Week 7: An experiment in no Husbands

I’m feeling optimistic about this week 🙂 Husband was away the whole week so the budget was only 100 000 won (instead of 200 000 won) but I think I came in under that 🙂

500 won ATM withdrawal fee Necessary
14 600 won Groceries Necessary
15 000 won Haircut Necessary. Last had one in February. That’s 4 months ago. Also Husband refused to cut my hair for me to save money.
10 000 won Coffee out Indulgent. But socially appropriate. Friends paid for dinner. I bought coffee.
540 won SMS fee from bank Necessary
30 000 won Deposit to join a health shop Indulgence. But we like to be healthy. And we will get the money back when we leave Korea so technically doesn’t count as an expense at all 🙂
3000 won Fee to join the health shop Necessary
8800 won Groceries Necessary
2650 won Milk Necessary
7500 won Medicine Necessary. I battled a cold all week.
3000 won Sweets Indulgence

Week’s total: 95 590 won

Necessary: 52 590 won (55%)

Indulgence: 43 000 won (45%)

 Under budget for the first time ever I think – whohooooooooooo! I’m just going to ignore the necessary vs. indulgence ratio though. Especially given that I will be getting the 30 000 won deposit back in 8 months.

I did feel like it was easier not to spend money with Husband not being here though… I was happier to make a plan with weird combinations of food for dinner (simply because that was what was in our fridge), not a single beer was bought all week and I didn’t pay for a meal out once. What’s strange about this though is that Husband is actually far happier and willing than me to eat weird combinations of food for dinner… and at default he’s much better at not spending money than I am… The only conclusion is that the already-noted phenomenon of spending more money when we’re in a social situation appears to play out even between just the two of us… Didn’t see that coming at all, dear Reader!



STOP bullying me!!

Something strange has subtly crept into our lives since starting this Brat Experiment. When Hubby and I were at the shops a few weeks ago we perplexingly found ourselves getting angrier and angrier the longer we walked around…

At first we thought that it was because we were angry with ourselves because we weren’t letting ourselves buy things that we normally would have. But after the millionth “sale” or “special deal” sign we realized that it was actually because we felt bullied into buying stuff that we didn’t really want. We felt like the shop was trying to coerce us into spending. And it properly pissed us off.

Of course businesses make money by getting people to buy stuff. So they are going to try to coerce us into spending our money. But I think that, for the most part, us shoppers have forgotten this. We are so completely surrounded by capitalist and consumerist culture that we don’t even see it anymore. And so we have become passive participants in our own spending. We’ve lost our agency and intentionality.

But since beginning the Brat Experiment Husband and I have started critically evaluating and tracking our spending. And an unintentional byproduct of this has been that suddenly we see the bullying consumerism all around us for what it is. And we are not ok with it.

Maybe this is why my Experts are spending less and claiming to be not only just as happy but actually happier? They’ve called bullshit on bullying consumerist culture and, in doing so, have reclaimed themselves. They are no longer passive spenders at the mercy of capitalism but are rather independent, active directors of their own lives. And that’s pretty cool and empowering 🙂


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!) 



We have a problem: I’m not American. Part 1.

Of course, I knew from the beginning that I was different. My Humanities brain was fascinated by the cultural differences between me and my Experts. They described a world of unending credit (multiple credit cards!), merry/frivolous spending, frequent eating out and an adversity to second-hand things. It was all SO strange to me and I read about it with the same morbid fascination that you watch a car crash.

You see, dear Reader, I am South African. To put that into context let me tell you a little bit about my family. My Oupa (Afrikaans for ‘Grandfather’) grew up on a farm in the Karoo. The Karoo has very few resources – it’s a dry, flat, harsh environment that as a general rule leaves your farm far from your neighbor, not to mention the closest town. So you have to be self-sufficient. And you treasure EVERY resource that comes your way (including money). What this means is that my Oupa’s family grew their own food (an achievement in this environment!) and NEVER threw out any food (they could never understand why guests complained or got sick from eating the 4-day-old-definitely-with-a-tinge-of-green chicken), hunted for sales anywhere they could, used electricity sparingly and recycled/re-used (underwear included!). I was too young to ever go to the Karoo Farm but I remember visiting my Great-Aunt Aunie (who spent most of her life living on the Farm) and: my Mom getting in trouble for throwing away food (that probably would have killed us kids!), me getting into trouble for having more than 1 light on in a room (not to mention leaving a light on when I wasn’t in the room!) and using the Yellow Pages (from the phonebook) for toilet paper. To put it another way, my grandparents’ generation makes my Experts look like indulgent splurgers.


Another beautiful African sunset ❤ (Grahamstown, January 2016)

While leaving The Farm definitely mellowed out my Oupa financially, he and my Gran (who despite growing up in the city had a similar approach to money) were still financially prudent: they were engaged for SEVEN years before they could afford to get married (they didn’t even think of credit as an option and this was before “people had sex before marriage” as my Gran often likes to remind me) and they only ever bought a car if they could do so in cash.

My parents don’t come close to my grandparents’ financial prudence. However, compared to the American culture described by my Experts, I feel like we are all already heroes living the Early Retirement lifestyle. Just to list a few examples:

  1. I can only remember having take-out maybe three times during my childhood.
  2. My Mom always made homemade biscuits (store bought was a BIG deal).
  3. I grew up in hand-me-downs from my cousins and then as a teenager preferred buying my clothes at the local Hospice shop.
  4. When my friend moved to England she gave me a bag of her clothes she couldn’t take with her. She didn’t think twice about offering them and I was THRILLED.
  5. I’ve only ever had 1 credit card. I was 26 years old when I got it. Up until recently it had a limit of R15000 (about 1000 US$). Husband has never had a credit card (and we don’t intend on him ever getting one).
  6. Husband and I have always tried to buy our cars cash. We have managed this for 3 out of the 4 cars we have owned.

All this meant that when I first started reading about Early Retirement lifestyles I felt WONDERFUL 🙂 But that was short-lived:

  • If I was already living an Early Retirement lifestyle then I should have some nice savings tucked away already. I don’t. So something is clearly not working as it should…
  • Also, if I’m already being financially smart then HOW do I cut down my already reduced expenses???



Week 1 – Pleasantly surprised :)

You will remember, dear Reader, that the goal was 200 000 won (100 000 each) per week? This week was our first test and I have to say that we nailed it 🙂 This is how the week’s spending went (in chronological order because I think that offers more insight into the lifestyle-ness of our spending):

1200 won Chocolate milk An indulgence
27780 won Running shorts Necessary
7700 won Groceries Necessary
10800 won School juices An indulgence but socially awkward if I don’t. Living in a different culture here people – trying to fit in!
19680 won Groceries Necessary
5750 won Beer An indulgence
23000 won Restaurant dinner An indulgence. But we are living in Korea for a limited time, we LOVE the food and we cannot cook it at home. What’s the point of travelling and living overseas if you can’t eat the food?
6750 won Beer and ice cream Pudding after the restaurant dinner. But winning because it’s cheaper than buying it with dinner.
50000 won Wedding present Stoked to have been invited to a Korean wedding. And weddings need gifts J
13000 won Coffee out To thank the people who gave us a lift to the wedding.
8850 won Groceries Necessary
10100 won Coffee out To celebrate being completely debt free and having survived our first week of Early Retirement lifestyle J
9890 won Groceries Necessary
8400 won Groceries Necessary

Grand total: 202 900 won

There are absolutely things that we could have cut down on. But we still definitely spent less than we would have normally. Given that we would have come in 50 000 won under budget if it hadn’t been for the unusual expense of the wedding, I feel pretty stoked. Although, aren’t unusual expenses actually quite common (and so need to be allowed for in the budget)? Overall I feel that it’s a good start at trying to achieve the kind of balance that we want (saving but not feeling constantly denied). Here’s to Week 2! 🙂



Money and relationships are cooooomplicated…

6:08pm last night Husband phones me:

 Husband: I hate you.

Me: Why?

Husband: I have been looking for cheap running shorts for half an hour and have spent the entire time feeling like shit for wanting to spend money.

Me: I’m sorry Love…

Husband: You and this bloody money stuff hey…


This brings up two concerns:

  • I don’t want to do this if long term we constantly feel guilty every time that we spend money (I can see the benefits of guilt in the short term though as a way to initially reduce spending)
  • Money and relationships are cooooooooooooooomplicated…


I’ll be honest, dear Reader, my initial response to this phone call was triumphant glee. You see traditionally it has usually been the other way around: Husband the saver and me the spender (although I prefer to use the term “liver of life!”) and so it felt really good to have things swopped around a little bit 🙂


When we first started dating it took us a while to figure out why grocery shopping usually involved arguments: basically, we both approach money in very different ways. See the beautiful illustration below:



Years later and I think that we have both moved a little towards the other’s money culture and so shopping has become much more pleasant. But since starting this process I’ve started to wonder if that’s not just because we have both been, unwittingly, assuming the elephant position (if this reference confuses you please check Stop assuming the elephant position out)….


Back to that phone call last night: Husband is definitely as on board with this Brat Experiment as I am. Similarly to me, he’s desperate to have our own house, travel and (this you don’t know yet about me, dear Reader) would LOVE to be able to study for the rest of his days – and the Brat Experiment suddenly makes these things tantalizingly close to reality. Also trying to spend as little money as possible is right in line with Husband’s money culture. However, at the moment, I am definitely the driving force (read: constant reminder) that we are trying to spend less money… and this subtle power dynamic makes me nervous. Or maybe it shouldn’t? Maybe with something as lifestyle challenging as this it’s more about team work. We have both decided that we want to give this Brat Experiment a try and we both REALLY want the things that this lifestyle can potentially afford us i.e. we want the same end result and are on the same team. So maybe it’s more about us taking turns being the “driving force” and I just happen to be first?