bookworm's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
bookworm
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:19 pm

bookworm's journal

Post by bookworm »

Well here goes. I've been putting this off for a long time, years at this point. Some introduction on myself is here: viewtopic.php?t=12959

One reason for this journal is that I need the accountability. Aside from my partner and a few friends, I don’t have a lot of people right now who are really clued into ERE or anything related. I get the sense that moving away from the salaryman mindset is going to take a while longer, even though I am at/close to FI on paper.

As mentioned previously, I have been pursuing some version of Lean FIRE since I was 24 (six years ago now). While doing so I developed some useful skills, reduced spending, traveled on the cheap, improved my baseline mental/physical health, and generally simplified my life. But I also got complacent and fell into WL4/5 traps, e.g. optimizing for money above all else, obsessing about small amounts of spending while neglecting health, etc. So my focus is to get into more of a WL6 space so that I’m ready for the next stage of my life.

The focus here will be on my attempts to develop skills, find community, build an appreciation for my life, and deal with some sticky interpersonal issues as they relate to pursuing ERE. The financial part will be tracked, but only as one node in a larger web of goals. Browsing these forums anonymously is a useful form of consumption for my life goals, but it is still passive. I feel the need to put something out there myself at this point after absorbing so much. Hopefully in the process I will help clarify things for myself and maybe help others on their own journeys.

Western Red Cedar
Posts: 1185
Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2020 2:15 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

Welcome to the forum! Journaling here has added an additional level of accountability in my FI/ERE journey, so I hope you find the same. Active participation here tends to ripple out in a positive manner which is difficult to anticipate when you start writing. I look forward to following along.

mathiverse
Posts: 772
Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2019 8:40 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by mathiverse »

Welcome! I look forward to reading! Your story is very relatable to me as a formerly burned out, on-off software engineer trying to get past WL4/5.

frugaldoc
Posts: 75
Joined: Fri Jun 30, 2023 1:31 am
Location: Sasebo, Japan

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by frugaldoc »

Welcome. I believe we decided to start our journals on nearly the same day albeit you are doing it much earlier in your life than I did. That's awesome and those extra years will allow your wealth and skills to compound. I am looking forward to following allowing and learning from you. Your knowledge extends far beyond mine as evidenced by my lack of a clear grasp of the different Wheaton Levels. I know it is permaculture derived and often spoke of here.

loutfard
Posts: 303
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2023 6:14 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by loutfard »

Frugaldoc, you might be interested in https://wiki.earlyretirementextreme.com ... ton_Levels .

frugaldoc
Posts: 75
Joined: Fri Jun 30, 2023 1:31 am
Location: Sasebo, Japan

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by frugaldoc »

loutfard wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2023 2:55 am
Frugaldoc, you might be interested in https://wiki.earlyretirementextreme.com ... ton_Levels .
Thanks loutfard....that is very helpful. I can't determine exactly what level I am operating at, but it is nowhere near the WL 6 that bookworm is actively working toward.

bookworm
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:19 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by bookworm »

@Western Red Cedar Thank you! It's definitely my hope that there will be a lot of positivity in both directions. I think I last posted on forums as a teenager, so I'm getting a weird feeling of nostalgia already.

@mathiverse Thanks for the warm welcome. I started reading your journal in chronological order although I've definitely found myself there randomly over the last couple of years. It's very relatable (especially the on-off software engineering stints and mixed feelings about continuing the career).

bookworm
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:19 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by bookworm »

@frugaldoc Thank you! Looking forward to hearing more about your own journey!

I also have trouble determining where I am exactly on Wheaton Levels and try not to get too hung up on this categorization. In addition to the wiki, I found the discussions here helpful along with Jacob's summary table: viewtopic.php?t=8103

bookworm
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:19 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by bookworm »

WEB OF GOALS

Food

Eating out was one of the first things to go when I got into frugality. At this point, it’s only for special occasions (maybe 1-2 times a month at most). Outside of that, I’m eating at home, although I share this job with my SO now. Recently we’ve found a bit of a compromise between meal prepping for the entire week and doing improvisational with pantry staples.

We eat vegetarian meals at home, but I’ll occasionally have meat when I’m offered/at a restaurant with friends/family. I’ve gone back and forth about just being a full-on vegetarian for a while now, but I’m content just eating substantially less meat for the foreseeable future (usually only poultry/fish).

Since June of this year, we’ve managed to save a lot of money on food with the price book approach, buying in bulk, eliminating most food waste, and focusing on using whatever’s at hand rather than following a fancy recipe. That said, there’s definitely room for improvement. We’re at $150 / person and I’d like to see if we can get to $100 / person in the next couple of months.

Although I ended up starting late in the spring, the garden this year was the best we’ve ever had (which isn’t saying much!). The micro green harvest still seems to be responsible for like 90% of the yield. Having fresh herbs for meals added a nice touch. I’m hoping that we can work on leafy green output next season.

We’ve gotten much better at eliminating food waste through composting and just using what’s available versus what’s in the recipe. I’m not entirely sure that my 5-gallon bucket compost is well-balanced as I got lazy in terms of the green/brown ratios, but it’s fun to stare in and watch the process over time.

For the summer, we managed without an air conditioner. I’ve done this on my own when living with roommates, but it was the first time doing this in our place. After a little discomfort, it became normalized. If things got really bad while I was working upstairs, it was straightforward enough to go to the library for “free” air conditioning and a change of location.

This winter we’ve set the thermostat to 58 degrees Fahrenheit when things started to get cold. I’m a little hesitant to take it down much lower. I weather-proofed our windows recently, but there’s only so much we can do with a drafty house from the late 1800s.

Transportation

I bought a used car in cash in 2015 (the same year I started working) which I’ve had ever since. I’ve used it fairly lightly but when the pandemic hit I barely used it at all for months (no gigs to go to or outdoor stuff). I used to do quick car trips back and forth to the store but have started to ditch this in favor of biking or walking. At this point, use has tapered off even more to the point where it’s more for taking trips to hiking spots, getting food in bulk from Walmart/Aldis, and seeing friends/family. One frugality metric here has been to live on one tank of gas per month for day to day stuff (with the exception of big trips on the weekend).

That said, my car has had some deferred maintenance that has taken some time to work through recently. I was able to do the most recent tire rotation / oil change with my father’s help. I have no desire to buy/store all the tools needed for routine jobs so I’ll probably be able to borrow his stuff for the foreseeable future. While doing the work, we noticed that the tread has been getting really low on the tires (2/32” on one). After a lot of hand-wringing and quarter/penny tests, I decided to go for a mid-range option and forked out the money for all four to be replaced.

Hopefully with a little more care and attention, I’ll be able to keep the car in decent shape to either sell later or just drive until breakdown. I’ve tracked expenses since ownership, and maintenance costs have been under $30/mo amortized over the entire period. I hope this to stay around the same or even decline as my car takes on more miles as I learn more DIY and put the money in advance where I need to (along with reducing unnecessary use of the car for day to day tasks).

Exercise

Hiking has been a primary hobby for a year and a half now. It started when I found the AT near where I live while car camping by myself in the western part of MA. I’ve done section hikes of the AT and the NET as well. I’ve also been able to climb 13/48 of the 4k footers in NH, which has been easy to fit into salaryman existence. It's relatively straightforward to take off a Saturday or Sunday and climb a couple, then come back to the Boston area in the evening. Unlike last season, I’d like to keep going through the winter, although that’s requiring more attention to gear. At this point, this is also one of the primary uses of my car.

Running is something I’ve been trying to enjoy for much longer and I finally can say that I actually look forward my runs. I usually do a 5k runs due to running out of time before work begins, but I would like to try more 10k runs in the future. Once I started doing other stretching and strength exercises on a regular basis, many of the physical issues that I had previously attributed to running fell to the wayside.

I’ve been doing strength training recently, sometimes using the deck of cards and other times just free styling with a particular exercise. I’ve definitely felt a lot of internal resistance to exercise for whatever reason, and I’d like to find better goals in this area as my skill and consistency improves. But for now leaving weights around my workspace has been helpful as an environmental cue to get going.

My smart watch is set up to track my steps for the day. Trying to keep the rolling 7-day average above 10k (nothing incredible). Sometimes I get really bogged down in work and that slips a bit. I’d imagine too in the winter the amount of time I’m going to be trudging through the snow is going to be a bit lower than when the weather is nice out, but I’m hoping to get out there, especially since I recently bought some expensive (but hopefully quality) gloves and boots to keep warm.

Mental Health

I have struggled with bouts of depression over the course of my life, some related to salaryman existence and others earlier in origin. I would rather not go into all the details at this point on a public forum, but I have found things that have improved my baseline. It turns out that many of the things that helped me get to a better place are related to ERE.

Meditation has been a big factor for me in becoming more resilient, and has been a morning habit that is fairly well-enforced at this point. It can be strange to set goals in this area, but I would like to deepen the practice to include an evening routine. In the future, I’d like to do more silent retreats, but I can’t really swing this with 9-5 software engineer life. Journaling has become a strong habit as well in the last few years. Obviously this journal can be an outward facing form, but I just find writing a private page or two in the morning to be immensely therapeutic. Writing was something that I enjoyed as a child but fell away from later, especially once I started my math degree (unless you count proofs!)

Sleep has been something I’ve had to work on for a while. I’m a night owl but I’ve definitely noticed that I’ve become more of an early riser with time. The big thing is to remove screens later at night. I try to put things away (except Kindle) around 9pm, but I find the only way to do this is to store everything away. I am pretty sensitive to sleep deprivation, even if it’s only a couple hour deficit. Even if I get my 7-8 hours I notice a big difference based on the last time I looked at a screen prior to falling asleep.

I’ve been doing cold showers for a couple of weeks, and off and on for the last few months. I can’t say this has been an easy habit to get a hold on especially in the winter but when I shower right after working out it seems much more tolerable. I’m not sure I’ll continue with this particular experiment.

Music

My collaborations with others has gone way down since the pandemic. One band I was in I really enjoyed and felt like I was growing in, and I definitely miss it. Another I don’t miss as much, and realize in retrospect that I stayed in it for too long. So it makes me a little hesitant to jump into future projects, unless I’m feeling strong connection with the other musicians.

I can still get a lot out of practicing on my own, recording improvisations, and writing (instrumental) compositions. I had an issue with my main practice keyboard which led to sticky keys which I was able to DIY recently (with plenty of help from Youtube), so it felt good to be able to maintain my gear, which isn’t cheap. I have like three keyboards in the apartment at this point and am trying to downsize. I also have an extra speaker I basically never use. I’ve been selling off a lot of gear and want to see what else I can get rid of in the next couple of months.

I’ve also noticed that without the constant band rehearsals/gigs I’ve been driving a lot less. In one band, I was going around my state doing brewery shows, and it was definitely costing more in gas/depreciation than I was getting paid. It also wasn’t a project that I was terribly excited about or that led anywhere in terms of exposure. In the future, I’d like to be more strategic about what I put my energy into and whether it fits into my larger web of goals.

When I was unemployed, I tried tutoring piano for money through one of the many platforms available. Teaching my first (and only) student felt fulfilling, but it would definitely take a while to get a tutoring business underway and a lot of energy that I do not currently have with my 9-5 and other interests. That said, tutoring could be a decent income stream in a post-job life. In the meantime I’ve been teaching my nephew how to play piano by ear and experimenting with pedagogy.

Reading

This was one of my main hobbies in middle school/high school. But the habit fell apart during the later years of college and first years working. Fortunately, it was also one of the first habits to be recovered later. I honestly see it as the first awakening from the salaryman stupor. I usually pick a number of books to read per year and try to meet that goal (this usually averages to 2+/week).

I generally read nonfiction but have tried to add a little more fiction in the mix recently (which I read a lot of as a child/teenager). For some reason I have trouble getting back into fiction now. I’d also like to be a little more focused in my reading. At one point I did a critical theory reading list I found on Reddit that was kind of interesting and noticed that I got a lot more out of things when I focus on one subject area and take a synoptic approach. Usually though I just have a bunch of random books going at the same time usually in spirituality,

I used to own a lot of books that I already read or wanted to read but I’ve downsized my collection to a smallish bookcase. The libraries in Boston are honestly amazing in terms of what you can find, especially if you do inter-network loans. I’m not opposed to getting rid of most of my books at this point, except for a few that have sentimental value.

Languages

I’ve been studying Spanish off and on for a while now. I took ~3 years in middle school / high school and got back into it when I started working and found Duolingo. Since later last year and this year I made this a much larger focus. When I was unemployed, I got a month of Baselang and got hours of practice conversing with native speakers. At this point, I feel like I’ve gotten to a decent level of proficiency that would make me functional in basic situation and improving my level through immersion.

Rather than spending a lot of time on language learning itself (which I’ve lacked since starting my current gig) I’ve mainly tried to fit it into other activities, like substituting books that I would read in English for books in Spanish or listening to podcasts while doing errands. Even better if I’m exploring an interesting subject area while doing so. In the near to medium term I’d like to learn Italian as well. I’m eligible for citizenship, but the process of getting that secured is a bit of an ordeal, and I think it would help to have basic fluency in the language (as well as living there for a short while to establish residency).

DIY

In the past I’ve done a fair share of electronics repairs when things went wrong. I replaced the camera on my phone a while back. I’m decently handy putting together a PC as well or adding memory to a laptop. My (music) keyboards have required some maintenance over time as well. Things like troubleshooting sticky keys or gluing weights that have broken have required taking the keyboard apart and gluing things together again.

I’m slowly trying to build some DIY mechanical skills from a relatively low level. I’ve never been very handy and I tend to give up when frustrated, but things have been getting better with time and practice. I was able to fix a flat on my bike after some troubleshooting. My bike will probably be my focus for building this skill, especially since one thing after another seems to go wrong with it.

My car is a different matter. I don’t really have the tools to do sophisticated repairs, so it’s going to be much more of a decision among buying the tools required and attempting the repair myself, relying on people around me to borrow the tools and help me, and sending it into the shop. Ultimately, beyond going on hiking trips and being used to haul “freight”, I’m trying to reduce usage as much as I can.

Minimalism

After reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport a while back, I got fairly serious about getting off social media. With the exception of Linked, my accounts are either suspended or deleted. I never really felt a lot of social connection with it, although it is good to keep up with extended family or old friends from home or college. I used to use Facebook for music/band-related stuff but that hasn’t been necessary for a while. I can always get back on if I need to.

My note taking system has switched from mainly electronic to a physical bullet journal. I find it helps me to write everything down on paper rather than typing things down. I’ll still use Obsidian for transient notes and to be able to capture things quickly from the Internet. Generally, I’ve been doing the weekly reviews, habit tracking, and taking notes on the things that I read. I’ve found that this has actually carried over to me being more organized and productive at work.

Getting rid of (physical) stuff has been an obsession of mine for a while now, maybe as long as ERE. That said, I’m not really that much of a minimalist, more of an occasionally aspiring one. I’m pretty sure my stuff (excluding furniture) could (just barely) fit in my rather small car. With most of my books systematically donated, the big things that weigh me down are music gear. I have three keyboards and two amps that take up a ton of space. I’d like to downsize or sell and buy one-size-fits-all replacements. Fortunately, music gear don’t depreciate as much as other items, although I have noticed that keyboards do not hold their value as much as guitars, for example.

One thing I tried recently was to put all the things I currently own in a spreadsheet to calculate the depreciation cost based on the expected lifetime and price of the item. That was an eye opener for me. I think I learned a “cheap” approach to consumerism from my family, where you would always try to optimize by getting the absolute cheapest, but then sacrificing quality down the way. I noticed immediately how some (not all!) my more expensive purchases had been reasonable given their lifetime and depreciation schedule.

Community

I’ve been attending and volunteering at a Quaker meeting in my area since the beginning of the year. As someone who was raised in conservative Christianity but who couldn’t accept the underlying beliefs, I’m finding it helpful to return to the structure of organized religion without having to give up how I think about the world. I’ve also found Quakerism to have an interesting overlap with ERE through voluntary simplicity. There are seekers there who switched careers based on their inner voice and artist types who never pursued a career at all but managed to get by just as well. I met someone there who lives under the poverty line to avoid paying taxes supporting war, for example. Another person had a career as a math professor at MIT and felt a calling to become a psychiatrist.

Financial Independence

I’m now under 4% SWR in basic expenses based on a 12-month rolling window. If I include the remaining expenses which are classes, a couple “luxury” purchases, and travel, then I am at 4.5%. If I amortize healthcare costs and car expenses to reduce some lumpy expenses over which I have limited control (and add back a monthly average cost since 2015), I’m closer to 3.5%.

Although I initially thought that 4% would be my target SWR, I’ve moved to 3% over time. I don’t want to end up saving too much. At the same time, I’d prefer to be conservative, especially because I don’t have proven income streams outside of W-2 employment. But the journey from 4% -> 3% will potentially be helped along by having a job that pays well, reduced spending , and moving next August which should reduce rent considerably. (If I was to do that immediately and get the median rent in the area where we’re moving, the rolling window expenses would drop to 3% WR right now.) Beyond 3%, I’m not sure I would stay in a FTE job in my field just to get things lower. I’m more interested in semi-ERE or part time contract work at this point, and I feel like that is the natural point to transition.

As for levels of spending I’m currently at 24k of expenses based on the 12-month window. I’d like to get below 20k soon, which I reached in the past before rent increases and general lifestyle creep. This is doable if we move in the next year and the spending reductions hold constant or reduce further. Housing is the major expense for me right now (2/3 of total budget), and I am in a VHCOL area. The plan right now is to move out to a nearby city that is still close enough to Boston to commute in by commuter rail if required. That should drop rent down by around 1/3 or even 1/2 if we wanted to accept a much smaller space. With moving and further cost-cutting, something in the 1.5x-2.0x seems like a reasonable destination for the time being.

As long as conditions don't degrade into a pressure cooker (as with my previous job), I don’t mind taking my time at FTE and continuing to develop skills in my that will at the very least help me save money and at best may produce income down the road. As mentioned previously I’m also not planning to do a full early retirement as semi-ERE seems like a more interesting path for me. I’ve also contemplated using the stash more as a supplement income (maybe just withdrawing the dividend yield or even less) and working maybe 1-2 days at a job to bring in income. A third option might be to do more contract work at a full time level / WFH, but then to take substantial gaps between. There is more than one way to get to the destination.

Job

Currently, I’m working from home as a software engineer in a contract FTE W-2 position. All my previous roles have been as permanent employees as the company. I have to say it feels a little different being a temporary employee. There’s a lot more uncertainty even though I’m getting good feedback about performance and will likely be continued through next year. On the other hand, I don’t feel like I have to worry so much about title and promotion as long as the work gets done.

There are definite downsides to working from home, but for me the benefits outweigh the cons. I remember the 1hr+ commutes on public transportation to the office of my old job and all the preparation to work at a screen and maybe talk to one or two people in the day. I’d prefer to avoid that whole routine if possible. Then there’s the practical reality that anywhere in the immediate Boston area where the commute is at all reasonable and does not require a car has high rent (close to SF levels).

frugaldoc
Posts: 75
Joined: Fri Jun 30, 2023 1:31 am
Location: Sasebo, Japan

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by frugaldoc »

bookworm wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2023 7:34 am
This winter we’ve set the thermostat to 58 degrees Fahrenheit when things started to get cold. I’m a little hesitant to take it down much lower. I weather-proofed our windows recently, but there’s only so much we can do with a drafty house from the late 1800s.
I struggle with a similar issue despite living in a fairly new house (built in in 1993) and being the first person to live in it since it was remodeled. The Japanese do not build with any insulation. It was quite surprising to discover how poorly built their houses are despite it being a highly developed country. I have a toilet that is a technological marvel but single pane windows throughout the house.

Did you just use one of the plastic film kits to weather-proof your windows?

jacob
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Re: bookworm's journal

Post by jacob »

frugaldoc wrote:
Sun Dec 03, 2023 7:41 am
It was quite surprising to discover how poorly built their houses are despite it being a highly developed country.
It's a thing. Part earthquake, part 20th century history, part culture. See e.g. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017 ... revolution From a European perspective, one could say the same about American McHousing priorities. It's all relative.

bookworm
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:19 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by bookworm »

frugaldoc wrote:
Sun Dec 03, 2023 7:41 am
Did you just use one of the plastic film kits to weather-proof your windows?
I used Frost King Caulking Cord. You made me curious about the plastic film kits and might check out for our next space. Last winter we had the heat up substantially higher (and I was less bundled up generally), so it's difficult to do a one-to-one comparison. I just tried to feel around the windows for drafts and applied as needed.

Divandan
Posts: 78
Joined: Wed Dec 02, 2020 7:57 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by Divandan »

Just read the journal and I really enjoyed the updates as well as our overlap in interests (spirituality and music).

I am embarking on my garden journey, what was most helpful tips for you to get started? I am especially interested in the microgreens.

I am a big reader as well but how are you managing to read 2+ books a week while working FTE? Seriously impressive!

bookworm
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:19 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by bookworm »

@Divandan Thanks for stopping by! I'm following your journal now and see a lot of overlap in those areas too.

I'm definitely a beginner gardener myself, but I'm finding the progression herbs -> leafy greens -> vegetables to be a gentle progression on the learning curve. Other than that, I try to think of gardening as part of the larger food system and just build from there. So fresh herbs are always a win since they can go with a lot of dishes that I cook everyday. Startup costs can be minimal other than seeds if using recycled food containers for pots. Maybe you start up a compost system sooner or later to minimize waste and produce fertilizer. For microgreens specifically, I just followed the directions here https://www.rainbowheirloomseeds.com/pr ... d-mix-1-lb. I made some modifications to shade time at the beginning, depth of soil, and sprouting or seed, but I'd say they tolerate a lot of variation.

For the reading habit, the only thing that works for me is to cut out video games and streaming (almost) entirely so that reading is my default mode of consumption. I don't personally have the self-control to try to balance an immersive video game and an interesting book. (I spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years playing video games so there's a learned behavior to contend with.) Another thing that helps me is to have a bunch of library books checked out and going at the same time. I tend to get bored with reading serially and would prefer to be able to jump around a bit. It probably motivates me to read a lot of the loans before they become overdue, although I usually end up returning a bunch of unread ones.

Divandan
Posts: 78
Joined: Wed Dec 02, 2020 7:57 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by Divandan »

Thanks for sharing that link and the order that worked for you. It is funny but I was going to start with herbs this weekend, a few spots by the windows indoors might work.

Great advice about the video games as well. My wife and I hang out most nights together and the time after she goes to bed is either my video game or my reading time. I tend to alternate between these two activities. I have been in a reading mode the past few weeks and have been reading a lot but two books a week is very impressive.

bookworm
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:19 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by bookworm »

@Divandan I wish I responded earlier. I could definitely see that alternation working out for someone with more self-control than myself :) I'd probably like the novelty but for me it's easier to cut video games out entirely and focus on things that I value more. I think having a screen-heavy WFH job is another factor here.

bookworm
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:19 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by bookworm »

December 2023

# Food

Total Spending / person: $96

I have been experimenting with the Instant Pot Yogurt setting a bit. The first time I just threw things straight into incubate mode and things turned out a little runnier than I'd like. Using the boiling step on round 2 seemed to help a lot with the thickness. I was a little worried about about the food thermometer step and having to constantly check, but it wasn't too bad, especially using an ice bath to speed everything up.

Buying in bulk has made a huge difference on the overall budget. At least in the last couple of months, we've been able to keep things below $200/mo as a couple, which I thought at first would be too extreme. In theory, it's not too hard for us, since we're already cooking vegetarian and eating staples more generally.

I'd like to stay at this budget this January to see if this is a fluke or something sustainable for our lifestyle. I'd like to experiment with fermented vegetables using some almost-expired veggies from the local Indian grocer. My Instant Pot chili game needs a round #2, after a less than flavorful beginning.

# Minimalism

Number of things: 309*

*This doesn't count consumable items, and it counts only things in my spreadsheet. I expect the number to go up as I realize things I've missed. I've found most of my things, but they keep turning up to surprise me!

I've finally managed to clear out some of my stuff that was lying around my parents' house. Some of the surplus went to the recycling center, but the rest went back to my apartment to stress me out until I get rid of them. I'm a little bothered about how much time and energy it takes me to properly dispose of things, especially if I want to sell them. Hopefully, this serves as an incentive to stop accumulating things or have better parting rituals when I need to let them go.

Downsizing can be a struggle for me. To be fair, the only thing that I really regretted throwing out was an Instant Pot a while back. But the sentimental stuff is a lot harder to part with. I've slowly come to see the things that really mean a lot to me, which is usually stuff I've "created" (i.e. old journals, music recordings, etc.) along with a few books, CDs, and memorabilia. Most of these I've kept around. Some kind of criteria like being able to fit everything (excluding furniture and, for me, keyboards) in the back of my hatchback seems like a good end goal for the amount of things. I don't need to be an extreme minimalist.

# DIY

Over the last couple of months, my bike has been having one issue after another. In a way, this has been a great opportunity to start learning more DIY. On the other hand, it's been challenging, especially since I've just begun riding heavily and there's an added stress to be able to maintain my setup. I was pretty close to chucking my bike entirely and finding a decent used replacement. As luck would have it, my Dad was getting rid of his old bike which I happily took him up on. I'm fairly confident about the transportation system for the New Year, but we'll see. At least I know some basic troubleshooting /maintenance now if things go badly.

I have been meaning to finish the Home Depot's Path to Pro course which has given me some good baseline knowledge of home systems. Hopefully I can finish that up in the next month. With the track record of my current apartment, I'm sure there are plenty of minor repairs in store for me.

# Language

I haven't been able to fit in too much language learning this month. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried to watch a Spanish soap opera the other day (with subtitles) and was able to follow the plot and make out most of the dialogue. Whatever I can do to integrate with my life, the better it goes for me. I switched my phone's language to Spanish recently. The plan is to continue using Spanish on my phone and stick with it for at least another month. I'd also like to get reading at least one foreign language book on my Kindle.

# Music

I've begun to do more recordings which might at some point turn into compositions. It took a while to make a setup that actually worked for this, since I had a bunch of sticky keys, leading to some DIY repair. Another project has been to memorize Bach inventions, and I've gotten through 1-2 so far. with few mistakes or memory lapses.

I'd like to learn a couple more Bach inventions in the next month. Once I cull through the recordings, I'm also planning to put up some compositions on a website.

# Physical Health

Miles (mixed mode): 184

The schedule of MWF (strength training) and Tu/Th (running) seems to work for me. I like keeping the weekends open for adventures, especially since there is much less of a time constraint. But generally, I'm getting out there and moving most every day. The 200 burpees/a day thing (credit to @guitarplayer for the inspiration) has been a good reach for me. I kind of dread it, which is probably a good thing. I've kept my runs consistently at 5K for a while now.

I'd like to try a 10K on the weekend. My ability get some metrics on workouts could be improved, now that I have Strava/Apple Fitness app. Right now, the focus is on consistency and intensity, since I really went hard (relative to my baseline) in the last six months.

# Exploration

Trails Hiked: 4

I explored some hiking trails near my parent's house and did some general rambling. As much as it would have been nice to go to the White Mountains, I'm focusing more on local things for now. Anything that can make my adventures more frequent and more integrated with my life. For the moment, I live in a place where it's hard to get to most mountains and section hikes without going on the interstate. I'd like to change that (hopefully this coming year).

I need to get out there a little more. This winter has been fairly mild around here, so having to navigate snow isn't really an issue, especially if I'm not going up to the White Mountains. I'd like to focus on "local" hikes within a ~50 mile radius of Boston which I'm learning is surprisingly doable.

# Community

I volunteered a couple of times a the Quaker meeting, once as a musician and another time as a baker. I usually get a lot out of this, and I feel like it is much more sustainable than the gigging life I had before since I can dial back my contribution much more easily. I also enjoy just being able to have some time to chat with people who share a commitment to sustainability and simple living, however it shows up in individual lifestyle.

Along with helping out at the meeting at least once in the coming month, I'm looking into attending a Buddhist meditation group locally or volunteering at a food pantry.

# Mental Health

I have had about the same level of consistency with meditation. I'm finding that I really crave it especially in the morning. The same cannot be said for the evening. After work, I feel the desire to go and do some ERE projects which is great but I can kind of get in a frenetic state that's hard to wind down from. But I do wind down eventually, usually with some herbal tea and sometimes with melatonin.

Screens are supposed to be off by around 8PM which is definitely a stretch. I've been using Downtime, which works to make most of my devices turn off and be a pain to use (although it's possible to override). I cringe to think of how much of my lifespan has been wasted staring at them, especially when I think about video games and TV.

I've been trying to track my mood over time to see how things work for me. There's definitely a real sense of possibility at the beginning of the week, followed by increased stress throughout the week until around Friday. I guess there's nothing surprising or earth shattering there, although digging into the exact triggers could be interesting.

# Learning

Number of books read this month: 7 (132 in year)

Nature and the Human Soul - Bill Plotkin
Why I Wake Early - Mary Oliver
Radical Acceptance - Tara Brach
In Over Our Heads - Robert Kegan
American Nations - Colin Woodward
Saving Time - Jenny Odell
How To Want What You Have - Timothy Miller

I've been focused on psychology, self-help, and spiritual type books for a while now. Often I cycle through different focus areas over the course of the year. I like to think that I read widely, but the reality is that there are some areas that keep coming up again and again. I'd also like to be consistent about listening to audiobooks versus podcasts to up my overall reading.

# Financials

TTM: 24.34x (Total Twelve-Month Trailing)
TSM: 25.64x (Total Six-Month Trailing)
TME: 28.20x (Total Monthly Expenses)
FU: 3.84x (FU Stash)
NPS: 13.93x (No Penalty Stash)
SR: 75.06% (Savings Rate)
STM: 2.65 (Spending Level Total Trailing Monthly)*

*As usual, some of these metrics are straightforward but the details can be tricky. I don't include my premiums in this metric although it does factor into the savings rate. I don't see these as being that significant in my planning, but they may adjust future numbers slightly.

The stock market run-up played a role, but reduction in core expenses in the last six months has played a large role (unfortunately some of that was offset by some deferred maintenance on my car and some expensive trips). Although I'm more relaxed making lifestyle shifts than others on the forum, I've definitely pulled the crowbar a lot in the food and transportation categories. The housing situation is inelastic for the time being. The rent reduction / moving away from VHCOL area, when it comes later next year, should be yet another lever to pull towards 3%.

For next month, I'm planning to live on 3.25% on my stash. It might be painful, but I'm optimistic I can reach that goal. I'm also going to be maxing out my 401(k) and Roth for the year. Initially, I thought I'd try to moving some of my cash position into I-Bonds, but I'm thinking I'll wait until the end of April to see if the fixed rate changes.

# Job

Work has been relatively light recently, which has been nice change of pace. I've been trying to be more efficient so that I can get stuff done without too much stress. One thing that's helped recently is to figure out the minimum viable product for the day, whatever that might be. The hard part is finding something that is just hard enough to have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day but not too easy which makes me feel like I'm wasting time. Going forward, I'd like to do 1-2 deep work session per day (30 minute increments). It also feels important to start work a half hour earlier in the day so I can get out sooner and open my evenings to personal projects and socialization. I'd also like to keep and maintain the bullet journal approach for work.

I guess I should mention that my contract was renewed for another 6 months, until May 2024. So I feel a mix of relief and motivation. I'd really like to get sub-3% by then, and be able to back out gracefully from the job if need be. But we'll see how things shape out.

Divandan
Posts: 78
Joined: Wed Dec 02, 2020 7:57 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by Divandan »

Great update. You are seriously making me consider putting down video games for a bit with the number of books you read in 2023. Very impressive.

I'm curious about the following KPIs (TME, FU stash, NPS, and STM). I may try to incorporate some of these metrics going forward.

I am also currently reading Wild Mind by Bill Plotkin and am curious about your review of Nature and the Human Soul by Bill Plotkin. I didn't know where to start with him but was planning on reading Journey of the Soul Initiation next.

bookworm
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:19 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by bookworm »

Divandan wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2024 9:01 am
I'm curious about the following KPIs (TME, FU stash, NPS, and STM).
FU Stash (credit to @AH for elaborating on the concept in the decentralizing FI post, although the FU money concept I've definitely seen around?): even though I'm focusing more on FI, I like the idea of having some cash reserves ready to go if I want to say the hell with it before hitting my number.
NPS: This is basically the amount of money I can access without penalty, so that American retirement accounts like 401ks, trad IRAs, and Roth IRA earnings are excluded. In practice, I can do penalty free conversions with planning. Ideally, I'd have enough income streams / reduced expenses going at this point to make this step unnecessary. Earlier in my career, I was very heavy on tax-deferred stuff which would have made living off the assets a hassle.
STM (credit to @mathiverse for the inspiration): Six-month trailing expenses, which useful right now because it gives me a sense of some life changes I made after reading the ERE book the second time in June of last year. The downside is that some large annual expenses will get missed, so I'll probably scrap it going forward.
TME (I need a better acronym): expenses for the month treated as the average for the entire year. This makes a fun(?) game to keep expenses low. My monthly record so far is 3.11% WR. :)

bookworm
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:19 pm

Re: bookworm's journal

Post by bookworm »

Divandan wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2024 9:01 am
I am also currently reading Wild Mind by Bill Plotkin and am curious about your review of Nature and the Human Soul by Bill Plotkin. I didn't know where to start with him but was planning on reading Journey of the Soul Initiation next.
Nature and the Human Soul is a broad, observational survey of all the different life stages rather than Soulcraft, which as I understand it focuses on practices for the Wanderer stage. Reading it was intense. I felt like a new mental model was getting downloaded into my brain that is going to take a long time to work through. It was easier to understand the "failure modes" of the different life stages in my day to day life than the ideal path. I'm going to need to do a reread in the near future, but for now I'll probably move on to Wild Mind / Soulcraft and figure out some practices that resonate.

I'm curious how the exercises from Wild Mind go for you!

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