I have an internal tug of war each month when I look at our costs. My instinct is that they are too high and, for the first four months of this year, it's true that they're averaging 28% higher than my guestimated budget when I made my early retirement decision six years back.
On the other hand, I'm pretty certain that what we spend remains affordable for us. Surely that means our costs are okay, so long as they're not wasteful. While this logic makes sense, I still wince when I look at the numbers.
In my cost table this month, there are four lines where I've made a comment, a telltale of which items I feel are above what I hoped they'd be.
Going out costs were £520/€619/$702 and spend in coffee shop/casual dining was £461/€548/$622. That means a total of £981/€1,167/$1,324 on dining out (sometimes with drinks too) in one form or another in the month. In fact, the coffee shop/casual dining (and snacking) spend was almost all done on our trips to the UK for our son's graduation and during our campervan trip to the South of France. And 80% of the going out costs were for a family graduation dinner that we hosted. Maybe that's OK then?
Sports and outdoor equipment spend of £445/€529/$600 included a new bike. I have a road bike already, the type that requires the wearing of lycra and a position where your arse is somehow higher than your head. That bike is actually twelve years old and, although I occasionally think I could justify a new one, I quite like the one I have and will stick with it a while longer. Instead, I bought what I call my picnic bike. It's more comfortable, head and arse return to more normal positions, it's got a rack and pannier bags to put stuff in, and is perfect for leisurely bike rides and...picnics. It did push our costs up this month, but I've used it loads already and I think it's a great buy.
Car costs were really high at £783/€932/$1,057 which includes insurance, fitting our summer tyres now that winter is done, and then the elephant in the room, fuel. For sure, fuel prices are higher, but we racked up a lot of distance too. The trip to the UK for our son's graduation included a lot of driving, we took the cats to Zurich so that our daughter could look after them, and then we headed off to the South of France for a campervan trip. While the campervan trip cost quite a lot in fuel, it's still a fairly economical vacation - provided you ignore how much the campervan cost in the first place!🤣 Perhaps it's not the cost I should worry about but our CO₂ emissions instead? That's something I could research - I'm using fuel but I'm not using a hotel room, which one is less damaging to the environment?
I'm still a huge proponent of tracking costs and believe it's one of the best and easiest ways of accelerating a journey to financial independence. But it can also tell you things that you would rather not know, which I guess is the point of it. To quote the often over-quoted management guru, Peter Drucker
if you can't (don't) measure it, you can't manage it
Early retirement targets
How boring do I seem? That's a retorical question by the way, so no need to comment "exceedingly" as I kind of know that already. But admitting to tracking my costs, setting annual targets and sitting down each month to check on my progress does feel awfully accountant like! It seems that early retirement can take the man out of accountancy, but it can't completely take accountancy out of the man!
But on the same theme of "if you can't (don't) measure it, you can't manage it", I still like setting targets and I'm convinced that measuring my progress each month helps me make many of them come true.
The main progress this month was getting out in the campervan. We took an eleven day trip, seeing the vineyards of the Rhone before wandering along the Mediterranean coast. We visited St Tropez, Ste Maxime and Antibes, wandering through the small streets of the old towns, looking in the quaint shops, stopping at the occassional cafe and selecting which yacht we'd choose from the marinas if we won the lottery. Sally had a preference for yachts in the tens of millions of £/€/$ but the fact that we arrived in each of these towns on our bikes was a sure sign that no yacht broker would take us seriously!
While in Ste Maxime, we met up with Vince (One more year & is financial independence / early retirement, easy or difficult?) and his wife who I've met through this blog. Before I retired early, I wouldn't have imagined that I would have a blog, let alone that through it I'd meet up with people in Boston, USA, Sydney and Adelaide, Australia, Phuket, Thailand, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and now in France too. I love that.
Our last port of call on by the Mediterranean was Monaco, somewhere we hadn't "got" when we'd passed through on our Route des Grandes Alpes bicycle tour a few years back. I figured we should give it another chance, and second time round we still didn't get it. It's just too hectic and too built up for our liking. I presume you live in Monaco because you have a lot of money and want to pay less tax. For me, if I had that much money, I'd want to live where I want to live, and if that means paying extra tax, then surely having a lot of money means that would be affordable. It's safe to say that this isn't a theory I'll ever have to put to the test. I was going to say that it's still nice to dream, but the reality is that I don't feel that more money would make me more happy. That's a nice position to be in!