For another post on the frugal-licious series we take on of our favorite (albeit not very heathy) snacks: the Samosa!

As you may be aware, we try to follow a plant based whole foods lifestyle as much as possible (why? because your body will thank you now and when you are older). This recipe ain’t it, but we try to make it as healthy as possible by not using salt and oils.

What do you need?

  • 1 large potato finely diced (5-10mm cubes)
  • 1 large carrot finely diced (as above)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 lage Onion finely chopped
  • 1.5 cup of (frozen) peas
  • 1 table spoon of vegetable oil (optional, a bit of water also works fine)
  • 2-3 teaspoons of curry powder (or any spice mix that you want/prefer)
  • Salt/peper to tast (we actually don’t use any salt)
  • 100ml of vegetable stock (but you can also replace with water and up the spice mix a bit)
  • 1 package of 10 square phyllo-dough sheets (preferably with the least amount of ingredients and additives)

Heat the oil/water in a frying pan, add the onions and garlic, mix in the spices and fry until soft. Next, add the vegetables, seasoning and stir will until coated. Add the stock/water, cover and simmer for about 30 min until cooked and a bit mushy.

Next (and this is the easy route), open the packed of phyllo-dough and place on a large oven plate. Make sure that they, if they are just out of the freezer, are warmed up and flexible. Add as much of the mixture in the phyllo-dough as you can (but you are still able to close and seal the sides, see picture below). Put the plate into the oven and bake for about 15-20min at about 200 degrees Celsius (about 390-400F).

Samosa

sorry for the crappy resolution, we don’t have expensive phones with good cameras (go figure!).

Enjoy!

Oh, and you can also make “appelflappen” in exactly the same way. Only insert a mixture of about 3-4 large apples, a cup or two of raisins and table spoon of cinnamon. Make sure you first cook this mixture until tender in a small pan to make sure it shrinks less in the oven. Gives you a appelflap with much more filling.

 

June 2016 was a fairly uneventful month (one purchase), but a winner from a dividend perspective! We have been able get another record month with well over €700 in dividends. The total dividend for the first half of the year is almost €2600, nice! (if we may say so ourselves).

20160701 Monthly Dividend

Here is an overview of our dividend stocks (we currently have 40 different stocks):

20160701 Dividend Overview

We currently don’t own any Ahold, Unilever or Shell anymore, but will again in the future, see more details below.

If you group the above dividend stocks by sector, the distribution of our portfolio is as follows (based on market value at close of markets on June 30, 2016):

20160701 Dividend Stock by Sector

In light of the recent property purchase we had set automatic triggers for various dividend shares in our Dutch brokerage account, which surprisingly all triggered the Thursday before Brexit. We bought back a bunch of shares on Friday morning and sold them again just before the end of June. We still received all dividends for June and made another 10% or so in capital gains. Now we are waiting to see how much money we will have left after reno’s and other moving as sales expenses before we start buying new dividend stocks (now we are just waiting for another buying opportunity).

We bought 450 shares of AAR.Un to increase our REIT portion of the portfolio. We also received 4 shares of Prairiesky Royalty Ltd, as a payment from Canadian Natural Resources (about $100 in cash that was used to purchase the shares). Not sure what we will do with these shares, but will keep for now (low dividend yield and not a company in which we would invest ourselves, so will keep for capital gains for now).

 

It is really reassuring to see that the Cheesy Index keeps climbing! A very small correction was applied to the previous 4 months in 2016 as we reassessed our depreciating asset: the car. We found that the value was slightly overestimated by about €500, and corrected for that. Fortunately no major changes in the overall numbers (only May dropped by about 0.1%). We have now arrived at a Cheesy Index of 47.6%, which is a very promising development and is making us confident that we may be able to make the 50% target this year! The only thing that could affect this target are the final assessed values of the new (and existing) properties, which we have just bought a couple of days ago. More to follow next month!

The Cheesy Index up to June 2016 is as follows:

201606 CI

 

Despite the (for us) relatively low Savings Rate for June, it still was a vey good month at 52.4%. The main reason for this below average month is the fact that an anticipated expense claim from Mrs. CF’s work has not arrived yet (looking forward to next month, were we will have two!). However, if we look at the core expenses and incomes, it actually was a very good month, so we are happy campers!

201606 Savings Rates

Below you can find an overview of our expenses in percentage. As noted prior, transport is low for us as both Mr. and Mrs. CF have their commutes paid for (one company car and one public transportation card), this month we some expenses for gas. A small service is scheduled for next month. The “Kid” category was normal this month with both expenses and the refunds/benefits form the government.

201606 Expenses

Similar to last months, most of the leisure events for this month were “free” with the exception of a bachelor party in Utrecht and the following Wedding. Fortunately, costs were offset by the same of a few items on marktplaats.

How did you do this month??

Full of enthusiasm and motivation did I (Mr. CF) start with the Amber Tree Leave Running Challenge (see here). After about a month progress was pretty good (see here). But then disaster struck several times (ok, bit melodramatic, but it felt that way). Initially an old injury re-emerged. This took a couple of weeks to disappear, so you start again from scratch…..sigh.

Next, after we had switched to summer time, little Miss CF decided that she did not want to change to summer time. So since that day, she now (still!) goes to bed an hour later (however, she does start the day at the same time and thus sleeps an hour less and does not seem to be bothered by it). We have tried endlessly to get her to go to bed early, but to no avail.

Side note, she is also getting to the point that her afternoon sleep is not always required, so if she sleeps well during the day she can stretch is to about 21:00 before going  to bed.10km run

The problem is amplified because Mrs CF often comes home late from work (around 19:00-20:30). The main reason for this is that Mrs CF takes the morning “shift” with Miss CF before going to work, and I take the afternoon/evening “shift” with Miss CF after getting home from work (we have staggered our working hours to get around day-care limitations/traffic jams). Bottom line. I don’t have time in the evening anymore for workouts.

Add in the occasional cold, lack of motivation/tiredness and you have a very much failed running challenge. Motivation and discipline. It seems so easy, but it turns out to be very hard 😉

The good thing is that I was able to do regular workouts, but not enough to jack it up to run 10km in under 45min. At this time, I have had another 3 week interruption due to lack of time, preparations for moving, and many other things that are happening in one’s life.

Reality is that with the upcoming move, the running regime will still be under pressure. Likely to start again in full force in August….. may need to set another running challenge to keep going as I still want to run a PR on the 10km on of these days.

Moral of the story……if life is hard and throws you curveballs…..just keep going!

The title question can actually also be combined with “should I pay of my house faster?”, which is a very popular topic that is debated endlessly on many personal finance blogs. Being in the process of buying a house, we did some calculations to find out what amount of down payment (and/or accelerated mortgage payments) would provide us with the best Return On Investment (ROI) for our available cash.

As per usual, we need to identify a few boundary conditions and assumptions to be able to assess the various scenarios, which are as follows:

  • Assumed property value €200.000;
  • Fixed term annuity mortgage (albeit this assessment also applies to linear mortgages and variable mortgages, as the principle is the same);
  • Mortgage based on 5 year fixed rate, 30 year amortization period with the ING Bank;
  • ROI assumed at 3%, 4% and 5% for funds invested (in whatever assets that rock your boat);
  • The missed investment income or “Opportunity Costs” is defined as the lost ROI on the equity being locked in your property; and,
  • Appreciation of the property is not taken into consideration, as you would need to sell your house to materialize the profit.

Mortgage

Before we continue, a quick explanation on why we selected the ING Bank with regards to the mortgage provider for this assessment. The ING is the only banks that has 12 classes defined for its mortgage interest rates (most banks only have up to 3 classes). This means that your mortgage rate changes depending on what percentage (ratio) of your home value is mortgaged.

For example, if your current mortgage value is €150.000, and the value of the property is €200.000, your mortgage ratio is 75%, However, if you have just bought your house, with a down payment of say €10.000, your mortgage would be €190.000 and the mortgage ratio is 95%. As you can see in the table below, depending on what term your mortgage is defined, you are looking at about 0.35% difference in mortgage interest rate. That is considerable on a mortgage percentage around the 2% mark!

ING Interest Rates

The point here is that you benefit from paying off your mortgage faster (or putting a down payment on the property at purchase) by paying less interest as well as getting lower monthly payments. That is a double win!

Team CF Top Tip (with a hat tip to one of our readers), if you have been living in the same house for a few years, doing a new price evaluation may help you lower your interest costs/monthly payment as, due to the price increase the newly calculated mortgage ratio may drop you into a lower interest rate class.

The Assessment

As noted earlier, a smaller mortgage means lower monthly payments and less paid interest. But on the other hand you are also losing the opportunity to invest your money into assets that generate you (cash-flow) income or create capital gains (i.e. the “Opportunity Costs”). As you can imagine, there must be a sweet spot in the amount of equity in your home, but as you would expect, it depends on the interest rate paid and the assumed ROI.

In the figure below we have tried to show, for three assumed ROI’s, at what Mortgage Ratio your will find the tipping point between benefitting from paying off your mortgage faster or better invest into assets (stock, bonds, ETF’s, rental property, etc.).

Interest vs Opportunity Cost

So how should you interpret this graph?

The orange, green and red lines indicate the theoretical ROI (being 3%, 4% and 5% respectively) on the funds that are “locked” into your home (i.e. the “Opportunity Costs”). For example, if you have a Mortgage ratio of 90%, 10% of the property (in this case €20.000), could have been generating income. At 5% ROI this would have been €1.000 a year.

The blue line is showing the reduction in the amount of interest  (expenses) you are paying, on a yearly basis for this scenario and the ING interest rates shown above. As you can see this is not a linear line, which is caused due to the reduced interest rates you get for owing an increasingly larger portion of your house.

At the tipping points (as shown at ~44%, ~78% and ~90% for the 3%, 4% and 5% Opportunity Costs options respectively) the return you make on your investments become larger than the reduced (or saved) interest costs. Beyond these points, you are better off investing the funds than using them to pay off your mortgage faster. Another benefit is that you maintain the mortgage interest tax deduction (aka “Hypotheekrenteaftrek”) as large as possible for as long as possible.

What Does This Mean In Reality of You?

This completely depends on your situation, firstly you would need to know (or at least assume) an ROI that is applicable to your assets. Next, check your mortgage interest rates and classes to see how additional down payments affect your monthly payments (or reduction in interest).

The next step is just doing the math, depending on the results you can start to evaluate your options. For some of you it might be worth paying down the house, for others it may mean that you should start to divert as much cash as you can towards investments/assets.

RE 09

What Does This Mean In Reality of Us?

Considering our current portfolio is generating about 4% per year (after taxes/inflation), and we still can decide what to do with our available cash, it seems most logical to put the available cash into the mortgage (which currently sits at 102%). Simply because the reduction in interest expenses at this stage is far larger than the potential income from the funds when invested (we would need a ROI of about 27% on the available cash to compensate the increased interest expenses…). Theoretically, when we get to about 85-75% of our mortgage, we should really start diverting every available € towards investments rather than putting it into our house.

In reality however, we would continuously reducing our mortgage amount by our monthly payments. Based on our preferences and the shown interest rate drops per mortgage ratio class, we will aim to initially reduce our mortgage ratio to 95%. After that, as it takes time and considerable amounts of cash to drop to the next (lower) mortgage ratio class. So it is likely better to invest in the means time, try to make some dividends and capital gains, and cash at a point where we would be able to drop a large cash amount into the mortgage to force the amount into the next interest rate class (which is generating the largest impact on cash flow and interest expenses).

Another point of consideration here is that the property we are buying is a four-plex, of which we will use the largest unit for us and the other 3 units will be rented out. This means that every € that we put into the mortgage is factually an investment, as it reduces the mortgage cost and thus increases the cash flow and profit on the property.

May was a moderately good month in terms of dividend (but with so little history, it really is hard to tell). We kept adding shares with the available cash, but we are running out of the original cash available from the account switch. Each month the Dividend is a bit of a surprise due to the ex-dividend dates of the new shares (and existing shares if we bought extra) that we don’t always keep track of carefully.

20160601 Monthly Dividend

Here is an overview of our dividend stocks (we currently have 40 42 different stocks):

20160601 Dividend Overview

If you group the above dividend stocks by sector, the distribution of our portfolio is as follows (based on market value at close of markets on May 31, 2016):

20160601 Dividend Stock by Sector

Purchases of the month of May include AAR.UN, GS, CIX, EMA, TCL.A and BCE. Shares were bought as new positions and averaging down on existing ones or buy extra shares to keep the DRIP’s optimal (i.e. buy as many shares as possible per dividend payment).

We also sold MRD (Melcor Developments), a real estate company focussing on building construction. It had lowered dividend payments and was not a good fit with the portfolio.

And the Cheesy Index keeps on going, amazing us to say the least (stock markets have been bouncing a bit, especially in the early part of the year). A small correction was applied to the previous numbers in 2016 as we found a calculation error in the currency conversion. Fortunately no major changes. With the correct numbers we have arrived at a Cheesy Index of 47%. Seems that we may be able to make the 50% target this year.

The Cheesy Index up to May 2016 is as follows:

201605 CI

Finally, we also were able to produce the Cheesy Index since inception in about 2006, when our financial journey started (aka, we started working). This is not to be confused with starting with our FI journey, as we did not see the light until about 2014. For the graph see Cheesy Index.

 

We have a winner! Due to the payment of the Mr. CF’s “holiday allowance” (aka vakantiegeld), we had a very high income this month and with slightly lower than normal expenses we ended up with a Savings Rate of almost 65%! This feels really good.

201605 Savings Rates

Below you can find an overview of our expenses in percentage. As noted prior, transport is low for us as both Mr. and Mrs. CF have their commutes paid for (one company car and one public transportation card), and this month we had no expenses at all actually (next month will be much higher due to the need to get gas and an oil change). The “Kid” category was normal this month with both expenses and the refunds/benefits form the government. The other category is also pretty low as we did not do many cash purchases and were even able to sell some stuff we no longer need on Marktplaats (the Dutch version of “craigslist”, “kijiji” or equivalents in your country).

201605 Expenses

Similar to last month, all leisure events for this month were (virtually) “free”. There were a couple of minor costs associated with parking and ice-cream, but nothing major. We did a lot of animal/farm related outings this month, think Miss CF kind of knows her way around cows, pigs, sheep and horses for now.

How did you do this month??

In order to become financially independent you have to be frugal to some degree (otherwise you cannot live below your means and invest the associated savings). You furthermore need to step outside your comfort zone and invest all your savings into various assets. This always involves risk, but these generally decrease the longer you keeps these assets. The key thing here is risk awareness, assessment and management, by doing research into the assets of your choice you can reduce the risk and increase profit. Hereby obtaining financial independence over time and maintaining it in the long run.

Another  very big portion of the strategy to become and maintain financial independence is to be, and stay, as healthy as you possibly can. Healthcare is expensive, and is poised to become even more expensive in the future (unfortunately due to our own doing as we generally live unhealthy lives as a species). You can read more about healthcare costs in the original post here.

If  you look at the available science to date (meta studies are great for this), it becomes pretty obvious that the most healthy lifestyle is a whole food plant-based lifestyle. So this is what we strive to eat for the majority of our meals, but this only works if you have some good recipes! In the previous post we reviewed the lentil loaf, in this post we want to present you another good one: The African Stew.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pints / 1.4 litres vegetable stock
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 lb / 450g sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 x 400g chick peas
  • 6 oz / 170g millet
  • Approximately 1 tbsp soya sauce
  • 4 oz / 115g peanut butter
  • 3 oz / 85g chopped kale
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Method

  1. Heat a large saucepan and add 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable stock. Add garlic and onion and saute until soft.
  2. Add the rest of the stock, sweet potatoes, chick peas, millet and a drop or two of soy sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove some of the stew liquid from the saucepan, blend with peanut butter and return to the saucepan.
  4. Add the kale and cook for 5 min. Season to taste with lemon juice and soya sauce, adding a little at a time.

The above recipe is shamelessly stolen from this website.

A couple of additional comments to make sure you maximize the health effect of the meal:

  • limit salt (or avoid at all if your taste buds have gotten used to a whole food plant-based lifestyle)
  • avoid lemon juice with sulfite containing preservative (ideally get a lemon and just squeeze)
  • cook your chick peas from scratch if you can, but if you want to use a can buy the ones without preservatives and/or salt
  • Get peanut butter made solely of peanuts (i.e. no added sugar, fractioned oils or any other crap you often find in this stuff)

And it looks something like this:

African-Yam-Stew

Credits for this picture to go http://vegan-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/African-Yam-Stew.jpg