Glass Castle

I know not everyone’s lives are perfect. For some, it is worse in so many ways that it is hard to fathom. Others have it comparatively so good that they’ll never realise it until they lost their privilege.

I think I fall in between there somewhere, just a tad heavier on the side of the bad side. Or at least, that’s how it felt growing up.

Today, I finished reading a story that hit very close to home on several levels. It made me think back to all of those shitty times earlier in my life, but most importantly it made me realise how easy it is to “forget” those times when you finally make a life that you’re happy with.

There must be a part of me that has repressed all these bad memories, because when they do resurface once every couple years it is heartbreaking to know that I had to live through things like that.

And in contrast to how I am today, and the life I have made for myself today, I am stunned, I am in awe. I am so much happier because I finally had the strength to leave that all behind and move forward for myself.

Sometimes, when others try to bring you down, the only thing you can do is to cut those ties, don’t let yourself drown with them. They can only be helped if they want it.

My book shelves are lined with money

A recurring theme of my recent posts fixates on my wealth, and how I want to do something about it now in order to improve and expand it for the airy-fairy unknown time ahead – also known as my future.

In the last twelve months, I have improved my expenditure rates greatly. I stopped buying lunches every day, I limited my spending when I go out, I have even budgeted for every meal that I cook at home. Things like that have allowed me to set a low, but achievable monthly expense cap, assuming I have some discipline.

But there is one thing I simply do not have discipline for.

Books.

Those darn books, with their shiny covers and physical pages that I love turning, but not too hard as to cause permanent damage to the spine. Those darn volumes of varying widths and heights that look damn good on my book shelves, all lined up in order of series, colours, and whatever else makes them look sexy.

I can’t stop buying books.

I always tell myself that it’s just a small, paltry sum. And its for a good thing. Reading books is a worthwhile exercise that adds to imagination or intelligence, or both, right?

Now I’m being mocked by MMM in this article. When he wrote the following, I felt a great well of shame deep within me:

When you talk to a compulsive book collector, you’ll hear things like, “Oh, but I just LOVE books. They are my guilty pleasure. I love the feel of them, the smell of the paper, the beautiful covers and the way they look all lined up on my bookshelf. I love just being able to move slowly along my bookshelf on a Sunday morning, looking at all the titles, picking out books I haven’t read in years and sitting down and re-reading them, and blah blah blah”

This hits so close to home, with the exception that I don’t actually re-read many of my books. So its even worse in my situation.

So, what will I do about this situation? Well I have hope that I can change my thinking towards owning and procuring books. Just like a year ago when I still bought lunch every day, or years ago when we regularly had food delivered, I know I can change. It won’t happen overnight and it will take some training to strengthen my mind.

I buy on average 1-2 books a month. It varies, of course. When I was busy with uni or snowed under with work, I didn’t even think about picking up a book at all. But lets assume I am currently stress-free enough to want to read regularly.

What usually happens is that I come across a title that sounds interesting. Perhaps I read about it online, or had a friend recommending it. Instead of looking it up on BookDepository to buy it, I will now look it up in the library first. I haven’t been to a library to read its books since primary school, so hopefully libraries are well stocked with good titles.

Assuming it is there in a library, I will loan it and read it. I will allow myself to buy it if it is a really amazing book, one that speaks to me in ways that transcend entertainment value and steps into life-changing territory. Only then.

If I follow that rule, I will feel the need to buy very few books, I think. It will be hard. I will itch to own it, especially if I enjoy it. But it will be worth it.

Another productive day of unemployment

While I did not get up this morning when I would have liked to, I did manage to be very productive, plodding away on Alibaba research for hours. Unfortunately there was some smoke in the air outside, from what I can only hope is an early back-burning exercise, so I stayed indoors most of the day.

I did make a startling realisation today regarding customs tax and GST on importing goods. Which is to say that I finally remembered that it exists! That puts a little dent in my plans, but hopefully I can plow through and work it out.

For the first time in a while, a little doubt and negativity seeped into my mind as to this whole venture. Not that I was planning to put much stock into it, but I did have a moment today where I wondered whether it was worth it.

This led to me thinking about why I’m doing this at all. And I remember, it is worth it so long as I enjoy it. It is a form of work, for sure, but I am learning so much along the way, and doing something that is far outside my normal scope of skills. That in itself gives me much excitement to continue.

I already have a newfound appreciation of retail business, importers, exporters, and how much easier it is to just be the customer. Everyone around you is vying for your attention. Here! Pick me! Look at me! I’m the cheapest, I’m the best there is! As the customer, all you have to do is sit back and watch as everyone else fights over you.

Dot’s adventures with Alibaba will continue…

Since we live in an apartment block, the postie often cannot be bothered to ring our doorbell so leaves those annoying “We called while you were away” cards for us to pick up our parcels ourselves. Jared received an ethernet adapter for his laptop, while I got my Big (Bjarke Ingels Group) “Yes is More” book. If that makes no sense to you, you’re clearly not an architect!

Big are a huge starchitect firm famous for creating amazing, crazy, at times controversial architecture. At their helm is an enigmatic leader who resembles something like a Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, but tries to be cooler. To be honest, I have never looked too closely at him or worshiped Big like my fellow students did during uni. So we will see how reading “Yes is More” will pan out for me. I hope to find inspiration just as my friends once did.

The afternoon allowed me to finally sign up for Vanguard index funds online. All we need to do now is get our identities checked, make sure we’re not frauds, etc. This is something that I have put off for a whole year. I have to say, that’s impressive procrastination, even for me. More than anything, this break from steady employment has allowed me to really nail down how I want my financial future to look. This is a great first step.

Dinner followed shortly afterwards, which allowed us to watch a second episode of Fargo. The text at the beginning telling us its a real story still baffles me due to the whimsical feel of the show. Still, I am enjoying it thoroughly and happy to make this our dinner show for the next few weeks.

Not to stop my herculean efforts there, I sat down after dinner and compared my energy bills to other providers to make sure we aren’t being ripped off. I even made a spreadsheet and compared our current plan to 4 other plans. Right now it is perfectly acceptable for us to stay with AGL, which I’m thankful for. There’s a lot of murmuring about our high cost of energy in Australia, so I was expecting to find that we are paying hundreds of dollars more than needed.

And as if that was not enough, I ended the night by online shopping for Jared’s new computer parts. I have been browsing Ozbargain a lot lately, and it came in handy as I was able to save over $250 from his total bill. I tracked down the cheapest price for each of those PC parts, starting with eBay, then Google Shopping, even going to Gumtree to see if there’s anything there.

The act seems easy enough, but you would not believe how Jared simply cannot do the same. His estimates for the PC parts were all off, or did not include delivery, and there was no care in the world for how that would affect the bottom line. Like, hello, you can’t shop online without checking how much is delivery first!

It is simply a “male” way of shopping, I think. Get in, find the damn thing, get out as quickly as you can. All without considering that a lot of money can be saved if a little research was done first. It’s a good thing he has me!

So now here I am, it is 11:47pm and I should have been sleeping a good hour ago.

Good night. Let’s see how my day goes tomorrow!

You’ve been Unemployed for 3 months, aren’t you Bored yet?

Since quitting my job and living this employment-free life, a few friends have asked with varying degrees of puzzlement, “Aren’t you bored at home yet?”

My answer has unequivocally been the same: no.

The 8 hours that they spend at work, plus 1-3 hours of travel on top of that (because: Sydney), have been spent in so many ways that I find the answer should be instead: “There are so many things to do, I don’t have enough time!”

Perhaps it helps that I have always been somewhat of a homebody. Whereas I know those who can’t wait for the weekend because it means they can go out, I’m the sort of 28-going on-grandma that is completely at ease staying in.

Don’t get me wrong. I go out, too, sometimes twice a weekend! If they’re full events, I’ll be completely knackered by Monday, so I try not to do that. But it happens, so I’m not completely a hermit.

My fondness for staying at home means, however, that I don’t spend so much money eating out or drinking $9 beers at expensive small bars in the city. I’m also a lightweight when it comes to drinking, so even when I spend the night drinking with friends I often don’t need more than three drinks. Or one, sometimes -I’m that light.

What this all means is that while I have copious amounts of time on my hands these days, I am not spending it on highly priced outings, which means I can spend even more time at home. Hurray!

At home, I have so many sources of entertainment the only time I think I’m bored is when I’m actually just too overwhelmed with choices and my brain shuts down instead. Imagine that! Having so much to do, my brain decides to procrastinate on choosing what to do, thereby ending up doing nothing and thinking I’m bored. Sometimes my intelligence baffles me.

Looking back at what I’ve done in the last week or so…

Today (Tuesday): Right now, I am typing this amazing blog article… Just before that, I put together a spreadsheet list of things around the house I can sell on eBay or Gumtree to a) earn some money to prolong this beautiful time at home, and b) free up clutter from unused stuff. I inputted data on eBay sale prices, fees and postage etc to get an accurate read on how much money I can get.

A few minutes prior I did a bit of stretching to warm myself up (it actually feels like winter today, boo). Played 5-8 games of SC2 before that. I got to Platinum league somehow. Read through a number of MMM articles. Picked up the dry cleaning and a Subway footlong for Jared. Had my own lunch, which was roasted drumsticks with bok choy veggies.

It has just occurred to me how hard it is to recall things backwards like that. I’m really struggling here, so let me fill in my morning in chronological order instead.

Woke up, had breakfast outside on the patio. Did laundry. Started reading 100 Contemporary Houses, but was too cold outside so I went back to my room. Read through my emails – a number of Alibaba enquiries, etc. Played around with some money on RateSetter. Read more MMM articles. Hung laundry out to dry. Put up an article about how P/E ratios interested me. Read a few more things on P/E ratios. Put the frozen drumsticks in the oven. Practiced some guitar songs. Used a pick for the first time in years! And then it was lunch time.

I was going to do the same thing for a whole week, but I know I will have forgotten many things. Here are a few of the broader things I did this week: MMM articles, Alibaba research for a small retail business idea, RateSetter/P2P lending research, guitar practice, exercise (very small, but I will always count this!), read Sapiens book, write blog posts, reconcile my recent Europe trip’s expenses, watch Gattica, watch GoT. Oh, and I just did my tax return!

I guess I don’t help myself sell this lifestyle to others when I just describe all this as “reading and Netflix”. I read a lot of different things. Sometimes they’re novels, brilliant stories of fantasy or dystopian worlds. Sometimes they’re non-fiction works, such as Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind that I am currently halfway through. Then there are blogs, like MMM and Scott Pape. Then there is reading through researching things, like looking through pages and pages of Whirlpool to understand from the people what there feelings are on everything from superannuation funds, to which slow cooker to buy.

So when I say I am doing some reading, it is actually a lot of reading.

Initially, when I told my friends and colleagues of my plan to stay at home for a few months, I told them all that I was going to be watching a lot of Netflix. Sadly, I was lying. I watch a lot less Netflix now than I did when I was still working. For some reason, I can not seem to sit through and binge watch the heck out of every show as I had originally planned. You should see my List on there, it is overflowing with titles I thought I’d have consumed by now.

I have a feeling that my declining interest in Netflix has a direct correlation with not working right now. It would be much simpler to feel tired after a day or days of work, go home and switch it on just to mindlessly stare at something for an hour or two. Compared to these days where I’m full of energy and doing a hundred things. I simply don’t have the attention span to not pay attention to Netflix. Does that make sense?

So three months after leaving my job, it is safe to say that I could easily do this for another three months. But at some point, the balance between this freeing life and my financial status will tip.

The right question is: How long can I keep this up for?

P/E ratio: the key to playing in the Stock Market?

I have just finished reading MMM’s “How to tell when the Stock Market is on sale” article.

It describes very simply what a P/E (price to earnings) ratio is, then applies some basic maths and broad logic to come up to the conclusion that if a stock has a lower P/E than the historical average of 16.4, then it is underpriced. Or, for would-be investors, it is a good buy. [Note: this is for the US, not Australia.]

P/E Ratio = Share Price/Earnings per Share

If you have no idea what any of this means like I did not half an hour ago, do yourself a favour and start by reading MMM’s article. It is a basic explanation that does the job of explaining what a P/E is and how one might apply its knowledge to the stock market. Obviously, do a lot more research before taking this simplified advice. This is only meant to be an introductory lesson to this world, after all.

Intrigued, I did a basic google on “P/E ratio ASX”. Look at what the results gave me:

This of course resulted in me opening an extra 5 tabs up to see what this all means. If you’ve read one of my articles in the past week, you can understand where my morning might disappear now.

Reading through these initial results, I have already learned that there’s much more to understand beyond, and behind, what these P/E ratios mean. There is much more to be learnt in this area, and I am glad I am starting now. Better late than never, right?

It’s time to track my Net Worth

I think I ought to start tracking my wealth more closely, in the format shown below:

Assets:

  • Cash
  • Super
  • Investments
  • Other

Total Assets:

Liabilities:

  • Credit cards
  • HECS
  • Other

Total Liabilities:

Net Worth:

Unfortunately, I don’t pay any attention to my HECS debt, and am not even sure how much of it is paid off, if any. Since I usually ignore it, I often believe I am wealthier than I really am.

A quick estimate of this HECS debt: 3.5k per semester for 5 years of Architecture school. So 10 semesters should stand me at ~$35,000. Yikes!