I'm still doing the self brainwashing on ERE and FI daily, reading the forum everyday (as you guys may have noticed since I post almost everyday now) and catching up on the MMM articles I didn't read these last years. I'm still registering every cent spent, and looking at the totals from time to time. The combinations of these actions is working, since I've been obsessing most of the time over about ways to reduce the biggest expenses and related subjects.
The biggest fixed expense is, at the moment, the housing, and that has been the focus of my obsessing. Well, in February, this mechanics of obsessing itself was the source of my biggest expense, a bit more than housing, since I bought several woodwork tools as I told above. It was a impulse buy and I didn't even use any of them yet. Shame on me. The reason for buying them was, as explained above, that I would supposedly build my own furniture in a smart way that would make me easily mobile from rental to rental, thus reducing the friction of moving and optimizing my chances of taking advantage of the better deals on the market. I could even buy a fixer-upper if I were to find one, move in with my mobile furniture, fix it and sell for some profit. Well, those are the reasons I gave above and they are mostly a load of bullshit really. No, I'm not buying real estate here. I know it now, I know the market enough to understand that in present conditions, only I were to be the luckiest guy, I would find an opportunity like that around here. The numbers just don't add up well. And I was action emotionally and lying to myself as it may be often the case when people are dealing with buying real estate. It was definitely the case for me.
To sum up my research on the local real estate market, I stopped looking once I got two offers almost accepted. I had them I know, I just didn't want to follow ahead. Reason being that by that time, I had the feeling that reselling would not be easy at all, even at the lowest price that I'd be able to get. Also, the numbers regarding renting versus buying, when comparing how much one can easily guarantee on the market buying mostly government bonds, were not really favorable. At best I'd be giving up my mobility for no real improvement on the cashflow, or for too little of an improvement. I'm not counting on the value appreciating, because it may fall as well, and the stock market can also appreciate the same or more.
Now onto that impulsive buy thing. If I am to look on my biggest splurges in the recent past, I may as well attribute them to this pattern of me obsessing over something like my previous hobby of fixed and single speed bicycle travelling, and then throwing money mindlessly at ways of optimizing the hobby. I really have to work on this, at least pay close attention to it. This is responsible for relatively large sums of money spent over time, and most of it is not recoverable. It was not irresponsible given my financial and professional condition, but it was definitely not wise nor optimal in maximizing satisfaction over time. One way that I know that can work to keep this pattern in check is to keep registering every cent spent and staring at them and at the spreadsheet containing my financial projections. I hope this is enough. Becoming aware of the pattern probably helps.
Recently, I did another crazy impulse buy, also slightly over the value of value of my biggest expense that is housing, and that was of a pair of the famous sony noise cancelling headphones. I had just received the cheaper, wired edifier ones that suppress a parcel of the noise because they are padded and go over the ears. They have good sound quality as far as my non-educated senses can tell, and the passive noise cancelling that they do were so impressive to me in how they changed my experience of working, that I impulse bought the sony's at amazon thinking that they would be important to me. Well, then latter I registered the transaction in the mobile expense tracker app, and went to bed regretting it because it was going to mess completely my numbers for the month of March. Luckily for me, they took too long to send me and I ended up cancelling the order after regretting it for a day or two.
After giving up on buying real estate, I started researching cheaper rentals. I found what seemed a very good option, that would reduce the housing expenses to almost as low as a third of the amount I pay now. But I took too long to go see it and then it was rented already. It's most likely now that I'll be able to chop this expense in half or so. While reasearching, I found out that I had a pending internet bill in my name from about three years ago. It had messed my credit score completely, and it could pose a problem when renting a new place. Thing is, I had cancelled this internet service in december/2015, and the bill was from march/2016! It was clearly a mistake on their part. Actually I could easily get some money like five months of minimum wage or so by suing then, no lawyer required. And maybe I should. But I just wanted to fix this and be able to move to a new place fast. So I talked to them, sent them the papers proving I had cancelled the service in december/2015, and now I am waiting for the time it takes for this to get fixed, which should be around the end of March or so.
All this time I was stuck at the present apartment had me obsessing yet more over alternative housing arrangements. I started looking seriously at van living, and this has been the new focus of obsession for a while now. I am learning how you can live in one stealthly in the city, and researching ways you can still be comfortable. As per C40's website instructions (address on his profile), I'm now able to do a full body wash spending only a single cup of water. Also, I can pay for a gym where I could wash. I probably have a place to shower where I work now, have to check this. On the other building I used to work, they had showers because of people riding bikes to work. From the old days before ere, when I was doing experiments on how to live travelling in a bicycle full time, I know that I can cook and wash utensils with something like 1,5 L a day. Maybe less if I change what I eat, but that I don't intend to do. Electricity is quite easy because I mostly need to charge a laptop, cellphone (both of them I could even charge at the job), and I could even do without lighting in the van because the city has so much lighting at all times. Some small rechargeable led light could be used for reading. With such low requirements, I could easily have enough in a van to go for a month before I had to recharge van batteries or fill water reserves. That much I could do at a close friend's house. Also from the times I did bike travel, I know that the body adapts and you only feel the need to poo at the right moments. I could do this at work and/or gym. Plastic bags would suffice for an emergency inside the van. Peeing during the night is easily solved with a bottle.
The cooking I could do with any of the conventional camping methods, including alcohol stoves. I happen to be a bit of a nerd on this because of previous bike travels and my obsessive behaviour. Just give me any soda tin can and I build you an alcohol stove with no tools. I can build it to burn hot, slow, or the way you want it. But really, I'd like to not need any kind fire inside the van, not so much because of safety as much as because of the air flow. It's way simpler if you make sure you will never have combustion inside. So I need to do some math to learn if it is feasible to do with induction stoves or with pressure electric cookers, and how much batteries I'd need, solar system, etc. I need a pressure cooker, electric or not, because I want to cook stuff like brown rice regularly. For a conventional pressure cooker over an induction stove, I know that I could use some kind of smart insulation around the pot to reduce energy usage even further. Anyway, I feel the cooking is comfortably doable without major problems, even if I end up needing to resort to combustion.
The problem still standing is clothes washing. I did some research on this, and came up with some ways, but I'm not completely convinced by any. The biggest problem is that I intend to get back to training bjj again, the the kimonos are pretty heavy stuff. I'd need to wash and dry one complete kimono at least once every week, ideally two. I remember from when I used to train, that people sometimes would leave their kimonos to dry inside a closed car in the sun, because it would get so hot in there that it would accelerate the process. I could use some variation of this and some black curtains, but it seems to me that the place would get stinky. Maybe it would get better if I let some dehumidifier running? I don't know. One advantage that I have is that this is a dry climate most of the year (not in the summer though) and you can even dry your clothes overnight by just hanging them inside your closed home.
The washing itself is not complicated, I could have a small bathtub or even just a bowl and wash it by hand. Maybe even wash it in the kitchen sink if I make it deep. But you see, washing kimonos requires some more sizable amount of water, specially to remove all the sweating from it. So then I'm needing bigger water reserves or more frequent refils, which are both inconvenient. I need to do some research on commercial laundries around here, but at first glance they don't seem so inexpensive as it often the case in US or other countries. I could be mistaken. I could also use some combination of techniques, and send only the kimonos for a paid laundry. I could definitely pay and this would be an acceptable solution, but then the numbers start to be less interesting when we compare to living in a cheap small apartment.
The laundry would be pretty easy on the road or some camping, but those are not available inside my city nor nearby. The requirement of being stealth makes it way harder. Other options could include building a house inside bigger vehicle, like a small truck, and then I'd be able to have bigger water reserves, more batteries, and a small washer/dryer. But then parking is not so easy. You don't find many trucks parked around the city, it'd draw a lot more attention, and there are probably even some rules about where you can park them and at what time of the day you can drive them around the city, etc. So yeah, no clear solution for the laundry yet.
I don't even know if I'll ever do the van thing, it's just that I find it fun to explore this. Anyway, I know that in order to not spend money dumbly, I need to research this a lot and to everything else required before I commit to buying one. That would include minimizing my belongings and learning how to live in a van while still living in an apartment. Testing it out first and seeing if it's doable. Maybe even building the inside furniture before buying the van. Damn, I'd even need to learn to drive a car because I never wanted to, and would need to get licensed to drive. It may not even make financial sense after all. It would make for a nice trip around the continent after I quit the job though. On the bright side, I have a very nerd close friend who happens to specialize in mechanics. He is very willing to help me on this, both on choosing a vehicle if I decide on it, and also helping on the conversion. I also thought about buying one already converted, but this is such a minimalistic lifestyle, so optimized to to one's way of living, that it would be very hard to find one that would fit me. More likely, I'd end up having lots of stuff and functionality which I don't need/want and missing other which I require (like a place for my fixie).
If you have read some of my previous posts, you probably have a feel for where I am financially and professionaly and may be asking yourself if I really need to do this. I sure don't, definitely not. Also, if I do it even optimizing it, I may not save so much money in the two years or so that I intend to stay here. But you see, it is like a game to me. I like to optimize stuff and test the limits of efficient yet comfortable lifestyle. Keep in mind that when I say comfortable, I'm counting on my stoicism and hedonic adaptation. Maybe part of this is motivated by hanging around here and wanting to compete? Like unconscious peer pressure? Maybe this is a factor. But it is not the only one. When I look around, since the first time I start living by myself, I never had my house the way I want. My mom furnished it to me. Hell, she did it on both of my first houses, without asking me. The second one, the first where I was completely on my own financially (at 19), she went to visit me one day and when I got back to work, the place was just full of stuff. I didn't complain, but if I am honest, I didn't like it. And then I carried those stuff over to the new places, and at some point I married, and then I had to take my wife opinion into account. After being single again, I moved to a furnished place in a new city because it was convenient. I kind of want to start from scratch, you see? Like Tyler Durden exploding the place so that the main character could just to move into squatting and test the limits of how little one can live with. I was even making soap another day, ahahahaha. No human fat though. But I had this neat idea that I could make them look creeply like skin color, make a "Vegan Club" brand, call my "company" Paper Street and sell them to a local vegan store. :-p
On other news, I sold two of my bicycles and intend to keep just one. I still have two "half-bikes" to sell. Cancelled one of my cellphones services. I had this second one because of the recent bike trip in january, because it would allow me to have data abroad. I'll sell this second cellphone, I probably already have a buyer. Today I got home and found the bill for the cable internet, which is over twice what you would pay for a local fibre company for a comparable service. This is one of the big cable companies in the country, and they have this aggressive instance where they just keep on raising the bill slowly over time if you don't complain. When you call them to cancel, they just offer you to cut it in half or something. I'm just fed up with this bullshit, so I just call them and cancelled it outright. When they asked to reason I wanted to cancel, I told them I don't want to say. As always, they wanted to offer me special packages, I and told I don't want to know about it. So for now, I just have internet in the prepaid phone, for which I pay a small price for one day of usage, limited to 100mb a day. That means no video unless I'm using some wifi. I just pay for the days I use data, so I let the cellphone data disable when I don't need it. I also installed an app where you can find the places around the city where you can get free wifi, like restaurants and such. I like that I won't be able to see video for a while, since I was spending too much time on youtube already. It kind of replaced the previous netflix habit. It much more useful stuff, like about van living at the moment, but still. I want to take some time away from video to see how it goes. If I move to a cheaper apartment, I may get fibre from some local company without the bullshit from the big companies. Or I may buy some kind of strong wifi antenna that I was mentioned on a van video. For now though, I am as cheap as one can get on the internet department without cutting it out completely. I'll try this for a while and I may as well like it this way. Because the real utility I derive from the internet, I can get from low bandwidth and low data usage as well. Important knowledge is out there in text and image format, or books. Also, communication is text.
In preparation to moving to a new place, I started putting stuff in boxes. There is a lot that I could get rid of. But I put most of it in boxes without sorting much anyway, because I was thinking that the cheapest option would be to move fast to a new cheaper place and then get rid of stuff after I get there. But now that I think about it, one or two more months here won't make such a big difference after all. And I may take my time and think it through, as I may end up deciding that I want a van or something else instead of commiting to a new rent contract.
I have been cooking more often and ordering less take-out. But this is an area that requires more improvement. Last week was great, but in the beginning of the month, I still spent a lot ordering food. Because after I sort the housing situation, food is the next big target, I decided to split the categories in order to have finer-grained control. Now instead of a "food" category, I have three: "Ready-to-eat" food, processed food (not in natural form but not ready to eat, like pasta), and unprocessed food in natural form just like it came from nature. The reason is that the more you have people process it (or even prepare it for you to eat), the more it will cost.