gearing up

How We’ll Live Beyond Our Budget in Early Retirement

The world doesn’t need another “10 ways to save money!” clickbait article, so good news: This isn’t that! It’s my belief anyway that most of the time when people tell you how to “save money,” they’re really telling you how to spend it.

And we are going to spent money in retirement. Sometimes lots of it. But we’ll also have a somewhat fixed budget cap (as opposed to a line item budget, which we won’t try to enforce, because we don’t jive with traditional budgets), and want to make sure we don’t exceed it but still live a kick-ass life.

Health Care Aside: You may have seen last week that Trump announced an end to the cost sharing reduction subsidies for exchange plans under the Affordable Care Act. Immediately, 18 states sued to halt the action, and as a result, this latest move may be overturned in court, or Congress may finally act to stabilize the markets in response, or the subsidies could, in fact, disappear. It’s too soon to know what the result will be, but I’ll share more about how this impacts early retirees once we see how this shakes out. Stay tuned.

The biggest luxury we’ll have in retirement is time. For the past many years, we’ve had more money than time, and have spent more money than we would have liked at times knowing that we could do that thing ourselves, but that the time trade-off wasn’t worth it at that point in time. However, very soon that equation will flip, and we’ll have the time to invest in figuring out how to stretch our dollars.

And stretching those dollars is really what we’re after: finding ways to live bigger and better than our budget cap suggests. Let’s dive into the rundown on how we’re planning to do that, and then let us know in the comments if you’ve got other strategies we missed. (I’m sure you do!)

Living beyond our budget in early retirement // How we'll stretch our dollars to live an amazing life in early retirement, financial independence, budgeting, retirement planning

A few reminders right off the bat for those just jumping into our story: 1.) We paid off the house last January, so our budget doesn’t have to cover housing, only property tax and utilities, 2.) We have a boatload of travel miles already (>3 million total points at this moment) that can stretch our travel dollars much farther, and 3.) Our budget cap is padded significantly to be recession-resistant, so we can cut back a fair amount and still enjoy our life.

Of course, even with those caveats, we’re still game to stretch our budget even farther. Because though we have a pretty sweet next life lined up, who wouldn’t want to be able to travel more or longer, or enjoy an occasional splurge here or there? Here’s how we’ll do that.

How We’ll Live Beyond Our Budget in Early Retirement

Off-Peak Travel

Because we don’t have kids, we’ve already been able to travel off-peak to some extent. Like I can’t remember the last time we took a big trip in July or August, when the whole world is cramming into those popular travel destinations. (We already experience enough of that at home!) But we’ve still been constrained by limited vacation time, which has encouraged us to do things like fly on the most expensive days (Fridays) instead of the cheapest days (Wednesdays and Saturdays), and to stay in the most convenient lodging to maximize our limited time in places. After we retire, we can make all arrangements solely on price, at times when the crowds aren’t there and the deals are better. For 2018, we’re eyeing big trips in January, May and November — all off-peak months when crowds will be smaller and prices lower.

Off-Peak Activities

The thing we are most excited about is that sitting in weekend ski traffic is now a thing of the past for us. From now on, we sleep in on weekends, and get after the pow on weekdays only. (Or we head into the backcountry on the weekends.) And skiing only midweek means not only reclaiming time and sanity that we would have spent in traffic (and in lift lines), but it’s also a lot cheaper than buying an unrestricted pass. And we can now take advantage of all kinds of deals like this, doing costly activities midweek or during shoulder season, instead of at peak tourist times.


We love doing things ourselves. When we have time, we make a huge percentage of our household consumables, we’ve renovated one place top to bottom ourselves and have done lots of projects at our house and the rental property. I mean, geez, I even DIYed the shirts for our contest giveaway. Problem is, we haven’t had time to do the things we’d prefer to do ourselves these last few years of work, so we’ve ended up outsourcing projects that we’d prefer to DIY, like restaining the house (for a cool $4,000 — never shelling that money out again) and sweeping the chimney so we can blaze up the wood stove and get the house up to a toasty 60 degrees. But soon we can not only resume the DIY habits we’ve undertaken in the past, we can also stretch our budget by learning some of the DIY skills we’ve aspired to acquire, like more car repair know-how.

Work Trades

One of our favorite things about living in a mountain town is the deeply ingrained work trade ethos. You do this thing I need, I’ll do this thing you need, and we’ll call it good. On our very first powder day after we moved up here, I met a contractor in the lodge who offered to do some work on our house for free after he heard I could do websites and marketing for him. That’s just how conversations go around here. We also know of some folks who work a booth at the farmers market or do deliveries of the local CSA boxes in exchange for free produce. That is definitely a gig we’d be interested in if the trade is fair! So we’ll be keeping our ears open for opportunities to trade time or skills for services or goods we need.

Gear Swaps and Buying Used

Our other favorite thing about living in a small ski town is that most people are focused on living a great life, and not on having the flashiest stuff. Which means there’s a vibrant used marketplace. From thrift stores that turn up surprising gems, to frequent ski gear swaps, to a buy nothing group and lots of listing on Craigslist, there are a ton of options for a town our size to avoid buying brand new. So though we own plenty of skis, we got crazy deals on nearly all of them by buying gently used. And we’re hopeful that Mr. ONL will be able to find the mountain bike he’s seeking through used channels. Especially in the future when our budget will be more constrained, knowing that we can find what we need on the secondhand market is a good feeling.

Changing Where We Buy Groceries

Telling people you’re saving to retire early and then sheepishly admitting that you shop at Whole Foods is a surefire way to get some weird sideways looks. Never mind that there actually is affordable food there which I have become an expert at locating. The truth is that we’ve mostly shopped there because our time has been in such short supply, and we know we’ll be able to find high-quality food there and to get in and out quickly. But soon we won’t always be in such a hurry, and we can shop in ways that feel less convenient but save us money, which might even include a return to Costco, a thought that fills Mr. ONL with terror. His past experiences there have been mildly traumatic, an amalgam of oversized shopping cart traffic jams, milelong checkout lines and fist fights over the last of the organic raspberries. (This is the version of events that lives in his memory.) But I’m positive we went on Saturday in the past, and now we can go at off times, when the gallivanting hoards of badly behaving shoppers are at work.

Occasional Travel Hacking

We’ve had the luxury of racking up tons of travel points through actual travel that we mostly weren’t paying for (that’s the nice way of saying we’ve spent months of our lives on planes for work travel), so haven’t gone very far down the travel hacking rabbit hole. I did sign up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve earlier this year when the bonus was high, though, and have come to appreciate the value of non-program specific points. I recently got the Ink Business Preferred to add more Ultimate Rewards points to my Chase account. We’ll consider maybe one or two cards a year if they give us big sign-up bonuses along with other benefits, as these two do. (But we also each have a United and Marriott Chase card, so we’re already maxed out on how many cards we feel like dealing with.) But just with these two cards, that’s 180,000 bonus points, which is several free flights. We’re not going to turn down another way to let us travel more for less money, we just have no desire to turn this into a major, time-sucking pursuit.

Pre-Loaded Donor Advised Fund

Charitable giving is an important part of our spending plan now, both monthly and in larger quantity at the end of the year, and we always want to continue that. Especially if there are times like now in the future, when there are so many causes that need our support — aid for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas victims, Northern California fire victims, and the list goes on — we aren’t willing to stand idly by and do nothing. And even if there isn’t cash sitting around at that moment in retirement, we take great peace of mind knowing we’ll have our donor advised fund sitting there, ready to let us send money to where it’s most needed, thanks to preloaded money from our working years and occasional re-ups when we have excess cash.

How Will You Stretch Your Budget?

What else should be on this list that we are forgetting? How do you plan to stretch your dollars in the future — or how do you do it now? Folks who are already retired, what are the best tips you’d give those of us still working or about to retire to live beyond our budgets? Anyone want to put money on whether I end up resuming my old couponing ways in retirement? ;-) Let’s chat about it all in the comments!

P.S. The big reveal is only one week away! And even for those who got the early reveal in the email newsletter, there will be lots of new info and pics here. So excited to share everything with you guys… FINALLY!

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100 replies »

  1. Some great tips here. We do some of them already, as we don’t have to do the constant work travel like you guys do, so we do have more time on our hands. I’ll be returning in a few days to read all the comment tips you get!

  2. This is so true! Even as little as we spend, I think we can find so many more ways to save in retirement. I don’t know much about car maintenance but I’m committed to taking the time to learn simple stuff like oil changes and brakes in retirement. I also think we will be making a lot more food and buying a lot less processed foods. This takes time but will end up saving lots of money. Ex: making hummus, salsa, maybe wine someday.

    • Same here! We can already do headlights, wiper blades, fluid levels and that kind of basic stuff. But oil changes, swapping to winter tires, etc., would all be skills that would save us a little money and just make us feel cool. Hahaha. (Also, no reason not to make hummus now — if you have a food processor, it’s soooo simple. Same for salsa. Both very fast!)

  3. “The biggest luxury we’ll have in retirement is time.”

    I don’t know why, but this really struck me this morning. I think it is because I am constantly strapped for time, time is exactly the luxury I’m looking for!

    We currently approach our budget by putting our priorities first and limiting our excess cash (in checking that could be wasted). We also try to tackle projects in a DIY way and look for used options when applicable.

    Looking forward to meeting you in Dallas!

    ~Mrs. Adventure Rich

    • Glad that resonated with you! Time is THE ultimate luxury, I’m convinced. ;-) Excited to meet you NEXT WEEK! :-D

  4. I’m happy to see the mention about grocery shopping. That’s one of the biggest money savers for me. There are about 4 grocery stores within a couple of miles of me. Aldi has cheap everyday items. Shaw’s has big loss-leaders on meat (perfect for freezing). The military commissary has great prices on just about everything.

    It takes a little getting used to, but I’ve managed to develop a mental registry of what we need and where to get the best price. It may sound like I’m spending all my time running from grocery store to grocery store, but during off-peak times, I can knock out two of them in 40 minutes.

    I used some of my extra time to explore saving money by converting to solar power too. You wouldn’t think that it would make sense in Rhode Island, but it does.

    • Oh we’ve always known we still wouldn’t have time to do everything! But I think our starting bar is maybe a little different from others given our particular work and schedule demands. So it’s still going to feel luxurious to us by comparison! ;-)

  5. Yes! I love this post. We are also trading some things for convenience/time (hello, cleaning service), but no income right now with an infant makes me feel pressed for money and time. To say this has been a new perspective is an understatement. I’m so excited to hear how your resourcefulness (and DIYness!) plays out in early retirement. I’m not sure if I sense a return to couponing or an Etsy shop more ;) Clueless Christmas ornaments for everywhere! Kidding.

    • Hahahaha. I solemnly swear I will not start peddling Clueless Christmas ornaments here. ;-) I can only imagine how much HP has shifted your perception of time! I fully support the cleaning service and some of the other tradeoffs you guys make. I feel lucky to be on the cusp of taking a holistic look at all of our tradeoffs and figuring out which ones make sense in our next life. ;-)

  6. I’ll be really interested to see everyone’s tips. For us we’ve slowly been able to bring our grocery bill down by buying meat when it’s on sale and mostly produce and pantry staples apart from that. We’ve gradually weaned ourselves off almost all pre-packaged foods. But the time thing is a factor there. Whether we want to or not, a large portion of our weekends are spent prepping meals for the work week ahead. I think I’d enjoy it much more if we had the time to spread the work out a bit.

    We also make a lot of our own household items, but some have proved not to be very cost-effective, so some trial and error there. I’d love to find other ways to save, so I’ll be combing through the comments later for nuggets of inspiration! :)

    • Wow, that’s awesome you’ve nixed the premade stuff! We were once at that place, and then life got too hectic and it was one thing too many. And yeah, same here that not everything we make is cost-effective or even close! Homemade jam may be delicious, but with our farmers market prices, it costs a relative fortune compared to store bought. Same with making my own personal care products. But still lots of experimenting to do!

      • With all your extra time, skip the farmers market and go to a U Pick farm. I picked blackberries this summer at $2/lb instead of $8 for a half pint or whatever crazy price they charge at the market. I also got 50 lbs (2 bushels) of peaches for 48 cents/lb in August from a local farm that lets you order online and then pick up at the nearest farmers market. I live in a big city, so it seems like you should have even more options if you look around.

        I froze some, but I also learned to can, so now I have tons of delicious homemade jam and sliced fruits to take us through the winter. I recommend the blog Food in Jars for recipes and techniques.

      • I wish we had more of those closer! We’ll definitely do u pick when we have the opportunity, though. Mountains aren’t especially good agricultural spot, so that’s our biggest challenge. ;-) (Our growing season here is like 5 seconds long.) Your food stock sounds awesome, though, and I can’t wait to get back to canning and filling the freezer! (We’ve canned in the past — both water bath and pressure canning — but just haven’t had the time the last few years of work.)

  7. Great list of how to stretch your dollar. You can definitely save A LOT by traveling off peak, it’s amazing the price difference for traveling different times of the year.

    Good luck with your Costco adventures. It seems like they are a mad house any day of the week, but true Saturdays are the worst.

    It’s too bad you don’t have Aldi, we spend about $75/week on our groceries for a household of 6, tremendous savings by shopping there!

    Looking forward to more retirement spending articles.

    • I have definitely seen those price differences in my work travel at different times of year, so excited to benefit more from that personally! And I don’t know that we’re *excited* to go back to Costco, but we’ll deal with it for the cost savings. ;-) And yeah, we’d love to have Aldi as an option… they seem to be expanding, so maybe soon!

  8. This is a great list. 3 million miles is insaaaaaaaane, dang! The downside of course is SO MUCH travel – I imagine that got exhausting at times. Work travel and personal travel are way different in my experience, and while I loved work travel, I’m glad to not be doing as much of it anymore.

    I’m looking forward to employing many of the same tricks years down the line when we’re ready to retire :) Looking forward to seeing how your whole experience pans out!

    • Exhausting is the mildest word I could think of for all those miles traveled! ;-) But glad to have SOME upside from it (and, of course, the airlines are much nicer to me as a result, which I don’t complain about!). And we’ll definitely share lots more about how it all goes — along with any new tricks we figure out! ;-)

  9. Off season travel is the best! We just went for a day trip this past weekend to an area that requires a ferry ride. In the summer, it can easily have a 5-6 hour wait time to make the 20 minute crossing. Yesterday, we showed up ten minutes before a sailing and drove right on. We’re still working, but we definitely still prefer off season travel hands down.

    • Oh, that sounds awesome! I have waited in some of those long ferry lines, and it’s brutal. Definitely stoked to start shifting to off-peak everything!

  10. When we first started the Encore Voyage, I quickly learned how much we saved when I was able to plan, shop for, and prepare our meals. Waaaayyyyy fewer pizzas ordered out of sheer exhaustion! Another thing we did was to purchase an FFA steer from a high school student. (We shared the beef and divided the cost between several family and friends.) A bit of a cash outlay up front, but the quality, packaging and having the convenience and day to day cost reduction of not having to buy much meat from week to week really helped. (And it helped a high school student.)

    • It’s our hope that we can do similar things! Especially because I have to be gluten free, those frozen pizzas cost a fortune! So yeah, hoping to load our chest freezer up with homemade and bulk-bought goodies!

  11. One thing I wish I was more on top of was making my own body/beauty products. But convenience often wins out, even though most products are full of garbage that I’d like to avoid.

    Mr. TA and I disagree on car related expenses. I’m the handy one in our relationships so I grew up doing smaller jobs on all my cars, but Mr. TA would rather pay someone to do it. It’s a classic case of, we can afford it, so why do it ourselves?

    • A friend recently told me that making all her own products resulted in clogged pipes from all the coconut oil… so maybe there’s an upside to using storebought?! ;-) (Also, for basics like lip balm, it takes about 10 minutes of effort to make a year’s worth of product — much easier than, say, homemade soap or lotion!)

      And I definitely see both sides on the car discussion! And I’m sure we’ll figure out our list over time of things we do ourselves and things we hire out. We already do most of the little stuff, but I would definitely not be interested in taking it on if it involved the transmission or exhaust, or cracking the engine! Eeek!

      • Oh ya! Not to mention the cost of all that coconut oil. I definitely need to up my lip balm skills though. I go through so much of it and for $5 a tube for natural, well worth the effort! Do you have a recipe for lip balm that you really like?

      • I’m sooo imprecise about it, but it never seems to matter. I do roughly 1 part beeswax to 2 parts oil, and usually use a liquid oil like almond or apricot kernal oil as opposed to coconut. But sometimes I throw in a little castor oil if I want shine. Melt that, add a few drops of essential oils (I often do lavendar and mint or rosemary and mint), pour it into whatever tubes or jars I’m using, let cool. All done! ;-) (And our house is cold, so I like less wax in mine, but if we lived in a warmer climate, I’d probably do 50/50 wax to oil. Just saying that for warm weather readers — I know you’re a cold weather inhabitant like me.) ;-)

      • I often refill old lip balm tubes, and sometimes pour it into shallow jars. This is a pretty foolproof recipe!

  12. I think you will be a lot busier in ER than you imagine. You guys seem like the sort to keep yourself busy. :)
    We’re still traveling in the off season. It’s so much better all around. Our kid is okay for now because he’s just in first grade. I think we’ll have to stop pretty soon.

    • Oh we’ll for sure be busy! But right now we’re doing a ton of this stuff already ON TOP of 60-hour-a-week+ jobs and all the work travel. So it will still feel luxurious by contrast. ;-) And yeah, I know we’re lucky not to have to plan around school schedules, but it seems like you guys have other plans to get around that, too. (See you at FinCon??)

  13. I feel like time is such a big deal. Even with being a one career family, we feel strapped for time regularly. I already told Hubs that we are taking a few months off and seeing what we want to add back into our life after we hit FI.

    Retiring is supposed to fun, right? But man, I think we have to start from zero, so we can see what’s worth keeping. Then we can add the hacks to make it even better!

    • Every early retiree I’ve met has said they’re more busy now than they expected to be, so I think you’re wise to be thinking about that! That said, I think going down to NOTHING is a recipe for feeling aimless and purposeless. So I think having one or two activities that feel continuous throughout, and then cutting all the rest back to see what you truly crave, is the way to go. ;-) (In all honesty, I see this blog as a tool to get us through the ER transition. Obviously it’s more than that, but having the continuous routine of writing here will be good for me, I think!)

  14. There are a TON of awesome techniques that people use to make their money last. The off-peak stuff is great, as is changing the way you shop and even *where* you shop. For us, a lifestyle of full-time travel in an RV can be just about as cheap as we want it to be. If we need to spend less money, then we bookdock more out west. If we feel like we’re swimmin’ in the money, then we might relax more in paid camp sites, or experience local restaurant scenes a bit more. Having no rent or mortgage is good like that…

    And like you’ve already seen, the opportunities abound out there…and, the lack of a full-time job allows us to embrace those opportunities and pursue those that make the most sense for us. :)

  15. While entertainment may not be a huge budget item, the library has been a nice budget hack. Free books, DVD’s, and CD’s eliminated our need for Netflix and other streaming services… and effectively eliminated all recurring discretionary spend in our budget :) While each library system is different, many allow you to request any item in their entire system and will deliver it to your local library. We’ve also attended free concerts at the library, interacted with local authors, and will participate in their free classes (yoga, gardening, etc) upon hitting FIRE ourselves. They also often come with access to overdrive (massive online collection of media) and other online resources. Needless to say, check out your local library!

    • We’re so curious to see how much media we feel like watching after we quit. Though we watch little TV, sometimes we just want to be able to binge watch the last season of Mad Men or do things that are hard to do if we’re reliant on the library. (Also, the small Netflix fee doesn’t feel make-it-or-break-it to us, but totally get why it feels great to cut out those subscriptions!) Huge fans of the library, though, and I live for Overdrive (plus now we get free e-magazines, trainings, Ancestry, etc. through the library!).

  16. You have everything on lockdown and it is going to be an interesting ride. I am most curious to see where the direction of your posts shift to once you are both no longer working. This will turn into a travel blog lol.

  17. Gosh, so much of this stuff has become second nature to me after nearly three years in retirement, I hardly give it a thought anymore, but here’s some of what I consistently try to do. I don’t get my haircut at the fancy place anymore, I go to the local cheap place with their $7.95 coupon. Honestly, I have noticed very little (if any) difference. Ditto for hair color, highlights and the like. I did it myself for a while, but am now finally embracing the grey and just growing it out naturally. I don’t pay for expensive conditioning treatments, either. The local Dollar Tree has an extensive collection of name brand products (cleaning and health and beauty in particular); I stock up on that stuff at a buck a shot and do it myself at home. Same for manicures and pedicures, I just can’t be bothered with the time or expense anymore.
    We don’t do the expensive coffees anymore, unless we’re traveling. Much more convenient to make at home, and I’ve become an expert at low carb, sugar free blended coffee drinks. We rarely go out for meals, we find restaurants are typically overpriced, the meals are usually disappointing and we almost always walk away feeling ripped off.
    We don’t do hotels anymore; we take the travel trailer and it’s made a huge difference in our lives. Great side benefit: we take our dogs instead of boarding them ($60 per night plus drop off and pick up fees, not to mention how often we received them back in less than stellar health). We love the freedom, the much reduced lodging costs, our own stuff in our own “home,” etc. Probably the best purchase we’ve made in retirement!
    I shop TJ’s whenever possible; I don’t care for their meat or most of their produce so we buy meat at Costco. We bring it home, split it up, vacuum pack it (another great purchase), and freeze it all. If you can limit yourself to what you actually need Costco is great, but if you have a penchant for the latest high tech gadget or gardening tool or video game it’s probably a non-starter. Our solution is to go in alone (one of us stays in the car), with a list. No talking each other into that awesome 75” big screen! It works for us.
    We burn for heat, and I buy firewood in the off season. Whenever we have a tree that needs to come down, we pay extra to have it chopped into firewood. We typically don’t use the house forced air heat at all unless we have company.
    We’re getting a bit old for a lot of the stuff we used to do ourselves, particularly hard manual labor like excavating the rock hard clay soil or similar pursuits. I’ve had to become accustomed to paying for chores we used to easily do ourselves, but it’s part of the aging process and I’ve gradually grown to accept it. Watching my 67 year old husband on the roof clearing the gutters after a storm last week was yet another wake up call for me: this huge two story house on the side of a hill has a roof unsafe for just about anyone, let alone my arthritic spouse! I’ll start looking for a handy person for such chores going forward.
    We travel off season and never on weekends, we get gasoline at Costco when we’re in the area and I check my phone for the closest, cheapest gas when we’re not. A truck and trailer really eat the fuel, so we use the Prius as much as possible when we’re home. Energy wise, solar wouldn’t really work for us (we’d be dead before it paid for itself), but if we were ten years younger we’d probably buy a DIY system and install it ourselves.
    We take higher deductibles on insurance and generally pay everything in full (insurances, property taxes, mooring fees, etc.). Just keeps life simple.
    Medical continues to be the huge unknown; my existing coverage will go from $1187 to $1469 in 2018 and I’m simply unwilling to pay that, so I’m shopping for different coverage. We haven’t received notice of my husband’s increase in premiums yet but I’m certain the news will be equally sobering. We’re examining our options since we still have four years before I am eligible for Medicare (unless that changes in the meantime).
    We have not been great at budgeting on a fixed income, and that’s been a surprise to me. My initial estimates were way off on medical coverage, medical out of pocket, insurance coverage, fuel expense, pet expense and in several other areas as well. It’s a learning experience and we’re still low on the curve, but we get better every year (or maybe just more realistic), and we have finally given ourselves permission to spend some money and enjoy life. Sitting in the cold and dark watching reruns on television isn’t what we had in mind for retirement, and if that means less in the bank so be it!

    • Hi Laura! It sounds like you guys have so much of this stuff dialed — but yet you keep finding ways to optimize! And I’m with you on husbands on the roof — mine is 40 and I still don’t want him up there! ;-) Most of all I love that you give yourselves permission to spend money when it brings you joy! We should never feel prisoner to our money — that’s not real financial freedom.

  18. I forget about this time/money shift that will occur in FI, so I’m probably being too conservative with what our spending will be in some categories. With all that extra time, we might find a lot of ways to stretch our dollars.

    Would love to hear if there are any specific strategies you used to get those 3M miles (like manufactured spend) or if you just acquired them slowly over time…

    • I think it’s smart that you are budgeting NOT to DIY everything. Even if you feel inspired in earlier years, you don’t want to have to do those more treacherous tasks when you’re older! (See prior comment about arthritic men on roofs!) As for those miles, we have each collected a few sign-up bonuses over the years (maybe like 5 total between us?), but have never manufactured spending (that sounds so stressful!) or done any of the tricks. We’ve just ground out points the hard way! ;-)

  19. Oh man, don’t get me started on Obamacare!

    I’m FIREd and Mrs. Freaky Frugal and I have relied on Obamacare since it first came out. I wouldn’t have FIREd if it didn’t exist. These almost weekly attacks by Trump and the Republicans are making me crazy. They all know they hate Obamacare, but they can’t think of anything better.

    I can think of something better – it’s called Medicare for All aka Universal Healthcare. The rest of the industrialized world already has that, so you would think the Republican would find it obvious.

    OK, I feel better after that rant. :)

    • Given that healthcare spending is 1/6 of our economy which equals nearly 3 trillion dollars, we would have to fundamentally overhaul our economy, how employers pay people, how everyone is taxed (everyone will have to pay a lot more since universal healthcare would more than double government spending the rich don’t have enough taxable income left to pay this tax bill on their own) so unless you can figure out how to reduce the total spent on care (5% of the people use 50% of the money) I can’t see us wrecking the worlds biggest economy for such a plan. Universal access is a different and less expensive fix.

      Maybe we should start there because the math doesn’t add up because single payer only drives down cost via smaller reimbursements when in truth the cost of the product is the reason we have expensive care. Single payer doesn’t result in a medical student paying less for their education, lower nurse and doctor incomes, lower malpractice insurance rates or lower manufacturing costs for medical supplies or lower drug development costs. Until then such a program might lower your cost, but it truly wouldn’t address systemic delivery costs. If you don’t pay, someone else will have to

      By the way I retire at age 52 in 4 moths. I will need for the first time in my adult life to buy in the individual market. I know there are much better ways to have coverage than the aca plans for my wife and I. If given the choice I would solve for my own needs without needing to fit into one of the aca plans.

      Fixing cost and access are issues that need lots of work but I for one do not think they will be solved by doubling or tripling the size of the hand government plays in the economy. Student debt is an example of a poorly run government monopoly. Not sure we would get a better outcome if government had a monopoly on healthcare

      • I’d posit that there’s a different way to think about health care and costs, and it’s focusing more on the care side, instead of always starting from the “who pays?” question. If we started with tort reform, we’d cut out tons of unnecessary testing and procedures that doctors currently prescribe as a CYA measure, which would reduce costs dramatically. Then if we shift to outcomes-based payments for providers instead of incentivizing more care, that would go farther. And if we invested dollars in community health and prevention to actually instill good health and habits early on, we’d see more change yet. (And I won’t to into things like stopping subsidies for agribusiness companies that pump out obesity-inducing crap for super cheap and drive up health care costs for all of us while reaping a tidy profit.)

      • I love this response, Ms. ONL. As a Canadian, I find it so puzzling that your wealthy country has not yet found a way to provide health coverage for all your citizens.

    • Glad you feel better! Regardless of where folks fall on the spectrum, I think we can all agree that uncertainty like this helps no one. ;-)

  20. Off peak living is the best! We’ve quickly adapted to the empty grocery stores, hiking trails, and roads. In a funny way, we now avoid going out on weekends. Everything is better without the crowds :)

    If you haven’t looked yet, is a great spot to find used mountain bikes. I got an incredible deal on a full suspension on that site. It’s served me well for years.

    Travel hacking has been a boon for us in early retirement. Just this year, we’ve redeemed close to $10k in free travel. It can be hard to find good deals, but I’ve found the best technique is to be patient with it. Every now and then an awesome redemption opportunity will pop up. And it’s taken a lot less effort that I would have expected :)

    Cheers to your early retirement!

    • Oh Mr. ONL is all over pinkbike! ;-) Thank you for the tip, though — I’m sure others here will find it useful! That’s awesome you’ve had such good luck with travel hacking! Right now we are piling up points pretty quickly still with work travel, so adding a few more points incrementally doesn’t feel like it’s worth the effort — but after we have more time, maybe it will! And yeah, I need to learn more about finding those great redemption opportunities, because we want to stretch our points as far as possible!

    • Working on it is what matters! (And thinking about which beach next sounds like a pretty sweet life.) ;-)

  21. This is so simple, but worth doing… “out” at lunch time rather than dinner. Same ambiance and same food….cheaper prices!

  22. Whew, as someone who just picked up a part time job and likely hasn’t considered the time implications that’ll come from the fact that I’ve got a shift (sometimes two) most weekends for the next 6 weeks, I’m jealous of all your impending free time!

    It’s AWESOME that you’ll be able to take advantage of off-peak traveling and running errands! I’m a Costco lover myself, but given that I usually go on weekends, I’m either going in for a very limited shopping list comprised of things that I can carry on my own sans cart…or getting road rage trying to maneuver my huge cart around people stopped with their huge carts in the middle of the aisles. I’m sure it’s a wonderful place in the middle of a weekday! ;)

    • Oh, I feel that pain! I side hustled HARD for a lot of years and had close to no free time (and now I do pretty much the same thing, but for FREE with this blog). ;-) But I’m sure it will be financially worth it, so you just have to decide if it’s also worth it in terms of life force. And LOL — YES! Costco road rage is a thing! ;-)

  23. Yeah, Sharon just mentioned one of our fav’s – lunch dates. With the kids being in school and not needing a sitter then, we do more lunch dates than anything. Prices are lower, places mostly less crowded and we aren’t wrangling the kids. :)

    We plan to do some card hacking when we have more time, but currently, it’s just not worth it to us to try and keep up with more cards. Plus our travel is so schizophrenic, it’s hard to predict which card would be better and all of that.

    I plan on doing what some mentioned such as finding the best places to get which groceries and making a lot more food at home. Now there is so much convenience stuff that becomes our go to due to still having time issues. I look forward to those days. Soon, soon…

    • I feel like, back in the day, most nice restaurants were open for lunch, and this was the best hack! But now so many only do dinner. This is definitely our favorite way to travel, though — free hotel breakfast, late lunch at a nicer place, then we’re full all day and maybe just need a snack at night. Last time we were in London, we had tea several times, and never needed dinner afterward. And totally with you on hacking travel — we have enough on our plate already!

  24. I hope I don’t have to do things in “retirement” that I don’t want to do now and pay for now ( cleaning person). Saving money by doing things I enjoy, don’t mind Doing but pay for now I’m good with (yard work, house repairs).

    • I hear you! And so long as you budget for that in your plan, then great! I’m sure we’ll spend money on plenty of things that other ER folks would find too frivolous. (For example, living in a super expensive ski town!) What matters is that you plan around the life you want to live. :-)

    • Hahaha — Thanks so much for sharing in our excitement, Corinne! ;-) A book is definitely on my life list, so I’ll keep you posted…

  25. The early retirement scene is Asia (where I live) is somewhat of a rarity. To speak about it is actually contrarian and will likely bring on many looks of doubt and of disbelief. So for those who so plan for it and execute their plan, they know their numbers and how it works. It’s a tight, niche type community. For me, I’m a line item kind of guy. Though I’m an engineer by training, I spent some early years in finance and doing lots of financial modeling. So details are part of my “DNA”. Stretching the retirement dollars means looking thru the details and optimizing wherever possible. One may think it’s time consuming but really once you understand your own financial data and the money flow, it becomes quite 2nd nature like. We are debt free so that’s certainly a big help. We’re in decent health but watchful about how we can maintain and improve this aspect of health. We plan out the specials and luxuries like travel and gifts. We have a budget that’s based on a lifestyle that was capped from some 8 – 10 years ago…we figured that there’s only so much you can eat, wear, consume, etc and we didn’t need all the excesses. Some years back, we shifted from a “getting stuff” mode to a “experiential” one – we really wanted to do things that will give us a lifetime of great memories. Also, making things last longer, getting them repaired to get more usable mileage, etc has really helped us practice the needed mindset which I know will be important for us in the retirement years. Our income streams are diversified from a risk standpoint. We know our boundaries for “bare survival” mode and other “living modes” above that minimum level. We have developed a market crisis playbook to capitalize on opportunities. All these were made possible because of the attention to details. Some of my peers find my methods too sterile. But it’s ok as it’s just my style and it works for me and my family needs. After all, it’s each to their own ways.

    • I am all about finding the systems that work for you — and it sounds like you’ve done exactly that! I have done a bunch of things in life where the learning curve seemed steep at the beginning, but then it totally became second-nature, and it also sounds like you got to that place with your optimization approach. Kudos to you for being resourceful!

  26. Ms ONL

    I know that no one wants to overpay for anything and being smart with your money is critical to creating wealth and making it last after you have earned your last paycheck, but perhaps you can use some percentages across a few spending categories to illustrate how your budget is structured. I previously talked about planning for each quarter instead of each month because they have different spending patterns, but if you could share expense ratios it might help others do some planning themselves.

    This is of particular interest to me because – as you and I have discussed here, the “shelter in place” mentality isn’t early retirement from my point of view it’s more a “minimalist consumption existence” that to me destroys the goal of early retirement. Laura said it well in her post above: “we have finally given ourselves permission to spend some money and enjoy life. Sitting in the cold and dark watching reruns isn’t what we had in mind for retirement, and if that means less money in the bank so be it,”

    No truer words have been said in my opinion.

    Can’t wait for the reveal, I hope you can share some planning and allocation wisdom and continue to help everyone achieve a “retirement of plenty” that is a retirement of plenty of fun, memories, experiences and time enjoying life, not all of which require you to vacation for 200 days a year at a 5 star luxury Hawaiian beach hotel.

    Keep up the great work

    • It’s so funny, Phil — whenever you start out a comment addressing me by name, it makes me think of getting scolded as a child. Hahaha. (I know that’s not how you mean it — it just strikes me as funny.) ;-)

      We will share more about our budget percentages once we’re actually living in retirement. I haven’t done that yet because it’s all theoretical at this point, and because health care is STILL a big x factor for next year even. But rest assured that we are not going to be living a “shelter in place” life — that does not seem worth it at all!

  27. I do not agree that in retirement we should trade time for money. Changing oil or shopping grocery is not what we quit jobs for. It is also a very inefficient way to trade time for money, for us and for everyone else. Theoretically it would be best if we can work on what we are best at and trade with people for what they are best at. In practice it is harder to maintain the pay rate without being full time. But I would still try to find a part time job I am good at to finance services I don’t enjoy doing myself, if money is a concern.

    • I agree wholeheartedly that you don’t HAVE to trade time for money in retirement, but strongly disagree with the “for everyone” assertion. I think the joy of early retirement is getting to decide for ourselves what tasks we wish to take on and which we wish to continue outsourcing. We’ve gotten tons of joy over the years from DIYing things. Was it most efficient? Heck no! But I enjoyed our condo so much more knowing I made it nice with my own hands. Same as why I enjoy homemade food more than pre-prepped food — there is joy to be had from the act of making and the act of consuming something made with love. ;-) As for YOUR plan, go forth and plan around outsourcing all of your tasks if that makes you happy! It’s YOUR life and no one gets to tell you how to live it or how to spend your money.

      • My point was that one might not enjoy the DYI’s to save money, because the title is to live beyond the budget, which implies money is still a constraint.

        I guess a test would be if you would still do these DIY projects if money is truly no object.

        Another test is if you could work for only one hour a week on your profession to avoid all the DIY projects, would you still choose the DIY projects over the one hour work?

        Personally I do not like DIY projects, but like you said, it is just me, and has nothing to do with my points. :-)

      • Totally valid point. And in my mind “beyond the budget” just means that we’ll get to live a life that feels in many ways bigger than what folks would think they could afford for our budget. But if DIY is a drag to you (it’s not to us, mostly), then I agree it wouldn’t actually feel that way! ;-)

  28. Just joined your blog! Hello from Poland from a couple before 97 mints away from pulling the plug!

    My travel schedule at work is similarly hectic, but outside of this part, both me and my husband work from home. Through this lifestyle we were able to incorporate a few quality of life pieces that have lowered our costs (and helped us get closer to the whole plug thing):

    – one car. We do not need more than one car. We sold the other and agreed to put the insurance money from the other one into a “taxi/uber jar”. We are yet to see when we actually needed a second car, and it’s been 6 months.

    – solar! We invested in solar panels for electricity on our roof. The investment should pay for itself in 8 years. Guess what, it’s close to the 100 month mark. So this will significantly lower the monthly costs for us at the time when we will have limited budget

    – growing our own: we have a big yard and we are tempted to turn it into a full size farm when we retire. For now, we grow our own greens: lettuce, spinach, kale. Whole summer we did not need to buy any of the greens and they are the most perishable, overpackaged and wasted food there is. Plus I think we eat more of it which in long run should bring health, meaning less money spent on healthcare, right?

    – lunch out: working from home for both of us means we can go out for lunch and have a lunch size and lunch priced menu at nice restaurants, if we want to. Now that we started watching this category of spending it will not be that often but it always feels good to have the luxury of enjoying something like that!

    Going to dig in your blog as your story seems to be the most relevant to mine, in terms of high-energy sucking job and running to the finish line, and so on! Thanks for putting all of your experiences in writing! Inspiring!

    • Hello Agata! Welcome! :-) And it does sound like we have a lot in common! I love all the strategies you are using to stretch your money. I’m especially envious of solar and being able to grow your own food. In the mountains, we have big trees that give us a lot of shade, which means… no solar. And not much sun for growing, on top of having a very short growing season. So I’ll just live vicariously through you. ;-)

  29. No great tips to add just laughed about the costco part, I work different hours (healthcare) so I generally go everywhere during the week but occasionally I don’t think about it and kick myself later. I was talking to the cashier at costco and she said Tuesdays and Wednesdays are their slowest days, Sundays busiest.

    • Ms. ONL practically has a toddler-like meltdown when we go in there, so I’m hoping that recommendation to go during the day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays gives us a better experience. ;-)

  30. The only thing that ties me to a schedule is Sunday. The weekends are a creation of a work week, so my goal has been to forget what day it is. The luxury is to be, instead of be somewhere. It’s very liberating and zen, and free in every way.

    The future of single payer was revealed in England this week. If you smoke or are obese you can’t have electives surgery. That ruptured cartilage in your knee that keeps you from walking and losing weight and is a 20 minute outpatient operation? Too bad you’re fat. Careful what you wish for

    • That sounds wonderful! We’ll still have to keep track of days so we know when to put the trash out and when NOT to try to go skiing (and also to know when to post here!), but look forward to viewing them all differently.

      Re: single payer, none of my posts on Obamacare have been an attempt to make the case for single payer. I think who pays for health care is the wrong way to approach the question, and what we should be doing is creating a healthier culture where we reward clinicians for outcomes (while still incentivizing them to treat the very sick), provide a lot more health counseling and access to healthy environments for more people, and we actually try to set people up for a lifetime of health. That would undoubtedly be less costly for all of us, but that’s a lot harder to achieve than just continuing to reform health insurance, which is what every discussion of health care policy has been limited to.

  31. These are great ways to live when you have the time! My schedule is flexible, and I already travel on “better” travel days to see my long-distance girlfriend. I just tell the job that I won’t be there and enjoy an “extra” day or two. That one extra non-airport sluggish night makes a huge difference.

  32. i am lucky to be married to a painter. firstly, we don’t have to buy art as art is on every wall of our house. but back to the subject at hand: one way to stretch a budget is to sell that artwork, which is lucrative when it comes but not yet reliable as the income is so lumpy. the other is that my friend opened a wine shop 4 blocks from the house a couple of years ago. i have voluntarily worked for her as she has a business partner but no employees. she has had me work the store for her in the past as she know that i know what is in there and how to talk about it to the customers. she usually pays me in wine (saving paperwork and i don’t fill in very often.) that works as well as cash as its my biggest discretionary expense…and i would do it for free but filling in now and then means that you “could” work for money and have that little skill if necessary. i also liked being a fill-in bartender during my new orleans mini-retirement. i didn’t like having a big schedule of those things but being available and “needing” to do them made them a joy rather than a task, especially when doing it for a business owner who is your friend. good blog, by the way.

    • That’s great that you’ve found some ways to make a little money on the side, or at least keep that avenue open to you. And thanks for the compliment!

  33. Long time reader, first time commenter. I wanted to throw this out there as a partial alternative to Costco. For many years, I would shop the bulk foods section of Whole Foods or other stores depending on the best price. Last year, I came across a food co-op in our town. They are part of a larger group of co-ops. Their bulk prices were cheaper and I could order 25 lb bags of organic rice, beans, and oatmeal for an even greater discount. I just bought some food-safe 5 gallon buckets with gamma lids for storage. Between two of us, we went through 25 lbs of rice and garbonzo beans (yay unlimited hummus!) in about a year. The Costco here doesn’t carry organic bulk grains. I live in southern CA with a high COLA – so this saves us money and time (not shopping for these ingredients on each trip).

    As an aside – please keep up the health care updates, even if they’re CA specific. I don’t like reading news (it’s too negative) but I’ll need insurance in January just like you guys, so it’s nice getting a summary here.

    • Hi Rasa, I LOVE this idea. We have a somewhat nearby coop that does bulk ordering like this. And I’ll definitely keep writing about health care, both state specific and nationwide. Right now we’re waiting to hear whether the states’ lawsuit to prevent the federal government from canceling subsidies will be successful or not, and then I’ll write another update. Glad you find those useful!

  34. hello guys,

    For me, the difference was made by the bills. I renegotiated, changed the provider to a cheaper one, reduce the package, or better cancel it. Every bill need up to 1-2 hours to decide or to find the alternative, but every 10-20$ saved are saved every month, for years, so definitely these are my best paid hours of work. I was able before this action to save monthly, but now I increased the speed to the independence freedom.

  35. Wow, that is an incredible amount of flying miles! If I were you guys, I’d just be travelling nonstop during retirement. Where do you guys want to go?

    I can’t help but notice you already have a big chunk of advantages like this (also having the house paid off, etc), do you have any tips for the rest of us to get to that point?

    • Just remember those miles were earned the HARD way, not the travel hacking way. ;-) Hahahaha

      The answer to your question is we want to go EVERYWHERE. But we know that will take a while.

      I think in terms of getting to a similar place, it’s really just to think long term in all your decisions. We underspent on our house compared to what the bank would have lent us, which made it faster to pay off. We tried to be smart about consolidating travel with as few airlines and hotels as possible, to compile those miles. And then we stayed focused on our “why” whenever we wanted to get reckless with our spending. ;-)

  36. Hi From Australia,

    Thanks for this informative article and the comments. My husband and I are in the process of building our downsized next “forever” house. To help with the budget we have been housesitting for the last 8 months. Our friends and family were a little cynical but we have managed to secure suits for all but 10days of the entire time. This has not only saved us approximately $20,000 but has also provided many wonderful experiences. We have even spent a month in another state. Don’t get me wrong, it is stressful at times but I find the nomadic life suits me perfectly. We have found that we do need a place where we can keep our excess gear (my father’s Shed)and be prepared to spend a bit more on food and eating out than normal but considering the savings it is well worth it.

    • Hello down there! ;-) How cool that you’ve pieced together a housesitting gig to get you through this time while your home is being built and saved tons of money in the process. I have learned about myself that I need a homebase and am not well suited to the nomadic life, but perhaps if it wasn’t for the super long term, like in your case, I’d do better.