Ramblings of an Extreme Man

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XMAS-time inland adventure (Inverell, Armidale, Boyd River, Cangai)

It’s fair to say that all of my life inspiration comes from songs from the 70s. Most of my life is actually modelled on the lyrics to the Billy Joel classic hit Movin’ Out (Anthonys Song) <link: here>.  Then there’s the timeless wisdom about dealing with adversity captured in Devo’s Whip It <link: here>. In the case of our Xmas road trip adventure planning, we took inspiration from the bastion of team-based Manliness that is the Village People, in particular, their song Go West <link: here>

Anyone that’s been on a Xmas road trip on the east coast knows that it’s anything but peaceful. This time of year every campsite is taken, the coast road is full of caravans and camper trailers, you’re camping tent wall to tent wall with a million people.

Go West, Life is Peaceful there.

Go West, lots of open air.

So go west we did. We planned an inland Xmas adventure of camping and mountain biking through inland northern NSW.

We started with XMAS at Katie’s parents’ house in Inverell. When we weren’t eating and drinking far too much at the inlaws I was riding at the Inverell mountain bike park, which I’d driven past plenty of times but this was my first ride. I was really impressed. The small country town mountain bike club has built 3 trails all in a circuit, a 1km easy and a 3 and 5km Intermediate loops.

inverell trail map

Trailforks Trail map

The 5km loop covered heaps of different riding. In some spots is was loamy, in others loose. Then it had technical rocky sections with massive boulders and one part you seemed to be riding on the surface of the moon. The downhills were great fun and the uphills could get pretty technical . By the end of four laps I had worked out how to carry my speed and pick my lines enough to make it up all the uphills.


Entry Sign


Well placed berms and features were found throughout.


pretty shitty photos, after a phone mishap I was transported back in time to a Samsung S4 with a broken camera lens…

After Inverell we moved on to a free camping area at The Pines mountain bike park in Armidale.

armidale state forest

The camp site here is a large parking area at the edge of the pine forest. There’s a short walk to some drop dunnies in the bike park. It’s off the highway and nice and quiet.


The riding consists of a lot of mellow green trails through the pine forest. They’re all reasonably flat and relaxing. There are a few more advanced trails with some small jumps and obstacles. Also, there’s a few sneaky cows on the track that you need to keep an eye out for, and it looked like some kind of drifter was living in a hut in the forest (an actual drifter, not like the wannabe drifters sleeping in their cars at the edge of the forest…)


After enjoying the relaxing Armidale trails we moved on to follow up a hot tip given to us by a family friend at Inverell. They mentioned the old Glen Innes to Grafton Road which winds along the Mann and Boyd River with plenty of nice camp spots and a tunnel that had been dug by hand by convicts. As we were on the Armidale end we decided to drive along the road from south to north and we headed to Nymboida.


On the way to Nymboida we stopped for the night at the Clouds Creek free camp site. It’s next to the Armidale road, and if you’re lucky you can camp right next to the creek like we did.


This was a great find, if we weren’t on the way somewhere else we would have stayed there for a few days. The one funny thing about this camp site was that there were wild chooks!! Unfortunately, there was an overly excited rooster that would start it’s cock-a-doodle-dooing really early in the morning. (seriously, not a sexual innuendo.)

From Cloud Creek campsite we headed on to Nymboida and the Old Glen Innes road.  The road winds along the Boyd river and there are a lot of campsites to choose from. It was reasonably quiet considering it was over the new year period and we chose a camp site right next to the river away from the few other campers.


There was a track across the river that I took my bike across to and went for a ride. It led to a lonely scenic lake and stream up in the hills.



This place was paradise. We’ll definitely be back.


Creepy Dalmorton a few k’s upstream from where we camped. The town looked to only have one resident these days. There’s also another campground here by the river.


Apparently hand-made convict tunnel.

After Boyd River we headed to Cangai to camp next to the Mann River. There were a lot more campers here and for some reason I got the impression that the river gets pretty high at times.


When compared to the Boyd river camp Cangai felt a little crowded. After a nice night we decided to head back to Brisbane after a stop off at the Grafton Mountain bike trails, Bom Bom state forest.

bom bom state forest

After the awesome, well thought out tracks at Inverell, Bom Bom state forest felt pretty lame. It was just some really mellow single track and the features and flow of the track weren’t really all that well thought out. Seemed like it might have been made by road bike riders, or people without much mountain bike experience. This really highlighted how good the Inverell trails were.

We did a lap and then made the drive back to Brisbane.

I really enjoyed getting away from the normal coast based camping trips that we usually do. In general I never really think to head inland, but there are a lot of really great camp spots, often with few or no people and they’re often free. In fact, we didn’t pay any camp fees for the whole trip. It was really nice to be able to swim in fresh water at a lot of the camps. I really enjoyed taking bikes too.

We planned the trip using an app called Wiki Camps (https://www.wikicamps.com.au/) which I highly recommend.

We planned the mountain bike parts of the trip with an app called Trail Forks (https://www.trailforks.com/). About 15 years ago (jesus I’m old) I went on a bike based road trip up the east coast and we needed to use internet forums (they might have been called bulletin boards back then…) or stop at bike shops and chat to people to work out where the trails were to ride. Now with the Trailforks app it makes it really easy to find somewhere to do some skids and hucks wherever you happen to be. It’s awesome.


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NZs Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail – Sweet As

What do you think of when you think of New Zealand? The land of sheep? Fush and Chups? That skit from Hunt for the Wilder People where Psycho Sam rants about the form fillers?  (I bring up that skit at least once a week at work to the form fillers who have no idea what I’m ranting about).

Well, what you should think of when you think of New Zealand is endless, unspoilt, solitary bike trails like the south island NZ’s Alps 2 Ocean (A2O).

I’ve been getting more and more into cycle touring lately (the cool kids call it bike packing). It offers everything that I love about hiking, the epic scenery, the self-sufficiency of carrying everything you need to live with you, the almost meditative state you find yourself in when you’ve only got one goal, one thing to worry about for the day; getting to your destination one footstep or pedal at a time. But what I like about cycle touring over hiking is you don’t have to carry any weight on your back so it’s more relaxing – the bike takes all the load, also for long trips the logistics are a lot easier, it’s easy to ride 20km out of your way to re-supply or seek shelter, whereas 20km is a whole day of hiking.

The Alps 2 Ocean bike trail goes from either Mount Cook or Lake Tekapo and is approximately 300km of a mixture of dirt cycle trail and backroads. We chose the alternative start at Lake Tekapo rather than Mount cook (you need to book a helicopter across a massive river if you start from Mt Cook) and spent a leisurely sometimes windy, sometimes sunny, sometimes freezing 5 days riding to the oceanside town of Oamaru.


Day 1: Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki – 36km

day 1

We left Christchurch at about 7AM using an Intercity bus from Christchurch Airport to Lake Tekapo. The bus pulled into a freezing windy Tekapo at about 12:30, where we realised that we might have underestimated the weather we’d be up against. A quick stop to buy some buffs and gloves and we were off.

day 1 1.jpg

The alternate start to the A2O at Lake Tekapo.

day 1 2.jpg

Lake Tekapo

day 1 3

Almost all of day 1 was spent riding next to the canal between Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki.

day 1 4

New Zeeland Far-shun.

day 1 5

It was proper windy. Like 100km/h headwind type windy (click for video). There were times where Katie got off her bike to walk because she couldn’t ride her bike straight enough to stay on the road.

day 1 6

day 1 7

As we got to Lake Pukaki we lost a little elevation and got down out of the wind. Our first camp was up over a berm on the side of the road next to the lake.

Day 2: Lake Pukaki to Lake Oahu via Twizel – 56km

day 2

Day 2 was really nice. The wind died down and the sun was shining. The trail around the edge of Lake Pukaki was amazing. The backroads to Lake Oahu were really nice and the trail around Lake Oahu was a really fun, undulating dirt track.day 2 1day 2 2day 2 3day 2 4day 2 5day 2 6


Day 3: Lake Oahu to Otematata 77km

day 3

Day 3 was the only real day of climbing. The nice thing about riding from an alpine region to the coast is that it’s mostly downhill. Having said that, day 3 was a bit of a test for Katie, the climb was a real grinder.

day 3 1

When you’re a vagabond bike tourist you need to take the opportunity to wash your nether-regions whenever you can. I can vouch for the member shrinking coldness of this water.

day 3 2day 3 3

day 3 4

And the climb begins.

day 3 5day 3 6day 3 7day 3 8day 3 9

We camped at a caravan park at Otematata for night 3. Strangely there were a lot of caravans there but they were empty. Ghost caravans. We later found out that a yearly pass to camp in these places is about $350, so a lot of people just leave their caravans there and visit on the weekends. Australian grey nomads would have a pretty good time here.

Day 4: Otematata to Waitaiki River campsite near Duntroon 59km

day 4

Day 4 was slightly downhill most of the time and there was a nice tail wind.

day 4 1


day 4 2

Dam I look good.

day 4 3

This part of NZ is full of ghost caravans and lovely camp spots next to lakes. If the Australian Grey Nomad ever found their way here they’d take over the place much in the same way the Australian possum has.

day 4 4day 4 5day 4 6day 4 7day 4 8


Day 5 Waitaiki River campsite near Duntroon to Oamaru 70km

day 5

Day 5 was the day the weather turned. We’d only met two other groups of cyclists and they mentioned that the last day the weather was going to turn, a strong southerly weather pattern they said, straight off Antarctica they said.

The dry creek beds started to fill with chain-rusting, hub-filling-with-grit water.

day 5 1day 5 2day 5 3day 5 4

day 5 5

Much like that Lincoln Park song, Katie was one step closer to the edge.

day 5 5a

day 5 6

I couldn’t feel my fingers. I was resting my fists on the top of the bars to conserve finger feeling. I was changing gears with my fists, I was talking in grunts because I couldn’t feel my face, cheeks or lips.

day 5 7

day 5 7b

There’s light at the end of the tunnel until there isn’t.

day 5 8day 5 9

When we got to Oamaru we found a hostel that would take us in, had a really long shower and then drank some well-deserved beer. Delicious.



How to get there:

From Christchurch, you can get the Intercity Bus to Lake Tekapo.

You can get an Intercity bus back to Christchurch from Oamaru.

The bus is about $40-$50 dollars each way. It’ll cost you $10 bucks per bike to put your bike under the bus. Make sure to contact Intercity and confirm you can get your bike under the bus and ask them to tell the driver.

The track is extremely well signed, I was really impressed. Whenever you come to an intersection there’s an obvious sign pointing which way to go.

You can view the Alps 2 Ocean google maps layer here:


The official website is here:


Camping Cost:

We only paid for 1 night of camping at Otematata which was $25 for a site. Everywhere else the camping was free. You’re allowed to “freedom” camp in NZ wilderness areas if there are no signs and you’re self-contained.

It’s worth mentioning that we met a couple from Auckland on the ride that didn’t carry much gear besides a change of clothes and booked into hotels / motels / pubs / airbnbs on the way and bought their food at local pubs or cafes. If that’s more your scene you could have a great time riding with very little gear on this track.

Other Opportunities:

There were some things to do next to the trail in some of the towns, you could binge drink at wineries on the way, go on joy-flights in gliders, fish for salmon etc.


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Shared Finances: The Tragedy of the Commons?


A long time ago, in a university far far away a guy called Garrett Hardin wrote an essay called The Tragedy of the Commons, which was about a key concern of many at the time, human over-population.*


He argued that the resources of the world are finite and that if the human population continued to expand we would reach a point where the quality of life per person would be reduced as more people were added to the world. An example would be that the capacity of the roads in which traffic will flow freely in a city is finite, and as you add more traffic to the road each motorist experiences greater congestion and a lower quality of transit.


Here’s an excerpt from his essay in which he describes the concept of the tragedy of the commons using an example of farmers sharing a common paddock for their cows:

Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.

As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly, or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks: “What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?” This utility has one negative and one positive component.

1) The positive component is the function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1.

2) The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of -1.

Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another, and another …But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit — in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

So, the title of this blog post included the words shared finances. What does a paddock full of cows and greedy farmers have to do with shared finances?

I’d argue that, to a degree, if a couple share their finances, the same concept of the tragedy of the commons applies as the income that the couple bring home from their jobs each month is of course finite.

With each individual purchase decision that each member of the couple makes the percentage of benefit that the member gains from the purchase is 100%.

However, the negative component that they receive from that purchase, which is, of course, the extra time they need to work in their job to pay for the purchase decision (as described in more detail here) is shared between the couple, that is the individual share of the dis-benefit is 50%.

For example if one member of the relationship decides to buy a really cool brand new mountain bike, like say a 2019 Giant Reign SX, or a YT Capra 27 AL; he gets 100% of the benefit of the extra traction that 180mm of bump eating front suspension provides, along with the street cred that comes from taking a masterpiece of space-age fluid formed aluminium out of the back of the car at the mountain bike trail car park on the weekend in front of his mates.

However in the case of shared finances he has actually only contributed his share of income to this particular purchase, hence he’s getting 100% of the benefit of the purchase, but only contributing 50% of the income required to make that purchase.

This, of course, is not the only thing that’s considered during each purchase, but over time, faced with thousands of purchases the asymmetry in the individuals share of the benefit vs dis-benefit will influence many purchase decisions and hence affect the financial health of the couple overall. Of course there’s other affects that may have to be dealt with, possible resentment, potentially having to negotiate for non-communal purchases and the fact that financial stress tends to be the biggest contributing factor to relationship breakdown.

Sharing finances is a very personal topic, I’m sure there will be a lot of people that disagree (potentially emotionally) with my opinion that sharing finances is probably more problematic than it’s worth. That’s cool, no problem, people think I’m wrong about all kinds of things, but if you’re at the point of your relationship where you’re deciding whether you should share finances with your significant other or not, at least take into consideration the above and work out some methods that work for you to manage the problem of the tragedy of the commons and think about how to disarm any other problems that could arise from shared finances such as  resentment.

Bonus Discussion:

One solution to the problem of the tradegy of the commons is to impose more rules and regulations onto the “herdsmen” as the number of herdsmen increases. Travelling around Australia this becomes very apparent. In a city like Melbourne, there are a million rules and regulations so that the vast number of city dwelling herdsmen don’t spoil the environment for the rest of their fellow herdsmen. Contrast this with Queensland or the Northern Territory and the number of rules and regulations is dramatically less. You could argue that in general, the quality of life in a less populated city is higher, not just due to the lack of traffic, often cheaper housing etc, but also the lack of excessive rules and regulations that have been imposed to address the problem of the tragedy of the commons.

An example of the difference in the number of rules is that in Victoria, (Melbournes state) you’re not permitted to drive a car on the beach, the common reason given that driving a car on the beach will kill the birds that live on the beach. While in Queensland, everybody drives their car on the beach. If a Queenslander mentions this to a Victorian, the policeman that’s slowly been installed within the Victorians mind over time will often cause them to judge the Queenslander. I often wonder what this rule following inner policeman mindset does to the tendency of the population to take chances, risks and innovate over time.

*Reading the essay through the lens of todays cultural norms many people would label the essay racist.


The Opportunity Cost of Private Schooling


It’s a common belief that private school children are given better tuition, better resources and a better peer group that helps them to succeed in life and have better careers than their public school counterparts.

This belief is used by parents to justify spending often ridiculous amounts of money per year, for a private school education.

The problem I have with this is that a fancypants peer group and a more attentive teacher are intangible assets, intangible assets that are paid for with very real tangible dollars. It’s a qualitative thing that demands a very large quantitative price.

In business, when there’s a decision to make upon which investment should be chosen from a few options a concept called Net Present Value (NPV) is used to assess each option. This consists of estimating the future cashflows from each option and discounting them exponentially over time using an appropriate discount rate that considers the cost of money, inflation and the risk of the investment. This is a solid way to make investment  decisions.

In the case of a cash outflow NPV is called Net Present Cost and the cost is inflated over time to account for the opportunity cost of not being able to allocate that cash elsewhere.


Let’s analyse the Net Present Cost of sending a child to a Private School from Prep to year 12. To discount the future cash-flows we’ll consider the opportunity cost of spending that cash rather than investing the money in a diversified group of stocks in the stock market, such as could be bought easily via an index fund or listed investment company.


  • The child goes to private school from Prep to year 12 – a total of 13 years.
  • Private school fees from Prep to Year 6 are $20,000 per year
  • Fees from Year 7 to Year 12 are $22,000 per year (these fees are typical of what I could find with a little bit of googling of Australian Private School fees, it could be more, it could be less. I encourage you to make your own spreadsheet if you are considering this)
  • Expected average yearly return from diversified group of stocks – 8%

table 1

At the end of Year 12 the parents have paid $272,000 for their child’s education. However the money they have forfeited by tying up so much capital that could otherwise be invested is $444,577.

We all tend to be puppets dancing the same dances to our preconceived ideas; as such I’m sure some of you are saying, well hang on Extreme Man, the value of a Private School education is much more than that. The better education, more attention from teachers and sophisticated peer group lead to better outcomes later in life, a better career, high income etc. To that I would say, this is not Ramblings of a mild mannered social science and statistics based man, this is Ramblings of an Extreme mathematics and hard science based man. All of those things are either qualitative or only able to be measured statistically – correlation is not equal to causation.

The assertion that there’s a quantifiable difference of a Private School education resulting in greater pay later in life is a pretty speculative argument to make, there’s a lot of variables.

I’d like to assert that even if there is a difference in pay between private and public educated students later in life, due to the power of compounding over time there is no way at all (seriously, not a chance in hell) that the difference would make sense from a Net Present Value perspective. To highlight this, let’s build on the table a little more. Let’s assume that the student spends 5 years at university and then a few years in the workforce which brings them to the ripe old age of 25.

table 2

If instead of the parents spending a large amount of money on private schooling they instead invested that money until year 12 and then made no further contributions; using the assumptions above the portfolio of stocks would have grown to over $822,000 by the time the child is 25.

Taking this one step further, if the objective is to give a child a head start in life so they can get a better job and hence earn more money, then you should really consider sending them to public school and investing the difference in the stock market on their behalf. The hypothetical private school child, no matter their career or salary will never be able to bridge this gap in wealth of the public school child. In addition to overall net worth, a diversified group of Australian stocks (such as is easily purchased in a listed investment company) will pay greater than 5% gross dividend per year, rain hail or recession. Modelling this for the table above gives:

table 3

I track all of my living expenses and I live off approximately $25,000 per year.

In the scenario above, if the child had similar spending habits to me they would be financially independent and able to retire in their second year of university. At the age of 25 they would have far more money than they ever need, hence rendering any need for a high salary career completely redundant. On top of this, dividends tend to grow at approximately twice the rate of inflation.

Even if, the private school educated child is earning more money at the age of 25 it doesn’t matter, the public school hypothetical student could be retired. Their time could be free to volunteer, travel, start a business, pursue their passion, etc without the need to earn a salary.

In the words of the model Private School student, Summer Heights High’s Ja’mie, “Sorry, no offense, but it’s true.”



BVRT, yeah you know me

What’s really dirty, results in a sore arse, guys tend to like more than their girlfriends and isn’t anal sex? Bike touring on the Brisbane valley rail trail.

The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT for those fond of acronyms) is an old railway line that’s been converted to a multi use trail, multi as in bike, hike or horse.

It’s about 160km long and goes from Yarraman to Wulkuraka.

With the last of the start of the year long weekend bounty coming to a close Katie and I decided we needed to squeeze some adventure into the last one.

Riding from start to finish with hiking gear it was.

Day 1.

We drove to Wulkuraka station near Ipswich and got a lift to the Yarraman end with Josie from Out there cycling for the reasonable price of 50 bucks per person.

We rode 69km from Yarraman to stop at Harlin for the first night.

The section from Blackbutt to Linville is a highlight, steady long downhill through the forest.

Rail trails are nice because they’re never too steep, but currently the section from Moore to Toogoolawah isn’t complete and there’s a detour that consists of riding through some paddocks and a lot of back roads that can get a little steep at times.

Day 2.

Day 2 we rode 68km from Harlin to a little past Coominya.

This was the hardest day for Katie, the hills on the detour really took it out of her. Luckily just at the point where it looked like all hope was lost the track turned downhill and she stepped back from the edge.

We ended up sleeping under a bridge like homeless people. I think I could get used to this.

We also rode past a pretty big fire.

Day 3.

Day 3 we finished riding 39km from near Coominya back to Wulkuraka station.

Once we’d finished first stop was to see the Colonel for a bucket of his finest. I demolished most of a family feast on my own, delicious.

Other highlights included Katie eating almost 2 packets of ibuprofen over the 3 days. Impressive.

It was pretty quiet on the trail but we met a few people, 2 of whom volunteered for rail trails Queensland. They also mentioned there is another one from kilkivan to kingaroy which you could join onto the start to make it into potentially a week of relaxing riding, or if you wanted to get really serious you could ride the whole Bicentennial Trail of which the BVRT is but a small part. I’d never heard of the bicentennial trail before, and after going all the way down the bicentennial trail rabbit hole on Google I could feel the seriousness slowly but surely building.

How to get there:

Drive to one end and give Out there cycling a call to drop you at the other end. They can also drop you off and pick you up from any town along the way.

Camping Cost:


Other Resources:

BVRT website

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Annual Leave optimisation 

So I’ve just recently returned to work after a two week holiday in Sri Lanka. Surfing, eating curry, drinking banana juice. 

It was my first holiday since I’ve been back at work, besides the mandatory time off over Christmas last year while the office was closed. 

It was great to have again the freedom to choose what I was going to spend time on during the week and I couldn’t believe it had been so long since I’d taken time off.

I realised that if I’m going to have any chance of staying at work until I reach retire I need to come up with a regular, sustainable way to take time off.

I thought about this a lot and decided my goal is to have reasonably regular holidays. I’d rather have 4 x 1 week holidays per year with 3 months of work in-between than 1 x 4 week holiday per year with 11 months of uninterrupted work. 

By taking 1 week of leave you get 5 days off plus 4 days of weekends. The weekends work out to be a bonus of 44%. Whereas if you take 2 weeks of leave you get 10 days off plus 6 days of weekends, where the bonus weekends are 37.5%. Taking holidays longer than 1 week reduces your weekend bonus as a percentage. 

Before any holiday I always find that I work twice as hard the week before and after the holiday. I think if my holidays were in general only a week the extra effort before and after would be minimised. If I work out a years worth of holidays now I can also block out my calendar so everyone has plenty of notice which should also help. 

So the constraints I have to work with are 

  • 4 weeks of annual leave per year 
  • The office closes for 2 weeks after Christmas inclusive of new years, taking this leave is mandatory. 

The mandatory 2 weeks off over Christmas has 3 public holidays in those 2 weeks, so this consumes 7 days of leave out of a total 20 per year. 

I came up with an idea that if I found another two public holidays that I could wrap a week of leave around it would turn 4 weeks of holiday per year into 5 weeks of holiday per year, 2 weeks at christmas and one week spaced out evenly roughly every 3 months. 

A quick google of Queensland public holidays turned up this: Queensland public holidays 2017/2018

Next thing was to Google the school holiday dates and cross reference with the public holidays to make sure I wasn’t going to be camping with 500 people next door on my holidays.

For me the optimum dates turned out to be :

  • Christmas 2017 – 23/12/17 until the 7/1/17. 2 weeks including 3 public holidays 
  • 21st to 29th of April 2018. This includes the Anzac day public holiday.
  • 11th to 19th of August. This includes the Ekka day public holiday. 
  • 3rd to 11th of November. 

So there you have it, 4 weeks of annual leave per year optimised into 5 weeks with the added bonus of not holidaying during school holidays. 

    I’m sure a lot of people have already worked this kind of thing out, but I thought I’d share for others who may be slow like me. 


    Money, Retirement, Life – 3. How much do you need

    “Plain dishes offer the same pleasure as a luxurious table, when the pain that comes from want is taken away.” Epicurus 

    So how many of these paper life force tokens do you actually need? What sets the upper limit on your spending?

    Think about when you were younger and you had less money, I assume you spent less. Then over time you slowly started to earn more, got pay rises, promotions, changed jobs etc. Chances are that your spending increased as your income increased. Did this stop at some point? Should it stop at some point? 

    Are you happier now, spending more money than you were when you were younger and spent less? Say you earn a hefty income every month, are you proportionally more happier than the people you know that earn less? You may have more things, go to more fancy restaurants, but has the extra money that you’ve spent added any more happiness or convenience to your life after hedonic adaption is taken into account?

    For many people the only thing that puts an upper limit upon how much they spend, is how much they earn. If this is you; you are placing something very important, the cost to maintain your lifestyle in its current state into the hands of something that you cannot control, the amount of and regularity of your income. This is a risky way to live.

    I propose that as you spend more you reach a point where your happiness or convenience you receive from the purchase doesn’t increase. The law of diminishing returns kicks in and you hand over more of your paper life tokens and get less or nothing back in return. 

    You should optimise your spend so that you are not pissing your finite paper life tokens up against the inevitable wall of diminishing returns.

    The first step to doing this is to start to track your expenses. **

    In order to know if all of your expenditure is actually making you proportionally happier, you should track how much you spend per relevant categories, and then reflect upon that spend each month. 

    You should actually stop and consciously think once per month, am I happy about spending that much on said category?

    To optimise anything you need a feedback loop, measuring and reflecting is a feedback loop that will allow you to optimise your spending so that you are not spending more on things that do not make you happy.

    For example, here is how my spending on Recreational activities has changed over time since I started measuring and reflecting on all my expenses. This includes capital and operational expenditure on Hiking, Mountain Biking, Fishing, Camping and Surfing:
    And here is how my spending on Food has changed over time, since I started measuring and reflecting on my expenses:

    I know you’re probably thinking, gee Extreme Man, that seems like a lot of effort, I’m not sure if I’ve got the time. But you see, the thing is you traded a part of your life that you are never going to get back for that money, and then you decided to spend that money on things. Surely you owe it to yourself to keep a record of how much of your life you traded for those things, and time to consider if trading your life for those things was worth it? And if it’s takes too much time to record the expense, perhaps you should save even more time and not make the purchase in the first place?
    Once you do this, you’ll find that over a few months your spending will go down. You’ll slowly work out the actual cost per month to maintain your life in a fashion that you can consciously justify to yourself. 
    This is a very powerful moment. If money is a paper life force token that you have traded your life for, you’ve now worked out how much of those paper life force tokens you are trading back each month to sustain your life. 

    If your salary gives you a certain amount of dollars per month, you’ve now inverted that relationship and worked out the number of months per dollar.

    Once you know the number of months per dollar the way you think about the cost of things changes, you now know the conversion rate between the price of things, and the amount of your life.
    People generally compare buying something to not buying something because they don’t know what else to do with their money; the decision is to buy and have it or not buy it and don’t have it, often this comparison inevitability results in buy it and have it as there’s no down side. Once you work out the number of months per dollar this comparison is a lot more valid. You’re comparing buying something and having it versus not buying it and keeping X months of freedom saved up.
    Once you know the number of months per dollar you can immediately look at your savings and say, my savings will support me for X weeks/months/years. You now know how much of your freedom you can buy with the amount of savings that you have. You can also work out using (the cost of travel) how much freedom in certain places you can buy with your savings.
    Knowing this empowers you to make informed decisions to change things about your life.
    But what if looking at your savings and knowing you have X weeks/months/years of freedom saved up isn’t enough? What if you don’t want temporary freedom, you want permanent freedom? What is the cost of perpetual do anything you want, whenever you want freedom? That’s up Next.
    **In the final topic in this series I’ll provide a spreadsheet that makes tracking all of your expenses easy.