Liberation

I still do not know what has changed. But something has changed. I did not find the love of my life. I did not become rich in terms of money. I did not become a boss at work. I did not buy a house. I did not buy a car. I did not buy an expensive phone. I did not go to luxory hotels and restaurants. I did not buy expensive equipment. And still, I am orders of magnitude happier than I ever was before. Not everything is perfect, of course, but it does not annoy me that much anymore. Most likely, it was a beneficial combination of factors. I moved to a nice city. I am surrounded by nice people. And I started to appreciate how beautiful everything around us is.

Lake Seeben near Ehrwald in Austria on an amazing summer day

Call it whatever you want. Some people call it minimalism. Other people talk about cognitive psychology. Yet another group says that they pray to a god. Others become buddhists. But it is all just flavors of the very same thing. Different ways that all lead to the same sort of liberation based on focusing on what really matters.

Geocaching

The hotel was in the middle of nowhere. It was surrounded by fields and forests, at the entrance to a small polish village in the outskirts of Katowice. I had nothing to do until dinner and it all looked like I was going to spend the time staring at my phone in my room. That did not sound very appealing. Suddenly, I recalled geocaching, a world-wide game about finding hidden secrets at specific locations. And to my surprise, quite a number of such secrets where hidden near that lonely hotel. I found one of them and got amazed at the thought that such "treasures" are hidden everywhere around us by other players of a silent game that spans the whole world.

In this case, the cache was just a small container with the list of names of the finders

Fields and forests on a warm summer evening in Poland

Soap

I use a lot of soap. And by a lot, I mean really a lot. Earlier this year, I was consuming 750 ml of liquid soap every week just for washing my hands. Regardless of how harmful that is for my skin, it also translated into a terrible amount of plastic waste since liquid soap typically comes in plastic containers. Looking for a new soap dispenser, I found a wonderful solution: a foam dispenser, which is filled with 60% water, only 20% soap, and 20% air. Now a 750 ml soap refill lasts for more than a month, which not only cuts massively on plastic waste but is also much cheaper. Now I can wash my hands for only 0.79 €/month, or even less ;-)

Best plastic and money saver ever

Along the same lines, I substituted shower gel with bar soap, which again cuts on both plastic and money. This was a bit more tricky because I really hate when soap bars get soggy after some time on a typical soap bar holder. However, I found out that humanity has a solution to that problem. At my local zero waste shop I found a soap holder made out of some sort of hardened threads that prevent water from accumulating below the soap. My life has a new meaning since then xD I can finally use all of that Aleppo Soap that I had hoarded at home, knowing that I am not only doing something good for the environment but also for my pocket. Double win :D

Yes, I had to cut that soap into smaller pieces before being able to use it

Shining Land

Welcome to the first (semi) sponsored post in this blog! I often received ads from Saal Digital, a German company that sells photo products online. That is, photo albums, posters, calendars, cards, you name it. The deal on the ad was quite straightforward. They offer a 40 € discount code for a photo album if one in turns writes an honest review of the product. And what you are reading now, is that review :) Apparently they do have some selection process, but I applied just with the URL of the photography section of this blog and it worked! I decided to design a photo book based on my trip to Sri Lanka, which I received this week.

The good things. I am very happy with the result. The photo book is very well made and the quality is definitely high enough for me as a photography enthusiast. I am sure a professional photographer would find some defect, but I think that the result is unbeatable for the price. Also, production time was incredibly fast. I submitted the final design on a Sunday evening and on Tuesday I already had the photo book at home. Saal Digital also offers a very easy to use software that takes care of everything. It shows all the available options, the prices, offers advice, and submits the job once the design is finished.

In the software, it was not very clear to me where exactly the spine of the book starts

The not-so-great things. The software, again. While it is easy to use and a great alternative to the web-based design tool, it has some limitations. For instance, it offers multiple layout styles, but resets to the default on each new page of the album. Also, most of the styles are rather questionable. To sell, I do understand that they have to cater to the bad taste that unfortunately is so widespread, but at least they could guide the users away from poor clip-arts. The tool to edit text is also rather basic and apparently only supports a limited set of fonts. I only used it for the book title, but even for that it was not easy to use.

The book is bound in a way that pages can lie flat, allowing pictures to span both pages

Conclusion. Saal Digital offers great products at a very reasonable price. Actually, a few months ago I was about to order a calendar from them even without the discount code, but then got a bit frustrated with their web-based design tool. While their software is also limited, it is definitely the better approach!

Needing Less

I have decided to reduce. I do not seek to have a lot but to need little. Having a lot is exhausting. First, you need to work hard to earn the money to have all those things. Second, you need to spend a lot of time to consume them. If I focus on the things I really enjoy, I can save both time and money. With this in mind, I started a detailed recording of all my expenses when I moved to Munich. Since this was now one year ago, I decided to take a look at all that data. The figure below shows how the money that I spent (not including what I save) splits into different categories. Unsurprisingly for Munich, most of it goes into housing.

Overall spending from April 2018 to March 2019, without what I save

A very interesting analysis is where I buy food and how much I spend on it. Note that the 9% in the above figure also includes restaurants that do not fall under Leisure Time. In contrast, the figure below only includes what I spend on supermarkets as such and the canteen at work. I must admit that I had never expected to spend that much money in the canteen. Overall, I spend an average of 5.6 €/day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when not eating out. Is this much, or is it little? One thing that surprised me is that I spend roughly the same in Edeka than in Lidl, although the former is considered to be much more expensive than the latter.

One year of food at home and at work

One may now argue that I probably go much more often to Lidl than to Edeka, and thus the absolute amount of spent money is similar. However, the figure below shows that I actually go much more often to Edeka. The reason is that it is right on the way back from work, whereas Lidl requires some detour. Location obviously plays a crucial role. In April and May 2018 I had a temporary flat which was right across a Penny. Thus, I shopped there 80% of the times. As one can guess from the figure below, I now live near an Edeka and a Lidl ;-) All in all, where one shops is not necessarily related to how much money one spends!

Percentage of the number of times that I shopped at Lidl, Edeka, Penny, and Hit