UrbanHermit's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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UrbanHermit
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UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by UrbanHermit » Fri Nov 01, 2013 9:18 am

This is the journal of a 34 year old software developer living in the pacific northwest.

ERE goal: reach FI within the next 5 years and relocate to a low population density area

I have a few things working in my favor-- decent savings rate, several years accumulation, no debt, carfree, frugal, single, inexpensive hobbies, decent job. Working against me are housing costs, and overspending on food.

Housing costs in Vancouver currently eat up almost $1100 of my budget, but I moved back to the region where I grew up, that would immediately drop by $500 or more for equivalent accomodations. I'm only living here because of my job, so I don't need to fund inflated big-city costs in ERE, only the equivalent small-town costs. This is the rational behind the 'C.o.L Adjusted' line on my graph.

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UrbanHermit
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by UrbanHermit » Fri Nov 01, 2013 9:24 am

October 2013

Image

Incomings - 4982
Outgoings - 2163
Saved - 2819 (57%)

ERE Progress:
  • Registered with ERE forums and started journaling
Comments:

I don't have categorized spending for this month, but will track that going forward. Rough estimate for october is $1075 housing, $120 transportation, $150 utilities, $500 food and alcohol.

Side income is pretty minimal right now: a bit of selling my old junk on ebay, the occasional windfall. Nothing systematic or scalable.

robby152
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by robby152 » Fri Nov 01, 2013 9:39 am

Cool charts!

Question: why include the side income on top of the 4% income? It seems like they are different animals (although side income can become extra investment money that can generate 4% income). Is your plan to have a sustainable source of side income to supplement the 4% income?

Just trying to learn since I am thinking about starting my own journal too.

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UrbanHermit
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by UrbanHermit » Fri Nov 01, 2013 9:53 am

@robby152 - side income is stacked with the 4%, because it's all "income not from my job". In other words if I blew a gasket and quit today, that's what I'd be living off of. At the point expenses crosses the combined total I could consider semi-retiring to focus on my own projects, even if not fully FI yet.

robby152
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by robby152 » Fri Nov 01, 2013 10:00 am

Gotcha, makes sense.

Are you working for a megacorp (hence the potential gasket malfunction) or are you just ready for a change and want to pursue other interests?

I am an independent consultant, so I don't have the megacorp stress that a lot of others wanting to ER have, but I am definitely motivated for the desire to not 'have' to work at what I am doing and be free to work at whatever I find my hands doing.

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GandK
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by GandK » Fri Nov 01, 2013 10:43 am

Another software developer! There are a lot of us (current/former) on this board.

Question: why the overspending on food?

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UrbanHermit
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by UrbanHermit » Wed Dec 04, 2013 2:55 am

@robby152 - not big enough to be a megacorp yet, but I've been there for a few years now and it might be time for a change.

@gandk - not for any good reason... details below

Chart's broken, and I can't edit the post to clean it up... makes me sad. Ah well, I'll get something else sorted out for my next update.

November 2013

Incoming - 7473
Outgoings - 2125
Saved - 5348 (72%)

Spending Audit:

Housing - 1064
Utilities - 71
Transporation - 130
Food/Alcohol - 584
....Groceries - 336
....Junk Food - 78
....Work Lunch - 84
....Alchohol - 86
Health/Hygeine - 31
Entertainment - 27

Comments:

Well my food spending is clearly the elephant in the room that must be addressed. The only good thing is that there is so much waste to recover here it should be easy.

In my defense, canadian prices are higher (multiply by 1.25x), BC alcohol taxes are obscene (multiply by 2x) and I'm a big active guy so I can burn 3k calories in a day without too much trouble. But even allowing for costs, appetite, and the occasional case of beer, I should be under $300/mo.

The 'junk food' category is mostly coffee. I like to go for long (~2h) walks in the evening while I listen to my podcasts or audiobooks and think about stuff. Recently I've gotten in the bad habbit of stopping midway to grab a coffee and a banana. At $4 a walk that tends to add up. I'm thinking sticking a banana in my back pocket and taking a travel mug with me should drop this to about $0.50 a trip instead. Work lunches are completely unecessary for my job, and are equally bad for my health as my pocket book, so there is an obvious place to cut back.

My spending audit total of $1905 is lower than my reported outgoings, which I track as total cash flow leaving my chequing account each month. The discrepency comes from a mid-month credit card billing cycle. Over the long term this should average out.

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UrbanHermit
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by UrbanHermit » Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:10 pm

December 2013

Image

Incomings - 5570
Outgoings - 2432
Saved - 3138 (56%)

Comments:

I'm not thrilled with my progress in 2013. My spending has been essentially flat, at an average savings rate just north of 60%. That's not bad by most metrics, and I'm comfortably on course to retire somewhere in the age 40-45 timeframe, but I still feel like a spendthrift on this forum. More importantly the idea of living in this city, working an office job for another ten years is intolerable. My focus right now isn't 'retirement' but achieving a minimum level of FI that would let me turn my back on the relatively high salaries and excuse myself to a less crowded part of the world.

On an unrelated note I've decided to change the way I track my spending. I've noticed a lot of variability because of infrequent big-ticket items. This month is was computer parts (work related), next month it will be a passport renewal fee, before that it was plane tickets for thanksgiving. All of these costs are budgetable and foreseeable but cause big swings that make me unconfident in my projected numbers.

Going forward I'm going to be using YNAB to pre-allocate a small amount of funds each month to budget categories like travel and track it as spending on the month it's added to the fund, not the month I actually make the purchase. I think this should give me a better estimation of my real monthly costs, as well as making me more likely to travel since it will effectively have been paid in advance.

henrik
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by henrik » Fri Jan 03, 2014 12:23 am

UrbanHermit wrote:On an unrelated note I've decided to change the way I track my spending. I've noticed a lot of variability because of infrequent big-ticket items.
I solved that by switching to average T12M numbers/graphs (I'm using 12 months, but you can do whatever period you feel is adequate) for both income and expense tracking.

leeholsen
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by leeholsen » Fri Jan 03, 2014 1:03 am

"More importantly the idea of living in this city, working an office job for another ten years is intolerable. My focus right now isn't 'retirement' but achieving a minimum level of FI that would let me turn my back on the relatively high salaries and excuse myself to a less crowded part of the world."

you might try scoping places in the pnw to move to, even if you've already picked a place. you might find there's a few places you might want to live.

you also might look into try something else in programming, lots of people here seem to get into programming and try a few different ones before they pull the cord.

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UrbanHermit
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by UrbanHermit » Fri Jan 03, 2014 10:59 am

@henrik - it's a good approach, but a bit slow for mid-course corrections. For example if I ditch my cellphone plan next month, it will be 11 months before the category average reaches my new monthly bill. Likewise if an expense category increases I'll be underbudgeting for it for a year.

@leeholsen - unfortunately moving is off the table for the moment because my field has only a three job markets in the country with sufficient opportunity, and they are all large, crowded, overpriced cities. The places where I would want to live, I can't work and the places where I can work I wouldn't want to live. So for now I figure the more I save the easier it will be to downshift later.

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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by ARXII-13 » Sat Jan 04, 2014 8:52 pm

Before optimizing your food category, I would say if you really want to crush your expenses and increase your savings, how about searching around for a new place to live? I know you said it's off the table, but a quick search on vancouver.kijiji.ca yielded a few very nice looking places in the downtown Vancouver area in the $500 range. How about giving it a try and see what you think? :)

leeholsen
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by leeholsen » Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:28 pm

what i meant was not to move now, but start looking at places you might want to move to after FI. it'll give you something to do, even if you already picked a spot.

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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by ebast » Wed Feb 05, 2014 7:43 am

Hey Hermit,

Seems to me like these are great numbers. The monthly savings rate is very respectable, total amount is quite substantial in absolute terms, and if I just glanced at it, I'd think you'd be on the path to FI in 3-5 years, maybe less.

Curious about how you're figuring the COL-adjusted estimates? When I quit my no-good software job and decided to be ERE, a lot of my expenses plummeted. It was surprising how many hidden dependencies there are for typical expense categories in having a job and it seems to hit some of your main categories. Quick gist of it in my case:
  • * Transportation: costs becomes almost entirely discretionary because you don't have to be at work every day (assuming you're in a decent location, but more on that). From month to month I could tune up or down deciding on what trips to take..
    * Food: no work lunches, more luxury to prepare cheaper and healthier food from scratch, less expensive junk-food consumption due to better lifestyle, it often even just appears for free
    * Housing: It is rocket fuel going from one of those regions you mention where you're paying at least 1000/month (and I was typically well above that!!) to 500 or 300. Oh, and the view, neighbors, access to nature and fresh air, traffic, security, etc. all were significantly better on $300.
    * Alcohol: This one mighta gone up :D Nice life when your big decision for the day is which working-stiff to go visit that evening with a six-pack or bottle of wine in hand. Somehow they're still happy to see you.
I respect the conservative ERE approach of typically forecasting your post-FI expenses at current levels. That's safe, ensures you can adapt to the lifestyle, and avoids pixie dust projections. But having a job and living in the area where you can have it often introduce a substantial inflation of cost of living and the traditional ERE modeling does not explicitly represent that. All the more so considering all the folks who are working in high-expense areas and planning to retire to low-expense ones.

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UrbanHermit
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by UrbanHermit » Wed Feb 05, 2014 11:40 am

@ebast - my CoL estimate isn't very sophisticated. I just looked at the rental rates for apartments similar to my current living space in the areas I'm contemplating moving to, then subtracted the difference (~$500) from my monthly spending. I was reluctant to assume spending would drop in other areas, since I don't have any direct experience to prove that. It's encouraging to see your experience bears out that it will.

@ARXII-13 - Housing in downtown van in the $500 range is generally shared accomodation with 4+ ubc students... I'd rather work longer than deal with roommates at this point in my life. But it's a fair point and l'll make some time this month to re-examine my housing situation and options, see if it still makes sense.

@leeholsen - gotcha, nothing wrong with a bit of window shopping.

January 2014

Image

Incomings - 5090
Outgoings - 1845
Saved - 3245 (63%)

Comments:

Going to be a busy month at work, which generally means less cooking and more eating out, but I'm going to make a serious effort to rationalize my grocery budget anyways. My cellphone contract is up this month, so I need to reevaluate that, I'm currently paying far more than my usage justifies.
In the end decided not to change how I track my spending, but I'm using YNAB behind the scenes for budgeting/planning. Pretty happy with it so far.

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UrbanHermit
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by UrbanHermit » Tue Mar 04, 2014 11:11 am

February 2014

Image

Incomings - 5090
Outgoings - 2078
Saved - 3012

Comments:

Haven't been really motivated to journal recently, since I'm in a bit of a holding pattern at a spending level that's mildly embarassing by ERE standards... but in the end I figured there is enough survivorship bias on this forum already, my lukewarm results might add some blanace ;)

When I started my chart I was in a big push to create some side-passive income. Then I got very significant raise at work coupled with added work load, and I decided my energies were best spent at my day job focusing on making hay while the sun shines. So recently I haven't even been trying.

Not much happened in February. I've been crazy busy on a big project that is way behind schedule, and doing a lot of work on evenings and weekends. This sort of nonsense particularly bugs me, given that I live on less than 1/3 of my gross paycheck. It would be nice if that translated into needing to work less, but our society long since decided that it prefers 25% unemployment and ridiculous hours for the employed, than 25% fewer hours for everyone. Oh well, at least there's early retirement...

Housing is still the elephant in the room at 50-60% of my monthly spend. I know moving would make my numbers look better, but at a $300 drop in rent it will take me 6 months to break even on costs (one month double rent basically unavoidable here given low vacancy rates, I'll need to have a new place locked down before I give notice), and even then it's only a 5% rise in savings rate. On the other hand if I could lose the wall-to-wall carpeting and score a dishwasher it would be well worth the trouble.

So for now I'll keep plugging along, banking what I can, and plotting my escape :D

Ricky
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by Ricky » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:57 am

If you can continue to save at least $3,000 a month I've calculated you can retire in roughly 3.5 years to support your post work level and have a little cushion. Saving more would obviously reduce the time it would take. This assumes cutting rent by $500, transportation by $50, and food by $200. Of course I don't know your target SWR so this was assuming 4%.

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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by UrbanHermit » Sun Apr 27, 2014 2:38 am

I'm something of a language nerd-- besides the early-retirement scene, one of the internet subcultures I'm involved with is the polyglot crowd. It's kind of an odd interest for me actually, because I'm very introverted and I don't much care to travel-- but I enjoy reading, watching, and listening to foreign content (I have this theory that everything seems more interesting/insightful when it's not in your native language because it excercises more areas of your brain), the challenge it presents, and the feeling that I'm accomplishing something even when I'm just sacked out watching TV.

Unfortunately I've been stalled out in my progress for quite some time.

When I was younger and more foolhardy, I thought it would be fun to learn Japanese. Never mind that it's one of the 7 languages the State Department has given the maximum difficulty rating, or that it has a writing system that it takes native speakers over a decade to learn. Japanese has a kind of cachet in our popular culture that you don't get from Latvian or Turkmen, and it suckers in a lot of unwary students.

In the beginning it didn't seem so hard. Progress is always very quick and very noticable at first as you pick up the highest value words and expressions. What I didn't count on was the crushing grind of the intermediate plateau, when the reality of 3000+ kanji sets in. I'm ashamed to say that I've been at this on-and-off for around a decade now, and frankly I still kind of suck.

Twice I've walked away from it-- put all my materials in a box, swore I'd never look at them again, and promised I'd learn something easy like spanish instead. Twice I've found myself many months later dusting off the box and hauling stuff back out. It's not a question of ego or sunk cost, along the way I've just become too invested in various aspects of the culture to completely turn my back. So for the past two to three years I've just been coasting-- getting enough exposure here and there to avoid backsliding, but not really moving forward either.

Around 2009 I was introduced to a blog called "All Japanese All the Time", which proposes exactly that. The author's approach is basically a massive 24x7 self-immersion program. It was really inspiring for a while, but with the reality of long hours at work, commuting, family obligations, and everything else going on in my life, not something I ever really put into practice. Instead it's become one of the things I tell myself I will do someday once I ERE.

Well, 5 more years is a long time, and I'm not content to spend the rest of it kind-of-sucking. So my goal for the next year (I turn 35 in may) is to do whatever it takes-- short of quiting my job and moving to Japan-- to get over this intermediate hump and to the point where I can read fluently and rapidly enough to progress organically. The plan involves ungodly amounts of reading young-adult content, and essentially grafting my headphones in place to soak up podcasts whenever I'm not actually in the office (and about half the time I am).

You may be wondering what all this has to do with ERE (if you got this far without tldnr-ing), and the answer is: not a lot, besides the general renaissance-man thing, and the extra $$ I will be spending on ebooks. However this is the only place I keep an online journal, and since I'm too lazy to maintain a real blog, I'm going to co-opt this thread for publishing my graphs and progress updates (I mean, we're all INTJ's right, who doesn't love a good graph?)

Anyway, more to follow, although probably not much in the April update since I'm just starting to ramp up now.

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UrbanHermit
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by UrbanHermit » Thu May 01, 2014 9:12 pm

April 2014

Image

Incomings - 5090
Outgoings - 2551
Savings - 2539 (49%)

Comments

Expensive month, mostly due to my annual flight home at Easter to visit family. Should be back on track in May.

My goal is to ER at 40, and I will have exactly five years left as of this month. Recently I've been thinking about other things I would like to accomplish in that time-- past goals that fell by the wayside, bucket-list items, etc. To that end my plan is to take on one fairly ambitious side project per year. This year I'm focusing on japanese literacy.

Side Project: Intensive Japanese

I'd like to write the JLPT ikkyu next year (highest level of official proficiencty certification offered), which might mean extending the project through July. However, my main goal is to reach the point where I can read novels, newspapers, and other text aimed at an adult audience without assitance (furigana or dictionary).

My plan of attack has three main components: the Hiesig system for writing, example sentences for vocabulary/grammar, and reading native text for reinforcement and organic learning.

The most important tool I'm relying on is Anki SRS, which I have loaded up with 20k of sample sentences, the JLPT core vocabulary, and the Hiesig flashcards. I've been working this pretty hard the last few days already, but once the reoccurring revisions really start ramping up I should be hitting around 500+ cards due for review each, which is a around 2 hours worth. About half of that I can get done during my commute.

Obviously I can't spend all my time studying, so I've also lined up a wide array of passive input material. Crunchyroll for TV, TBS Radio podcasts for when I'm on the move, and a stack of manga I've been intending to read through for years. Planning to minimize the amount of time spent watching TV however, I think I've conclusively proven that I won't magically learn to read kanji by watching anime on the second monitor while playing steam games.

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UrbanHermit
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by UrbanHermit » Tue Jul 01, 2014 8:43 pm

May/June 2014

Image

May
...Incomings - 9762
...Outgoings - 2687
...Savings - 7075 (73%)

June
...Incomings - 5090
...Outgoings - 2137
...Savings - 2953 (58%)

Comments

Income was unusually high in May due to 3 paychecks and a tax return. Spending was also unusually high due to a sudden rush of unplanned expenses that I can only attribute to plain old bad luck. Some of that carried over onto my June credit card bill making this month look worse than it is.

I've finally broken my expensive (and unhealthy) lunch habit and brought it from home every day last month. Now if I can just convince myself to do something on the rent front I might make some real progress on spending.

Work has been stressful recently. I've got a bunch of vacation saved up I should probably use to catch my breath a bit, but I don't really want to go anywhere, and hanging around my apartment in the july heat isn't that appealing either. Maybe I'll splurge on a tent and go camping in the interior or something.

Side Project: Intensive Japanese

This is coming along, although trying to find the hours to throw at it and still get everything else done is tough. Also weather has been great recently, so I've been spending more time outdoors and less time reading-- that should change around October when the rains set in. I'm still hoping to log 2k hours this year.

(pie charts are my SRS card decks)
Image

My reading proficiency is up significantly month-over-month, but I'm still struggling with anything that doesn't have furigana (phonetic "subtitles" next to the kanji), even light novels are a bit too challenging at the moment. Also, I was too aggressive with Anki in May and built up a huge revision load so I've had to tune back the new card frequency a bit.

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UrbanHermit
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by UrbanHermit » Thu Aug 07, 2014 5:56 pm

Monday was a holiday, so I decided to burn some of my excess vacation days and take the week off. I've been using the time to advance my side-project a bit, and I've got as much reading done already this week as in the entire previous month.

I've noticed a real increase in my reclusive tendencies lately. My job is probably the only thing stopping me from being a full-on hikikomori. Or maybe that's not the right word, since I do go out to enjoy the fresh air or do my shopping, but I've always got my headphones on and I don't really interact with anyone beyond the minimum necassary to make purchases, and even then it's often an automated checkout.

It's been several weeks now since I did anything social outside of work-- possibly since Easter? I'm actually not sure at this point... I think I met up with my brother for a walk one Sunday. I'm not really worried by this, although I do occasionally wonder if I should be.

Recently I've been reconsidering my decision to go car free. Sure it saves a lot of money per month, but since the marginal cost/effort of going anywhere or doing anything goes up a lot, I tend to not bother. I haven't been camping, fishing, swimming, snowboarding, or hiking since I went car free (albeit that also corresponds with moving to the middle of a major metropolitan center). I also used to do a bunch of activities (night classes, martial arts, fitness programs, etc.) that I no longer bother with. I'm not sure if the problem is (1) lack of a car, (2) living in the city, (3) I'm just getting old and lazy. Probably some combination of the three.

If I do buy a car my annual savings rate will probably drop to roughly 50% and I'll have to stop posting here out of shame ;)

No numbers today, I've decided to do the updates bimonthly since I'm too lazy to whip up graphs each month when they really don't change that fast.

IwantLess
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by IwantLess » Thu Aug 07, 2014 7:19 pm

I can definitely relate to the antisocial aspect of going car free. For me, most things other than the grocery store and work are decently far away, which would require paying for some form of public transportation and dealing with the hassle that comes with it. While it's possible, it still requires money and extra work that is easily put off by just staying in. The cost benefit of going car free still outweighs the occasional trip here and there regardless, though.

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pemulis
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by pemulis » Tue Aug 12, 2014 10:12 pm

@UrbanHermit

I was reading about Anki recently because I was researching spaced repetition. Actually, more acurately I am a big fan of gwern and read his article on spaced repetition and found out about it that way (if you are interested: http://www.gwern.net/Spaced%20repetition).

How do you think it is working for you? I was thinking of starting to study for the GRE (a subject test actually) using some kind of software like Anki. I would almost want an app that would calculate out the exact times I need to be reminded in the future and then send me push notifications or something.

Btw sorry to hear it sounds like you are regretting going car-less. I think the same thing would happen to me if I did that...

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UrbanHermit
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by UrbanHermit » Tue Aug 12, 2014 10:37 pm

@pemulis

Anki is a pretty slick SRS system, I'm quite happy with it, but then I only use it for Japanese and there is a large user base with a ton of existing decks for that so it's a good fit. I run it on my android phone which is always in my pocket so I do multiple small sessions during the day (while commuting, while standing in line, during coffee break, etc) instead of sitting down at the pc to crank them all out.

I wouldn't sweat the exact timing, as long as you get through all your active card reps in a day you're getting 90%+ of the benefit. For mature cards, you can be a week behind and it won't make any real difference.

About being car-free, well, at times it's frustrating, but like Iwantless pointed out the math just doesn't work. I have this crisis of faith about once a year and it has gotten to be a running joke with my brother, whenever I mention that I'm shopping around for a used car he just laughs at me now.

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UrbanHermit
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Re: UrbanHermit's Journal

Post by UrbanHermit » Thu Sep 04, 2014 9:55 am

July/August 2014

Image

July
...Incomings - 5394
...Outgoings - 2160
...Savings - 3234 (60%)

August
...Incomings - 5576
...Outgoings - 2460
...Savings - 3116 (56%)

Comments

Savings rate has been a bit low recently. Not really sure where the money has been going actually, based on my fixed expenses there's really no excuse for being over 2k on a regular basis. I may have to start start doing a strict budget again-- perhaps unsurprisingly the 3 months I was using ynab consistently are the 3 lowest on my chart. Also unsurprisingly the extra dollars spend have had no noticeable impact on quality of life.

Some back of the envelope calculations show that if I moved to an $800 apartment, dropped my smartphone plan, and ate more rice-and-beans I could be FI by the end of next year barring a 20%+ market correction. So far however laziness and inertia have been winning, so we'll see how that goes. I may have moved into this place 5 years ago with only 2 suitcases, but somehow I've accumulated a bunch of furniture and whatnot, and now suddenly moving looks like a big job,

I've slowly gained nearly 15lbs over the past year (although still down 40+ from my peak). I'm a tall guy, so this just barely moves me into the "overweight" category according to my bmi, but that's enough to renew my focus on diet and excercise. We'll see how that goes.

Side Project: Intensive Japanese

Still plugging along here. I've raised my reading target to one-volume-per-day for the year, which I hit in August but am trailing slightly year to date. Hopefully my reading speed will pick up as I go making this easier.

For those not familiar with manga, a volume (or tankobon) is a collection of 6-8 weekly episodes republished in consolidate format and runs 150-200 pages, so this is a fairly significant chunk of reading (probably 1/10 the wordcount of your average novel or so). A light novel is what we would call young-adult fiction, shorter than your standard novel, and with easier vocabulary.

Image

I made a lot of progress with some time off early in the month, but the last week or so I've been playing a video game that ate up much of my study time. I need to get a handle on that before I get further derailed.

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