goal.) I never saved a lot with my old salary and overall it was tight. In saying that, it was rare when I was counting the days for a payday to come up. In theory then, there is no reason that I shouldn’t be able to live on my former salary and take any additional pay and use it to reduce debt. Given that the interest rate applicable to credit cards and loans is considerably higher than a standard savings account (with an almost non-existent interest rate), it is obvious that reducing debt is a priority.

The biggest debt I currently have is my home loan. This loans allows for additional payments that can be withdrawn if a big expense pops up. Until that big expense happens though, the interest on the loan will be calculating on the lower amount.

I know that mentally, I will really feel a lot closer to my goal when the debt is under $200k and then $150k and I will know that I’m closing in on the target when I crack the $100K mark!

Start of a new journey

 

Recently, I had that moment a lot of people probably do when they wonder what is next for their life.

I am early 50’s, no partner or kids (but a cat), have a decent job with a fair salary and have a sizeable mortgage.

I guess I am reasonably content but not particularly enthused. Other than owning part of a house, I can’t say I have achieved a whole lot in terms of career or tangible assets. I started to review my life and experiences & it became clear that one of the few times I was really happy and at peace was during my several visits to Thailand. I found the people, culture, food and climate really worked for me and it is where I wanted to spend the rest of my life.

The problem is, I don’t have the money to retire there anytime soon. My savings and superannuation is on the low side. I have a reasonable amount if equity accrued in my house but not near enough to let me retire unless I want to be homeless after a few years.

I estimated I need approximately $500K to let me live fairly comfortably in Thailand without having to check my account balance every week. The other part of the equation is I want to retire there in 5 years. The numbers definitely don’t add up!

My blog will be partly about my journey to my goal of early retirement to Thailand, changes to my financial habits and other things I do to save and earn money.

Over time, I hope I find a few people to follow the process and keep me accountable, so I don’t lose focus when I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and it gets too hard.

It all starts today!