Minimalism for Expats

Minimalism has become a full-blown cultural movement. The Minimalists have a hugely popular podcast, and film that has recently come to Netflix. When I encountered the concept a few years ago, it was immediately a good fit for my personality and preferences. I’ve been naturally inclined in that direction for most of my life, and I loved reading about how others interpreted the idea of living with less and reducing excess. I eagerly delved into accounts of capsule wardrobes, tiny houses, and living with 100 things or less. It makes for compelling reading.

However, for many people, it’s understandable how minimalism could remain a casual Pinterest fascination. They might sense that applying some of the ideas could benefit their lives, but lack that motivating factor. One group of people I think can benefit from minimalism in very real, tangible ways is the globally mobile: the expats, the digital nomads, those of us who try out new countries as readily as some people try out new neighbourhoods. I believe our ranks will only continue to increase, and that one of the best ways to prepare for a successful move is to embrace minimalism.

Here are some ways embracing minimalism will make your life easier, freer, and better, whether you are making an international move or not:

1. Travel light: Whether you are travelling for a weekend, a few weeks, indefinitely, or picking up and transplanting your life to a new location, the concept of travelling lightly will serve you well. “Stuff” weighs you down, physically, mentally, financially, spiritually. You’ll find you can make your move(s) so much easier and simpler if you can cut down your physical possessions to only the essentials.

This is an iterative process and it helps if you minimise early, and minimise often. If you only have a few pairs of shoes, because you’ve been diligently minimising for months prior to your move, it’s not hard to decide which to bring with you. And better yet, if you’re not that attached to any of them, it’s not hard to leave some behind. There will be shoes in your new country, trust and believe this.

I thought I had made a fairly minimal move, and even still I found myself donating various items a few months after I’d arrived in Ireland. Bring less than you think, it’s almost never a mistake.

still too much

What I brought with me to Ireland (aka all my worldly possessions).

2. Simplify your finances: When you move to a new country, or hop around the globe, it’s really helpful if you can keep your financial life as streamlined as possible. The last thing you need is to have 20 different passwords for 20 different financial institutions, and then to have to remember which card charges you foreign transaction fees, and which accounts you have linked, etc.

I suggest keeping a bank account open in your home country, and best yet if you have a no- foreign transaction fee credit card that’s with the same provider. Extra bonus points if you don’t pay an annual fee for either the account or the card. Banking is annoyingly expensive in Ireland, but from what I can tell there’s not much that can be done about that. I kept my US bank account, and a Visa associated with that account. For investments, I’m all Vanguard. I have a Paypal linked to my US bank, and another linked to my Irish bank.

I haven’t found anything like Mint or Personal Capital that works with non-US accounts, but at least I can log into Mint and it only needs to check two financial institutions to give me a snapshot of everything on the US side. I’ve been keeping the Irish side low key for now, so there’s only a few places I need to look there, too.

3. Minimalist home: Let’s assume you adhered to Minimalist Expat Commandment #1 and didn’t lug a bunch of heavy home furnishings and decor half way around the globe with you. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. Now that you’re in your new country, for however long that may be, see if you can keep your home-related acquisitions to a minimum.

My flat when I moved in. (I added the Bay blanket. And the wine.)

To dress up my furnished flat, I purchased a few things to hang on the walls, a few throw pillows, a charity shop chair, and a storage ottoman/coffee table. Plus the necessary kitchen stuff. All of this will probably stay in the flat when I leave, or get donated. And I’m none to precious about any of it, which helps when I’m letting the place on Airbnb when I travel. I don’t mind if they break a plate or two (although this hasn’t happened, but it seems to be a concern for some people, who ask me: “What about your STUFF?” in anxious tones when I tell them I host Airbnb guests when I’m out of town).

4. Daily routines: By this I mean your day to day cooking and grooming and whatnot. Have you encountered people who feel as though they require a lot of complicated accessories just to get ready for a normal day? Simplifying this, to the extent possible, makes travel and relocation a lot easier. I don’t feel I need 15 different hair products to be a valuable member of society or to enjoy my life. And I really enjoy the ease of packing, since all my normal personal care products easily fit into the 1L bag limit. Being flexible and adaptable is something to continually practice, and is a skill that would serve any expat well.

I’ve come across expats who complained that the posh nail salon in our exclusive, wealthy suburb of northern Johannesburg (Sandton, just to name-drop for those in the know), didn’t stock the right kind of gel nail polish. I don’t know, but it seemed like they might have been missing the point? Try to make peace with an alternate brand of gel nail polish, is all I’m saying.

5. Technology and digital life: This is one area I’m working on. I sometimes bring more devices than is strictly necessary, but the setup I currently have is:

      • laptop

      • iPad

      • iPhone

      • Kindle Paperwhite

      • associated chargers

      • external battery pack

I don’t bring all my devices on every trip, but if I were moving longer term again, or if I were transitioning to full digital nomad, I think I’d keep more or less this roster. The iPad is a few years old and probably the most redundant, but I like it for reading free magazines from the library (shoutout to the Zinio app! Don’t buy expensive magazines, fam). In reality, I probably won’t replace it when it dies, especially now that my laptop is a lovely, lovely Macbook.

Technology setup, on the multi-use ottoman.

I also have a portable bluetooth speaker that sorts out my music needs, usually via Spotify. With Spotify and Netflix, I’m well covered from an entertainment perspective, and the only thing I need in a new country is wifi. No TV or stereo required, either in a shipping container, or in a rented flat.

So there you have it. There are surely countless more benefits to minimalism when you are undertaking something as major as moving countries, but with simple, streamlined, and thoughtful possessions, finances, homes, habits, and technology, you’ll be well ahead of the curve. Go forth and become location independent with intention!

How to Beat Jet Lag

 

Long-haul flights have become a recurring feature of my life. Living 8 time zones away from my family means there will be at least a few round-trip journeys a year consisting of 12+ hour flights. I’ve recently returned from one such journey, and one of the questions people kept asking me, on both ends, was how horrible did I feel from the jet lag? The assumption being that inevitably my answer would fall somewhere on the scale of horrible-feeling. (This scale, I imagine, runs roughly from “lemon juice in a paper cut,” all the way up to “Donald Trump is really the president of the United States and that’s actually a thing now.”)

But I didn’t feel horrible at all, and I almost never do, and I don’t think you have to, either. Here are some things that will help. 

 1) Stay hydrated. This is probably the biggest single contributing factor to non-horribleness. Apply this maxim with as much zeal as you #staywoke. I look around the plane sometimes and wonder where other people are stashing their giant water bottles, and then am forced to sadly conclude that they for some bizarre reason didn’t bring their giant water bottles. That’s a mistake. Bring a big reusable bottle (I like HydroFlasks) and fill it up when you get through security. If you’re nice to the flight attendants they might even fill it up for you mid-flight if you ask at a non-annoying time in a non-annoying way.

*Aside: I’ve had occasion to spend some time in Heathrow Terminal 5 recently, and I struggled to find a water fountain. They assured me (only a little snootily) on Twitter that there are millions of water fountains and I’m a big dumb jerk for not finding one. I dunno. I looked and failed to find. On more than one occasion. This last time, I found a water jug sitting out at a coffee stand. Desperate times, etc, etc. Just don’t get on the plane without your own water supply, is all.

2) Change your phone’s time zone. Or, do you wear a watch like some classy person in the before-times? Change that too. It can be somewhat disquieting, especially when you’re travelling east and therefore losing hours. My journey back to Dublin from my most recent trip began with a 9 hour flight from Seattle to London. I got on the plane around 6pm Pacific Time, and immediately set my phone to London time, and boom, suddenly it’s 2am the next morning. But it reminded me to try to get into nighttime mode a little bit. I don’t go crazy trying to force myself to sleep, but I swear this trick does help. Especially when you land and have to orient yourself to the new time zone. If it’s morning there, just embrace the morning-ness of it all.

3) Upon arrival, sleep and wake at normal times. Right away. This is probably the next most important thing, after you remember to #stayhydrated (and, of course, to #staywoke). You can get into a surefire cycle of horrible-feeling if you start napping at weird times for days on end. The best thing, I find, is just stay up kind of late your first night, if you can. I stayed up late catching up with my family upon arrival in Portland this time, and on my first arrival in Dublin I stayed up until dawn (perhaps not strictly recommended, but was I jetlagged after those shenanigans? No, no I was not).

4) Stretch, walk, yoga: just do something active before and after. The day before and the day after your long-haul flights, move your body somehow. Bonus points if this movement occurs outdoors. It will feel so good after all that sitting.

5) Don’t overdo it on the alcohol or caffeine. Generally this is a good idea, but never more so than when mixed with extended air travel. I may have still grabbed a large coffee as soon as I landed in Dublin, but I am a seasoned coffee pro. Showing moderation with the in-flight drinks is probably the most important, but if caffeine affects you strongly (or if you haven’t spent years building up immunity, iocane-powder-style), exercise restraint.

6) Remember that it’s awesome that you get to do this at all, chill out, and enjoy the expanse of hours. Yeah, yeah, long flights suck, but remember how we’re incredibly privileged to get to travel this way in the first place, to far-flung locales with varying degrees of glamour? Your dreaded ordeal is someone else’s dream trip. Recapture some of that magic, people. Plus, you’ve been given the gift of time. Get some work done, catch up on your reading, or on some movies. We have so many options for entertainment and productivity at our fingertips, and most likely a rare stretch of no wifi. Enjoy it. 

Be grateful, travel light, peace, namaste, and all that good stuff. Go and be jet-lagged no more, friends.

Frugal expat tip #1: shop like an immigrant

 

I’ve written before about how the terms “expat” and “immigrant” are both somewhat unsatisfactory. I tend to use both with a bit of a winking eye alcohol suggestion:

But, gratuitous Arrested Development references aside, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and what’s good for the expat and the digital nomad is probably also good for the casual traveller as well as the locals. I definitely think that’s the case for this first Frugal Expat Tip.

Shop Like An Immigrant

Immigrants are smart, fam. They know where the good deals are, and they usually have some awesome ingredients. Perhaps best of all, if you’re doing your grocery shopping where the immigrants are, I can guarantee your food budget will stretch farther.

Food is the only thing I shop for on a regular basis, and my go-to supermarket here in Dublin is my friendly neighbourhood Aldi. They have both amazing prices and a reassuringly diverse clientele, so I knew I’d found a smart place to shop. My weekly food shop, including some luxuries like a bottle or two of wine and a bit of dark chocolate, comes to an average of €30 per week. That’s with loads of fresh veg, meat, eggs, cheese, coffee, and whatever household bits and bobs I may need, like bin liners or soap. With that, I make the vast majority of the food I eat in a week, with the exception of the odd restaurant meal (say once a week on average).

Just to math that shit up (to borrow a phrase from the always math-y Millennial Revolution) a quick sec, if I make 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and say 6 dinners a week, that’s 20 meals a week. If the average cost is €30 per week, that’s an average of €1.50 (or USD$1.64, or CAD$2.25) per meal. And that’s for stuff I enjoy and feel is healthy, like green smoothies with banana, spinach, and coconut oil in the morning, big salads with chicken & avocado for lunch, and things like Thai curries with loads of veggies for dinner. Plus good coffee every morning, and the odd glass of red wine with dinner.

When I lived in the US, I wasn’t lucky enough to live near an Aldi or a Lidl, but my solution worked just as well, if not better: Asian markets (the fewer white patrons, the better tbh). My favourite was the Vietnamese place near my old neighbourhood (what’s up, Hau-Hau). I would routinely get a week’s worth of healthy, fresh food here for $20 USD. You’d have to go elsewhere for little treats like chocolate or cheese (or anything not meat, fish, veg, or Asian-specific), but since they stocked the staple foods of my diet, at about half what I would have paid anywhere else, it was a big win. Plus it was just plain fun to shop there. This was one of my weekly hauls, and it came to less than $20 as I recall:

Here in Dublin, I’ve not found a full-service Asian market on par with the likes of Hau-Hau, but Aldi/Lidl do the trick, with some good Asian/African shops for sauces and spices and the like (shout out to Han Sung). And this is a trick I try to replicate when I travel on a more short-term basis, as well. I always love shopping in foreign supermarkets, and it’s the most fun when they’re not the overpriced, posh ones, which tend to be more generic. Go where the local immigrants, and the smartest of the local native-born population, go. Enjoy the slice of real life, enjoy not overpaying like a sucker, and enjoy the healthy, tasty results. Gawking at the weird stuff you’ve never heard of counts as bonus free entertainment. Extra bonus points if you walk there. 😉

Similar to my feelings on not owning a car, I see this as a triple win, at minimum: saving money, living healthier, and having way more fun. Plus the sense of satisfaction that you did the more badass thing. Start flexing those frugality muscles, and shop like an immigrant, whether you are one or not.

A leafy path... to freedom

Financial independence as a radical act

I am continually inspired and impressed by the quality of the content that is produced by the personal finance bloggers and podcasts I follow. It’s especially cool seeing so many women in this space, as historically the world of finance and investing hasn’t been particularly female-friendly. That’s changing now, because badass women are making that change. No one invited us to the party, but we’re showing up anyways, and we’re bringing our friends.

Thankfully, we live in the age of almost unlimited access to information, and therefore to self-education. We can decide we’re going to become financially literate, regardless of where we come from or how “the industry” or the education system or anyone else may perceive us. To me, that’s incredibly empowering. I love that no one can close those doors on us. The information is available, and where it used to suck, and be unnecessarily (and perhaps even intentionally) confusing and exclusionary, we’re out there making it increasingly accessible for anyone who wants it. I aspirationally include myself in that “we,” but really it’s rockstars like Frugalwoods and Broke Millennial, as evidenced by this recent post, regarding Broke Millennial’s new book (which looks awesome). 

Empowerment over despair

I found the above post incredibly inspiring, and it also happened to be a stark contrast to something else I came across this week. I stumbled upon a podcast that sounded like it would be a fun, fresh take on personal finance. The tone of it, unfortunately, was one of repeated despair and helplessness. As though the fact that we exist in an imperfect, unequal system is a valid reason to give up and stop trying. That’s crazy! The fact that the system sucks, and that it extra-sucks for women, people of colour, marginalised communities, etc, makes it extra important for us to arm ourselves with knowledge, and resist by lifting each other up instead of reinforcing the status quo.

I’m aware that I exist in a space filled with all kinds of privilege, but it just so happens that I do not come from a wealthy background at all. No one taught me about how to manage money (and in particular, no one teaches you how to handle money in a new country! I’m working on that…), and for a long time I was too intimidated to try to learn how for myself. But now that I do have a modicum of knowledge, I echo Mrs. Frugalwoods’ sentiment that we as women need to declare our financial independence. We owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to others still stuck in despair.

I feel that as women, we especially benefit from having our “fuck-you” money sorted. This can take many forms. It doesn’t have to amount to full financial independence (but it will be oh so sweet when it does), to be incredibly impactful on our lives.

When one of my beloved younger sisters was planning a big, bold move last year, that was my one bit of serious older-sister advice to her, and it’s my advice to all women:

Make sure you have your fuck-you money ready.

At a base level, to me that means money that allows you to say goodbye to any immediate situation that you’re uncomfortable with. From there, you can build on that. But having that baseline of self-sufficiency is powerful. We women need that irrespective of our marital or relationship status, age, orientation, geographic location, employment status or lack thereof. And we shouldn’t compromise it for anyone.

No matter where you’re at, commit to do better, and to lift others up along your way. Here are some things you can action, now, today, to get freer. Make it an act of joyful rebellion. (Points if you were like, was that a reference to a great mid-00’s hip hop album from Canadian artist K-os? Because yes.)

  1. Beginner: Get your baseline fuck-you money together, be it only a few hundred dollars/euros to start. You do that by reducing unnecessary spending and treating that money as sacred. It will grow, but you have to start!
  2.  Intermediate: Amp up your savings rate. If you’re currently saving 10%, that’s something. But what would it take to save 20%? 30%? Look at your spending line by line, and say a big, happy “fuck-you” to the forces that work to keep us down with every additional percentage point you take back.
  3. Advanced: Work on your side hustle and/or spread the knowledge. One of the ways the system works against us is by keeping us silent, under the taboo that you don’t talk about money. So get after it, and talk about it. Share something on your social media. And keep hustling. As passionate as many of us millennials are about injustice, we are also steady on our side hustles. I see these two as working perfectly in sync. Get free and help others get free.

Just because the gender, racial, or generational deck may be stacked against us, doesn’t mean we need to admit defeat. As for me, I unsubscribed to the whiny podcast of woe, and will continue to follow those who provide a more uplifting example. And hope to pay it forward myself in some small way.

Little expat wins: my €0.02 on car ownership

 

I recently listened to a great podcast by the amazingly informative and thorough lads over at www.ChooseFI.com. I’ve enjoyed all their podcasts so far, but the topic of their most recent episode was interesting to me mainly because it didn’t apply to me at all. Let me explain.

The True Cost of Car Ownership

Jonathan and Brad do a terrific job of breaking down the cost of car ownership, and their comprehensive and satisfyingly math-y approach will serve as a really useful resource for a lot of people. They come at the issue from the entirely reasonable assumption that most Americans can’t or won’t give up car ownership altogether. That cars are an expensive, necessary evil. And for the most part, they’re right. But it made me appreciate how my particular life journey has allowed me to bypass car ownership altogether. And it made me wonder how much that choice has saved me over the years.

I have lived without a car for most of my adult life. I couldn’t afford one in high school or university, and then didn’t want the hassle of paying for parking when I lived in a city. I grew up in a remote, rural area and spent many, many boring hours in cars as a child. I think that experience influenced my decision to live car-free once I had the choice to do so.

I haven’t always been naturally inclined towards what might be called Mustachian lifestyle choices, but one thing that’s always been a priority for me has been living close to where I work. That made me something of an outlier in the US (even in dense, walkable Seattle most people I knew had cars), but I was perfectly content with that. When I was ready to leave Seattle and pondering my next move, one of my top criteria was that my next city had to be walkable or otherwise conducive to a car-free lifestyle. I first cast a glance around the US and didn’t find many places that seemed to fit the bill.

Rather than take it as a given that owning a particular item, or even living in a particular country, was non-negotiable, I decided to think outside those perceived constraints:

 What would happen if I resolved to find a location that suited my preferred lifestyle, instead of adjusting my lifestyle to fit into a particular location?

Most cities in Europe are extremely supportive of a car-free lifestyle, and since moving to Dublin, I haven’t given any thought to getting a car here. I walk everywhere 95% of the time, and take public transit otherwise (and that’s mostly just to and from the airport!). It’s such a natural fit for me that, until I listened to the excellent podcast from the ChooseFI gents, I had genuinely forgotten that so many people consider a car an essential possession.

It occurred to me that it’s a good example of how thinking just a little differently can align with FI principles in so many ways. In my case, being willing to eschew car ownership supports not only a form of minimalism, but also health, geo-arbitrage, participating in the sharing economy, concern for the environment, and just generally living in a way that supports my values. The fact that it’s saved me many thousands of dollars(/euros) over the years is really just icing on the cake. I’d choose to live this way regardless of the cost.

But, just for fun, let’s break down the theoretical savings, using the ChooseFI guys’ methodology:

Based on their assumption that the true annual cost of owning a 10 year old fuel efficient vehicle was $2,605, and using their example of compounding annually (calculator is from MoneyChimp) at an average return of 8% over 20 years, my decision will have made me more than $140,000 richer than if I’d owned even the most efficient and least silly car possible.

And if I’d somehow undergone a personality transplant and bought a brand new SUV, I’d be $420,000 poorer than I’m going to be.

There aren’t always clear wins when it comes to expat life and finances, but this seems like one of them. When we are willing to look outside the bounds of both conventional wisdom and geography, we can find ways to live that align with our goals, values, and beliefs. For me personally, I don’t foresee a time when I will want to live in a place where I’d need a car. Fortunately, there are so many exciting places around the world that aren’t car-dependent that I’m confident I’ll be able to find locations and ways to live that work for me.

Ultimately, that’s the goal of becoming location independent with intention, no matter one’s personal transportation or other lifestyle preferences. As millennials in particular, we don’t want to be tied down by rules we didn’t choose, or values we don’t subscribe to. And I see the amazing and inspiring diversity of the FI community, the minimalism movement, and the location independent/expat community as being a sumptuous array of experiments in lifestyle design. The more that we all think critically about our choices, and think for ourselves, the richer (in every sense of the word) all of our lives will be.

freedom is a cheap ryanair flight

Location independent vs. financially independent

I have two internet obsessions. One is the roaming, globe-trotting nomads of Instagram (some of my favourites are Divergent Travelers,  How Far From Home, Goats on the Road). I love gawking at their adventures and planning more of my own. Being free to explore the world has always been one of my main goals and passions. And I’ve never been satisfied with the idea of doing so in traditional “vacations”, the frequency and length of which being limited by virtue of being an employee. This yearning for freedom by way of being location independent seems fairly common amongst my fellow millennials.

However, my second obsession is far nerdier and perhaps less glamorous, at least on its face. It’s the world not of the location independent, but of the financially independent. A small (but growing), weird and wonderful corner of the internet where acronyms like FIRE (Financially Independent, Retire Early, of course) need no explanation, and heated discussions about savings rates and the 4% rule and low cost index funds abound. These amazing and dedicated individuals save early and save often, so they can be free to leave full-time employment and live life on their own terms. The “retire early” part of FIRE is something of a misnomer, as most people I follow stay very active and in many cases even in income-generating activities. The key is they’re free to do so, or not, as and when they like. And perhaps most importantly of all, they’re free to spend their most valuable resource, namely their time, as they see fit.

I find inspiration from both camps, but not always as much overlap. It makes sense. The people that are dedicated to achieving financial independence aren’t spending all their money gallivanting around the world. They’re steady on the grind, paying off their mortgages and accumulating wealth in their various countries’ tax-deferred savings vehicles. And the people who are most mobile might struggle to find consistent ways to save. But it’s left me wondering if there isn’t a third way.

I got clued into the financial independence concept later than I might have liked. In 2015 I first got hooked on minimalism and downsizing my personal possessions. From there, one thing lead to another, I devoured Mr. Money Mustache’s entire oeuvre, and decided to see where I might land if I were just a little bit more badass.

I was a good few years into my career so it was long past time. I was also living in the US where a lot of the relevant literature is from and tailored to. So it was easy to follow the formula others had laid out. Max 401k, max IRA, throw the rest into Vanguard index funds, rinse, repeat. And I had that routine pretty well down. Salaries are decent in much of the US, including Seattle, and living even moderately sensibly (I could hardly call myself frugal!) allowed for all of this to happen pretty painlessly.

There was one problem. I wasn’t happy living in the US and I had known for a long time that I wanted out. But could I walk away from a path that seemed to be all but guaranteed to lead to financial independence in a reasonable time frame? Fear of the unknown could’ve kept me stagnant, but I chose something different. Ultimately, money wasn’t and isn’t the most important thing, and I chose a new adventure here in Ireland instead, accepting the pay cut and higher taxes that came along with it. I knew I was taking a fork in the road to FI, but I did so with eyes open.

But now I’m living in Europe, travelling as much as I can on the weekends, and finally taking stock of how my two duelling obsessions might intersect. I don’t want to give up the freedom of movement, but I do want to feel like I’m moving towards my financial goals as well. I think it’s possible, even if it’s not easy.

I’m still exploring how best to optimise this particular fork in the road, and I’m open to the possibility of taking a few more unconventional turns along the way. A few things are working in my favour, that many others could avail of, if they chose to. As I see it, here are the secret (totally not secret) tips to buoy your financial confidence and embolden you to take your own adventurous fork in the road:

  1. Be debt free. Easier said than done? Perhaps. But if you’re not currently debt-free, make every effort you can to move in that direction. It gives me a lot of confidence to take (calculated, considered) risks, knowing that I have no fixed monthly debt payments to factor in. Essentially, if I can cover my monthly living expenses, and sock a little extra away, I won’t feel like I’ve moved backwards, at least. I can move around the world without any debt following me around, and it’s incredibly freeing.
  2. Keep your monthly expenses low. Again, it’s not rocket science. But when you know you can live comfortably on a relatively modest sum, you keep your options far more open. And when you’re more location independent, you can make choices to live in lower cost locations when you need or want to. But the first step towards making this work for you is being flexible. If you aren’t too picky about having the shiniest, fanciest stuff, and if you’re willing to do the harder, better things like walking instead of taking taxis, and cooking for yourself, you free yourself doubly. Firstly, and immediately, you stop wasting so much money right now. Secondly, and forever, you stop being dependent on paying other people to meet your basic needs. I have a lot more to say about this, but as a basic principle, it’s essential. It underpins the concept of being independent in every sense of the word, and makes you a better, more useful, more interesting person.
  3. Pay attention to taxes. People don’t like doing this, but they should suck it up and learn. If your money can keep growing tax-deferred while you are off taking a few adventurous detours, or if you can maintain a few longer-term tax strategies, like the oft-cited Roth IRA ladder, or carefully managing your tax residency status (more on this to come), you can make strides towards financial goals even in times of potentially reduced income. I’m still exploring the tax efficient options available in Europe, but as a tax person, it’s something that is always factored into my analysis, and I’d like to help others do the same. 
  4. Remember that money isn’t the most important thing. I love personal finance and financial independence bloggers, but if you read enough of them you risk tunnel vision. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t got it all figured out by a particular age or life milestone. Don’t measure your worth by your net worth. But do get educated and empowered, because making your money work for you is a great way to get to focus on the really important things.

I certainly don’t have it all figured out yet, and that’s OK. The more of us that are out there, exploring unique and unconventional paths, the better.

Purse packing, Prague edition

I went to Prague for the May Day bank holiday weekend. It’s a stunning city and I can’t wait to go back. Super affordable, really easy to get around, great food, chilled out people, amazing architecture and loads of charm. It was so much fun that I didn’t take any pictures of what I packed, but it was basically a slightly pared-down version of what I packed for Paris. Just my Longchamp bag with the essentials, and I didn’t even use all of what I brought, so clearly I can keep minimising my packing even further.

It’s nice knowing that the formula for packing for long weekends is now pretty firmly established as tote-bag-only. The more I practice it, the more comfortable I feel throwing my stuff together at the last minute, confident in the knowledge that I’ll have what I need and that will be enough. And I really love being able to happily check out of my Airbnb at any time, throw my bag over my shoulder, and freely roam the city in the hours before my flight. And then to easily hop on public transport to the airport without having to deal with a big, unwieldy suitcase. The fun of being able to scamper up and down the always-empty stairs at the airport, while all the wheelie bags wait on the crowded escalator, is another perk. That’s how I usually end up at the front of the queue at immigration when I get back to Dublin. And from there it’s straight onto the trusty Aircoach or Dublin Bus Airport Express, where I can tally up how much I’ve saved by travelling this way. If you just look at taxis to/from the airport, both in Dublin and in whatever city I’m travelling to, it’s over €100 per trip, easily.

For as long as I live in Europe, I plan to have a lot more weekends like this, so I’m pretty happy to have found a formula that works. Since it would be boring to post more pictures of my very basic packing, here are some pretty pictures of Prague. Pack light and be happy!