happy monday, friends! as we tweeted last night, we had a pleasant surprise when we got home last night from our long weekend camping trip and discovered that the markets moved in the right direction at the end of last week. we’re now almost back to our july peak. might we actually hit our original targets for this year? fingers crossed…
our short camping trip was a high speed chase of sorts, trying to pack in a trip in between weeks of endless work travel, because #lifeisshort, and we try to live for today just as much as tomorrow. so we may have broken the speed laws of more than one state while we high-tailed it to california’s magnificent eastern sierra, to visit mono lake, one of the oldest lakes on the planet, and also an extremely alkaline one. mono lake is known for its tufa, the calcium carbonate structures you can see in the header image on this post. but it’s also known for how salty it is, because it has no outlet, so evaporation gradually concentrates the salt, which now stands at two-and-a-half times the saltiness of the oceans. all that salt means that swimmers in the lake float very easily. it’s a very disconcerting experience, actually, how easy it is to float.
and that got us thinking… it’s easy to think that swimming is swimming. but it’s not. swimming in a regular swimming pool is what most of us are used to, which is about the same as swimming in a normal lake. we’ve heard from friends of ours who compete in triathlons that it’s much harder to swim in race conditions, because the churned up water from all those swimmers makes the water less dense, making your body less buoyant. but swimming in a very salty lake, on the other hand, where the water is more dense and your body more buoyant, is easier. add in currents, and you’ve got more variables: swimming against the current can feel impossible, while swimming with it can make you feel like you could outpace michael phelps.
so something very simple, which many of us learn to do as children, is not actually as straightforward as it seems. swimming — or even floating — is not an absolute act, but a relative one. and that means that we can make choices that make it easier or harder for ourselves. we can choose water that makes us more buoyant, and we can swim with the current. we can choose not to think of our swimming as a race, and avoid that churned up, less dense water. (you already know where we’re going with this.)
so many of us try to keep up with the joneses, which means thinking of our finances as a race of sorts, which puts us in the absolute worst conditions to succeed if our goal is to float, not to sink. what if, instead of seeking that choppy water, we seek out our own out-of-the-way lake, where we can’t help but float? or we find our own stream where we can have the current at our backs, helping to guide us forward?
all of this reminds us of our sliding doors weekend, when we felt like we went back in time to see what our lives would have been like — how expensive and wasteful they would be — if we had stayed in our old group of friends on the east coast. that would have been swimming against the current in choppy waters. instead, we moved to small town and surrounded ourselves with frugal friends — finding a more buoyant place with the current on our side.
and it made us ask ourselves: what else can we do to make ourselves more buoyant? how can we set ourselves up to float, not sink? a lot of it is mindset, and realigning our goals has helped us to stay positive in the face of the market correction.
but there are any number of things that any of us can do to set ourselves up to float:
move to a lower cost of living area — we left the expensive city for a lower cost (though still expensive) mountain town. we could move somewhere cheaper still.
minimize housing costs — we bought a lot less house than the banks said we could afford, and we’re contemplating downsizing. we could downsize our energy bills by collecting our own firewood instead of buying it.
surround yourself with frugal people, instead of big spenders — we love our outdoorsy friends, who’d rather go for a hike than an expensive meal. and we live in our very middle class neighborhood, where neighbors aren’t regularly rolling up in a new benz. (more like old jeeps and subarus, and an array of pickup trucks.)
stop trying to keep up with the joneses — working from home is great for this. we don’t worry about what we wear except when we travel for work, and we don’t have to hear about our coworkers’ new this-or-that.
spend consciously, not frivolously — this one was a big adjustment for us, but going from baller to saver puts us closer to our big early retirement goal every day. we’re still working on getting the grocery costs down farther.
put systems in place that work for you — we know that we’re bad at following a budget, but rather than let ourselves feel like failures and give up, we created a multi-faceted system of paying ourselves first. we could still get better at figuring out some systems that will help us work out more consistently and destress more effectively while we’re still working and traveling a ton.
get clear on your big life goals, and work hard to achieve them — life is short. don’t waste time trying to reach goals that aren’t important to you. since we figured out that early retirement is our ultimate life goal, we have dropped just about everything else and been laser-focused on doing whatever we need to do to reach that goal.
surround yourself with people who support you — this is probably the biggest one. besides separating yourself from people who pressure you to spend, even without meaning to, the best thing each of us can do to ensure we float is to surround ourselves with people who lift us up, rather than people who pull us down. it’s been tough, but we’ve let go of some friendships that brought negativity into our lives, and invested heavily in the ones that make us feel like better people. (psst — that includes you! like it our not, you’re our friends, since you’re a huge positive force in our lives, and you help us get better at this early retirement journey all the time.) :-)
what do you do to set yourself up to float instead of sink? have you observed any common habits that people might see as “buoyancy neutral,” that actually make you more likely to sink than float? anyone else been to mono lake? please share in the comments!