This was a “we never take selfies anymore” selfie on the super rare occasion when I don’t have Hermione hair and I put lipstick on.
We live in a super awesome, previously unimaginable time where you can log onto Facebook or surf some ultra-hip hashtags on Instagram and you’ll easily see a myriad of people who have crafted their own destinies by living in an RV and running a full-time online business from the road, or a family who sold off their stuff to live and travel on a sailboat as a family.
By the very nature of social media, we follow people who seemingly mastered something notable- á la Gretchin Rubin who wrote a best selling book and thus, an empire, that was founded on a seemingly simple premise of monthly happiness projects or The Frugalwoods who started living intentionally and gave up a traditionally consumerist lifestyle for extreme frugality in the city and thusly, found financial freedom in the woods of Vermont.
While it’s an amazing gift to have inspiration and trailblazers in your Instagram feed, it can also feel like you’re watching their highlight reel when you’re still in the thicket of bullshit working towards your goals.
I “discovered” the concept of a fully funded lifestyle change (A.K.A financial independence/retire early) last October and started to see that many people who I’ve known for years and grabbed beers with had this lifestyle of freedom figured out long before I knew it had a name. (Here’s looking at you Paula Pant, J.D. Roth and PT Money!)
Dude, where have I been?
In essence, the Financial Independence movement- is a lifestyle choice that’s formed from a variety of perspectives- some folks are minimalists, others are devout frugalists, others still are deeply concerned about the environment.
All though, believe in living within your means, and the belief that buying your time and freedom back is the most important use of your dollar, not owning stuff that invariably owns you. Some really get excited about the idea of shaving 5, 10, or 20 years off their retirement date so they can leave a draining career and spend more time with their families.
I began listening to podcasts every morning on double speed while I was getting ready for work and it was like a whole direction in life revealed itself to me. It also illustrated that many of my friends and colleagues had this figured out years ago and I was adorably unaware of their secret super powers of reclaiming their life from the mainstream path with a unique brand of financial savvy and life hacks that would make them free.
Early retirement? House hacking? Real estate investing? Tax hacking? Geoarbitrage? Financial freedom? Index funds? Living off of your investments? Multiple income streams?
Apparently, we’ve been in the same places, but not at the same stages. It is amazing that you can be surrounded by knowledge, but you’re still asleep at the wheel until one day it clicks and makes sense.
The first time Bo sat in our empty house, the day we closed in May 2017. A house introduces a lot of heartwarming opportunities- It has allowed me to rescue dogs, build our charity project, & host hurricane evacuees- but it can also be an opportunity for rampant consumerism.
In 2017, I purchased a home that ended up being a living nightmare. While I’m very proud that I was able to put over $50,000 down on a house, I realized that I was at a crossroads. One decision had already been made, which tied me to a 20 year mortgage, but the financial fumblings that came along with it helped me wake up to the fact that I was in control of my life, only if I wanted to be.
Yep, it can easily feel that your are falling down a stairs, comprised of your own f*ups as you tumble down the path of you examining your own choices.
When life hands you lemons, add vodka. I call this concoction “The Mortgage Payment” and I am now in love with crafting cocktails to cheers to life’s biggest blunders- like the fact I was completely broke this past January due to the house problems. Cheers!
I should have bought less house. I should have purchased a duplex instead of a single family home. I should have been reading up on BitCoin before it was a thing. I could have been so much better off had I been emotionally ready to invest (yes, I literally told myself I was not ready for investing for years.)
I did a lot right, but of course, when you’re looking at trying to shave 15 years off of your retirement- it’s a long slog.
I often wish I had discovered intentional living and the concept of financial freedom before I purchased this house, and in my last two years of frugal rebellion on a path of consistent hedonic adaption (meaning you keep chasing and spending more as your ability to be happy with what you have becomes harder and harder), I’m glad I woke up now.
I’ve been asleep at the wheel for the last two years. I got relatively comfortable with an increased salary (yay, not at minimum wage anymore), and my lifestyle, not suprisingly started to inflate and I began to drift both with how I spent my money and my time. Everything in my life, slowly, started to become reactionary- I didn’t have a guidepost or an aim.
Beyond putting 20% down on a house, I didn’t have a big, inspirational goal- but I’m happy to say I have one now and it’s realigned my scope of vision with a sense of autonomy and a desire to live sufficiently.
For the last two years, I have wasted a TON of food, and thus money. I now own the experience of eating and meal prep- I’ve cut waste and see cooking as an opportunity to learn new skills and relax a bit- not a chore.
Since October, when I first started thinking that early retirement or living an unconventional life could be a possibility, I got off of the consumerist treadmill and started taking a hard look at my choices and paying attention to my relationship with money and how I spend my time. I’ve made a lot of changes that felt exciting at first, but are part of a long, slow process to take ownership of my life.
Since making strides towards a 10-20 year financial plan can feel both overwhelmingly long and not terribly inspiring when looked at on their own, I have started tracking even the smallest little things on my phone to show progress and stay motivated.
– I cancelled two of my subscription boxes, which was $475 in yearly savings. While I love the thrill of getting the simplified my wardrobe and a few others, I realized I was getting a lot of things I didn’t actually need (read: clutter) and it was also draining my bank account.Yes, I LOVE getting mail, but I was pretty darn addicted to this thrill and had to reassess my why in addition to cutting that expense. I have simplified my wardrobe, yet getting boxes in the mail were not in alignment with the value of simplicity in my closet. I was happy to cancel them.
– I realized I was spending a lot of money on food that was going to waste because I was shopping on impulse or without a plan. Things like random jam flavors and margarita mixers to “stock our pantry” for a party that wasn’t even planned frequently went to waste. I threw out a LOT of food. If it doesn’t have a purpose in the next week, I don’t buy it.
– I also realized my cabinets where black holes for food to get lost & not be consumed before the expiration date. I now “shop my pantry” and cut costs by utilizing what we have and reducing waste on shelf-stable goods.
– Cooking used to be a chore for me, I hated it. I made a change from a reactive workweek to proactively planning our meals and prepping double batches to make cooking more fun and see it as an opportunity to acquire some kitchen skills. Everything gets cooked on Sunday, so I can take my time and it’s transformed how I feel about cooking.
– I was overwhelmed, reactive and whatever wasn’t hitting me in the face with my money was on auto-pilot. Around the time I found the Choose FI podcast, I was able to opt-in to my employers 401k program with a 2.5% match. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m committed to being proactive about my money and learning more to save money on taxes, cut expenses and finally invest in index funds this year.
-I downloaded the Mint app and Personal Capital to track how I’m doing. Within the first month of doing so- I discovered two charges I would have previously missed- one was a double billing from iTunes for $31.99, and another was $40+ for a mini bar at a hotel we’d stayed at for a bottle of vodka we never even drank. I have to wonder what I’ve missed by not tracking my credit card statements.
Honestly- your life is a series of small choices that help calibrate your entire life. Just as not paying attention for two years has stalled out my progress, being aware of where I’m headed feels good.
No, skipping out on lattes won’t make you a millionaire, but it will help you feel like you have your hand on the wheel and every penny you spend has a purpose and is working for you, versus you working for your dollars.
I am happy to get off the hedonistic adaption treadmill, clear out the clutter, live more intentionally and reclaim my time. So that’s where I’m at- one phone note at a time.