What does a retired accountant, a carpenter, a sports masseuse and an economist have in common? It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but the answer is we all share an interest in understanding what we spend. The fact that two of them are youngsters suggests they'll likely have a rosy financial future.
I'm sure we were the only people in the cafe discussing our costs in such detail. I don't really understand why tracking costs is considered such an odd thing to do. In comparison to how much time and effort goes into earning our money, the tracking part seems a tiny and obvious thing to do. Without understanding our spending, how can we objectively know whether to be happy with it, and how can we change things if we're not?
I guess the arguments against tracking spend are:
"I keep a mental track, that's good enough and there's no point in tracking it more than that"
"My budget is tight, I only spend the minimum, so whether or not I track costs isn't going to help me spend less"
"I'm too busy and don't have time to track my spend"
I'm sure there are elements of logic in these arguments, but I don't really buy them. My experience has been:
Time can always be found for something if it's considered important enough. How about a little less time on Facebook, watching TV or YouTube? I used to watch a ton of football, now I watch almost none, and don't miss it at all - it's freed up hours of time to spend on other things.
Keeping a mental note of what we're spending is a good thing, but it's not the same as keeping proper track. I thought I had a good handle on our costs, but the first time I listed out all of our actual expenditure, I was amazed at how much money was spent on things that didn't give us much in return.
In truth, it's been quite some years since I've been on a very tight budget, but taking a little time to see where the money goes can't do any harm, and just maybe there will be some opportunites that might make life a little easier.
Our early retirement costs
I'm in a phase where tracking my costs feels a bit boring and wonder whether I should keep doing it. I don't mind the recording so much, it's the end of the month process when I look at them that I'm losing interest in. So I need to remind myself that it really doesn't take much time to do and that it can tell me some things that I might not have realised.
For example, I'd never have thought the monthly spend on our car (fuel/tolls/oil change) would average £504/€600/$681. Or that we (OK, mostly me) spend an average £264/€315/$357 a month on sports related stuff? These costs are way more than I would have guessed, but because I track our costs, I know about them, can have a look at how they've come about, and can decide if I'm happy with them or want to try to make a change.
Why isn't everybody tracking their costs?
Early retirement targets
Although there are still 12 weeks until the end of the year, for almost 7 of them we'll be in the Philippines, then Christmas will be upon us. So there's not much time to make progress on my targets.
My focus for the next few months will be on:
Exercise: While in the Philippines, I'm going to focus on stretching and strength work more than running. I think this will be good for my body.
Medical: We've booked to have our comprehensive health check up while we're in the Philippines.
Blog: I'll keep posting at least 3 posts a month. My friend retired early to the Philippines and I'm fascinated to hear what his life is like there. I hope he'll let me share some of it on my blog.
French: To keep doing at least something, but I really need to make a better plan than "hope".
Tour du Mont Blanc: With my friends, we need to firm up the plan and make some accommodation reservations as they get booked up very early.
Campervan: I'm not going to get to my target of 30 nights, but maybe I can squeeze in a few extra nights in December.
Adventure: I know Sally will cringe when she reads this, but I still want to think of what big idea/adventures we can target for the next year or two.
Invest cash: If I could automated this, I would. But there isn't an option on the platform I use, so I must remember to manually invest on the first day of each month.
Setting targets, and then taking a little time to check in on them once a month really works for me. It seems there are still quite a number of things to focus on...exactly how I like my early retirement to be!