No comic on Monday, birthday, driving, living expenses

September 13th, 2008 by Reinder

Some miscellaneous things:
First off: there will not be a new comic next week. My 37th birthday is tomorrow, and my present to myself is a day off the treadmill. No deadlines, no accomplishment targets. I may or may not do any work, but I'm releasing myself from all obligations for just one weekend in my life.

Driving class is going well, though it doesn't always feel like it. My instructor is sending me into more difficult areas to navigate and is finally letting me pay attention to traffic. As a result, it feels like I'm stagnating, because the more difficult things I'm doing don't go smoothly. I find some of it hair-raising, in fact and come home from the class all tired and sweaty. Give me a stretch of road I'm familiar with, though, and I do notice a difference.
I do now believe I should have done this much earlier. Not so much because learning ability declines with age (it does, but not by as much as people think; indeed, the biggest factor that causes adults to learn more slowly than young people is that adults typically aren't immersed in a learning environment), but because it's much more difficult for me to find the time and schedule the classes than it would have been 18 years ago. The cancellation rate on my classes is about 50%, because I can only make it outside ordinary work hours, and those hours happen to be difficult for my instructor to make.

Grocery expenses today: €21,10. Not bad, especially keeping in mind that I was able to buy for the pantry: various dried bean/lentil products will keep me fed for months, and I did the shopping while hungry (I had no breakfast foods in the house, which meant I had shop before breakfast) which is normally a big no-no. The general frugal advice is not to go grocery shopping while hungry. I overcame this problem by sticking to the periphery of the supermarket as advised by Michael Pollan and giving myself very little shopping time. Compared to the farmer's market, the selection of fresh produce was poor, but I got enough of what I needed for this week's meal plan (cauliflower korma, spaghetti bolognese and dal curry, each for multiple days) and probably will have to go back only once to buy odds and ends.

I got an € 609 tax refund, which is less than I expected. But I'll also be getting part of the nationalised part of my health insurance premiums back, which could well make up most of the total. If you actually look at your tax form, the actual income taxes in the Netherlands are pretty low in the lowest bracket or "box". Most of what you pay is for health insurance, which is a separate bill (and is topped up by a part that you pay to private insurers. Yep, it's a complex and expensive system, but as compromises between private and socialised medicine go, it could be worse). I'll be spending the refund on rebuilding my financial buffer, which has suffered a bit from my plane ticket and the cost of driving lessons. On the personal finance front, I'm also untangling the final issues with the rent of the studio, which I will be leaving on October 21. And I'm thinking of having another go at budgeting. I tried that in February, but I don't think I was ready for it at the time. Now, though, I've realised that my plans for the future will make it essential to save a lot more money than I do. Also, I have become aware of how much anxiety about money stresses me out. I have never had any significant debts, but I have no significant assets either, which means that it doesn't take much to cause my buffer to run out. Time for me to start dealing more intelligently with money.

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