This isn’t working…

On Saturday morning I did a quick calculation of how our weekly spend was going. It didn’t fill us with joy. According to Plan 1 (which was carried over into Plan 2) we should have had a combined 80 000 won to enjoy our weekend with (20 000 won each for each day of the weekend). Instead we had about 5000 won. Combined. To put that in perspective for people not living in Korea that is about 1 and a half beers from the grocery store or 2 litres of milk. In short: not a lot.

We felt dejectedly disappointed. We already knew that our bills were screwing us (and to be fair we would have come out under budget last week if it hadn’t been for that building management fee) but it’s just plain demoralizing to constantly be struggling with the budget. A revaluation was in order.


View from our bench 🙂

It was a beautiful day with gorgeous sunshine so after hanging up a load of washing we took ourselves for a (free!) cycle to the beach. We went a new route this time: the first half wove idyllically past vibrant green rice paddies and lush green trees and the second half… nearly killed us with cars (our cycle lane disappeared and suddenly we found ourselves navigating a near highway armed with nothing but our anxiety!). Anyway, we arrived safely at the beach, found a gorgeous wooden swinging bench (a new thing added to my wish list), bought a beer each, opened a packet of chips and took a good look at The Brat Experiment.

Fact: Our current budget plan is not working (see The Numbers for proof). But there are a number of options available to us:

  1. Save less (so we have a bigger monthly budget to spend).
  2. Spend less on our day to day living. Like super frugal. No beer. No chips. No bus snacks. No school lunches. No clothes ever. No eating out. Nothing except the absolute necessities.
  3. Travel less. Make the travel budget smaller so that our day to day budget can be bigger.
  4. Maybe The Brat Experiment just isn’t for us.

The crucial, super-tricky part of this all is that we want to prepare for the future while still enjoying the present. We aren’t interested in doing The Brat Experiment if we are only ever living for the future. Life is just too short for that. People die. Plans get cut short. So for this to work we need to be able to live in, and enjoy, the now. In other words, we need to be able to have a beer at the beach or socialize at lunch with our co-teachers from time to time. These things are important. All this means that option 2 is out. We aren’t interested in living more frugally than we already are.

So maybe The Brat Experiment just isn’t for us? It was a super scary question to ask and so I think I had been putting it off… but the problem was that the longer I put off asking it, the scarier it got. And so, finally (with beer in hand!), I pushed Husband with the obvious: We don’t have to do The Brat Experiment. It’s right there in the name: it’s an experiment. To see if it’s for us or not. And maybe it isn’t.

To my surprise (and relief!) the resounding answer to the question from both of us was No. Basically, now that we know that The Brat Life is a viable reality we now both really want it. Like REALLY want it. We want to have the freedom of time and travel and work hours that suit us. We want the privilege of being able to plan work around our kids and our family instead of planning family time around work. And we want the financial security (and financial buffer) that financial independence or early retirement provides. In short, we are both still very much on board with The Brat Experiment. We just need to find a different way of doing it…

So we are down to Option 1 (save less) or Option 3 (travel less). We quickly eradicated saving less. We saved 66% of our salaries (that arrived in our bank accounts after deductions) this month (or 64% of our total salaries before deductions) and it felt GREAT. Suddenly we have a very nice amount of money slowly starting to build up 🙂 And we’ve done the maths on how much we will have by the end of our contract in Korea if we keep this up and we like that number a whole big bunch. Which means that Option 1 is out and so what has to change is the travelling…

The original plan was: 1 million won a month for day to day expenses (for both of us combined) and 1 million won a month for travel (for both of us combined). This leaves us able to save 66% of our combined salaries. Wonderful. Except that the ratio isn’t working: we spend more than 1 million on day to day expenses and we spend less than 1 million on travel…

The challenge is that in theory our travel budget was supposed to pay for overseas trips as well (saving a little bit each month and finally putting it all together). In reality though this was never going to be how it worked because we had already planned our Malaysian trip before we started The Brat Experiment. And we had planned to finance it by simply halving how much we saved for two months (one month for the flight tickets and the next for our spending money). So we aren’t actually putting aside money each month for overseas travels. Which means that we don’t need a cool 1 million every month for travel. (This is also lucky because we have just started contributing to a family owned beach plot which is going to take 100 000 won out of our monthly budget).

We could play around with the ratios of day to day vs travel expenses but for what purpose? At this point it just feels knit-picky and like we’re complicating something that doesn’t need to be complicated. So here are the (current) facts:

  • We know that we want to keep our savings at our current rate.
  • We know that we need to send 100 000 won to South Africa each month for the beach plot.
  • We know that we have already bought our Malaysian flights and that in July our savings will halve because we will take spending money to Malaysia.
  • And so we know that we need to live and travel in Korea off 1.9 million won combined a month.

So screw the ratios. Instead we are going to focus on the big picture of how much we can spend in Korea per month (1.9 million) and balance our living and travel ratios as we see fit from month to month. Freedom within limits. Brilliant 🙂 (We will still keep track of how much our travel costs us though because of the daunting task of having to guestimate how much we need for travelling when we retire/reach financial independence).

We left the beach feeling much more comfortable with Our Brat Experiment. It feels like we are slowing making this way of life ours, molding it to exactly our needs and what we want from life. And it’s wonderfully liberating to be reminded that we are in charge of The Brat Experiment (not the other way around) and can change it as we see fit. So with that, and in the knowledge that we haven’t come close to exhausting our travel budget this month, we took ourselves out for a delicious dinner of Samgypsal (which just happened to come, in true Korean style, with free ice cream). Korea and loving life for the win 🙂


Samgypsal (pork deliciousness and sidedishes)



4 thoughts on “This isn’t working…

  1. Pingback: Week 9 | The Brat Experiment

  2. Pingback: The Numbers: A Summary of Month 3 | The Brat Experiment

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