The reformed materialists

Where are you and where are you going?
ThriftyRob
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 7:20 am

The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

I'm maybe unusual here in that I'm not a thirty-something grappling with debt, expensive housing, peer pressures to conform and a mind-numbing nine-to-five work life. I'm in my early 60s, have been self-employed for about 27 years and have what I describe as a 'portfolio career'. DW technically has 5 years to her retirement age (but is at the stage where she's contemplating bailing out sooner).

Being self-employed, I never turned down a project and drove myself pretty hard (who am I kidding, I drove myself extremely hard). In good years I could earn ridiculous amounts and to regulate my workload I had to keep increasing my daily charge-out rate. I joked that I was so busy earning money that I didn't have time to spend it. I never calculated it but at the time we must have been achieving 80-90% savings in the best years.

I attempted to diversify away from a chargeable hours model in the mid-2000s but my startup business was hammered by the crash in 2008, which coincided with burnout. Over the last 10 years, I have continued doing a small amount of consulting and have picked up some reasonably paid side-hustles which involve writing, editing, website development and sitting on advisory boards.

I chanced upon the publicity for Kristy Shen and Bruce Leung's Retire Like A Millionaire last year. Initially, it influenced us in maximising our ability to accumulate airline loyalty points to reduce the cost of flights. And pre-Covid, we had a fun six months travelling, visiting New York, Abu Dhabi, Jakarta, Sofia, Rome, Porto and Bordeaux. From that point of reference, I found my way to Mr Money Mustache, JLCollins and finally and most fulfilling, here.

Whilst we have missed the boat when it comes to retiring early, the lifestyle that Shen and Leung have adopted (geo-arbitrage) was appealing and stimulated discussion between DW and I about our life after retirement. I've also shared the book with our children. DS is totally on board but DD is enjoying her well-paid professional career too much to adopt frugal living at this stage. (To be fair, she's had to live frugally for 9 years whilst doing her degrees and professional training, so she has earned the right to live a little).

As I have mentioned in other posts on the forum, ERE has helped me understand how the values I have about life, money, work, relationships all fit together and influence my decision-making around spending money. It feels really good to be in a community of people with a similar outlook.

What hit me from reading about FIRE was that we could have retired many years ago. Our current priorities are 'to get our affairs in order' (that sounds like code for preparing for a terminal illness – which we don't have, as far as we know). That translates into emptying the house of 30-odd years of accumulated clutter, giving the house 'kerb/curb appeal' so that we can make it attractive to potential buyers and rationalising/simplifying our bank arrangements and tweaking our investments.

I was raised by my parents to value possessions and not be wasteful. The negative vector is that I'm a hoarder. Having a large house has encouraged hoarding as there's always space in a garage (we have three!) or a spare room to store something that should really be sold/freecycled/dumped. I'm totally committed to living a minimalist life in a compact, clutter-free home and will be passionately working towards that as fast as my other commitments allow.

Having discussed the option of having no home (unfortunately we can't default to couch surfing at our parents' home - they are no longer with us) we discounted that, including the option of a RV/campervan as our full time home. We plan to move to an area where house prices are lower (pretty much anywhere else in the UK!) and to downsize to two bedrooms, maybe smaller. (When we started looking, we were carried away by value/buying power and were tempted by homes of similar size to ours, but we are now being more realistic).

We went through a process of looking at Kent, then York, then Cornwall. I currently favour the Isle of Man (lifestyle, low crime and significant tax advantages) but DW is not fully convinced (concerns that it may be too much of a backwater and remote). Just the saving in inheritance tax (40%) would be life-changing for our children on our demise.

In ERE terms, our home is a disaster area. The mortgage is paid off (the single good piece of advice I received from my financial adviser), property tax is £3500/year, gas/electricity is around £137/month (note this includes the electricity used to charge two battery electric cars) and water/sewage are £350/year. We have four bedrooms when we only need two (DS is currently living at home). We had solar PV installed in 2015 and that makes a positive contribution both reducing consumption in the summer and bringing in an income (average £30/month). We had triple glazing installed in 2015 and increased our loft and wall insulation. I have been pretty astute with the tactics of reducing housing costs (best utility tariffs, etc.)

Transport is healthier. We have two electric cars, bought used for cash. Road tax is free, insurance is about £500 for both and there are no fuel costs (covered in the household electricity bills). We have several bikes (each) and I'm currently selling off the 'spares'. (Over the years, family would spend time staying with us, so we kept the bikes so that BIL/SIL and their kids could also go riding when they stayed). Our current plan is to exchange the cars for a van-derived car which would lend itself to use as a microcamper. We would then travel using a mix of urban/stealth, campsites and hotels as we explore Europe and refresh our French/German/Spanish and learn Portuguese.

Food costs vary: we enjoy the occasional glass of wine with dinner, however, this is an indulgence we will cut down significantly. Otherwise, we mostly eat vegetarian/vegan. I look out for supermarket 'use before' markdowns which we store in the freezer and we buy dry goods in bulk when they are on offer. I'd say I'm pretty switched-on tactically when it comes to keeping food costs manageable.

I smiled reading Jacob's blogs on his early investments http://earlyretirementextreme.com/how-i ... ments.html I did something similar, keeping a spreadsheet and revaluing my equity holdings. I remember telling my boss one week that my stock value had increased more in the last week than the company had paid me. Of course, past performance is no predictor of future performance! Having taken a hammering in 1997 and again in 2008 I have been a cautious investor, preferring fixed interest. We have adequate traditional pension provisions, however, most of our income will come from our non-pension investments, which will be swollen by the net proceeds of our home sale/move.

My intention is to use this journal to log our progress towards minimalism and the project to sell our home, finding our next home location and how we transition to a post-retirement lifestyle.
Last edited by ThriftyRob on Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

mooretrees
Posts: 412
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by mooretrees »

Glad you started a journal! We’re doing a similar push to downsize, except we only have five years of stuff to sort out. It’s a good amount of work you have ahead of you but if it can allow you to exit the house and get on the road it’s so worth it. Looking forward to reading more!

Alphaville
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by Alphaville »

Very nice... great read.

ThriftyRob
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 7:20 am

Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

mooretrees wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 6:39 am
Glad you started a journal! We’re doing a similar push to downsize, except we only have five years of stuff to sort out. It’s a good amount of work you have ahead of you but if it can allow you to exit the house and get on the road it’s so worth it. Looking forward to reading more!
Thanks for your support! Yes it is a lot of work, however, I'm sold on the benefits from reading the ERE book, the blog and this forum. I'll post a weekly update.

ThriftyRob
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 7:20 am

Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

Alphaville wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 7:03 am
Very nice... great read.
Thanks for your kind feedback! :D

ThriftyRob
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 7:20 am

Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

It feels like a week of good progress! We are on a journey to update our house so that we can sell it and downsize while simultaneously unburdening ourselves from the detritus of a materialistic lifestyle. Our plumber found a slot for us in his busy schedule to complete the retrofit of our new downstairs central heating. It's a long story, but in summary the pipework under our solid floor downstairs failed so he disconnected all the downstairs radiators and installed a new gas boiler in our utility room which provides hot water and heats the kitchen and family room. This week he has been extending the pipework to the hall and the other downstairs room. Because the pipework has to be routed through the downstairs toilet it's great that he's doing this work because we will now be able to renovate the loo. We have plans for a concealed flush toilet (behind a new wall panel) and built-in cupboards with a neat vanity basin on top. The new cabinet work will tidy the room up and enable us to do clever things with LED downlighters. We'll also put a new vinyl floor in the smallest room in the house and I've put an ebay 'best offer' in for a piece of vinyl offcut that will fit.

Getting our plumber's time was also the catalyst for clearing out an unused bathroom which has served as a junk room. While he's here, we want him to disconnect the old bathroom suite so that we can remove it and get rid of the horrible 1960s pink tiles and refresh the ceiling with new downlighters. My idea was to make this bathroom a statement/fantasy concept featuring a freestanding bath tub. However, DW and DS disagree and want on-trend grey wall tiling and a wetroom-style shower. I have already bought a (used) Vileroy and Boch wash basin and pedestal for the refurb. It struck me that when a new buyer takes ownership, all the sanitary ware is 'used' as far as they are concerned so we might as well buy used pieces for 'staging' the home to save on budget.

When we bought the house, this was such an unattractive room that we left it for later and over time we have deposited 'stuff' in there. Things like a random artificial Christmas tree, DS's toys he has outgrown, DD's school projects, a caravan awning plus some old inventory from a business I ran 10 years ago. Plus a ton of rucksacks and all our suitcases. Some of the clutter went straight in the bin but a few items should go on ebay, so they are cluttering up the lounge waiting for me to take pictures and list them.

At the rear of our home there's a balcony which three bedrooms open onto. The wooden joists and floor have rotted and need replacing and the wood balustrading is very naff and dated-looking. We are using the opportunity to modernise the appearance of the house by going for a glass balustrade and neater styling. This requires a structural engineer to assess the steelwork and check the loadings for the heavier glass balustrade. He submitted his calculations yesterday and the good news is that the existing steel is all sound and usable with some small additional strengthening plates to prevent the balustrade from twisting one of the I beams. Our architect can now spring into action to design the structure and have builders submit quotations for the work. He will also work on a design to upgrade our garages (which look very dated and rather ugly).

To complete the front refresh, I plan to dig the tarmac drive up where tree root incursions have made it very uneven, so that I can prune the roots. I plan to fill the resulting potholes with compacted aggregate and resurface using cold asphalt repair packs. I will paint the whole area with a tarmac revitalising coating – I've already done the research to identify the product and supplier.

I have a painter booked to paint the soffits and facias around the house. He's running a couple of weeks late due to the recent rain delaying some jobs, but he should start before the end of the month. I do most of the painting work on the house but I really don't like working at height on ladders, so the cost of his time, £900, will be money well spent.

I'm not doing so well finding a contractor to replace the gutters. A local guy who was recommended quoted a crazy price. I asked the local builders merchants which sells the steel guttering we want to install for a recommendation for a contractor who does a lot of work with their product. He did a site visit to price up the work and wants us to have uPVC (no way!) so I still need to find someone.

The decluttering is progressing. Last weekend folks collected two old bikes and an unused car bike carrier. There's noticeably more space in one of the garages now. I enjoyed transferring £335 from Paypal to my bank account. Yesterday, I retrieved a Neff gas hob unit from the garage and cleaned it up ready for sale. I also power-washed DD's road bike (one careful owner, hardly used), my old Bianchi road bike (winter trainer) and two child-size bikes that DD and DS have grown out of. I had to repair a puncture on one of them and touched up some rusting on the Bianchi with Hammerite paint (great product). I then took photos of the four bikes from every imaginable angle. My plan was to do that work on Thursday so that I could put them up on ebay as 10-day listings finishing on a Sunday evening, but missed that slot as the plumber came round to measure up for pipe and fittings. I think the weekly ebay cycle is going to be a way of life for some months! I have an audit trail of hi-fi products which I'll list on Audiogon.

I'm watching our food spend. It's difficult to track the cost of what we actually consume because I shop opportunistically according to what has been marked down in the supermarket's final reductions around 6 pm. Yesterday, I bought two Japanese beef with noodle meals that were marked down from £4 each to 50p and served those with some boiled jasmine rice and a marked-down Chinese chicken curry from the freezer. DW and DS thought they were restaurant quality – thank you Marks and Sparks! My target is to spend less than 70p per person for the protein element of main meals. I spent £13 in the supermarket and most of the items went in the freezer for use later. I picked up some bacon (reduced to 45p from £1.50) which I'll cook with eggs, sausages and homemade rosti, mushrooms and tomatoes for brunch today and tomorrow (the bacon and sausage will do two meals). (The sausages and mushrooms were also marked down!).

DW and I continue to entertain ourselves viewing and discussing newly added houses for sale on Zoopla. I see lots of positives in a new ERE life in the Isle of Man, not least the absence of inheritance tax, which would be of huge benefit to our children. DW is concerned about remoteness/detachment from the mainland and she has similar reservations about Cornwall (our preferred area). The challenge is that the closer to London one chooses to relocate, the more expensive property is and the lifestyle benefits taper off (urbanisation, traffic congestion, pollution, stress). DW now sees the charm of smaller, cottage-type homes as attractive and new builds as characterless, which is great news in ERE terms. Interestingly, the average weather in Douglas and Newquay isn't very different considering how much further north IoM is. Newquay averages 1º C warmer throughout the year, but it rains more in Newquay. The plan is to do an exploratory trip to IoM when their government allow visitors back in.

I finished reading Jacob's ERE book and went back to the beginning to start it again. I discovered the ERE curriculum book list on the forum and have ordered used copies of most of the titles (Financial Reporting and Statement Analysis by Stickney was more expensive than the others so I've held back on that one for now).

I'm wondering whether to vlog our journey and create a YouTube channel.

Der Leiermann
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by Der Leiermann »

Interesting read Rob! Great to hear you're making progress on the decluttering front.

Regarding relocating to the Isle of Man - I personally wouldn't let tax benefits for my children determine where I set up camp for the rest of my life. While it's noble that you'd want to minimize their tax burden it's your money and your life, to spend where and how you wish.
There may also be cheaper/less burdensome ways of mitigating your children's tax burden on your demise, via gifts when you're still around, using part of the house sale proceedings to buy investments in their name, etc

ThriftyRob
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

Der Leiermann wrote:
Sat Jul 18, 2020 3:18 am
Interesting read Rob! Great to hear you're making progress on the decluttering front.

Regarding relocating to the Isle of Man - I personally wouldn't let tax benefits for my children determine where I set up camp for the rest of my life. While it's noble that you'd want to minimize their tax burden it's your money and your life, to spend where and how you wish.
There may also be cheaper/less burdensome ways of mitigating your children's tax burden on your demise, via gifts when you're still around, using part of the house sale proceedings to buy investments in their name, etc
Haha, thank you for reading and for your insightful and challenging observations. What I haven't shared is that I have quite strong family connections to the island, going back through my parents. I have visited on holiday and for work over the years and have a strong affection for the place. (DW hasn't visited, hence the need for a short break there for her to find out what it offers for her). We plan on doing the same in Cornwall.

DS has said we should just live where we want and never mind the money! Truth is, I think IoM lifestyle has a lot going for it and while we are fit, well and mobile we will be travelling quite a lot anyway.

DD has suggested that when we buy our next home we should register title in all four names (which halves their IHT liability on the house at a stroke). I think under UK tax law we can give £3k to each child per year. Domiciled in the IoM there would be no limits. I'll have to look into the legality of buying investments in their names. I know that anything given seven or more years before demise is exempt from UK IHT.

BookLoverL
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by BookLoverL »

Well done on all the work you are doing to declutter! It can be quite an effort if your family is the type to let clutter in easily. I recognise the potential for not-getting-rid-of-things tendencies in myself (picked up from my parents) but try to mitigate it by not allowing the clutter into my life in the first place.

I haven't visited the Isle of Man or Cornwall myself - I live in north west England - but there definitely can be plenty to do in smaller regional towns and cities without easy access to London. So as long as you pick somewhere with your own and your family's typical habits in mind, you should be fine, I think.

ThriftyRob
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 7:20 am

Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

BookLoverL wrote:
Sat Jul 18, 2020 11:21 am
Well done on all the work you are doing to declutter! It can be quite an effort if your family is the type to let clutter in easily. I recognise the potential for not-getting-rid-of-things tendencies in myself (picked up from my parents) but try to mitigate it by not allowing the clutter into my life in the first place.
Thank you! Yes, not allowing the clutter into one's life is definitely the most important thing. I'm getting better at that. Once the clutter is in, it takes time and effort to get rid of it. As an aside, I read a blog where the writer suggested 'if anything sits in your "sell on ebay" pile for more than a week then give it away'.
BookLoverL wrote:
Sat Jul 18, 2020 11:21 am
I haven't visited the Isle of Man or Cornwall myself - I live in north west England - but there definitely can be plenty to do in smaller regional towns and cities without easy access to London. So as long as you pick somewhere with your own and your family's typical habits in mind, you should be fine, I think.
I lived/worked in Liverpool, Preston and Manchester so know the north west fairly well. We started off thinking about places with the lowest house prices (County Durham, Hull, Stoke-on-Trent) but we couldn't find reasons for wanting to live in any of them.

Der Leiermann
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by Der Leiermann »

ThriftyRob wrote:
Sat Jul 18, 2020 3:54 am
Haha, thank you for reading and for your insightful and challenging observations. What I haven't shared is that I have quite strong family connections to the island, going back through my parents. I have visited on holiday and for work over the years and have a strong affection for the place. (DW hasn't visited, hence the need for a short break there for her to find out what it offers for her). We plan on doing the same in Cornwall.

DS has said we should just live where we want and never mind the money! Truth is, I think IoM lifestyle has a lot going for it and while we are fit, well and mobile we will be travelling quite a lot anyway.

DD has suggested that when we buy our next home we should register title in all four names (which halves their IHT liability on the house at a stroke). I think under UK tax law we can give £3k to each child per year. Domiciled in the IoM there would be no limits. I'll have to look into the legality of buying investments in their names. I know that anything given seven or more years before demise is exempt from UK IHT.
That makes sense if you have ties to the Isle of Man already. Just got to convince your wife now ;) It does look like a great place though!

Sounds like you're all over avoiding IHT - similar hoops to jump through where I'm from.

UK-with-kids
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by UK-with-kids »

ThriftyRob wrote:
Sat Jul 18, 2020 3:54 am
DD has suggested that when we buy our next home we should register title in all four names (which halves their IHT liability on the house at a stroke). I think under UK tax law we can give £3k to each child per year.
A quick google search on putting the new house in joint names with your children will highlight the risks of 'gifts with reservation of benefits' that can trigger unexpected IHT charges, a ‘deliberate deprivation of assets’ with the value still assessable in working out the contribution to care costs if you or your wife ended up in a care home, capital gains tax chargeable to your children on the eventual sale of the replacement home after your death, and the risk of losing your your new home entirely while you're still alive if one of your children were to declare bankruptcy or get divorced! It certainly looks like the type of area where some tax advice might be a good idea...

ThriftyRob
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

Der Leiermann wrote:
Sun Jul 19, 2020 2:33 am
That makes sense if you have ties to the Isle of Man already. Just got to convince your wife now ;) It does look like a great place though!

Sounds like you're all over avoiding IHT - similar hoops to jump through where I'm from.
Thank you. I think when she visits IoM that she will like it. There's not much to dislike there really!

And yes, definitely averse to the state taking another 40% of my NW which has been accumulated by saving from taxed income – an effective charge of more than 64%!

ThriftyRob
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

UK-with-kids wrote:
Sun Jul 19, 2020 3:57 am
A quick google search on putting the new house in joint names with your children will highlight the risks of 'gifts with reservation of benefits' that can trigger unexpected IHT charges, a ‘deliberate deprivation of assets’ with the value still assessable in working out the contribution to care costs if you or your wife ended up in a care home, capital gains tax chargeable to your children on the eventual sale of the replacement home after your death, and the risk of losing your your new home entirely while you're still alive if one of your children were to declare bankruptcy or get divorced! It certainly looks like the type of area where some tax advice might be a good idea...
Thank you for your suggestion. I searched on the term you gave which took me straight to HMRC's policy. I believe the case that DD suggested is more nuanced, because the four of us would each hold 25% of the house and it would be very difficult for HMRC to prove that assets had been deliberately deprived. However, we won't commit to anything before taking expert professional advice.

I'm not too worried about care costs as we will cover any from passive income and pension drawdown. (For work, I have analysed care packages and costs for older people, so have some insights). I'm not going to let considerations for the last couple of years of our lives influence what we do in the next 10 to 20 years! If 'plan A' comes off and we relocate to the Isle of Man then IHT is irrelevant.

UK-with-kids
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by UK-with-kids »

ThriftyRob wrote:
Sun Jul 19, 2020 5:32 am
Thank you for your suggestion. I searched on the term you gave which took me straight to HMRC's policy.
I assume you mean you googled ‘deliberate deprivation of assets’ which is the one relevant to care costs. It's 'gifts with reservation of benefits' which is the killer for IHT - basically unless you pay your children the market rent for the property, the 'gift' can be overturned later as a gift by definition is something given without receiving anything in return (like rent-free accommodation for example). And as I mentioned you have the perpetual risk that they'll get into some kind of trouble themselves and either they or one of their creditors (including an ex-spouse) will have a claim on your property. As you say, any gift at all is tax free after 7 years under current rules, so it's probably better to give them the money and let them buy property themselves - if it's their own home then they don't start accruing a CGT liability either.

Glad to hear you're going to get some proper advice and not just listen to some random person on the internet :)

ThriftyRob
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

One week on. The plumber returned on Monday to finish off the work. As a bonus, he turned a radiator round to stop a 'sloshing' sound when the heating runs. He also removed a redundant radiator from a downstairs room. I'm now set up for some carpentry, building in a vanity unit and hiding the new pipe runs in the cloakroom. Plus I have to put back a couple of skirting boards that were removed for the heating pipework to be installed.

We have to decide what to do with the pink bathroom suite our plumber disconnected. The cast iron bath will be a challenge to get downstairs. I'm looking forward to replanning the bathroom and tiling and decorating it in a contemporary style.

The house is chaotic – the unboxed pipes in the cloakroom look untidy. We have an unfitted kitchen base unit, 2.1m long in the lounge awaiting sale, plus lengths of skirting board and boxing-in materials as well as some items in the pipeline to be sold online. The good news is that one of the garages is looking noticeably emptier.

The following vignettes are examples of how I'm now viewing everyday situations totally differently since reading the ERE book with decisive behaviour directed towards minimising expenditure and reducing possessions.

I loaded up eight items on ebay last night, including four bicycles that are surplus. I'm finding that the time required to set up decent photographs, cropping them and then writing the listings is quite considerable. I plan to get ahead with taking more product photos this week, focussing on unused kitchen appliances, surplus vacuum cleaners and old hi-fi equipment. My target is to list 10 items for sale each week. Realistically, I will need to up that to clear out our books and my vinyl and CD collections. Not to mention cutting back on clothes.

I decided to buy some replacement heating elements for our old Dualit toaster, having checked ebay auction sale results to find out how much we might get for it. I fitted them on Wednesday morning. Quite fortuitously, the toaster we have been using since the Dualit broke, a retro toaster from Aldi, had started misbehaving – it refuses to pop the toast up when done. Remarkably, the product was still under warranty (three years!) so I went shopping at my nearest Aldi on Wednesday evening and got a refund in return for the toaster. 21 months free usage is not bad! Net cost of the repair: £8.

I have immersed myself in the forum here and am gaining from others' wisdom and experience. My find of the week is @Tyler9000's portfoliocharts.com resource. It has cured me of my gung-ho approach to investing in equities! I have done some research into how to construct a Golden Butterfly portfolio in the UK and I may need to ask some questions on the 'Money Questions' board to work out the details of how to execute it. I find so many of the posts and stories here of putting ERE into practice inspiring. I made a note that this website legitimises all the things that I thought were right but didn't know anyone else who did them (most of the people we know spend all they earn and can borrow).

I have clamped down on spending: £60 for food (mostly fresh bread and vegetables but some bulk stock items like rice), drinks plus household consumables for three adults over the past seven days (DS has a voracious appetite!). DW and DS haven't commented on any drop-off in meal quality. Our low point was receiving a London Congestion Charge penalty notice. DW drove into London last weekend and hadn't realised that the charge now applies on Saturdays and Sundays (and until 10pm).

My Garmin running watch is giving wildly inaccurate (like +40 bpm too high) readings of my heart rate. This caused me serious anxiety because I trusted the tech and assumed that my heart had developed a fault! The Garmin is less than two-years-old and was bought from John Lewis. A phone conversation with a very well-spoken lady in their technical support team confirms that I can exchange it or have a refund. The downside is that I have to take it to my nearest JL store which is about 12 miles away. On balance, while the information the watch provides has been helpful, it's a bit like social media in that it's 'make work' activity that I can manage without. That said, the information provided over the last 12 weeks has been useless – because it is overstating my heart rate, it also tells me that my VO2max has plummeted. I'm leaning towards taking the refund (£180). One option would be to replace it with an Apple Watch 3, £15 more, but as I don't have an iPhone, the cost to me would be significantly greater. I was strong! :)

We continue to track and evaluate new additions to online property listings for several locations. It looks like it will be some months before we can make our fact-finding trip to Isle of Man, so the vision we are working towards is not clear yet. I'm totally convinced of the merits of buying a small home – possibly a one-bedroom flat but two bedrooms maximum. In essence, the budget will be the same, but the location is to be determined.

DW isn't convinced that we should buy a micro camper van. Her view is that if we implement extreme downsizing then we can afford to stay in nice hotels. That conversation will continue but it's looking like a spreadsheet is required.

ThriftyRob
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

So approaching the end of my first month living the ERE philosophy and there have been changes! The biggest for me is the mindset shift around spending money (i.e. don't!). We managed a second week in a row of supermarket spending of £60 (includes wine, laundry and toiletries as well as food) and since last Saturday have only spent £10. There's more space in the freezer! Before ERE, including having DD here, our weekly spend was more like £120, so we have halved our supermarket outgoings. We could get a lot lower with more beans, rice and tuna sandwiches! :D

I've reviewed our recurring expenses and with our current home (property tax, utilities, insurances) it would be tough to get below £745/month. We have 3 cars for 4 people (DD and DS share a small city car) and there is a debate about whether in continuing Covid restrictions DW and I could share one car – she's currently walking to work as she doesn't have her side hustle after and I will be wfh for the next year. I have asked DS to pay for his own phone (saves DW and me £7/month) and have cancelled my Nura Now subscription headphones (£9/month), which will go back next month. The expense review though underlines how costly it is having more house than we actually need.

The home renovation/makeover has stalled. The painter is delayed by the wet weather. Our architect now has the structural engineer's calculations for our new balcony and is working on the design and costings. He's also working on a makeover for the garage block. I need to measure up the downstairs toilet and create a built-in furniture design in Google Sketch Up. There's also the boxing in of new pipe runs for the extended central heating installation (with solid floors we decided against digging anything up). DW and DS have made great progress cutting back overgrown shrubs, vegetation and ivy in the garden. This weekend I'm planning on using our pole saw to prune several trees in the garden. We have a huge bonfire pile!

I created a spreadsheet to model our pension/investment and living cost flows. Downsizing and moving will have a transformative effect on our finances (attaining Wheaton level 7). However, even with the current millstone home round our necks, our pension and investment income would be adequate and sufficient now that we have started optimising effectively. Which is comforting and reassuring.

Speaking of optimising, I revisited the housing/transport/food trifecta to validate our best retirement location. Ironically, if we downsized to the max, to a studio apartment, London's docklands would be an appropriate location. Except that it would fall short on crime, personal safety, air quality, congestion and general urban unpleasantness. My preferred location, Isle of Man, does well as flights to London City airport are cheaper than trains from Cornwall (and faster) plus they are operated for British Airways, which would fit with our frequent flyer membership and Avios spending power.

In continuing our decluttering, I've found a couple promising apps: Music Magpie and Sell It Back. I haven't loaded anything up on them yet though but will start going through our books and CDs. I have a Omega Seamaster quartz watch, bought in my 'masters of the universe' phase. Its battery was flat. I opened up the watch case, identified the battery type and ordered a replacement from Amazon for £1.32. When I fitted the battery the second hand kind of oscillated without moving forward round the dial, which was a disappointment. When I came back from a run later I was pleased to find the watch working and keeping accurate time. Online watch repairers charge £48 plus shipping and insurance, so that's a significant renaissance man saving achieved! I haven't decided whether to sell or keep the watch yet but a quick search on values suggests it has appreciated since I bought it (but not as much as an index tracker) and nowadays the cash is probably worth more to me than the kudos of a branded watch on my wrist. Also on watches, the £180 refund on the faulty Garmin GPS running watch has hit my credit card account.

Four of our eight items currently selling on ebay are doing well and will achieve good recovery. In fact, one of the items was given to me in return for helping out some friends set up their business, so a profit is guaranteed on that one! A road bike is already bid up to 66% of what we paid for it, which is encouraging. I had a work call at 6 pm yesterday which threw out my plans to list a ton more stuff but I have an impressive line-up of kitchen appliances and bric-a-brac ready to list. I'm setting up a 'studio' to go into bulk photography mode to get the listings all prepared ahead of time. It's a time consuming process though – no wonder I put it off!

The 'investment curriculum' book set which I ordered last weekend has arrived. I need to carve out some time and a study plan.

One final observation: I found my way to ERE from a fairly oblique reference by Mr Money Mustache in a blog post. I'm a member of the MMM forum. It has a cheery, 'can do' attitude to FIRE, however, I'm finding some of the discussions on the forum really grate with my perspective because many members are achieving only a fraction of what they could if they got serious. I was searching on 'BIFL' and came across a discussion on frugal Ferrari ownership. If ever there was an oxymoron!

2Birds1Stone
Posts: 1238
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2015 11:20 am
Location: Earth

Re: The reformed materialists

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

MMM forum is now by and large filled with upper-middle/upper class folks with spending levels that are only *slightly* above average. While MMMs original message was similar to Jacobs regarding the environment/consumption, it's been long lost by most of his followers.

ThriftyRob
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 7:20 am

Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

@2B1S thanks for confirming my impressions. I think it's in the Rosehart interview that Jacob said that MMM was the one who would take forward his ideas after he stopped blogging regularly.

BookLoverL
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 4:17 pm
Location: England

Re: The reformed materialists

Post by BookLoverL »

Congratulations on halving the food shop, and on all your other progress!

I also am a member at MMM, but I find a much higher percentage of the threads over here are actually relevant to me. The MMM forum membership is not as high Wheaton level as MMM himself, and seems to get less hardcore each year. I did start posting again a little recently, but it doesn't vibe with me that well - it feels like it's full of mostly high income earners congratulating themselves on spending closer to median income, and most of the things a lot of them are saving money on are on things that I'm already not spending on.

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