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Early retirement costs & targets - September 2019

Because our costs go all over the place when we’re travelling, I’ll start this post by checking progress against my targets.


Early retirement target tracker September 2019

Realistically, my attempt to learn French has finished for this year as I’m travelling in Spanish speaking countries for the next few months. Once my lessons finished in March my efforts petered out, so perhaps it has to be back to the classroom next year. At best I deserve a 3 out of 10 against this target.

Fortunately, other things are going better. Blog posts get published each week and I’m travelling right now, writing this post from Monteverde in Costa Rica. Both targets therefore get a green and a 10 out of 10 score, the same as my financial target of getting spare cash invested.

Healthy eating is an area I slipped on during my travels last year so I’m hoping a new healthy eating target will help me stick to the good stuff. I’m mostly focusing on avoiding unhealthy snacks and alcohol, and I’m doing pretty well. Just a few treats and cake with my coffee, not enough to be a problem, and a perfect score on alcohol with no drinks at all during the month. Although only a month into this target, I'm giving myself an 8 out of 10.

Fitting running in while we finished our Route des Grandes Alpes cycle tour and started travelling has been difficult. I’m not going to mark myself down just yet, but need to make sure I keep running in October while travelling, although I find it difficult being out of my routine. After a faltering start and an injury, I've done OK with running regularly, but I haven't focused much on running well. I'd like to give myself a 7, but I think a 6 out of 10 might be a truer reflection.

After making a mess of my GoPro effort during our Route des Grandes Alpes trip - I filmed our trip then accidently deleted it all😲, I’m having another go during our travels. I’m not aiming for an Oscar, I’ll settle for any type of production – I'm figuring something has to be better than nothing. A token 1 out of 10 for making a belated effort, but there's still a bit of time to improve this by the end of the year.

Averaging those scores gives me 6.85, so let's say an overall 7 out of 10. Not perfect, but not too bad either. I'll see if I can squeeze some improvement from my running, healthy eating and GoPro targets by the end of the year?

I suspect some people will think this target setting and monitoring is something more suited to the workplace, and that I should have been glad to leave it behind in early retirement. While I get that point of view, I’ve found the targets to be very useful in helping me maintain structure and routine in my early retirement. What do you think?


Peeking at my costs

Travelling is a sure way to make our costs go all over the place. We still have costs from home, like internet, utility bills, housing fees, car insurance etc even though we’re not there to benefit from them. And in addition, we have travel costs such as accommodation, flights, car hire, entry fees, tour costs, as well as we eat out more. We’re fortunate to have the chance to travel, so I'll try not to complain about the extra cost, although sometimes I might not manage it.

Maybe I shouldn't look too hard at the costs while we travel. But as an ex-accountant, I can’t have all these numbers and not even peek at them, just a little, but I've restricted myself to a quick look at the September year to date numbers.

If it's not on Stravea, it didn't happen

I already knew that kitting Sally out with a new bike, the associated cycling gear, as well as the all important sports watch (runners and cyclists will know that "if it's not on Strava, it didn't happen"!) made up the biggest part of the £4,858 / €5,441 / $6,364 spent on sports equipment/shoes/clothes. But I was still surprised how much our other purchases have added up. In addition, waterproof walking jackets, camping and bikepacking gear, bike spares, consumables and clothing also came to a surprisingly high figure. I don't think there was anything wasteful, so long as I use my bikepacking purchases more next year than the once that I used them this year.

However, the really big numbers are for travelling, that separate three line section near the bottom of the table. Each is substantial, but it's adding them together that causes an even sharper intake of breath. A total spend of £12,381 / €13,868 / $16,219 between January and September and there's still another two and half months of travelling to do this year! I am surprised at the amount, so backtracked through the costs to see how these numbers got so big?

To start with, we live in a different country to our kids and wider family so incurring costs for airfares and car hire to see them is part of the deal.

Then there are our trips in the holiday/travel category. Sally and I are both surprised at how much they added up to, particularly as they were relatively close to home (no flights involved) and one of them was on our bikes:

  • Route des Grandes Alpes cycling tour (12 days)

  • Zurich to Germany campervan trip plus a 3 day cycle tour from Berlin to the Baltic (13 days)

  • Paris for sightseeing and the Formula E motor racing (5 days)

  • Hiking to the Refuge de Bostan in the French Alps (2 days)

And finally there’s what I still call my “round the world trip”, although travelling in more bitesize pieces, three or four months at a time, isn’t quite what I originally envisaged. Of the £4,958 / €5,553 / $6,495 spent so far, 50% is on flights and car hire. Now in Costa Rica, we’re trying to keep our costs under control but we're also mindful not to miss out on the things we want to do simply to cut costs. It’s a balancing act, but the rate of spend should slow, although it’s still going to be a fairly pricey trip.

Obviously we need to ensure that we're spending within our means, which we are. In which case, the real test is whether we feel we're getting good value for what we spend, "is it worth it?", which is a very subjective thing. Honestly, I would be loathe to spend so much on travel every year (particularly as there are more travel costs still to come), but I don’t regret what we’ve spent. We’ve travelled to see our kids and family which is important, we’ve had adventures and fun with friends on our trips in Germany, the Route des Grandes Alpes and our Refuge de Bostan hike, and seeing Paris with our daughter, and Sally and I are now exploring in California, Costa Rica and Colombia. Would I have done any of this differently? I don't think so, which means that for this year, the costs are fine by me.


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