Week 5: I’m not so sure…

This week was a short week (Monday and Tuesday were part of Month 1) so our budget was technically 160 000 won for the both of us. But I already know that we blew that out of the water. These bloody bills, or in this case a school union fee, are killing us… Plan 1 definitely doesn’t take proper account of the bills…


18 000 won Dinner out Indulgence to celebrate payday. Problem was the meal was horrible so it didn’t feel like much of a celebration…
3850 won Groceries Milk and ice cream. Necessary. Well not the ice cream. But something needed to save the horrid meal we had just had…
7800 won Acupuncture Necessary. And really helpful for those of you who have never tried it 🙂
5300 won Acupuncture Necessary
2800 won Taxi Necessary so as not to undo what was achieved with acupuncture.
26 400 won Brewing pot Necessary for Husband to brew beer (and so live in line with what we think is valuable).
19 800 won Clothes Necessary. And on sale 🙂
3500 won Beer Indulgence. But from the grocery store so cheap.
6000 won Acupuncture Necessary
11 280 won Groceries Necessary
45 000 won Bag Indulgence. But thought about it for over a month and ultimately decided it was worth the money.
700 won Soft drink Indulgence
15 000 won Gifts Hats for our grandmothers. Necessary.
3600 won Taxi Necessary so as not to undo what was achieved with acupuncture.
3300 won Taxi Necessary so as not to undo what was achieved with acupuncture.
46 860 won Groceries Necessary
121 500 won School union fee Necessary. And 6 months’ worth of fees.
850 won Water at beach Indulgence


Week’s total: 341 542 won

Necessary: 273 490 won (80%)

Indulgence: 68 050 won (20%)


So… not great. But again, I am stoked with the necessary vs indulgent ratio. Although, to be honest, dear Reader, some things that I have labelled as “necessary” we could technically survive without…




Wine, Brie and Our Money Values

Last weekend Husband and I bought a bottle of wine, some brie cheese and sat down to try and figure out what our values are with regards to money. Obviously food is right up there 😉


Our figure-out-what-our-money-values-are picnic 🙂 

What struck me the most about the whole conversation though was that in 8 and a half years of being together this was the first time we have ever had a big picture chat about money and our values with regards to money. We chat about individual purchases and how much money each of us has but never about our overall philosophy towards money. How strange is that, dear Reader?!?! As a couple we talk a LOT, so why not about this? Is there something somehow taboo about talking about money? Or is the concept of pairing our values with our spending simply not part of our culture?

Despite our lack of previous conversations, we actually found it quite easy for us to do 🙂 This is what we came up with :

IMG_2506 - edittedClearly, time is one of our top priorities. And so it makes perfect sense why we are do drawn to the Early Retirement concept – it lets us be in complete control of how we use our time. Learning skills/up-skilling ourselves also fits in beautifully with the Early Retirement philosophy.

The good food and alcohol is definitely our biggest weakness in terms of spending more cash than we would ideally like to…

The rest of our values we are pretty controlled about though 🙂 I LOVE books but am really good about only buying from second-hand bookstores (old books smell the best anyway!) or sale/free books on my Kindle. Photography is an expensive value but thank goodness we have already bought most of the kit. I have been dreaming of a wide angle lens and a small, waterproof point and shoot camera for years though… Husband also already has all the gear for fishing. And good shoes are bought sparingly and worn until they have holes (i.e. for years) and only then replaced.

We also thought that it might be useful to list things that are definitely not important to us and this is what we came up with: IMG_2507 - editted.jpg

Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy all of these things, but we don’t think that they’re particularly valuable. For the most part our spending already reflects this… with the only exception being gadgets…. particularly in Korea: the land of awesome, cheap electronics. The challenge to resist is real, dear Reader.

Our biggest challenge though is that we’re not sure how we feel about generosity and gifts. We definitely love giving gifts and offering to pay for dinner or drinks etc… and I don’t think that’s something we would like to give up. However, it can very easily get out of control and result in us dropping a significant amount of money without us even realising it…

The most valuable thing about this conversation though was that it weirdly set us free. Suddenly our decisions about whether to spend money on things became so much simpler. Either a purchase was in line with our values or it wasn’t. It also gave us permission to spend money on things that we really want, are in line with out values but since The Brat Experiment have felt too guilty to actually buy. In other words, it improved our quality of life. Well played The Brat Experiment, well played… 🙂



Husband’s home brewed beer (he bought after this conversation) – and what a happy chap he is! (Also it turns out it’s going to be cheaper per beer than buying it in the shops!) 



The Numbers: A Summary of Month 1


South Korea (May 2016)

Big picture stuff 🙂 I have kept a lot of detail though because we are so new at this Brat Experiment and I think that the detail gives us a better idea of where we are spending money and where we can reduce (and maybe fellow Korean dwellers will find it useful too). I am hoping that I can drop all the detail once we have a better idea of our spending/saving culture.


Day to day lives:



 515 710 won


7700 won Groceries
19 680 won Groceries
13 000 won Coffee out (thanks for lift)
8850 won Groceries
9890 won Groceries
8400 won Groceries
4000 won Coffee with school
2650 won Milk
4000 won Medication
18 000 won Medication
48 590 won Groceries
4500 won Groceries
2600 won Milk
4300 won Milk and beer
10800 won School juices
48 450 won May school lunches
75 400 won School lunches
4000 won Korean side dishes
165 170 won Groceries
7770 won Groceries
11 720 won Groceries
3 500 won School lunch
32 740 won Groceries

Eat out


 117 000 won

23000 won Restaurant dinner
6750 won Beer and ice cream
9500 won Order-in dinner
25 000 won Dinner out (dakgalbi)
13 000 won Order-in
9950 won Pudding
17 000 won Dinner out
1200 won Ice Cream
1200 won Chocolate milk
4500 won Coffee
850 won Water
5 050 won Milk and picnic snacks



160 180 won

27780 won Running shorts
27 800 won My clothes
14 900 won My clothes
79 800 won Shoes
9900 won Clothes



32 650 won

5750 won Beer
18 000 won Beer in a pub
5200 won Beach beer
3 700 won Beer



189 000 won

50 000 won Wedding present
130 000 won Back pack
9 000 won Kokis



 358 720 won

440 won Bank fee
102 300 won Building management fee
39 710 won My phone bill
140 270 won Gas bill
36 000 won Husband’s phone
40 000 won Internet



26 900 won

3500 won Taxi to yoga
3 400 won Taxi
10 000 won Bus/subway card recharge
10 000 won Bus/subway card recharge



96 500 won

15 500 won Gifts
36 100 won Gifts
44 900 won Gifts

Week 1 grand total: 202 900 won

Necessary: 145 300 won (72%)

Indulgent: 57 600 won (28%)

Week 2 grand total: 89 110 won

Necessary: 67 960 won (76%)

Avoidable: 21 150 won (24%)

Week 3 grand total: 134 130 won

Necessary: 107 180 won (80%)

Indulgence: 26 950 won (20%)

Week 4 grand total: 636 190 won

Necessary: 538 130 won (85%)

Indulgence: 98 060 won (15%)

Monday 23rd & Tuesday 24th: 443 580 won

Necessary: 433 680 won (98%)

Indulgent: 9 900 won (2%)

TOTAL: 1 505 910 won (over budget by 505 910 won)

Total necessary: 1 292 250 won (86%)

Total indulgent: 213 660 won (14%)

At first glance: not great. We were hoping to spend only 1 million won and instead spent just over 1.5 million won. However, we did reduce our eating out really drastically so that’s great. Also, we realized this hasn’t been a typical month. We’re hoping the clothes shopping will be a once-off (we’ve just moved to Korea and it’s just not possible to bring everything you need for a year in one bag – especially when you arrive in the frigid temperatures of winter) and that the once-off section won’t find other once offs 🙂 Also our bills should reduce by about 100 000 won because our gas bill and Husband’s school lunch was actually for two months. Taken all together that’s 449 190 won we’re hoping we won’t have to pay in Month 2 – and suddenly we’re only 50 000 won over budget 🙂

However, the most significant thing for me is that with each passing week our ratio of necessary vs indulgent improves. This is truly cartwheel-fantastic because it means that we’re learning and improving our spending/saving culture weekly i.e. we’re on the right path and heading in the right direction – whohoooooo! 🙂


Now this gets a bit complicated. Long before we started the Brat Experiment we had decided that with our April salaries one of us would buy tickets to Malaysia for our August holiday – which we did. This technically counts as travel. BUT if we hadn’t bought those tickets that money would have gone straight to savings. So in our heads we’re not counting those flights as coming out of our travel budget – instead they are from LBTBE (Life Before The Brat Experiment).



223 400 won

(without the flights)

4 300 won Taxi
29 200 won Bus to Seoul
8 700 won Taxi
21 800 won Bus to Boryeong
4 400 won Taxi
19 800 won Train to Seoul
4 400 won Taxi
43 000 won Bus home
4 300 won Taxi
3400 won Taxi to bus terminal
4500 won Taxi to bus terminal
23 400 won Bus to Chuncheon
3200 won Taxi to dinner
5800 won Bus to Gapyeong
5200 won Taxi to accommodation
3000 won Taxi to town
3000 won Taxi to town
5800 won Bus to Chuncheon
23 400 won Bus to Gangneung
2800 won Taxi home
1 300 000 won Flights to Malaysia



 260 000 won

70 000 won Motel
80 000 won Motel (two nights)
50 000 won Love Motel
60 000 won Pension



223 300 won

9 800 won Dinner out
7 500 won Dinner out
22 000 won Lunch out
8 000 won Breakfast gimbap
6 000 won Coffee out
18 100 won Coffee out
23 000 won Dinner & Beer
24 000 won Breakfast out
6 000 won Dinner (from shop)
28 000 won Dakgalbi (dinner)
2000 won Pudding after dinner
9000 won Breakfast out
45 000 won Food at Beer Fest
6000 won Breakfast smoothie
5900 won Burger lunch
3000 won Bus snacks



76 600 won

47 000 won Drinks
9 600 won Beer
20 000 won Alcohol



32 000 won

5 000 won Strawberries (present)
27 000 won Presents

Boryeong Travel Total: 522 900 won

Necessary: 299 400 won (57%)

Avoidable: 223 500 won (43%)

Beer Festival Travel Total: 292 400 won

Necessary: 226 500 won (77%)

Indulgence: 65 900 won (23%)

Malaysia International Flights: 1 300 000 won

Travelling TOTAL: 815 300 won (without flights) – under budget 🙂

2 115 300 won (with flights)

I’m thrilled because we came in under our travel budget. But I must admit travelling just around Korea costs a lot more than I thought it would… However, again there was an improvement in our necessary vs indulgent ratio and so I have faith that our spending while travelling within Korea with reduce with time 🙂

MONTH 1 TOTAL (day to day & travel): 2 318 210 won (318 210 won over budget)

3 621 210 won (with flights)

The moral of the story? Some highs. Some definite lows. But all evidence suggesting that we are learning and improving. So all in all, not a bad first month J What do you think, dear Reader?



Monday 23rd & Tuesday 24th May (week 4.1?)

So this is the part where I report the numbers for the awkward last two days of Month 1 that aren’t part of Week 4:


102 300 won Building management fee Necessary
75 400 won Husband school lunch Necessary
9 900 won Clothes Indulgent
39 710 won My phone bill Necessary
140 270 won Gas bill Necessary
36 000 won Husband’s phone bill Necessary
40 000 won Internet Necessary


Grand total: 443 580 won

Necessary: 433 680 won (98%)

Indulgent: 9 900 won (2%)


And with that, we completely blew our month’s budget.



A Reflection on the 1st Month

As I write this I am feeling SO bummed, proper disappointed, about how in the last week of our month we have completely smashed our planned budget. And the feeling is only made worse by the fact that the first 3 weeks went so well. However, this is an experiment and experiments sometimes slap you in the face like that, especially when you’re starting to get a bit cocky about your genius. So thank you Brat Experiment for keeping us humble 😉 Also, the face slap isn’t the important bit, rather the getting up and trying-a-different-approach bit is. It’s ALL part of the process 🙂 So on that celebration and acceptance of our failures here are a few things I’ve notice during the last month:

It got easier. Quickly. For the first week or two we were hyperaware of the money we weren’t spending and often felt quite denied and restricted. Like we were on a diet. But that feeling sneakily, and ever so subtly, smartly disappeared… I thought it would take months to go away so that was an AWESOME surprise 🙂 And a massive step towards this hopefully become a long term, sustainable thing. Why or how exactly it went away I’m not actually sure though…

A lot of the blogs talk about preparing yourself to go against the stream. Preparing yourself to be judged by others for what you are doing. I took this in and so was REALLY hesitant to tell people about our experiment. However, we have had the complete opposite experience. Our friends have been wildly supportive. And more than that most of them have actually started experimenting with the idea themselves. One friend has actually been doing it for years already and we had no idea. My current hypotheses for our alternate experience are:

  • Our friends are fabulous gems of human beings (in that they so supportive). Which they totally are.
  • We happen to choose super wise friends (proved by the fact that they want to try experiment themselves).
  • It’s a cultural thing (all the friends we have told are South African) and maybe the South African culture is just more open to this way of life than my Experts typically describe.

Our parents aren’t quite sure how to take our idea just yet though…My grandmother definitely doesn’t think that we are serious. My Dad thinks that he is HILLARIOUS because his new joke is that we’re going to retire at the same time as he does (15 years time when we’re in our mid 40s and he’s 80). Overall, I think the Brat Experiment definition of “retirement” is just going to take a little while for the older generation to process…

When we started this thing I was worried that my enthusiasm would wane and pretty soon it would become just another project that I leave unfinished (this is a common theme in my life – I’m ALL about the possibilities and not so much about the slug work to the bitter end). But again, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. My millions of blog post ideas show no sign of dwindling (that’s actually been one of the challenges: trying to decide which blog idea to write about next and in which order to post them) and Husband and I seem to be becoming more and more settled (at home?) with the whole idea and lifestyle. It will be interesting to see if this increases or decreases the longer we do this…

One of the reasons that I think that we are feeling more settled with this Brat Experiment is that we definitely somehow feel more in control. More intentional in our spending. More in line with ourselves in our spending. It has been weirdly liberating making sure that we really want/need what we spend our money on. I know, dear Reader, it sounds bat-shit-crazy/ok-we’ve-lost-her-this-woman’s-a-hippie but that’s the best way I can explain it. I don’t fully understand it but there’s somehow a calmness about it all and it’s awesome.

Lastly, and I don’t know if The Brat Experiment caused it or if it’s just a weird coincidence but, Husband and I have both started consistently exercising for the first time in our 8 and a half year relationship. We’re basically going for walks in nature areas around us or cycling along the river. This is impressive because we tend do it together (never done before) and because as a general rule I don’t exercise. I mean I LOVE yoga. But I only do that once a week. And when we joined the gym last year I would have a (gentle!) gym session once a week too. So that’s two sessions a week at absolute best. Husband tends to be a binge exerciser: goes manic for three weeks and then does nothing for six months. But recently, we have been doing some kind of exercise EVERY day. We’re currently on our sixth day IN A ROW *gasp (but it has been on a steady increase throughout the month). And the weirdest thing is we’re not making ourselves to do it because “exercise is good”. There’s no forcing at all. We’re genuinely doing it simply because we enjoy it. All VERY VERY strange… maybe it’s the nature? Or maybe we’re just thrilled that winter has come to an end? We are very aware that it’s free and so a completely guilt free pleasure… But I’m still genuinely confused about how it has suddenly become a pleasure…

puzzle editted

Husband’s most recent puzzle

Oh and Husband has started doing puzzles. He hates board games and puzzles. So this recent change completely baffles me…

So there you have it, dear Reader 🙂 Quite a lot unexplained and not fully understood but a definite strong undercurrent of change happening… I’m excited to see where it leads. So here’s to tomorrow: pay day. And day 1 of our brand new clean slate for Month 2 🙂


Week 4: Bugger.

Again I find myself not looking forward to writing this post… The weekend, while planned (i.e. not impulsive), just felt like we spent a LOT of cash…

2600 won Milk Necessary
13 000 won Order-in Indulgence. But cheapest way it can be done.
18 000 won Beer in a pub Indulgence but SO good. And we had friends staying with us 🙂
17 000 won Dinner out We had friends staying with us and we really wanted to show them this food (which we cannot make at home).
1200 won Ice Cream Pudding after dinner out (from the grocery store i.e. cheapest it can be done)
48 450 won May school lunches Necessary. And cheap.
4500 won Coffee Necessary. Again, co-teachers took me out. I ordered the cheapest option though.
4300 won Milk


Necessary. We shared one beer (would NEVER have done prior to this Brat Experiment) to celebrate me surviving my open class (other teachers coming to watch and assess my teaching).
5200 won Beach beer Necessary. Started the weekend by cycling (free!) to the beach and having a beer (from a grocery story so the cheapest it can be done).
27 800 won My clothes Unfortunately necessary. My work clothes show too much shoulder for Korean culture, which is becoming a problem now that it’s warming up and I’m no longer wearing a million layers…
14 900 won My clothes As above
15 500 won Gifts Necessary? Indulgent? But we do so love giving gifts…
165 170 won Groceries Necessary: 98 110 won. Indulgent: 67 060 won.The indulgence included bulk beer, salmon, chips, a bottle of wine, brie cheese and some other stuff that I can’t remember and can’t read off the Korean tillslip.
7770 won Groceries Necessary
79 800 won Shoes Necessary. Shopped around and these were the best option weighing quality and price. (Husband’s last dress shoes lasted 5 years and were only just thrown out because they had holes in them).
36 100 won Gifts Necessary? Indulgent? But we do so love giving gifts…
44 900 won Gifts Necessary? Indulgent? But we do so love giving gifts…
130 000 won Back pack Necessary for travelling. And did a LOT of research into prices, bags and weighing quality and price – this bag was the best option. However, it is a once-off extra – will come out of our 200 000 won buffer (see the current plan).
850 won Water Necessary

Week’s total: 637 040 won

Necessary: 538 130 won (85%)

Indulgence: 98 060 won (15%)

Is it alright to say a swear word now??? 😦 Our total spend for this week was more than 1 person’s budget for AN ENTIRE MONTH!! 😦 😦 And we were doing SO well!! And now in our final week of our first month on The Brat Experiment…. *sob.

One redeeming thing is that our ratio of necessary vs indulgence has actually improved from last week – mini yay. Also there were absolutely no transport costs – we walked and cycled everywhere. AND we didn’t eat out at all once our visitors left (despite much discussion about samgypsal and dakgalbi!).

Ok, so where did it all go?? We knew that we had spent a lot but hadn’t imagined it could be this much…

Gifts: 96 500 won (15%)

Once off investments that we won’t replace for years (bag & shoes): 209 800 won (33%)

Clothes: 42 700 won (7%)

School lunch: 48 450 won (8%)

Our best way of looking at this week is:

Our combined weekly budget is 200 000 won.

We have a 200 000 won buffer per month for once-off/unexpected costs.

So we overspent by: 237 040 won (i.e. more than double our weekly budget).



Your FIRST priority

One of the hardest lessons in my life has been getting my priorities in order. I traditionally tend(ed?) to be a people-pleaser and so attempted the impossible/crazy task of trying to keep as many people as happy as possible. In other words, prioritizing no one and telling (through my behaviour) the people who were the most important to me that they weren’t as important as the other random acquaintances in my life. Not cool. It was such an ah-ha moment for me realizing that:

  1. The important people in my life are exactly that because they are top class gems of humans. Seriously. The absolute best. (Although I always knew this.)
  2. And they deserve to know that. (Because sometimes they don’t know this.)
  3. I can let them know with my words (which I often do) but more powerfully with my behaviour.

You see, dear Reader, value (love) is an action, a behaviour. And so I should act accordingly.

When I first started acting on my priorities I got really anxious (beating heart, increased breathing, slight sweating etc). But I quickly got over that because it felt so good to have my actions and values so inline. It felt wonderful to stop inadvertently hurting the most important people in my life and what a relief to no longer be trying to please everyone!! But there was another surprise side-effect: I realized that I was also allowed to prioritize myself from time to time too 🙂

So, what the hell does this have to do with money? Well, I had a similar ah-ha realization about saving. As much as we know it’s good to save, Husband and I haven’t been making it a priority and acting on it. It was something that happened at the end of the month (if we had anything left over!) In other words, our behaviour concerning money sent the message that our selves and our financial security came last after EVERYTHING else. Again, not awesome priorities.

I realized that the ONLY times in our lives when we have successfully saved have been when we have made it our first priority i.e. it was the first thing we set aside when we got our salaries. This started with paying off my student loan and since then has occurred anytime that we wanted to travel. Even while living in South Africa – we always magically found the money when we previously thought that there was none to be had (see the pictures from Italy! 🙂 ).

What this tells me is that our problem isn’t that we can’t save. Our problem is our priorities. And not acting in line with our values. We’ve never even considered if our spending is in line with our values. We’ve certainly never prioritized saving for our selves, for our financial security, for our future. If so much good came from me learning to prioritize the most important people in my life, I can only imagine the magic that would happen if we learnt to prioritize our money in line with what we actually want from our lives… 🙂


THIS I want more of in my life. (Cycle along the river, South Korea, May 2016)


Week 3: Ok, we seem to making progress…

We had a good week. Well, rather a spot on week. We were away from Friday night to Sunday (i.e. travel budget) so the budget for the week should have been 140 000 won (20 000 won a day Monday to Friday and 40 000 won for Sunday) and we came in just under that:


4000 won Coffee with school Necessary. Super socially and culturally not cool to refuse to buy coffee when going out with your co-teachers.
9500 won Order-in dinner Indulgent. But cheapest order-in we can do.
440 won Bank fee Necessary.
3500 won Taxi to yoga Indulgent. But it was raining. Also I was lazy.
2650 won Milk Necessary
4000 won Medication Necessary. Husband has been sick.
48 590 won Groceries Necessary.
4000 won Korean side dishes An indulgence. But my co-teacher especially took me there…
4500 won Groceries Necessary
18 000 won Medication Necessary. Husband still sick…
25 000 won Dinner out (dakgalbi) Necessary. Had to introduce our visitors to the awesomeness of the meal.
9950 won Pudding Beer and ice cream. An indulgence but the cheapest way it could be done.


Week’s total: 134 130 won

Necessary: 107 180 won (80%)

Indulgence: 26 950 won (20%)


Then we went away and so the weekend’s expenses came out of our travel budget. We went to a Korean craft beer festival and it was awesome 🙂 Nothing like drinking great beer with fantastic friends in the afternoon sun while listening to Korean rock music 🙂


Craft Beer Festival, Gapyeong, South Korea (May, 2016)

Our expenses for this trip were more in line with what we expected than last time, although maybe that’s simply because we tracked our expenses last time.


3400 won Taxi to bus terminal Necessary for Husband to make our bus after work
4500 won Taxi to bus terminal Necessary for me to make our bus after work
23 400 won Bus to Chuncheon Necessary
50 000 won Love Motel Necessary. And cheap.
3200 won Taxi to dinner Necessary to find the restaurant. We walked back to our motel afterwards though (admittedly initially because we couldn’t find a taxi)
28 000 won Dakgalbi (dinner) Necessary. Chuncheon is famous for dakgalbi. Silly to visit the town and not have it.
2000 won Pudding after dinner Ice cream and Halls. Necessary.
5800 won Bus to Gapyeong Necessary
9000 won Breakfast. Indulgent. It was coffee and cake J
5200 won Taxi to accommodation Necessary. We didn’t know where it was and it was not in walking distance.
60 000 won Pension Necessary. And beautiful. And good for the soul 🙂
45 000 won Food at Beer Fest Necessary but an indulgence. Could have taken food for much cheaper.
6000 won Breakfast smoothie An indulgence but SO good.
3000 won Taxi to town Necessary. And cheap cause 3 of us in the car to split costs.
3000 won Taxi to town Necessary. And cheap cause 3 of us in the car to split costs. Problem was Husband and I were in different taxis…
5900 won Burger lunch Indulgence but also good.
3000 won Bus snacks Necessary and the cheapest it can be done.
5800 won Bus to Chuncheon Necessary
23 400 won Bus to Gangneung Necessary
2800 won Taxi home Necessary. Too far to walk. But split costs with our visitors 🙂


Travel total: 292 400 won


Breakfast 🙂

Necessary: 226 500 won (77%)

Indulgence: 65 900 won (23%)


This is a MASSIVE improvement on last week’s travel ratio of necessary vs. indulgent. So I am going to take this for the win – yay! 🙂


Except that there is just the tiniest detail of some holiday flights we bought:


1 300 000 won Flights to Malaysia Necessary. Would have been cheaper except that the stupid Korean online banking is a nightmare that not even my co-teachers can negotiate. So we had to buy the flights with my South African credit card and send the money home (losing money in the exchange).


Which clearly blows our travel budget completely out of the water. So much so that I almost didn’t list it here. But you and I are friends, dear Reader, so I could never hide something from you, even if I’m not quite sure how it fits into this Early Retirement thing we are trying to do here…



Our South African Financial Life

So now that I feel like I have a vague grasp of the numbers, I thought that I would try applying them to our lives in South Africa.

Step 1: (Brutally) Look at our expenses

This is where Husband’s teacher’s salary went on a typical month for the both us last year (because I really did keep Excel spreadsheets!):

 Salary: R18 817

Tax and other deductions: R2724       Unavoidable

Medical aid (entry level): R3211         Unavoidable bare minimum

Rent: R5300                                            A VERY cheap deal for a lovely two bedroom cottage

Lights and water: R500                         Could have reduced a bit…

Car payment: R2048                            Entry level car. Unavoidable.

Car insurance: R854                             Unavoidable

In terms of cars, the formal public transport in South Africa is almost non-existent, which means that you have to have a car. And given that we both worked, and at different jobs with different hours, we had to have two cars. We bought one second-hand car outright but couldn’t afford to do that with a second car (second-hand cars are VERY expensive in South Africa) and so we had to get one on credit.

Petrol: R1754                                                      Unavoidable.

The petrol is simply Husband’s petrol because my petrol was a business expense.

Total spent: R16 391 (87%)

“Surplus”: R2426 (13%)

The percentages of spending vs surplus are not awesome. But as you can see, dear Reader, there is almost no room to cut down. Knowing what I have learnt since starting the Brat Experiment I imagine that we probably could have shopped around for better deals initially. But my fellow South Africans will know that this takes significant resolve and patience as the inefficiency, personal time and high jumps required for seemingly simple tasks (e.g. change of address, renewing your passport, getting a landline for internet etc) is mind-boggling. I shudder to think of the emotional-sanity price of changing deals mid-swing…

I was self-employed in a new business, which meant that I never knew how much money would come in each month so Husband paid for all the routine expenses and my money was used for bonus “luxuries” (i.e. food, internet, cell phones and any anything else). On a typical month these were:

 Food: R3343

Internet: R427

Two cell phones: R627

Total spent: R4397  

 The real bugger with being self-employed was that if I didn’t work I didn’t earn. Which is fine until we want to have children and I need to take maternity leave. This means that the initial financial implications of having a child are:

  • the medical fees not paid for by our entry level medical aid
  • all the baby equipment (although I don’t think this would be much as we would do it South African style: hand-me-downs, second-hand things etc as much as possible)
  • the loss of my potential earnings (and so having to stop our internet and cell phone contracts and eating less or more cheaply)

Taken all together, we would be living on a financial cliff with NO buffer and NO room for anything to go wrong i.e. financial hell. You can see, dear Reader, why we felt we had to change things before we had kids.

But anyway, I digress. The point of this post is to apply early retirement numbers to our lives in South Africa. So: ultimately the minimum (I haven’t counted anything extra in spending like medication, haircuts, the occasional clothes shopping, presents, alcohol, holidays/travel etc) total spending of our household per month was: R20 788. Step 1 complete.

Step 2: Work out what we need to retire (A rough guesttimation)

Spending per month = R 20 788

Therefore spending per year = R 249 456

So applying the magic number (5%) for South Africa means that our minimum retirement amount is our spending per year X 20: R4 989 120. Step 2 complete.

Step 3: How long it will take us to get there

This is of course based on our savings rate… which you have already seen was not awesome… And for a long time we genuinely felt that it was impossible for us to save anything… Until we wanted to go on holiday to Italy.


Florence, Italy (July, 2015)