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FIRE update: nine months in – the onset of winter

FIRE update: nine months in – the onset of winter post image

Before FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early), my bleakest time of year was always the first day back to work in January.

The real magic of Christmas is that we collectively agree to suspend reality for a precious few days. It’s as if we’ve been gifted an enchanted remote control that pauses the world.

Then some fool unfreezes it again and we’re back to business as usual.

As work problems piled up faster than party invites in Bojo’s inbox, my answer was to immediately book another holiday.

Must. Have. Something. To look forward to.

Post-FIRE, there’s no cold bucket of reality to the face.

It’s midwinter and the short days still seem to close early like a sleepy village shop.

But if simple pleasures are the secret to a good life, then FIRE lets you order a constant supply.

Plumbing the depths

My first day back after Christmas this year was spent having a Mr Money Mustache-style new skills adventure.

Not to overshare, but the toilet packed up.

And if the last year has taught me anything about Brexit Britain, it’s that I can’t get a plumber when I need one. They forgot to mention that one on the bus.

But what a chance to fully embrace the FIRE lifestyle! Exchanging pointless blah-blah meetings for the free-time to learn new tricks instead.

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Okay, so I’m not rigging up a solar still or travel-hacking my way around Asia.

But c’mon! You gotta take it where you can get it.

At this point, I must confess that I’m not a DIY enthusiast. My opening gambit was to google: “How does a toilet work?”

I was starting from a low-skill base. But a mere five hours later I’d uncovered a torn diaphragm in my Fluidmaster Pro Bottom-Entry Fill Valve.

As painful as that sounds, I fixed it with 97p worth of new seal. The master toilet was back in business!

High-fives were declined by Mrs Accumulator until I’d been hosed down in the garden.

Alright, it wasn’t that bad but I’ll still spare you the harrowing mobile footage documenting the gruesome detail.

How much would my plumber have charged if I could get him? £100 to £150 I’d guess.

Instead, as an ex-knowledge worker, I got to feel semi-useful for a change.

I’ve heard of the happiness U-bend but maybe this is taking it too literally?

Flush with success

So FIRE isn’t all all-glamour and chasing cows, huh? Seems not. But at least it wasn’t another bog-standard day at the office.

I no more want to fix toilets for a living than I wanted to mop up torrents of BS in my old profession.

The killer is routine. The killer is doing the same thing day in, day out, and at a hundred miles an hour.

With time on your side, most problems dissolve away.

Even a slow day can be filled with fun in disguise.

Making a home. Playful verbal jousting with Mrs TA. Discovering an unexpected talent for following YouTube videos then claiming all the credit.

I can’t go back.

Take it steady,

The Accumulator

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • 1 Brod January 12, 2022, 10:54 am


    I fully support your Blighty, have-a-go-and-devil-take-the-consequences attitude. So much so, I’m willing to donate, nay, sacrifice my um…. learning opportunity to you and give you the opportunity to re-grout round the my bathtub.

    Shall we say next Wednesday? 😉

  • 2 ermine January 12, 2022, 11:29 am

    Well done! Plumbing bits are usually reasonably simple and inspection will serve you well. That’s easier said than done is water is pouring out somewhere it shouldn’t 😉

    Main thing is to know how to turn the rising main intake off (and ideally where to isolate the feed from the cold water header tank if any) which gives you time to think with most plumbing problems.

    Most toilet issues tend to be a diaphragm somewhere, either valve on the newfangled dual flush systems or the one that lifts the water in the old-skool siphon flushes.

  • 3 David Andrews January 12, 2022, 11:30 am

    The feeling when you’ve fixed something and learned something new is a good one.

    I’ve previously had to change ball valves and toilet flush mechanisms. It’s generally not too tricky as long as you have the right tools, and know what you are searching for on YouTube and Google (other search methods are available).

    My highlight so far is finding the fuel line leaking on my 15 year old Renault Clio. A fox or similar feral animal had bitten through it (go figure). A bit of searching some Renault forums, knuckles scraped, expletives issued and an hour of work later it was all fixed.

  • 4 MarkR January 12, 2022, 12:19 pm

    The key thing I have learnt when doing some planned DIY is to ensure the DIY store is still open by the time you expect to finish – just in case you have overlooked that one essential tool/item to complete the job!

  • 5 Michelle / F&W January 12, 2022, 12:24 pm

    Bog-standard day at the office…..the number of puns you managed was impressive in this one

    Congrats – nothing like figuring something out and seeing it working. The difference of having the time to do so is an amazing feeling, instead of squeezing in a phone call in your lunch break.

    Entirely agreed it ‘s the lack of routine / having to do things at a certain time that’s a huge upside. Simple pleasures are so often the best. Though I have done the travel hacking round Asia and it’s well worth it too . Just do it slowly!

  • 6 Gary Cooper January 12, 2022, 12:34 pm

    that would have made a fine title.

  • 7 Rosario January 12, 2022, 12:36 pm

    Two takeaway’s from this post which I tend to agree with:
    1) Learning DIY is enjoyable and does have a strangely rewarding quality.
    I’ve taken on several DIY tasks which were well beyond what I would have considered just a few years ago. Its amazing what a little knowledge and confidence can do for you. Even if it is mostly following Youtube videos.

    2) It’s the “having” to do something that grates on most people. I dare say I’d enjoy my job much more if I could choose when and how to do it. Its the fact someone else dictates those things that I take umbrage with.

  • 8 mjcross January 12, 2022, 12:45 pm

    A nice warming post – and I recognise everything you say about like post-FIRE. It’s very *very* liberating.
    And yet… and yet – occasionally, just occasionally, I miss the feeling of being part of a team that’s just survived yet another crisis of someone else’s making. I’ve also noticed (nearly two years post-FIRE) that the days, weeks and months seem to have started flicking past with slightly scary rapidity. This is not because I’m lying about in some sort of semi-comatose state: I have MANY projects on the go. But I feel I’m entering a new phase, where I’ve fully unwound the ‘stress-spring’ and I’m ready to start heading up a new mountain. I’m not sure what it’s going to be though (and it won’t be ‘work’).

  • 9 Jim McG January 12, 2022, 12:50 pm

    I so remember my lawnmower breaking down, and I had the time to investigate Youtube. I needed a new gasket, cleaned the carburettor, and bingo! it fired up. I positively sauntered into the pub that Friday.

  • 10 trufflehunt January 12, 2022, 1:05 pm

    Reminded me of one of the numerous vacation jobs I did as a student.

    This particular one was as a builders labourer. I was staying with my sister and brother in law in Yorkshire for the summer. One of the stints I did was on a contract to resurface the interior of a rugby club’s septic tank. After a few initial gagging moments, I didn’t really notice the atmospherics. At the end of the day, though, when I got home, my sister answered the door, caught a whiff, and insisted I strip off in the back gardeen.

    Her English Setter, however, was absolutely ecstatic at the sudden arrival of so many new smells right on his doorstep. All over me.

  • 11 Chiny January 12, 2022, 1:22 pm

    You were hosed down outside, in winter, for fixing the (drinkable) water supply to the toilet ? That is harsh.

    Like money supply, there is always a plentiful supply of diy tasks. Inevitably, inflation will set in and the tasks will get bigger. Fix the toilet, install a new shower, refurb the bathrooom.

  • 12 Living Cheap In London January 12, 2022, 1:50 pm

    Congrats on the repair. Good to hear you plumbed to new depths of algorithm success on Google to find your answer.

    It must be said, toilet puns aren’t my favorite…
    But they’re a solid number 2.

    I’ll get my coat…..

  • 13 AleisterCrowley January 12, 2022, 2:52 pm

    @ Brod “I’m willing to donate, nay, sacrifice my um…. learning opportunity to you and give you the opportunity to re-grout round the my bathtub.”
    All I can suggest is you fill the bathtub with water (or several sacks of sand) before regrouting, and only empty when the grout has set. This puts the grout under slight compression so when you use the bath it doesn’t open up
    I’m not sure how well this works but it was the advice given to me when I did mine, and it held out until I moved…

  • 14 Financial Samurai January 12, 2022, 3:32 pm

    Enjoy the freedom! Dealing with several home repair issues as well. Ugh.

    I’m writing up my 10-year anniversary of FIRE this month. It goes QUICK! So enjoy it!


  • 15 Boltt January 12, 2022, 5:05 pm

    I had a leaky kitchen tap for a couple of years – the fitted butler sink made accessing the fittings behind it a nightmare.

    I spend a weeks searching for the same tap to fit on the existing feet – £400 felt expensive (I didn’t fit the kitchen) but was a hell of a lot better option than removing bespoke kitchen units.

    Perhaps a could have searched for a small handed dexterous plumber…

    If only a could turn my hand to lime plastering

  • 16 Adrian Savory January 12, 2022, 5:29 pm

    Had no idea how much I could save by not working! I have literally saved thousands this year ‘doing it myself’. Most extreme example was building an oak pergola from bare wood. Cost me £1200, the equivalent kit was £7000 and that didn’t include construction! Just little things like car fixes e.g. replacing boot lock – dealer £150, eBay part and simple fix £20. Loads of decorating, plumbing, basic electrics, gardening that I would have paid for simply because I didn’t have the time. More rewarding too.

  • 17 FI-FireFighter January 12, 2022, 5:37 pm

    I am going back to jobs that I have known all along how to do but didn’t have the time, energy or inclination to even look at;
    Changed the brake discs on my son’s car, saved him £90, and taught him how to do it at the same time- win win!
    Numerous other automotive jobs, all saved me cash and I enjoyed getting my hands dirty again.
    The trouble with having a good, honest reliable garage nearby is its too easy to use them for everything!
    I’m fixing my parents wood burner at the week end, fitting parts costing £75, saving over £100 in labour.
    Talking about YouTube, its teaching me yoga for 15 mins each morning at the moment, my back feels great 🙂

  • 18 Prometheus January 12, 2022, 6:29 pm

    It sounds like being 17 again, realising the regimented regime of school has changed to the slightly more mature timetable of lower 6th.

    Shame my joints won’t be 17 anymore

  • 19 BillD January 12, 2022, 8:57 pm

    Well done on the plumbing job. I replaced a fill valve with something called a Torbeck Ecofil some years ago – the satisfaction of a DIY job well done on every visit as it actually refills the cistern a lot faster than the useless original! Have replaced a loft tank fill valve as well which was an easy win. The only trouble with some plumbing jobs is the fiddly tight spaces you have to get into with pipe wrenches etc – I’d rather pay someone for that as got some joint problems, I’d have to have numerous tea and rest breaks and it would take forever!

  • 20 David January 12, 2022, 10:39 pm

    Hilarious! These updates are my favourite thing on the internet these days. I’ve experienced that satisfaction from DIY repairs a few times, and it’s definitely something to look forward to when I have more time available.

    Did you ever find somebody to repair your leaky roof? If not, I’m really looking forward to reading your next post!

  • 21 old_eyes January 13, 2022, 3:01 pm

    Snap! I also fixed a toilet problem between Xmas and New Year. One of those annoying ones where it progressively needs more oomph to make it flush, or you have to know just how to attack it to get a response. Eventually, it failed completely.

    I have reasonable DIY skills, but I had never dealt with this particular problem before. I knew it was a siphon system, and that there had to be a non-return flap valve at the bottom which was probably where the failure was, but no more.

    Enter the modern marvel that is YouTube. 30 mins of scouting around and scanning videos, and I knew exactly what was wrong and how to fix it. Quick trip to B&Q for a new siphon (I dodged the suggestion of hand carving a new valve from an old overhead projector acetate), a couple of hours’ work (mostly wrestling with corroded wingnuts) and job done.

    Faster and cheaper than getting in a plumber (at least in these parts). Plus a certain smugness with the family.

    YouTube is a totally amazing resource for practical skills. For me, one of the great breakthrough information products of the last 20 years. Since the pandemic started I have:
    Fixed the drive on my self-propelled lawnmower and replaced a broken starter cord.
    Diagnosed why my dishwasher was not emptying fully, bought the parts and fixed it.
    Fixed a broken door catch on my tumble drier.
    Added new hard drives to my computer and upgraded the fans.

    Tasks I would not have attempted pre-YouTube.

    On top of that, I have improved my guitar playing (easy as it was dire previously), learned new image processing skills for my astronomy hobby, and can waste all the time I want watching someone craft a fabulous inlaid wooden box or learn how you go about hitting a target 2-miles away with a high-powered rifle.

    I have yet to find any task I have the vaguest interest in executing that does not have several videos to help me. Next up is replacing a split wall-hung water butt in the lean-to greenhouse. Torn between shield anchors and polyester resin bonded bolts. Neither of which I had even heard of a couple of weeks ago.

    Sometimes we miss how revolutionary something like this is. A massive store of how-to information, indexed and readily accessed. Bit like Monevator really!

    Happy New Year.

  • 22 The Accumulator January 13, 2022, 3:55 pm

    @ Brod – haha. What an offer. Unfortunately, I’m updating my CV that day 😉

    @ David – I’m not at your level yet – except maybe on the curse-bomb front

    @ MarkR – Excellent point. I was rushing like Van Helsing trying to beat sundown to get to the store in time.

    @ Michelle – haha. Thanks for noticing. There were plenty more that didn’t make the final cut 🙂

    @ Gary – nice. A much more positive spin 🙂

    @ Rosario – spot on. Having the autonomy to set your own agenda and pace is key to wellbeing.

    @ mjcross – I fully agree. Weekly contributions to Monevator has given me that all important structure as I make my way through FIREland. Not to mention a healthy dose of crisis management 😉
    Good luck with your next mountain. I’d be very interested to hear what you take on.

    @ Jim McG – I trust you walked in wearing grease like tribal warpaint 🙂

    @ trufflehunt – LOL

    @ Living Cheap In London – Nice! I missed that one

    @ Boltt, Adrian, FI-FireFighter, BillD and Old Eyes – Impressive! I can see I’ve got a lot to learn. The only downside of spending so much time on YouTube is I’m now hooked on currency trading after all the ‘You Can’t Afford Not To Miss This’ financial infomercials it made me watch 😉

    @ David – roof farce ongoing. I’ve had a succession of roofers over to look at it, but it’s a complicated job so they don’t get round to quoting. A couple have told me they’ve got so much work they don’t want any more.

  • 23 Aron January 13, 2022, 10:55 pm

    Congrats on conquering the crapper.

    Honestly plumbing is one of the biggest cons going. It’s a simple concept really but most ‘professionals’ just make it as complex or difficult to do as possible so most of the time you have no choice but to call them out. Just route pipes neatly and conveniently, stick isolating valves everywhere, use flexi tails on taps etc etc.

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