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Early retirement costs & targets - February 2021

How often do I start my early retirement cost posts with "we spent a lot this month"? I think it's a lot, and it's one more now...because we spent a lot this month.

There were four culprits:

  1. Most expensive, 25% of our spend, was on four flights to Finland. We've booked a trip to see the Northern Lights. It's not until next January, but we've paid for the flights already - categorised in Holiday/Travel for Sally and me and in gifts for the kid's flights.

  2. Second most expensive at 17% of this month's spend was a late bill for hot water that relates to 2019. Hopefully there isn't a similar surprise for 2020 usage waiting for us!

  3. Our two home experiment costs us money, this month the bills on the second home were about 7% of our total spend. That's just the tip of the iceberg though, because the bigger financial impact is foregoing the rental income that we previously received on this property. I want to see if we can rent it on Airbnb when we're not using it - that would feel less wasteful.

  4. And finally, coming in at at just under 6% of total spend, I bought myself a new waterproof shell jacket. Going uphill on skis is hot work and my normal insulated ski jacket isn't best suited to it, so a lighter version was required.

Outside of those excuses🤣, we didn't spend too much. Our grocery bill is still more than most other blogs I read, but at least it was less in February than it has been for a while. And of course, there are still no going out costs, although we did grab a takeaway coffee and a piece of cake one day...woohoo!

Early retirement costs - February 2021

Compared to our spending, a friend sent me a message telling me he and his wife had spent £2,068 (€2,337 or $2,812) in total for January and February, so just under a third of our costs. I'm guessing he isn't running two houses (probably sensible!) and hasn't booked four flights to Finland etc. But I think the message I must remember is that although it can be interesting and useful to compare ourselves to others, we mustn't feel that we should be doing the same. So long as our costs are affordable for us and spent conscientiously, then it's OK if we're different. As my Mum used to tell me, it would be boring if we all did the same.

Early retirement targets update

Good views & good company

Almost as often as I say that we spent a lot this month, I also say that my early retirement target tracker works wonders to keep me focused on the things I want to do. Booking our Northern Lights trip is on my tracker and I was determined to get that done by the end of the month so I could colour it in green. Job done✔ I've made the bookings and we're looking forward to our first ever trip north of the Arctic Circle next winter.

The tracker also helps me achieve my exercise goals, in fact I beat it in February doing 24 activities in 28 days. I'm giving myself a pat on the back, I don't often clock more that 313km (195 miles) of running in a month. I must admit that my feet are a bit sore now though. The ski touring also counts as exercise, and comes with some cool views too.

My early retirement target tracker - February 2021 update

Although it's nice to see the boxes that are coloured green, it's good to look at where I'm not hitting my targets, to think of what I'll do about it. Some won't be tackled until later in the year, but there are others that I could be working on now. I got the Northern Lights trip booked because I made a conscious decision to focus on it in February - in March I'm challenging myself to come to a decision on my campervan plan and to also make a start on making a video. The test will be a month from now, when I write the next costs and targets post and find out how I've got on.

One last thing

Last November I completed a retirement interview for ESI Money's blog. If you fancy having a look at his questions and my answers, you can find the interview here.


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Wow that really is a hefty grocery budget! Thats good to know though, i guess this is one of the hardest things when working out a budget.

Replying to

I know, the final months of last year and also January this year were really high. I've been retired for 4 years and it really has been an up and down expense, maybe because we've lived in different places in that time and also spent some time travelling.

It was a bit better in February (although still more than most others I see). Because I'm a bit sad🤣 but also intrigued where the grocery spend is driven from, I'm keeping track of it in March so will publish that in my March costs posts - if my wife doesn't kill me first because I've asked her for another receipt😬. Both Sally and I follow different diets (me vegan and Sally…


A bucket list item! It's on mine too (one of my husband's contributions) but we were thinking of going to Alaska. I can't wait to hear about your trip.

Replying to

Yes, the Northern Lights are from Sally's bucket list, and one that I'm very happy to piggy back on, and it will be really nice to take the (grown up) kids with us too. Alaska and Canada were on our list of possible destinations, but we thought they were a bit far to go for a short trip, which is what it would be in winter. We'll therefore look forward to visiting them during the warmer months some time in the future.


Mar 06, 2021

Woohoo - congrats on booking the Northern Lights trip. It'll be awesome - we went for my 40th and loved it, as much for the stunning scenery and going above the Artic Circle. It's fantastic. One weird thing I didn't know beforehand though was the lights are mostly seen from behind a camera - so practise your slow exposure shots beforehand if you want to get the most out of it! I've found that setting a date trick works too if I want to get something done. Otherwise it just stays as 'some day' for quite a while 🤣

Replying to

I saw the camera thing on YouTube, so thanks for the reminder...if you could send another reminder early January next year, that would be handy🤣. I also think going North of the Arctic Circle is quite a cool thing to do.

I also think setting a date to get something done can help. I've set myself the end of March to make a call on the camper idea and also to at least start making a video. We'll soon see how that goes.


Hi David

Would be great to know where you're flying to in Finland for the Northern Lights trip, and do you then have to travel far from the airport to the town where you'll view the lights?

Would also like to ask about your cross country skiing and other exercise activities, as I believe the ski lifts are still closed aren't they?

Finally, do you have any plans to travel later this year once lockdowns are eased?

Cheers 😀

Replying to

Hi Ian, we fly to Ivalo in Finland (have to change planes in Helsinki), and I think the place we've booked is only around 40 minutes from the airport. You're correct that the ski lifts have not been running this winter because of Covid. The go to winter activities seem to be snowshoe walking, ski touring (aka backcountry skiing) and cross country skiing. I've been doing ski touring which, for those who don't know, involves "walking" up the hills on the skis and then skiing traditionally on the downhill parts. It uses special bindings, boots and grippy "skins" to enable this. Also, because it's been so mild in February, I've done more running than I might otherwise had done in the…


Like i say to most people...whatever you think you need for retirement or your saving for....plan for double and you will be pleasantly suprised, or at the very least be covered for those rainy days!

Replying to

I'm somewhere in the middle on this topic. It's true that we are not a thin FIRE couple, but that is partly because (almost by accident) our investment pot turned out to be big enough to allow us to spend more i.e. to an extent, we spend because we have the money to do so. For sure we could cut down quite a lot if we chose, definitely only one home, less on travelling, maybe less on gifts and I guess if we needed we could reduce charity spend - I'm not saying none of this, just a reduced amount compared to what we do now and I'm sure we would still have a great life. We're fortunate to be…

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