Our Financial Year of Living in South Korea

So dear Reader, here we are. Reviewing how our year in Korea went financially – with 10 months of that being Our Brat Experiment where we were trying to reduce our expenses so we could increase our savings as much as possible. Regular readers of this blog will know that soon after beginning Our Brat Experiment we realized that we were going to reach our dream savings amount for the year and so we started pushing for our dream-dream savings number…. So let’s see if we got there 🙂 Continue reading


My 2016 Dilemma

To my dear Reader,IMG_2492

With New Year this weekend I can’t help but think back on 2016 and try to evaluate how it all went. 2015 was a very personally challenging year for me and I was relieved when it was over. But 2016 has been different. Personally I have felt like it has been a good one with lots of growth and adventure but without all the pain that 2015 seemed to think was necessary. Yay 2016! Globally or humanity wise though… Continue reading

Our (Current) Plan

One of the most surprising lessons for me on this early retirement/financial independence journey is that it isn’t only about money. While being focused on the money, we have unintentionally also become focused on the quality of our lives, living intentionally, self-sufficiency, the environment, health and just generally leaving the world in a better place. The early retirement/financial independence blogs talk about all these things of course but I initially (and swiftly!) wrote them off. I told myself that I didn’t need these extra lessons (or was already doing what I thought was enough) and focused instead only on the money.

However, to my surprise all that other stuff snuck its way into my life anyway. Continue reading

The Numbers: A Summary of Month 6


A celebration tree to mark SIX MONTHS of Our Brat Experiment 🙂

Whaaaaaaaat?! We have OFFICIALLY been doing Our Brat Experiment for SIX MONTHS?! Wow. I can’t actually believe that we have done it for so long. When we first started this journey I was desperately hoping that the blog would help us stay accountable and keep us on track… but I never dared to hope that we would stick at it for an entire SIX MONTHS. And with no sign of stopping either 🙂 Yay 🙂

Continue reading

Week 19

I feel like we did quite well last week. Like during the actual week. During the weekend we spent a lot of money for sure but it was worth it. We went to Seoul for the weekend to meet up with family friends who are visiting Korea from South Africa. It was great to see them and surprisingly fun to play tourist-tourist with them 🙂 It confirmed that I shouldn’t wait for visitors to be a tourist.


Walking from Myeongdong to near Insadong


Samgypsal in Insadong (the tourist pozzie in Seoul)


The toilet from the top of Seoul Tower (over looking the lights of Seoul). Talk about a loo with a view! Was just brilliant 🙂 🙂

So the week’s spend went like this:

To new readers of The Brat Experiment: I basically report on our weekly spending and then write up a summary of our spending for each month. You can check out other weekly spends and the monthly summaries in The Numbers section.


11 120 won

10 120 won Groceries Necessary
1 000 won Gum Necessary
Eat Out

60 500 won

49 000 won Dinner and drinks with work Necessary but we did indulge in beer tastings etc 🙂
11 500 won Order in Indulgence but cheap
Clothes n/a

12 750 won

3 000 won CU beer Indulgence
3 750 won CU beer Indulgence
6 000 won Drinks before dinner Indulgence but lekker (South African for “really nice”)
Once-off n/a
Bills & Fees n/a


10 200 won

5 300 won Taxi to work dinner Necessary. It was super far.
4 900 won Taxi home after dinner Necessary
Gifts n/a
Medical n/a
Travel n/a

 Day to day total: 94 570 won

So basically, I was right and we were amazing with how little we spent during the week last week. Now for the tiny matter of Seoul…


95 200 won

4 400 won Taxi to bus station Necessary
43 000 won Bus to Seoul Necessary
43 000 won Bus home Necessary
4 800 won Taxi home Necessary

60 000 won

60 000 won Motel Necessary

116 830 won

5 600 won Bus snacks Necessary
73 000 won Lunch out for 5 Necessary
2 500 won Cool drinks Necessary
5 000 won Gimbap Necessary
13 000 won Breakfast Necessary
17 730 won Lunch out Necessary. AND it involved steak – a REAL treat here

3 500 won

3 500 won Beer after Seoul Tower Indulgence
Tourist Activities

36 000 won

16 000 won Palace secret garden Necessary.
20 000 won Seoul Tower Necessary and awesome

49 600 won

3 500 won Socks Necessary. Been looking for ages
5 000 won Scarf Indulgence but so pretty 🙂
41 100 won Harry Potter book and a puzzle Indulgence

5 200 won

5 200 won Postcards sent from Seoul Tower Necessary

 Seoul travel: 366 330 won


Check how pretty my scarf is! AND it’s practical colours that I will use often – at least I felt responsible in my indulgence 🙂

We did Seoul a little differently to usual in that we only travelled up on the Saturday morning and so didn’t to pay for accommodation on Friday night – this was a big saver. Accommodation really does nail the travel budget… so long term we definitely need a camper van or something…

Week’s total: 460 900 won

Necessary: 387 050 won (84%)

Indulgence: 73 850 won (16%)

Overall I am very pleasantly surprised by our spending last week. We only have one more weekend before payday and we feel like we are actually going to make it without having to eat nothing but ramien (Korean noodles) for a week 🙂 And this is even with this weekend coming lasting FIVE days. Yip, it’s Chusok (Korean thanksgiving) and so today is the last day of work for the week (yaaaaaaaay!). And I’m very excited because we are going to play tourist-tourist again 🙂


Week 16: Coasting Along

At the moment we are feeling pretty good about our spending. We’re managing to stay within out budget but don’t feel limited at all in our daily living. But I know that we could be spending less. And because of this I have been wondering lately if I’m perhaps too liberal in labelling things “necessary” as opposed to “indulgent”. The major area that I’m thinking about is our grocery shopping – this area really could use a more detailed analysis of necessity vs indulgence but the slips being in Korean make this quite a challenge… So for the moment our groceries are all just labeled “necessary”. We could also stop eating out, drinking alcohol, buying gifts and using taxis. That is the brutal, hard-core, ignore-our-values and retire-as-soon-as-possible truth. Which means that I cannot help but ask: Is our current (technically) indulgent spending worth the delay in reaching financial independence?


225 310 won


43 510 won Groceries Necessary
26 480 won Groceries Necessary
10 090 won Groceries Necessary
145 230 won Groceries Necessary. But it should be known that we don’t skimp when it comes to grocery shopping. For example we bought cheese, beef and cream despite them being VERY expensive in Korea.

 Eat Out

 56 000 won

24 000 won Samgypsal Indulgence
3 000 won Morning coffee Necessary. Bought coffee for myself and the lady giving me a lift to school.
24 000 won Dakgalbi Indulgence
5 000 won Fresh fruit juice Indulgence but SO good and a cheaper indulgence than most other drinks.




 20 100 won

6 800 won Beer Necessary
2 500 won Beer Indulgence
4 850 won Beer at the beach Necessary
5 950 won Beer at the beach Necessary


 188 100 won

18 100 won Postage for NZ visa Necessary and SUPER exciting 🙂
150 000 won Second-hand phone for Husband Necessary. His previous phone went to phone heaven. So after LOTS of research and thinking on his part he settled on this option: a phone that works that is cheap 🙂
20 000 won Phone cover for above Necessary. Could have shopped around for a cheaper option though…

Bills & Fees

104 204 won

104 204 won Building management fee Necessary


6 000 won

3 000 won Taxi to shops Indulgence
3 000 won Taxi home from shops Necessary (too much to carry)


 37 500 won

1 400 won Boxes for posting Indulgence because they were too big and so weren’t used
20 000 won Gifts Necessary
1 600 won Cards Necessary
14 500 won Gifts Necessary





 Week’s total: 637 214 won

Necessary: 577 314 won (91%)

Indulgence: 59 900 won (9%)

First reaction: Holy shit we spent a lot last week. Second reaction: Wow – best necessary vs indulgence ratio ever I think! But to help me answer whether our indulgence is worth the delay in reaching financial independence I am going to crunch the numbers again but this time excluding anything vaguely indulgent (as in we could easily survive without it, namely: eating out, alcohol, transport and gifts):

 Necessary: 517 614 won (81%)

Indulgence: 119 600 won (19%)

I suddenly feel much less indulgent and generally more awesome than I thought we were 🙂 Our indulgence went from 59 900 won to 119 600 won so only about a 60 000 won increase! So the question is rather: Is our indulgence of spending 60 000 won extra a month worth the delay in reaching financial independence? And I think the answer’s a resounding YES. Especially when taking into account our values and the fact that we want a quality of life while getting to financial independence. Just need to remind myself that it’s not about spending as little as possible; rather it’s about spending intentionally. Just love it.


The Numbers: A Summary of Month 3

When Husband and I started this Brat Experiment we decided to give ourselves at least 3 months to decide if it was for us or not. And suddenly, here we are: at the end of Month 3. And the good news is that there isn’t even a discussion about whether this is for us or not. We both know that it is. I’ve been trying to figure out what the core reason is for us feeling like this and I think it’s because we’ve both embraced the fact that this is OUR Brat Experiment that we can shape and adapt to suit us exactly. We are both focused on becoming financially independent as soon as possible but we also feel a certain freedom in terms of being able to spend our money in line with our values (e.g. travelling, brewing beer, books etc). And I think that’s what makes this lifestyle sustainable: it’s ours, it’s flexible and our current savings rate of 66% makes the goal of financial independence seem tantalizingly realistic (according to MMM that savings rate has us retiring in 10.5 years!!!). So on that note, this is how we did in Month 3:

 Day to day lives:



467 321 won

64 290 won Big shop
41 600 won Husband school lunch
2 700 won Choco pies
36 060 won Groceries
1 900 won Garlic and cucumber
8 500 won Korean side dishes
2 600 won Milk
150 040 won Big shop
15 910 won Groceries
1 000 won Chocolate milk
5 450 won Groceries
2 000 won Ice cream
1 450 won Chocolate milk
42 680 won Groceries
13 770 won Groceries
4 980 won Rice
26 000 won Husband’s school lunches
38 251 won My school lunches
8 140 won Groceries

Eat out


186 400 won




7 000 won Bap-bin-su
13 000 won Gimbap dinner
48 300 won Dinner and beer out
27 000 won Dakgalbi
2 200 won Ice cream
7 000 won School juices
15 500 won Pizza
2 200 won Ice cream
3 000 won Juices
9 800 won Coffee at the beach
11 800 won Mom’s Touch (burgers out)
1 700 won Milkshake
5 400 won My school juices
13 000 won Pizza
17 500 won Bu-da-jig-ae for dinner
2 000 won Ice cream for pudding



135 500 won

2 500 won Socks
22 800 won Pants and a skirt
6 000 won Shoes
51 500 won Top 10 sale
34 900 won Uniqlo
7 900 won Sunglasses
9 900 won Shorts



112 000 won


74 900 won Brewing kit
6 000 won Beer
6 600 won Boxes for brewing
2 700 won Water for brewing
6 000 won Beer outside the convenience store
15 800 won Wine



113 340 won

2 000 won Nail polish
9 000 won MicroLego
29 640 won Clothes, sheets, hat and slops for Malaysia
40 200 won Headlights, sun cream, insect repellent for Malaysia
32 500 won ENGLISH books J

Bills & Fees


250 200 won


720 won Bank sms fee
21 670 won Fee for sending money to NZ
42 180 won Internet fee
103 850 won Building management fee
39 600 won My cell phone
42 180 won Husband’s cell phone



36 500 won




3 000 won Taxi home
3 300 won Taxi home
4 000 won Taxi to dentist
3 400 won Taxi home after dentist
3 700 won Taxi to dentist
3 600 won Taxi home after dentist
3 200 won Taxi home after E-Mart
3 500 won Taxi
3 200 won Taxi
5 600 won Taxi



44 300 won


8 000 won Birthday party
19 800 won Gifts
9 000 won Gifts
3 300 won Gift
1 600 won Gift
2 600 won Gift cards



47 300 won

24 900 won Dentist
10 700 won Dentist
10 700 won Dentist
1 000 won Plasters



 157 800 won

41 800 won Bus to Daegu
4 000 won Taxi
4 000 won Taxi
7 600 won Taxi
10 000 won T-money card
41 800 won Bus home
4 800 won Taxi
22 000 won Bus to Icheon
3 100 won Taxi to bus station
4 400 won Taxi to bus station
29 200 won Bus home
4 900 won Taxi home


56 500 won

55 000 won Motel
1 500 won Bag locker


 205 100 won


9 000 won Gimbap dinner
2 500 won Bus snacks
38 000 won Pizza out
52 000 won Curry out
4 000 won Cool drinks
7 000 won Gimbap lunch
3 700 won Coffees
9 000 won Beer and chips
11 000 won Lunch
5 100 won Food
53 000 won Samgypsal for 4 people
10 800 won Burgers


 123 750 won

20 000 won Alcohol
2 750 won Beer
11 000 won Beer
90 000 won Alcohol



Tourist Things


TRAVEL TOTAL: 562 950 won (28% of total month spend)

Daegu: 263 950 won

Red Hot Chili Peppers: 299 000 won

Week 10 total: 630 300 won

Necessary: 538 400 won (85%)

Indulgence: 91 900 won (15%)

Week 11 total: 350 250 won

Necessary: 302 740 won (86%)

Indulgence: 47 510 won (14%)

Week 12 total: 309 660 won

Necessary: 231 180 won (75%)

Indulgence: 78 480 won (25%)

Week 13 total: 665 601 won

Necessary: 544 401 won (82%)

Indulgence: 121 200 won (18%)

MONTH 3 TOTAL: 1 955 811 won (over budget by 55 811 won)

Total necessary: 1 616 721 won (83%)

Total indulgent: 339 090 won (17%)

This is our first full month using our new plan (1.9 million for day to day and travel combined) and I’m chuffed with how it has gone. Or more accurately: (a) I know we could have very easily cut out 55 811 won out so that we came in under budget BUT (b) I’m really chuffed with how the month felt (the vibe of Our Brat Experiment as it were). We are enjoying life, doing things that we enjoy but still watching the money. It all feels VERY sustainable.

We are fully aware though that The Brat Experiment is ridiculously easy to do in Korea with our current jobs (no rent or tax and very minimal travel costs) and so when we leave we are expecting a bit of a shock and adaption period and quite possibly a much reduced savings rate. But either way this year will be a brilliant jump start for us. Maybe this year is The Brat Experiment with Training Wheels that helps practice for the real world when we leave?


On an evening walk (South Korea, July 2016)


P.S. My inner number-nerd has come out and I have started tracking our monthly spending in graph form (using google docs)… but I can’t seem to figure out how to put the graph into a blog post… Anyone know how to do this??



Week 11: Big Improvement :)

Last week we didn’t travel anywhere. In fact, Husband was sick so we did even less that we usually do when we stay at home. Earlier in the week we did go on a bit of a clothes spending spree though. All very intentional and purposeful but a spree nonetheless. Malaysia is now 3 weeks away and we suddenly realized that we don’t have non-work clothes that will simultaneously keep us cool and comfortable while still being respectful (read: cover up our bodies) when we visit temples etc. So this needed to be addressed ASAP.


178 950 won

1 900 won Garlic and cucumber Necessary
8 500 won Korean side dishes Necessary
2 600 won Milk Necessary
150 040 won Big shop Necessary
15 910 won Groceries Mostly indulgence if I’m honest

Eat Out

20 700 won

15 500 won Pizza Indulgence
2 200 won Ice cream Indulgence
3 000 won Juices Necessary. And on sale.


 104 200 won

51 500 won Top 10 sale Necessary. We realized we don’t have any non-work clothes for Malaysia.
34 900 won Uniqlo Necessary. More work clothes for this humid summer.
7 900 won Sunglasses Indulgence. But on sale 🙂
9 900 won Shorts Necessary for Malaysia.


 15 300 won

6 600 won Boxes for brewing Necessary to keep the home brew at the right temperature.
2 700 won Water for brewing Necessary. It’s all in the water apparently. And Korean water doesn’t taste awesome.
6 000 won Beer outside the convenience store Indulgence. But happy 🙂




Bills & Fees



3 300 won

3 300 won Taxi home Necessary. Too much shopping to carry or cycle home.


27 800 won

8 000 won Birthday party Necessary. Birthdays are important.
19 800 won Gifts Necessary





 Week’s total: 350 250 won

Necessary: 302 740 won (86%)

Indulgence: 47 510 won (14%)

What did I tell you, dear Reader? I knew that we would be able to spend less this week 🙂 By almost half nogal! And that was even with our clothes buying spree! What smarty-pants we are! Or maybe smarty-pants is the wrong word… it’s more like it feels like we are finding our balance financially. It feels like we’re hitting the sweet spot in terms of reducing our spending while still feeling like we have the freedom to spend money if we want to. Yay 🙂