I recently had an experience that offered a sharp reminder: despite years of saving (successfully!) and a year and a half of not blowing our early retirement budget, I’m still a spender at heart. But being a spender rather than naturally frugal doesn’t doom you to fail financially. You can still thrive and save at a high rate if you just structure your life in ways that set you up to succeed.
Today we’re digging into the archives to pull out everything I think anyone pursuing early retirement should know, pulling from some of my favorite posts from the past that have been buried by dozens or even hundreds of posts since publication.
Contrary to popular lore, there are lots of early retirees and aspirants who are like us — NOT naturally frugal, and not naturally the most disciplined about money. But does that mean we can’t achieve financial independence and thrive in early retirement? Hell no it doesn’t! Today, a love letter to the atypical ones among us.
When we first moved to Tahoe, we ran the heat at what seemed like a reasonable cool temperature, 62 or 63 or so, but then got a three-digit natural gas bill that started with a 4. So began our quest to reduce our heating bill and to find how low we could go, but this isn’t about keeping your house cold. It’s about finding your version of “selectively harcore” and all the non-financial lessons that come from being strict with yourself in one way of your choice.
There’s a principle in medicine that the dose makes the poison. Which means, very few substances are good or bad for us no matter what. Instead, what matters is how much of them we take. And it’s exactly the same with money. It’s easy to make symbols of things like buying lattes or paying for cable, but those behaviors aren’t objectively a problem. What might be the problem, however, is the dose. Why we’re big believers in focusing on the dose, in context, and embracing a sense of radical moderation.
It is a natural thing to want to save money, and those of us pursuing huge financial goals innately find the idea of saving even more powerful. The problem comes when marketers deliberately blur the line between saving and spending, convincing us we’re doing one when really we’re doing the other. Today, recognizing when saving money is actually spending money, and how to keep the focus on the saving itself.
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!
Today is a “clip show” post of sorts, putting together for the first time all of our money beliefs and actions that have gotten us where we are today. We spend a lot of time looking forward, and projecting future health care needs, where our income could come from and of course all the feelings. Today we’re sharing the master list, the grand compendium of everything that’s helped us get this far in our journey to early retirement.
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 really aren’t frugal by any reasonable definition of the word. We never consider forgoing things we need. But I decided to look at our lives and see if there was any area in which we truly are frugal, and ask what that means for us. And there is one example: the thermostat. Here’s what keeping our house cold has taught us.
in honor of valentine’s day, we got to talking about how we’ve grown as a couple financially. neither of us started out as a financial role model. instead, we let ourselves figure out the money stuff together as we went along.
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.
one of the misconceptions we used to have about frugality was that frugal people were cheap at all costs. it’s easy to view frugality as all or nothing, or to see frugality as trumping other values. but it doesn’t have to. a breakthrough idea for us was reframing how we see frugality in terms of the business term triple bottom line.
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.
looking at things big picture, we’re astonished at how far we’ve come in a short time, aided in large part by jobs that overpay us. since we bought the house four years ago, our net worth has tripled, and the year-over-year gains are pretty big, owing to us getting serious about saving and about paying off the house quickly, as well as growth in the markets since 2009.
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 something you think about and read about at least a little bit. none of us can […]
we never hide that we are not frugal by nature, we’re not budgeters, and we’ve really only succeeded at retirement saving by employing a pay ourselves first approach that is essentially tricking ourselves into thinking we have far less to spend than we actually do. that is all well and good for now, but things will definitely have to change once we quit our jobs at the end of 2017.
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.
despite not following a budget, we have still learned how to trick ourselves into saving a ton and staying on track with our ambitious financial goals without much struggle, and today we’re sharing how we do that. our strategy: paying ourselves first.
we frequently read blog posts outlining people’s grocery spending and practically have to pick our jaws up off the floor afterward. you’re spending only $30 a week for groceries?!?! you’re feeding a family of four for $70 a week?!?! we even read one post talking about how the […]
Today: our reasons for being optimistic about our vision for early retirement, and for making things work in spite of the inherent risks.
we’ve realized in recent years that the world is divided into people who think of themselves as campers, and those who don’t. and the latter group may find the very concept of camping intimidating for a whole host of reasons. we’re here to tell you non-campers that it’s much easier than you think, it’s not as dirty as you might imagine, there are ways to make it plenty comfortable, and you can really take camping to any level you want, starting simple and working up to more advanced forms.
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!
the word “badass” gets thrown around a lot in personal finance/financial independence circles. that’s not the full story. all of us who are working toward or have achieved financial independence have one big thing in common. we’re lucky.
when we travel now, we do just about everything we can to keep expenses low, so that it doesn’t set us back in our early retirement savings, and so that we don’t get used to “travel inflation” that would make it hard to adjust once we’re on our early retirement budget. here’s how we travel without setting ourselves back financially.
it often feels like the folks touting the frugal lifestyle are themselves naturally frugal. but what if you’re not naturally frugal? is there hope for you?
we like to remind ourselves that early retirement is a marathon, not a sprint, and the worst thing we could do is burn ourselves out early in the process by being too strict or restrictive. the key is knowing yourself, and what you need to be successful and stick with something.
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.
our marriage is the most important thing to both of us, and we have always believed that no job is worth jeopardizing that. so we made a decision: even if we hadn’t hit our goal numbers, we will retire in december 2017.
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.
one of our favorite personal finance sites keeps a running tally of bloggers’ net worths. while we love seeing how others are doing, we don’t share our numbers, and we have a few good reasons why we don’t.
we’re going to live like cheapskates for the first 18 years of our retirement, and then if the markets cooperate, we’ll live a little larger in our later years, once we can tap our 401(k)s. for us, this plan is perfect. live cheaply when you’re young and resilient.
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.