I know you’ve heard this one before: the narrative of “working a job you hate to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like.” It’s what I’ve come to call the Fight Club narrative, a distinct strand of the FI movement that posits consumerism as public enemy number 1. And while it’s a compelling narrative, here’s my case for why it’s harmful, and what we should be talking about instead.
We are not the poster children for frugality or for minimalism, but we are constantly surrounded by people who have bought all these things. And we want to shout: you don’t need any of it! It only makes you look like you are good at something, versus actually being good at it. Here’s how we learned to separate the things that only add cachet from the things that add actual value to our lives.
We’re huge believers that there’s no one “right way” to do personal finance. Your own finance philosophy should follow out of what makes you truly happy. But we all have those quirky habits that don’t jive with our own philosophy, and today we’re fessing up to some of ours!
We constantly come across new tips on how to get to “optimal frugality,” and while we think it’s great to continually try to optimize your spending, something that we now know to be true is that there’s never a point of ultimate optimization, a point when we have everything figured out perfectly. Rather, it’s an ongoing process of dropping habits and adding new ones. Here are some we’re happy we’ve dropped.
Lately we’ve been wondering: How many of us who are saving for early retirement would happily spend more if we had more to spend? If spending more wouldn’t derail our plans?
we think it’s easy to feel a bit hopeless in the face of financial hurdles if you’re not a person for whom financial virtues comes easily. if you’re not a natural saver, you’re not doomed to a life of financial misery. but, you have to know what your weaknesses are, and develop a system to work around them. here’s how we’ve built a system that doesn’t rely on willpower at all.
big news: we got the okay from the extended family to cut out gifts for adults this year, and give only homemade or secondhand gifts to the kiddos. we’re stoked about this shift, and hope it sticks in future years. gift-giving occasions are emotionally fraught for savers, but here’s how we convinced our families (slowly) to embrace the no-spend holidays.
we’ve both come across a seemingly frequent but also puzzling (to us) phenomenon while perusing new blogs. when aspiring early retirees are telling people in their lives about their plans to retire early, they’re getting negative responses. one of which has us utterly befuddled: the assertion that the accumulation of assets required to retire early constitutes pretty much the worst quality we can imagine: greed. here’s our response, in manifesto form.
we are as guilty as anyone of upsizing our spending at various times, mainly on restaurants and travel, but are thankful that several key factors have kept us from permanently inflating our lifestyle, namely our anchors, named for the anchoring effect or anchoring bias in psychology.
last week on an early morning flight, i flew over a line of cars on a major commuting artery, already in bumper-to-bumper traffic before the sun was up. and i wondered: how many of those people, as kids, dreamed that, one day, after slaving away at school for more than a decade, going to college and doing all the right internships, their reward would be this: soul-crushing traffic? that they’d rise before the sun for the privilege? that this would be their destiny?
we have a clear vision for the life we want to lead when we retire, and that means living in the mountains and having a permanent home base, which don’t come cheap. we’re okay with those expenses, but have given up lots of other things to make our early retirement dreams a reality.
this weekend we visited mono lake, an ancient and super salty lake. all that salt means that swimmers in the lake float easily. which got us thinking: it’s easy to think that swimming is swimming, but it’s not. we can make swimming hard for ourselves or easy for ourselves, and the same goes for our finances.
one of the things that’s different about us, compared to lots of bloggers in the pf community, is that we are not frugal by nature. at some point, we realized that all of that spending, even if it wasn’t on stuff, was still locking us into needing our jobs, and needing them for a long, long time. and since we value time more than anything, and were in a position to make early retirement a reality, we knew we’d regret not changing our ways. but it hasn’t always been easy. here’s how we lived to tell the tale.
Gifts are on our minds because we just celebrated a birthday. Not spending money on gifts is something aspiring early retirees are big fans of, but right-sizing pseudo-minimalists also aren’t into acquiring more stuff. Here’s how we cope come gift time.
if you’re reading this blog, it’s pretty likely that the word “frugality” is a part of your vocabulary. maybe you don’t use it much in real life (like us), but it’s probably […]
the movement to live simply is all around us. minimalism. tiny houses. the push to reject consumerism. the urban homesteading movement. slow food. we’re all in on simple living, but that doesn’t mean we’re minimalists.
that impulse buy was a reminder that, even if we’re living way below our means, we still have to improve our habits if we’re going to be able to live within our early retirement allocations in a very short two and a half years’ time.
for us, trying to follow a line-by-line budget feels both overly restrictive, and too much like a diet in which you’re tracking calories. it’s not sustainable. following a budget makes us constantly want to cheat, or wonder when the diet is over. but we’re doing just fine without a budget!
something that’s super important to us is not just to save money for our retirement goals, but to conserve resources as well. fortunately, saving money and conserving resources can easily go together, and we’ve put together this list of the best ways we are achieving both.
everything in our house that needs fixing or replacing means fewer dollars into our retirement savings and is, in other words, a direct assault on our escape plan, our freedom. but now, we’re trying to think of this as a lesson in impermanence.
it helps to think about your values. what’s important to you? how do you want to spend your days? what do you want your legacy to be? let the answers to those big questions drive your life decisions.
planning for early retirement forces you to do a lot of thinking about what you can and can’t live without. we’re willing to forgo most consumer culture in order to buy our free time.