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Early retirement costs & targets - August 2021

You're probably thinking "not again, why does this guy keep on about journaling?" I'm surprised too, the idea of keeping a journal seemed one of the most boring things I could imagine, and that's coming from an ex-accountant!

But it turns out that keeping a journal is kind of fun. My blog acts as my journal - as I sit down to write my August post, it nudges me to think back and remember what I did during the month.

We returned to France from the UK, I visited friends in Berlin where we took part in the Mauerweglauf running event, stopped off in Zurich to visit my daughter on the way, and had our first Airbnb guest check in. For one weekend, I also got completely hooked on watching the YouTube livestream of UTMB, the Super bowl of ultra running. Plus it was mostly sunny, never a bad thing.

How much did we spend?

As is frequently the case, the answer is more than I envisaged when I was going through my early retirement planning/decision making stage in 2016. Back then, I guestimated an average monthly spend of £3,700 ($5,117 or €4,307 at today's exchange rates). The reality is that over the past four and a half years we've been closer to £4,500 ($6,222 or €5,240) - over 20% higher than that original guestimate😬. And I'm not even including the campervan purchase!

Travel was a big spend item in the first three years, but of course Covid has put paid to that. Instead, 2020 and 2021 were when we decided a second home was a good idea - well, the Brexit induced end of European Union freedom of movement for British citizens was a big part of that decision.

However, after pivoting on our plan, we aren't using the UK home as much as we thought, so we're testing it out on Airbnb. It's not in a tourist or city area, so we're unsure if there's a market, but we do have our first guest there now, and another inquiry, so maybe it will work.

What we spent money on in August

Anyway, this month our spend was a whopping £6,369 ($8,662 or €7,197), way above my original guestimate or the 4½ year average. So where did the money go? Mostly in four areas: groceries, electronics, medical/dental and car costs.

It's a recurring theme, but I just don't get how we spend so much on groceries. Since tracking it back in March and April, it's just kept going up. We can afford it, but it seems too much. As keeping a more detailed track didn't seem to make any difference, I'm simply going to hope that it reduces over the coming months.

Fuel for driving from UK to France followed by a return trip from Morzine to Berlin drove (pardon the pun) the high car costs. A new laptop (the battery on my current laptop lasts somewhere between zero and thirty seconds) and some new headphones for running accounted for the electronics spend. Sally's teeth straightening work was 90% of the medical/dental cost, I think we've paid around half the total cost now.

And here's all the detail, just in case you're interested.

Early retirement costs - August 2021

Target tracker

Let's see if progress against my targets is more in control than the costs. On balance, I think I'm doing OK, there are more things coloured green than red, so that's a good sign.

My early retirement tracker - August 2021

The three areas I want to focus on in the coming month are:

  1. Improving my hopeless French

  2. Imagining a new adventure for Sally and I

  3. Developing/starting a running group in Morzine

For the French, I'm arranging some lessons, so that should help. I also need to get back into the habit of doing 15 minutes of Duolingo a day.

As to imagining a new adventure for Sally and me, this feels tricky. I have some smaller ideas, but nothing big at the moment. Perhaps it's not needed, but I like the idea of setting out to do something that will be memorable. For a while, I thought it might be self-converting a camper, but then we bought a ready built one. Our friends are building their own house, and that has got me thinking about tiny houses, but that might be in the too difficult box, and how certain am I that it's something that we would actually want to do? This isn't something that will be decided in the next month, but I do want to make a deliberate effort to think more about it.

Developing a running group in Morzine wasn't on my targets list at the beginning of the year, but it's something that's come to mind since. I miss not having people to run with. Over the past couple of weeks, we've used Facebook to try to get people to join a Saturday morning run, but without much success so far - there were just three of us. I'm sure these things take time to get off the ground, so we'll persevere and hope that over time we can attract more people and start building a little running community. I feel that getting this off the ground may require even more endurance than running!

And that's it. Another blog journal entry completed. Yep, it turns out that journaling can be kind of fun.


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Andy Penney
Andy Penney
Sep 08, 2021

Could you set up a parkrun in Morzine? That way you'd have the branding that might encourage the locals, plus you'd get UK tourists.

Replying to

Hi Andy,

That's an interesting idea that I hadn't considered. I just looked at the website for Parkrun France and it seems that there are only 8 in the entire country, whereas the UK is absolutely covered with them. I hadn't realised that it was quite such a UK thing, although not exclusively of course.

What puts me off the idea for now is the potential formality of it. My idea is to try to encourage an informal running group, as opposed to a more formal club or organised event like Parkrun which I suspect may come with a lot of rules and regulations that can complicate matters, particularly when my French is pretty hopeless.

It's something to keep in…


Hi David,

Another interesting post. I look forward to hearing more about your new adventure. A few FI questions for you :).

Do you have any plans to change your ETF investment portfolio over the coming year, or are you sticking with a mix of Vanguard lifestrategy 80% & 60% equity? I've read a lot of FIRE people use Vanguard Lifestrategy as their main source of capital growth and income provider using the 4% rule. It looks like it's performed well over the past 5-10 years, what do you think? How do you think lifestrategy will perform over the next 5 years - a difficult question but I thought you may have a hunch being an investor?

What's your thoughts…

Replying to

Hi Ian

First the easy plans to change the ETF portfolio over the coming year, we'll stick with the Lifestrategy funds. I haven't worked it out exactly, but we probably average around 75% equities / 25% bonds in the mix that we have. We also have the maximum NS&I Premium Bonds that we can hold, we bought these in August because I'm too scared to buy more equities at current prices (but that's been the case over the past year and a half and they have kept going up, just to prove what I hopeless predictor I am of what will happen in the markets). We also have quite a bit of cash, for the same reason.

What do…


Dorina Gabor
Dorina Gabor
Sep 03, 2021

Hi David, not sure my first comment got posted, bit I was wondering if you would share a comparison between your spending now and what you estimated before retiring?

You have some years of data and I'm really curious what was above/expectations, if I'm not to curious.

Thanks, Dorina

Dorina Gabor
Dorina Gabor
Sep 04, 2021
Replying to

Thank you for your answer, I know costs shift over the years but I was hoping they shift towards less spending. (Not including health here, cause that can become a big expense at any time).


David Patrick
David Patrick
Sep 03, 2021

Hi David. I enjoy your blog and saw the reference to UTMB. I'm enjoying an extended trip in France in my campervan which recently included a week in Chamonix for UTMB (my partner raced the aborted TDS event). You might consider it next year - am sure you'd be fine for OCC or CCC. You'd need to check the ITRA website for local qualifying races to get the points needed... Cheers. David

Replying to

Hi David

Although I'd vaguely heard of it before, it was only this year that I grasped what UTMB is about. The livestream on YouTube was awesome, and it's impossible not to be inspired by the atmosphere, and of course the runners. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

It's also awesome that your partner was in the TDS event, that's serious stuff! Of course, the tragic events that lead to it cancellation were very sad.

As to me/UTMB events, I can't deny that a seed has been planted. As I've been away from events for over 3½ years until the relay I just did in Berlin, perhaps a more realistic idea would be…

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