Early retirement costs & targets - July 2019
July was fairly typical, i.e. some cost lines were similar to previous months but there were others where we spent either more or less than typical. Maybe that means there isn't really a "normal" which I'm going to call a good thing - after all, if the costs were the same each month then wouldn't that mean life would also be the same, and who wants that?
We spent more on sports stuff which included a fast charger for Sally's E-Bike (preparing for our Route des Grandes Alpes ride next month) and various other bike stuff including a new saddle which, despite the high price, isn't any softer on my rear end. We had a good month for giving - I'm especially proud of my sister (second from left in the picture) for completing a 100km run and made a donation to the Alzheimer's Society to celebrate her achievement.
Another big cost item was a down payment to rent a campervan for a trip in August. I thought I'd take people's advice and test out how real the Instagram and YouTube versions of van life are - hopefully I won't be disappointed. Renting a camper van is seriously expensive - it feels like the payback period should be quite quick if we were to build one.
Having recorded our early retirement costs since the beginning of 2017 I know that our early retirement finances are on track. Now I look at the monthly costs not because it's an essential, but because it's still a good habit to ensure that our spending remains in keeping with the life we want to lead.
For example, this month, three of our highest four spend categories were travel, giving and sports. They're all things that are important to me, so it's good that they are at the top of our spend list. They're probably all higher than I imagined when I made my early retire decision, but that's OK because the spend on these items is conscious and still affordable for us.
On the subject of what I imagined my costs would be, a few weeks back someone asked whether my costs actually did drop 30% when I left Dubai as I'd estimated? It's an interesting question because so much of our early retirement decision is based on uncertain assumptions about how things will work out. This applies to retirement costs, but also to income and things such as what will we do, will we be lonely, what will others think?
I can't specifically remember my 30% comment, but I did find this post from the end of 2017 where I figured that once we moved away from Dubai we would see savings. I've listed the assumed savings from that post in black font and the actual situation based on 2019's spend to date in italic.
25% on groceries. We're saving, but 12% instead of 25% - the French Alps are also expensive for groceries. I still think we could get close to the 25% saving if we lived in a more mainstream location.
25% on going out costs. Between going out and coffee shop/casual dining, we're saving 20%.
Reduction of cleaning and gardening costs to zero. Done, we do it ourselves, and probably should have done it ourselves before as well!
Reduction in cable TV/Internet/Netflix costs of £10/$13/€11 per month. Done, we're saving about three times this amount.
Reduction in vacation costs. Definitely not - we did more than 5 months of travelling last year and it will be close to 4 months this year, so this is definitely costing more.
Reduction of overseas running events costs to close to zero. Yes, stopping running made this come true. Not sure that's a good thing?
On the flip side, we've also seen some cost increases since those early days. Some are more like setting up costs, like Sally's e-Bike and some home furnishings as we set up our new apartment. These are things that you get some years and not others. The cost of running a car is higher in our new location because petrol costs more and we drive quite a way to see our daughter. We also have medical insurance costs which would be free if we'd returned to the UK, so this is a choice we've made. We've also made some positive decisions to spend more on areas like charity and travel.
Although I'm a strong advocate of planning, these things are a reminder that you can't perfectly calculate everything about early retirement. There comes a point where you have to say, this is my best estimate, it's the best information I've got, and I'm going to make a call based on it. It might feel scary, but my bet is that most times our assumptions will be good enough and, where they're not, we'll figure out how to resolve the differences if they arise. I used to be an expert on finding reasons to say no to something, but life is much more interesting trusting my instincts and finding the reasons to say yes.
I just Googled "how many people keep to their targets" and the top responses suggested the answer was only 8%. I'm extremely far from perfect (just ask Sally!) but my simple target table does a great job of keeping my targets in mind.
This month, I've made good strides (sorry, awful pun!) with my running - 14 runs including two of 30kms (19 miles). The running is starting to get back to being part of my routine, I'm making progress with the endurance, so now I need to keep it going and try to find some pace. I also did 9 cycle rides in July, so overall that's 23 days of exercise out of 31. I'm having a celebratory cookie!
Learning French is still stalled and with our travels to Costa Rica and Colombia approaching, it will be Spanish instead of French words that I'll need. I think the French is going to stay stuck for the rest of the year - Grrrrr.
Travel plans were already looking good for September to December (we booked our flights for this in June), but we've now added a 12 day trip to Germany in August. We've rented a campervan to see whether the reality matches the Instagram pictures. I'll take my GoPro on the trip to see if I can at last make a start with the GoPro video target.
It amazes me how quickly time flies. I have a week before our Germany trip, then home for five days before our Route des Grande Alpes bike tour, then another five days home before heading off for three months in California, Costa Rica and Colombia. When I write these things down, I have to pinch myself to remember this is my real life - this early retirement lark isn't too shabby😀