consumerism, degrowth, financial independence, happiness, housing, stoicism, travel

How to become financial independent by cutting your housing costs

Housing is probably the biggest expense most people have, it is my biggest expense at least, and there is high probability that it is also yours.

So, when choosing housing, one needs to carefully consider the wants and needs, as a small percentage in savings can represent a HUGE saving long term.

I owe this part, as many of my lifestyle philosophy to Mr. Fisker even though I have not managed to be as extreme as he is.

Most people in the western world, have a dream of what would the perfect house/apartment be, there is the typical cliché of a house in the suburbs with a garden and two cars parked in front. Maybe those are our true desires, or maybe it is something that the consumerist society has put in our minds. (most likely the latter).

Just as much as we cannot rely on pure emotions when choosing a place to dwell in (such as “the dream house” myth). We cannot rely purely on reason and logic, it needs to feel right as much as it needs to make economical and utilitarian sense.

Needs and Wants

Let’s then, take a look at how to choose housing, by looking at our needs as well as our wants and see if we are willing to sacrifice financial independence for those wants.

First, we need to consider, what is exactly what we really need when we consider housing, basically it is a place to sleep, not more. We can also include in there, secondary needs, which are not indispensable but most people would consider basic needs, toilet and bath and a place to to store and cook food.

Taking these basic needs into account, we need to be aware of all the different solutions that can solve that problem. When doing this exercise one cannot already assume that one needs three bedrooms or needs a garden, balcony etc. Because in reality none of it is really needed, it is just some luxury that we want and we tell ourselves that we need in order to justify our consumerist and hedonistic tendencies.

It is not that I am immune to nice places, I am currently living in an apartment and I could easily survive with a smaller place, we are all walking the way, and one has to start somewhere, what I think is most important is not to get blown out of proportion. That is, have a reasonable number of rooms, reasonably cheap location, reasonable number of bathrooms (that is max. 2 if you are 4 or more people in the house hold, for 1 year I lived in an apartment where we lived 8 adults with only bathroom), etc.

Your partner

When it comes to the housing, it is not like in other parts of the lifetime where you can just change it. In that case you will need a good agreement with your partner if you have one. That is, of course not easy, and sometimes a compromise can be reached. It is, obviously much better to share your life with someone that is at a similar level as yourself and is committed to financial independence, but that is not always possible and one has to compromise.

The truth of owning a home

You might have heard, as it is popular wisdom, that it is always worth it to invest in a house or apartment to life in. FALSE, that is plain and simply NOT TRUE, not always at least.

When you buy a house to live in, that is not an investment. It can be an investment, if you include ALL the costs of running a house compared to the price you might sell it for, that is financial costs, property taxes and maintenance costs mostly.

Rent cheap and buy property for renting out

First of all, as the smart reader will infer from what it has been in the article so far, one of the smartest things to do is to live cheaply in a rented apartment (that is at least true in most European cities), once that is accomplished, the next step is to save money and buy a rental property, that property does not need to be small or modest, it needs to give a good rent compared to the buying price.

The next step is let your tenants pay for the mortgage, and when that is finished you can move back to the apartment that the tenants paid for, or you can continue living in the modest place, covering your rent from the rental income as well as putting some money aside each month.

Alternative housing

It seems, from what we see in the news, movies, and the mainstream media in general that our only choices when it comes to housing are to buy either a house in the suburbs or an apartment in the city. I have already tackled the you-must-buy-a-house fallacy further up in this post, but aren’t there other forms of housing?

Tiny homes

Tiny homes are such a hipster trend right now, but it DOES make financial sense, you can relatively cheaply buy or lease land and park your mobile tiny home. You save on property taxes, maintenance cost, and purchase cost. As well as a tiny house giving a big advantage of not having space (yes, it is an advantage) That will keep you from buying too much stuff!

Houseboat

Houseboats have many of the advantages of tiny homes, such as being mobile and small. Boats generally require a lot of maintenance and can be REALLY expensive, so if you love sailing or boats, consider this option. One can find relatively cheap second hand sailing boats where one can easily live in. Alternatively, lifeboats can also be reconverted into house boats relatively cheap, but on the other side are not comfortable to sail on.

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A real mustachian lifeboat house. Source: Dailymail

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The super-luxury version. Source: Lancashire Life

Tube houses

I have recently read an article, mentioning that in Hong Kong, there are some projects of building micro-apartments from huge concrete pipes. In that case, it is of course used to further exploit people desperate for housing, but the fact is, that concrete pipes are cheap and relatively light structures that can be used to build a modular tiny house.

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Concrete pipe microliving. Source: The Jakarta Post

The concept is great, creativity is the limit.

Thevanlife

You can see all the people showing off in instagram.

in Many countries you can overnight in your van as long as you are legally parked and self contained.

That is a great option for people with nomadic tendencies, and may I add from places with great view.

My girlfriend and I almost always travel and live in a camper-van when on vacation, if one is willing to do that long term, it is possible to modify a cargo van into an almost self-sufficient camper-van for a very small cost compared to renting or buying property.

There is endless information online such as here, here and here.

Conclusion

  • Examine your needs
  • Do not fall into the “Buying the dream house” trap
  • Consider the long term cost of superfluous wants
  • Consider alternative housing concepts
  • Develop your skills

 

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travel

Nordkapp trip part VIII: Riga-Gdansk-Girona

Finally we had the car repaired and managed to leave Riga to go to Poland, of course we would go through Lituania but after spending so much time in Riga it was impossible to go to Vilnius. We basically drove in the night (yes, it was back).

We arrived to Gdansk next morning and we stayed at Marcelina’s, in there we didn’t go many tourists attractions as we were mainly with the locals and basically doing nothing.

Concrete light post. Will not break, ever.

Finally it was time to go back home after having spent 15 days, 6139 km and many places I can’t wait to explore more deeply soon.

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Nordkapp trip part VII: Riga

I was expecting Latvia to be similar to Estonia but nothing further from the truth. Those are completely different countries and Riga and Tallinn are two cities with a very different atmosphere. For what I saw in both cities, Riga has had more Soviet and Russian influence than Tallinn and is like nothing I have seen before.

Old vs. Modern Riga

On one side there are the old Soviet blocks in the suburbs of the city where most people live and on the other side there is the old town and city center with some soviet buildings such as what is now the market, buildings originally design to serve as a zeppelin base and another building which is an exact replica of one in Moscow.

Generally Latvians are not very fond of Russians (as all Russia’s neighboring countries) and that has been source of conflict in the past years as a big majority of the population is from Russian origin as Latvia was a very important industrial center during the Soviet times.

We planned to stay in Riga one day only, but turned out to be three as the car broke down trying to leave the town. Luckily that didn’t happen in Lapland as finding a single person was a difficult task and we had our host, Kiril. We met him through Couch Surfing and let us stay more days than planned due the inconvenience. He showed us around the town and the best places to eat and drink (really cheap, specially compared to Denmark).

Typical soviet blocks

Handwritten numbers in the elevator

As I said we were lucky to have Kiril to show as around the old town, the first thing he explained is that, the bus, is free (well, kind of) so we headed to the old town. The independence monument, apparently is an old Latvian goddess holding three stars symbolizing each region of Latvia.

Latvia’s independence monument

Orthodox cathedral

In contrast with the Scandinavian countries, Riga has an old style Opera house

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Nordkapp trip part VI: Tallinn

We arrived to Tallinn late at night with the ferry and proceeded to go to the hostel we had booked which is called The Monk’s Bunk, to describe it shortly I must say that is perfect, great atmosphere, brand new hostel, affordable with cozy common room and great kitchen, the only bad thing is that we couldn’t stay there for the three nights we ended up spending in the city.

After checking in to the hostel we went to do what Tallinn is most known for, partying. The city has great nightlife as Finns and Russian’s, as well as other nationalities, travel there for tourism and a bit of drinking. We visited quite a few bars and pubs and the one that a visitor in Tallinn can’t miss is the Embassy Bar & Lounge (Väike-Karja 1) with a great selection of special shots that are completely worth trying.

On the night life part it is also very interesting to join the Tallin Backpacker pubcrawl where you can meet random people and get to know the classic bars of the town.

Disabled war vet

Next day we took the walking tour around the city which is given for free by the local toursit office, that gives a chance to be shown around the city and besides learning historical facts our guide told the group a lot about the every day life of the city and country as well as how the regarded the polititians (whis is the same way as all the other countries in Europe) and in general what was going in the city.

Orthodox Cathedral

Besides drinking, good eating places are also found in Tallinn, our favourite, in where we spent a lot of money is the III Dragon in the old city hall, besides the medieval age atmosphere of the place where the women serving are wearing costumes the food and beer is good for a nice price, they serve a variety of cakes (mosse, apple and other kinds) as well as a very tasy moose soup for which you have to sing a song if you want a spoon to  eat it. But don’t forget Kompressor (Rataskaevu, 3) where you can find amazing pancakes big enough for a good brunch after a typical Tallinn night.

The best eating place in Tallinn

Our everyday meal

In general Tallinn is a very nice medieval city where you would spend a lot of time walking around the cobbled streets, it doesn’t have a specific thing that makes it special but there’s something that charms you from the first minute you set a foot in the old part of the city.

As it was written in the blackboard of the Monk’s Bunk “If you’re bored of Tallin, you’re bored of life”

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Nordkapp trip part V: Nordkapp-Helsinki

Basically Nordkapp is a really cold and windy place. But also beautiful, as I said we arrived there late at “night” and I was surprised that there were so many tourists at that time of the day but lately I figured out that they were all there to see the midnight sun, a fact that we didn’t care about anymore after being so many days up north. It is quite funny to see a tourist area so far north, with its own post office, souvenir shop, various restaurants and cinema where they showed a movie about nordkapp that we didn’t bother seeing.

View of Nordkapp

Group photo in parallel 71º N

Grzeg and I on top of the world

Our first idea was to stay for the night in Nordkapp but after while it was too cold and as it was daylight we decided to drive to Finland straight away, so we drove with our sunglasses on at 3 am and up to -3º outside not knowing if the sun was setting or raising we drove until we were too tired too continue and that’s what happened in the following to days as we arrived to Tallin barely 48h after being in Nordkapp.

Driving from Nordkapp, stunning landscapes.

Even though we didn’t see much of Finland we stopped in Santa’s village in Rovaniemi which I hope in winter looks better because in summer looked quite pathetic… But overall is quite similar to Sweden as the only thing you can see is trees everywhere, and also mosquitoes, as I slept outside the tent I woke up with half a face swollen by thousand bites of those small bastards, luckily that would heal really soon.

View in Rovaniemi

Polar circle, again.

In Helsinki we just took a walk round the town as we had to get on the ferry to Tallin the same day but it had a nice atmosphere, nothing like I had seen before, here you can really tell that Finland has nothing to do with scandinavia.

Helsinki

Going to Tallin

So far we had driven 4998km

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Nordkapp trip part IV: Jokkmokk-Nordkapp

It must be said that Swedish landscape is quite boring, mainly trees and trees, and yes, of course some more trees. Luckily we would leave Sweden soon and drive back into Norway.

Still in Sweden

Little by Little, we can see that the trees are smaller as we drive north and the outside temperature gets lower. We stop in Alta, I think the last “big” city we’ll see in Norway and we fill the tank and have dinner, there’s a beautiful fjord but the wind is blowing and it is freezing so we pack fast and keep driving. The road gets worse and worse as the terrain is really hilly, to reach Ponsargerfjord we still have to drive through a mountain pass. Up there no trees grow at all and there patches of snow all year long I presume, there’s only grass and land where lots of reindeers graze. I can’t imagine anyone leaving there but some cabins can be seen now and then, but I can’t stop thinking is that there is nothing there, totally empty lands…

Empty lands

Now the temperature was around 3ºC and it is the end of June, I can’t imagine how that must be in winter. After we went down we reached the sea again and drove along the road along the sea, it is a very narrow, twisting and turning road which makes it quite difficult to drive on. Every now and then there are some fishing villages and some wooden structures to dry the fish on, I guess there are no other things to live on here as I can’t even see sheeps.

We drive through some long tunnels but the funny thing comes when we find that signYes, almost 7km of tunnel, it is more fun when we see other warning signs stating that there is 8% slope inside the tunnel and that there might be fog in it. Inside it Laura becomes extremely happy as it is the darkest we’ve been in many days. We drive outside the tunnel and we discover there’s a toll where we have to pay for the car and for every one of us… bastards…

Then we reach Honningsvåg which is definetely a lost village in the north, what is surprising is that 3 big cruise ships are in the harbour, then we realize that it is all tourists going to Nordkapp with buses carried in the ships. We continue driving and we reach the Nordkapp, and our surprise is that, of course, we should pay again as there is a kind of museum and cinema where they show probably shitty movies, as we come from so far we decide to pay and go in. Now I can say it is the end of the world, there is nothing northern than that parallel 71º and being 23h is still quite sunny.

Myself and the midnight sun in the Northernmost part of Europe

Still fucking cold and windy…

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Nordkapp Trip part III: Kjerrag-Jokkmokk

After visiting a part of Norway’s west coast it was time to drive all the way to Nordkapp, that would take 3 “nights” as it wasn’t getting dark at all. The first stop was set to Rauland where Laura had arranged couch surfing.

On our way to Rauland we drove through stunning landscapes as we got used since we arrived in Norway with mountains, lakes and the southermost reindeer population of Europe (where we didn’t see any raindeer), the roads there are small and going through many hills and two cars couldn’t fit, but with patience we made it to our meeting point in the gas station in Rauland.

Southermost reindeer population in Europe

Rauland is a very small village in Telemark, we met Aliona in the gas station and drove to their place, it was a challange to fit one more person in the car as most of us were carrying quite a few items for a two-week trip. Once there her flatmate Vlad was waiting for us and cooking an incredibily tasty Ucranian soup that we ate outside with great weather. We were hosted in a very cozy and beautiful cabin typical from Norway and ours hosts showed us the village. It must be the perfect place to relax for a while but after some time one might get bored, there was a magnificient lake that could be skied in winter.

Our hosts in Raunland next to their house

Next morning we woke up early as we had to sleep in Trondheim in the couch of a friend of a guy working with Grzeg. So we took the road to Trondheim through Oslo wich was supposed to be the best road in Norway, the inner part of Norway was quite boring compared to the west coast with the fjords and cliffs but it also had some nice parts with mountains and waterfalls as weel as in the mountain passes where we saw a couple of mooses from far away.

At the end of the day we made it to Trondheim where Shaggy hosted us, we just had dinner and went to sleep early as we were quite tired from the day and the next one was going to be the same, 10 hours in the car more or less.

As the roads in Norway are not quite good we decided to drive through Sweden as it’s not as hilly as the neighbooring country, the roads there are wide and good and as there’s literally noone around (some times we didn’t see anyone for some hours) we could speed.

Everything is yellow and blue in Sweden

In the middle of nowhere

Raindeer, we would get tired of seeing those.

After endless hours of driving we crossed the Polar circle and camped some kilometers after Jokkmokk (Yes, it also is a product from IKEA) and we made a bonefire, Grzeg and I considered going to hunt some reindeers but as it was getting dark we thought it was better to stay.

So far north we could clearly see the midnight sun as at 1am it looked like in was still the afternoon so far we had driven 2627km in 5 days.

The guys and the hosts in Rauland

We expected to reach Nordkapp next day.

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