Every year, consumers in rich countries are wasting food almost equal to the entire production of sub-Saharan Africa. Aside from being absolutely horrendous for the environment, wasting food is terrible for our bank balances. After all, food is the third largest expense most of us have (after accommodation and transport).
If only there were some way to minimise how much we are wasting food. Well, as luck would have it, Captain Thrifty presents…
10 quick tips to stop wasting food
1. Beware the special offer. Offers like “Buy One Get One Free” seduce us into buying more than we really need. Particularly for those of us with frugal impulses, bulk buys can be a siren call that’s hard to resist. If it ends up going in the bin, though, the only winners are the supermarket’s shareholders (which could be you, of course).
2. Fill your fridge strategically. Yes, really. Due to the way fridges are build, how you order the contents does make a difference. Want to know more? Food Republic has a useful infographic for what to put where.
3. Don’t put everything in the fridge. Some things, like bread, bananas and potatoes actually keep better at room temperature.
4. Watch out for ethylene. Ethylene is a plant hormone that triggers ripening. Some fruit and veg produces it, some is sensitive to it. For example, if you keep carrots and potatoes together, you risk ending up with rotten carrots before you can use them. Check out this handy list to work out what you should store separately.
5. Work with what you have. It can be tempting to go out and buy food to make an exciting new recipe. That’s cool, but complex recipes often leave you with leftover ingredients. The internet can be a real help here if you’re not a natural cook. Sites like SuperCook will let you input your ingredients and find recipes to match what you already have.
6. Monitor your waste. Much like budgeting and tracking expenditure, what gets measured gets managed. I can almost guarantee that for most ordinary people, just tracking how much you are wasting food will come as a shock.
7. Consider preservation. Can it, pickle it, whatever. Enough said.
8. Use your leftovers. Using your leftovers – perhaps even to take to work for lunch can be a good way to save money and avoid wasting food at the same time.
9. Eat the whole thing. My grandma always told me eating the crusts on my bread would give me curly hair on my chest. Leaving aside the dubious science of that – never mind whether it’s actually desirable – eating your bread crusts and the skins of your apples and potatoes is good for you and your bank balance, and will stop you wasting food. Win, win, win.
10. Don’t throw out good food. This may sound super obvious, but don’t be intimidated into throwing out good food just because it has passed a date on the packaging. Understanding the difference between sell-by and use-by dates is particularly important.
So, there we go. Do you do any of these things? Do you have any of your own tips?
Want to live somewhere cheaper to top up your savings? Somewhere sunnier to top up your tan? Maybe you want a flexible way to make some side income. Maybe you just hate the commute. Making money online means the freedom to work – and live – anywhere, anytime.
The only question is: how? When it comes to making money online, the most common advice is to “follow your passion”. If you already know what you passion is, great. Give it a go. If not, here are some practical ideas to get you started. You should be able make one of the following options work with enough effort. I’ve scored each one against earnings potential, how hard it is to start, and the level of risk. There’s one key factor I’ve missed out: fun! That’s because only you know what you’ll enjoy, but don’t forget it’s not all about the money.
People often overlook this skill. If you’re reading this, I’m going to go ahead and assume you have a decent command of English. Congratulations! You already have a valuable skill you can sell online.
Earnings potential – moderate. A tutor can expect to earn roughly $30 per hour with a bit of experience.
Difficulty of starting – moderate. Registering with a tutoring website is pretty easy, but getting your initial clients isn’t so easy.
Risk – low. Signing up is free, so you don’t lose much if your tutoring career doesn’t take off.
A lot of people, myself included, enjoy playing with graphic design. If you have the skills and enjoy this kind of work, there’s plenty of customers out there.
Earnings potential – moderate. You’re likely to be paid per job so it all really depends on how quick you are. An example gig on Fiverr costs around $20 dollars, and could take a reasonable graphic designer less than an hour.
Difficulty of starting – moderate. As with tutoring, easy to register, harder to get customers. Once the ball gets rolling with good reviews, work is likely to become far more plantiful.
Risk – low. Offering your services costs nothing.
How: Register with a site like Fiverr [affiliate link].
Close to my own heart. Blogging is good fun, and the rockstars of the blogging world are making money online hand over fist.
Difficulty of starting – low. You don’t even need your own site. You can start blogging on Medium in the next 5 minutes for free.
Risk – high. Creating quality content is time consuming. You’ll put in the hard yards, but there’s no guarantee anyone will read it, never hand over any of their hard-earned cash.
How: Start off on Medium – especially if you want to blog for money – to see if there’s any interest in what you have to say.
If photography is already your hobby, why not turn it into a money-maker?
Earnings potential – low to moderate. Royalties from stock photo sites tend to be low – around 15% – which is likely to translate to only a few dollars per download. Unlike teaching English, however, once you have your portfolio, the income becomes passive and can scale without limits.
Difficulty of starting – high. Taking quality photos which will be accepted by sites and desirable to purchase means not taking photos every man and his dog can take on their iPhone. This means potentially expensive camera and lens equipment, as well as a high level of skill, to see real progress.
Risk – high. Building your portfolio will take time, money and skill and at the end of it, there’s no guarantee of any pay-out.
I’ll take a wild guess this isn’t a hobby of yours. Don’t write it off too quickly, though. It’s a solid route to making money online.
Earnings potential – moderate to good. $40 per hour is totally feasible here for services varying from proofreading and formatting online content, to producing marketing content and social media management.
Difficulty of starting – low. You can get set-up on a site like Upwork to offer your services in minutes. I have done this myself, and in my experience it wasn’t very difficult to get work.
Risk – low. There’s not much upfront work to do before you start getting paid.
How: Get yourself set-up on Upwork and look around. Once you land your first few jobs, try to turn them into stable, repeat business. AngelList is also useful for looking for certain kinds of work. They might often be somewhat specialist – e.g. marketing and SEO – but can be more lucrative than Upwork contracts. Alternatively, reach out to businesses yourself and tell them what benefits you can bring them.
Have you ever made money online? How did you do it? Was it worth it?
Own the world?! Some mistake, surely? After all, we’re only here to reach Financial Independence! We’ve no business trying to own the world, right? Wrong! Two words for you: index funds. If you don’t know what I’m on about, this post is for you. Bear with me, and I promise all will be clear.
But first, let’s talk about the basics of investing in the stock market. When it comes to investing, a lot of people are scared. At best, stocks are often viewed as a socially acceptable cousin of gambling.
That’s quite understandable. Just like putting it all on black in roulette, shares in a single company can leave you with double or nothing in a short space of time. Just ask anyone who bought Enron shares in the late 1990s. All of this makes the stock market seem a real emotional roller-coaster.
Let’s be honest. Investing is risky, and it will never feel 100% comfortable. But we’re about to learn a strategy to smooth out the roller-coaster. To do so, let’s go back to kindergarten. We were all taught this proverb as kids:
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
I’m sure most of us follow that advice without even thinking about it a lot of the time. When we look for work, most of us submit many applications rather than just putting in one and crossing our fingers. It turns out “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is pretty sound investing advice too.
Whilst individual shares can be exceptionally volatile, big groups of shares across large numbers of companies tend to be less so. Why? Because when one company goes down, another will probably go up, balancing things out.
Here’s where “owning the world” comes in. If we could just own a bit of every company in the world, we’d be insulated from the fortunes of any single company, or even country. Instead, we’d just take a slice of the overall pie of global growth. Obviously there are times when the global economy as a whole takes a dip. On the other hand, if the whole global economy ever goes the way of Enron we’ll be too busy worrying about other stuff in the armageddon to even notice.
I hope we can agree that owning the world is a solid theory. But in practice it sounds like a lot of hard work, doesn’t it? Can you imagine how long it would take to buy shares across the whole world? Here’s the lucky bit: someone already did it for us. We can invest in a whole bunch of shares – getting the benefit of global diversification – through vehicles known as global index funds.
We’ve got options on specifics. The biggest game in town for index funds is Vanguard. Even Warren Buffett – the most famous stock investor in history – wants his wife to put their wealth in Vanguard funds when he dies. I’m not here to sell any particular option. If it’s good enough for Warren Buffett, though, it’s certainly good enough for me!
What are your main concerns about investing? Have you already started? Would you consider global index funds?
It’s a fact: even as many millenials resign themselves to a life of renting, most of us are still obsessed with dreams of bricks and mortar. In many parts of the world, millenials have grown up with house prices that only ever seem to go in one direction: up. This feeds into a general idea that home ownership is a golden goose, and many of us feel a pressure to hurry – bordering on panic – in order to get on the “property ladder” before it’s too late.
In our enthusiasm, though, we forget that buying a house is a massive financial decision. For most of us, it’s the biggest purchase we’ll ever make. So it’s surprising that the question of whether or not it’s even a good idea to buy a house is often considered less than where to go on holiday next year.
The best way to approach such a big decision is to go in armed with the facts. Understanding the possible pitfalls will help you approach home ownership with maturity, wisdom and good sense. You will be able to look back in 20 years and look back on the decisions you made without regret. Here are some thoughts to get you started:
1. Affordability. A mortgage is a type of “secured” loan. This means that if you stop paying, the bank has a claim on your house. It doesn’t take a long memory to know that this threat has teeth. Psychologically, you should consider a mortgaged property as being owned by the bank.
2. Interest rates. At the time of writing, interest rates are really low. The Bank of England base rate, for example, is close to zero. In the 1980s, though, it was more like 10-15%. Over in the States, the fed funds rate similarly reached a high of 20 points in 1979 and 1980. Could you afford your mortgage repayments doubling or trebling?
3. Opportunity cost. My dad always told me that rent is money down the drain. That’s only half true. To illustrate the point, we’re going to imagine being already pretty well off. You might rent a $200,000 property for $10,000 per year which you could have bought outright. If you buy it, you save $10,000. If you don’t, you might put that money into an investment which yields 7% – $14,000. You just won $4000 per year by skipping home ownership. Of course, we’re not factoring in leverage (see below) or the tax implications and stability of that return.
4. Leverage. Property can be a powerful investment due to leverage – you can put in e.g. 20% and borrow the rest. The ordinary citizen is gonna find it hard to get a similar financing arrangement on their stock portfolio. If the value of the property goes up, you keep 100% of that additional value. Just don’t forget that this cuts both ways. Property can go down in value too, eroding all of your equity and more, and you still have to pay the mortgage.
5. Stamp duty. Some countries – like the UK – have a government tax on transferring land or property. This can go up to a hefty 12% for the most expensive properties, so can be a significant added cost of home ownership.
6. Conveyancing. Most UK buyers will use a solicitor or conveyancer to conduct searches on a property they want to buy (e.g. to check ownership or flood risk), and then to exchange contracts and complete on the property. This doesn’t scale with the cost of the property, so could easily add 1% to the cost of buying a cheaper property.
7. Survey. A full structural survey can cost hundreds. Whilst cheaper options are available, bear in mind that buying a house is a huge financial decision for most people. Weigh up other factors like the age of the house, and whether you’re in a position to cope with a large unexpected maintenance bill, to decide what the most appropriate option is here.
9. Mortgage early repayment costs. This one is important for us Financial Independence types. We might be in a position to pay back our mortgages faster than most. However, typically the charges range from 1–5% of the value of the early repayment. Consider looking for a mortgage with no early repayment charge if this is a path you’re looking to take.
10. Moving costs. Are you moving far? Don’t forget that you need to get your stuff from A to B. If you don’t plan this right you could be hit with significant costs, especially if you’re moving long distance.
11. Property taxes. This is really specific to where you live. An average American household spends a couple of thousand on property taxes on their home. Council tax in the UK goes to local councils to pay for services like bin collection, but households end up paying a similar amount.
12. Maintenance. Upkeeping your home can be a significant expense – one that you don’t need to pay in most countries if you’re renting. 1% of the home’s value per year is a common rule of thumb, though you will want to consider other factors like age, climate/weather and who’s living there.
13. Leasehold/Ground rent. In some parts of the UK and US, home ownership is not always quite as simple as owning outright. Especially some parts of England and Wales, and on apartments, “leasehold” is common. This means that instead of buying a property, you are buying a long-term lease on it. You do have all sorts of rights, and a level of security not usually associated with being a tenant. In the case of leasehold houses you should also be able to buy the “freehold” (~complete ownership). That process can be expensive, though. You also have an ongoing cost – ground rent – to use the land the property is built on. Be doubly cautious when buying a relatively newly built house. The leashold agreement can leave you with spiralling costs, and a house that is difficult to resell.
15. Anchoring effect. Some of us like roots, some of us like wings, some of us a bit of both. Our 20s and 30s can be a great time to indulge our wanderlust or explore living in new places before deciding where to put down roots. Whilst it’s never too late or too hard to make a change, the costs of home ownership we just covered will make you think twice about packing your bags overnight and moving somewhere new.
What do you think? Is home ownership worth it? Does it increase or decrease your freedom? Is it necessary for Financial Independence?
When I first heard about Financial Independence as a structured concept, it was through the Early Retirement Extreme blog. Here was a guy who had saved like an absolute lunatic for five years and amassed enough money never to have to work again. I was hooked. If I could just pull through the hard bit, this could be me full-time in a few short years:
Well, here I am five years later, and I’m still not retired. Why? Was I too lazy to save hard enough? Did the Protestant work ethic get to me? Not exactly. The fact is, whilst I’m a big advocate of Financial Independence, I can take or leave the Retire Early part of the FIRE movement these days. Here’s why:
Pure idleness is unhealthy. Humans have evolved psychologically to work hard, so in the same way as it’s not natural for a tiger to be cooped up in a cage, it’s not natural for a human brain to be cooped up in its own inactivity. “Work” definitely doesn’t have to mean the typical 9-5. There are plenty of other ways to get mental stimulation. But some form of meaningful structured work can be a good source of stimulation.
Work becomes much more fun when it’s optional. A lot of the stress of work is knowing that you have to take the bullshit because you can’t afford not to. The mere fact of knowing you could tell your boss where to go can turn a horrible job into a decent experience overnight – for example by daring to ask for homeworking, part-time hours, or using your newfound freedom to take more risks (which actually often improves your performance).
Some goals are far easier to hit in work. Let me give you an example. If you want to have a positive impact on your community by improving the design of your city, this will probably be a lot easier if you work at the city’s planning department, and piggyback on their resources, rather than building your own solo initiative from the ground up.
It’s hard to shift from 100 miles per hour to zero. If you have the drive to save up a lifetime of wealth in five years, you probably have too much drive to be satisfied with lazing on the beach long-term. A bit of decompression – sure. But as a permanent lifestyle, it’s something that requires slow, gradual adjustment if that’s genuinely a transition you really want to take.
None of this is to say that you shouldn’t kick the day job as soon as you hit a “magic number” and move to the Bahamas. But as with everything, it’s probably worth a bit of introspection first!
What would you do if you could retire tomorrow? Would you still do your current job? Would you still do any kind of “traditional” work?
Disclaimer: This post is not investment advice – details are use merely to illustrate a general investment principle.
I don’t use the word miracle lightly, but tell me: does turning $10,000 into $452,593 without putting in a single extra dime not sound like a miracle? Well hang onto your hats, because one powerful phenomenon can make this miracle a reality: compound interest. Let’s do a bit of maths:
Captain Thrifty starts with $10,000. He puts it into a fund which tracks the S&P 500 (don’t worry about it if you haven’t heard of this – it’s basically just a vehicle to invest in all of the biggest US companies at the same time). Captain Thrifty gets a 10% return (historical records show the average annual return for the S&P 500 since it began in 1928 is approximately 10%) = $1000. His $10,000 is now $11,000.
Captain Thrifty gets another 10% return = $1100 (10% of $11,000 rather than the 10% of $10,000 he got in Year 2). His $11,000 is now $12,100.
So far, so pedestrian. Lets have a look what happens over the rest of a 40 year working lifetime, though, at that 10% return:
Year 10 $25,937
Year 20 $67,275
Year 30 $174,494
Year 40 $452,593
Putting in no more money, that initial investment has grown more than 45x over. Sound exciting? Damn right it does. You’ll notice a few things:
Time is the magic ingredient. Compound interest starts off slow and unsexy, but by Year 40 that original $10,000 generates over $41,000 in a single year!
Winners start early. Because time is so important to harnessing the power of compound interest, the earlier you start, the more heavy lifting it can do for you.
Before we all get too excited, though, there are a few important things to be aware of:
Inflation. The calculations above don’t take account of inflation. You may have 45x the nominal value of your starting sum, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth 45x that sum in today’s money. Generally speaking, we’d expect everything to be much more expensive in 40 years’ time, so your money won’t go as far. Accounting for inflation, the S&P 500 has returned around 7% per year. At 7%, $10,000 in todays money would become $149,745. Still not shabby!
Returns. The 10% figure is based on historical returns. However, it’s very debateable whether or not similar returns are likely for the next 100 years. The return you get will affect the final outcome massively.
Volatility. Returns are not consistent in real life. This massively affects the final outcome. Take this example. Two annual returns of 10% each make for an average annual return of 10%. So does -10%/+30% or -20%/+40%. Should end up with the same result then…nope!:
$10,000 -> +10% = $11,000 -> +10% = $12,100
$10,000 -> -10% = $9,000 -> +30% = $11,700
$10,000 -> -20% = $8,000 -> +40% = $11,200
The long and short of it is that we can’t go too crazy with our figues, but still let’s be honest – compound interest is a powerful tool towards Financial Independence. If you’re a young reader, especially, time is on your side. Get that snowball rolling and it just might surprise you. And even if you’re a little older, don’t worry. This can still help you. After all:
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. – Chinese Proverb
What’s the most powerful financial concept you know? Do you like to crunch the numbers or play everything by ear?
Financial Independence is a great goal. Making and saving money is totally worthwhile. But ultimately, it’s just a means to further life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Almost all of us can agree that our wellbeing is more than just a sum of our material conditions. And that’s why gratitude can be a useful practice in the pursuit of a good life
The science backs this up. Studies show that gratitude increases our sense of subjective wellbeing. It also plays a critical role in our relationships with others. Robert Emmons in particular has devoted much of his life to explaining the scientific benefits of gratitude – physical, psycohological and social.
Despite the evidence, though, the only real way to know if gratitude will enhance your life is to give it a go. So why not try out one of these five simple techniques:
Keep a journal. Set aside five minutes per day to write down one thing that you are grateful for. This could be a loving relationship, your health, the way you tackled a particular challenge, or just something nice someone said.
BONUS: Look back through your earlier entries and feel the warm, nostalgic glow of gratitude all over again…
Look out for silver linings. Get in the habit when something goes wrong, or feels negative, of challenging yourself to see something positive in the situation. This can nip the negative feelings in the bud and stop them bleeding through into the rest of your day.
Tell someone. My girlfriend is much better at this than me, but if you’re grateful for a relationship – family, friends or lovers – any time’s good to send a text and let that person know.
Play with pessimism (not for everyone!). If you’re having a frustrating conversation, imagine what it would be like if that person were to die before you could speak again, leaving things on a sour note. Be grateful that you have the opportunity to turn this around into a positive moment.
Get stuck into nature. Getting lost in nature can be a great way to strip everything back by seeing the simplicity of what really makes life tick (it’s not iPhones or corporate meetings). Getting rid of modern distractions can be soothing and can help us see that many of the things that stress us are just relatively trivial.
Did you try them? How did they work for you? How else do you practice gratitude?
I’m gonna be straight with you. There are no magic bullets to reliably bulding wealth (nope – lottery wins, inheritances and stellar stock-picks emphatically do not count). However, what if you could programme your brain to maximise your chances of success? Well the good news is you can.
The importance of getting the right mental blueprint is an idea which I first encountered as Inner Game. This is originally a tennis idea but was popularised to many boys of my age through Neil Strauss’s pick-up artist (PUA) bible, The Game. In that book, Strauss talks about all sorts of behaviours and gimmicks to pick up girls. I’ve long since decided that feather boas and negging were not for me. What’s stuck with me, though, is the idea that you have to work on your inner self – your self-identity and self-confidence – to achieve success with women. If you get the Inner Game right, all of that superficial stuff starts to matter a lot less.
The same principle applies to making the right moves in pursuit of Financial Independence. What self-confidence is to the aspiring pick-up artist, minimalism is to saving money. See, a typical consumer might see a nice pair of shoes one day and decide nope, they won’t buy them because they need to save the money. $50 saved. The cost? A gnawing sense of hollowness and deprivation. A minimalist? Well, they probably didn’t even give the shoes a second glance. They saved the $50 without even noticing. Even better, they do this on autopilot all day long, and it feels good, because they’re living in line with their values.
Minimalism isn’t your only option for this. You could self-programme for environmentalism. Stoicism. Survivalism. There are plenty of mindsets which could help bring your natural autopilot down to a far lower level of consumption. But whatever drives us, our mindset has to match our goals. If we can just get our Inner Game set right, saving stops feeling like a chore, and our paths to Financial Independence become 1000x more likely to succeed.
A penny saved is worth two pennies earned . . . after taxes. – Randy Thurman
Focus on keeping ’em
This is a blog about both saving and earning. But don’t assume these are both equally strong tools in our journey towards Financial Independence. In the same way as you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, you can’t (usually) out-earn profligacy. Here’s why:
Hedonic adaptation. Hedonic what? Hedonic adaptation is a psychological tendency we all have, to return to a relatively stable level of happiness following life changes – such as salary bumps. If you’re spending every penny of your current salary, chances are you’d need to do the same with your new higher salary to keep up.
Tax. A dollar earnt is worth less than a dollar saved. Why? Because if you want to save an extra $1 through earning, you need to earn, say, an extra $1.20 before tax. The more you earn, generally, the bigger this effect is. If you want to save an extra $1 by not spending it…well, just don’t spend it
The secret superpower of savings. To achieve Financial Independence, we need to build a pot big enough to provide passive income to support a given level of outgoings. Earning more helps build that pot, sure. Saving also helps build the pot but it also decreases the size of the pot needed since it now only needs to support a lower level of outgoings. This means reducing spending is doubly effective!
So, there we go. Each one of those deserves an article to itself, but in a nutshell that’s why the Captain will take reducing expenses over increasing earnings any day of the week.
What have you found? Is it easier to save by earning more or spending less?
As a middle class millenial, conversation about identity and “privilege” is something that has been swirling around me constantly for a good few years. Still, the feminist cause is very much at the forefront of the wider public consciousness in the West too at the moment. There’s the #metoo movement of course. And in the UK, 2018 marks 100 years since Parliament passed a law which allowed the first women to vote.
At work, there is also a real push to promote women further and faster. I do have some misgivings about who that really benefits (mostly privileged, middle class women from what I’ve seen – intersectionality, anyone?). Still, I’m quite happy to call myself a feminist. After all, who can really argue with equality? So far so good. The thing is, though, there’s only so far that mere advocacy can go:
You change existing systems with disruption not protest. Existing power structures always resist change. If you think taxis are a bad gig, you don’t lobby for cheaper taxis; you start Uber. Taylor Pearson
Not all strong, independent women are to be found in a boardroom
The “underdog” narrative which underpins much of the debate can inadvertently cast women into a passive protest role. Not exactly the feminist spirit if you ask me. So why not disrupt the system instead?
(Enter Financial Independence, stage left.)
The Financially Independent feminist doesn’t need to complain about the cards they’ve been dealt. FI means you get to pick your own cards. Hell, it means you get to play a whole different game if you want to:
Money is power. Whether we like it or not, money is a tool to make things happen i.e. a source of power. If feminism is about challenging an imbalance of power, then there are worse places to start than with finances.
Negotiate with strength in the workplace.The common wisdom is that women are less willing to negotiate pay rises. I’ve no idea if there’s any scientific truth to that, but hey – knowing you can walk away is crucial to any meaningful negotiation. Financial Independence gives you that.
The cold, hard maths of Financial Independence. Compound interest doesn’t care about your genitals. Enough said.