planning for early retirement forces you to do a lot of thinking about what you can and can’t live without. it’s crucial to figure out, in detail, exactly how much you plan to spend each year, because that determines how much you need to save. and just ballparking the yearly total feels to us like a recipe for disappointment. the last thing we want to happen is to spend all of this time thinking about and planning for retirement and then find out that we didn’t budget enough, or we can’t do all the things we want to do. (or — worse? — find out that we actually need less than we budgeted, and we worked longer than we had to.)

we update our projection budget regularly, based on continually re-evaluating our priorities. but a few things we know for sure are non-negotiable:

  • we don’t need cable (in fact, we haven’t had it for three years), but we do want cheaper services like netflix and hulu
  • we care a lot about our health and the planet, and are willing to pay extra for organic food
  • we always need to be able to ski, hike, bike, climb and camp, and those hobbies require periodic gear purchases
  • we would like to be able to take one extended international trip each year, but are willing to rough it when we do
  • we love music, and must always be able to go to some concerts and festivals
  • we must always be able to provide for our health and safety (via health insurance, adequately heating our home, maintaining our home so it keeps us safe, etc.)

things not on the list?

  • new clothes
  • two cars (we’re planning to have just one when we retire)
  • high-end travel
  • the latest gadgets
  • purchased gifts (we can make homemade things or create experiences)
  • a big house (we will likely downsize from our already not huge house when we’re retired)

we’re willing to forgo most consumer culture in order to buy our free time. and when we do need something, we’ll always look secondhand first, not just for frugality, but to conserve natural resources as well.

so much of how we think, and how we interpret our lives, is about the perspective we choose when thinking about our experiences. it’s easy to think about what we’re giving up, but that’s not how we think at all. to us, we have everything to gain, and we can’t wait to gain our free time. that’s worth just about any trade-off, except for that very short list of non-negotiables.


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