After a successful BENL FIRE Meetup in Leuven Belgium, we already started planning for the next one! We (Amber Tree Leaves and us) decided to visit Utrecht once again. So we hooked up with a great venue and secured our spot in June. It’s time for a second BENL FIRE Meetup – Utrecht Edition! This will be our 6th FIRE meetup already.

BENL FIRE Meetup – Utrecht Edition!

Utrecht is a great place with a very fun City Centre. If you want to join, and/or are coming from afar, it’s probably worth to make it into a long weekend and explore the city. On that note, we secured the venue for Saturday June 30, 2018, but we still have the option to make it into a weekend event too. Depends on your enthusiasm and the number of registration we receive. The venue has a maximum capacity of 50 people!

We already send out an email on last Thursday to the peeps on our distribution list. We now already have more than 20 confirmations to date! It’s just great to see that these meetups are appreciated and that people really like to come. Makes it worth it for us to continue these events 🙂

BENL FIRE Meetup - Utrecht Edition!

BENL FIRE Meetup – Utrecht Edition!

As per “usual”, the following applies:

  • You are free to come and go as you please;
  • The venue is easy to reach with both public transport and car;
  • The costs will depend on the number of people attending, but is usually in the order of €10-15/day (including drinks and snacks but excluding lunch/dinner);
  • It is mandatory to have a good time 🙂

What Are We planning?

The general program for Saturday looks something like this:

  • 10:00 – 12:00: Warm welcome, informal chats and perhaps some financial speed dating again;
  • 12:00 – 14:00: Brown Bag lunch at the venue (or elsewhere if you prefer)
  • 14:00 – 18:00: Presentations and discussions;
  • 18:00 – 19:00: Dinner at the venue (we can order in food or bring some ourselves to heat up on the kitchen); and,
  • 19:00 – 21:30: Beers and other drinks + more informal chats.

As it looks now, we will have a presentation about crowd-funding. However, there is room for one to two more presentations on Saturday! What would you like see or would you like to present? Let us know!

So, Do YOU Want To Join?

If the answer is YES, please drop us or Amber Tree Leaves a comment/email (info @ “ourblogname”.nl) and we will add you to the (ever growing) distribution list. Hope to see you all in Utrecht!

BENL FIRE Meetups - Financial Fun Since 2016

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Based on this already “old” post by Early Retirement Extreme (ERE), Jacob was able to live off $5.000-7.000 per year, as late as 2011. For argument sake, let’s assume that this $7.000 annual spending in 2011 is now $7.714 in today’s money (2018). This would be about €6.250/year (current exchange rate ~$1.233/€), can you survive on this amount in the Netherlands? How low can you go? In the Netherlands at least!

How low can you go?

We have done earlier assessments about how much money we would need in various scenarios for FIRE. I’ve plans to revisit this post and apply the 2018 taxes. But it also got me thinking, how low can you go? Let’s have a look!

How Low Can You Go? FIRE Limbo

How Low Can You Go?
FIRE Limbo!

Some boundary conditions to consider:

  • No insurances other than mandatory ones (e.g. health insurance);
  • Bare bones living, no fluff/holidays, but  some leisure is included;
  • No government benefits included;
  • You still need to be able to stay healthy (e.g. eat/sleep well);
  • Let’s assume you are FIRE and have no need for a job (i.e. no commute, limited clothing costs, etc.); and,
  • It has to be legal!


The idea is to live a cheaply as possible, so we will look at extremes here.

How Low Can You Go? Living in a Garage

How Low Can You Go?
Living in a Garage?

Options that I found/could think of are:

  • Camping out in the “wild” (read public lands or forests) = Free, but very much illegal in the Netherlands. You would still need a tent too!
  • Live in your office = Free, but probably illegal and not applicable as we assume you are FIRE.
  • You could also live in a box truck  = Free and illegal. However, buying the APK approved truck (i.e. road legal) would be rather expensive around here, probably not really an option.
  • Garage box (€35/month). You probably need some funds (or do dumpster diving) to make it “habitable” and a gym membership to be able to shower (€25/month). Total costs about €60/month. Also illegal!
  • Room for rent (€50/month). The lowest I could find was really cheap, but you had to help with choirs around the house. Let’s go with this one (not discounting that you might be able to live somewhere for free if  you work on say a farm).

Since we are law abiding and we want to do as little as possible (i.e. limited work), the yearly expenses for living are about €600 (including utilities!).

A more reasonable/realistic number, if you want to have your own “private” room is about €250/month including utilities (€3.000/year). But again, this is not really barebones, eh?

Food and Groceries

Based on our own grocery expenses (with 3 people, about €350/month), you should be able to easily live off €116 per month. Let’s assume you are good at cooking and very efficient. You also don’t want to die from malnutrition, so let’s assume  you can live off about €3/day (€90/month). This include toiletries as well.

Total costs per year: €1.080

How Low Can You Go? Groceries

How Low Can You Go? Groceries

Side note: according to the NIBUD (a budgeting site from the Netherlands) I’m grossly underestimating. They recon you need €5-6/day as a minimum per adult person. However, despite the NIBUD stating our expense are “not possible”, we managed to do this already for a few years in a row.  I’ll take their numbers with a grain of salt.


In the Netherlands you are required to insure yourself, its mandatory by law. The lowest rates I could find, based on an adult, was €75/month (no dental/highest deductible/basic coverage). Assuming nothing bad happens and you are healthy and brush you teeth, the total yearly expense are €900.


We are in the Netherlands, so you will have a bike! Depending on how much you use it, let’s include €50/year in costs related to wear and tear. There might be things you need to do that are not within cycling distance. For this let’s assume €250 in transport related costs for public transport or occasional car rental for a day.

Total yearly expenses: €300

How Low Can You Go? The Bicycle

How Low Can You Go?
The Bicycle


We said bare bones with no fluff/holidays at the beginning. In short, most leisure activities are things like reading books, going for a hike or cycle ride, volunteering & visiting free activities around town. However, it’s not about becoming a hermit, so let’s include some minor expenses for the occasional leisure event.

Total yearly expenses: €200

Other Costs

Considering life has become increasingly digital at the moment, you will need access to internet (for banking, health insurance, taxes, etc.). Some access can be free at the library, but let’s assume you cannot always time things. Let’s also include mobile phone (sim only, no data) and banking fees with this. Total costs per year €125.

You also need cloths, thrift stores are great for this obviously, but they may not always have what you need. Since you have time on your hands, you already repair some of your own cloths. Total expense for the year €150 (I’m generous here).

I’ve probably forgot a few items, so let’s include another €225 for unforeseen expenses.

Total other costs sum up to a total of €500 per year


The grand total of the expense noted above is €3.580. That is really low! It’s also very much barebones, not easy and you are really just “surviving” with the occasional exceptions. If something happens the expenses will quickly rise. For example, if you are taken to hospital, your deductible of up to €885 will be added to your expenses. If your bike breaks, that’s likely another €50-100 (for a used cheap bike). Perhaps you need glasses? You see where I’m going with this. The number above does not include for any buffer! Nor does it include replacement costs. Perhaps a value in the order of €5.000 is more reasonable (add in the “private” room and you are at €7.400).

For reference purposes; what’s poverty level in the Netherlands? It’s about €1.030/month for a single adult (2016 numbers). This is a total of €12.360 per year. Welfare support at the moment, for a single adults over 21 year of age, is €992,12/month (€11.905,44 per year). There are all after taxes.

The point I’m trying to make is that it is possible to survive in the Netherlands with very little money. How much you will enjoy life, and how comfortable it is, is a different thing. It seems that the numbers by Jacob are achievable, even in the Netherlands, but not easy to manage. Then again, we are talking Early Retirement Extreme here!





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We just had a great weekend again with a lot of fun people. There was talk about money, dividends, permaculture and ethics, all while enjoying some good Belgian Beer! We also did a interesting (but rather chilly) city tour, courtesy of Amber Tree Leaves. Here is a (visual) Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap!

Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap

The meetup was split over two days at two different locations in the city. Amber Tree Leaves really did a great job in finding these venues!

Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap

Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap

Day 1: Dividend Growth Investing

On the first day we gathered at a local chapel (Augustinessenklooster: Romaanse Poort), which had one of the most spectacular conference rooms I’ve ever been in. This was the perfect setting for the Dividend Growth Investing (DGI) presentation. I did a two hour presentation about DGI. The first hour focussed on the basis of DGI investing. The second hour I talked more about the strategy, risks and problem with taxation we face here in Europe. There were some interesting discussions too!

For those that are interested, you can download the presentation here: Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap: DGI Investing Presentation

If you are wondering about the reason for the selection of the “beautiful” purple-ish presentation template, the theme was called “Dividend”. Enough said 🙂

Day 2: City Tour

On day two we did a city tour through the center of Leuven. The start was on the main square of the city, at the old city hall and the main cathedral. We went through the city via the local university and visited a local small market squares (with lots of bars!). Next, walked to the “groot begijnhof”, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ultimately we looped back toward the train station, from which we went to the afternoon venue.

We took a couple of pictures of the tour, which are shown below. The first one is a stich of several photos, so it’s a bit distorted.

Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap - 01

Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap:
Main square with city hall and cathedral

Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap - 03

Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap: inside the “Groot Begijnhof”

The above housing is now also used for students of the local university.

Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap - 02

Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap: “Groot Begijnhof” with local stream

Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap - 04

Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap: Local Church within the “Groot Begijnhof”

The city of Leuven is really a pretty and a lot of fun to visit! It’s high recommended to give it a try in you are in the area.

Day 2: Permaculture and Ethics

After the pretty but cold city tour we went for lunch and afterwards to a local hostel to do two more presentations. The first presentation was about ethics and how do deal with ethics and investing. It was a great session that was presented by Geld-is-tijd. A lively discussion followed.

After a short break session with coffee and delicious cake, the next presentation was about permaculture. If you like engineering, you have to love permaculture! It’s the most efficient way to use nature to your advantage and have maximum yield (for organic produce) and very little work. The sloths in us love this! However, we don’t have the right yard just yet, something we would like to work on in the future.

Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap - Permaculture Presentation

Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap – Permaculture Presentation

For those interested in a basic Permaculture 101, you can download the presentation here: Leuven FIRE Meetup Recap: Permaculture

Next Meetup?

We are already making plans for a next meetup, this time we will visit Utrecht again. The plan is to do the meetup either the last weekend of June of the first weekend of July. Considering that “yours truly” will be travelling for a while, we decided to push back the next meetup until after we are back.

We are planning on a one day event, but if there is demand, we might stretch is into a two day event again! So if you want to join, please let us know and we will put you on the distribution list. If you have topics that you would like see discussed, let us know too! We still have some time to prepare.


Hope to see you next time!


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This is your final call for Leuven! If you still want to attend the next BENL FIRE meetup, let us know as soon as possible. We are currently having about 25-30 people confirmed for each day, so there are tons of people to chat with! No investing/frugal experience required, just the right attitude 😉

Final Call For Leuven!

For more details on what to expect, do go check this post. It contains tons of good references to previous encounters of the FIRE kind. However, this really is your last chance to register for the BENL FIRE meetup this coming weekend in the beautiful city of Leuven in Belgium! Don’t miss it 🙂

Final Call For Leuven!

Final Call For Leuven!

What Are We Planning?

The program for this weekend will look like this:

Saturday February 24, 2018:

  • 12:30 – 14:00: Warm welcome and informal chats;
  • 14:00 – 18:00: Presentations and discussions regarding Dividend Growth Investing (by yours truly)
  • 18:00 – 20:00: Dinner (local restaurant); and,
  • 20:00 – ??:??: Belgian BEER and other drinks + more informal chats.

Sunday February 25, 2018:

How Much Is It?

You can attend either Saturday, Sunday or both days. Fees to cover various expenses are as follows:

  • Saturday: €8,-
  • Sunday: €12,-
  • Whole weekend: €20,-

Included in the fees are accommodation expenses, snacks and drinks for during the day. You are responsible for your own breakfast, lunches and dinner (as applicable).

Do you want to join?

Please drop us or Amber Tree Leaves a comment/email (info @ “ourblogname”.nl) and we will add you to the (ever growing) distribution list!


Hope to see you this weekend!

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As noted in a post last year, we dipped our toes into the world of cryptocurrencies. Why on earth did we do that? Perhaps a slight case of fear of missing out (FOMO), but also the belief that the technology (and perhaps some of the coins) will survive (and thrive?). It was also a lot of fun with the massive volatility. Where are we today?

Combicoin Update

The way we got into cryptocurrencies is via de Combicoin. I can hear you think, what was that Combicoin again? It’s a token that is developed by a few of our fellow countrymen that derives it’s value from the top 30 cryptocurrencies. It’s kind of a crypto ETF. We liked that idea of a diversified token so we bought a few back in late November of 2017 (at about $15.3 after fees).

Combicoin Update - February 19 Overview

Combicoin Update – February 19 Overview

The problem with this token is that the company that issued it is new and is still developing the software to trade the token. On top of that, the company wants to stay out the of crosshairs of the government (and financial regulatory bodies). So they temporarily stopped the sale of the coin.

However, they did stick to their promise that you would be able to sell the coin (if you’d already bought some). Ok, it was a bit later than late January, but at least for existing token holders you now have the opportunity to cash in. So this is what we have done. Or at least are still trying to do. Let me explain.

Selling Process

When we bought the Combicoin, we could do so without the need to register for an exchange account (i.e. Coinbase, Kraken, Binance, etc.). Which was nice & easy, because most exchanges had issues with the large volume of traffic and transactions. But when we got the news we could sell, it appeared to be a rather cumbersome and complicated process (that being said, Triaconta have done a good job in describing the process). We are still trying to complete the transaction, now already a week in progress!

Because we only had tokens in our wallet, we could not send them to Combicoin to sell. You have to pay network transaction fees for this. So we first needed to open an exchange account, this took a couple of days to organize and get approved for trades. Next we bought ETH (Ethereum) for about €20 and transferred to our online wallet that contains the combicoins (it’s a myetherwallet).

CombiCoin Update - Ethereum

CombiCoin Update – Ethereum

Once we received the ETH in the online wallet, we could finally send the Combicoins to Triaconta for them to sell. This was completed last Friday (including the sale of the Combicoin themselves). However, we won’t get money back! No, we will get more ETH……. We should get his deposited into the online wallet today, next it has to be transferred to our account at Kraken. From here we have to sell the ETH for Euros. These would then need to be transferred to our bank account in the Netherlands. Damn! That’s a lot of effort to sell a few tokens!

Crypto Profits

If everything goes well, and the value of ETH stays stable, we should end up with a net profit of around €900-ish €1.032 (UPDATE 20-02-2018: all ETH is sold and € are in the account!). Not bad on a initial €1.000 investment in just 2,5 months. That being said, the costs for trading and investing in Combicoins are not cheap. The fee to purchase the Combicoins was 5%, the associated sale was another 3.5%. That’s quite substantial.

Then there are the fees for the network transfers from myetherwallet to TriaConta, those are not too bad. But the relative fees for small transactions from Kraken to our myetherwallet was huge (about 0.005 ETH or €3.75 at time of writing). In the grant scheme of things, to total transaction fees will be around €100 from start to finish, or 10% of our invested amount.

I’m still debating what to do with the ETH, perhaps I will sell about €1.100 worth (so we make 10% return on our initial investment). With the remainder I could play around a bit and see if I can use the volatility to my advantage (yes, that’s timing the market and I suck at that!). Or I can just cash in on everything and take a 10 week holiday, well fund a small portion of it anyways. Perhaps I should to do the sensible thing….

Crypto Thoughts

I still like the concept of the crypto ETF that is called the Combicoin. We might get back into it once they get all their ducks in a row and the crypto market matures.

However, the crypto market seems to be moving as a whole. Yes, there are varying degrees of profits/losses per coin, but they generally move in the same direction at the same time. This makes paying for a crypto ETF a bit of a waste. You might as well just buy some of the underlying cryptocurrencies yourself, would probably be cheaper! It would also be much faster to buy and sell, at least at this time.


How are your crypto investments doing? What’s your plan?

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We have been busy making some updates and modifications to the underlying calculations (and numbers) for the Cheesy Index, which will apply as per this January 2018 Cheesy Index. There were some significant changes implemented. This caused our target wealth number to change, albeit not too much. What did we do and what changed?

January 2018 Cheesy Index

We closed out 2017 with an incredible increase in the Cheesy Index, we really could not have hoped for anything better. Based on last years target numbers we got to 69%. But that was so last year! 😉

Here are the latest stats:

January 2018 Cheesy Index

January 2018 Cheesy Index


Huh, hold on, you went backward by about 2.1%. Cheesy, that’s the wrong direction! Yes, it is, let me explain.

Cheesy Index Updates

As time goes by, things change. What changed? Well……

  • Taxes!
  • Future Housing situation
  • Family loan write off


A new year and we got new wealth taxes (again). I’ll do a more detailed post on this in the future, but it boils down that if you have less wealth than about €200.000 per person, you are better off. If you are worth more, not so much. Albeit the changes are not very drastic (fortunately), it’s not helping either.

Future Housing Situation

Once we are FIRE (and before FIRE obviously) we still need a place to live. As Mrs. CF already hinted on in this post, she’s not moving to Thailand (or somewhere else warm, sunny and cheap). The current plan is therefore to move out of our current home in 2020-2021, which we will split and rent out (yay, extra rental income!).

However, we are planning to move into one of our own rentals that is closer to family. Because this property is paid off, we suddenly will have more equity that is not doing much, but our expenses will also drop. The end result is a slight increase in wealth required to FIRE.

The plan is however to get a mortgage on this property and use that money to invest into other real estate (or the stockmarket if it has a major correction in the mean time). Borrowing at say 1.5-2% and reinvesting in something that provides about 6-7% seems logical to us.

Family Loan Write Off

To be blunt, we wrote off about €9.600. Ouch! This is an (very) old loan that Mrs. CF gave to her sister. She used it to buy a car to get to work. She started to pay off this loan but stopped once she moved to Africa for volunteer work. Instead of paying back the loan when selling her car, she used it to pay for the volunteer work (amongst others, pissing off Mrs. CF in the process).

Fast forward a few years, she is now a mom of two, no job, partner with a “average salary”. They live fairly frugal, but have no way to pay of this loan right now. We stopped charging interest a few years back already (problem just got worse). There is still the intent to pay it back, but Mrs CF does not want to push the matter at this time. She might once her sister start working again when the kids both go to school.

In short, we have taken the loan value off our balance sheet. We might still get the money, but it will be a bonus if/when we do. It does not impact our existing investments, but just dropped the “non-income” assets a bit. But it obviously will impact our future possible investments/cash-flow, since we have less to invest.

Moral of the story, never loan money to family! (Almost) always a royal pain in the @$$. If you do, make up a formal contract and keep your relatives responsible. Cheesy top tip.

Cheesy Index Forecast

So, with the above changes, and me voluntary becoming unemployed as of May 1, there will be more changes. Oh, and don’t forget the 10 week road trip that is coming up! The major impact is the speed to get to FIRE. Instead of taking about 3-4 years, it will likely now be about 6 (getting us to late 2023, subject to market developments). This is assuming I don’t make any money at all from potential side hustles.

In case you are wondering why the Cheesy Index chart above says a target of 72.5% for 2018 and the one below 70.9% for 2018, we like to aim high 😉

This is the new forecast:

Cheesy Index Forecast 2018-2025

Cheesy Index Forecast 2018-2025

Taking into consideration the new wealth target, we were not at 69% by the end of last year, but actually “only” 67.4%. Despite the major write off, we actually only dropped 0.5% month over month. There is probably another drop coming in February, due to the recent market corrections. Such is life, but we just keep going!



How about you? Did you go forwards or backwards?



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A lot happed in the month of January. As noted in last months update, we decided to rebalance the dividend portfolio and remove shares that no longer fitter the portfolio and the dividend growth strategy.  Here is the January 2018 Dividend Update.

January 2018 Dividend Update

What’s changed in January on the dividend front? The following shares disappeared from the portfolio:

  • POT (Potash) & AGU (Agrium): these merged and are now Nutrien LTD (NTR). The shares of  both companies where exchanged for NTR shares, and plummeted next…… Not really creating any shareholder value at this point. To maintain exposure to this basic materials sector we will keep the shares for now. We are also curious to see how the dividends will develop.
  • WJA (WestJet – Airlines): this was not really a good growth stock (sensitive to the economic cycles) and we were able to sell with a profit, so we did.
  • LIQ (Liquor stores): another non dividend growth stock (heck, it cut dividend a couple years back). One of our “chasing yield” stocks from when we started. Now that the share price had recovered, it was time to sell and reinvest the profits.

We also made some new Purchases:

  • REI.UN (RioCan): not really a “dividend growth stock” but it was battered recently due to the rising interest rates. It made for an interesting buy. It’s a REIT and a monthly dividend payer. With the Canadian REIT’s there are very few dividend growth stocks. However, due to their relatively high yield and monthly DRIP’s, they still are in interesting dividend “growth” investment. Plus, we want to have some real estate exposure and diversification too.
  • We also increased our existing positions with new share purchases of CU, H and FTS (all utilities).

We now do have some cash that we need to deploy and are evaluating this awesome list to see which positions we need to grow or start.

Oh, don’t forget to check out the community updates at the Dividend Diplomats and Easy Dividend!

January Dividends

All the dividend deposits received into the bank accounts (and correct for exchange rates) sum up to a total dividend income of about €522,5. This is a decrease of 4.1% compared to last year. However, this is all caused by a significant exchange rate fluctuation compared to a year ago. In Canadian dollars the dividend actually grew by 4% from a year ago. See, it’s still dividend GROWTH investing 🙂

The stats for last month:

January 2018 Dividend Update - Dividend Income

January 2018 Dividend Update – Dividend Income

The graph below is showing the yearly dividend totals for 2015, 2016, 2017 and the YTD for 2018. We thus received €522,50 in dividends in 2018.

January 2018 Dividend Update - Yearly Dividend

January 2018 Dividend Update – Yearly Dividend

Dividend Stock Overview

Our dividend portfolio now contains 37 companies with a total of 9.044 shares. The ones with a keen eye among you will see NTR noted twice in this overview, this is due to the merger of POT and AGU (we each had one of these in our RRSP accounts). Since I’m lazy (and have the spreadsheets setup to provided an overview of both accounts individually), this probably won’t change albeit we would like to sell on of the two positions.

The portfolio looks like this:

January 2018 Dividend Update - Dividend Overview

January 2018 Dividend Update – Dividend Overview

Dividend Sector Breakdown

When you breakdown the previously shown dividend stock overview by sector, it looks as follows:


January 2018 Dividend Update - Sector Allocation

January 2018 Dividend Update – Sector Allocation


How did you do in January?

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We are about two weeks away from a weekend of chatting about money, finances, FIRE, dividends, ethics and permaculture. We will likely also have some beer, eat some good food and go for a walk. Are you ready for the BENL FIRE Meetup in Leuven Belgium?

BENL FIRE Meetup in Leuven Belgium?

This is just friendly reminder that we will be getting together in the weekend of February 24 and 25, 2018. We will be meeting up in the beautiful city of Leuven in Belgium.

For more details on what to expect, do go check this post with many links to people that wrote about these meetups.

Please take note, we are targeting about 40 people for this meetup on both Saturday February 24 and Sunday February 25. We currently have about 10 spots left on Saturday and about 15 on Sunday. So you have some time to think about it, but don’t wait to long as we do a first come, first serve approach.

BENL FIRE Meetup in Leuven Belgium?

BENL FIRE Meetup in Leuven Belgium?

What are we planning?

The general program for this weekend will look like this

Saturday February 24, 2018:

  • 13:00 – 14:00: Warm welcome and informal chats;
  • 14:00 – 18:00: Presentations and discussions regarding Dividend Growth Investing
  • 18:00 – 20:00: Dinner (local restaurant); and,
  • 20:00 – ??:??: Belgian BEER and other drinks + more informal chats.

Sunday February 25, 2018:

  • 10:00 – 12:00 Leuven City walking tour with Amber Tree Leaves as our tour guide;
  • 12:00 – 13:00 Brown bag lunch; and,
  • 13:00 – 16:00 Presentations and discussions about Permaculture and ethical investing.

The presentations about dividend investing, ethics and permaculture are being developed as you read this. However, if you have specific questions about these three topics (or if you want to add a 4th by doing a presentation yourself on Saturday), please let us know!

BENL FIRE Meetup in Leuven Belgium?

BENL FIRE Meetup in Leuven Belgium?

Do you want to join?

Please drop us or Amber Tree Leaves a comment/email (info @ “ourblogname”.nl) and we will add you to the (ever growing) distribution list!

Hope to see you in two weeks!

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Wow, that went quick! It’s already time for the January 2018 Savings Rate update. Feels like it only just turned 2018?! Something with getting older I guess? Or was it just me?

January Finances

Many folks, and primarily those in North America, always dread January. As many of the expenses from the holiday season are to be paid to the various credit card companies. Not here though! Credit Card charges were minimal, most expenses were already booked in December and we were still able to keep expenses in reign. In short, it was a pretty good month on the savings rate side of things.

Savings Rate Update

Savings Rate Update

Financial Overview

Here is the usual short financial overview for the month:

  • Mr. CF’s Salary + Mrs. CF’s salary – Business expenses for Mrs CF = good but below average income. Expense claim to be paid in February;
  • The crowdfunding income was back to normal with €191 in deposits (combined interest and principle);
  • Living and healthcare category was about average with a combined €1012. This includes costs for mortgage interest, home insurance, healthcare premiums, utilities and some minor home maintenance/up keep. Nothing special to report; 
  • Grocery costs were low this month with €311 in expenses. Because we did some major shopping’s in December, this month was bound to be low;
  • The transport costs were below average with €265 spent. Expenses include fuel, insurance, road tax and ferry fees. A normal month with nothing special (very little cycling though!);
  • The kid category was normal with €455. This month only included daycare expenses (including after-school care benefits). No other expenses this time around (who said kids were expensive?);
  • Travel and Leisure was €109. Some expenses were already incurred in December, but were bumped into 2018. We went ice skating several times, visited a Monkey Town (no affiliate link, just to show what it is) and went swimming in a subtropical pool; and,
  • The other category was about €127. Money was spend on the gym for Mrs. CF, going out to diner, cash and some quarterly banking expenses.

January 2018 Savings Rate 

The savings rate for January were good once again (sorry if this is getting boring! In case it is, come back in May!). The end result for last month came in at 64.4%. 

Here are the stats:

January 2018 Savings Rate - Overview

January 2018 Savings Rate – Overview

If you breakdown our expenses for the month, the distribution looks like this:

January 2018 Savings Rate - Expenses

January 2018 Savings Rate – Expenses

Forecast Coming Months

We had some more storm damage to our roof…. again. But because we are still awaiting some good weather to fix a few more things, this damage will be repaired at the same time. Fortunately. the roof is water tight even with a few tiles missing. Hoping to (finally) have this all fixed in February or March (weather permitting). But the bill will be much higher than the €1.200 for just the regular works to be done. Storm damage is a “bonus” expense. That being said, because our deductible is about €975. It’s actually cheaper to include this storm damage with the other works than call it in with the insurance company. So that is what we did.

Tax season is coming up in more ways than one. For us this includes property taxes, watermanagement taxes, sewage and water treatment fees and garbage removal. All of which will be coming around in the coming 2-5 months. The first payment is scheduled for March and is around €300 (water management fees = tax for embankment maintenance and such). The rest is still to be received.

We are also anticipating to have to pay taxes this year instead of getting a tax return. No deductibles this time around, so this is going to hurt!

How about you? How was your month in terms of savings and living life?

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After all the fluffy posts about becoming HOT-er and something with a letter, it is time to talk cold hard cash! It’s time for the Real Estate Report – January 2018 edition.

Real Estate Report – January 2018

Rental Income

Our rental income for January 2018 is the highest it’s ever been at well over €3600. Primarily thanks to the first full month of interest on the  private Real Estate investment loan.

The monthly income distribution is provided below:

Real Estate Report - January 2018 Income

Real Estate Report – January 2018 Income

Rental Expenses

The expense for January were relatively low again. The expenses consisted of the following:

  • Mortgage and loan payments,
  • Management fees;
  • Insurance payments, and,
  • Property maintenance.

The maintenance on the heating systems of two units was done in late December, but the bills came in January. No other maintenance costs were incurred this month. We did notice a slight hike in the insurance fees, which is rather unfortunate but not unexpected with the storm damage in the Netherlands over the last few years.

The expenses for the month are as follows:

Real Estate Report - January 2018 Expenses

Real Estate Report – January 2018 Expenses

Real Estate Report – Overview

We started off the year very well with a net rental and loan income of €2.740. I added a new bar on the overview graph below with the net cash-flow income. In short, this is the money that hits our bank account and we are able to reinvest.

In January this net cash-flow was a solid €1.689. If this seems low, it is because the interest on the private investment loan is not paid out. This interest compounds and will be paid out once the contract term ends in December 2020.

Real Estate Report - January 2018 Overview

Real Estate Report – January 2018 Overview

Real Estate Report – Forecast


We received unfortunate news that one of our favorite tenants was leaving. She got to do an internship for her studies that paid really badly and she could no longer afford the rent. She ended up moving in with her boyfriend. We made a deal with here that if we could find a new tenant by February 1, she was free to move out early.

Fortunately for her, It took less then a week to find a new tenant and we had the transfer completed yesterday. The downside is the cost for getting a new tenant, since we use a property management firm (for tax reasons) these are considerable. The (cash-flow) income for February will not be very pretty.

The sale of one unit to family is ongoing and we are making progress. We are still evaluating mortgage options, after which the property will be assessed. Next we will do up our own contract and go to a notary public to get the ownership transfers sorted. Timing is a bit unclear, but might still happen before we go on our road trip in April. If not, we will compete it after we return. We are not really in a rush as the market is hot and new investments are hard to find. Still considering going for a private real estate loan.


How did you do in your first month of 2018?

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We have a “guest” post today! Mrs. CF decided it was time to step up her game! She was asking herself the question: are we getting HOT? Or perhaps better “HOT-er”? H.O.T. stands for Happy, Opportunity rich, Time rich. This is what she was thinking.

Are We Getting HOT?

You all know Mr. CF as a person who can’t wait to be FIRE. He keeps a monthly score of everything in Excel, so that he knows exactly where we are in achieving this goal. He sometimes curses the day that he became aware of the whole FIRE movement, as he would rather be RE yesterday than today. So when we finally (!) picked a date that he would quit his job and start enjoying being RE something interesting happened.

Are We Getting HOT?

Are We Getting HOT?

What Was Happening?

I really thought this plan through. I gave him two options for a resignation date. I thought of goals that he needed to achieve and I even gave him a way out. If not-working isn’t his thing, he could always start working again in two to three years time. At that time, I have to opportunity to start working part-time and/or work more from home.

So what happened, you might ask yourself. Well I will tell you: he was looking for a job. Seriously?! I was thinking it was just a little phase. But then he already talked to two different potential companies in the last month! I asked him the question: why? Mr. CF couldn’t really come up with an answer. So even a person like Mr. CF, from whom you least except it, is living with a stigma that not working is just plain “wrong”.

It Just Isn’t Fair

Mr. CF’s biggest excuse of staying with his job (or finding a new one) is that he doesn’t think it is fair against myself, Mrs. CF. We haven’t reached our Cheesy Index goal, which means that currently only one of us is technically FI. But, he is forgetting two important things when making that conclusion.

The first thing is: I love my job! Mr. CF knows this but apparently this is not persuading him to stop looking for jobs.

The second item he is forgetting is the following. Half a year after we started the journey to become FI (over three years ago) he asked me what I wanted to do when we turned FI. To be honest, I didn’t know! It is not the sort of thing I had already thought about in detail at that time. However, I have also asked this question to Mr. CF in the past three years on several occasions with always the same answer: I will figure that out when I am FI (Mr. CF: hey, I’m being flexible!).

But for me, these goals have now become clearer. With Mr. CF quitting his job, we will actually accomplish 2 of my top goals and it perhaps brings us closer to a third goal that I have. Are we Getting HOT?

HOT and FIRE Goals

Most people have goals or make plans to travel to faraway countries or just golf all day when they are FIRE. Not me, Mrs. CF needs to do things differently, I need to be HOT!

The two main goals that Mr. CF will help me accomplish, after he quits his job, have to do with family. As a parent, being there when Miss CF comes home from school, is important to me. I want one of us to ask Miss CF how her day was, sit down with her to have something to drink and help her with homework. I want a strong relationship with our daughter. It would also be possible again to have family meals more than twice a week in the weekend (Mr. CF: our work schedules and avoiding traffic jams are hard to combine unfortunately).

Because Mr. CF will run the household, we would have much more free time in the weekends (and perhaps even some days during the week). This gives me, for example, more time to spend at my nephews and nieces birthday parties. Or take them out somewhere fun, to build better relationships with my family. I would love that! This for me is HOT!

Goal Nr 3: The Move

Ideally I would also like to move closer to my family. Mr. CF doesn’t always agree with this idea (Mr. CF: moving  to one of the most expensive areas of the Netherlands that is! And I prefer Thailand…..). We are still debating and figuring out how we would do this, but there are a few options that we are considering that might not break the bank. However, it would not give us all the options that we would like during FIRE, such as a big yard to grow more of our own food. But you can’t win them all! Becoming HOT is finding a balance.

Yes, I know, these goals/plans “may be cheesy”, but they are my own. Everybody is different and these are important to me. If Mr. CF wouldn’t stop working, I would have probably started to work part-time sooner. But now, I don’t have to! For me it’s the best of both worlds.


How about you, do you have different priorities than you spouse during (and before ) FIRE? How do you deal with this? How are you compromising skills?


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Another yearly overview? Yup, I’m afraid so. You may run away screaming if you want. However, I like statistics and watching data sets develop. So no wonder I actually like making this post. Here is a quick review of the blog statistics and revenue for 2017.

Blog Statistics and Revenue

As noted in this earlier blog post, we don’t have Google Analytics setup for this blog. I’m very lazy and use what is readily available to me, so I use the AWStats data (measured at the server) to figure what’s happening. It appears to be a slight overestimate of what happened in reality (see also explanation in the previous link).

Since we changed the site in early May of 2017 to have a secure SSL (https://) connection, blog traffic data is split into a secured and a non-secured connection set. Therefore the two graphs below:

  • Graph 1 show traffic via non-secured connections
  • Graph 2 shows traffic via a secured connection
Blog Statistics and Revenue - Non-secured Blog Stats

Blog Statistics and Revenue – Non-secured Blog Stats

Blog Statistics and Revenue - Secured Blog Stats

Blog Statistics and Revenue – Secured Blog Stats

If any of you know how to interpret the combined stats, please let me know! I don’t have enough knowledge to properly state if this data has overlap in terms of visitors/visits. I recon it does, but don’t know to what extent.

For sake of convenience, let’s assume it doesn’t. In that case we would have had a total of 577.525 page views in 2017. I find that a lot! Based on the secured connection data, we now regularly exceed 50.000 page views and have around 6.000-8.000 unique visitors per month. Not bad for this little “labor of love”, don’t you think?

Best Posts of 2017

Based on combined numbers for secured and non-secured sites, the following 10 posts were most popular in terms of page views:

But you guys also really like the following pages:

Blog Revenue (or Lack Thereof)

Now it get’s juicy….. neah, not really. Total revenue from our friends from Google was €64.5. Which does not even cover hosting and domain fees. Which are now about €82 (€6/month hosting en €10 per year domain name registration). Had to up the hosting package in early 2017 due to the volume of traffic. Was hitting the previous hosting package limits and it was affecting the blog load speed.

I had started with the affiliate program, but did not make this into a priority to set this up properly. No money here either.

There is one other item that potentially brought in some money, which was the referral link to the Combicoin. I say “potentially”, as we won’t be able to sell before February 8. A lot can happen between now and then. About 6 people apparently used the link, which provide us with about 1 more Combicoin token (current value at time of writing $42.77 = ~€35). Thank you for using that link, I hope it makes you and us some money!


If you have a blog, how did you do in 2017? Any comments on our stats? Suggestions?

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A couple of days ago I wrote my draft resignation letter. For those of you that have been paying attention, you know I don’t like what I do. I’ve been trying to shake things up with multiple career switches. But apparently didn’t shake this up hard enough….

I Wrote My Resignation Letter

It is time to take the plunge. It’s time to try the biggest shake up I’ve done in my working life: stop working. I’ve talked about my work ethics before and my lack of motivation, and it’s (finally….. according to Mrs. CF) gotten to the point I don’t want to continue. It simply does not feel right. It’s simply not worth it anymore (not even financially!). It’s time for a change.

I wrote my resignation letter

I wrote my resignation letter


There will be a lot of change once I quit and on the other side, not much is going to change. Huh? Allow me to elaborate a bit. On the changes front, I’m going to try to be multiple things at the same time:

  • part-time stay-at-home dad (Miss CF goes to school and will go to after-school care for one or two days per week);
  • being a contractor (for our own house to both upgrade and rebuild into two rental units – multi year plan!);
  • entrepreneur (starting my own little side business, fingers crossed & wish me luck!); and,
  • work out more (a lot more! Still want to try an Olympic distance triathlon at some point).

Keep It Steady

But there are also lots of things that won’t really change. Some of the key things that came to mind:

  • we will still try to work out ways to become FIRE (it will just take a bit longer);
  • I’ll continue to blog (perhaps even up the frequency, subject to how the above items will develop); and,
  • the way we live life won’t change either. The way we cook, do holidays (except for the major upcoming one) and how we spend our leisure time are expected to continue unchanged. In short, our expense should not really change much, they should in fact go down a bit due to lower after school care expenses.


So when is all of this supposed to happen, I hear you ask. The plan is to hand in the resignation letter somewhere in March. Considering we already arranged time off for April-June, and a replacement will be arranged at work, the timing will be right before we take off. Should be smooth sailing for the guys at work anyways.

Why then and not now? We are low on cash and need money for the long trip, upcoming renovation works at two of our properties and a general buffer. By having paid work until April, we should be in a good position. This also will mean that my life as an unemployed (but not early retired yet) will commence late June.

Am I mad?  No idea, but I’m sure looking forward to it!


Ideas? Suggestions? Comments?

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I like satire and sarcasm, I also like finance (you had not noticed I assume). But when you combine the two, I have a real blast. I love financial satire!

In the Netherlands there is a website called “De Speld” (translated: “the needle”). It’s the Dutch version of “The Union” (a US satirical news site). Their posts are generally clever, funny (sometime hilarious) and revolve around current news items.

Financial Satire

When I was browsing the web yesterday, I stumbled upon a new article in “De Speld”. It’s an instant winner in my mind, but it’s written in Dutch of course. Below is the freely translated version for your amusement.

Financial Satire

Financial Satire

Staying Rich Quick? Don’t Invest into Bitcoins.

Jasper put all his savings not in Bitcoins, and still has all of his money.

19 January 2018 by

Staying rich quick is no longer a dream. Since the market of cryptocurrencies collapsed more people don’t invest into Bitcoins to stay rich.

We spoke with Jasper van Baasbank. He didn’t invest 5000 euros into Bitcoins and still has that 5000 euros.

When a friend of mine told me about cryptocurrencies, I started to investigate the opportunity. I quickly discovered that not converting my money into Bitcoins would be a great and easy way to keep my hard earned cash. I also didn’t invest into Ethereum and ripple, that’s now also paying off handsomely.

Still, Jasper is not only driven by a desire to keep his money.

I’m staying away from the Bitcoins because I sincerely do not believe it works. I’m sure that dubious golden coins won’t be the currencies of the future. Mark my words: in a couple of years people still don’t pay with golden coins.

Original Post

The original post can be found here (in Dutch only). All credits go to the folks from “De Speld”.

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Our television decided to partially die, how does a television partially die? No idea, but it sometimes works, and sometimes it doesn’t. We even brought it to a repair guy, but he could not figure out what was wrong with the bloody thing. It refused to die in his repair shop, whereas it had no problems doing it at our house. The fight continues with the partially died television…….


Yes, we still have (a partially operational) television. But we dumped cable back in early 2009. We had cable in the Netherlands, so after arriving in Canada we tried cable for a short while too. However we got so fed up by the amount of commercials we got rid of it as soon as possible. Yes, commercials are annoying in the Netherlands, but Canada and US have brought annoying to a whole new level!


Netflix had just started in Canada in late 2010, so we gave that a try. Almost 7 years later and we still have Netflix. The relatively small monthly fee was worth it in terms of not having annoying commercials and a good selection.

Lately though we have been debating to also drop Netflix, especially now that the TV is also on it’s way out to the dodo’s. But we have not pulled the trigger yet. Miss CF does like to watch the occasional cartoons. Netflix is a far better option than using YouTube. No junk, no commercials but fewer options (so she gets bored an stops watching!!).

Television - Netflix?

Television – Netflix?

How Much?

How much television do we watch? Probably too much, but we primarily watch documentaries and movies. We occasionally watch a few series, but not nearly as much as we used to (no time, something with kids…). We don’t watch news, talk shows or sports (we rather DO sports). However, we are suckers for shows about real estate……(Grand Designs is awesome!).

Because the TV really didn’t want to turn on for more than 5 min, we were prevented from watching television for most of the month of December. In the beginning we didn’t mind too much, and even debated to ditch the television (and associated equipment/media) completely. However, by week 3 we started to miss it. We really enjoy watching movies and documentaries. It’s just great (low cost!) entertainment and gives you time to relax a bit. So be brought the TV in for repairs (which failed miserably as noted earlier).

The Old Television

We bought our current television back in 2007. At that time the whole concept of FIRE didn’t really exist for us. We were generally frugal, but had a lapse in judgement with this one…. I had been working internationally and was earning some very good money. As I have always been into watching movies, I wanted a big screen TV. We ended up buying a 46” LCD television, a Sony Bravia with glass and aluminum rim (very nice model). For that time it was huge and very expensive. We paid about €3.200 for it, ridiculous! As this television is now pretty much written off completely, the yearly depreciation costs are about €320…ouch.

A New Television?

So the hunt is on for a new television. But considering we have not been looking at new televisions for about a decade (ours was working fine till now, so had no desire to look around), it’s interesting. We actually found out we are a bunch of dinosaurs! We still have a VCR recorder (1998), a DVD player (2001) and a PS3 (2012 – Free!), neither of which is used regularly (and a vinyl jukebox and record player – perhaps we are fossils?!). Guess we still have all this because of sentimental reasons. The minimalist in us is still losing this battle.

But this begs the question, what does the new television need to adhere to in terms of specs? Are we going to look for SCART hookups? Or are we going to solely go for HDMI? How big do we want the screen to be? What screen resolution would we like? How much money do we want to spend on a new one? Heck, what do you pay for one these days? We had no idea!

After some digging around we noticed that TV’s are a lot less expensive then they used to be. LCD and Plasma TV’s pretty much disappeared and are replaced with LED TV’s. These are also a lot more energy efficient too. Our energy use would go down by about 60-80% depending on model and size, compared to what we use now. That’s a lot! Then again, the amount of energy it takes to make one is insane too. No TV is definitely better 😉


We still have not bought a new TV, the old one seems to hang in there for now (it miraculously started to work again, has not turned off in two weeks now???). If we buy something new (eventually), it will likely be a smaller model between 32” and 40”.  We will likely stick to HD and not 4k in terms of resolution. Reason is simple, older movies look extremely fake on high resolution TV’s, which takes some of the fun out of it for me. HD TV’s are also cheaper, so two reasons to keep it simple(r).

It will likely still come with a SCART connection (not yet ready to ditch the DVD collection, call us weak if you will) and will not cost more than €300-350. About what we paid per year for our first big flat-screen television!

Oh, we did check out second hand stores and ebay/marktplaats/kijiji/etc., but the prices for a used ones are the same as for a new one. People have not realized their used TV’s are not worth more than about €50-100. So this option is out for financial reasons (environmentally it would be smarter move thou….).


What’s up with your Telly? Still have one?

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