I am unfairly biased against London accommodations prices. I keep thinking that staying in the Tokyo area is way cheaper than staying in Greater London, but that's because I am comparing prices between JPY and GBP. When actually converting JPY to GBP it turns out to be quite similar. But there is a difference in the lower price ranges. Just look at the cheapest hostels on booking.com for London, the reviews will disgust you. Mice, bedbugs, used bedsheets, all the horrible shit you imagine happens in hostels, happens in London hostels. I am pissed off that you pay these hostels money and they just can't be bothered to offer proper service. The solution is my usual: shoot them all. At least in Tokyo you get a decent service an order of magnitude better than in London. So yes, the price bias was in my head. The quality gap, on the other hand, is very real.
I tend to look for good accommodation deals online, comparing several websites, trying out different dates, different areas and so on. Sometimes it pays off, but sometimes I end up wasting a good couple of hours comparing a shit hostel full of bed bugs with a shit hostel full of mice. It's an activity that requires conscious though and eats away my mental energy. I would rather not do it but I am not in a position of luxury. I need to save money. It's the same as going on a diet, really. Indulging in good hotels is fun for a while but should be done in moderation.
Mostly though, I am annoyed at all the other thoughts occupying my brain. Being a freelancer means there's a whole slew of extra things you need think about. I finally took the plunge last month and created a limited company, but with it comes a lot of management, even when running it through a professional accounting agency (which is not cheap either). It feels like I'm creating an elaborate web of things that should be done, eventually binding me down to something I can never again get rid of. That said, I do get a lot of benefits from it, which is why I'm doing it.
During my time in Japan I lived the lazy life. I had a simple full-time job and my company took care of everything for me. Taxes, insurance, health care, even housing. I'm not sure if this is the usual way they go about Japan or if it's extra service added on for foreigners who do not know about these things, but I thought it was great. I literally had no mental chores to do at the end of the month except for paying the gas, water and electricity bills. Compare that to my current situation where I have to think about last year's and this year's personal taxes, business taxes, finding apartments, getting back my deposit for my previous apartment, getting a VAT number, figuring out how much I should pay myself, worrying about future finances in case I might decide to do a startup, dealing with terminating storage contracts and so on.
The mental load has increased and will increase even more when I'm back in London. And if there's one thing that I hate it's mental load. I prefer to be unencumbered, dealing with one thing at a time, so I can focus on it properly. This is true for programming as it is for real life. Unfortunately, the trade-off tends to be mental health or physical wealth, pick one. The more you deal with things yourself, the more money you can save. But the less time you will have to think about things that are really important. That's why I really appreciate having this month off. Constantly thinking about daily mental chores makes you lose perspective in a horribly tragic way.
It is a bit like exercise though. The more mental chores you do, the better you get at them. I'm not efficient at any of these things yet, and am still very clueless when it comes to managing my company. But I can sense improvement, and I can see how I will improve in the future. It's about devoting time to learning new skills now so that in the future you can devote less of your skilled time on it and still have a positive influence on your life. I just have to bite the bullet and deal with it now.
For five years in Japan I did not care about money and did not have to care. My apartment was unbelievably cheap and close to my office, so I had no commuting costs either. Food is not very cheap here, but not nearly as expensive as in Western Europe. I'm not the kind of guy who wastes tons of money on going clubbing so I could pretty much get away with not worrying about my wallet during the entire time that I was here. After coming to London only one thing really changed: I got a more expensive apartment, which made me start worrying about money, perhaps unnecessarily. I think worrying about money is my biggest flaw as a person right now. The cure is easy: stop worrying about money! I'm not sure how yet, but I'm sure it'll come to me after a bit more of the London experience.
I look towards the future positively. There is a mountainload of tasks ahead of me; a list of things I must accomplish before I can turn my currently unstable life into a smoothly-running money-making machine. I am confident that I can win. But it will take a lot of ego.