Happy Sacrifices // What We’re Willing to Give Up to Retire Early

on monday night, at the end of a spate of back-to-back work trips for both of us, we were both flying into our home airport from different destinations. because of various delays and air traffic issues, our planes ended up landing one minute apart, and then pulling into gates right next to each other. one of us was on the “f” side of the plane, the other on the “a,” and we were able to wave at one another from our respective planes while waiting for the jet bridges to be connected. that strikes us as one of those funny moments that we’ll look back on and chuckle about when we’re 80 and in our rocking chairs (okay, maybe 90 in the rocking chairs), because it’s something that could only happen with the frequent work travel we do at the moment. it’s so exhausting, it’s so unrelenting, but at least it created this funny moment the other day. (how exhausting? last week, after landing in an east coast city at 2 am, mr. onl ate a cup of noodles with pens as chopsticks, because he was too tired to go back down to the front desk to get a fork. i have photographic proof.)

the good news is we’ve finally wrapped up the weeks of the most intense travel, and have a few days at home (small victories!). so of course we’ve resumed our habit of having a regular conversation that goes something like this:

can we quit our jobs yet?

soon.

what if we ________? then can we retire now?

yes, but we don’t want to do that.

depending on the day, that blank might be filled by “sell our house and go full-time rv,” or “move into the trailer park,” or “move to some town in a state where we know no one and where houses are super cheap.” and, in case you’re wondering, the roles frequently flip in this conversation, because we both want to quit our jobs so flipping badly.

the truth is, we could retire now if we did any of those things. that’s kind of crazy to think about, and a pretty awesome feeling. it kicks ass to know that if we both got laid off, all we’d have to do is sell the house and either become rootless or move somewhere cheap, and we wouldn’t have to find other work. like, ever.

but here’s the other truth: we don’t want to have to do any of those things. we want to stay in our mountain town, which means paying the premium to live here. any accessible mountain town in the west is expensive, both for housing and for groceries and services. so moving to a different mountain town wouldn’t shield us from the mountain tax — plus we love our town in particular. while we’d be happier being retired anywhere than working in that same place, our retirement dream is to be retired in the mountains, and to be able to spend time every day outdoors — skiing in the summer and hiking, biking, paddling and climbing in the summer. we could downsize our home, and may still do that, but that wouldn’t get us to the point of being able to retire now, and would also make our remaining work time fairly unpleasant, since we’d likely lose our separate offices. (we shared an office back when we lived in the city, and that was no fun at all. mostly because of conference calls. but mostly mostly because i’d always be trying to talk to mr. onl about some news item and he’d be too busy “working” to listen. the nerve of that guy!)

and so, short of winning the lottery, which we can’t win since we don’t play, we’re going to keep working for a few more years, to make sure that we’re not just able to retire, but to retire to the life that we want to live. a life with roots in the mountain town we love, and with a home base that we love (even if it’s a smaller home base than now).

but, while we don’t feel like budging on the question of where we live, there are actually plenty of things we are willing to give up, or have already given up, to accelerate our progress toward our goals, and to keep our expenses low when we’re retired.

what we’ve happily given up or scaled back:

entertainment — music is a big deal for us, but the cost of concerts and festivals can add up fast, especially if travel is involved. we’ve cut back from three or four festivals a year to just one, and go to a lot fewer paid concerts. free concerts, though? we go to as many of those as we can! (going to glastonbury at least once is definitely on our retirement bucket list — that will be a big splurge.) on the tv front, we didn’t even cut the cord at this house. when we moved in four years ago, we just never got cable to begin with. we got internet and a hulu account, and called it good, and we’re completely happy with that arrangement except on big game days. (exception: we recently upgraded to hulu ad free, and think it’s completely worth the $4 monthly supplement on top of the $8 hulu plus subscription. fewer ads = less temptation to spend!). we also rarely go to movies now (aided in part by our town’s lack of movie theater), and stick mostly to netflix with the occasional redbox rental when they offer us a discount or free movie.

dining out — want to save money on dining out? move to small town with a lot fewer restaurants! want to save even more money? get diagnosed with a serious food intolerance! i kid, i kid, though these factors have made dining out less alluring. we love food, especially new food, but we love getting closer to our goal more, and have not missed much about dining out. every once in a while, if we really miss going someplace nice, we’ll go to the nicest restaurant in town and order a glass of wine each plus an appetizer to share, and sit at the bar. that’s a whole lot cheaper than sitting down for a meal there! otherwise our dining out is now limited to a monthly trip to a very affordable thai place, or an occasional breakfast at a diner if we have guests visiting.

new outdoor gear — we used to have a semi-regular rotation of getting new skis, or buying a new piece of climbing protection, or otherwise upgrading our outdoor gear. that has pretty much stopped, unless something truly wears out. and instead of buying new, we always look for used first now. that is a huge perk of a mountain town — there is always a thriving market for used gear on craigslist, via ski swaps and at consignment stores. we had to invest in new ski boots this year for the mr. (one piece of gear you really shouldn’t buy used — along with any helmet!), and we don’t plan to buy anything else for a good, long while.

onl_indexcard_adamchudy
the index card we did for adamchudy.com’s compilation. note the last tip on #2 — don’t cheap out on helmets! your head is worth it.

frequent travel — we used to travel a whole lot more for fun, and wouldn’t hesitate to fly somewhere for a long weekend. (we used to be ballers, after all.) it helps that work travel has stripped much of the joy from personal air travel, but it helps even more that we’re focused on keeping costs down. instead, we now camp more instead of always flying and staying in hotels, and our first instinct is to look for destinations within driving distance instead of destinations far away.

related post — learn to camp, and save lots of money over traditional travel

books — we’re pretty sure that we used to singlehandedly keep the amazon kindle store afloat. or if they gave out status for kindle book purchases, the way that airlines do for frequent flying, we would have been at the top diamond level. yes, it was a little out of control. before the kindle, we bought books by the case practically, so at least e-books helped by not taking up so much space. but now we’re completely reformed, and have learned to love library e-books. sure, you sometimes have to wait to read the most in-demand books, but they’re free. and, if you’re super impatient, you can probably find other libraries to get privileges to, to shorten the wait. we were able to get a library card in the next state over because they offer reciprocity, and that state’s libraries grant access to all libraries in the state, not just in the county. plus we have our old card from the city we moved from, for a total of three library cards plus one whole state’s worth of privileges. is #libraryhacks a thing yet?

inflated transportation costs — we used to not know what a gallon of gas cost. if the tank was empty, you filled it up, and that was that. now we know what gas costs, and we know exactly how long it takes to bike from our house to the main services in town, from the coffee shop where we buy our locally roasted beans (27 minutes), to the natural food store (36 minutes), to the farmers market and closest redbox (25 minutes). while our current work schedule makes it tough to bike as much as we’d like to, we eliminate some car trips by biking, and we work harder to combine errands with work trips to the airport, to avoid unnecessary transportation spending. and — this is a biggie — we’re going to go from two cars to one after we quit. we own both cars outright, and the old honda civic costs very little to maintain, but we’ll make sure it finds a good new home after we’re not making frequent airport runs.

excessive grocery spending — we shared back in july how high our grocery spending had been, and we’re gradually bringing that number down. (future post to come.) we also think we can get this number much lower in retirement, when we can make almost everything from scratch.

mindless spending generally — getting laser focused on our goals has had a powerful effect of helping us eliminate virtually all mindless spending. no more magazines at airports, or random impulse buys at whole foods. no more clothes just because something looked cute in a store window (this was rare for us, but did happen once in a while). no more shoes. no more extras, or things that we suddenly think we can’t live without. cutting back in this category was surprisingly easy once we had our goals in mind.

what else we’ll happily give up when we retire:

snowplowing contract — right now we pay $500 a season to have our driveway plowed when it snows. to those who live at sea level, that probably sounds crazy. but trust us — in the mountains snow comes in feet, not inches, and having a snowplow truck come and clear your driveway in under two minutes is a godsend. but once we aren’t working and don’t care about whether our driveway is clear by the time we need to leave for the airport, we’ll happily trade that cash for the exercise we’ll get shoveling it ourselves. (#prayforsnow)

any money paid to contractors ever — we are eager diyers, but in the past few years haven’t had the time to do some of the work that’s needed doing around the house. most recent case in point: the $4000 we shelled out to have our house siding restained. (i still get shaky and nauseous thinking about the expense.) considering that it took a crew of four guys a full week to get the work done, we for sure would not have been able to do it ourselves — yet. once we quit, different story. we’ll do our own house staining, limb up our trees and maybe even clean our own chimney. (also, in case you haven’t gathered — mountain living is expensive! there are a lot of things you have to do and pay for up here that city dwellers don’t have to consider.)

produce at the grocery store — produce is by far our largest grocery expense since we try hard to eat as healthily as possible. once we quit the incessant work travel, we can go back to getting our produce from our local csa. that will save us money and shopping time.

furnace heat — this one is a bit of a pipe dream, but we’re putting it out there to encourage ourselves to do this. it costs a small fortune to heat our house with natural gas, so we keep the house pretty cold in the winter (55 at night, 61 during the day — yes, we dress in head-to-toe fleece). buying firewood, which we’ve done before, is pretty costly as well, though it’s still worth it to supplement the furnace heat with a woodstove fire. but, it’s actually super cheap to get a permit to get your own firewood, and it helps clear out wood in the forests that poses a fire danger. (we’re on board with anything that reduces our wildfire risk.) we’d love to be able to gather enough wood to keep a roaring fire going through most of the winter, and reduce or even eliminate our need for furnace heat.

what have you happily given up to get closer to your goals? anything you can’t wait to give up once you retire, like us with the snowplowing? anything you wish you could give up but are struggling with, and want some moral support? we’re here for you!

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52 thoughts on “Happy Sacrifices // What We’re Willing to Give Up to Retire Early

  1. That airplane story is just so cute!

    I am an avid Kindle reader – and I think in the 4 years I’ve had a kindle I have bought 3 books. My mom and I share library card numbers to increase our access to books we want.. that my hack.

    We’ve had those same days recently where we wonder if we can retire yet. Luckily, my husband likes his job, and isn’t vested until mid-2017. We’ve decided we can’t forgo that money… so that is our earliest finish line. Although, it looks like I will exit next year, but get a part-time teaching gig (for fun, not for needed income) when the kids are in school full-time.

    And, I hate to admit that, but occasionally on bad days we buy a $1 lottery ticket… its kind of a joke, but the $1 is worth the good daydreams!

    1. You were ahead of the curve on the Kindle library books! Nice job.

      You definitely shouldn’t forgo any money that will be vested, so your timeline makes sense!

      Okay, I’ll fess up, once or twice a year we buy lottery tickets, too. :-)

  2. What are the odds are landing and taxing right next to each others. A story to be shared for years to come. For us cutting back on spending on conveniences has been an area we saved money on. Not grabbing the dinner out or take out when you don’t feel like cooking, and just taking the time to cook. It really a mindset change, but can really help the bottom line in the long run.

    1. The airport coincidence was too funny. We knew were were scheduled to land about an hour apart, but it was serendipitous in the end. :-) We’ve had that same shift on dinners out. When we lived in the city, we had a dozen places we liked to grab takeout from within easy walking distance, and let me tell you, we took advantage of them. Which is all the more weird because we love to cook! Like you said, shifting our mindset has been huge — and it doesn’t hurt that it’s now super inconvenient to eat out. :-)

  3. Dining out, expensive groceries, most processed foods, spending just to spend. We’ve really tried to pump the brakes on our consumerism as much as possible. Last summer, we dabbled in gardening. This year, we went at it full force, and we’re still going strong into October. I’d like to think that when we retire, we’ll be able to do a lot more of this. Overall, I love your perspective on all of this. You really seem to have a clear vision of your priorities and have the balancing act down!

    1. I like how you put it — “pump the brakes on consumerism.” That’s awesome you’re having success with your garden! We, sadly, haven’t had any luck here with gardening — too much shade and too short a growing season… plus so many deer that come chomp up our plants!

      I wouldn’t say we have it all figured out, but we’ve certainly learned that being frugal just for frugality’s sake is not for us. Instead, we try to ask what’s truly important to us, spend on those things, and then trim back all the rest as much as possible.

  4. That’s been the tough balance for me as well. I know we could cut out or change some of the major things in our life to retire earlier (downsize our house, move to a smaller town, etc.), but we don’t want to. However, we have made some changes on the entertainment side that have helped us to save some money.

    We love to travel as well and we’re not going to cut that out, but we’re already starting to be a little pickier in booking trips to get us closer to an earlier retirement… and we’ll probably do the same once we do actually retire.

    — Jim

    1. Jim, I think the balance we’re both trying to strike makes total sense, and is healthy. Figuring out what is worth spending on and what to cut will help all of us define our priorities and shape our lives how we want them to be. That’s the whole point of early retirement, right? Glad you’re still finding room for travel in your reduced budget!

  5. Like Mrs. SSC said, I’m probably working to 2017 just for the vested part, and I really like my job. Until we hit our number or they lay me off, I’m here! Haha
    Having kids is another good way to reduce eating out. We went out more often before them, and now, it’s maybe on our Friday off for lunch, if one of us feels like paying. :) Another good way to reduce it is have restaurants come from personal allowance stash.
    We’ve often had those “what if we do___? Then can we quit?” conversations and they end up like yours, where after some discussion one of us wearily says, “okay… we’ll keep working then.” :)

    1. I didn’t realize you guys had that vesting timeline to think about. It’s like Steve and Courtney at Think Save Retire and their need for her to keep working to get enough Social Security credits before quitting. But yeah, seems worth it — don’t throw money away!

      I know you guys can relate on the “Can we quit?” conversations. We just have to try to have fewer of them. :-)

  6. The thing that we will be giving up the most is…a stationary house! We will always have our home with us, so there will be nowhere to return to once we finally embark on our full time traveling adventures. It’s going to seem strange…to drive somewhere and park for the night, and knowing that you’re *still home* where ever you happen to be.

    Restaurants will be another, but we are budgeting appropriately to make sure that the occasional trip to a local coffee shop or microbrewery where ever we happen to be will still be possible, because that is part of the fun of traveling and seeing other cities. We plan to hit Seattle the first year, so I’d imagine that coffee shops will be one of those things that we’ll always want to try. :)

    Any stationary expense – like utilities, water and gas will be completely gone. While we will need to provide for our own power in the RV, we’ll have a combination of solar and a gas-powered generator, so we’ll get to stay off the grid pretty much as long as we want (read: can stand!). We’re glad to be giving this up, but I know that I will definitely miss the ability to wash dishes in a big sink without worrying too much about my water consumption.

    Then there are things like a big house, huge backyard, pool, etc – but honestly, we won’t miss those things too much I don’t think. The fact is we’ll have HUGE backyards and front yards where ever we go (unless we’re stuck in a traditional campground) with new scenes every time that we move, so this should actually be an upgrade, not necessarily a sacrifice.

    And the more I think about the things that we’ll be giving up, the more I am realizing how much of this stuff we don’t really need anyway. I don’t feel like we’ll be sacrificing all that much after all. It’s just a different lifestyle. We’ll have a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs and our beautiful rescued dogs by our side…and new places to visit and experience every step of the way. What more could a couple of early retirees ask for?

    …I’m writing yet another blog-length comment again, aren’t I? Okay, I’ll stop now. :)

    1. Only 383 words — not a blog-length comment at all! ;-) Plus, I love your comments. You put a lot of time and thought into them, and that’s the best thing there is to a blogger — as you know!

      We talk about your and Courtney’s plan all the time. “If we could do what Steve and Courtney are doing, we could quit now! Maybe we should reconsider our thinking?” It sounds super awesome, and especially since your parents did it, you know better than most people what you’re actually getting yourselves into. We just know that we need a home base, though we wish we didn’t!

      If you ever miss having a house with the amenities, you can always rent one for a week or two, and get that stuff that way. I think you’ll adjust quickly, though, and have a blast.

      Have a great day!

  7. I got sad reading about how you ask each other if you can quit your jobs. That sounds so soul sucking. But then I thought, thank goodness you have the means to quit your job. Like you said, you could quit today under less than ideal terms, or wait 2 more years and quit with glory!

    We have small budgets for similar things. Hubs is less motivated to cut back on entertainment and eating out. He can’t see the end goal yet and $20-40 in the budget isn’t worth fighting over. Thank goodness we are cheap to feed and entertain!

    1. Sigh — it IS soul sucking. But, like you said, it’s setting us up for all the glory. It still seems worth it, even if it’s hard. We’ll see if we make it two more years…

      We’ve found that drastic changes have been hard to make, whereas gradual ones are easy. Maybe instead of pushing for rapid change, you can work on incremental progress with your husband, so he won’t miss the meals out and entertainment, because you’re only trimming a little? Over time that will still add up, and you can just keep trimming, trimming away…

      1. We’re mostly trimmed down. I’m left with a lot of little things. I’m trying to evaluate what’s left to determine if it’s a habit we can’t kick or something we enjoy that we don’t want to kick. Thankfully, none of it is expensive.

        With his stuff, I’ve had the most success by keeping no out of my vocabulary. For example, he’s a big movie buff- the kind of guy that used to go to movies, and then pay again to see the next showing. Maybe even a third time in one day!. Now I try to limit him to the big action flicks that are better in the theatre and kindly ask that he only goes once during the week when it’s cheap. It seems to be working so far. Bonus: He likes having the theatre to himself!

  8. Your airplane story sounds like it’s straight out of a movie! I think you two need to consider writing a book just about your airplane happenings, you have a lot of neat experiences on that front. :) Ah yes, the book buying front. We used to have the mentality that we would love to grow our physical book selection & have an amazing library! Until we got introduced to the public library & how incredible that is (we have date days there often). There’s still the urge to really buy a book that resonated with one of us – but we try to go to the Smith Family Bookstore (second-hand shop) & buy locally first. Monthly subscription costs were something we’ve also given up (minus Netflix because we cut the cord on cable as well)! From cooking-at-home boxes, to gym memberships, additional streaming services per month, and everything in between. Subscriptions can take a major chunk from your expenses & we got down to the root of what really matters to us vs. just passing fancies at the time.

    1. Haha — maybe if we get a few more good airline stories before we retire, we’ll consider it. ;-)

      We love used book stores, and definitely hit those up when we feel like we want actual, physical books. (Though, that’s not often anymore!) And great point about subscriptions! We’ve killed all of those as well. Such a cost saving!

  9. I love your airplane moment as well. That is awesome. And I really want to come visit your mysterious town some day. It sounds amazing. Interesting you mention finding and burning your own fire wood… in Alaska, pollution in places like Fairbanks is really bad because everyone has wood burning stoves and they’re trying to get people to cut back on that to decrease the smoke in the air. Hearing those debates every winter makes me a bit adverse to your final thought. :) I wish we had a good CSA up here, but we really only have one expensive one that is shipped up from Seattle.

    1. Haha — If you DM me on Twitter, I’ll tell you where we live. :-) We only need to keep it mysterious for our employers, colleagues and others in our field!

      The wood smoke pollution is no joke, and we do care a lot about that. Fortunately, our town requires everyone to have an EPA-certified reburning stove that cuts down on particulate matter (no fire places), and new homes can only have pellet stoves. Plus, being in the mountains instead of in a valley means the smoke doesn’t tend to pool the same way. But for sure some days get a little smoky, and on those days, we let the fire go out so we don’t add to it. But good reminder that we’ll never ditch the furnace entirely. Natural gas is SO EXPENSIVE here, though, that we want to minimize that expense as much as possible. I’m sure you can relate!

  10. We are currently in the process of figuring out what we want to give up/trim back to get our monthly expenses as low as we can since we decided to have my wife stay home with our daughter. We’ve never been big spenders but we had a few areas where expenses would drift higher, such as groceries and eating out. Since we began our push, we’ve knocked our weekly grocery bill down 25-30% and our eating out expenses by 50-75%. Our big wins will be when we pay off the remainder of one car loan this month as that will free up a good chunk of extra funds towards our goals.

    I don’t think I could give up the snow plow contract. We get a decent amount of snow (but nothing compared to you) and I already want to contract it out :)

    1. WOW — Those are huge reductions you guys are making. Nice job! And future congrats on paying off your car. :-)

      As for the snow, I know what your snow is like, and I agree that snowplowing is helpful when it stays gray and cold for extended periods. Here, it’s sunny every day it’s not snowing, so if we didn’t actually shovel it, it would likely melt in a few days at most anyway. Once we don’t have to leave the house for work travel, we might not mind getting snowed in occasionally. :-)

  11. We used to have a wood burning stove in our house growing up, looking back on it I didn’t love going to get fire wood trip after trip, but today I know I would appreciate chopping and getting the wood to heat the house. I just might be jealous………Not of the mountains of snow that happen to require snow removal, that you can have;)

    1. Haha — yeah, not many people want our snow. :-) But the woodstove is awfully cozy when it’s going at full blast! I think we’re both lucky that we weren’t scarred by having to split wood as kids, so now it seems almost fun. (Although I’m sure I’ll split approximately 2 logs and then say, “Well, this is clearly a man’s job.”) ;-)

  12. It’s funny. I don’t even miss restaurant food anymore. We never went out to fancy restaurants that often, but that food doesn’t even seem like a treat anymore. I was out for a business lunch (free) and nothing on the menu seemed that exciting. It’s just food. And it goes to show how your “needs” can change drastically over time. Just today, a coworker told me in passing that she was headed out to buy some food because she didn’t feel like the salad that she had brough with her. Really? So you’re just going to throw it in the garbage. I don’t even consider going out for lunch anymore unless it serves some purpose other than providing fuel to get through the day.

    1. Wow — I’m envious that you’ve been able to detach yourself so much from dining out! We definitely still get excited about food, but have decided that it’s better than our health and finances to make most of it ourselves. Agree with you 100% — that’s crazy to waste food just because it doesn’t seem that exciting!

  13. What would I give up to retire today? For the time being, I am not willing to give things up… I have the mental idea that the list would be too long, impacting too much our life style. so I do not start it. Is that a mistake to make? Or is it due to the fact that the date is still so far away (another 14years to go)

    We do have a wood stove and it is a great cosy way to heat the living room. I do like your system where you can go in the woods and get your own fire wood.

    1. I think it’s such a personal question of whether to think about what you’d give up to retire sooner. In our case, our jobs are so taxing that we want to be able to quit them as soon as possible (but they pay well enough that we don’t want to try to find new ones!). But if you’re happy doing what you’re doing, then maybe it’s not a question worth asking.

      It’s pretty great that we have the option to get our own firewood. It could definitely be a great way to save money once we have the time to do that!

  14. I too love the airplane story. I probably won’t ever experience that, only because when I fly I am in a self induced Xanax coma and with the help of my wife and friends make it from terminal to terminal. You guys live such a different lifestyle from my wife and I. It will be fun to read your story. Even when you retire I would keep the plow number on speed dial πŸ˜ƒ just incase. I lived in my grandmothers house for two years where if I didn’t have a fire all the time in the winter it would reach 40 or less easily. Yes I wore a snow suit plenty times inside that house, so I can relate.

    1. Haha — If Xanax is what you need to get through a flight, then you wouldn’t like my travel schedule! :-) And right you are about keeping the plow number handy! If we get a 3-foot storm, it might be worth $80 for a one-time plow! Wow — your cold house story sounds a lot colder than ours, so you definitely CAN relate! Thanks for reading and commenting. :-)

  15. First off, that airport story is out of control adorable.
    And yes, same boat here on virtually everything. We never go out to eat, very rarely. I’m sure it’s much harder for you guys always being on the road, though. We mostly don’t go out because it’s expensive, partly because it can be a pain in the ass with three kids who may or may not decide to behave like brats, and also partly because I’m a food nazi and I know the quality won’t be what I’d prefer.
    I wish our area was more conducive to riding bikes to more places, but realistically we can only really ride to the Walmart neighborhood market (blah) that’s barely over a mile away. I love that anytime I need something in a pinch, DTG has zero problem getting on his bike with his backpack and being back before I know it. If he had to drive the car somewhere, though, that would be a big no-no lol.

    1. We definitely eat at restaurants when we’re traveling for work, but don’t count that since work pays. :-) But I’m a big nuts about finding restaurants with healthy food (I know you can relate!) and just as often end up buying groceries on work trips instead of eating at crappy hotel restaurants. On the bike subject, yeah, that’s tough. Just a few years ago, we were in the same boat, but our town is doing this big push to link up all the neighborhoods and rec areas with paved bike paths. It’s pretty sweet. :-)

  16. It can be tricky to determine which things we can sacrifice gladly and which things giving up would compromise too much. We figure it out with a bit of trial and error. Very cute plane story!

    1. So true — trial and error is important! That’s how we know that we don’t want to cut out restaurants entirely, and that we are happy traveling cheaply, but we have to keep traveling! Finding the guardrails that work for each of us is a very personal process. Thanks for commenting!

  17. It wasn’t that long ago that my wife and eye asked each other the same question, can we pull the plug now? The great thing about having a plan is you know fairly well how close you are to reaching your goals and retiring early on your terms instead of retreat as you may have contemplated. You can make some cuts to hurry things up a little too if it doesn’t leave you feeling deprived. As you get closer you might even have those feelings of “can we just do it now” get even stronger. Its like when you have been driving a long time and you have to go, go real bad… the closer you get to home the harder it gets to hold it. You reach home with your hand shaking as you unlock the door. You barely make it through the front door on your way to the bathroom and then unbelievable relief.
    Yep, that is kind of how it felt when I finally told my boss I was retiring .

    1. I didn’t think the have-to-pee analogy would turn out to be so powerful, but it makes total sense! :-D And we already feel a lot of that. Knowing that we’re basically financially independent already, but just not quite there on early retirement, makes a lot of things about work a lot MORE frustrating, not less. Sigh. I’m sure the next two years will be over before we know it, though, and we’ll be eager to get to that relief feeling!

  18. Hm … practical tip from a Canadian well accustomed to snow and lots of it. Do Not plan on shovelling out snow. This not only rapidly gets to be a huge chore but it can be life threatening in two ways. 1) You can give yourself a heart attack or other injury that disables you, or get sick from getting chilled. 2) You need to get out in a hurry due to sudden illness or emergency and you can’t wait to shovel but you’re stuck. Instead put on your list of things to get before you retire a reasonably high powered walk behind snow blower you can manage. They start at about $900 up here and you can get a really great one that even has a shield for wind for $2000. There’s cheap and there’s stupid cheap and counting on your own muscles for removing snow falls into the latter, especially when you’re getting older.

    1. Good point! We don’t have room for a snow thrower, but you make a solid argument for keeping our snowplow contract. Maybe we’ll try shoveling for a year while we’re still in our late 30s/early 40s, just to say we did it, and then switch back to paying. :-)

  19. I can’t wait to give up buying dress clothes, NYC rent, NYC prices in general, and not having a car. The car part is a little counter-intuitive but I want to be able to drive to family/friends whenever I want, without relying on others and public transportation to get me there. Right now living in the city, there is no way I’ll have a car – but once I move out I’ll probably get a cheap one for cash :)

    1. I totally get wanting a car — it will make things a lot easier once you don’t live in NYC anymore! :-) But I bet you’ll always love looking back on this time in your life. Even though we’re glad not to live in the expensive city anymore, we are glad we did it when we did. ;-)

  20. I can totally relate to your travel. I was only home for weekends the last two months and I think the flight crew on the red-eye was starting to recognize me :-) The good news is that you are 2.2 years away from retirement!

    1. Ugh, I’m sorry you can relate. And all those redeyes — the worst! We’re trying to use the relatively close retirement date as motivation to keep going… it’s hard sometimes! As you know!

  21. I’ve decreased my book buying the past few years to basically zero, the library is for me these days. It’s amazing how much I used to spend on books. I would intend to buy one novel, and an hour of browsing later, and I’m standing at the checkout with a $80 or $90 tab for my books. Yikes! I’ve cut down on entertainment expenses and shopping. Most importantly, I’ve ramped up my savings and monthly debt payments to coincide with the reduction in my spending.

    1. Your story with buying books sounds familiar. :-) Glad you’ve found the library, as we have! And how wonderful that you’ve successfully funneled your cost savings from less purchasing into putting yourself in the best possible financial shape. :-)

  22. I, too, love the airplane story. It has a Tom Hanks Meg Ryan feel to it.

    I have gone from spending nearly everything I earned (save 401(k) contributions), to saving 70% of my income. I cut out buying pretty much everything a 40/50-something lawyer burns up money on: clothes, shoes, expensive bottles of wine (actually all bottles of wine, since I gave up booze entirely), fancy dinners out, fancy vacations, cosmetics, books, cable, manicures, massages, personal trainer, therapist, yoga studio membership, car detailing (12-year-old car is paid for), interior designer, furniture, having the interior walls repainted every couple of years, new electronics, fancy hair salon, coloring my hair, and diamond collars for the cats. Okay, I kid about the collars. But at the rate I was going, it could have happened. (Listing it all out here like this makes me cringe.) One area on my radar, like you, is my Whole Foods grocery bill. I’ve been chipping away at it, but there’s room for improvement. The one thing I did not do in my formal non-frugal life was buy a big home (and, as mentioned, I drove cars for ten-plus years). I live in a 1500 sf condo and am perfectly content here, except I would love a bit more green space. And the Three Black Cats would like a bit more personal territory. I’m trying to decide whether to buy a house with some green space and maybe a tad larger (but no more expensive, which can be accomplished moving elsewhere). The one thing I have not given up, but will when I’m no longer working, is my cleaner. I suppose I am a cautionary tale. If only I’d known early retirement was possible, I’d be done by now. But I now am truly reformed, which is all that matters. Next year, heading into the final push, my goal is a 75% savings rate.

    1. I remember, years ago, when I was living on the east coast, a friend of mine who had just gotten a job at a NYC law firm, was talking about how she was fitting in getting her nails done and hair done on a regular basis, and I blurted something impolitic like, “Why on Earth do you need to spend money on that?!” To which she replied something like, “That is just what you do when you’re a lawyer at a big firm.” Your long list reminds me of that, and I can only wonder what crazy sums that now-lost friend must spend on frivolous things.

      I think your story is super inspiring, because you’re going from following the conventional wisdom to being financially free in such a short period of time! I think it’s downright incredible. And I’m sure you’ll hit your target for next year, given how motivated you are. I’m definitely rooting for you! (And we can root for each other in getting our Whole Foods bills down.) :-)

      1. It’s sort of Early Retirement Extreme, Light. I had contributed to my 401k over the years and had very little debt (a long-lingering law school student loan, WTH?), so once my spending came to a screeching halt, I saw it wouldn’t take long. At first I figured ten more years, but as we know, the lower your expenses, the faster you’re done. I had no idea I could live comfortably on so little. Were it not for my mortgage, I’d be in Mustachian territory.

        Thanks for inspiring me to blather on in your comments.

        1. If only everyone could have that aha moment: that it’s not just possible but fairly easy to live well on very little (assuming you’ve taken care of your debt and aren’t dealing with any major life expenses from health issues, emergencies, etc.). And it is NOT blathering. :-)

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