mooretrees journal

Where are you and where are you going?
mooretrees
Posts: 140
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by mooretrees »

We've made some progress on downsizing our belongings, especially in the kitchen. I did a BIG purge in there and it is lovely. We only kept a few dishes and silverware and it keeps us better at doing dishes in a timely manner. The counters are clearer and the space feels easier to keep tidy and clean.

The other big news is that my big Christmas present from my Dad is forgiving the last of my loan with him, a cool $3450. I did consider not accepting the offer, but the desire to be out of student loan debt won out over pride of self-sufficiency. So, five years after I graduated we've paid off $96,000. Going forward, I'm going to start putting a small amount into a 529 for my son and possibly start a Roth for DH. I didn't want to start saving for my son's college while I was paying off our college debt. And, I also don't want to save a ton of money in a 529 for him, but I do want to help him with school. The 529 is a good way to funnel grandparent's desires to help and possibly stem the tide of stuff coming our way.

We started a buy nothing quarter and it has been mixed. I was really excited to start it and we did some talking about rules and such. We've been talking about buying a car so that was an exception to the nuy nothing quarter. And any house maintenance that was necessary also had to be an exception. Well, we found a good 2003 Subaru Forester with decent miles, the head gasket was already replaced and a really good price. So we bought it with cash a couple of days ago. We are temporarily up to two cars until we sell the Suburban. This newer car should significantly reduce our fuel consumption and maintenance costs-our two biggest line items with our current 14 mpg beast.

Anyway, with the purchase of the car comes the future purchase of tires, mats and a few odds and ends to keep it looking good. And then I broke two essential things: the screen for the mac air and the glass door for the wood stove. We replaced the air with a chromebook and DH is going to try in a few months to replace the screen. We are getting the glass replaced by the company we bought the stove from, at least $200 in parts and who knows how much in labor. Ugh! So, it's hard to tell that we've started an 'extreme' buy nothing quarter. I hope I won't break anything else and the buy nothing can truly start.

Cheepnis
Posts: 190
Joined: Mon Dec 31, 2018 11:52 am

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by Cheepnis »

If something else breaks during this quarter you could try going without at least until the quarter is up. Perhaps you'll find you don't need it as much as you think. For example, while I don't know the nature of your computer needs, you could probably take care of a majority of them on your phone (if you have one) and the things you couldn't you could do at the library. It would require a change in habit, routine, and mindset, but the end result in things accomplished on a computer would likely be indistinguishable.

I've had two Subarus of around that vintage. They both had the same 2.5L 4 cylinder and comparable tire diameter and each has gotten wildly different gas mileage! My current one only gets about 29 highway at the best whereas my first one could get up to 34 and I can't figure it out, haha. I've pretty much given up on it. Either way, a big improvement over 14. I do wish you could disengage the AWD for better mileage when you don't need it. Otherwise they're great cars!

classical_Liberal
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Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:05 am

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by classical_Liberal »

Yeah that's the problem with absolutes, like "no spend" or whatever. They're often suboptimal when the whole system is considered. I guess it's a good exercise if something is a big problem area though, because I think abstinence in something is easier than moderation, but maybe that's just my personality. In any event, I think progress of the whole is more important than a goal, a goal whose purpose was to help achieve a better end system. We become what we measure.

Congrats on the student loan! I had a similar dilemma several years ago when my mother wanted to help out in a similar way and pay off a couple of thousand of my student debt. Don't feel bad about it, it's something that'll make him feel good. In a few years 3K will seem like such a small amount to you anyway, so if he ever needs help, for whatever reason, you can always give it back to him. That's how I look at it, win-win.

mooretrees
Posts: 140
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by mooretrees »

@cheepnis, that's weird with the Subarus! We haven't filled the tank yet, but anything will be an improvement over the fuel hog that is the Suburban. After living in our small town area for five years, I've sorta given up on mileage as the most important part of a car. We need decent mileage AND the ability to drive in the snow and get deep in the woods.

I did already give up my smart phone, which was no sacrifice, but does make a computer less living situation unattractive. I did buy the chormebook before the start of the buy nothing quarter and we aren't going to fix the air until it is over. We get the door for the wood stove today and I am so ready to turn off the heat, how did I ever live with forced air for so long? It is the worst, you never feel really warm. It drives me bonkers that the whole house is getting luke warm.

@classical that's about right, the experiment is suboptimal because I do sorta 'need/want' to buy some things. The point has been to shake us out of our routines of purchasing solutions. If I'm honest, I would like to think think I don't need such an extreme experiment, but I am still new to ERE. I decided to make it only a quarter as we will hopefully be starting to work on the bus in early spring. I do think it has been helpful, but probably not as profound as if we had started last spring. DH did say that knowing that the buy nothing quarter was coming up led him to stop aimless internet shopping/research.

Personally, I got a little wild before the start of it and kept having these 'what if' scenarios come up. I can't remember any specifics, but it was as if the consumer in me was getting sqirrely and anxious about not buying anything. Mostly, I just ignored those thoughts, but it was interesting to see that I had some nervousness about buying nothing. It reminded me of that scene in the last Harry Potter book where Harry and Dumbledore are at the train station after Voldemort killed Harry. They keep hearing the whimpering of the bit of Voldemort's soul that was in Harry. That's my last bit of consumerism, the ugly naked whimpering bit that you can't do anything for, you just ignore it.

mooretrees
Posts: 140
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by mooretrees »

"E-ER is freedom through investments, ERE is freedom through skill. Period. What they have in common is low expenses. For someone with an ERE mindset, the function of investment income is to provide enough confidence to start relying entirely on the skills that got him to FI. Whereas if the E-ER practitioner were to be separated from his investments, he would have no choice but to get a job. That’s the difference." @fish from a really interesting thread, viewtopic.php?f=3&t=7870&start=40

I think I am more leaning towards the ERE side, rather than E-RE or as @basauragomi said "MMM" style. That thread had some interesting ideas/assumptions people had about retirement. I have seen a lot of people assume that they will spend less once they retire. Drive less, eat out less etc, and I think that is a shaky assumption. In that thread referenced above (or another...might have a few mixed up) Jacob talked about having a lot of years with expenses around $7 k. He wasn't assuming he would spend less once he retired, he had his lifestyle fairly worked out already. I don't have a great history with tracking expenses and that is a weakness for me. Also, this last year has seen a lot of upheaval in our expenses, dropped cell phone bills, lowered grocery spending and other areas are lower. So, if I can get better at the tracking habit, I'll be able to make assumptions for the future.

I have an annual review coming next month coupled with a modest 2.5% raise. Normally, I've been putting at least an extra 1% into the 401k, with each raise or cost of living increase, but I think I won't this time. My 'net worth' is very low and mostly out of reach easily, ie house equity and retirement accounts. I need to focus more on saving outside of those two areas. I realize I might forgo some tax advantages, but I want a more balanced financial situation.

One of the biggest skills I need to work on is patience. I can get into trouble by being too impatient. I think there is a line in the ERE book about (paraphrasing here) 'in a world of abundance, patience is the best tactic.." Patience is a form of discipline, I think and I need to be more disciplined.

Anyway, another rambling post with tons of future thinking. It's beautiful out here today, sunny skies and a nice dusting of snow. I need to get outside and feed the birds. Hope all of you are well.....

classical_Liberal
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Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:05 am

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by classical_Liberal »

That thread was an eye-opener for me 3 years back when I first read it. The direct link to it is still saved under the FI tab in my browser. I think one component missed in that discussion is the idea of living without. For example, one can learn all the skills needed to purchase low cost used cars, maintain them per self, minimize use, ect. Once you start doing everything yourself, it becomes clear that it's just easier to not have a car. IOW, for certain things, for certain people, given the option of DIY or do without, it becomes much easier to make the decision to do without. Another way to put it is finding alternative ways to meet needs.

This all has to do with how someone designs their life. "DIY or do without" is a great slogan, but doesn't always make sense either. It's a really good starting point though. I've reached a point where I think the hardest part is learning what you actually do need. Housing, food, transportation, healthcare, once these are figured out the battle is only partially won. Moving up the Maslowesque ERE hierarchy there's; social needs/tribe/fitting in, purpose/value creation, self actualization, appropriate leisure, ect. My biggest mistake (so far) in the ERE journey was building a great system for the lower level stuff without considering the higher level stuff. The higher level stuff now eats up more than half my total spending and I'm not even sure I'm making any progress improving those areas with all the money spent.

horsewoman
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Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:11 am

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by horsewoman »

Tracking expenses was a game changer for me. It might seem boring or restricting, but it is quite the opposite. It is a great tool to retrain yourself, typing in the numbers and watching the total creep up is great for training impulse control. Seeing that 300 in your spread sheet you blew on a camera months ago, and realizing that you used it 5 times since then... priceless!
I'm amazed that I have been able to keep track for almost 2 years now - doing things regularly is very hard for me, and I usually quit as soon as it gets boring (I'm easily bored ;) . For some reason, messing around in my spread sheet never bores me. In the end it is a habit, take a receipt for every cash transaction, or make a note on a piece of paper in your wallet for small amounts.
I highly recommend it, and seeing that we are about to enter a new year, it is the perfect time to get started :)

mooretrees
Posts: 140
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by mooretrees »

@horsewoman, thanks for the extra push. I have been tracking on and off and when I do have the numbers it is super instructive, shocking, huh? Now that our only debt is mortgage and the skoolie is on the horizon, tracking and saving money is essential. I've started a generic budget in the google spreadsheet, I'll tailor it as I learn, but it is good to get something started that I can't lose. I prefer tracking on paper, but I keep losing the paper.

DH sold our Suburban for $1200 yesterday. He took some of the money and bought snow tires and had them mounted on wheels he got at the junkyard. I had been trying to hold off on buying tires until we sold the truck, so it worked out perfectly. Especially with snow on the ground here it's nice that we can get up to the hills and go sledding now.

@classical_liberal your comment prompted me to start really thinking about what I want after retirement.

I'm mostly motivated to retire based on getting AWAY from work, but I don't have a clear idea of what I want to MOVE to. I do have a young child and possibly homeschooling is a reality, especially if we end up slow travelling in the school bus. But, the idea of wrapping myself entirely in my child doesn't seem healthy.

The activities I want more time for right now all are leisure based; exercise, hiking, reading, birding, etc. I have thought (and I realize the irony of this with my early post about tracking money) about learning to become a book keeper. This small town has dozens of small businesses and with my connections with the farmers market, I could have a (very) small business helping farmers + creative types. I need to learn this stuff for our business anyway, so that could be something that I could scale up down the line. I don't think I will ever go back to school, so accounting is off the table. We'll see, this is the time to start brainstorming.

I've been starting to read about solar systems. I am enjoying the learning, though it happens in fits and spurts. This is my area to figure it out with the skoolie. So much depends on what appliances we will choose for the school bus. Right now I'm on the fence about having a refrigerator. In our daily life I think we could learn to live without a fridge, if and only if we can find a source for local unwashed eggs. I cannot live without eggs. Or, at least, I am unwilling to try. Part of what I hope we can do with this skoolie is get to the brass tacks about what we NEED in a home, not just what we are used to.

As a side note, our roommate situation could not be better. We hit the jackpot with him. He's very clean and we often share meals together. He is sweet to my son and our animals. He's a very serious student and mostly keeps to his room or school. I wanted to put it out there that these good roommates exist and it has been an easy way to reduce our housing costs.

mooretrees
Posts: 140
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by mooretrees »

This is my numbers-light end of year post.

I joined the forum in Jan and started posting in Feb, I think. Since then the changes we've made to our lives:
1. I got rid of my smart phone, DH got a cheaper phone and plan
2. Sold two cars (one with a loan)
3. Bought used car with cash
4. Started food shopping at a cheaper store, now food runs around $450/ (when I track) instead of 700-900 when I first started tracking
5. Bicycling is back in our lives, especially during non-snow time
6. Have a roommate dropping our housing cost down $400/month
7. Increased HSA and 401k contributions, most paychecks have around $370 coming out
8. Paid off $25,000 in debt (selling car with car loan and Dad forgave $3450 of personal loan)

We've made big progress this year.

Assets:

401k 38,328
HSA 3200
DH IRA 3600
Savings 3836
House: 18,156 equity (this is the least accurate number because this is just what we have paid off of our mortgage, not what the house is 'worth')
Car: not including this with depreciation because we have no plans to sell it.

Total: 67,120
Without house: 48,964

We are still heavily in debt with our mortgage, but we are closer to an actual starting point for ERE.

Goals/Hopes for 2020:
1. Consistent tracking of expenses (we still need to lower food costs for sure but where else we are wasting money is...sorta unknown)
2. Be in converted school bus by Thanksgiving
3. Make some gains in our side business (better signs for market, tracking expenses, gaining wholesale customers, etc)
4. Maintain exercising habit
5. Learn more economics (reading McConnell now slowly)

I think those are enough to focus on, it is a big list but some of the behaviors (tracking spending + bus tracking) are related and consistent exercise is an excellent way to keep me energized. Thanks for everyone who is here for inspiring me and giving me ideas and hopes for the future!

Cheepnis
Posts: 190
Joined: Mon Dec 31, 2018 11:52 am

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by Cheepnis »

With that car debt gone you're set up for a great 2020! Are you planning on living in the bus and renting out your house? Upthread you mention the possibility of slow traveling in it but you sound on the fence about that. If you're not going to travel immediately where will you park it? Campgrounds? Wally-word?

mooretrees
Posts: 140
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by mooretrees »

@cheepnis We are thinking that we'll rent the house out, either with a company or ourselves. I can see us travelling in a few years, once we get a lot closer to pulling the plug on full time work. Once we're in the skoolie, I can see us travelling to deal with aging parents, but hopefully that is a few years away.

Where to park it is a huge unanswered questions. I was talking with a coworker today and he mentioned how close we are to national forest land. And the 14 day free rule. In the summer that could be an amazing option. My brother in law gave us some electric bikes with dead batteries. DH thinks it might take around $300 to fix them. So, that could be an option while the weather is nice.

I have been putting feelers out around here. A lot of people have 1-10 acres here and might want to make some side money renting to us. I hope so. I'm pretty concerned about my commute, I really don't want to live 20 miles away and have to get up earlier and spend more money on transportation. I'll do it if the perfect situation comes up. But I'm also considering RV parks, there are a surprisingly high number pretty close to the city limits. I have heard that some RV parks don't like skoolies, but we'll see. We can't park and live in the bus in the city limits, but if I can get a commute that is 6 miles or less, I'll be good to bike a lot of the year.

So, my move in date to the skoolie is in 330 days. Holy shit. It just got REAL.

classical_Liberal
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Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:05 am

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by classical_Liberal »

mooretrees wrote:
Wed Jan 01, 2020 8:57 pm
So, my move in date to the skoolie is in 330 days. Holy shit. It just got REAL.
How exciting!! I can't wait to read how this plays out for you.

mooretrees
Posts: 140
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by mooretrees »

So here's my first (published) attempt at a savings rate calculation. I'm trying it for the year as I didn't do a consistent job with monthly tracking to do it by month. Please let me know if you see any errors.

Here's my formula (cribbed from C40's journal): Savings rate= savings/income

Savings = (after tax $ saved) + (401k contributions) + (401k employer contributions)

Income = (after tax income) + the same two as above

My savings number is a little hollow as it comes mostly from paying debt off, this is more of a projection of what we could see in the future.

Hard numbers:

Savings: (22,034 +3474.15) + (7728.38) + (2340) = 35,576.53
Income :(50,002.40) + (7728.38) + (2340) = 60,070.78

Savings rate = 59.2%

I was surprised to see that high a number. I really discovered ERE in spring of last year, so we had a long implementation time (still continuing...) for reducing expenses. It was heartening though, in reality, we don't have all that much money saved or readily available.

On top of the other goals I've put out there I want to save $500-1500 after tax and not ear marked for the school bus. It is a modest number, but a feasible goal as I do think we'll spend $15 k getting the school bus livable. I think it is a decent amount to save per month for future investing.

classical_Liberal
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Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:05 am

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by classical_Liberal »

@moortrees
Congrats that's a great savings rate!

Frita
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Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2018 8:43 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by Frita »

It’s coming together. Just think of your savings rate when you move into the schoolie!

AxelHeyst
Posts: 82
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2020 4:55 pm
Location: The Mountains, USA

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

Nice work! I just read through your whole journal today, very inspiring and the raw honesty is very appreciated.

Let me know if you're interested in some thoughts on the solar system. I went through the process of figuring out how to design one, get all the parts, install it, etc, two years ago, and I found it quite difficult to find a simple and thorough explanation for people who don't already know a lot about solar systems (which included me at the time). I also might have some ideas on how to get a dramatically cheaper and faster-to-install system if your usage falls below a certain threshold.

AxelHeyst
Posts: 82
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2020 4:55 pm
Location: The Mountains, USA

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

Re: solar systems. If you can get your estimated daily energy use down pretty low, you might be able to build a system based off of 'solar generators'.

I picked up a GoalZero Yeti 400 on Craigslist last year for $100, they normally retail for over $400. The guy got one to be ready for the zombie apocalypse and decided he wasn't that in to being prepared for disasters, I guess.

A yeti400 is a battery, a charge controller, an inverter, a circuit board, etc all in one box. If you need more capacity (and you almost certainly will), you can enchain multiple batteries to the Yeti. Just pick up more 35AH batteries, and Yeti sells a chaining cable to increase your battery capacity. Lots of youtube videos for doing that.

If you need a higher wattage, you can get a cheaper 1kw inverter (the Yeti's onboard inverter has a low surge amperage rating) and clamp it on to one of the enchained batteries. I had to do this because my computer is a monster and pulled more watts than the Yeti's inverter can handle. But you probably won't need one, and can just plug stuff in to the Yeti.

It's not terribly difficult to find cheap used solar panels, and get the plug that will plug in to the Yeti.

If you go this route, you can get a solar system for hundreds of dollars, vs. thousands of dollars if you go the full DIY route - and, doing it the full DIY route is a lot of work to do it right, get all the components installed correctly, fuses sized correctly, all without accidentally frying yourself.

Even if you enchain multiple 35AH batteries, it's going to be a low-capacity system. In ERE terms, you're going to have to get your electric expenses down to like 1 jacob. :) It will be perfectly adequate for LED lights, charging devices, powering a computer or two (as long as they aren't monsters), and powering a few efficient fans. It will not be adequate to power a fridge, probably won't power a water pump, etc. And you might need to be okay with having a lower margin of safety, meaning, if it's cloudy for a couple days, you might drain the system.

In my rig, I have a Yeti cooler instead of a fridge. Yeti's are expensive, I got it before the market flooded with cheaper just-as-good alternatives. You can get a cooler that will keep food cold for a week for $100 without trying hard.

I have a foot pump instead of an electric pump for my sink (the 'whale' marine foot pump). Even if I weren't concerned about electric use, I'd use the foot pump, because I can't stand the sound of RV water pumps, and a foot pump will still work if my batteries are drained. Hand operated sink pumps are stupid - your hands are going to be full and/or dirty when you want to use the sink.

For vent fans, you might be fine getting a standard fantastic fan. But, for a radically lower power usage (and quieter) option, you can buy 180-200mm computer case fans (Noctua brand), and pull only a handful of watts.
Last edited by AxelHeyst on Wed Jan 15, 2020 10:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

mooretrees
Posts: 140
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by mooretrees »

@AxelHeyst pretty interesting ideas. I've been toying with the idea of going with just a cooler, and I think DH might be on board after reading your post. I have heard of the goalzero brand and it is attractive. Just plug and play.

I have a little bit of skin in the game to build our own set up. It's sorta silly, but it's because primarily in conversion after conversion almost every single woman showcases the one thing she did and it's always the damn curtains. So, some time ago, I told DH (who really will do most of the work) that I was in charge of solar. It's slow going to learn about it (family, full time job, yadda yadda) but I sorta want to have the satisfaction of pointing at it and saying, "I installed it." We'll see, I reserve the right to change my mind, especially if we can find a used option.

We both like the idea of foot pumps, hadn't considered the whole dirty hands issue. I've already transitioned to hand grinding my daily coffee and I'm thinking of getting a book about live aboards for more good suggestions for low energy and water usage. I think we could have a source for eggs that aren't washed. I eat a lot of eggs so this is a really important piece to figure out.

How often are you buying ice for your cooler, on average? We live in a real winter zone with some pretty hot summers. I think it could be a fun exercise to live without the fridge, in fact, I might try and convince DH to give it a shot in the next few months as a trial run. The one we have came with our house and is so ugly and loud and I'm sure it is our biggest energy suck.

Also, you did just dox the heck out of yourself......

AxelHeyst
Posts: 82
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2020 4:55 pm
Location: The Mountains, USA

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

@mooretrees yes, I don't actually care about being doxxed (I hope self-doxxing isn't against the rules?). I took the link out anyway for form's sake. I generally try to live by the maxim that anything I put something on the internet, I assume my mom, my boss, and my partner are all going to read it at some point.

I love your reasons for wanting to full-DIY the solar system and am in full support! Not silly at all. For myself, the first time I did my last check on my system and flipped the light switch and the lights actually came on... oh man, those were some good feels. And it's just an incredibly empowering knowledge-set to have, and potentially a source of future income (skoolie solar system consultant?).

In the winter, I never bought ice, as I would just pack snow in it. If you don't have snow and assuming there will be a location in your rig that's cooler, e.g. by the door, in the winter you might add ice every 10 days or more.

In the summer, a block of ice (important to get a block, not cubes!) will last me 4-6 days depending on use and how hot it is. And that's in the Mojave desert, with internal temps reaching in the 100F/37C and up range when I shut the rig and leave for the day.

I've toyed with the idea of getting a chest fridge to replace the cooler, but they're like $600. Now that I've been reading ERE forums, I'm toying with the idea of no fridge/no cooler. But I too love eggs, so I'll have to find a source of unwashed as well.

The other nice thing about the cooler: when we want to leave the rig and go roaming for a day or two in the truck, we just put the cooler in the truck and grab the camp stove.

mooretrees
Posts: 140
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by mooretrees »

I feel stuck. I had an up and down weekend, fantastic Nordic skiing one day and the next day I was aimless and irritated for no good reason. I hated going to work this morning, really had to drag myself in and wasn't on time. Last night I almost cried that I had to go to work. Seems pretty silly to write now, but I felt trapped. Work was actually fine, learned how to perform an unusual test better. Anyway, I need to work on my attitude and realize that I'm at the grind it out phase. I'm not close enough to the finish line to full time work to get this impatient. I suppose the impatience is good, it might increase my motivation to get out of this cave. But I don't feel more motivated, just pissed.

Tl;dr: Whining post about my first world problems. Feel free to ignore.

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