ERE in Finland

Where are you and where are you going?
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Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:13 pm

Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Mon Aug 07, 2017 11:11 am

MDFIRE2024: I read about your vacation on your journal, it was what inspired me to write down my own staycation practices. I hope you had good time.

YoungandWise: It's nice to have market value. I like the ideological side of working for the public sector, but I don't like the salary. Here, government pays much better than municipalities, and small municipalities pay better than bigger ones. I would probably have moved to somewhere smaller if my son didn't need special school and other services only available here.

Noedig, the work task is even older than the doomed project. It's one of those tasks which are really simple, if a person puts his mind to it, but it looks terribly complicated at first glance. I've been trying to give it up for last ten months, but it has followed me through two different jobs in two different departments so far... If you want sauna and social intoxication, Finland would have been right for you!


When I started my summer vacation, I set myself a goal to find ways to achieve better work-life-balance and curb my spending. For me, keeping up good habits is largely a time question. When I’m busy and tired, I easily fall for most convenient solution even if it doesn’t work for me. I think I succeeded somewhat. I wanted to establish an exercise routine, return to packing lunches, and stop spending money on cosmetics. Today, I'll write about exercise and tackle the next two topics later this week.

I tested Zgym by doing the first four weeks of Beginner Strength and Cardio program. Workouts were daily, ranging from 5 - 30 minutes. My old hatred for everything yoga-related manifested, because I didn’t like Wednesdays and Sundays which were power yoga days. I find regular yoga incredibly boring and fussy, but Zgym yoga was worse, because it had all those complicated yoga movements yet high speed and a lot of jumping. I’m not good at learning new movements, so it was constant struggle.

I liked the short time requirement of workouts. The beginner program used dumbbells and yoga blocks. I bought the blocks, but substituted my kettlebells for dumbbell movements. Daily workouts did not make me sore, but I used rumble roller after each workout. I usually roll three or four minutes, and it’s enough for me.

During the month, my time improved several minutes on different exercises. I never thought I’d say this, but burpees became easy. When I started, I could not finish three sets of ten in 18-minute workout. When I finished, I could crank out ten burpees just like that, and my workout time was around 11 minutes. I did not notice any differences in my weight, my body or my appetite.

I did not do any other exercise except pullups as a warm-up. I use a pull-up band so I could do two sets of five. Without the band, I can do one set of three repeats. My pullups progressed during the month. That’s what happens when you do them daily.

Daily training was easier to keep up than training every three days, for example. I think it’s because one rest day easily turns in to two, and then I start to feel sluggish, and my routine breaks. Zgym is not something I could do before work because my downstairs neighbours wouldn’t like the jumping. I prefer to train in the morning, because I’m too tired after work, and exercise after 6PM messes up my sleep. Because the workouts were so short, it was really hard to convince myself I was too tired. So I always ended up doing them, because it’s just fifteen minutes. Those fifteen minutes were still enough to keep me awake with adrenaline rush long after my bedtime.

When I went back to Simple & Sinister, blissfully happy for not having to jump and learn new complicated movements, I noticed my weights had not gone down. This surprised me, because Zgym strength training was more about speed than anything else. I never used anything heavier than 10kg bell. But after taking a break for a month, I still do Turkish get-ups with 16kg. Honestly, I think the pullups are the reason why I was able to maintain.
I’m 34, and this year I’ve noticed the first signs of my body aging. I’m not talking about wrinkles. Those appeared when I was 28. But I get various aches and pains much easier than before, especially with repetitive movements or inactivity. When I knitted a heavy sweater for three days, my wrist started to hurt. Last winter I managed to get a stress injury on my knee because my desk at home is child-sized and there was a shelf under the table which forced me to keep my leg in odd position.

During my vacation, I took a week off from doing any exercise after I finished Zgym month. I sat all day at computer, like I normally do, and was genuinely surprised when I got stiff neck and back pains which wouldn’t go away with foam roller. It was unpleasant, and annoying. It opened my eyes on how big difference exercise routine actually makes, even if I don’t consider myself very active person. When I started exercising again, “physically feeling like an old person” went away. This experience was probably the eye-opener of my whole vacation. For me, the minimum effective dose seems to be every three days. I haven’t noticed a difference between different types of exercise. Burpees seem to work just the same as kettlebell training. I don’t count climbing stairs, bowling or walking the dog as exercise. Last day I worked out was on Friday evening, and I’m already feeling a bit stiff again. I’m eagerly waiting to get home so I can fix it.

So… I think the next thing I’m going to try is doing S&S routine from Monday to Friday, supplemented with pull-ups because I like working on them. I’m taking weekends off because I like having the luxury of sleeping late, even if I usually don't. Daily training structure is easier for me than training three or four times a week. I always end up bargaining with myself about whether to do something today or not.

Streamlining chores

For me, the work-life balance means I have enough energy to take care of important, long-term goals even though work is driving me batty. Practically, it means streamlining things. I have figured out few routines which help a lot, and I decided to write them down in case it helps someone else to come up with their own.
- I'm generally very routine-oriented. If something needs to be done on regular intervals like once a week, I set a day for it. Otherwise I won't remember. My husband laughs at me having laundry Sunday, exfoliating Thursday, washing my hair with deep clean shampoo on Fridays...
- I wash my clothes once a week on Sundays. I store my dirty laundry in a bucket separately from others’ clothes, so they won’t disappear among children’s clothes waiting to be sorted or accidentally get dyed pink. After I’ve thrown machine-washable things into washing machine, I pour lukewarm water in the bucket, add some Soak, and put the knits/dry clean only-clothes in the water. Then I forget about it until the washing machine is ready and I sort out the clothes which don’t like the dryer. Then I hang the dryer-haters on the line together with wet clothes from the bucket. Soak is a gentle wool/silk detergent which doesn’t need to be rinsed off, and it doesn’t irritate skin, either. Makes handwashing much less bothersome. It’s marketed for knitters washing lace shawls, but works for all natural fabrics, and doesn’t make colors run. I’ve successfully washed several “dry clean only” business clothes with it.
Then when everything is ready, I pile clothes in the bucket again, and carry them to bedroom. I have two shelves for clothes, and a hanging rack. Things like dress shirts or cotton dresses go on hangers (they won’t get noticeably wrinkled if I put them on hangers as soon as the dryer is done), and the rest of the clothes I throw on the shelves. Literally. I don’t bother folding them nicely, because I’m lazy, and clothes like a cotton jersey shirt appear just the same no matter how it was stored. Upper shelf is for work clothes, and the lower shelf is for band t-shirts, ripped jeans and other stuff I wear at home. This is because dog hair might sneak from floor to the lower shelf.
- I grocery shop for my work lunches on Sundays. Basically it means I buy twelve red peppers and six packets of cherry tomatoes, since they don’t have to be cooked and I hate cooking. And a packet of minced meat or chicken breast, depending how bad my anaemia is.
- I keep my hair short because it’s the only way I’m bothered to style it. No blow drying or long fiddly routines. Styling = hair paste. Even though I have to cut my hair every month to keep it in shape, it actually works out cheaper than for women with longer hair. A normal cost of a cut for woman is 55 euros, but I go to a salon which offers barber services for men, and they charge me 20 euros. The normal price is 25, but I got a discount card because I’m a regular. After I stop working, I’m planning to grow my hair again and go back to using CreaClip. It’s a handy tool I used to trim my hair before styling became an issue after my career ladder climb. Basically, it’s a plastic hair clip with a bubble level.
- buying clothes only in matching colours. Saves brainpower in the mornings.
- I buy my tea straight from a tea factory in 3,6kg bags, two bags every year. I never run out, it's cheaper and I don't have to hunt for my preferred flavour. Never thought there was a difference between fresh and old produce before I opened the first bag and smelled it.
- I purposefully try to keep the number of available options low. Ever since my job started to focus around planning and making choices, I’ve noticed that my decision-making capabilities at home have gone downhill. I get frustrated and angry if I’m presented with too many possibilities, or if something doesn’t work.

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Sat Aug 26, 2017 8:13 am

August 2017: 60k

Someone bumped up the difficulty when I wasn't looking. In last two weeks, it's became obvious that the child who got seriously ill last year is going downhill again. Mental illness is a bitch to deal with. The child I'm a carer for is actually much easier to raise than the one who is busy shredding his belongings and threatening to kill his brother (again). When I informed my ex, he sent me a sad smiley. It's been two days, and I'm still boiling with rage whenever I think of it. His entire parental contribution to situation I'm trying to handle is a sad smiley. Reasonably, I know he didn't mean it to be mocking, but since our original reason to divorce was his inability to handle the news about children's health situation, I'm ridiculously raw about the issue. It's been ten years, but the ability of nurse a grudge is one of my less admirable traits. If he turned into WonderDad one day, I would probably still not forgive him for walking away.

I'm the type who keeps her head together no matter how horrible situation, but reacts to stress by developing some disease instead. This time, it wasn't my lungs, heart or IBD like usually, but a new discovery: nodular acne. Hurrah. My face looks way worse than ever during my teenage years. It got bad enough that I went to see a dermatologist, who took one look at my face and announced the situation was beyond cremes. Now I'm on oral antibiotics and a killer creme for three months. Today is the third day, and there are literally pieces of peeling skin getting stuck to my fingers when I wash my face. I have 88 days to go, and my face hurts. To add insult to injury, I have an interview and photograph session on Wednesday with local newspaper. On the bright side, this will certainly help me to stop spending too much money on cosmetics. I've considered starting a spending ban on new skincare, and now I literally can't put anything on my face. So there is a bright side in everything :D

My ERE nest egg grew nicely this month due to a small inheritance, and I haven't gotten my salary yet so the end number should be around 61k for August. My goal of reaching 70 000 this year looks possible, and it's very comforting. I'm having a pampering day today, doing only things which make me happy. I had a nice lunch with husband and the youngest kid, bought two shirts from fleamarket, and ordered yarn for my next knitting project. I'm finishing the current sweater project today, and I plan to spend the rest of the evening writing fanfiction. If it goes well, I might even finish one story and write a chapter for my newest project. Then I'll work a budget for September. It's always a treat. I like seeing the numbers, and making sense of things. Life likes to throw curveballs, but the numbers remind me that I'm still going to where I want to be even though things are rough right now.

And the last thing. I feel pleased to be able to spend 240 euros (the doctor's appointment and prescriptions for three months) at treating a disease I would have had to just suffer through when I was poor. Nobody dies from nodular acne, so it's not covered by health insurance. But I like having the luxury of not having to live with it.

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by halfmoon » Sat Aug 26, 2017 10:31 pm

Rouva, you've stepped up to meet some very real challenges in life. I've been inspired by the way you've met them and kept moving forward. Thank you for sharing here.

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Sun Sep 10, 2017 10:20 am

Halfmoon, thank you. I sometimes wonder if I should write about these things, but I think it's important because my family situation is entangled with ERE. It provides different challenges and motivation compared to more typical ERE candidate.

Things are not going my way at work, thanks to general confusion around the upcoming legal change, state funding and office politics. It looks like my project is going to become a part of bigger program instead of independent project. I’m not happy at all. It interferes with my ERE plans, because I won’t get the raise I expected. I find it discouraging to do a project manager’s work without project manager’s salary, since the difference is 500 euros a month. As a worker, I’m strictly motivated by money, and whenever I feel I’m not fairly paid for my efforts, I start looking for another job.

My youngest child has started school this autumn, and it has been demanding because the school location doesn’t work for us. When my husband works evening shift, I have to leave work an hour early. It takes 70 minutes, a brisk walk and two bus journeys to pick the youngest up from her afterschool care and get home in time to meet the middle child’s school taxi. Even though I can use flextime at work, it is tiring to be at work before seven to be able to leave before three o’clock. I had to leave from two important meetings last week, and this won’t work out in a long run. As a carer, I could request part-time hours, but my current work contract is only for this year, and it would make my ERE efforts harder by cutting my salary. Here everyone works full time, and we don’t have a part-time working culture like some countries do.

I’ve been toying with the idea of cutting my hours by 20% in any case. If I’m not leading the project, I’m obviously not that vital (any bitterness here? :D ), and can work 6 hour day. It would help my daily schedule a lot, because I wouldn’t have to run against the clock constantly. If it was my turn to pick up the children, I could go to work at normal time and leave when I have to. I would lose 500 euros a month, but I appraise my lunch costs would go down for 200 (no lunch break in 6 hour day, so I’d eat at home), I could get a subsidy of 96 euros from social security (a benefit offered for parents if they cut their hours by 20% during their child’s first or second school year) and I think my stress-related shopping would go down, too. 200 euros is a lot of money, but it is something I might be able to make up with more careful spending.

Maybe I should try it. Last time I asked for part-time hours, my application ”disappeared” somewhere, but I’m working in different department now. I can always go back to full-time hours, and since this way of cutting hours is general thing available for all parents, not a carer benefit, it would not be as stigmatizing. And I’m not going to work for longer than a few years, anyway.

I really miss having a good exercise routine. During the last month, I’ve exercised once. I had a mini-vacation booked this weekend, a cruise, but I was so worn out that I simply didn’t go. It was seventy euros down the drain. If I could eliminate things like that, I would make up the salary loss, and hopefully feel better.

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Thu Dec 07, 2017 6:27 am

I negotiated a part-time (75%) contract with my employer in October, and it has been a good solution. My wages went down -600 euros, so my savings schedule is a bit behind, but I don’t honestly see myself going back to full-time anymore even though there is pressure from some people at work. But they are not my direct bosses, so they don’t have a say. Parenting a bipolar teenager can be terribly frustrating at times, and my plate was full as it was with work and carer duties. The best thing in my part-time work is freedom from the clock. My work operates in feast/famine-mode, so there are days when I’m too busy to eat and days when I have literally nothing to do. As long as I meet my hour goals at the end of the month, I can choose how long I work on each day. Sometimes I even see the sun during the day! I really, really hate polar twilight now that global warming has robbed the snow. I don’t understand why my ancestors came to accursed place where there is literally no sun for months. Maybe they were bipolar, too, and that was during the manic phase.
My current balance is 67K, and I expect to reach 68K this year. So I’m 2K behind my original schedule. Not bad.

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by suomalainen » Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:52 pm

Rouva wrote:
Thu Dec 07, 2017 6:27 am
I don’t understand why my ancestors came to accursed place where there is literally no sun for months. Maybe they were bipolar, too, and that was during the manic phase.
Amen, sister. I love Finland...but only in the summer.

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:51 pm

December 2017: 69K and a spending challenge

After three weeks of mind-numbing boredness of sitting in the office with nothing to do, I was informed that government will finance my project. I got a promotion and a salary raise of 500 euros, meaning I’m back to my previous income level despite the part-time work. Nice.

My total for this year will likely be 69 000, 1k less than I planned. Child-related costs have been ridiculously big this autumn, and it annoys me. The cheapest month was 137 euros and the rest of them have been in range of 500 – 700 euros. I’m not counting daycare, only their clothes / furniture / hobbies / whatever stuff. My oldest has developed a habit of whining about needing money, and it really bugs me.
My apprehension about his behaviour is probably a social class thing. I was raised strictly working class, which meant we did not ask for money from our parents. Money was for birthdays and graduations, and even then it always came with an addendum ”here is birthday money, and there isn’t more coming!”. My grandmother said so every time, and I remember being a bit ashamed and confused because I would not have even dreamed about doing something so crass as asking for more money from her. It was a thing simply not done. We got a weekly allowance from our father (starting from fifty cents and eventually raising to 2 euros) and that was it. After he passed away and we moved into foster family, the social workers told that the appropriate allowance was 6 euros a week. Both my brother and I were shocked, and I remember how we wondered if they were idiots with money, or mad to give us so much :D
The children’s father and my new husband are both raised middle class, and they get financial help from their parents. My ex, a well-employed man in his forties, got a car, and my husband gets money envelopes every year and nobody bats an eye. I found it horribly uncomfortable when my inlaws tried to give money to me, too, and I was relieved when they stopped. Ugh.

So, I told my son that I’m starting a year-long spending ban, and therefore I’m changing children’s allowances strictly work-based. Each child will be offered a choice of two tasks for a week. On Sundays, they have to decide which task to complete during next seven days. If they skip a day, there won’t be any money coming. For successful week, they will be paid seven euros on the Sunday evening.

He looked at me like I was telling him that the aliens have landed.

It was very gratifying.

The idea of spending ban is something I’ve considered for a while. After I started working, and especially after I moved up, I’ve gotten much more lax with budgeting and there is a definite lifestyle creep going on. I want to put a stop on that, but I also want to make saving money more interesting. Frankly, just putting away money every month is deadly boring when the progress is slow

My net salary is 25 200 in a year, and the other income sources make 14 772 euros in a year, totaling at 39 972 euros. The actual number for this year is 1500 less for last three months between switching to part-time work and the raise coming in January Looking at the numbers, I don’t know how in the hell I managed to put away 29 000 this year even though it feels like I did a bad job at budgeting/saving. But that’s always been the case. I once tried to do an annual budget and assign money for different categories based on what I thought reasonable, but it didn’t work because the numbers claimed we could not have lived on that amount of money. Since we can, I gave up category-based annual budgeting and I do simple monthly budgets instead.

In order to get to my goal of 100 000 by 12/18 and stay on ERE schedule, I need to keep this interesting, which means bumping up the difficulty. Trying to find cheap solutions to problems helps me to focus, and gives me something other to do than window shop for makeup online. I thought of doing no-buy, but I don’t think it would work. I still need to buy food, and I would not give up useful things like union membership, or things which provide much entertaiment to me daily like my Spotify subscription. And I will never bike to work. I hate driving, and I genuinely like sitting in a bus. It’s like having my own driver. I can just stare out from the window, listen music and relax.

Usually people make up a set of complicated rules when they embark on no-buy, and I think that’s why they fail. Either the rules are too difficult to remember, or the no-buy becomes too bothersome because they have to do mental gymnastics with every purchase. So, I decided to go different route and give myself a free spending budget of 1000 euros for a year. It includes everything I would buy for fun. Clothes, cosmetics, games, restaurants unless it’s work-related event, books, gigs, movies… If I don’t need it, but I want it, it’s from 1000 euros. I did not include Spotify or my gym membership. Spotify because I don’t want to, and the gym because it would eat more than half of my budget, making the challenge too hard.

It’s day four, and my balance is 970 euros after a celebration lunch, two chocolate bars and a replacement of some makeup brushes. We’ll see how it goes. So far, I’ve found the challenge very interesting, and I think it will benefit my saving goals by keeping up my motivation.

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by wolf » Thu Dec 21, 2017 1:17 am

Hi Rouva. A lot is going on in your life, it seems. Besides ERE plans you have to raise three children. That is a huge challenge. I respect and admire that. Congratulations to your progress during the last year, the raise and the approval of your project at work. You are doing fine with many things. I believe, that you also manage the money topic with your children. The 1000 Euro challenge is interesting. Do you have a reference number , or why is it 1000 Euro?
I wish you a beautiful christmas up in Finland with lots of snow. Unluckily it seems, that there won't be snow in Germany. Take care!

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Thu Dec 21, 2017 2:47 am

MDFIRE2024, I picked 1000 € because it's enough to make several bigger purchases like jeans or good shoes if I want to, but it's still small enough to require planning. For example, if I decided to stop growing my hair because it's slowly reaching the mullet stage, I would have to budget regular haircuts (25e / month) to keep it short and neat. 300 gone. Then I might buy a pair of nice jeans (100e) to replace my current, mid-range pair. I bought the mid-range jeans (50e) a month ago after my expensive jeans wore through after two years of use. I wanted to see if there was a quality difference, and there is. The zipper has been bad from the start and it's only a matter of time when it breaks, the color fades faster and the fabric is thinner which is a definite minus during winter. Then I might buy a two-day ticket on my favourite rock festival before new year to get early bird price 99 euros. That's how I would normally buy things, but with the challenge I would have only 500 left.

So, I'm growing out my hair and just waiting through the mullet stage, not replacing the jeans but next time I need to buy a pair, I'll buy better ones, and not buying the rock festival ticket either. I'll see if I can work at the festival, getting free tickets, see my favorite bands separately, or buy a day pass with my culture vouchers.

Happy Christmas for you too!

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by CS » Fri Dec 22, 2017 3:08 pm

Hi Rouva,
I'm very much enjoying your journal and look forward to being able to go back and read more of it. Congrats on the part-time job.


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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Sat Dec 23, 2017 4:13 am

Thanks for visit, CS.

Education rant

I had interesting discussion with my children yesterday. My oldest is thirteen, and in Finnish education system it means he has three years left before he must make a decision on his future occupation. The Finnish education system has nine years of comprehensive school, and after that 16-year-olds pick either general secondary education (high school for Americans) or a vocational secondary education (learning a trade). Both options take three years. There is a short article outlining the system here . Generally, tuition is free. After comprehensive school, one must buy their books and personal equipment needed for lessons, but meals are free or heavily subsided.

My own education path was 9 years of comprehensive school + 3 years of general secondary education + 7 years for first Master's degree (got two kids during that, so I took less classes during two years to save daycare fees), then unemployment for two years and +4 years for second Master's degree. I had >10k of students loans during first degree to pay for medical costs, but I paid them off before my first child was born. At my workplace, it's common to have two or three Master's degrees, and I think more than half are in process of writing their doctor's thesis. Maybe 10% actually finish it. It's social thing much like they all claim to ski or run marathons :roll: Or if they're men in their forties, they bicycle everywhere.

I'm telling my children to pick a vocational school and NOT to follow in my footsteps.

In my parent's generation, education wasn't free. A family of four children could educate maybe one child, and the rest of them had to just get a low-ranking job no matter how smart they were. It changed for my generation, and swung to other opposite. There was/is a lot of pressure for higher education, and education became a business which employs countless people. People get degrees, but when they graduate and look for work, the available jobs don't really require a degree. Does a cashier at the local corner store need 3 years of general secondary education and 4 years in university of applied sciences just to beep bar codes on milk cartoons and bread? I don't think so. It's stupid.

If I think about my social circle, it's rare that people actually get value for their effort to educate themselves. All examples below are in their late thirties/forties.

My ex is an engineer with 4 year degree from university of applied sciences. He got a summer job as a metal worker, and the factory hired him despite the degree. He's been there for fifteen years, and recently became a foreman after the previous one retired. He has never used or needed his degree, and initially it worked against him because he was overeducated for the job.

My husband's only education is general secondary school. He is a sales assistant in hardware store. He has dropped out from two different universities of applied sciences, because a degree would not have changed anything. No raises, no advancement. And he's happy doing what he does. It benefits mostly me, because two careers in one family tend to make a life difficult.

A friend is an engineer with 4 year degree from university of applied sciences. He graduated during recession, same year as me, and never got an engineer job. He paid for a private school for a year and became a massage therapist. Currently, he is studying another degree for physiotherapy.

My brother dropped out from two different universities of applied sciences and one vocational school. He is working at phone customer service and hoping to enter vocational school again to become a cook. He says he has several work mates with Master's degree in History, Literature or other Humanities.

Another friend finished the general secondary school, and then studied a four year degree in university of applied sciences in cleaning. The idea of that degree was to make her a foreman for cleaners. People get the same position if they simply apply for cleaning job and stick to that job for an year or two.

Because education is free, and the schools spend awful lot of money advertising, people are easily caught in never-ending cycle of studying. It's very common to read bitter complaints from people with PhD, wondering why they can't get a job even though they have such a good grades. Usually, the answer is because they have no work experience. They spent all their summers studying, or chose wrong internships at government departments which never hire anyone for real. We have a huge system advising young people which school they should pick, but nobody tells them if the degree is going to be any use, or how to get a job. Or if they could get to where they want to go without any degree at all.

Back to the children. My oldest is a sharp boy, who can get through his lessons and get good grades with never doing any actual work. I was just like him at that age. But just like me, he lacks the interest to work for good grades. Also, I'm thinking about his illness, and truthfully speaking, it would be irresponsible and dangerous to guide him towards a high-responsibility job. Bipolar surgeon, for an example, is not a good idea, and he wouldn't last long in my job or in anything else where there is a sole responsibility for a time-related project and a lot of stress. He needs an ordinary job where damage can be contained, and somebody can just step in and take over during his sick leave. A trade school job, preferably at public sector because there is more understanding for sick leave. We've talked about this, and luckily, he leans towards vocational school himself even though the trade itself is not decided yet.
Honestly, education isn't in the cards for my second child. If he gets a job, it's because I'll create him one through social connections.
My third child listened me talking with her brother and declared she wants to be a hairdresser. She picked it last year and I think it might stick, or if it doesn't, she will probably want a beauty-related job in any case. She has surprisingly good eye for aesthetics, much better than mine, and she's the princess type. I'm still a bit baffled when a six-year-old declares how this or that "compliments her style" because I don't know where the (¤/%( she inherited that from, but she's been like that ever since she learned to talk. Pushing her to some other direction would make us both unhappy. But if she still insists on being a hairdresser when she's sixteen, I have to teach her how to budget and how to specialize. General hairdressing means she'll be damn poor, and bleed her father out of money because my husband just can't say no to her.

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Sat Mar 24, 2018 10:25 am

I buzzed my hair a month ago down to 0.5cm. My husband is not happy, but I don’t honestly care. I don’t like his beard because it has bits of food in it, so he doesn’t have to like my hair. The buzz cut gives me Ripley-vibes, and I enjoy the non-existent maintenance. No need to comb, put wax in it, no bad hair days because it looks the same 24/7. My workplace mates (who all have brown or blonde bobs) wish I’d grow it back to spiky pixie, please, and so does my husband. But I might not. We’ll see.

My hair used to be long; down to my shoulder blades until my oldest kid got sick three years ago. It was a strange summer. I never had any teenage rebellion – I couldn’t afford it. Growing up in foster care teaches that nobody is going to keep you if you are difficult, and circumstances can always get worse, so enduring was better than rocking the boat. I was thirty-two when I cut a fauxhawk, got a tattoo and spent a summer going to music festivals alone. It made my life much more interesting, and also made me look forwards to getting older. Also, that change was something for me alone. I could somehow deal with disability and all the grief which comes with it, but restraining my child so he couldn’t hang himself with Venetian blind cord was something which shattered a lot of hopes.
I learned that I can’t make my life revolve around motherhood. It would feel like rubbing my face against gravel.

Actually, I think my late teenage rebellion phase is passing. I’m glad I had it; it was interesting, and I’m ridiculously attached to terrible fake leather jacket I wore to every gig. I might never give it away even though it’s way too cold for comfort and not that good looking. But at 35, I’m starting to have hard time staying up too late. I’ve always been a morning person, but now it feels like it’s the only setting my inner clock has. No matter how late I sleep, I’m basically dead at ten o’clock. Ask me to get up at 4.30AM, no problem, but for the last three times, the effort of staying up until 2AM was too much and I had to skip events I already had tickets for.

Financially, I’ve started downgrading. I have had five nice years with a lot of money, but if I expect to stop working at my current employer in four years, I can’t keep up the same spending level. I’m trying to wean myself off restaurant lunches, buying clothes or makeup, and relearn how to budget. Work clothes are a good example. They tend to be more expensive, and I’m not going to have any use for a business suit after FIRE. I already own two, so there is no need to buy a third even if I like dark brown better than black. With make up, I’m attempting to use up my current products before buying new ones and stop buying things in hopes they would be better than my old ones. Sticking to old lady brands tends to work better for my skin type than new, cool products. They spoil in year or two, so having too many options is not reasonable. I set myself an annual budget for clothes and cosmetics, and I attempt to keep my spending within the limits.

My investments hover between 72K and 70K depending on Trump. My medical company stocks don’t like that guy at all.

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by FBeyer » Sat Mar 24, 2018 2:46 pm

One of life's great many injustices is how men's clothes and men's hairstyles look great on women, but rarely the other way around.

My skull is shaped like someone took a peanut shell, and used a set of headphones to shape it even further, so although I also enjoy the no-maintenance of a buzzcut, I really look like a big freakin' nose glued to a peanut. My GF learned how to do fades and cut hair with scissors so she gets to decide how my hair look now, as long as it's a semi-easy-to-keep hairstyle.

Are you still on board with your strength training?

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Sun Mar 25, 2018 12:17 am

I wondered about my skull shape, too, but it seems I got lucky in that raffle. No lumps or bumps.

I'm also trying to convince my husband to cut my hair. I told him that he'll get that pixie he liked so much if he learns how to cut it. My previous hairdresser disappeared somewhere, and most hairdressers here don't have enough experience with cutting short hair to make it look really good. After two unsatisfying haircuts in a new salon, I buzzed it. I blame current fashion with long locks and pastel/ombre/grey dye :D

I'm still working with weights, and trying to get back where I was before a nasty influenza. I'm currently doing a 4-split program, first split thing for me ever because I got in strength training through kettlebells and read all the books praising whole body movements. But this seems to work better for me. DOMS on one body part is much preferable to DOMS everywhere.

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Sat May 12, 2018 1:25 pm


I’ve been thinking about lifestyle creep and how it differs from basic standard of nice living. I’m not certain
where the limit is between the two.
My main hobby is writing fanfiction, and I spend several hours in a day working on the stories. As hobbies go, it’s mostly free. I buy a new laptop every 4 – 7 years, depending on the keyboard. I’ve broken one Acer and one Compaq, and then moved to HP because the keys in cheap HP laptops are attached more securely and don’t break off in three years. My personal limit for glued keys is two. Three wonky letters are too much.
My current laptop was six years old and the first one which didn’t die because the keyboard broke. It had very little storage space, and eventually I could not update Windows even though I had already transferred all my files to cloud storage and gotten rid of everything else except antivirus, Firefox and LibreOffice. I switched to Ubuntu and learned how to use it. It was good for half a year, but then the laptop started freezing without warning and I decided it was time to retire it. Backups of my files are not worth anything if I don’t know how to get them out, and honestly troubleshooting with Ubuntu is way outside my skill level.
Shopping for a new laptop was annoying. After I bought my last one, the trends have changed, and now all new, cheap laptops are huge. 14 inches or bigger, while the smaller ones are expensive or have Acer keyboards. My desk at home is child-sized, and the old 12’ laptop was just the right size for it. I don’t care much about performance, graphics or speed, but I want excellent keyboard and if the laptop mouse is good enough to use, it’d be great. I didn’t want to run into storage problem again (it was very annoying), so I decided to double my budget from 250 euros to 500, because the current cheap options were worse than my old laptop.
After two returned online purchases, lots of research and two unsuccessful trips to computer store – I hate going there, because the salesmen treat me like an idiot / ignore me and try to sell to my husband instead – I bought a refurbished business laptop with two-year guarantee from small local shop, paying 375 euros. Considering I got five years out of laptop with 2GB RAM and 32GB storage (only half was usable), I think I can get much longer time from 8GB and 240GB. The keyboard is good, laptop mouse is nice, and even though the alumium chassis gets heated easily, I fixed it with a laptop cooling pad (50 euros) and now it’s fine. Because it was below my budget, I splurged and took Office 365 subscription. I’ve used Open Office after my free subscription ran out four years ago, but it lacks few things I’ve missed. Mainly the ability to start from where I left off instead of beginning of the document (scrolling down <300 pages several times every day gets old fast, especially since I didn’t have a page down button), and a spell check which understands commas.
I think I made a good purchase. The computer, cooling pad and program cost 494 euros, a bit below my budget of 500. Yet I have a bout of bad conscience, because my old laptop was not dead yet, making the purchase not strictly necessary. Yet.
It’s ironic. I don’t feel bad about buying a Nintendo Switch to kids. I found a gently used one which was fifty euros cheaper than a new unit and spent the difference for one game. I’m saving it as a surprise for summer, when it’s difficult to find something to do. Due to one child’s disabilities, going out with all three is not safe unless I can get another adult to accompany us, so we’re mostly stuck in the house during the day. One of the kids might get a summer job - he’s got an interview next week – and he plans to spend his salary to buy new games.

Coming to ERE after experiencing poverty is something I struggle with. I find it hard to decide what is reasonable spending, and what’s just frivolous. When I started this journal, I had to budget very small sums like one-euro fee for reserving a book I needed for school because my income was so small. By strict budgeting and following the budget, I managed to pay off my mortgage. Because it was necessary at the time, and it worked, I still tend to budget in same manner and then feel annoyed when I don’t follow through. Of course, I don’t. Following a budget where every euro count is something I could do when I had a very important short-term goal. I can’t summon the same feeling of urgency with a timeline of four years.
If I think about what I would describe as common spending, there are some things we don’t have:
- a second car. Husband pays the car costs alone, since he needs it to get to work, and the rest of us use bus.
- bedrooms for all family members. Two of us sleep in the living room.
- haircuts. I’m starting to like the buzz cut. Husband is the only one who goes to barber, the rest of us rely on clippers and CreaClip.
- hobby costs. Currently only one of the children has a weekly hobby. The other two have tried different things but haven’t found something they like. The rule is that each kid can pick one activity we’ll pay for.
- pretty home. Most of our stuff is old, and it shows. The kitchen table and chairs are 14 years old, and I expect the chairs will fall apart in year or two. We’ve got two beautiful pieces of furniture, and the rest of the house looks like lifestyle blogger’s nightmare. I hate decorating, and I get upset when people give me gifts like oddly shaped glass candlesticks. For some horrible reason, designer candlesticks seem to be popular thank you gift for holding a lecture. I much prefer people who give me chocolate. My mother-in-law is drowning in candlesticks.

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by DutchGirl » Sat May 12, 2018 2:00 pm

Rouva wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 1:25 pm
I hate decorating, and I get upset when people give me gifts like oddly shaped glass candlesticks.
Oh, boy! That's annoying indeed.
Rouva wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 1:25 pm
For some horrible reason, designer candlesticks seem to be popular thank you gift for holding a lecture. I much prefer people who give me chocolate.
Ah. That explains a bit. I would perhaps try to find a subtle way to hint that you'd like chocolate, please. (Here in the Netherlands, the standard reward for giving a talk is a bottle of wine - and I really dislike the taste of any wine, so that's not very useful either).

Well done on buying the new laptop for yourself; I hope that you're enjoying using it.

And indeed, it's pretty hard to find a good balance between spending and saving. I assume it'll take some time and that we all will make some errors (sometimes overspend, sometimes underspend). I assume we'll get better at it, as we get more experience and become older and wiser :-) .

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Thu May 31, 2018 5:49 am

Dutchgirl: I would prefer a bottle of wine instead of a candlestick, because it's easier to get rid of. Finland has a nationally famous glass design factory and most women of my age like decorating, so I fear there is no way out from the glass candlestick land until I grow older. Maybe sixty? Seventy? :D

May report

This month was a bit hard on finances. It was birch pollen season. One kid needed a doctor and 120€ worth of medicines. I must remember to investigate immunotherapy in autumn. He has an air purified unit in his room which helps, but no matter how early we start medicine, his eye symptoms always end up turning into full-blown infection. Children’s new console and my computer racked up my credit card bill, but today it’s paid off again and I’m happy. The new computer has been very nice, and I no longer have second thoughts about the purchase. The old laptop refuses to connect wi-fi anymore, and the latest Windows update messed up the family computer, so I was very pleased that there was one working computer in the house for e-mail and paying bills!

My current part-time contract will be extended until the end of the year. 25% pay cut slows my ERE schedule, but I’m not upset about this. Working less has helped me to relax more. I’ve lost weight, and there is no more tension headache, meaning I don’t have to treat it with botox shots every three months. Being wrinkly and pain-free beats pain-free with empty wallet. I’m also making progress with nasty adult acne I got last year (autoimmune illnesses are unfortunately my thing, and this latest addition just sucks). The difference between a full-time week of 36 hours and my 27 hours means I no longer feel tired or drained after a work day and currently it feels like I could go on forever like this.

When I read other journals or early retirement blogs, I think it might have been a good thing to discover ERE when I was already living a life outside normal employment. The question of ‘what I will do after’ comes up eventually, and it’s not an easy one to solve.
I would not go back to being solely a carer, because I had too much time to worry. My brain needs distractions to keep me happy! From my working life, I know at least two local non-profit organisations I would like to work with, and I might do it for free if they couldn’t pay me because I respect their values and results. Last two or three years of working have given me confidence in my own skills, and I’m no longer worried that I wouldn’t find anything to do when my deadline year arrives.
For me, the jump isn’t big because I’ve already done that. The difference is that next time I’m going to have a back-up stash to ward off the nasty side of poverty. I could spend on things which add to quality of life, and not to go without because I must. I was reminded of this today. It was payday, and this week I’ve had a craving for salmon. So, I had salmon sushi for lunch and repurchased my favourite 9€ face cream which ran out yesterday. Now I feel like the king of the mountain.

That feeling of satisfaction is what I miss. I don’t like spending money if I don’t get anything from it. Throwing 10€ here and 20€ there for miscellaneous purchases is annoying, because it’s just using money, not fulfilling a need and making me happy. It is also counterintuitive towards the anxiety I easily get if something unexpected happens and my budget plans go awry. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully let go of the mindset; after the carer years I’m a bit like a depression-era generation. But if I’m not showering standing in a bucket to collect used water, it’s ok. (I don’t have a garden or household plants, so it would be alarming.)

Slow progress gives a lot of time to think about these things, because I can’t reach my finish line as quickly as with people with bigger incomes. It’s been almost six since I started this journal, and I’m not yet halfway there. My annual net income has gone downhill since the last year. Now it is 34 458€. I’m responsible for household bills like electricity, insurance and apartment maintenance charges (all these are around 7000€ in a year), everything I want to buy, and whatever two oldest kids need. For the youngest, we split the costs. Saving 30 000 would be great, but it is not possible if we want to keep the lights on. But I’m doing what I can and going forwards.

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Fri Jul 20, 2018 11:08 am

78K The theme for this month seems to be “The month I didn’t get what I wanted.”

I’m on summer vacation, and this year it hasn’t been very pleasant. There is a heatwave, and due to a permanent health condition, I fare poorly when it’s too warm. This week has been 29 – 33 C, when normally we have summer temperatures around 20 - 22C, and next week looks to be as bad. I have little energy and I’m quite unhappy because I planned to do loads of fun things during my vacation, but I’m not feeling well enough to do anything. I’m looking forward to return to work because the building has air conditioning and feeling childishly irritated because I “lost” half of my vacation days due weather.

I gave up my credit card last month. I’ve done it twice before, and each time it helped me to save more. I prefer to keep my finances in real time, and I noticed I had gotten into habit of charging items on the card simply because I didn’t want to wait. I decided to put two hundred euros on a separate account for things like unexpected doctor’s visit, but I grossly misjudged my actual spending. Now that children are older, especially the oldest one is always whining for money to spend on soda and games, and not giving me an appropriate warning when something essential needs to be replaced soon. For example, I would like to know there is a hole in his shoes when it appears, not when the shoes are no longer suitable for walking and need to be replaced in 24 hours. It was the same thing with shorts. And t-shirts. And the battery cord of Wii U. Teenagers…

My cellphone’s battery died unexpectedly, and since the phone and Marshall London label have been discontinued, I couldn’t find a replacement. I misjudged the child-related costs this month, and therefore my spare funds were already depleted.

The frugal part of me told firmly that buying a phone which cost 450 euros and lasted 20 months was a poor purchase even if the phone was incredibly pretty and sounded lovely. I essentially paid 22,5 euros a month to listen music on a bus. Because I don’t have a credit card, I first tried to go back to old dumbphone, but I didn’t like it anymore. I missed checking bus schedules, not printing movie tickets and reading in bed. Then I opted to purchase the cheapest available smartphone (Nokia 1) and found out that I’ve secretly developed an audiophile streak without my knowledge and my idea of listening music with my phone has been ruined by bloody Marshall. I’m bugged because I can’t literally hear any of my favourite little details I enjoyed, and everything sounds just… bad. And flat. I hate my work phone (Samsung J3) too, which is a bit more expensive. It sounds equally bad. I don’t consider sound quality snobbery a positive feature to have, so I’m annoyed at myself, but amused, too. My inner dialogue is ridiculous. I’m trying to be frugal and remember that my ERE nest egg can get me 152 fancy phones or 6,5 years of not working, but I still sulk about having that damned Nokia.

The amusing part is that my brother’s phone died two days later, and now we have “I hate my cheap Nokia”-club where we whine and cringe about our new phones. It’s quite fun. But I’m honestly looking forward to my new phone dying and worried it will never happen. It has the feel and construction of those Nokias you could drop and they just fell apart and you put them back together, no harm done. Plastic little orange terror which will likely last for next five to seven years or more...

I have a job interview today. I like my current job a lot, but my contract ends in four months and there will be a gap in employment even if we got funding for another project. The position I’ve applied is a step down on the career ladder, but it’s a permanent position. I’m not eager to go there, mostly because I would have to relearn to drive a car, but in current circumstances I think it’s a wise move. I know the team, I’ve done the job before, and it’s ok. is not something to sneer at. They were very understanding when I had to take time off when my kid was hospitalized. If I was so inclined, I could just sit there for next 32 years and earn 2000 euros a month after taxes. Also, because it’s a different branch of my current employer, I can jump back to doing projects when needed, but keep the permanent position as my backup plan. The project stuff I’m working at is very closely tied to politics, which makes it unstable, and things are not looking good. My friends working on a same project are thinking of jumping the ship, too, but they don’t have any easy options to take. Unlike them, I can always go back to Social Work because there’s a shortage of legally qualified workers and I have the credentials.

I’m not happy to move from big boys’ sandbox back to small kids’ sandbox. I don’t think anyone likes losing a fancy title, free coffee machine and a chance to hear a lot of interesting rumours. But I’m reminding myself that my goal was not to build a wonderful career. My goal is to save 200 000 euro and then work on things I find interesting and scale my work hours around the caregiving job.
So, mostly I’ve spent this month whining at myself because I don’t like my Very Sensible Lifestyle Creep Downgrading. I don’t want a sensible permanent position with a reasonably salary of 2900 euros. I don’t want a sensible permanent phone. I don’t want to start driving a car again after 18 years of not doing it.

I blame the teenager. He’s bad influence on me.

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by cat9 » Fri Jul 20, 2018 12:16 pm

Rouva wrote:
Thu May 31, 2018 5:49 am
May report
The old laptop refuses to connect wi-fi anymore, and the latest Windows update messed up the family computer, so I was very pleased that there was one working computer in the house for e-mail and paying bills!
Try Linux on your useless computers?

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Re: ERE in Finland

Post by Rouva » Sat Jul 21, 2018 2:42 am

Cat9, thanks for suggestion. I already had Ubuntu installed on the old laptop which drops wifi, and my technical skills aren't good enough to fix it. It's apparently a known bug. Luckily the family computer recovered from latest Windows 10 update and started working again.


I read old threads on the forum and it inspired me to run some numbers.
Our housing costs are 5802€/year, including heat and water.
Electricity 840€.
Insurance 70€
Transportation 380€ for me, approx. 180€ for three kids, so 560€ for four of us.
Part-time daycare (one kid) 1680€
Charity donations 600€.
Cellphones (3 people, including 100€ for my new phone. The phone bill is usually approx. 20€/month, 15 € for unlimited slow data plans for three people and 5€ for calls/texts I have to make to people who don’t have Whatsapp.) 360 €.
Grocery budget 500€/month, 6000€ /year (5 people & dog). This has gone up 100€ /month after the 12-year-old started his growth spurt last year. In May, he was as tall as me, and now he’s taller.

The job interview went well, but I suspect I might get the job (50% chance) and I'm feeling a bit anxious. Social work is not easy profession, and I wasn't too fond of people shouting at me in the phone. The clients' family members, especially their mothers, can be extremely rude. When I worked in courthouse, evicting people from their homes, they behaved 100x times better. The lack of insults and death threats tells a lot about what institutions people respect. When I worked in medical rehabilitation, there was this one mother who made a bomb threat because her 16-year-old didn't get a physiotherapy at their house, but he had to take a taxi to drive to appointments twice a month.

Well, we'll see. There are two available positions, and I hope I get the one where my clients live in assisted housing. Their families are usually easier to work with.

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