Friday, 25 December 2015

Time Flies

I must confess, I have had a few weeks of wondering what to post here. Not that I stop being frugal (it is an ongoing habit) but because I'm so used to doing these things, I forget not everyone is! On top of that has been the usual end-of-year festivities. But really, they should have been inspiration for me to post. So, better late than never.

I've lived in Finland eight Christmases now, and every year I have given my Australian family gift cards and charity donations in their names. I buy them online from Australian shops, saving oodles on postage. When I look at what they spend in posting traditional gifts to me... (shudder) they are definitely making the postal services rich.

As for local gifting we have also eschewed most physical items. None of our family are desperately poor, meaning we all have what we need for the most part, meaning that most of the "things" we hand over aren't needed. Obviously it's important to show someone you thought about them, but for the most part we do gift cards here as well, perhaps with a small practical gift. It has the added bonus of limiting what we need to wrap and carry to the festivities on the bus. I received almost nothing which can't be experienced or used up this year - I cannot tell you how thrilled I am about this! My family has really begun to understand how much I appreciate not receiving more "stuff". As a bonus I have lovely things to enjoy which will not take up space in my cupboards.

Speaking of wrapping, we used less than one roll this year. For our own household, we used recycled gift bags. Somehow we have a stash of these received from others. I just flatten them and put them into our "wrapping stuff" and they get re-used. It's amazing how many people would just throw these out. I may just pop my head into the paper recycling bins later today and see how many of them are in there from the 57 other apartments in our block!

Did I mention leftovers? I'm sure everyone knows about Christmas leftovers, and I get to not cook for a few days. Score!

What things do you do to save cash over the holidays?

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

We Walk. We Ride.

Now this one needs an important disclosure. I am not a very fit person in general, I am not a biking & hiking fanatic and I don't really do much exercise at all. And not everyone can make the complete jump that we have, but it's still possible to go half-way.

We walk or we ride. We don't own a car.

I can feel the horror on many faces right now. There are so many people (in so many locations) for whom being car-free is an alien idea that belongs to hippies who eat organic gluten-free raw wheatgrass pancakes. We don't do anything revolutionary, though. We are fortunate enough to live in a place with good public transport, so we use it. For us, not owning a car was a conscious decision. We are a 2 minute walk to the supermarket, so we walk. I'll admit that carrying too many bags of groceries home isn't nice, so it has an added benefit that we spend less in order to avoid carrying so much home! :)

But you don't need to have wonderful transport in order to use a car less. I used to drive a lot, and one thing that car ownership does is make people rely on it - I would have laughed at the idea of walking anywhere, why would I, when I had a car?! But isn't that terribly sad, that I wouldn't walk around the corner, even... think about it.

We always jumped in the car without planning. We acted as if the five minutes saved was too precious to waste. Realistically, if my day is so jam-packed that I cannot afford five minutes of walking, then it is time for a serious think about what's going on in my life, to reassess how I spend my time. We only live once, life is too short to have it crammed that badly.

One way to limit the costs of running the car is to compromise - drive to the train station for instance, if it's not in walking distance. Become a single-car family and coordinate with your spouse on who'll need it on which days. Another idea is to go shopping while you're already in the car for another reason. It will save you fuel if you shop on the way home.

Despite our great transport, we still sometimes bike to a friend's place on the weekends. It's quite surprising how fulfilling that can be, to arrive at the other end without dropping dead of exhaustion :)

What about you - do you use the car without thinking? Or do you plan how it gets used?

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Tuna Cakes

This a simple budget-buster meal you can make when there's nothing cookable in your fridge. The basic recipe is versatile and easy for you to add sauces or spices according to taste.

Tuna Cakes (makes 8 cakes)
2 tins tuna, drained (180g ish tins)
5 pieces of bread torn/cut into tiny pieces
2 eggs
optional mustard, salt/pepper, curry, or chili sauce etc
optional sliced cheese & tomato

Mix the drained tuna, bread and any sauces or spices really well. Squash it down a bit so that the bread soaks up any remaining liquids from the tuna.

Add the eggs and mix them in thoroughly.

Squeeze handfuls into patties and cook them in some oil or butter on a medium frypan (not too hot!). When the bottom is browned, turn it over.

If they're eaten plain and without sauce or spices, they're a bit like eating plain tuna toast, that is, not very interesting. These work best as a base. I definitely recommend spices or toppings to make them more exciting. You can lay a slice of cheese then tomato on top after the first flip. Or break out your sriracha sauce, or mayonnaise.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Acknowledgement of Privilege

I see posts all the time in tumblr-esque hyperbole: CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE! Some kind of ranting from someone who feels ripped off by the world, directed at someone they think has everything handed to them on a plate. But it's actually a very negative statement, and it gets people offside immediately, because it's not interpreted in a way that's at all useful.

Here is my interpretation of how we should examine privilege, in terms of living our lives as successes (in whatever capacity we think success is: education, happiness, financial independence, whatever). Hint: you're not supposed to feel guilty, so you don't need to get angry and refuse to feel guilt. But it's nice to be grateful, so read on.

Most of the things we want out of life aren't handed to us for free. We see what we want, and we evaluate it (a new car... scoring top of the class in the exam...). We decide if it's worth it. If we want it, then we make it our goal. We figure out what we need to do in order to achieve that.

Perhaps we have to save money, get a promotion. Perhaps we have to study hard. Life can still spring things up in our way to foil our attempts, but by and large, getting it requires personal effort.

So when we get that something (the house we saved ten years for, the scholarship we worked towards) then we are justifiably proud that we did it. If you put some hard work into the widget machine, out pop the widgets.

Except that we often forget that it wasn't always hard work alone. Particularly in things that require competition against others (we got the job, we bought the house, we landed a scholarship). We tend to think about these things in a vacuum, as if nobody else had to LOSE so that we could WIN.

Someone had to lose. We had to tread on heads to overtake people on that ladder.

Big deal! - you say. They should have worked as hard as I did.

Well sunshine, perhaps they did.

Perhaps they studied longer, but couldn't get proper sleep because they were cold. Maybe their parents couldn't send them to college. Maybe they didn't get a scholarship because it's hard to study with five small siblings in the house with you. Maybe they were too hungry to concentrate in class. Maybe they skipped middle school any time their mother's babysitter cancelled. Maybe the girl missed out, because the scholarship went to a boy who was more confident on the debating team. Maybe she was late to exams because of her crutches. Maybe his accent ruined his marks in English class.

Maybe it's far simpler than all this: "people who start with a disadvantage still have options to succeed, they'll just have to try harder." It is amazing how often this comes up. "Sure, you can't afford college, but you can still get a scholarship!" These sorts of things. Stop and think about it for a moment. The underprivileged kid has to try so much harder. The privileged kid can just sail in on average marks because there is a way for them to pay their own way through if the scholarship doesn't happen (their parents' savings, etc). Stop and think about it. Life is very unfair for the kid who has no other choice but to go after that scholarship. It's their only shot. And they're up against middle-class kids who just don't WANT to pay for school. Even more unfairly, the middle-class kids will still get to go, even if they fail to get the scholarship...

Now this does not mean that your success wasn't earned. You worked for it. Your hard work got you over the line. But for most people, hard work was not the only thing that got them there.

If you are still not convinced (hey life's not fair, suck it up) then let's go to working life. You got to be successful in your job because you worked hard. You have put hard work into the widget machine, and a good job came out. You earned it.

Or maybe the other guy didn't get that promotion because they're black and your boss gave the job to you. Maybe she quit because the baby's coming. Maybe he couldn't work while on dialysis. Maybe the power was disconnected, maybe they didn't have a phone, maybe they didn't look as good as you at interview because their clothes had a hole. Maybe the car broke down and they didn't have savings to repair it, because they had student debts.

So now you're thinking about their poor planning? Well maybe you had student debts too! But when their fridge broke, their dad didn't loan them the money. Nobody in your house stole your wallet to pay for a drug habit. You're probably not disabled. You're probably not transgender. You're probably healthy - or if not, you can probably go to a doctor.

The thing with having disadvantages is that they often breed more disadvantages. Things that the happy graduate or worker usually hasn't even considered. Car breaks down, it's inconvenient! But imagine there was no money to fix it, so you spent the rent to get it repaired. Then the rent will have late fees so you won't have grocery money. So you take a payday loan.

Then you can't pay it back. So they take the car, so you lose your job. And you can't pay rent. So you're evicted.

Perhaps at this point you're "lucky" enough that a friend takes you in.

How long will it take to try and save the deposit for a new flat while living on a friend's living room floor with no job? Oh and furniture too - you didn't have any money for a U-haul, so the landlord threw it all out.

Homeless and jobless - all because of a $100 repair on the car. Things that would never have happened to someone who had just $100 in the bank.

So the next time someone says to you, "Check your privilege" - they're not saying that you haven't earned your success. They're reminding you that perhaps you forgot about the people who lose. You forgot that some people work just as hard as you - maybe harder - and are not lazy just because they haven't achieved what you did.

They just haven't had all your privileges.

Say a word of thanks.

And if you are a hair's breadth away from being that someone who could be ruined by a $100 unexpected bill, don't sit idle for even a second. Every spare second should be used to figure out how to save one spare dollar, earn one spare dollar, from somewhere, anywhere. If that means eating nothing but rice for a week, doing surveys for 20c on the internet, then so be it - you never, ever want to learn the "hundred-dollar terror" the hard way, and it might mean all the difference to things in a years' time - it may even be an opportunity to hone the frugality which frees you from it.

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Nine-To-Five Never-Ending Treadmill

The title is a misnomer; many of the people I know are working All. The. Time. And not particularly enjoying it. I feel sad every time they tell me (again) that the hours are killing them. Because I know they will fall exhausted into bed tonight, but get up tomorrow and do it all again. And the next day.

They all have the same reason (if you ask them). They have no choice. They have to keep doing this because there are bills to pay. These are intelligent people; they can balance the chequebook; they have carefully tallied their expenses and know exactly what is needed to offset them. And what is needed is that they continue to drive themselves into an early grave by slaving away at a job that doesn't appreciate their hard work and doesn't reward them in an emotional sense. Worse yet, it deprives them of much of their free time as well, and stresses them to tears, and demands that they schedule time to eat.

The part that drives me crazy is that they are missing half of the equation. How can such intelligent people not see what is staring them in the face?

Answer: when you look at the same scenery for years, you don't notice the detail.

They work their thankless, stressful job in return for that pay, and then throw that pay at a fancy coffee. Bam. That's another day you'll have to work. Or a movie ticket. Or a takeaway meal. I am no saint, that takeaway meal is sometimes seen as a saviour after a tough day. But make no mistake, that Starbucks or McDonalds run just enslaved you to another day, another week of working at shitty nine-to-five drudgery because you have forever lost the chance to invest that money and have it work for you.

And once the movie is over, the $5 popcorn eaten, do we still enjoy what it did for us? No. The reward is fleeting and gone. We go back to feeling empty, tired and overworked. Compare that with purposefully saving the money and thinking about what the money will do for us. We can watch that balance go up and enjoy THAT reward many times. We can look forward to handing in the resignation letter. We can congratulate ourselves on moving forwards. Many times.

Pay tv. Fashion. Fast food. Hair Salon. New clothes. Second cars. College debts. Credit Cards. All totally normal. Everyone else does it, right? So it can't be so awful. Surely if there was a way to not work until 65, then everyone would be doing it. (Wrong. It's just that most of them think in the same way, and figure there is no alternative.)

Is your nine-to-five slavery so tiring, so all-encompassing, that you don't even have time to try and figure out how to get out? Maybe. Or maybe - realistically - you have just accepted what you think is the truth, and you have never questioned it.

Start questioning things. There is a way out.

Spend Less. Every cent counts.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Watching Property Shows On TV

Now hubby hates to make decisions of any sort, but when it came to borrowing for an investment apartment he was adamant. No. Not even a tiny shop. Just in case it needed massive repairs in future.

For once in my life my financial boundaries were very strict and it made me kinda desperate. I just obsessed over property, even a car space or a storage space, anything to get on the ladder.

Every now and then I indulge my habit of watching videos about houses. I have tons of them saved on my hard drive. I have fond memories of watching Property Ladder with my mum and sister when I sold my first place and moved back home. We would camp out in the living room that had the pay-tv, and anyone else who entered the room would be told to shut up because Sarah Beeny was about to tell some idiot property developer that they were being stupid. Then my sister and I would both pull serious faces and say, "and I think that's a mistake" and crack up laughing. Then we'd make fun of my mum's favourite show, Antiques Roadshow, by telling each other that it's a beautiful example of a period georgian vase with lovely filigree pattern of gold lace, I don't know whether you can see at home but the handles are made of the carved bones of slaves! Isn't it just extraordinary the lovely detail that's gone into the handiwork on this vase, this would have belonged to the landed gentry or possibly even to a royal family and passed down though the generations. These kind of vases sometimes go at AWK-tion for up to seventy thousand pounds (oh, really? me grandmuvva just kept it in a mop bucket or sumfink an' I 'ad no idea!) but that if you look carefully under the mahogany and glass section you can see a crack where it has been repaired, which is a shame because now it's only worth fifty pounds, but never mind, it is just delightful, and thank you ever so much for bringing it in and sharing it with us today.

So every now and then I indulge my habit of watching videos about houses.

I just wrote that first paragraph snickering at myself. I get distracted easily.

So every now and then I indulge my habit of watching videos about houses. I watched one where there was this guy who had nothing, borrowed a few thousand pounds, used it as deposit to start buying flats to let out and became a millionaire in five years. But apart from some sales spin and a really sterile bio, there wasn't much I could find online to learn about how he did it. Which inspired me to write a blog saying how I did it. (I don't have the million yet but one can dream.)

Incidentally, the way that I got onto that ladder was to use a bedroom in my daughter's flat, to host guests on AirBnB, which was a pain in terms of the shared bathroom and kitchen, but did actually provide the profit figures to back up the investment potential, and from there, we bought a place.

I figure that it's unlikely I will get to millionaire status (and I really don't need that much money, being quite happily frugal) but it might be interesting to see how long it takes me to own a Property Portfolio (capital Ps) which can actually support us.

We shall see.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Latest hauls

Dumpster diving at home:

 - two laptops (circa ten years old; one works ok, one works but the battery is dead)

- a working PlayStation 2

- a table lamp

- a Harry Potter movie DVD

- a dead Xbox (we're going to see if the hard drive is salvageable)

- a light jacket (mine! thank you)

- several sets of thermals to fit a tween boy - which my 20yo daughter is going to nab once I sew up the peekaboo fly :)

- four shirts, two skirts, two t-shirts

- two tablecloths

- sandbag leg weights, which we dragged out and left in view for someone

- an ironing board, which I think we'll do the same with

Apparently someone moved out. Can I just add that while I'm thrilled with the freebies, I'm frustrated that they didn't walk a few minutes to the corner of the street and donate the clothing to charity?

Monday, 12 October 2015

Real Estate Baby Steps

I've mentioned before the beginnings of my love of real estate, but you're probably assuming I just wanted a property or five to rent out for the income. Or even that I wanted MORE income by renting for short-term lets, which pay better. I do. But I'm still not content with that. Add another adjective to the description of me: not just smart and lazy, but also greedy.

Where we are right now is in our first year of owning an apartment which we rent out to tourists. It took me about a year of research, sweat and tears and sub-letting on AirBnB, to gather the evidence and experience to get my husband on board. Which is understandable, because my approach is unorthodox, and as I've noted before, 99% of people go through life in the conventional way: get an education, get a job, work hard, take out a normal mortgage, buy a normal car on finance, commute for 40 years, retire with the house paid off but not much more, do all of this while spending every spare cent and being a slave to the grind of the working week.

I did a lot of reading in the lead-up to buying, and came to love real estate as a subject in general. Specifically, if it's done in the right way, it's one of the best (almost) passive income sources around. (What's passive income? It's money you earn while not doing anything at all.) Sitting around getting rich with little effort sounds like heaven to me.

I've mentioned before that I don't actually need to be rich (I just joke about it a lot) but it is absolutely no joke that if anyone can earn money without effort, then it will be ME who figures out how or dies trying. There is no end to how many hours I could spend daydreaming on these things. Ahem. Anyway, passive income. Seems to me that many ordinary families invest in ordinary real estate for the ordinary rental income. That's a drop in the ocean and a daydreamer like me dreams far bigger than "ordinary". Rental's not enough, AirBnB's not enough. The serious money in real estate is in the capital gain. In simple terms this is the value of the property going up over time.

Every country has different laws in terms of taxes and income for property, but (amazingly) in many places you can earn more money by buying a modest property and sitting on it and doing nothing, than by working and saving and saving some more. The difficulty is that most of us don't have spare money lying around to buy a place and can't afford to pay the bills for 20 years while the value increases. The tourist lets were how I got around that part, by proving it could pay its own way and make the borrowing worthwhile while we wait.

My second big joke is that it's only the beginning of my tycoon career. I say that, and people laugh, because one tiny apartment does not a "tycoon" make. But it's part of my bigger picture, and in my mind's eye there will be more of them later on, you see. :)

(Husband is not keen on the idea of buying another one. But I've dealt with the "I'm not keen" thing before. Leave it with me, I'll get back to you one day.)

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Leftovers

I am the first to admit that I am a continual "work in progress" when it comes to saving money in the food department. I am quite embarrassed to admit that we discovered a big piece of untouched watermelon recently, in the back of the fridge, inedible :( It's frustrating to know that we paid four euro for it and it's now going into the bin.

But I digress, I thought I'd post what we ate for dinner. It was ugly, so no photos - use your imagination.

I mashed up leftover vegies and potatoes, skins and all. I then cooked it with a stock cube, a little bit of french onion soup mix, and enough water to make it look & taste like soup. We each got a mug of this and it was acceptable tasting even!

Then there was the second course (hahaha, sounds classy but it's not). I cooked one egg each in the microwave in the bottom of mini ramekin dishes. We each then had a half a tin of baked beans on top and a piece of toast.

Dinner was perfectly adequate, it was even vaguely healthy, and of course I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy in serving that up, as if it's not "proper" enough. I need to get over that. Shopping and making a new dinner from scratch while we have stuff in the fridge... it's wasteful.

Here's a slogan for us all:

"Embrace the leftovers!"

Friday, 2 October 2015

Comfy Cushions

We all like comfy cushions.

Ok, that was a broad and sweeping assumption but really, I'm talking about not having to worry about unexpected bills. Here is a terrifying statistic for you: 62% of people in a recent survey are one paycheque away from homelessness. What this means is that if some disaster strikes (car breaks down, refrigerator bites the dust) they would need to spend their rent or mortgage money to deal with it because they have nothing in their savings.

These people are truly the definition of living hand-to-mouth. Is that also you - all the bills are paid each month, but there is nothing left over to save?

My daughter is moving house at the end of this year - barely three months away - and as she has so far saved very little because she earns very little, she confessed to me last night that she is tired of never having any money and never knowing what will pop up to randomly demand all the cash she has left. Last month she had a wisdom tooth pulled out, which fortunately in Finland is a very cheap thing to deal with, but it still took a bite out of the money she does have. It was merely one small example of things not-planned-for, but causing financial anguish.

Totally out of the blue I found myself explaining my own financial setup. My husband is the main wage earner, but we are way under the national average household income (actually we earn about a third of average for four adults). And in fact we would be considered to be living below poverty level if only the euros and cents are taken into account.

Yet we never have to worry about an unexpected bill. Even a big one. There is money in the savings if something comes up. We won't be happy of course, but we can just pay it and move on. We can do this because we simply don't buy much. We spend less than the amount coming in, so it just naturally grows, slowly but surely.

Here is where the knee-jerk reaction comes in that people "simply cannot save" anything. Yes I know; but that is the wrong focus in my opinion. We have not set out to grow our savings and neither should you. The better aim is to stop spending. There is also an assumption out there that small amounts are insignificant. They're not! Every cent matters.

If you can't do more than pay the bills each month, there are two approaches - either earn more or spend less. The first one is tough, but in my daughter's case it's what she needs to do. Freelance work is too unpredictable and scant, so she needs a boring daytime income so that her immediate needs no longer cause stress.

For all the regular people who already work and for whom second jobs and promotions aren't on the cards, it comes down to spending less. This isn't a newsflash to most but it's staggering how many people try convoluted measures to do it when it could be far more simple. One dollar a day? Can you look at everything you spend and just identify one dollar a day? Can you delay one clothing purchase until next month? One small thing? One weekday cheeseburger? Fridays have a packed lunch instead? One Tuesday vegetarian dinner? One fewer fizzy drink and slurping a glass of water instead?

Try something small for just one month... keep the extra money in the bank. If you make it a habit you will find it no longer seems like an enormous sacrifice. Perhaps next month you won't get an overdraft fee or late bill payment fee: that's like doubling your money! Pat yourself on the back for having your bills covered and taking back a little bit of control. And then look again to find one more dollar a day - the next step of the challenge.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Epic List of Fail

In my reading of multiple other Frugal blogs it occurs to me how often they seem to be living a life of perfection. While I utterly admire what many of them are doing to achieve their own personal version of financial freedom, I'm also struck by how unattainable some standards seem to be.

Get this - they seem so perfect that I occasionally rebel and sneer inwardly. It's unfair of me, and it's jealousy rearing its head, so I want to make it crystal clear that I am absolutely imperfect, and I screw it up quite often. In fact, there are some areas in which I am unashamedly a money-waster. I will eternally be a work-in-progress at this frugality thing.

With this in mind I have a few imperfections terrible habits and I am going to own up to them here and now.

#1 - Meal Preparations. I've said I'm lazy before, but for perspective, I am tonight cooking schnitzel and oven wedges, both of which arrived in my house pre-prepared. Yes, I am wielding the frypan and the oven tray, and they will be accompanied by my home-made coleslaw, but (a) the mayo in the coleslaw was not home-made, (b) I made no effort to prepare or crumb the schnitzel myself, (c) I didn't cut potatoes to make the wedges. As you can gather, I would have had the time and capability of saving more money on this meal. This makes us only partly frugal in regards to eating at home on the cheap.

#2 - We Still Eat Takeaway. Not all that often, but more often than just for special occasions. Sometimes fast food comes home with my husband simply because I can't be bothered cooking. This is bad, especially since I barely work, and I want to try and work on this. I hope my determination wins out.

#3 - My Coffee Addiction. I say addiction, but more than actual addiction it's part of a ritual when I sit down to catch up with my online friends and play games on the computer. This is one expense I'm really not tackling and if I'm honest, I probably won't in future.

#4 - Soft Drinks. Actually, at home I drink almost none, because I drink a lot of water. It's when I do my work that I tend to "reward myself". One or two cans of drink in a week is hardly breaking the bank, but it's still money I don't need to spend and rewarding myself is just another way of saying I want to waste money. Update June 2016: Habit mostly gone. I no longer drink anything at work at all and buy far fewer of them to take home. 

#5 - Electricity and Water use. We're fortunate that our heating and hot water is at a fixed price, shared throughout our apartment block. Living in Helsinki there's also no need for air conditioning (saves big bucks). But even so I could be doing more to limit my usage of utilities - I've noticed that the tv seems to be on despite nobody really paying any attention to it, for example. Update March 2016: Habit broken! The tv is now almost always left off. We rarely use it AT ALL, my son turns it on some evenings while he eats dinner but he turns it off when he leaves the room. At first the apartment seemed "too quiet", but we've quickly become used to it and it's no longer strange living with an absence of mindless tv. Small victories :)

#6 - My Toys. By this I mean my computer because there's very little else that I spend majorly on. Another area I won't be changing anytime soon, because it supports pretty much all of my entertainment, with a couple of exceptions.

#7 - Movies and Games. I am not a movie fan really, but Netflix also gives us access to a bunch of TV shows. More irony since I don't watch much tv, but I do have a penchant for a good British comedy or three. The Netflix subscription easily trumps the cost of pay tv (seriously, who pays for that anymore?) and the bonus is that all four of us can use it to watch shows on our computers. As for games, there's one particular online game that burns a hole in my pocket. It also forms the bulk of my social life but even so I'm aware of the predatory nature of such game developers. I really should spend less on it and it's something I'm working on, but I won't be stopping playing completely.

What's your biggest spending indulgence?

Friday, 25 September 2015

On my travels

I came across a blog which is rather interesting. http://earlyretirementextreme.com/

I am currently wading through the bowels of their archives, but even way back then it contained some thought-provoking things, like alerting me to the existence of retirement calculators. And if you find a decent one it can tell you when you can afford to retire.

Now basing it on my current income levels is kind of laughable because I am actually supported quite a bit by my husband's wage. So for the purposes of research for you, dear reader, I based it on my income alone. And I found, to my surprise, that based on what I (alone) bring in from my unemployment benefit and part time hobby-job, that if I continue to save as I do now (50%-ish), I will have saved enough to retire when I am 54 and will have that income streaming in until I am 90, provided I'm content with three-quarters as much cash each month once I retire.

For context, my income is approximately the amount of income that the Finnish government considers the bare minimum to survive and which it demands of EU immigrants coming here (unemployment benefit pays half of the "survival" amount).

Those who earn even an average wage, I cannot imagine why they shouldn't be able to save far more and retire even faster. Actually I can, but it has to do with spending on things that will slow down retirement horribly.

For those who are interested to see their own numbers in action, here's the calculator I used.

https://www.calcxml.com/do/ret31?ctry=ca

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Stock

I will admit, I am not a super-duper magic-handed chef extraordinaire. I don't make my own stock (despite what the title may have led you to believe). One thing which I DO do, however, is keep pan drippings and use them as stock anyway.

Who-what? Well now and then we cook roast objects in the oven, meaning a chunk of meat sitting on a pan and heated until it is of a suitable done-ness for the eatering. Often they're not even seasoned by me (pre-marinated... guilty). But whatever it is, I keep the dirty pan once the meat is all gone, scoop all the leftover juices and scraps into a container, and stick it in the freezer. It's my version of stock. I use it in soups or casseroles.

Tonight we had Lamb Soup. It didn't really have much in the way of actual lamb chunks, but it had vegetables and the stock from our last lamb roast (special roast lamb dinner when my dad had visited). The soup smelled fantastic with plenty of small scraps of lamb, plus it tasted pretty dang lamby and good, even if I so say so myself - just vegies, one stock cube, and the lamb shenanigans stock. Not bad as far as feeding about six people goes.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Records Broken

I've mentioned before that I run a tourist apartment - we let it on AirBnB. This is a strategy I have for making what's a rather expensive investment not only pay its own way, but pay us a little something extra at the same time. (Can I just add - it still amazes me how many people are thrilled when the rent covers 80% of their mortgage - in my immodest opinion some of them are just settling for "ho hum" - I've told you that I'm greedy, ours covers about 180% - 200%.)

For the month of August we booked 29 out of 31 days. Or putting it another way, a 94% occupancy rate and 400e income over my previous best month. To say I'm pleased is an understatement.

I told hubby we'd beaten our previous record income, but he was absolutely shocked at the total we had booked. Can't ask for better than 94%!

Well, we can (by asking for 100) but if it happens it will just be a bonus kind of awesome, not par for the course!

Do you have real estate in your investment plans? Maybe you have different investments?

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Big Mortgage Con: Are We Aiming Too High?

The great Australian dream (or American dream, or British dream, or wherever you come from) - it seems to be, to own your own home. I totally understand this bit. But I will confess to being perplexed at how a lot of people go about that.

So the dream goes: get a job, save the deposit, get a huge loan, work hard, pay it off. Almost uniformly, people seem to get the biggest loan they can qualify for and buy the most expensive home they can manage to get.

Does anyone stop and think about that? We would not shop around anywhere else for the most expensive of some other item (if we're only driving to the corner shop, we don't insist on a Ferarri). And yet this is how home-buying seems to work: go for the biggest and best.

The costliest, the nicest, the best location. Yes, of course, somewhere in the reasoning is that the more you spend, the better the investment. But first and foremost, if this will be the place where you are living, and you are buying this as your primary, long-term home, then it is not an investment in the early days - it's a home. It's a money pit. You will barely even touch the debt in the first few years, thanks to the interest/fees/taxes, so it's nothing but an expense. (I'm not going to touch on investing home equity here; that's for a later post.)

Essentially, the harder someone works and the less they spend, the faster they will pay the home off. But the end result still takes 20 or so years, perhaps longer if there are also debts from education, or if they upsize or move to a nicer area. And at the end of that, they will have worked for 20+ years for a roof.

And during that time, many people will have been too busy working to take proper advantage of the home that they bought. Quite often the home does not actually match the way that they will be using it. We're talking big formal dining rooms that never get used, because people sit in front of the tv with a takeaway dinner after a long work day. State-of-the-art kitchens when people don't have the time to cook. Second living rooms which sit empty. The only use of the yard is to be watered, weeded and mown every weekend, which is either more work or the expense of paying someone to do it. Guest bedrooms which sit empty for 50 weeks of the year.

Am I missing something here? Is it worth having a huge mortgage debt and long work hours, once you consider what they're giving you in return? Is it even worth buying, or would renting make more sense? Do people even ask themselves these questions or do they just jump onto the mortgage treadmill like their neighbours?

I'm not anti-home-ownership... merely asking whether people truly think, before these enormous spends happen. One thing that true Frugalists have in common is that every single spend is examined and questioned, and they consider how that spend will fit in with their lifetime goals. If one of your life goals is simply "buy a home" without any further detail, it's likely that you have (or will) go down the usual path of buying a place that doesn't fit your needs as well as it could, or spending far more than you need to. But imagine the goal was more specific, like this: "Buy an apartment, save like crazy for a few years, then buy a family home and rent the apartment out while we raise a family on one income." Suddenly the first mortgage would be automatically smaller (it needs to be, because their goal is to save like crazy for the second property). Or how about this one: "Buy a small house, pay the loan down as fast as we can, and be mortgage-free in ten years." This family knows what they want to achieve later on - not just "be in a house".

The point is, mortgages are long and sort of painful. So it's a good idea to figure out where you want to be at the end of that road, because it might impact quite a bit on how much you spend and what you spend it on.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Thursday's Lunch

Today I ate for lunch:
* One mega cookie thing that I left for a previous guest and which they inexplicably mangled while still in the packet
* One banana that I found sitting on the top of the rubbish (rinsed, but hey, it was still in the peel)
* One chunk of custardy bread product that the lady at the mall was offering to taste
* One single prune in its own packet, handed out by a lady at the station.

Today I brought home from my apartment:
* Half a tub of cream cheese
* Half a packet of sliced ham
* Two packets of Austrian chocolate wafers left for me as a gift.

Earlier this week I brought home:
* Half a packet of Colombian roast coffee
* Most of a packet of digestive biscuits

Earlier this week I rejected:
* One container of someone's leftover curry and rice (thank you, but no).

Earlier in this job I've rescued / been gifted:
* Eggs
* Beer
* Wine (sometimes left for me as a gift, sometimes opened)
* Fruit juice
* Yoghurts and desserts
* Fruit, vegetables
* Cheese, cold meats, butter
* Lollies, chocolates
* Packets of soup, spices
* Clothes and towels (did try to return them, but got no reply)
* Books
* Shampoo, conditioner and body wash

I was thinking of these kinds of things last week, and whether it's crossing a line to rescue the half-used things, when a forum of holiday-home-owners argued: Would you use left-behind toiletries? I lurked and read, and it seems as if most of them bin it all. As if things like shampoo become diseased by someone pouring some out of the nozzle. I quite liked that one lady unashamedly said she just squeezed a bit of toothpaste out of the end then took it home. So far nobody has left toothpaste behind in my apartment so I'm not sure whether I would do the same. Jury's out.

Granted, opened food might be a bit different. I take into account the state of the apartment in general. For example, I took the wine home because the wine glasses had been used and were sitting in the drainer, suggesting they hadn't drunk out of the bottle. And opened butter has probably only been touched by knives. But I'll admit I've eaten sliced meats and cheeses out of opened packets.

I haven't died yet. Will get back to you if I do.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

A Terribly Challenged Day

Today I was sorely tempted to spend aimlessly (which I'll talk about in a moment). In the interests of fairness, I should at least detail the Backstory Of My Day™. Just imagine that's a thing.

I actually had quite a satisfying day at "work" today. (Side note: because I don't earn a full-time wage or anything close to it, and because I get paid for the few hours it takes me, I struggle with calling this my job. It feels like I'm cheating. But I do certain houseworky-type things, they take a little time, and I get paid for it, so I guess that's a job, right? Anyway, I digress.)

So I actually had quite a satisfying day at "work" today. Like any other "work" day, that mostly consists of me procrastinating as long as possible and not wanting to actually go, but once I'm there it's fairly easy and once it's done I feel tremendous satisfaction that I did a thing that makes people happy. (Seriously, I get to make peoples' faces light up at the lovely place they've rented. Hopefully. I get to give them a comfy bed to stay in for their holiday. Although nobody sane wants to clean or scrub toilets or wash sheets or make beds voluntarily, I don't have a boss ordering me around and I'm in charge of my decisions. There's a reason I say that I really do feel like I've got the best job in the world.)

So anyway it was all done and I had the usual tired-but-not-exhausted going on. And I was walking home through the shopping mall (can't be helped) and wheeling my granny trolley along (shut up, you wish you had one) when I had this inexplicable urge to just go shopping.

Do you know how UN-Elisa that is? Shopping sucks. Seriously.

First I wanted a new plant. Something vibrant and growy and interesting. Then I went past a gadget & cool things store and I wanted to just browse. Which for me means "come home with ten things I don't need".

Then I got annoyed at myself for wanting to spend money and then I was even more annoyed for denying myself "just a few euro" and then I tramped / rolled to the train station in annoyance. I was even ALMOST annoyed enough to take a book from the book exchange without leaving one there first. (I only didn't take one because there was nothing good in English).

When I got off the train I decided I wasn't too tired to buy dinner fixings to save poor husband the trip. I did well in there, successfully selecting budget foods, and then I spoiled it by buying frozen pizzas for dinner and a whole packet of donuts.

And after the pizza I ate two of the donuts. I'm blaming hormones.

The end.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Standard Life Patterns

One thing that I love to do is to try and understand what makes people tick. I am no psychologist and I admit, usually I can't figure people out. Maybe it's just me? Here is what I mean.

Nearly everyone - rich, poor, smart or not - seems to follow a "standard life pattern". The sheer number of people who march through their lives in the exact same way, to me is quite striking. See how many people you know who do most or all of these.

1. Complete their education or training
2. Get a job and work very hard
3. New wardrobe to look good at work - because you can afford it
4. Grab takeaway lunches or dinners, because work is exhausting
5. Take an expensive holiday abroad as a reward for working hard
6. Buy a nice new car with a personal loan - you commute long hours
7. Buy a home, with the highest loan that the bank will approve
8. Buy shiny things on credit because what the heck, you deserve it
9. Have kids, lose an income
10. Suddenly realise money doesn't grow on trees

If you consider each item one by one you may notice that several of them seem to be a result of the items above them. And this is critical, because so often people begin to spend according to their income and not their needs. Worse, the typical way to get some of these things is via debt. It's normal, the bank says yes, and we live in a consumer culture being told to Buy All The Things, so when the cash isn't at hand, we just add it to our bills.

What it boils down to is this: "Escalated spending" is a standard life pattern. Earn more, spend more, then you need to work more/work longer, in order to continue spending more and pay off more debt.

You'd think that more people would want to try and end this cycle - either by working less, owing less or spending less. And if "working less" seems like a crazy way to spend less money, you would not be alone in your thinking. In fact, you'd be completely standard. But there's a small (albeit growing) army of people out there who are actively looking for ways to work fewer hours, fewer years. People who radically limit their spending in order to work less. And I mean radically.

It does mean taking a good, hard look at those Standard Life Patterns. Every single one. And questioning: do I need to do this, or is there some other way? If I stop buying this, will it allow me to retire earlier and spend more time doing what I love?

I am very new to the "thinking about retirement" game. I wasted many years. But now I'm thinking about the future, thinking about whether I want to be still working when I'm 60. The answer is no.

11. Kids finally leave home - enjoy the empty nest with a holiday or three.
12. Buy a new car every five years
13. Pay off mortgage in 50s
14. Have very little in the way of savings - begin putting some of that spare cash away for retirement
15. Realise it's too little, too late, and not enough to retire on
16. Be unwilling to sell their only big asset (the house they worked 25 years to pay off)
17. Stay in the work force far longer than they wanted - perhaps never retire at all.

When it comes to spending on something we don't really need, I guess mostly we just think about whether we want it right now. Or maybe whether we can afford it right now. But now I realise that my spending habits now will have a huge affect on my future. I don't want to follow that standard work pattern of everyone around me - I don't want to be working when I'm 60 just because everyone else is. They think there's no alternative, but quite often, it's a choice. Or more accurately, a thousand small choices made for years, choices which will keep people locked in the workforce in their 60s. With every passing day where we spend instead of saving - even just one euro, one dollar - we have lost another opportunity to retire an extra day sooner. Profound, right? :)

So now when I look at something for sale - big or small - I think: "Do I want to be working when I'm 60?" and it's amazing how often I can put it back down, keep that one euro in my pocket, and walk away. If I do that every single day, then in twenty-one years' time when I'm 60, it will be worth one million.

1,000,000.00

And it's not an exaggeration.

One million.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Hand soap.

Fascinating subject, no? I'm even going to jazz it up by talking about shampoo as well. And dish detergent. And body wash. Hold onto your seats.

When my kids were younger I used to gasp at the sheer amount of bath products they went through. But kids will be kids, I just sucked it up and went with cheaper stuff for them, and anyway, cheap stuff was all my budget allowed.

When we got to Finland they were suddenly pouring someone else's money down the drain with that body wash (my poor husband's money, that is). In a mini-epiphany I put the kids' body wash into a small pump container.

Literally overnight their consumption of the stuff dropped in half. My husband, confused by the container, used it as well, so we all ended up using less. We then adopted pump packs for the shampoo and conditioner.

Along those lines, while out shopping (and armed with a dictionary to try and understand the labels) I found a place selling 3 litres of hand soap for the same price we'd been paying for one litre. Score! Not only that, but it's actually sold for use as hand soap AND body wash AND shampoo. Turns out that this stuff is a little too squeaky to enjoy as shampoo, but it's fine as body wash, and it comes in five different scents, just for variety. I bought some for the AirBnB let as well, but often guests leave products behind and I in turn leave those for the future guests to use.

As far as shampoo is concerned, we love the sweet-smelling fancy anti-dandruff stuff but prefer the price tag of cheap stuff that smells like air... we compromise by using a mix of half and half in our pump and it works just fine.

Now I also promised to talk dish detergent. No pump pack here, but my kids (again) were squirting it in huge amounts. I melted/squished the nozzle half-closed and now it allows only a little to come out. Another victory in cutting down the amount wasted.

It all comes down to measuring - if you pour it freestyle you end up pouring more than you need. So along those lines, I now always measure my clothes washing detergent and conditioner. Goodness knows how much I used to use when I was just eyeballing it and pouring it in...

What sort of effort does it all take? Well apart from refilling containers once a month, none really. I was about to say that the savings are not enough to buy an apartment with, but actually, it all adds up and is a substantial saving over the course of a year. The more frugal I can be, the earlier we can retire. And I'm very lazy, so the more effortless frugal things that I find... the better. :)

Friday, 28 August 2015

From Unemployed to Self-Employed

I've talked a little about my first days in Finland, in my "About Me". But I figured it was fair to explain that I'm not someone who has had a property portfolio all mapped out since she was 12. Hubby sold his studio apartment to buy a family home for us all when we arrived (the sale of the studio gave him a decent down payment, and 6 years later the entire loan is almost paid out). In my initial years here I had a lot of spare time, and faced with not even starting a career until my 40s, I wondered if we would reach retirement without much money. More specifically, I worried that my husband would work hard all his days and not have his money working as hard as it should :)

My first ponderings - in my incessant daydreaming - were along these lines: what can I do to earn money from home? What skills do I have, what assets do I have? Insert about twenty failed home businesses here. I don't do well at sticking to something which bores me, and the other ten were things requiring so much work that they were barely worth it (I've had market stalls, I've done paid surveys, I've made jewellery, you name it). As for assets we had a spare room that could have hosted someone for pocket money, but realistically, nobody in this house, me included, wanted to share the space with a stranger. I pondered that daydream anyway and landed at AirBnB, where I learned that the "anyone can be a host" idea was gathering traction, and that it paid more than standard rentals. So then the daydreaming changed to, "If only we could split this place, the way that people split houses" (which we can't - it's an apartment and they don't let you rip out walls and add extra bathrooms).

From there I wanted a second apartment to rent out. I wanted one like mad. I was obsessed. (Still am.) In our years of marriage my husband and I have never fought and rarely even disagreed, but here was a subject he was adamant about: absolutely not. He had that final home repayment in his sights and couldn't wait to be debt-free. Here was I talking about taking on more debt while I didn't have a job. He didn't share my vision for it to become my career, he wasn't confident in it being profitable, and to be absolutely fair, he had great concerns that we (he) might end up in financial trouble if it didn't work out. There was no way he was willing to stake our home on it. It didn't matter how much homework I did and how many hours I spent calculating costs and researching what my competitors were earning.

And research I did, non-stop. I was so desperate that I looked into renting a place to sublet. Turns out that in our city it's legal providing it's actually a person's home - so my daughter rented a place with only her moving in, and me paying half the costs. We chose the layout specifically so that it could be split and locked up, with only the bathroom and kitchen shared. She had her side, the guests had theirs. Thanks to her job disappearing, the entire project never made me money overall since I had spent my savings on the setup and was now also paying both halves of the rent. But the months we spent AirBnB'ing that second room made it very obvious that it could have been a profitable enterprise. I had figures to show my husband, who did begin to show a real interest.

And now we were on the same page: time to buy an apartment to rent out. :)

We bought the place in February 2015, and while I'll save the nitty-gritty for later on, suffice to say it's working very well for us so far. It's clearly nothing like a full-time wage just yet, but it's pocket money to add to our income, and it's more than paying its own way.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Dumpster Diving

I know that just the title makes most people cringe. Actually, I used to cringe as well. Then I read about the Freeganism movement where people can even feed themselves from bins (!!) so I figured: You know, I don't want to take food from the bin, but some of the non-food items they find look pretty amazing. This kind of money-saving isn't for everyone and isn't rocket surgery, but I figured I'd be candid about how I save money on this blog, and it's one of the ways I do it.

At the time that I first peeked into a bin, I had a flea market stall to sell off my junk, and I figured I might just find a few bits and pieces to sell. Well, I did, and I thought I'd list a few things I have found. We also check out a few freebie places now and then, like the local Recycle Centre and the flea markets and thrift shops that give away items they no longer want.

Books. (And books, and more books - I could almost dare to say that if you live in Helsinki and love to read you need never buy another book in your entire life, even if you never visit a library.)
Kitchenware. We outfitted my daughter's first apartment kitchen about 50% from dumpster & salvage finds. I even found an expensive heavy-bottomed stainless saucepan in my own apartment's bin with someone's burned dinner on the bottom... elbow grease and sandpaper, it was good as new.
Bikes. We own five bikes, two of which cost us nothing. Well I lie, I had to buy one new tyre and one new seat, and had to spend a few hours with a spanner to get them cleaned up and working properly.
Furniture. Two beds (I bought a new mattress for the larger one, and I washed the mattress pad which came with the fold-up bed - it looked spotless to begin with, but I washed it anyway under the shower). A bookshelf bedhead which I modified so it would fit the large (free) bed - this was funny as I had been eyeing the exact item in the Ikea catalog at the time. A huge metal folding futon sofa bed frame - we bought a mattress for this too as it had none.
Clothing. Oodles of clothes. We don't take rescued underwear, for obvious reasons! But jackets, shirts, jeans, you name it. Three long rain jackets. One brand new towelling dressing gown. Shoes, sometimes, although they're harder to find in good condition (we often put an inner sole into them, or wash them if possible). Rugs, blankets, quilt covers and sheets. Into the hottest wash cycle they go. If they survive it, free clothes! If they don't, no great loss.
Office Supplies. All sorts of stuff, from an office chair with wheels to a whole desk filing system.
Glassware. In the glass recycling we have found vases and lovely glass items.
Bottles and cans. I look in the general waste bin a couple of times a week and probably about half the times I find bottles and cans near the top. Here in Finland they have a refundable pawn attached of between 10c and 40c per bottle. I'm not too proud to pull "money" out of the rubbish.
Rolls of paper. Lots of brown paper, white paper, even rolls of wallpaper. We don't need to buy anything for quite a while. We tend to add coloured ribbon to them for Christmas gift wrapping.
A guitar. This one I had forgotten about until today, when my dad asked what the brand is. My daughter found it on the side of the road, in a spotless hard case. The guitar was missing a string and had a broken tuning peg. I bought a set of new tuning pegs for a few dollars on eBay, and re-strung it. She never really had much interest in playing, but today we Googled the actual brand and model, and apparently this model is made of rosewood and worth a fair bit of money. I think we're going to sell it now that we know! ;)
Other notable finds. A golf bag with wheels in great condition, a fold-up baby travel crib, a coffee table, tv table, shelves, several more folding beds and chairs. All of these we pulled out and left in view for someone else to take who could use them. We've also left items behind that we loved, but which were too difficult for us to take home. No doubt someone else was able to take them and enjoy them :)

Have you found anything good? Do tell...

Friday, 21 August 2015

Simple Coleslaw

Simple Coleslaw (serves 11, or however many people you want, really)
I'm calling it simple because actually, coleslaw is ridonkulously simple to begin with. A couple of years ago I overheard an American couple in my local supermarket speaking in English and despairing that they couldn't find something... I offered to help in case I knew the Finnish name for the mystery product, but alas, they wanted coleslaw, and it didn't exist in Finland at the time. They were gobsmacked when I suggested making it themselves out of just cabbage, carrots and mayo. Yes kids, that's all there is to it.

Ingredients:
* Raw cabbage, chopped up. I use a quarter of a cabbage and it does about eight serves as an accompaniment. Look at the chunk you have in your hands and keep in mind it will make 2-3 times as much coleslaw once it's chopped up. That's how you decide how much cabbage to use.
* Medium Carrots, grated. I use about 3 of them for each quarter of cabbage.
* Cold water. Hopefully you have some of this at home.
* Mayonnaise. A bit. I don't really know how much because yesterday I just used what was left in the jar - a very scientific amount. Start with about 60g (two ounces) I suppose, put it in a jar with the same amount of water and shake the crap out of it until they're combined. This is your dressing - add it to the bowl, toss the salad, taste the salad (for research purposes), see if you need to add more.

Photo thanks to the bigcbbq.com people, who took a better snap than me.
End result == coleslaw! This version is super easy, and tastes a thousand times more fresh than the boring stuff that comes with a fast food meal. Plus it's crunchier. It will keep in the fridge for few days. Note: it will not keep in the fridge if your kids discover it and appropriate it as a snack. You may need to label it "Hands Off!" etc.

Optional extras for variety:
1-2 finely chopped shallots / spring onions, or half an onion
chopped apple
corn kernels
chopped walnuts, toasted almonds or pecans

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Making Your Home Pay Its Way

Go ahead, point and laugh! I'm about to talk about people who are paying off homes with extra space.

Far and away, most people's biggest expense is their accommodation. The rent or mortgage tends to take up anywhere from a quarter to a half of people's income.

This is the single biggest expense for most people, but when people try to save money, they start with the grocery bill. Facepalm. But I get it. I really do. They think there's nothing that they can do to affect the housing cost, and so they ignore it and move on to the grocery bill. But actually, many people can change how deeply their roof eats into their money.

The absolute best way to deal with it is to rent/buy a smaller place, or in a less-awesome location. This is a big undertaking, especially if you are already paying off a mortgage, but if money is a serious subject for you right now then it is worth sitting down and taking a fresh look at the pros & cons of moving. Remember to consider your transport, moving and utility costs. They hurt, but for some people it will still be well worthwhile.

If you're ordinary and a move is not in the cards, then think about the place that you already have. How can it work for you instead of just draining you? Here are a few ideas from people I've known.

1. Take in a lodger. This means hosting a working person in a spare bedroom, and they contribute to the rent. Some people are horrified by the idea of an outsider becoming a family member, but I've known three families in this situation and they were pleased with the arrangement. They were able to choose the kind of person that would fit in with their lives.
2. Split off part of your house. Do you have an insulated garage, do you have a finished basement? Could you turn the outdoor laundry into a shower room? One family I know only needed to lock their master bedroom door in order to rent it out with its own ensuite bathroom. They set up a small hotplate, microwave and fridge in one corner, and the renter could use the sliding garden door as their private entry. The tenant then kept to themselves. For the family it was only a small compromise to move the parents into the spare bedroom - their computer simply moved into another corner of the house. The extra income was well worth the reshuffle and once the loan has gotten smaller they'll be able to claim that space back for themselves.
3. Host exchange students. This actually pays rather well if you're with a good agency. I know a lady who hosted foreign high school students as her day job. She adores being a mum, too, and you know what they say, if you love your job you'll never work a day in your life.
4. Rent out the garage for storage, or if you're in a city area, rent out your driveway to a city worker. Parking your own car on the lawn might kill a patch of your grass, but money in your pocket might be nice. There are even people who rent out a chunk of their backyard to people wanting to grow tomatoes, or garden sheds to people who need storage space.
5. Grow produce. Even a sunny windowsill in an apartment can host lettuce (and what's more, they won't be overrun with weeds). Even if it only saves you a fiver, that's still a fiver in your pocket. If you've never grown anything, start with already-potted herbs like basil and mint. If you have outdoor space, easy plants include zucchinis, squashes, melons and pumpkins - all they need is plenty of space and water.
6. Let out your living room! This one isn't for everyone. It's best suited to people without precious & expensive things in their living space, who also enjoy meeting new people. But it's rather amazing to me that people will happily hand you money to sleep on your sofa and disappear the next morning. Some people host tents and campers in the backyard. (In fact, I went much further than this, but I'll detail that in another post.)

Got more suggestions for using your home as an income spinner? Tell us your ideas!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

My Background Pre-Finland

I grew up in a household where thrift shopping and penny-pinching was a necessity. Dad's plan for financial independence was via real estate. He felt that he could claw his way up the ladder by buying the worst house in the street, renovating, then moving on to the next, over and over again. The reality was that life tends to get in the way of the best-laid plans. What he did achieve was a rental that covered the repayments, and at retirement age, they sold it. End result: one family home paid off but in need of total renovation (aka, land value), and an apartment sold & invested into their retirement savings. Keep in mind, this is already beyond what the average family ever achieves! My dad is still working part-time, but it's not my dream to be still working at almost 70. I'm too precious for that. Read: lazy.

The first home I bought was when I was a young single mum, and it was a relocatable home in a caravan park. Although I never made money out of it, it worked out slightly cheaper than renting.

Once I had a full-time job I took out my own loan for a small holiday house in the country. There were no real investment plans behind the decision, just a leg into the property ladder for us. After a few years we moved into it ourselves.

I also lost all real enthusiasm for DIY once I was living in it. Apart from a bathroom and garden spruce up, it was pretty much sold as-is five years later. It didn't make me any money and only just cleared the total debts to my name. What did I learn? I'm completely capable of doing umpteen handyman necessary things around the house, but they're not my passion.

That sale was at the time I moved to Finland to marry my husband. And I buried my real estate plans to start a new career as a... well I wasn't sure yet, but it was going to be something conventional. Buahahaha! (Yeah, sure.)

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Am I arrogant?

Oh, probably. See, I have this theory that I'm kinda smart in how I spend my money and that a lot of people just haven't figured certain things out.

But really, it comes down to this. I'm incredibly lazy. Like, I'm off-the-scale lazy. Other people make budgets and do financial planning and study for degrees and work hard at getting a promotion. I sit on my arse instead and try to figure out how to get rich with minimal effort.

An important caveat here: I often talk about getting rich, but that's just my terrible sense of humour poking fun at myself. I don't want or need to be rich. I want to have enough. And my "enough" seems to be far less than most people (that's a whole 'nother story though, and I'm sure I'll cover that a thousand times in future posts).

Anyway, back to it. This blog is my small attempt to share a little bit of my money and spending philosophies. I don't expect many people to share my views, and that's ok. But re-read my first paragraph... I fully believe that there are quite a few people out there who battle with money, who simply haven't come to a few simple realisations. And those are the things I want to share. Goodness knows why, if other people figure these things out then life will be harder for me :D