Savings Report #33 – Keeping Up With the Johanssons

Click here to see all of my past Savings Reports and view my interactive net worth chart

Go to How To Track Your Savings to check out the Saving Ninja Super Spreadsheet.

The stock markets had a bit of a resurgence, although they’ll probably drop again next month. I passed £200k net worth. But all of this reporting is getting a bit mundane, don’t you think?

It was a little more exciting when I was contributing more heavily and seeing my stash grow by huge amounts each month, but now it almost feels like observing a wave coming in and out, or reporting the weather. But it’s worse because I don’t track the markets, I have no idea why they’re going up or down, I just look at my numbers like a good passive investor, so there’s not much I can say other than, “Looks like they’ve gone up again this month.”

I do enjoy writing my journal entries each month though, so I don’t want to stop these monthly ‘reports,’ although I might skip the financial commentary unless something spectacular happens from now on, but still upload the above financial snapshot image.

We Own Two Houses

“We own property in multiple countries.” Sounds posh, eh?

We’ve effectively moved ‘out to the sticks’ in Sweden, about 1 hour north of Stockholm. This is fine for me as I’m now fully remote, but it’s a bit of a nightmare for Mrs SavingNinja as she has to get 3 busses into work. She’ll be trying to switch careers into something which she can eventually do remotely this year. If she’s successful, we’ll be truly untethered from a single location and we can pick our perfect spot in the world.

The location we’ve moved to is really beautiful, all of our neighbours own multi-million pound mansions with their own private jetties, as theFIREstarter said to me, I have to be careful not to fall into the trap of ‘keeping up with the Johanssons!’

I feel like we’ve bought a shed in their back garden.

We feel happy here, but I seem to always have the feeling of impending doom deep in my gut, maybe this is just my natural state?

Here’s how the first week went…

Easter Weekend

We rented a van for 2 days to move out of our Stockholm apartment and do some big shops. The move went well but it was a mad rush to do everything as we also purchased SEVENTY bags of soil and a bunch of wood to make our raised beds, we haven’t put them up yet… We’re thinking our maths must have been wrong, surely we don’t need this much!?

They’re now sitting outside of the house waiting for better weather


We built a compost bin out of pallets that we found on our street.

We don’t plan on paying the £50 per month to have our bins collected. Especially because this doesn’t even include recycling, we have to take all of our cardboard, plastic, metal, glass etc to a recycling centre no matter what (it’s crazy there is no service!)

So, we came up with the brilliant plan of recycling all of our food waste into this compost bin, Mrs SavingNinja did a lot of research before moving here and we’ll hopefully be fine. We plan on throwing some things down the toilet, like stuff picked up from the hoover and left over cat food, but all food waste and cardboard will go into the compost and everything else will be recycled. If there is a small amount of waste we just can’t get rid of, Mrs SavingNinja is going to have to take it into work in a small bag to dispose of secretly!

Side Note: All of our neighbours must think we’re crazy-green people as we’re the only people in the association of 12 houses without a car or bin collection. Little do they know that we’re just tight frugal.


Our big IKEA order arrived with our bed (we’d been sleeping on the floor up until this point,) sofa, kitchen table, one storage unit, and some other bits. We spent most of the day assembling.

This produced another side-affect; a lot of cardboard and plastic. We decided to take our first trip to the ‘local’ recycling ‘centre.’ We filled up a box and a couple of IKEA bags and started walking, after getting past the two neighbours that offered to take it for us whilst giving us weird looks, we were on our way!

The Swedish authority recycling map said it was a 10 minute walk away, which it was, ish. But there was another problem, the map had failed to tell us that it was only a ‘centre’ for cardboard… And it was already full and overflowing. Ahhhh…

The closest center which takes all recycling is a 30 minute walk away.

This kinda sucks, I thought we were living in a green country? They don’t have any service to collect recycling and they just expect you to own a car?

We stuffed the cardboard into this one bin as much as we could and hauled everything else back to the house.

We purchased a…£100…bike trailer (cheapest we found,) for online delivery which should come in a week’s time. Hopefully this will make our recycling problem more bearable as it cuts the 30 minute walk into an 8 minute cycle, which isn’t too bad. If we have to get a car I’m going to be sad.


Organising the house, trying to put some clothes away in our one set of drawers, we also built a small shed behind the house to put tools etc. in.

We bought the bricks and shed when we had our van!

This was also the day we had our first ‘association’ meeting. Nothing prepared me for how weird this would be. There are 12 new build properties on this plot and we’re all part of an ‘association’ so we pay about £180 per month to a pot to cover the grounds, buildings, and other things of all 12 properties, kind of like ground rent in the UK for a flat, but all 12 families manage it themselves through meetings.

The estate agent told me that we’d be able to do anything that we liked to the garden as long as it isn’t permanent, e.g. make raised beds, put sheds up, as long as there is no concrete foundation. But in this meeting everyone was asking permission for everything, apparently you need permission from the local authorities (and the association) to even extend your decking. We’d already built a huge compost bin on our garden boundary by this point, and bought the materials for 4, rather large, raised beds.

We didn’t say anything, and we’re hoping we can just ask for forgiveness afterwards. It’s going to get pretty hairy if they say we need to ask for permission.

What followed was them deciding on a colour we should all conform to for awnings. And then deciding on what specific building numbers to get and saying everyone needs to buy them with their own money, after shooting down a couple who had already bought their house numbers and saying that they’re too hard to see. It seems they want us all to be identical clones.

This isn’t really the type of people we are… We want to be alone in the woods, not involved in all of this politics which seems to be happening in just the first meeting.

Thursday And Friday

We spent the last two days of our week off on making another IKEA order and continued organising. We still had a lot of furniture we needed to get and we wanted to make sure we got it right as it’s impossible to return anything without renting a car.

What Have We Learnt?

Life is actually really hard without a car. It’s harder when you’re not in a city, and when you’re in Sweden.

Hopefully it will get a little better after we have settled in and fallen into a natural groove.

But this was always our half-way house, we’ll spend the next 2-3 years planning our next adventure whilst hopefully not getting too annoyed by the associations ‘rules.’ It’s a beautiful place, but not quite what we want long-term. The point of buying was to stop spending the ludicrous £1500 rent in Stockholm. The mortgage interest and bills only amount to around £500 between us here, at the cost of ‘locking in’ our decision for at least a couple of years.

I think it was the correct move, even if we have to get a car!

Random Thoughts

  • Life is a Picture – Wait But Why
    • I really enjoyed this post, I need to investigate the Ted Talk that he linked to as I certainly would benefit from more investigation into the happiness topic! It describes perfectly the notion of ‘The Grass is Always Greener’ and how most people feel this way, and it’s described in a humorous Wait But Why way.
    • Here’s the Ted Talk: The surprising science of happiness
  • Living a FI update
    • Really honest and raw post about how Living a FI’s life went after he retired 5 years ago. A sobering read which a lot of us FIRE-types would benefit from, life isn’t static.

9 thoughts on “Savings Report #33 – Keeping Up With the Johanssons

  1. I need a bike trailer. Would be interested to see a pic of yours when it arrives. Please do an update on how it performs! Thanks!

  2. Great to hear you are settling in your new home, SN – I can’t believe you are comparing your place to a ‘shed’! Ok, compared to the Johanssons’ palatial residences!

    Understand your frustration with the “politics’ of your neighbours though and hope all will be well with the beds and stuff you’re building.

    Oh, might be best to avoid putting any meat in your compost heap, as that could attract rats (or other Swedish critters) which won’t endear you to the neighbours!

    Would you consider getting an electric vehicle as doesn’t Sweden have one of the highest number of EVs in Europe? Maybe a second hand one will be in your budget and you’ll still be green but will have more freedom (maybe Mrs SN could drive to work then instead of taking all those buses)

    1. Haha yeah, that boat house in one of the pictures is at least two times the size!

      We re-planted some of the tomato plants into medium sized pots today, they’re doing really well. Just have to wait for the cold-north-wind to stop blowing.

      We actually had some minced meat that has gone funny and we had to flush it down the toilet. Feels a bit gross, but we have no rubbish collection. We’ll only put in meat when the compost heat is sufficiently big and hot enough, and we’ll bury it right in the middle.

      We really would rather not buy anything, it’s so expensive to get when Mrs SN to pay for a monthly public transport pass anyway as we can’t park in Stockholm. The only thing she can do if she wants to drive to work is get a motorbike or moped as then the parking and tolls are free.

  3. Bwahahhaha. That’s so cute 🙂

    I can understand your frustrations though.
    I’d do my utmost to befriend your neighbors – maybe they’ll even let you borrow their car every now and then 😉 The swedes are friendly people (I even know a few personally myself – they talk funny, but they’re alright 😛 ).

    The home owners association thing is something that we also struggle with in Denmark. It’s like a freakin’ kindergarten! HAHA. I couldn’t believe it the first time we went to one of the meetings. We were living in a row house at that time, with 64 houses in total, built in the 1940’s. You wouldn’t believe the stuff that the people would argue about…We stopped going to them after a couple of years…

    €50/month for garbage disposal seems like a lot…We don’t pay anywhere near that here in DK. Then again, we pay 150% tax on our cars, so the cars in Sweden are WAY cheaper 😛

    Just get that car man…haha. Remember you want it to have a tow hook! (gotta have that when you’re a home owner 😛 ).

    Looking forward to reading the next chapter of your exciting expat life in Sweden! 😀

    @Weenie, it’s Norway you’re thinking about. They have the highest number of EVs per capita in Europe.

    1. One has actually let us borrow his van to take our mountain of recycling, he’s a very nice guy. It seems the only point of an association is to give more money to the builders are the association itself has another huge mortgage, it’s just hiding the true cost of a property.

      The disposal is weird, it is split over a basic fee you must pay no matter what service you get, a fee depending on how often they collect and if it’s mixed or separated waste, and then a third fee for how heavy it was. Then we still have to walk for 30 minutes for the recycling. In England the recycling is collected with the bin collection service, and it’s included in your tax payments (which is lower than Sweden!) I currently don’t see any benefit from the increased taxes other than paying for other peoples kids to go to school and kindergatan.

      Ahhh, I don’t want the increased cost of one 🙁 I didn’t have one when commuting into London either, and even though I admit, not as high a cost as Denmark, it’s still way higher than the UK, and I’ve heard mechanics charge A LOT here! If the cost of electricians and other tradespeople here are anything to go by, I don’t even wanna know, hah.

      I like to moan a lot…

      ALSO, the entrance to the sea here is ALL privatised… I can’t even go to swimming, my taxes can’t even uphold a tiny little entrance to the water for public use.

  4. Great to read what you’ve been up to and thanks for the hat tip on “keeping up with” pun 🙂

    Could of random thoughts:
    “I seem to always have the feeling of impending doom deep in my gut” – wonder what this stems from? Do you think it could be a form of imposter syndrome? Like “do I really deserve all of this so surely something bad is going to happen and take it all away from me soon” kind of thinking?
    I think I could relate to that, if that’s where you are coming from. I feel happy and kind of where I’m supposed to be in my crappy terraced house in England. I think it would feel really alien/unconformable if I moved somewhere else that was much grander all of a sudden. Hopefully the feeling will pass soon as you feel more at home.

    “If we buy a car I’m going to be sad” – dude just buy a Tesla you know you want to 🙂

    On a serious note the whole no car thing is clearly not do-able if you don’t live in a large town or city. Any place you drive past that’s in the sticks usually has at least 2 cars, there is a reason for that! Don’t feel bad about it, but an EV could be great option as Weenie also mentioned I see.

    Hope the next update involves some sort of association raised bed scandal, could be a gripping read and go viral!

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment TFS – we spoke elsewhere, but to add to that and a couple more thoughts:

      I certainly have always felt impostor syndrome, especially when it comes to my career. I think this isn’t the main contributor to my impeding doom feeling though. I’m generally a very pessimistic person, I worry a lot, I’m an anxious mess sometimes! I touched on this in my “Allergic to Spending Money” post, how I never wanted to spend money for the worry of feeling regret. I don’t know why I’m always so anxious to experience regret, but it is the same feeling which constantly plagues me; worried something is going to go wrong, almost always being on-guard, checking things over a thousand times! Did we make the right decision? etc. etc.

      Aha, I’d love for us to get a Tesla… But I don’t want to spend 50% more than if we were in the US. That’s part of the reason why I think we’ll do better off in the US, I know I’ll be getting the best value for electronics and cars and property, I won’t have to fret as much about being ripped off! We might look into a motorbike though, if we can guarantee they’ll be OK in the Swedish winter. Right now, the bike and trailer is doing alright.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.