The reformed materialists

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

Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

@BookLoverL – thanks for your kind and supportive words. I'm sharing progress as a way of maintaining my own trajectory by making it public, also I hope people reading may pick up things they can do and see that putting ERE into practice is not difficult when you are clear on the benefits and you have started to live key themes from the book.

Your observations on the MMM forum are insightful. I love the way you have expressed it as 'full of mostly high income earners congratulating themselves on spending close to median income, and most of the things a lot of them are saving money on are things that I'm already not spending on.' Dead right and me too!

There's a thread over there today about battery powered mowers. I couldn't resist questioning whether I was actually on the MMM forum with a link to MMM's blog 'Muscle over motors' where he's down on powered mower, leaf blowers, etc. in his usual humorous way.

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

Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

Not buying
This has been my key theme so far in August. I'm taking great delight in interrupting well-established thought processes with 'don't need it, don't buy it'. Unsubscribing from mailing lists has never been more fun. Apart from buying groceries, I haven't been in a shop, restaurant or pub since before lockdown started back in March.

Food and household
Food shopping was going well until yesterday. We were on for £63 for the week ending yesterday but I injured my foot when trying to raise my office chair and appeared to pull a calf muscle. I was in agony! After 30 minutes with an ice pack the pain faded and I think it was actually cramp. Anyways, DW offered to cook dinner and decided that she should go shopping. We didn't actually need to shop until today so we have £30 additional spend in last week's bucket. Maybe this week will be lower. That said, some items (e.g. toilet paper £8 for a bulk pack and coffee bought on special at half price) are actually optimising costs for future weeks and are not consumed in the week. Net-net, our grocery spending is going well and I'm pleased with the simple transformation.

Analysing our food spend, we could do better if we cut the 3 bottles of wine we buy (£18). I got very excited reading old threads here about country wine making. I discussed with DW and DS and they both said no – opposed to buying more stuff/clutter which may not be used. DW said 'just drink less' but no sign of that happening yet!

House refurb
Our house painter started work on Wednesday. Of course, having a stranger up a ladder looking through bedroom windows is inhibiting. I'm actually quite good at painting but I don't like ladders or working at height so I'm happy to sub-contract the risk out to a professional. The work is looking good.

Our architect visited on Wednesday. He has a plan for re-roofing our garage block, cantilevering the front further out over the garage doors, cladding the render with cedar and installing new sectional garage doors. It's looking good and will modernise the front of the house and give it a ton of kerb appeal. The structural engineer has also done some calculations which prove that the existing steelwork in the rear balcony can be re-used with some minor stiffening. The architect has selected a balcony system using architectural glass and has some good ideas about flooring and decking. This project might even come in below our anticipated budget. We'll ask the builders to quote for both projects and also ask them to replace the guttering. I was given a recommendation of a really good guttering guy but he didn't want to use the galvanised steel system our architect suggested but uPVC instead. The whole point of asking an architect to oversee the work was to ensure that the refurb is cohesive and tasteful with a tight palette of materials across the project. The problem with individual trades is they always suggest tweaks which are good for them (more profitable, less work, easier to use, etc.) and we are done with paying trades to serve themselves and not us!

Decluttering
My ebay sales ended last Sunday and mostly did well. I advertised two road bikes using DD's location in London which did wonders for views and watchers. The end prices were very good, however, one of the winning bidders has not paid or responded to messages so I've opened a case with ebay. I don't understand why people do that! Another item, a child's bike, went for the opening bid and the 'winner' has given some poor excuses for not paying or being able to collect the bike. Buyer's remorse, so I've opened a case for that one too. Despite two stalled sales, I transferred £350 from Paypal to our current account.

Mental wellbeing
I've decided to add this in as it's significant. Over the past week I've had trouble getting to sleep and when I have, on one occasion woke up hyperventilating. I know how to deal with that, so not a major concern. I started using the 'Calm' app but there are triggers in the guided meditations where I begin to feel like my breathing is about to get faster and faster, so I've set it aside. I'm pretty sure that the last three months of monotonous working from home, no trips and travel, no hobbies and leisure, no concerts, and living in a world where people are edgy and anxious, have all ratcheted up the stress level. Sure, I'm getting stuff done, being more efficient and feeling a sense of achievement in that, but all the stress is still weighing me down and I need to find a way of relieving it. Because I haven't slept, I feel like crap during the day, so I saw the doctor who ordered blood tests and a chest x-ray, so we should be able to eliminate a lot of the nasties in the next few days. My prediction is that the root cause will be stress/anxiety as I can pinpoint events since March when the ratchet turned tighter. Ironically, our whole downsize/declutter/move project is directed towards removing as much stress from our lives as we can, however, we may have to reconsider our options and take corrective action sooner, which would probably have financial consequences.

All in, our running total spend on our joint credit card is maybe half what it would be at this point in the month (one week before the statement is generated).

jacob
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by jacob »

For eBay, my preferred selling format is "Buy it now". I start the price high and then manually lower it once a week or so (or however often you like) until someone bites. This way you get the money immediately and you don't risk someone "winning" by paying $0.01 because nobody else was interested. If the listing expires w/o a hook, it is simply rolled over/renewed.

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

Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

Thank you @Jacob for encouraging me to list as 'buy it now' on eBay. I did that with the road bike and it worked so well. The 'winner' has paid but hasn't replied to my email query on when he wants to collect the bike this weekend! Hopefully to be resolved in the next 24 hours!

I'll get the surplus kitchen appliances photographed and listed tomorrow to continue along with the decluttering.

My doctor called to say that the blood work shows up a cause for the shortness of breath and she has prescribed a diuretic which should make a difference. Onwards and upwards!

No-spend restriction continues. August should be a good savings month!

mooretrees
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by mooretrees »

It's great that you're spending the time and energy to list things for sale. I get too impatient and just want to get rid of things so I donate. Also, we don't have nice things, too many years just buying the cheapest things. Hope the sales continue! I did sell a window a/c unit recently. We bought it for $100 three years ago and sold it for $70 last week. Made me think I should have listed it higher. It was good timing to sell it though and it's gone which is the key reality.

I think working to get rid of things also has the added benefit of making one less likely to bring more stuff into your life. You really understand the full cost of owning something when you struggle to get rid of it. And then when you have less around, it's a lovely feeling.

DutchGirl
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by DutchGirl »

Rob, I'd request a longer talk with the doctor. I find it strange that he/she says: "Oh, there's a cause; use this medication!". A diuretic is to remove excess fluid from your body, but why is it there? I'd want some explanations from the doc, as this is your body we're talking about and not your car or gutters ;-) Maybe also it would help if the doc had a plan to improve your health so that you won't need to take this medication forever.

Mind you, sometimes people have to stay on specific medication forever, and it helps them to live a more happy and healthy life. I'm all for that! But say that a change in diet/lifestyle can improve your health and reduce your future health risks... that would be better!

I'm sorry to hear that life is stressful for you right now. I seem to observe that in trying to make your life less stressful, right now you've created an amount of extra stress. Like a little mountain that you need to get over to get to a nicer low-stress valley. I'm glad you've got the energy to do so! But while reading your posts from the beginning, I wanted to suggest one thing: if selling all your things one by one costs too much effort and time, consider selling some of your items in bulk. You won't get the best prices that way, but it will save you a lot of energy, and that's worth something too.

Thanks for posting here, I enjoyed reading it and I wish you all the best!

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

Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

mooretrees wrote:
Sat Aug 15, 2020 12:19 am
It's great that you're spending the time and energy to list things for sale. I get too impatient and just want to get rid of things so I donate. Also, we don't have nice things, too many years just buying the cheapest things. Hope the sales continue! I did sell a window a/c unit recently. We bought it for $100 three years ago and sold it for $70 last week. Made me think I should have listed it higher. It was good timing to sell it though and it's gone which is the key reality.

I think working to get rid of things also has the added benefit of making one less likely to bring more stuff into your life. You really understand the full cost of owning something when you struggle to get rid of it. And then when you have less around, it's a lovely feeling.
You're right that having to invest the time to maximise the selling price on ebay does register the full cost of owning something when it takes so much effort to sell it! I sold a portable a/c unit over a weekend 6 weeks ago when we had the first mini-heatwave. Do you use the 'advanced search' function for 'completed listings' for the product you want to sell? You get to see the best prices achieved. Following @Jason's directions of listing and then cutting the price if the item doesn't sell, I think you're probably going to do fairly well.

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

Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

DutchGirl wrote:
Sat Aug 15, 2020 9:54 am
Rob, I'd request a longer talk with the doctor. I find it strange that he/she says: "Oh, there's a cause; use this medication!". A diuretic is to remove excess fluid from your body, but why is it there? I'd want some explanations from the doc, as this is your body we're talking about and not your car or gutters ;-) Maybe also it would help if the doc had a plan to improve your health so that you won't need to take this medication forever.

Mind you, sometimes people have to stay on specific medication forever, and it helps them to live a more happy and healthy life. I'm all for that! But say that a change in diet/lifestyle can improve your health and reduce your future health risks... that would be better!

I'm sorry to hear that life is stressful for you right now. I seem to observe that in trying to make your life less stressful, right now you've created an amount of extra stress. Like a little mountain that you need to get over to get to a nicer low-stress valley. I'm glad you've got the energy to do so! But while reading your posts from the beginning, I wanted to suggest one thing: if selling all your things one by one costs too much effort and time, consider selling some of your items in bulk. You won't get the best prices that way, but it will save you a lot of energy, and that's worth something too.

Thanks for posting here, I enjoyed reading it and I wish you all the best!
@DutchGirl thanks for your concern about my doctor's mechanical approach to prescribing diuretics. I'll seek an explanation and explore natural alternatives. (I think that adjusting diet, exercise, etc., are all preferable to popping pills!).

Thanks also for your support for my journalling and your recommendation of selling items in bulk. I'll look into that! :)

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

Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

After a few weeks break from social media I'm going to provide an update. I've virtually stopped spending money! I bought a (budget) electric shaver from Aldi and a 2021 insert for my Filofax diary and otherwise just routine household/grocery items. Savings ratio is great!

Further talks with my doctor have clarified that my heart rhythm is irregular so the meds I have been prescribed are intended to normalise this. (I used to observe that it's better not to engage with the healthcare sector as they have a way of ensnaring willing victims by medicalising them!). The meds' initial side-effects have been somewhat disruptive and I haven't had the energy (or motivation) to keep the ebay sales going. I'm returning to my old self and went for a good walk last Friday and cooked Sunday lunch at the weekend. I continue to read the forum and the mood of positivity and ambition (with challenges to 'normal') are energising.

UK-with-kids
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by UK-with-kids »

Good to hear an update Rob as I was wondering what had happened to you, but sorry to hear about your medical issue. Let's hope the walks and the slower lifestyle help as much as the pills.

ThriftyRob
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

UK-with-kids wrote:
Wed Oct 21, 2020 7:07 am
Good to hear an update Rob as I was wondering what had happened to you, but sorry to hear about your medical issue. Let's hope the walks and the slower lifestyle help as much as the pills.
Thanks for your kind words and thinking about me! Walks, slower lifestyle and good nutrition should all make a difference! :D

ThriftyRob
Posts: 124
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

So October's saving ratio was 75% and the no buy thing is going well. I bought a Panasonic foil shaver for £24, which actually works well.

I sold some bits of audio so the decluttering continues slowly.

My heart condition is stabilised – an angiogram showed no calcification of the arteries (good news) and an echo cardiogram showed my heart function has improved over the last 6 weeks. Great joy!

ThriftyRob
Posts: 124
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

Thinking about transport

Do you ever mull things over as part of the process of decision-making? I have been doing that about our transport options. I thought it might help to capture my thought process.

We currently live in a rural location with the nearest town (with public transport and taxis) about two miles away. For convenience, a car is pretty essential. We have backed our environmental/efficiency values by both owning battery electric cars, bought used with low mileages. Since lockdown I have only used my car for going to the supermarket and a couple of errands. I think I have driven twice since early August!

I would love to go full-on ERE by selling the cars and living without. That would be an act of self-sabotage given our rural location and current lifestyle. Our retirement plan includes travel and moving to a lower cost of living location, so we will need one car at least. I am drawn to the 'bangernomics' philosophy of buying an older vehicle and doing the essential minimum maintenance, being prepared to scrap it for parts if it requires expensive parts or specialist labour. I would really like to be a renaissance man and maintain my own vehicle, so selecting a car that favours DIY maintenance is attractive also. Then the idea of a kit car came to me. Whilst the 70s/80s boom in component cars in the UK is ancient history there are a number of options still available both new and used. Many tend to be sports car/convertibles. I'm drawn to the Caterham 7 but their used prices are eye-wateringly high and I would question their value when a used MG TF or MX5 can be had for 10% of the outlay. Maybe I should pick up a used city car, like the Suzuki Celerio, which is economical, basic and has a good reliability record. That said, DW loves the look of the MX5, so it may be worth indulging ourselves.

basuragomi
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by basuragomi »

One option with beaters is short-term car insurance. Then one of the biggest unavoidable costs is reduced. It's not an option in Canada but seems to exist in the UK. With an electric car and a rural dwelling you might be able to roll around to prolong tire life, do maintenance, etc. without going on public roads, and won't have to worry about gas fouling. Looks like vehicle tax is nil for electric cars in the UK too.

ertyu
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ertyu »

i solved this by settling down in a very lcol town - but still an actual town. walkable in all ways. i ditched cars altogether and live in a flat which is small but centrally located.

ThriftyRob
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

basuragomi wrote:
Wed Nov 04, 2020 9:42 am
One option with beaters is short-term car insurance. Then one of the biggest unavoidable costs is reduced. It's not an option in Canada but seems to exist in the UK. With an electric car and a rural dwelling you might be able to roll around to prolong tire life, do maintenance, etc. without going on public roads, and won't have to worry about gas fouling. Looks like vehicle tax is nil for electric cars in the UK too.
Thanks for that tip. I'll look into insurance options. I coast in the electric car when traffic conditions/topography allows. Yes, electric cars have zero vehicle excise duty for a few years yet! :)

ThriftyRob
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

ertyu wrote:
Wed Nov 04, 2020 12:22 pm
i solved this by settling down in a very lcol town - but still an actual town. walkable in all ways. i ditched cars altogether and live in a flat which is small but centrally located.
Perfect solution! That could be the way that we go – if we can find somewhere we'd like to live. Definitely plan on getting a flat/cottage that is well-located for shops/amenities. Somehow, I think the 'go where we want, when we want' freedom will kick in and we will find it hard to forgo a car.

ThriftyRob
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

I thought I would give an update on what I'm doing.

House refurb
Stalled! Our architect's tame builder is fully-committed on a project and has no capacity right now. I'm not sure whether we are going to sit it out and wait or find another builder, probably in January now, as the trade focuses on the holiday season from around now.

Selling off the clutter
I have sold a few bits and I signed up for £1 maximum selling fees on ebay (ends tomorrow) so will be busy with my DSLR tomorrow listing lots of 'buy it now's.

House hacking
I dipped into to MMM's app and read a blog about house hacking. A lot of what I have read on the topic positions it as a young persons' game (although there is scope to rent out self-contained 'granny flats' on AIrbnb). I wish I had thought of doing house hacks a few decades ago. I'm not sure I would want to compromise our privacy with house hack tenants now.

Van life
I mentioned earlier in this journal the appeal of van living. There are several YouTube channels that I dip into regularly. John and Mandy on Tour have vlogged their experience in the Sierra Nevada (Spain) during lockdown last week and Ladi and Margaret are doing a detailed series as they design and build their van conversion. While the lifestyle is very attractive, I still need to convince DW. Watching the vlogs is informative and entertaining though on a rainy day!

Not spending
My personal embargo on spending money is going pretty well. I spent £8 last week on a book on Kindle. Otherwise, our groceries bill is around £60 per week/10 days (for our family of four) and I have resisted all the tempting sale offers I received in the run-up to black Friday.

Energy efficiency
I switched our electricity supply to a time-of-use tariff in July 2019. So we get charged close to the 'energy market' rate per kWh we consume in off-peak and a super-high rate between 4pm and 7pm. We have adapted our lives to eating dinner after 7pm, starting to cook food from that time. Our average electricity cost is between 8p and 9p per unit. We heat our lounge with a wood burning stove (with a heat pump as back-up) and so far this autumn the residual heat in the room from burning wood for a few hours every evening has kept the room warm enough during the day so that we haven't resorted to the heat pump at all. Hoping for a mild winter!

ThriftyRob
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

Covid-19 lockdown
I’m finding the restrictions and limitations really wearing. I miss the freedom to think ‘a weekend away with DW would be great. Where shall we go?’ and then to research and book a trip.

Buy-it-now
I have had a surplus kitchen cupboard on ebay BIN for a few weeks. I listed it at 50% of what it cost us new and have reduced its price a few times. DW had discussed what to do about disposing of it as it looked like ebay wasn’t working. My plan B was to saw it up and burn it! Yesterday I received a ‘best offer’ bid and after to-ing and fro-ing with counter-offers I sold it. The buyer wasted no time in organising a removals company to pick it up today. So, today I’m £320 better off and I have solved the problem of how to get rid of the damned thing before Christmas!

FI/ER
I found a link to an FI calculator via MMM. I put my numbers in and it confirmed I’m FI! :) DW is finding her work less fulfilling this year as all the ‘best bits’ are constrained by the rules which means that the crap parts have expanded to fill her work days. She has to deal with people who aren’t always polite and respectful and she’s thinking ‘why am I taking this shit when I could be lying on a beach somewhere?’ She is talking about giving in her notice some time between now and next summer. My main work project is becoming very political with a few actors seeking to make names for themselves by challenging pretty much everything. If their suggestions weren’t so stupid I would step back and say ‘fine, it’s yours, get on with it’. Somehow, I’m afraid I’m too competitive to just do that! So I could be exiting maybe as early as next spring.

Where to live
DW wants to make a clean break from where we live and work, so selling our house and moving is a key part of our plans. It’s easy to house hunt virtually using a few apps and websites. We are agreed that we will ‘test drive’ a new location by renting for at least 6 months. After all the ERE/FIRE reading I have done, I’m pretty convinced that renting has advantages and I don’t want to sink capital into the liability that is owning a home. We had discussed taking several long weekend trips away this autumn to check out possible relocation options but Covid has put a stop to that. I’m still drawn to the Isle of Man, which has strong family significance (and is a low tax environment) but Cornwall is attractive too.

Both our preferred locations are somewhat remote. Which is a good thing. Travelling anywhere would require either flights (from IoM) or a long train journey to London for international connections.

I’m mulling over whether we can rent an apartment in the UK for 6 months in the summer and travel the winters (assuming the world opens up for travel again).

Cars/transportation
After boldly dispensing advice to @Hristo Botev to sell his truck, I confess that I should take my own medicine! My car is a three-year-old LEAF (bought with cash) which I’m hardly using while wfh. DW has a nine-year-old Mitsubishi i-MIEV which is great although its range is rather limited. The mustachian way would be to sell the LEAF and replace it with something around seven years old, petrol engined and from a Japanese or Korean factory. Maybe a Suzuki city car or a Honda CR-Z or even a Prius. We should also rationalise our fleet of bikes and invest in an e-bike each.

Spending/saving
We are accumulating cash. Not so difficult when all the temptations are closed by government order! I weakened last week by taking up an offer from a frequent flyer scheme I’m in for a case of 12 bottles of wine for £66 (decent value I think). I also dipped into the British Airways warehouse clearance sale of First Class crockery by ordering six First mugs for £25. Sadly, the brandy glasses had already sold out by the time I got wise to this sale.

With reduced spend, what really stands out for us is that our Council tax (UK local property tax, linked to value) is our highest outgoing at over £300 per month. A further reason for selling the house and downsizing.

Diet and exercise
I haven’t been running since August due to irregular heart rhythm. Plenty of good long walks though. I’m doing my best to max out on veggies every day and am probably meat-free four or five evening meals each week. I’m now following guidance by having no more than 8 units of alcohol per week. So we now only open a bottle of wine two nights each week.

Dreaming
I have a recurring desire to drive through France, using their 'N' roads, in a convertible car. Sunny weather, lovely scenery. Maybe next year! Here's hoping.

ThriftyRob
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Re: The reformed materialists

Post by ThriftyRob »

I don't know what happened there! I edited my post and it came up as a quote! So I've deleted it.
Last edited by ThriftyRob on Wed Nov 25, 2020 5:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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