Decide For Yourself What Spending You Value, and Then Spend Without Guilt //, Tanja Hester, author of Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Waythe process

Decide For Yourself What Spending You Value, and Then Spend Without Guilt

Today we’re talking about spending, and truly making your own decisions about that, but first: a quick announcement before the post!

Registration is now open for Cents Positive 2019! I’m hosting two retreats for women this year:

Cents Positive is for women seeking a space to talk about money and financial independence, and if that’s you, I’d love for you to join us this year! (I don’t make money off the event by design, and do this just to help build more community.) the 2019 events are going to be pretty incredible, and in 2020, we’ll have an east coast event, a Canada event and a new concept: Cents Positive for couples. Stay tuned for more info, but if you’d like to join us this year, consider registering soon as spots are filling up.

On with the post!

Decide For Yourself What Spending You Value, and Then Spend Without Guilt //, Tanja Hester, author of Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way

While saving is usually the focus of early retirement discussions, saving exists only in relation to spending. If we spend nothing, we need save nothing to walk away from mandatory work. But of course that’s impossible. Everyone spends something, no matter how frugal your habits. So the two are locked in an equal and opposite relationship: every dollar you don’t spend is a dollar you can save. Every dollar you do spend is a dollar you can’t save. This relationship ensures that spending takes on all new meaning once we get focused on saving, bringing new scrutiny to purchases that may have never carried meaning to us in the past.

That scrutiny is a good thing! It’s how we root out mindless spending and hedonic adaptation, two potential major leaks in any budget. But, as social beings, we also bring to that scrutiny the values we’ve been socialized to believe are appropriate. And that latter part is not always helpful.

In early retirement books, blogs and podcasts, we tend to throw around the phrase “spend on your values” flippantly, as shorthand for only spending money on the things that make your life better. (I’ve written before about how the phrase should be “spend on what you value,” not how it’s most commonly phrased now, because values and what you value can be quite different.) And conceptually, I couldn’t agree more! The problem isn’t the concept, it’s with the “approved list” of expenditures that has evolved over time that takes for granted that everyone values the same things.

Here’s just one example: cable TV. Cord-cutting has become so ubiquitous among money-conscious folks that it’s now commonly assumed that anyone focused on achieving a work-optional life is no longer paying for cable. So much so that hearing that someone still has cable feels borderline scandalous. Try writing in the financial independence subreddit that you pay for cable, and see what happens. (Spoiler: it won’t go well.)

Another example: the latte. There are whole books written about how much it’s possible to spend on takeout coffee in a lifetime, along with experts who will happily tell you you’re peeing a million dollars down the drain if you don’t make every sip of coffee you ever drink at home. This advice is so ubiquitous that we feel like we’re committing a revolutionary act every time we step into Starbucks.

Depending on which blogs you read and podcasts you listen to, you’ll get a pretty clear sense of what “we” have deemed acceptable, and what we haven’t:

  • Traveling is acceptable, but only if it’s done on the cheap, unless you’re flying first class and staying at nice hotels on points. Paying money for nicer accommodations is not acceptable.
  • Buying a used car is acceptable, but buying a new car for the same price isn’t. (Exception: If the new car is a Tesla, then it’s deemed acceptable, because reasons.)
  • Having two cars in a household is not acceptable if you could possibly survive with one. Even better is to not own a car at all.
  • New clothes are acceptable if they are technical clothes aiding outdoor or fitness activities, and if they were purchased at a substantial discount. New clothes are not acceptable if their only purpose is to look cool.
  • Expensive craft beer is acceptable. Expensive wine is not.
  • Spending the bare minimum on haircuts and personal grooming is acceptable, though not preferable. (Preferable is to spend nothing on such things.) Paying for anything but the cheapest haircut or spending on anything else appearance-related is unacceptable.
  • Buying nice furniture is not acceptable, but buying expensive lumber and tools to make nice furniture yourself is acceptable.
  • Physical things that help you do activities are acceptable, but physical things that you merely enjoy owning are not.

I could go on, but you get the idea. I won’t even go down the rabbit hole of what’s acceptable to spend on kids and what isn’t. We’ve accidentally created the archetype of a certain kind of early retiree: an outdoorsy, fully able-bodied, not too aesthetically focused, beer-drinking guy.

That archetype is fine if that describes you perfectly, but it’s not such a great fit for all the rest of us. I’ve seen dozens of blog and social media posts about which craft beers someone consumed, but I’ve never seen a blogger talk about spending money guilt-free on makeup, for example. Or when people have told me that they enjoy collecting some object, or bought a car brand new or own clothing suitable for the board room, it’s said either in hushed tones or defiantly, like they’re doing something wrong and know it. I cannot count how many times I’ve met someone at a book event, blog meetup or FI gathering and they’ve said, “Well, I secretly love X, but I know I’m not supposed to spend money on that, so don’t tell anyone.”

Friends, all of this is bonkers.

You are allowed to spend money on whatever either makes you happy or gives you the conditions for a happy life. Period. The only person who knows what’s included in that list is you. Spending money on something that someone else wouldn’t choose to isn’t doing it wrong, it’s doing it exactly right. Because the whole point of all of this is to diverge from society’s script and to write our own script, not just to quit one choir and sing with a different one.

So what spending truly improves your happiness? How you answer that question is all that matters, not whether someone else values the same things.

What I Value That’s Not On “The List”

I often use our many pairs of skis are proxies for all of our spending, to demonstrate that we’re willing to spend real money on things that we truly value and that let us live our best lives. But we’re not some minimalists living in an empty shell of a house with a garage full of gear. We enjoy living in a home that we find visually appealing, and while we don’t currently spend the kind of money on home renovations that we once did (before we were a featured house tour on Apartment Therapy), it’s not out of the question that we might redo some rooms in the future, even though the current rooms technically function passably.

I also love writing, but can’t stand writing with bad paper and bad pens. So I drop money on fountain pens, ink and fountain pen-friendly paper, plus the notebooks to hold it. There is no universe in which any of that stuff is a necessity, but I love it, and I don’t feel bad about spending that money.

An unexpected turn of events this year has been that I’ve kind of gotten into makeup, something I’ve never been that into before. I might look fine in real life, but high definition cameras are not kind, and when I started doing TV appearances to promote Work Optional, I had to buy and learn to wear some things I never expected to put on my face. And I’ll be on some big stages this year, including opening for Ramit Sethi at FinCon in a few weeks, and makeup for the stage is different still. While I didn’t imagine I’d spend money in early retirement on makeup, especially given how little I spent on it while working, I imagined even less that I’d actually enjoy wearing it. But just like I decided that I can rock purple hair now that I no longer have a job, I’ve also decided I can rock purple glitter eyeshadow or blue mascara. If I listened to the conventional wisdom about what types of expenses are acceptable and which aren’t, I’d feel guilty about buying makeup, because it’s not a necessity by any definition, nor is it on the fairly male-centric “approved list.” But it’s fun and I’m enjoying learning how to apply it, and that’s what matters, not whether you would choose to spend your money the same way, or whether the FI subreddit would approve.

Create Your Own Approved List

The caution in all of this is that it’s a slippery slope from “spend on whatever you want” to “spend on everything you want.”

As Paula Pant reminds us, you can afford anything, but not everything. The point isn’t to treat yourself again and again on anything you might like to have or do, but to figure out what is truly worth the money in your book, within whatever spending and saving constraints you set for yourself, and then to spend entirely without guilt on the things that you decide are worth it.

If that’s on annual tickets to Comic Con, new costumes included, great! Some clothes that you love wearing and make you feel like your best self? Great! Supplies for your crafty hobby or ongoing project? Great! Any answer that rises to the top for you is great.

Just as I encourage you in chapter 3 of Work Optional to create your money mission statement, I encourage you to create your own approved list of things you spend money on without guilt, and then to do so without feeling you have anything to hide should you find yourself in a conversation with FIRE community folks.

The more we can be open about the things we choose to spend money on, the more inclusive we are as a movement, and the more free each of us feels in our own decisions, and both are very good things.

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43 replies »

  1. Great post Tanja! When I found the FI community a few years ago and decided to “make it so,” I included non FI “approved” spending in my budget. Sure, I could have hit my number a year earlier, but I value a low stress life and I don’t care to try to wring every last cent out of my budget. I’m comfortable somewhere between Lean and Fat, and I’m liking the idea of Slowly Sipping Coffee’s Fully Funded Lifestyle Change.

    • Read this last night and have been thinking about it all day. I used to cut my own hair when it was super long, and it was free, and now that it’s short I have to have it cut regularly or I look ghastly and feel scruffy. There’s no supercuts around here, so it costs a chunk of change! I realize this script has, without my realizing it, made me feel that that was extravagant. And the personal grooming thing is kind of a double bind because society does expect women to buy all the things to make them look “put together.”

  2. Lattes are definitely on my approved list! Just not every day like they used to be 😅 And food in general – we spend SO much more than the “average” blogger / FIRE person. It’s so bonkers that something that’s so outside of the norm also likes to put in parameters for what counts, but I think that’s human nature. Why it’s important to pay attention and be notional there, too.

    • With you on the food 100%, and you saw how much I spend on kid activities/stuff with that post I wrote for you. And self care… I spend some bucks there too. All intentional choices. All bring value and happiness to my life.

  3. We just took this approach for a sofa, our first “real” furniture now that the kids are older. Of course the frugal part of us extensively discussed our budget and minimum preferences and stalked websites for months, but when we saw something good pop up on Room and Board’s clearance site, we jumped on it. No regrets; it has been a wonderful summer of reading and watching movies on the new couch.

  4. EVERYONE needs to read this! No matter how much people read or hear, too many still worry about ” keeping up with…”. Figure out what is right for YOU, and don’t worry about what others think or do. It is amazing how much stress we put on ourselves and don’t even realize it! It took me longer than it should have to learn this. Thank you for all that you write, Tanja!

  5. LOVE!!! KNOW THY SELF!! We are buying a vacation, snowbird home in Florida…not a normal recommendation from the FI group, but it is our choice for us. Yes we will furnish It by going to garage sales and estate sales…which we love to do anyway! The home, the HOS, the fact that we will only use it seasonally….those are the things that we plan for and don’t stress about in our retirement! There, I said it!!😂

  6. This is a much needed post for the FI community. I love the comment about leaving behind one social script to blindly follow another. We’ve heard plenty about the Retirement Police in the FIRE Movement, but we should also worry about the Spending Police. I hear too many comments from my FIRE cohorts about what we are “allowed” to spend on or about “breaking the rules.”

    I highly value Movies, TV, and pop culture entertainment so I have no problem paying for Satellite TV, whIch gives me a technologically superior solution to live TV streaming/DVR services like YouTube and Hulu. Also, through smart negotiation with AT&T, I pay the same or less than I would with those Internet streaming solutions especially when factoring in my Internet discount for having a bundle. Plus, I am NOT under a contract.

    In the end, I am just fine with any range of spending by those in the community as long as the spending is based on a foundation of financial literacy and financial intentionality.

  7. I’m so thankful that you provided the list of what is acceptable. Once I read the list I stopped reading the article. Did I miss anything?

    tJust kidding on the above. Seriously, This is a post that I loved. Fortunately, being someone who doesn’t blog, I haven’t had to concern myself with what I should or shouldn’t be spending money on. In the same way I don’t care about what I should or shouldn’t be doing to earn side hustle income. Now, I’m wondering how nefarious it would be if I did post some things I do in the subreddit to see the responses and down votes?

  8. This really resonated with me – especially the part about how there *is* an approved spend list in the FI community and it *is* arbitrary (and gendered… why aren’t we blaming 6-pack purchases for the decline and fall of Western civilizaton?) . I was reading something… I think about the book Sapiens that came out a few years ago… about how in modern times, travel and exploring the world is viewed as the highest use of our money but the ancient Egyptians felt the same way about building elaborate monuments. Seems crazy to us now, but they would have thought we were crazy for spending $$ on travel when we could, you know, build a sphinx or something. Same humans, different “normal”.

    Anyway… the kid stuff. Because you (by you, I mean I) are a terrible human being for wanting to spend money for your kids to do something other than be with you ALL THE TIME. Especially paying $$ for them to go someplace while you work for $$4. But our family really needs to work on the income side of things more than the not spending side of things, and that means reliable childcare. I have tried to do the *right* thing and work super early in the morning or late at night or during unreliable naps, but that way lies madness. Actually, I think the *right* way according to FI wisdom would be for me to have a SAHW, but bad news, I’m already a wife, and I don’t think anyone wants to apply for that job! So we are stuck paying for much-maligned, much valued childcare.

    • I joke all the time that I need a SAHH. I’m single, a mom and work full time so when my mom is here and helping with all the sundry odds and ends tasks it’s a game changer!

  9. I also love my makeup, and because I have the world’s most sensitive skin, I MUST use the expensive stuff (or risk painful, itchy, red, flaky skin that no amount of makeup can cover up).

    I prefer to shop at Ulta (or individual brand websites like Clinique or Urban Decay) over Sephora because they more often give you free stuff with your orders and give more coupons (I usually wait until there is a 20%+ coupon or price reduction and then buy enough for a few months or until I hit the threshold for free shipping, and almost always buy online because you get more free stuff that way). Unfortunately this means you need to at least keep an eye on marketing emails (they typically only offer the higher value coupons to subscribers), but I am usually able to ignore them unless they’re aligned with a time when my stash is starting to get low. I also keep track of how much I got and how much I paid per unit (including samples for things I’d be buying anyway–like mascara. I almost always get free mascara) so I know when it’s worth it to stock up again. I never *ever* pay full retail.

    I do know that the shipping is bad for the environment (which is why I try to get as much in one order as is feasible to avoid having to go to the store more often), but since I have reactions to so many brands, I really value the free samples I get when I place online orders because then I’m not wasting a lot of money on cosmetics that I can’t use.

    I also like how you point out that it’s *not* “OK” to buy new furniture, but buying new tools and expensive materials to DIY it is, regardless of how you feel about DIYing things–something similar could be said for maintaining your car. I *love* not having to do stuff like that for myself, and yes, I have allowed myself a fair bit of lifestyle creep as I make more money and don’t have to force myself to do things I don’t particularly enjoy (once I hit a couple more income/savings goals, I’m getting a housekeeper). Outsourcing unpleasantness is one of the things I enjoy most about mastering my budget and increasing my savings rate. I view it as a reward to myself for being disciplined in my spending/savings.

  10. Thank you for you post as always. I most enjoyed your statement, “diverge from society’s script and to write our own script.” I am currently getting pressure to take the kids to Disney but I question why do I have to? Is it because Disney has done a wonderful job of marketing and making people believe it’s a must do as a parent? I rather spend the 5-10k it would cost on multiple years’ worth of kid’s activities that are nearby in order to get the most happiness from each dollar spent. It’s a small example, but I think a fitting one in your concept of diverging from society’s script. Thank you again.

    • You take your kids to Disney because you want to . Not because someone is pressuring you to. My sister and I always wanted to go as kids but we were always told wait until our younger brother was older . That was 45 years ago. So, under no pressure I booked a week at Disney for our family four years ago . One of the best trips we ever had as a family.

  11. Hear hear!
    As per usual the ‘rules’ of the FI community tend to be made by the (until now) most visible elite, male, high-income, slightly bro-ish group, which means they only work for a small minority.

    I just spent several thousand dollars on an opera workshop, and spend a good chunk of my variable spending on music and singing, because it is what gives me the greatest joy. This seems intensely frivolous, but life without it wouldn’t be life at all 😊

  12. I’m picking up on a theme of Tanja’s latest articles challenging the FIRE culture. 4% rule is not your friend, don’t over sacrifice to reach your financial goals, spend money on the items you value regardless of cost, don’t feel constrained by the financial hacks recommended by others in the FIRE community, etc. What happens if you implement these techniques and your work optional date slides decades? How does this advice differ from traditional/mainstream media? I agree with Tanja’s purpose of expanding the FIRE culture and becoming more inclusive. But if dilute the message and don’t achieve work optional status, don’t we miss out on our best life?

    • If you scrimp and save and only eat rice and beans and never travel anywhere or get any entertainment or leave your tiny house to spend time with people (you gotta have some money for gas/a car, a bike, or some shoes), are you living life at all? Sure, you might be financially independent in less time, but what have you sacrificed to get there? If you cut out all the things that are fun and joyful in pursuit of an elusive goal of financial independence, you’ve missed out.

      • Agree with Alicia totally. No offense, but the assumption that just because I (or anyone) might choose to spend on something that’s important or enjoyable means that we’re going to blow FI entirely is malarkey! These are informed, conscious choices within our life/financial plans, not evidence of inability to plan. Thanks, Tanja, for another great post.

      • This. Perfectly said. As a soon-to-be slightly early retiree, I’ve been inspired by the FIRE community to leave my executive job early, foregoing literally, millions of dollars. it turns out I already have enough to live how I want to live—but I needed some FIRE inspiration to figure that out. What hasn’t been inspiring is the dogmatic, even fundamentalist attitude towards what is allowed and what isn’t. I’ll guarantee I have nicer watches and furniture than MMM, I’ll also bet he has spent more on tools this year than I have spent in my considerably longer lifetime. My desire to ever fix anything myself (and ability to do so) is slightly less than zero—I get no joy from those activities—so I don’t fix things. So effing what? My budget is built knowing that fact. I am really grateful for this community, that showed me and others like me a way out of the rat race and an alternative way to live. But it shouldn’t be a religion, with the requisite shaming of heretics and expulsion from the fold of true believers. Stepping out of the consumption rat race is vital, but FIRE should be utterly individual, the idea is independence after all. I wonder how many more people would be attracted to the core ideas of moderating consumption, spending mindfully, and plotting a different life course if the FIRE fundamentalists weren’t the loudest voices. I love the passion of folks like MMM and his voice got me started thinking about the continuous treadmill of ”make more buy more” I was on— but there is also room for moderation and infinite variations within these basic ideas. Thanks Tanja for speaking up for the rest of us.. and keep up the great work!

  13. I’ve finally gotten my hands on Your Money or Your Life and this post reminded me of the monthly exercise Vicki describes therein. Each month you put a +/- next to your individual spending categories based on how you feel about what you spent there (with the added mantra of “no shame, no blame” of course). The implicit message in this exercise is that it’s okay (dare I say, encouraged?) to look at your spending and think “YES! That is where I want to direct my money.” while happily jotting down your +’s.

    It’s interesting to see how this half of the equation has been lost along the way from what is arguably the origin of FI.

  14. Reminder that some things you value might be in conflict, e.g. preserving the environment vs. traveling (especially by air). Also, make sure to consider the impact of your spending on others (either directly or indirectly). It’s ironic that flying to see the Great Barrier Reef is contributing to its destruction, potentially preventing the next generation from having that experience…

  15. I think you missed a few –
    Living in a LCOL area is acceptable. And complaining about the crappy weather, or limited number of insurers/high cost of health insurance premiums on the health insurance exchanges that sometimes correlate with living in a low population area is also acceptable.
    Living in a HCOL area is not acceptable if you are retired.

    Using a health sharing ministry for health insurance is acceptable. You are not taking a risk of a huge medical bill that is not covered by the ministry because you will not get cancer before age 65 (Medicare eligible) if you eat right and exercise. Someone needs to tell Lance Armstrong that if he had exercised more, he would have not had cancer.

    Claiming you are financially independent and retired and therefore your retirement plan has worked out (financially), so others can make their finances work out too for early retirement- while your spouse still works and your spouse’s job includes employer subsidized health insurance for both of you- is acceptable.

  16. There are much cheaper alternatives to a Tesla that would fit into the FIRE lifestyle without breaking the budget. I bought a Chevy Bolt two years ago for about half the price of a Tesla. I love savings about 75% on electricity vs. cost of gas, which brings down the whole cost of ownership, and being environmentally friendly is a bonus. The lesson here is to look around for alternatives when considering your purchases.

  17. I have watched with interest over the past few years as the FIRE community has expanded and some of the rules/norms/accepted values have come to the fore. Which is hilariously ironic since the whole idea of FIRE is counter-culture to begin with. Humans are social animals and as such we seem to need to generate pecking orders, a system of shared values, clear ideas of orthodoxy and deviance, etc. And the FIRE community has loosely done that. But since we’re a large and growing community the rules are getting stretched (which is good!). My hat’s off to Tanja in her efforts to create a more inclusive and diverse FIRE world for all of us.

  18. I honestly started reading you over another blog mostly because I was told our Jeep was a sin in FI. It’s a favorite pastime to just adventure into the Nat Forest without having to hike everytime. Probably has saved us money because it fits in well to our travel adventures (rather than flying and renting a vehicle in other offroad areas) and allows for more fun Staycations. We also plan to keep it forever, rather than trade up. We drive a small economy car on the weekdays, which is probably more efficient than a Tesla. Love this post!

  19. This is great and got me thinking. Another unacceptable place to spend in the greater fi community is household repairs. (I’ve seen name calling about this)

    I’m smart and frugal and mechanical things are not in my wheelhouse. My dad was the same and forced himself to learn which took a -lot- of time and resulted in repairs that had to be redone. He did it because in his mind men must be handy.

    When we have these unnamed rules we make poorer decisions, so thanks for shining a light on it.

  20. If there are really specific rules of what is acceptable and not acceptable to be pursuing FIRE, then aren’t these just different Jones’s to keep up with?

  21. Hi Tanja,

    I really enjoyed this post and relate to it very well. Since I started studying and engaging in personal finance, I have felt like I’m not cutting enough out of my life. A big part of this feeling comes from the social expectations when focusing on FI/RE. I have hesitantly kept some of those things in my life, but it is great to know that there are others in the same position. I think as long as we have control over our spending vs saving and are comfortable with the plan we have set up, it shouldn’t matter one bit what we decide to spend our money on.
    I appreciate the article!


  22. I’d like to share a tale brought to mind by your saying,”If we spend nothing, we need save nothing to walk away from mandatory work. But of course that’s impossible. Everyone spends something, no matter how frugal your habits.”

    My brother is a walking refutation of that premise. He does not work, lives with our parents, and they pay for everything. He literally has no expenses, at age 56. Is there a term for this? ParentFIRE? The odd thing is that when he moved back in with them, their expenses only went up by maybe $1,000 a year (for the additional food and electricity). He lives very lightly on the earth: few belongings, no car, no assets to speak of. It’s not a choice I would make, but the three of them seem happy with the situation.

    As for the main point of your post, THANK YOU! I don’t hang out in FIRE spaces all that often, maybe because the bro-factor has been off-putting. And the “here’s the RIGHT way to FIRE” is ludicrous. I’m old enough to know my own mind and I’m not going to feel shamed when I want an expensive case of wine. I also save soap slivers to make into new bars and buy a lot of clothes at thrift shops, drive cars into the ground, etc. I get that some people do need to be uber-frugal to have a hope of retiring early. And if my spouse and I had been uber-frugal our entire adult lives, we would both be retired already. But I regret nothing. To be able to make the choices that are right for you, and not judge others who are making different choices, is the way to go. Thanks again Tanja, you rock.

  23. This is true – Decide For Yourself What Spending You Value, and Then Spend Without Guilt!

    Financial Independence is very simple. It is not rocket science and it based on very simple math.The following proposed money plays are based on the Trinity study.

    85/15 Money Play – spend 85 cents and save 15 cents on every dollar of income. Put the saving in investments with the return between 6% to 7% for 35 years – after 35 years, the accumulated saving along with the compounded interest will give a 30 years of income with 95% or greater probability of success.

    60/40 Money Play – spend 60 cents and save 40 cents on every dollar of income. Put the saving in investments with the return between 6% to 7% for 20 years – after 20 years, the accumulated saving along with the compounded interest will give a 30 years of income with 95% or greater probability of success.

    50/50 Money Play – spend 50 cents and save 50 cents on every dollar of income. Put the saving in investments with the return between 6% to 7% for 15 years – after 15 years, the accumulated saving along with the compounded interest will give a 30 years of income with 95% or greater probability of success.

    40/60 Money Play – spend 40 cents and save 60 cents on every dollar of income. Put the saving in investments with the return between 6% to 7% for 10 years – after 10 years, the accumulated saving along with the compounded interest will give a 30 years of income with 95% or greater probability of success.
    None of these Money Plays require the specific incomes, and they do not tell what to buy, what to eat, where to live and how to live.
    You just have to pick a play and it is your creativity and resourcefulness that will make the play a success.

  24. I dunno. I have 3 paid for cars, a paid for house on acreage in the county, I fly business or first, I stay in suites. OMG I have satellite TV!! I like satellite TV. I can watch the few shows I like on my computer while I write or do research. I buy what toys I like. I don’t own a friggin TESLA because it’s not sustainable technology in my opinion. Driving around sitting on a Lithium ion bomb and plugging into coal fired power plants to pretend I’m green just seems a bit to much of a pretense to me. I have 1 kid in college and 1 in grad school both of them have no debt. I vacation where I want and we spent 3 weeks in Italy the Christmas I retired. I guess my saving grace is I don’t own a jet. I’m retired and live within my budget same as anyone else who is retied. How do I do it??? I don’t live by puritanical “shoulds” and FI blogger guilt. I am financially INDEPENDENT so I do what needs to be done to live how I want to live on my own terms. That’s the feature of living in America. It’s not counter cultural but normal. Mister Money Mustache can kiss my ass, actually he can kiss his own ass since he doesn’t live on the original 27K/yr either. It’s all a mantra, hare hare krishna krishna. I watched the FIRE movie all ya gotta do is quit your job free load off your parents, let them babysit the kid, put the ol’ lady to work 8 hours a day telecommuting while you sit around cooking up schemes, trade in the beamer for a beater, move from San Diego to Bend Oregon, make and market a movie, write a book about making the movie and become a media phenom as seen on CNBC. Nothing to this FIRE crap. Let me tell you about my emergency fund….

    How I did it was I planned to do it and brought it to fruition. I didn’t retire at 40 because it was too extravagant to flush 20 years of human capital down the toilet. So I didn’t. I had a money machine empire to build instead of a piddly little end game to focus on. I didn’t hate my life, instead I made my life sustainable and enjoyable and I lived entrepreneurially as counter culturally as I liked. I wasn’t a fat man drinking beer. Instead of living my life drunk wasting my time watching football I lived my life doing what was essential. I didn’t FOMO but JOMO took joy in missing out becuse by definition by choosing the essential you don’t choose the non essential. For example I quit drinking 30 years ago. I never was bothered with the prevailing FIRE wisdom which I find amazingly simple minded and a bit Jr High School-ish in it’s naive acceptance as a “reality”. The problem with FIRE is the RE. It forces adherence of a false narrative onto a natural life. You are born with 60 years of Human Capital, that’s your nature. You can multiply your human capital through education and entrepreneurialism. You can live a right sized sustainable life with investment and some debt that makes sense. RE is no different than living the drunk fat man’s life. You can plan each epoch of your life: work, transition, early retirement, late retirement, end of life planning and you can figure the risk management for each epoch and how each epoch interacts with the others. You can tax plan because what you have is only what the government lets you keep, or you can 4 x 25 and hope for the best over the next 50 years. You can actually sit down and write a spreadsheet that will project how much your retirement will cost inflation adjusted until you die, instead of just projecting to retirement day. It’s a very illuminating exercise and it tells you how much leverage you are relying on to sustain your fantasy. It paints a much harder edged picture than impressionistic boggleheadism. Neither projection will be the reality, but the goal of the projection is to run out of breath before you run of of dough. Once you cover that the rest is free money. It’s an odds game. Feeling lucky?

  25. THANK YOU! I’ve been hating that feeling that there are allowed and unallowed expenses if you’re a frugal person or just trying to save some money. I value peace of mind and security and time with my kids right now, so a safe car and a house in a good neighborhood near our work means a lot more than travel or beer!

  26. This this this! Yes!!! Aesthetics generally ***really*** affect my mood so cue the guilt about spending to improve visuals in my life (wardrobe, home, yard, grooming.) Plus, I’m currently shelling out for a dog from a breeder bc my son (and I) need a very specific mix of traits to be successful and despite months of searching shelters, I just couldn’t find it there. So I’m going to at least try to stack the deck in our favor. Pup is costly + training, his care will add a fair bit to my budget and dog insurance is $$$ (but seems the best choice.) All to say, none of these choices align with oft touted advice. But I’m hopeful the investment will yield years of therapeutic joy for my child with reduced stress for me (no shedding, easy demeanor to train.) So thank you for the reminder not to feel guilty about singing off key from *all* the choirs :).

  27. Great post! As Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” People need to accept that their values may change. Getting stuck in a rut of your own making can be as damaging as following the mainstream.