We work in a job that can get stressful and irritating not because of what is in your job description but due to the people we work with. There is indecision from higher ups, inexperience and incompetence at all levels and then there are people who expect you to hold their hands as they do their jobs. Before we go ahead let me say this, neither one of us is a saint and we are incompetent to take up quite a few tasks which are thrust upon us.
In past 6 months we have barely managed to trickle out a post a month and the reason is sheer exhaustion after work. We work 5.5 days a week and around 9 hours make it a full working day. Do we enjoy what we do? Yes quite a few parts of it are really enjoyable and rewarding as you can measure personal and professional growth clearly and it is in a public realm. There are quite a few parts of it which are simply disturbing in all senses.
Past few months we have been managing a team while it was not our place to do so and in our field being young is seldom an advantage. With huge egos and general belief that young ones don’t have any experience it becomes a task to handle ‘big people’ and meet timelines.
This is more our fault than others around us. There is a reason job description and titles are created in a workplace. The reason is so that people don’t interfere in other’s work and that they are not bogged down by unreasonable requests. Fields which require immense collaboration result in overlapping roles and expectations of you filling in for others or guiding them how to do their jobs. That however is the role of their manager and not yours, unless you are their manager. We have often times failed to understand and limit ourselves to our role and we have seen both benefits and drawbacks of doing this.
We have been appreciated multiple times but there have been many who have taken offence at someone exposing where they lack. Have you seen that Hidden figures scene where Katherine answers in a meeting what her boss is fumbling papers for. That is never fun for the boss unless she takes pride in being supported by good people.
Educating each other is a part of any job and allows any organisation to run seamlessly and for employees to actually take time off. However when your colleagues start relying on you for every single task you have managed to put yourself in a corner. Each one of us has struggled with getting work done especially if it involves working with another team.
What we learnt
Last few weeks have however taught us multiple lessons which have not just helped us increase our productivity but also reduce our stress and workload.
It is just work. Before you started working similar work was being done however inefficiently it might have been. As long as you are not the cog blocking the machine you should not be worried about job not being done. Do your part and let others catch up. Even if they don’t improve you can be assured that the end result will be achieved. It might not look exactly like what you wanted but there will something at the end.
Personal responsibility is better than collective responsibility. Do your job first before you start helping people with their. If you job is to manage others do that before you tell a junior how to insert that image in the presentation. Focusing on your own work and actually finishing it will allow you to accomplish more in the same amount of time and go back home a bit lighter.
It is not always good to help people. Let it be clear if you don’t help people around you at all you are a bad person. But if you help them so much that they can’t do anything without your help you have created a monster for yourself.
You have to learn to turn off your job mind. There are people who rely on their jobs to define them. Let’s be fair most of them don’t really worry about early retirement. It is not the worst quality but seriously a job is one of the most likely things to go away without any notice. It is therefore stupid to carry stress from a fleeting thing into your private life. That being said we have been some of the top notch stupid people in that regard and we accept it. Does it require a kid at home to force you to think about more than your job or is a hobby enough or should you start a blog? Who knows, as long as you get out of your job both physically and mentally.
We have been working on ourselves and learning how to distance ourselves from our work and actually enjoy the time we have on our hands. LivingaFi’s blog is probably one of the best boosts you will need to realize you are not alone and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Is there any work related story that you would like to share? Or maybe what drives you to FIRE?
We have been trying consciously to reduce our consumption and expenses. Surprisingly the easiest area to cut was the kitchen. Utilities, rent and maintenance of other moving parts did also reduce. For quite a bit of time we have been thinking of detailing how we are saving money so that you our readers can help us find areas we should be looking at.
We live what we believe is an average urban Indian lifestyle though with a few tweaks. Before we move ahead and let you know what we are doing with our money let’s clarify the lifestyle definition a bit.
We live in one of the major Indian cities with an above average paying jobs (not by IT standards) at a multinational company. Our palates are best served with a wide variety of cuisines and we enjoy travelling a bit too much. We visit malls and restaurants and use taxis whenever required to ease our lives. Internet is a necessity so is a clean and well maintained living space with light and wind coming through windows and doors.
We do differ a lot from the other comfortable aspects of urban life which seems ubiquitous in every Tier I and even Tier II city. Let’s get on to what all we have cut from our lives which we think saves us a shit ton of money.
Yes you read it right we don’t own a car. Why you ask. Simply because we don’t need it. We live quite close to work and our trusty 5+ year-old motorcycle works amazing at ferrying both of us to work and back in 10 minutes. If traffic is particularly bad we spend 15 minutes on the road.
The bike requires much less space for parking and it is cheaper to park it in any mall basement compared to the smallest of cars. It also requires far cheaper maintenance and less petrol to ferry us. The truth is we spend maybe 500 on petrol every month and ~1000 on maintenance every two month.
Without a car we are much more mobile for our jobs. When we did move last year it was a pretty easy task to get the bike shifted and transferred on office money compared to colleagues who moved their cars.
When we have friends and family over or we want to go somewhere far we hire a cab. Someone else deals with traffic, we don’t have to worry about parking and most importantly we have never paid any capital to buy the aforesaid vehicle.
We do believe our requirements will change especially if we have a kid. Maybe we will buy a car but I doubt that. If we do, I have my eyes set on a used TATA NANO simply because it will get us from one place to another drinks less and costs way less.
If we do want to experience the luxury of a high-end sedan or sports vehicle well I’ll just rent it for a day and save us from sinking a considerable part of our net worth in a depreciating metal shell.
Estimated savings 3K (based on around 5k people spend on their cars a month also considering occasional taxis for family)
Live close to work.
Like we said above we live 10 minutes from work and to be true on really bad days of finding no transport we can easily walk to work in 20 minutes. It is also something we would have done had the roads been walkable and we weren’t this lazy. We do pay a pretty penny compared to those who live over 30Km from office and commute for at least an hour daily in public transport or 1.5 hours in private cars.
Call me crazy but I don’t want to spend my life sitting on the road for over 10% of my awake hours every day. Living close allows us to get up way later than we would have to do if we were living further away and that is a big bonus for me.
We believe our quality of life improves and dissatisfaction reduces with this short commute. We always know that in 10 minutes we will be in a much better and private place which keeps us far grounded than if we had to stew on latest irritating thing for hours on the road.
So how does that help us to save money?
When we are happier we tend to buy less and think much more rationally than justifying everything with ‘I live a hard life and I deserve this’.
We also spend way less on petrol and maintenance than many people do. We also don’t have to worry too much about safety on motorbike in long commute hence we comfortable get by without a car. If our vehicle breaks down of a random nail punctures the tire in the morning it costs us barely Rs.30 to take an auto and get to work.
We cook much more and eat at home than we would if we had to be commuting for hours. Unlike many families we also get by without any hired help because we have time on our hands to actually do chore. Whether we do them or not is a completely different thing. We have not eliminated eating out completely but we have drastically reduced it.
Estimated saving – around 2K (in direct saving in not owning a car is not included and can’t price peace of mind)
We don’t own a TV.
Well that would just save you a few hundred you would say. Those hundreds do add up. The truth is I hate television and it’s capability to completely suck a person’s attention. We do consume a lot of TV’s content but we both believe we have much power over what we watch with a laptop and internet than we would have with a TV. Months go by and neither one of us is aware of the latest advertisement urging people to buy or latest fluff which people seem to love. I have a long-standing issue with the content televised because it is mostly negative and I would be hard pressed to remember a good prime time show on any Hindi channel.
We have also been away from the cycle of change that televisions seem to go through in people’s houses and the initial money that is sunk into the set. If I were to buy a TV today it would cost us a significant part of our monthly rent if not a full month’s rent to get one. That does not seem like a good deal.
Having more time and not being inundated with adverts allows us to make better spending choices and just keeps our life generally happier in our opinion. If someone is visiting they are welcome to use the internet and their handheld device/laptop to stream whatever they wish to see.
Estimated savings Rs 500 (considering service provider’s bill, electricity and any other repairs required)
We don’t have an AC.
We live in a city where almost everyone owns and runs an air conditioner. To be true all through May we were debating if we should buy an AC because we weren’t sleeping well. We solved our problem with open windows and a mosquito net first and then realized living without AC was feasible. The weather has taken a turn last few days and we hope to see some showers soon. Humidity though really makes me want to buy one. We are in office during majority of the day; our flat is blessed with good wind and huge windows which don’t allow us to justify the purchase. Fans work but Air coolers don’t so we consume very few units during summers compared to our neighbors.
We are sure we will be discussing this purchase again next year, unless we end up living in an apartment which is even cooler than the current one. Neither one of us hates the sweet relief that AC provides in fact we enjoy it plenty on our travels. However, on a daily basis we let our office pay for our thermal comforts during the hottest part of the day.
Estimated savings – 3K (considering repairs and electricity consumption)
We have always been ones to reduce wastage but the truth is we had no clue on how to actually reduce our consumption. Last year we have re-learnt how to buy and consume food and related items. However we have been quite particular about our energy consumption and in past have been blessed with bills amounting to as low as 300.
First few electricity bills in this city were all above 1000 and use of Induction cooking top was the reason for it. This past month we paid 510 as our monthly bill in one of the most expensive utility rate area. We are quite conscious that this can further be reduced and are looking at how we can achieve that.
Another utility which has saved us quite a bit of money is gas and for some reason we have not consumed as much of it as many do. Maybe it is because we rarely feel like spending hours cooking things, share cooking load with our oven and never boil water for any other purpose on the gas. Even when we did not have the luxury of piped gas, our cylinders lasted anywhere from 4-6 months.
Estimated savings – Rs. 500
We stopped buying stuff.
I have written about it before but seriously if you saw how many of those tiny cute things we own you would think we are insane. Well, unless you have your own stash of useless trinkets collecting dust and taking up storage space.
If I say we haven’t bought anything in last one year that would be lying. I have practically replaced almost all of my 6-year-old plastic storage containers and replaced them with new containers. We bought a few plants to liven up our living space. Bought containers to store meals, carry and freeze them better… you get the drift. But we have not bought any trinket which would look very pretty on some corner of our house.
Not only did we stop buying stuff we also have started reducing the amount of stuff we own. We recently sold bags of stuff for a very small amount but they are now out of my house and not adding to the clutter. After purging and donating bags full of clothes last year we have again managed to suddenly purge another big bag full of clothes we don’t can’t or won’t wear. Since April we have spent a decent sum on clothes for both of us only it has come from free credit from our company and will help us reduce our tax liability. A lot of older clothes are now again in circulation since we can see them in the closet. (On a side note, ladies can you help me with a pair of jeans which doesn’t shred around the inner thigh area in a few months?)
We have managed to look decent for work and lack of expensive new clothes has never impeded our performance.
We are also constantly questioning if we need to actually own a particular item or replacing it with something will actually serve us better. We are looking for buyers for our living room furniture which after 2/6 years is not what our current lifestyle requires. If all goes to plan we will replace 3 big items for 1 and make a bit of money as well.
I cannot insist how calm and happy open spaces make both of us feel. We are quite messy people and none would credit us for keeping the house clean but we abhor clutter and filling every corner with stuff.
Estimated savings – 1K
Kitchen has been one of the biggest sources of our savings and it really deserves a post of it’s own. Above are just the major contributors to our savings and have resulted in small changes which will help us in the long run. One of these changes is being at ease and comfortable at home as well as reduced urge to buy stuff.
Total Estimated Savings – 10k
We are aware that a lot of our savings are derived majorly from our decision to live close to work and many would argue the extra 10K you pay in rent equalizes everything. Well not really, anyone commuting for 50Km per day is spending around 4L petrol in a decently efficient car. This would in today’s prices result in around 280 per day or 7000 in just gas. Added expenses, like house help would then bridge the gap between the differences in rent. I would rather sleep more than spend the same amount for false sense of savings.
Saving money is one of our favorite topic to talk about with anyone. I intend to write more about this and would like to know what do you believe is holding you back from saving more. What are the ways you are saving on your expenses and where do you think we can look for optimizing our expenses?
First salary of FY 2017-18 is in and invested. It sure isn’t very interesting when you do one transaction and all of your investments are done for the month. There is no real thrill of researching and reinventing as you go along once you narrow down on a strategy to Financial Independence.
We started last year on shaky legs still learning to walk the financial planning bit of our lives. We were clueless about direct investing in mutual funds, zero brokerage trading(affiliate link) and more importantly the real long term game.
As we put first of our saved money, into various mutual funds we learnt we might want to change our approach to what we thought would suit us better. As the year went on we realized these early years are the best time for us to experiment with the investment strategy.
Below is an account of how we decided to save our money and how it went for us.
Most investors in Indian markets would advise to put your money in something which has high growth potential and it is still possible to beat the market. Why? Because we are still growing as an economy and a lot of measures are being taken to take us from a developing to developed nation.
With the urge to beat the market there is the need to know what will let you achieve the beating. We have no clue (like most around us) and we know we are in it for the long term. We know that the market will go up in the long run however the share or sector we bet upon may completely vanish the other day. You can easily ask those who lost money of kingfisher airlines or on businesses which are redundant today.
It was surprising for me to know that SENSEX and NIFTY change every day in how they weigh the stocks in the index and which company should be a part of the index.
With the uncertainty which accompanies making specific choice and our need to keep the money alive for as long as we can, index funds become the best choice.
Lower expense ratios are just added bonus and with the (late) discovery of direct funds we are paying as less as 0.3% for majority of our funds in expenses. This might not be a valid point for many but we don’t believe in sharing the returns of our money unless we have to.
We have thought of adding a few sector specific funds to the portfolio going forward but have not been able to justify the purchase. We own a few other funds some from before we decided to take charge of our finances and others as an experiment.
I am sure you can see where we believe our money is best invested.
The Dividend Gamble
In last November we started another experiment to see how dividend stocks would work for us. We started small and we have been keeping our holdings within 10% of our net worth. The reason for this is twofold one it keeps more of our money in other long term safer holdings and secondly we accept we are no stock picking experts.
We are still at the experiment and did pump a decent sum around March. However we are probably not buying a lot more individual stocks in near future and definitely not making individual stocks a majority sector in the portfolio. Since we bought the stocks in last few months on the FY it is not fair to judge how much dividend we got out of them. That analysis I would hold back for the next FY.
The Real Estate Factor
It would be stupid to not talk about real estate as a major contributor to our net worth. We do get a monthly rent but we do not include value of the house when we talk about our net worth because we don’t own it outright and because that value is never absolute.
Currently we are landlords for the only flat we own and additional money sure doesn’t hurt. We have gone back and forth about whether we want to add more properties to our portfolio. Over multiple discussions we have gone back and forth about our decisions to buy but the answer for now is – no. This stems not just from our desire to keep our lives simpler but also because we don’t really have spare money to put into a non liquid asset.
The Home loan
As said above and in multiple posts here and here we own a flat. We also own a home loan to go along with it and it is more than what the rent covers. Last year in April we equated our home loan, using the overdraft facility offered by our loan provider. That meant we would not be paying any interest at all and our loan would eventually end earlier. At that time it felt like the best use of our money and a guaranteed way of ensuring we do not default on our loan.
Around June we had started challenging our financial beliefs with something known as maths, which told us this was not the best approach. We ran multiple scenarios which helped us determine the best ratio between offsetting the loan and investing in other heads. We have since reduced the amount we maintain in the OD account and have invested remaining.
The OD account is our emergency fund account which allows us to travel (replenished by us) dole out money when needed for family emergencies or invest in bulk. Currently we divert rent collected to this account which allows us to take money out without making a huge permanent dent in the account.
We had been following NPS for sometime but it wasn’t till late February that we seriously looked into what this instrument can do for us. We found that it is a good way to both save today as well as let our money grow without any interference from us for a good time. We have opted into the aggressive plan which invests 75% of our money into stock market using funds and remainingn is split in debt instruments. This is in line with what we intend to do with our money anyways.
Before we invested in NPS we were aiming to max our contribution for PPF. PPF in its own right is a great instrument to let your money grow but being an interest based option it does not provide the benefits that NPS does. We are currently aiming to put 50K each in NPS to get the extra tax saving we can and keep on contributing 1Lac to our PPF.
In our tax bracket we are able to reduce our tax liability 20K while investing which makes it a double benefit deal.
We are blessed with a profession which allows us to earn some on the side without flouting company policies. Even though with increased workload we have not been able to grow the revenues we have however been able to support a big chunk of our travels through it. That has allowed us to build our stash and not feel trapped into the grind completely.
As we work towards re-balancing our lives and learning how to say no to unfair requests at work we both hope to achieve better quality of life and time to increase our side gig earnings.
The Life Changes
Apart from what financial changes we made including reining in our expenses last year led us to multiple personal changes as well. We are now much more conscious of both spending and consumption. We have always known how much we spent past month but how that relates to our overall goals was never clear. This was perhaps because we had no goals we were aiming for except for finishing our mortgage.
Our life has much more clarity now and we have far more discussion about where we plan on being in next decade and decades after that. There is a certain amount of satisfaction in inching our way to the goal.
Before this we were usually looking at our expenses and the amount left from income as potential expenses. Now every penny we make is a way for us to get out of mandated working and allows us freedom to choose how we wish to spend our lives. I feel much more at rest mentally about our way forward and running multiple scenarios has led us to for the first time settle into our current job. As we said here we firmly believe saving is more of a mind game than a money game.
We are always open to better opportunities but knowing even in current job with its job security we are on our way to ensuring a far better and relaxed life than many around us. We get frustrated every now and then but know we are not in deep trouble with where we stand today.
The desire to be able to work on our own terms has reduced our desire to own more stuff. We have been actively purging our belongings and have reduced a lot of clothes, plastic ware and small knickknacks which have been gathering dust in various storage locations.
This is also the first time in years that we have a household which we run completely and it has taken us over a year to realize we can finally grow some roots. We can choose to retire from this city if we want or swap to another once we have the chance. Like I said above we know even while living in this expensive city we can get our numbers to work. Even if you are not looking to actively save or retire and would rather spend every last penny you earn, take the time to think and decide where you want to be in five or ten years from now. If you are worried about what you can afford or how much you can save in your current situation running a few numbers can help you reach answers quicker.
How do your investment breakups look? What category of investments do you believe are best for you?