Money Diaries: The Long-Awaited First Week of Retirement

For those following along, I retired this week! My last day of work fell on a Wednesday. The next morning, I woke up early, like it was Christmas. I’m always interested in how people fare in the transition from working full-time to not working at all, so I thought I’d write a Money Diaries post about it!

When I was 25, I documented a week of living in Portland, OR. At that time, my weekly total spending was only $58! Now I’m 29, and I’ve saved enough that I don’t have to work anymore. That stays true as long as long as I keep to a budget– but what does the spending look like for an early retiree? Does it mean brown bananas, ramen noodles, and shivering as I refuse to turn on the heat in my apartment?

I plan on writing more details about the why and how of my early exit from the workforce, but in the meantime here is a peek into what I did the first week of early retirement.

Occupation: Early Retirement

  • Age: 29
  • Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Rent: €1700
  • Living: ~€620
  • 401(k): N/A
  • HSA: N/A
  • Roth IRA: N/A

Dear Money Diaries…

Day One – Thursday:

6:30 am – I wake up early, not quite believing this is real. I don’t have to go into work today. After laying around for another hour or so, I clamber out of bed and realize I’m sporting a rather large bruise from going out with my coworkers last night. We were celebrating a release of a project I worked on, and went bowling and laser-tagging as a team on my final day at work. I suspect laser-tag is to blame for the bruise blooming on my bicep. Worth it!

Breakfast Buddha Bowl

9:30 am – I realize to my chagrin that my Kindle is nowhere to be found. This is a near-tragedy, because I am in the middle of some interesting books! I employ my mother’s strategy whenever you lose something: clean the whole place. I am unsure whether that was her true intention or whether the master plan was to make her children clean up after themselves (we were always losing something).

12:30 pm – Cleaning did not unearth my Kindle, which puts a small dent in my morning plans. It’s a gorgeous sunny day, so I planned to read and savor a brunch out at my new favorite spot. I ordered the famous Buddha bowl and slowly nurse an iced coffee (€18.50). With no book available, I opted to channel my meal’s namesake and meditated with each bite. 🧘‍♀️

5:00 pm – I booked a massage for the first day of not-working (€75). It’s a nice treat, though I think I will scale back on massages in retirement. Hopefully not having to work full-time will mean less stress bunched between my shoulder blades.

9:00 pm – My original plan was to go out for ramen for dinner, but brunch and a massage feels like enough treats for one day. I bake a frozen lasagna (€2.55) and watch Rupaul’s Drag Race. I go to bed early.

Daily Total:  $96

Day Two – Friday:

8:30 am – My coworkers invite me for morning coffee, where we try different cafés in the neighborhood. We try different filtered coffees, a cappuccino, and I order a banana bread (€10.70 total). A coworker wants to check out my apartment in case she might want to take it over when I move. After showing it to her, we both bike to the office. She goes to work, and I look for my lost Kindle. Luckily it’s still there, sitting on a desk in the corner. Success!

12:30 pm – I take the train (€5) to Utrecht to cat sit for a friend, who I’ll call Ellie. I pick up some kibbeling (fried fish) for lunch (€5 total). Then I go to snuggle with the cat.

Kibbeling from the market

5:00 pm – Ellie’s neighbor (I’ll call her Rose) is a fitness instructor here and offers me a free yoga class. We walk to the other end of the main drag and I take one of the most difficult yoga classes of my life (FREE).

6:30 pm – We walk home together and I buy some incense Rose recommends (€2) and grab some Indonesian food from a newly-opened place (€14.50). We eat together on her patio.

9:30 pm – I read a bit before bed (On Rotation by Shirlene Obuobi, a book featuring a Ghanaian-American doctor, FREE from the library). I set my alarm for the morning because Rose invited me to a barre class. I’m not going to turn down free workouts!

Daily Total:  €35

Day Three – Saturday:

9:00 am – Rose generously lets me borrow a bike and we head to a new part of the city I’ve never been to before. It’s been years since I’ve done a barre class but it’s a fun challenge, especially now that I’m sore from laser-tag and yoga. The summer sun warms up by the time class is over, and I head over to a coffee spot she pointed out to me on the way called Koffie&Ik (Coffee and I).

I read my book for a couple of hours until I start to burn.

Croissant and dirty iced chai latte x2 (€12.50) yum!

1:00 pm – I play with the cat for a bit, then prep to go for a nice exploration of the city. Tourists and locals bustle about to do their shopping, and I stop to buy some cute ornaments as a souvenir when I go home (€15).

2:30 pm – Ellie sends me some intel that a delicious lunch place has a pulled pork special, so I head that way for a late lunch (€9.50). I also buy a cool gold ring at the market for €5.

4:30 pm – I continue exploring the city. Boats weave around stand-up paddle boarders and kayaks dip into the canals. Utrecht is a unique city where you can walk both above the canal but also right alongside it. Traffic is mostly up above, so I head lower to relax and read some more once my legs get tired.

8:30 pm – I’m not really hungry after my pork burrito. I consider getting a cheese plate with a glass of wine, but talk myself into getting the supplies from a grocery store instead. A scoop of gelato tides me over for now (€1.70). Then I buy nuts, 5 different types of cheese, crackers, and salami (€15) and head back to play with the cat.

All that playing tired her out

Daily Total:  €58.50

Day Four – Sunday:

7:00 am – I snuggle with the cat in the morning and read a bit more. I have a slow morning, and pack up my laptop and kindle to head to a breakfast place I’ve been recommended.

The red velvet waffles and my book

10:00 am – I order the red velvet waffles and a cappuccino (€16.25).

However, when I pull out my laptop to start working on this blog post, I am told they have a no laptop rule. It’s a bummer because I’m the only one in the entire establishment, and this is the third time I’ve been surprised by this rule in different spots. Put up some signs please!

The food is good not great and I wish I had tried the kimchi pancakes instead.

12:00 pm – I go home to play more with the cat, then take a quick nap on the couch. I make plans with Rose and friends to go to the Asian Food Festival in the afternoon.

4:00 pm – After meeting up, we all head to the festival. It’s free to enter, but I know I’m in trouble because I’m hungry and everything looks delicious. I pick up the drinks for Rose (€20, she treated me to two workout classes after all!) Then I share an okonomiyaki plate, some takoyaki, and some fried Korean chicken (€15.50).

6:30 pm – It’s getting hot and dusty, so I order an iced boba coffee to cool down (€6.50).

8:30 pm – I call my family and we chat about travel plans. It’s been a while since we last caught up, so we talk for a while before I head to bed. The cat is only interested in cuddles, and has no opinions about the travel plans.

Upside of cat sitting: snuggles

Daily Total:  €58.25

Day Five – Monday:

9:30 am – Today is the last day of cat sitting. My friend is returning in the afternoon, and we plan on grabbing lunch together before I head back to Amsterdam. For breakfast, I pull out the ingredients I bought for a cheese plate and make one for the morning.

12:00 pm – I spend the morning working on this blog post while the cat moves her nap spot every half hour or so. When I get up-to-date, I start packing and decide to head out for a walk. On my walk, I see that Clark’s is having a sale with shoes half off. My sneakers are now 4 years-old and have ripped at the toe, ragged threads waving in the air like unfortunate weeds. Though I could still use them as running shoes, they are a bit too beat up for polite company now. I tried on a couple pairs and ended up walking out with a pair of white tennis shoes (€55).

3:00 pm – I go to lunch with Ellie, ordering a smashed avocado toast (€11.25).

4:00 pm – I take the train back to Amsterdam (€4.40). On the train home I realize I don’t have anything in my fridge. I order groceries to arrive the following morning (€44.70). Ellie pays me (€90) for cat sitting, the rate she quotes as average for folks in the area. Normally I don’t charge her, but this time I accept her offer. It’s a bit harder to turn down now with no paycheck.

8:00 pm – I go for an evening walk and pass by a pizza place I’ve been meaning to try for a while. I’ve been eating out a lot recently, but my groceries are coming in the morning. I grab a spot and my new read: The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. The pizza and wine come to €19.50.

Pesto and burrata pizza with my book for the evening

Daily Total:  €135*

*(not counting the €90 earned)

Day Six – Tuesday:

7:00 am – I’m up early again, but no alarm in sight. I brew some tea and read The Psychology of Money on the couch. I don’t have any plans for the day, so I unpack my suitcase and clean a bit. For breakfast I eat half of the pizza from last night that I took home. I add some pizza sauce and fry it up in a pan, adding a small bit of water to let it steam the pizza.

10:00 am – I’ve been meaning to look into a few different trips, like going to Copenhagen and Dublin. Suddenly my calendar is filling up with people visiting, and I realize I need to make plans soon. Folks have been telling me to go soon before the weather turns, so I buy the roundtrip flights to Copenhagen (€111) and book accommodation at a hostel downtown (€35/night = €140).

The cat I took care of for my French coworker. Isn’t he suave?

10:30 am – A coworker I once cat-sat for gave my number to two more families who ask if I can cat sit this month. I joke with a friend that I’m going to go from Software Engineer to Professional Cat Sitter at this rate. I accept, since it’s always fun to play with cats, and they live relatively close together in a fun neighborhood I look forward to exploring more. Plus the two jobs combined will cover the the expenses of the flight and accommodation in Copenhagen, which is pretty sweet.

11:00 am – An online friend, Sara from American Expat FI, reaches out to see if we could meet up for lunch. I’m getting a bit self-conscious about how much I’ve been eating out, but it will be nice to get out of the house. When I get ready to leave, I realize I left my bike at Amsterdam Centraal station 🤦‍♀️.

When I came home last night I took a different route. Luckily I have all day to fetch it, and there’s a tram that goes straight to the part of town where I’m going to meet Sara. We have middle eastern fare which is a bit more expensive than I expected for lunch (€17). However, it holds up to the reviews online that say it’s the best hummus they’ve ever tasted. I take some home, planning on picking up some pita from the local market to make it into another meal tomorrow.

1:00 pm – I fetch my bike from the station and have a nice ride back through the city. I take a nap because I have a bit of a headache, and when I wake up it is magically gone! Score.

7:00 pm – I eat a sweet-and-spicy shrimp bowl from my grocery haul and go to therapy. It’s a good session, we run over as we frequently do, but my therapist never charges me extra. Afterwards, I work on writing this post a bit, make some tea, send my sister some of my favorite TikToks, and read a bit more before bed. The sky lights up with lightening outside as we get some much-needed rain.

Daily Total:  €268

Day Seven – Wednesday:

8:00 am – I cut up some strawberries, toss them into some greek yogurt with a bit of honey. I chat with a friend on the phone for a bit.

10:00 am – The IRS sent me some mail about penalties for my taxes. Luckily the amount is small, but it’s extra annoying because I paid a decent sum to have a professional do them this year. I write a quick email to my tax-preparer, send the scanned documents, start the laundry, and fill the dishwasher. I meditate using the Headspace app and complete my Duolingo exercise (currently at a 79 day streak learning Dutch!)

11:00 am – I go for a walk since it’s sunny outside. I listen to The Mad FIentist’s most recent podcast episode. You can absolutely hear the joy in his voice as he recounts his gratefulness for what financial independence has allowed him to do in life. Currently that something is have a son and a deepening relationship with his wife. It’s uplifting to listen to and I’m glad for him! Having a kid definitely seems like a much more manageable undertaking when you don’t have to work.

12:00 pm – At the hummus stand at the local market I pick up some pita bread and falafel to go with yesterday’s lunch. There is a brief miscommunication where the men behind the counter think I ordered three falafel sandwiches instead of just three singular falafel balls. Luckily I hear the word broodje (sandwich) and speak up before he begins to make them– that would have been a big price difference! (€2.45). Duolingo is paying off.

I also pick up some ear plugs for travel and staying in the 8-bed dorm room at the hostel in Copenhagen. My noise-cancelling headphones take up too much space, as I am only packing a personal item for my weekend trips. I’ve never actually used ear plugs but figure €4 to try them out isn’t too bad.

Relaxing in my living room

2:00 pm – I take a quick nap and read more of The Psychology of Money. I am enjoying the book, but I’m starting to notice that every reference is a man. I realize I’ve read about 15 men before any reference of a woman is made. Out of curiosity I pull up a spreadsheet and start keeping track of all of the examples, references, and quotes. I plan on writing a review of the book, so I can share the spreadsheet then. Stay tuned!

5:00 pm – I go for another walk, and pick up one of those “travel kit” bags where you can transfer your liquids to little travel bottles. I’ve never actually used one of these, but want to get my travel gear all dialed in for long-term trips. This will be good practice! I also pick up a little mini toothpaste and a mini pack of wipes (€6). On my way home I listen to another podcast.

7:00 pm – On Wednesdays I have a call with a group of women. We share about our lives for a few hours every week, and I always look forward to it! Before the call, I eat a salad (again from the grocery haul) and wonder what to do about the rest of my groceries while I travel.

10:00 pm – A gentle playlist lulls me closer to sleep while I work on writing up the details of today for this post.

Daily Total:  €12.48

Weekly Total: €663

Takeaways:

  • Last time I did this exercise, my weekly total was only $58! I am a lot less frugal than I used to be. To be comfortable with my FIRE budget, I will need to downshift this spending quite a bit.
  • My weekly target surpassed my goal for my spending for the entire month.
  • If I want to keep up a more “luxurious” life-style of massages, eating out, and random trips, it might behoove me to continue picking up small side hustles like cat-sitting.
  • I’m glad I did this exercise, because it helps me plan better for the future. I’m not panicking about the higher-than-expected spending as I know there will be an adjusting period and averaging out of costs over the year.
  • I realized I eat out a lot, and I should be more spending conscious in that area. Now that I have more time on my hands, I look forward to being able to plan healthy meals and go to the markets to get fresh food.

What About You?

How does this week compare to yours?

What do you notice about my spending patterns?

What do you think about my week living in The Netherlands?

Please share in the comments below!

Featured photo credit to Jessica from A Wanderlust for Life

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17 Comments

  1. Congratulations. I wish I were 29 years old again. Even I had not to mind work. By the way, from your first-week experience, it seems that by preparing your meals at home you can save a substantial amount. Another option might be living in a cheaper area or country. Have fun.

    1. Yes luckily the changes I need to make are not too hard– I plan on preparing more meals at home, and also plan on leaving The Netherlands to keep costs lower.

  2. Congratulations on your retirement! I am still a long way off but always inspiring to see others make it happen. Enjoy your new freedom and good luck finding the right balance of spending & happiness.

  3. Congratulations on your first post-quitting week. I FIREd at the end of 2021, and it’s been fun and interesting reading posts by people who just/recently FIREd or voluntarily stopped working. Sounds like you had a lovely, if expensive, week.

    Thought I’d comment because one of my side gigs that started last year was cat sitting. This year it really ramped up and I’ve made a surprisingly large amount of money from it. A good portion has come from people who’ve become regular customers. That was a completely happy accident. This money isn’t necessarily needed to fund our lifestyle, but it’s helped with the psychological effects of FIREing while in a bad bear market. And it’s made for some nice spending money.

    Thought I’d mention this because if you want to continue this cat-sitting gig to pick up some extra money completely at your leisure/on your schedule (and to get to play with cats, to boot), from my experience, it should be pretty easy. I should mention that I was inspired to start this gig by the Financial Panther, who’s a master of do-as/when-you-want side gigs.

    Good luck!

    1. How interesting that you also started cat sitting! I would definitely be interested in doing this more often as my schedule allows. I’m curious about any details you have about how much you charge and which platforms you use for it!

  4. Congrats on the first week! The freedom is wonderful, glad you’re enjoying it and making travel plans! The issue my wife and I have now is procrastination has gone up since now “I have plenty of time to get that done”. The scarcity of free time while working certainly elevated the importance of task prioritization.
    (Minor typo in the post caused by autocorrect I’m sure, but you wrote Mad Scientist) 😉

    1. Ah thanks for pointing out the typo. Fixed now. I definitely can see how procrastination might become the enemy. That’s something I’ll keep track of as I go along!

  5. You are so full of surprises because you make up your mind and act on it.Most of us ponder forever and don’t actually do much.It’s lovely and encouraging to read about people taking action.

  6. Well, it sounds like a lovely post-retirement celebration week to me. I get you will have to downshift but it sounds nice! Except for those disappointing red velvet waffles.

  7. Ciao!
    You say long “awaited retirement” which I think is funny because I am waiting much longer then you! Spending patterns? Definitely there is pattern of eating at nice restaurant but perhaps you are celebrating your first week of retirement, non?. It’s good that you are totaling of the Euros as at least you are aware. Do you think you will miss Amsterdam? Perhaps now you have friends all over the world you can visit

    1. Ciao! I also think it’s a bit funny and tongue-in-cheek since it’s extremely early to retire. Yes, I think a lot of the eating out was because I was staying in a different city and celebrating the first week of retirement. It won’t likely stay that way.

      I will miss Amsterdam loads! I absolutely love living here. Yet you are right, I have made many friends and hope I can see them as I travel.

  8. Could you invite some friends round for drinks/dinner instead of going out? They could bring wine and you provide food or similar. Because a lot of eating out seems to be to meet up with people (of course this won’t be so easy while traveling).

    1. Yes, alternative plans over eating out is a good idea. I did have some friends visit who were on a budget and asked to get food at the grocery store and eat in the park instead of going out. Being more like those friends will help keep the costs down!

  9. Congratulations on your retirement that is fantastic, 29 years old and never have to go to work again, i’m jealous! Those waffles and that pizza look fantastic, thanks for making my belly grumble!

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