2020: a wrap-up

2020 icon

As the festive season is upon us, one can get a bit melancholic and reflect upon the past year. I think it is fair to say that 2020 has been the most bizarre year in a lot of people’s lives. Confined to our homes for about three quarters of the year, 2020 will for a lot of people be a synonym to a year of misery. The start 2021 looks to continue in the same vein. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves: a look back on what 2020 brought for Fruits of Frugality.

Professionally

As from the start of the year I launched into a new role at my client’s side. For those non-frequent readers: I work as an IT Consultant in a big Belgian bank. I have been doing so for about 3 years now, and this year they gave me a bit more responsibility to keep me aboard. Now responsible for the delivery of my team, I can say it certainly started out tough. A lot of sweat, new people to learn how to collaborate with and a lot of headaches. Gradually though, I eased more into the new role and now I am doing it a lot more comfortably.

I am one of the lucky people who has been able to work from home as of around April, if my memory serves me correctly. That has been a blessing. Although I do miss some of the more informal chatting with colleagues, it does not weigh up against the 10-hour commute I do each working week. I get to sleep more, and I get to have lunch breaks with my girlfriend, which certainly during the summer when we could relax outside was very nice.

We’ll have to see what next year brings. In the back of my mind I know that sooner or later I want to change to another environment, but honestly, I am quite comfortable now. At one point next year I know my motivation will drop, and then let’s see what happens!

Our own set of bricks

The biggest change this year (not taking into account the whole Covid-situation) has been the house! It was a long time coming. My girlfriend & I were planning to “slowly start scanning the market around the summer to buy something”. Confined to the space of our own small apartment in April, “let’s just try to get a grip on the prices” quickly turned into daily 10 time refreshing of the websites we looked on. On paper, it was a horrible time to start looking. After the lockdown eased for the first time, a huge wave of buyers flooded a market and sellers grinned frantically. Somewhere in that flood, my girlfriend and I were looking for something nice that met our demand.

Our checklist was more or less this:

  • In the area of Antwerp (preferably, close to a train station).
  • With a garden
    • Not something huge of course, as it is a very urban area. However, something a bit bigger than just a few square meters. Something where you actually have some grass and could potentially put some trees in.
    • South-oriented
      • This was more a demand from the girlfriend, but I am glad we found something though. Already looking forward to a summer barbeque!
  • At least two bedrooms
  • A limited amount of renovation could happen, but nothing too structural (no knocking out walls, placing electricity,…)
  • Ideally, somewhere where we can park our car easily (for those not familiar with Antwerp, this can be a challenge!)
  • Budget capped at around 380.000 euro’s.

We looked, called, visited and got frustrated. The market was crazy. Houses at a high price would be sold without a visit even taking place, beating the demand price by 10% or more. One fine morning, the girlfriend reached me her phone and told me to look. I saw a house, well renovated, spacious, with a small garden in a very calm neighborhood but on walking distance from the station. Parking in front of the house was easy. The price was reasonable. It had been posted online two hours earlier.

We immediately tried to contact the agency selling the house. One hour later we got a call, saying we were the latest visitors that would be allowed because all the other slots were already filled up. In such a short time! We sighed. These days, getting a spot at the end of the visiting days usually meant getting a phone call two days before saying it was too late.

I suppose you have an idea on where this is going. I am now writing this post from the DIY-constructed desk in the living room of that specific house. We’ve been living here now for about 4 months and are very, very happy with our decision. More space for these homeworking times has been a blessing, the neighborhood is amazing, and we are in walking distance from shops, public transport and so on. There are still benefits we haven’t fully managed to experience to the fullest. It was an amazing week in September when we moved in, hitting almost 30 degrees, but unfortunately, we couldn’t profit to the fullest in our garden as we were too busy painting! So we’re certainly looking forward to enjoying our summer in a few months there.

The same goes for the greenhouse (for which my girlfriend is even more excited than I am). Looking forward to serving dinners with some nice home-grown tomatoes! As from the summer, the solar panels which were on the house will start kicking in.

As to the works we did ourselves:

  • A lot of painting
  • Installing a laminate floor in 4 of our rooms
    • …which was bought for a very interesting price on an auction, to which I’ve dedicated a special article
  • Installing a new floor on the ground level in two rooms

So all in all, that is quite modest. There are some improvements that we’ll do in the next months, but they are certainly not urgent.

So yes, I’m looking forward to many, many more years in this house!

The start of Fruits Of Frugality

This year was also the year I started to learn about the FIRE movement. It caught my interest rapidly, and I’ve been fortunate to learn from a lot of others on this path on the internet. Already interesting in investing for quite some time before learning about the movement, the frugal side of the story perhaps was even more interesting for me. Ultimately, they lead me to the decision to start this website. I first built up a bit of a catalog of articles and since recently, I have actually put it online (with the support, as always, from my girlfriend). I have plenty of things I want to write and talk about, so please don’t hesitate to share your input!

The road to financial independence: status

One thing I haven’t talked too much about up until now is to where I am in achieving the goal of financial independence. I am planning to go into more detail in the coming months, but I can assure you: I still have a long, long way to go! Let’s see how far we can progress in 2021. Wishing you all a safe and spending end of year. See you next year!

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