FIRE Update 2: May(hem)

We are at the end of May and that means that the paycheck has rolled in, the investments are transferring and I have to look through my finances anyway. It is the perfect time to review my journey and just keep myself accountable.

What happened this month?

I’ve been very busy, which has resulted in a nice paycheck and some additional income by selling clothes on eBay. It is nice to clear out my closet and I have realised that I have never regretted selling any of my clothes. I also did cave into some internet shopping, more than what I should have, but overall things have been OK. I am getting better, which is great! I think I will do a lot better here in June since I will be going back home and cannot be bothered to drag new clothes with me once I return.

The extra loan scheme has been extended by my home country so I am taking out the maximum amount to pay off the more expensive tuition fee loan and has shuffled some things around for the money I owe myself (lol). This has made my net worth go further into the negative zone, but since I still calculating with a full tuition fee loan, there will be a big shift once I am done studying and then I have (hopefully) saved a good amount of interest on my loans. It still feels a bit discouraging here and now, but I am trying to just focus on seeing my savings and investments go up.

Savings

My general/apartment savings are currently $3,596.
I am saving up for my internship in Brussels in September (hopefully it doesn’t get ruined by Corona). My goal is $1,500 and I have saved up $872.

Investments

My current investments are $3,080 out of my $33,000 goal.
My net worth is $-41,260.

Debt repayment

My current tuition fee debt is $45,356.
I owe myself $1,045.

Books I’ve read and texts I’ve written

I have been making a post or two on the blog, and I have some more planned. It helps me get my “writing mojo” back again.
I’ve read the Kremlin school of negotiation and some selected works by Cicero. The former was a really interesting read when it comes to business negotiations, and quite relevant for the field I want to work in, while Cicero was… alright. I’ll allow myself to buy a new book about lobbying if it can get here in time. I am also starting on The Great CEO Within and Think and Grow Rich since I found free pdfs of those books.

Goals for next month

I have to pause eBay selling quite soon since I will be visiting my home country, so I am trying to get the last bits sold as soon as possible. I expect to save a lot on food and try to bike around as much as possible so my transport budget doesn’t go through the roof.
I will continue to track how much extra money I can put towards savings and investments this month (above my minimum transfers), and hopefully, I can beat the previous month. My main focus for this month is first to ramp up my Brussels savings account, and then to pay off some extra debt.

How did your May go? Do you have any goals?

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About lockdown life and “getting my shit together”

We are halfway through May and I have somehow not lost my marbles being more or less stuck in my flat here in London. My other flatmates have gone back to their families, and while I enjoy the space and quiet, then I more than ever long to go back to my home country. I just have to be patient and wait for flights, that will hopefully be back in a couple of weeks.

I have finished the semester, so now I have a long summer ahead of me. I’ll continue to work at my part-time job (I was a remote worker from the get-go) and then do some more freelancing, but I’ve also started to read much more. In addition, I’ve started some awesome courses on Coursera, so I have plenty to keep me occupied, besides my determination to eat healthily and get in shape (which always occurs around this time of the year).

I have started to read Sarah Knight’s Get Your Shit Together. I like her writing style a lot and I do feel like I have been in a slump lately, most likely due to poor time management, too many commitments and, ya’ know, a global pandemic. That kind of stuff. I need a little hope, a bit to work on, and this might just be it. I am already the master of a to-do list, but her thoughts on, e.g. procrastination, time-wasters and what sort of fucks I should decide to give, it does make me reflect on my priorities and lifestyle. And take notes.

What has gone well in my finances?

  • I’ve put some extra money into my savings and my investment account.
  • I finished reading Your Money or Your Life, which was super interesting.
  • I’ve only ordered takeaway once (and tipped the driver). But I’ll probably do it again once Five Guys reopens, lol. I dream about burgers.
  • I have a ton of healthy, tasty recipes.
  • I have been booked for some tutoring, which will also add a bit of extra cash.

What has gone not so well in my finances?

  • I ordered this very expensive item, which I will make a separate post about, since I hope the cost might be worth it.
  • I bought a training program. I usually don’t use them, but this time it is about flexibility, which I have been working on consistently.
  • I have been slacking off and haven’t put everything up on eBay that I want to sell.
  • Online shopping is really fucking tempting, but we are trying to stay good here..

I do look forward to go back and (besides eating for free, lol) go on long runs, sunbathe and see all my old friends. Going stir-crazy is a real thing and I don’t think it has a good influence on my finances.

How is your May going so far?

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FIRE Update 1: Let’s get started

We are at the end of April and that means that the paycheck has rolled in, the investments are transferring and I have to look through my finances anyway, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to start documenting my journey a bit more and just keep myself accountable.

What happened this month?

I calculated my net worth for the first time, with debts and all. Yikes. Big minus. I am definitely at the bottom of all sorts of “average wealth” for my age group in my home country and it will most likely only get worse until I am done with my studies and can focus on paying it down aggressively. So I am trying not to stress out about having these tuition fee loans and remind myself that I do have savings and investments that will help me in the long term.

Since we are on lockdown I must admit that online shopping has been more tempting than ever before – especially combined with the extra loan from my home country I applied for to pay off the more expensive tuition fee loan in the country I study in. Luckily, I’ve also had a lot of freelance work which could cover the more fun and useless spending and I sold old clothes on eBay as well as did some tutoring. It justifies it a little bit but I do hope to save more this month and sort out my closet even more.

Savings

My general/apartment savings are currently $3,351.
I am saving up for my intership in Brussels in September (hopefully it doesn’t get ruined by Corona). My goal is $1,500 and I have saved up $872.

Investments

My current investments are $2,788 out of my $33,000 goal.
My net worth is $-37,688.

Debt repayment

My current tuition fee debt is $44,141.
I owe myself $887.

Books I’ve read and texts I’ve written

Besides giving this blog an overhaul, I unsuccessfully submitted two pitches. That happens. The most important thing is that I gave it a try.
I’ve finally read Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin after numerous recommendations (I don’t do reviews unless requested).

Goals for next month

I plan to sell more clothes through eBay and hopefully ramp up my freelance work once I have submitted my last assignments for university. I really hope that I can start thinking about plans for summer – I want to visit my family (and take all the safety measures to make that happen) and spend time with my boyfriend, depending on how his holiday is going to play out. I am going to cut down on takeout and be even better at meal prepping, although this has already been a very good month in that department.
I am also tracking how much extra money I can put towards savings and investments this month (above my minimum transfers), so I am excited about how the numbers will look once the month is over.

How did your April go? Do you have any goals?

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Shopping is a symptom

I have previously touched a little upon consumerism in here, but I have recently read a string of interesting discussions and blog posts about this, so I thought I would give my two cents on it as well. My general theory is that “shopping is symptom” – for everything that is going on for you, really.

Now, I am not talking about “shopping” as in “buying food and toilet paper”, but when you order another useless gadget on Amazon or browse a string of your favourite webshops “just to see what is new”, or you purchase something you semi-like because you have a discount code.

Let’s try to dig into that a little. I am by no means perfect, and Heaven knows that I have spend quite a substantial amount of money on online shopping. And still do sometimes, especially in these quarantine times. It is a process, but just being aware of your patterns can really help to just close the window and let it be sometimes.

“I need a new wardrobe” aka Hello I Feel Insecure And Uncomfortable

The first real, dramatic change of wardrobe occurred when I was around 16-17 and on my way out of a long punk phase. I still love black clothes, studs and fishnets until the day I die, but I may no longer be wearing awful kiddie-punk t-shirt, write on everything I wear and pierce my poor ears with an unclean safety pin. A lot of my shopping was, granted, because I really just needed some normal clothes.

But since then, a lot of “wardrobe revamps” and purchases cannot exclusively be ascribed to my evolving fashion sense and has had more to do with how I was feeling during that time. Usually, something felt wrong and if I just bought XYZ items with this particular aesthetic, then I would just magically start to feel much better about myself. Somehow I would look exactly like the model in the photos and all my problems with my self-image, self esteem or stress level would just be thrown out with the bathwater. What an incredible sweater! That probably got used a few times before I donated it or sold it.

It can be difficult to really identify whether you actually are in need of new clothes or if you are just feeling particularly shitty about yourself. That is alright. I do not really have a magic formula, except for the more generic things such as, ya know, trying to deal with it in the best way you can and love yourself more. If I look back at how I felt back then and how I viewed myself versus how I actually looked, there is a world of difference. It serves as a reminder that my self-image is more tied up to my emotions than my eyes and they will give a distorted view if they so wish to do that.

I Am Stressed Out and Scrolling All The Webshops

When we feel stressed out or overwhelmed, some of us have a tendency to either shop mindlessly in stores after work, or get the online shopping going. By “us”, I sort of mean myself here (but let me just believe for a second here).

It actually took me a while to notice, because the problem was two-folded. First of all, when I was working hard (and presumably earning more money), I felt it was justified. And also, sometimes I mostly just looked at online shops for procastination and then envitably found something I just could not live without, thus spending more money than if I had just kept my mind busy and found the damn items.

I am very bored

Although it sounds laughable, it is true. If you feel inadequate, boring, or just do not know how to spend your time better, it can be convenient to just surf the net, stare at the TV or other activities that expose you to a lot of commercials. When you are bored, you shop or you may just find yourself spending more unnecessary money in general.

Tricks for resisting the urge to shop

These things should hardly surprise anyone out there, but just for good measure, I felt it would be appropriate to share some of the things I do to avoid the urge.

  • Take a look at your closet
    You may just find that you already have more than enough and perhaps three different dresses that are oddly similar to the one you want. Sometimes we tend to forget when our closets are literally overflowing.
  • Meditate
    I am not saying that you should just sit down, close your eyes and hum to yourself for a bit, but mindfulness is a good tool for dealing with stress – and take a moment to actually feel your feelings instead of treating them with a random dress.
  • Make a wishlist
    Instead of trying to crush your want straight away, then just try to put it aside for later. Sleep on it. It gives your brain time to calm down and catch up, and you may just forget about it or realise that you don’t actually need this dress, if you are being perfectly honest here.
  • Remind yourself of your goals
    You may have some financial goals or big-ticket items you are trying to save up for. Maybe that’s a classic handbag, a vacation, or an emergency fund if your washing machine breaks down. Who knows. But just having a list you can whip out and have a look at really makes a big difference to stave off those impulse buys.
  • Unsub-fucking-scribe
    Yeah, of course. The best is to do some prevention and self-parenting by unsubscribing from e-mails, perhaps even blocking certain sites so you cannot access them at certain times.
  • Play a game
    Of course I’ll shamelessly promote playing some sort of game – mind you, not one where you buy shit. I enjoy playing The Sims. While you do have to resist buying all sorts of add-ons, then it works for me and effectively fights boredom.

I hope this may either serve as a reminder or help some people out. If you have noticed any patterns with your own shopping behaviour, feel free to share as well!

Photo by Bruno Kelzer on Unsplash

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Using NaNoWriMo as a force of good

It is November and the annual Nanowrimo is currently being pursued by thousands of people all over the globe. It is quite an amazing event and the enthusiasm and support for writing gives me a nice reminder of why I like creating my stories and aggressively typing on my keyboard in the first place.

I am undertaking Nano – not with a single story, but with two stories. I also count in my two essays for university and articles, because otherwise I may just smash my screen with a sledge hammer already. Although my time is very sparse these days, I have kept a little tabs on the rest of the community.

There are a lot of things I do not like about Nano. One of them is the fact that I have tried for several years and always fail to win. Another is self-loathing people who want to a) write a novel but b) don’t want to and c) moan about it.
Listen here.
No one is holding a gun to your head (I mean… I hope not). Nano is voluntary and it is supposed to be absolutely wild writing for a month, but also just fun. If you really feel pressured, just stop. Take a breather and ignore the imaginative goal someone else set up for you. Many writers seem to be happy about rambling on and on about their Story and their Characters and all the Details, but when it comes down to writing it, it changes. I feel the same thing, we all do. But instead of moaning about it, here are some things I suggest instead, that will perhaps turn Nano into a productive, postive experience instead. Take it from someone who has been that cringe and got a bit of her shit together instead:

  1. Set off specific times to write
    I know life happens. Despite all the “we all have 24 hours in a day” bullcrap you are hearing from here and there, then that is just not true. Maybe you share household responsibilities with a partner, maybe you do all chores yourself. Maybe you are like me – a full time student with a job and volunteer work. While it is tempting to let go of all personal responsibilities and just crash through Nano, the world does not stop spinning because of your little project. Parent yourself. Plan ahead, so you can both clean, eat real food and know when you can write. Whether that is on the commute, in the break, or half an hour when you first wake up. Set up the routine. Set the alarm.
  2. Pick a different goal
    50.000 words is some number that someone dropped during a brainstorming sesh because that sounded like the size of a novel. It does not mean you need to follow that, not even if you write in the hopes of getting a script to send to publishers. If you feel overwhelmed, you can pick a lower number. It will still be more words than what you would have written otherwise.
  3. Stop procastinating, you silly beansprout
    I realised that I do two things when I am stressed out. One is social media. Another is online window shopping. I was quite aware of the first, but checking out online shopping sites did not feel as time-wasting because “it was just a couple of pages”. Figure out what you do when your brain goes idle, so you avoid wasting an hour just scrolling on Twitter or worse, moaning about how far you are behind with the word count. Time is precious. Make use of the Podomoro method, if that is something for you, that allows you to take designated breaks.
  4. Allow yourself to rebel
    The romantic version of a Nano’er is a Writer with glasses, a cup of warm tea or coffee, sitting in front of their laptop in a cozy room. Maybe wearing a chunky jumper. They have one story and they know exactly what to write (and also they do not have any interruptions or other responsibilities). Ah. Isn’t that the dream?
    You do not need to break your neck trying to squeeze out a story, especially if you a) do not really plan on doing much with it or b) have not planned it very well. I have a couple of stories, but I also see my essays and articles as contributing to the word count – because they are all adding to my portfolio and I probably wouldn’t be producing that much without a word count to reach.

Here’s what I have done in November so far:

  • Written an article for Financial Times (it will be blasted on LinkedIn and ya’ know it)
  • Written a position paper for a conference
  • Written several blog posts
  • Finally developed and getting to write a story that has been in the back of my head for a while and that I could actually see being published out on the web
  • Got a shitton of progress in writing a story as a gift for a friend
  • Written two assignments for university

I can assure you that this is 1454596873495% more productive than I am otherwise. Who cares that I did not write on a SINGLE novel for a whole month? Look at all these words that have been churned out! I am like a printer gone rogue that spews out iliterate words en masse! It is wonderful!

What separates you from being an actual Writer and not just another beansprout in a field of beansprouts that just want to be a Writer?

You write. You produce content. You tap on that keyboard and you churn it out. Nano puts a focus on quantity over quality. Of course your material is not ready to be published on the 1st of December, but sometimes we get so focused on writing everything perfectly, that we don’t get anything written at all. Because we are not in the right mood. Because we only have fifteen minutes and cannot get the creative brain in gear. No, instead, just tap things out and allow it to be absolutely terrible – and then edit once the month is up.

I look forward to share all the shit writing I’ve been doing in an edited, polished and glammed-up version. I hope you do the same.

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

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No-Buy August: because shopping will not make you happy

I am not going to ramble off about how humans are screwing over Mother Nature, how the older generation with more money, political influence and better options is fucking things up for us young ones (has done that for years). No, I’ll save that for the other blog. All you need to know is that I recently had enough with consumerism and endless shopping sprees after I visited New York City. It was not some sort of odd lightbulb moment, but I knew I needed to actively take a break once I returned to London. You are bombarded with options to spend your money on when you live in a big city, and I have realised that is one of the reasons why I sometimes long to go back to Scandinavia and just stay out in nowhere for a good while. Anyway!

The aim for my August this year is doing a no-spend challenge. No unnecessary purchases, no shopping, no excessive sweets or soda, no new BOOKS (horror!). Obviously you have to eat, buy your medications and all that good stuff, but otherwise you will have to find something else to spend your time on. And while, let’s be real, you can save a nice good chunk of money if you are usually a ‘meh why not’-spender, then it also gives you space to think about what else you could really spend your time on.

My situation is a little difficult since I have no kitchen access until the 19th. My current living situation does not allow for as much as freaking boiler, so I will have to buy lunch and dinner from outside at least two times a day. Two times a week I can eat with the Christians that I am living with, but otherwise I have to be smart about my food situation. I do want to save money but I also want nutritious food. It will be quite a big budget post already, so cutting out anything unnecessary is probably a good choice.

I slipped up on my first day, since I was returning to London and had simply forgotten I was doing the challenge – which resulted in purchasing some multi-use balm and two books. Great to mess up on the first day, sets a terrific mood for the rest of the month BUT I am all for accepting your fuck-ups and just carry on. Nothing good comes out of being upset by a small mistake.

I will probably make a mid-month update on how this is getting on. Let me know if you have any tips for it or perhaps are interested in participating as well!

Photo by Bart Jaillet via UNSPLASH

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