There is magic in the side hustle. If you're on the path to FI like most of us are, and you're not already making six figures with three rental properties
There is magic in the side hustle. If you're on the path to FI like most of us are, and you're not already making six figures with three rental properties
Achieving financial independence (FI) is a big deal. Once you reach FI, you no longer have to work for money and can do whatever you like, at least in theory. However, many of the people that focus on achieving financial independence do so by adopting a mindset of reaching FI as fast as possible. They want to try to escape the rat race and finally live life. But is that the right way to achieve FI?
The answer will depend on your particular situation, but I strongly believe there are good arguments as to why you may want to delay FI.
A few weeks ago, someone posted in the Choose FI Facebook group asking if it would be worth it to drop their hours at work from 30 hours a week to 20 hours per week to spend more time at home with their kids. The person had two young kids and they felt like they were missing out on this portion of their lives. The person’s 10+ hour shifts meant missing bedtimes and other activities on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, most people achieve FI after their kids are older or even fully grown. Few people have the luxury of being FI when their kids are young. So, if you’re trying to achieve FI as fast as possible, there is a good chance you’d miss out on many of life’s events with your young children as you put earning income as the top priority.
While the answer will be different for everyone, I believe this is one example of when it might make sense to delay FI in order to live life in the present. In fact, my wife and I recently made a somewhat similar decision.
Our similar situation and how we handled it
My wife is a registered nurse and used to work three 12 hour night shifts per week. During her work days, she only got to spend about an hour or two per day with our family after working, commuting and getting ready for work. She felt she was missing out on a big chunk of our son’s early years. Thankfully, her work offers an option to work on an extremely part time basis. If we could make our finances work, she could in theory work as few as three 12 hour shifts per six-week period.
I work from home as a blogger and freelance writer, so I can only reliably get work done while my wife is home or my son is sleeping. If my wife is home more, I could theoretically earn more money. We ran the numbers and felt comfortable that we could cover our expenses if my wife switched to the extremely part time status, but we wouldn’t be able to save as much as we had been saving for retirement.
Ultimately, we decided sacrificing saving for retirement for a few years was worth the extra time my wife would get to spend with our son during this portion of his life. When she switched to working fewer days, something unexpected happened. I earned more money than we had projected due to the additional time I now have to work on my business. While we still aren’t saving quite as much as we did before my wife cut her hours back, the decrease in our savings wasn’t nearly as large as we predicted.
Of course, not everyone can afford to make the decision my wife and I have made. Sometimes you must continue working even if you don’t want to because the negative effects would be too large.
Here’s how you can take an objective look at your situation to see if delaying FI might be worth it to you.
Run the Numbers
The first thing you should do if you’re considering delaying FI, whether it be from taking time off from work or for any other reason, is run the numbers. Since you’re working toward FI already, you probably have a couple spreadsheets that calculate when you’ll reach FI. If you don’t, there are plenty of spreadsheets or calculators you can use to do this.
Rather than continue toward FI based on your current scenario, see what would happen if you changed your calculations to achieve your goal. In our worst case scenario, we cut my wife’s income down for four years and reduced our savings rate to zero but we would still earn enough to cover our monthly expenses. Even in this scenario, we’d only delay our FI date by two to four years thanks to our current savings. To us, that wasn’t a big deal to get some extra time with our son now.
Consider Future Scenarios
While you have an ideal scenario in mind, things won’t always turn out how you expect. You may not be able to return to the workforce full time when you imagine. Alternatively, you may have to take a pay cut or your advancement within your field will have slowed down.
Make sure you account for all of these potential options and run the numbers to see how much speed bumps like these could affect your decision. My wife works in a very high demand field and her part time work will keep her skills up to date so we don’t foresee any major issues with our plan that could delay our FI date further.
Is the Delay Worth the Benefit?
Once you’ve run the numbers for your ideal and less than ideal scenarios, you have to decide if the delay to your FI date is worth what you get now. We were willing to make the sacrifice to our FI date to spend more time watching our son grow up. In the few months since we’ve made the decision, it’s become clear it was the right choice. It also helps that my business is making even more money which has allowed us to still save for FI at a decent rate. This means our FI date won’t be as delayed as we thought it would.
In the end, you’ll have to decide whether delaying financial independence is worth the benefit you gain. For some, spending more time with your kids when you’re young or traveling around the world before you have kids might be worth delaying FI by a couple years.
For others, the extreme desire to escape the rat race may be worth forgoing additional time in the present. There is no wrong answer. It’s your life. Just make sure you aren’t blindly following the path to FI as fast as possible without considering the alternatives, first.
Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time. ~ Jim Rohn
The FI community lives frugally and saves a large percentage of their income in order to retire early. They buy time instead of things.
Check out “The Why Of FI” to learn more.
There is a gigantic difference between earning a great deal of money and being rich. ~Marlene Dietrich
At ChooseFI we believe that living a life you love is the most important thing. Travel is often part of living a rich and exciting life. But it doesn't take a lot of money.
Check out our articles on travel rewards here.
My favorite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time. ~Steve Jobs
A cup of coffee on the back porch, a hike on a Tuesday afternoon, sleeping in. These are all wonderful things but not what the mainstream culture prioritizes. When you start pursing FI you'll often find yourself out of sync with “normal” people.
Here's what to do when FI gets lonely.
I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money. ~Pablo Picasso
Frugal living often looks like “lack of money” to the outside world, but it's quite the opposite. For example, driving an old car can cut thousands of dollars out of your budget. That's money that can be used to buy your freedom.
The Stock Market is designed to transfer money from the active to the patient ~Warren Buffett
The FI community believes in broad market, low cost index funds. Simple. Boring. Awesome.
Check out the podcast episode on index investing to hear about these amazing funds.
Wealth is the ability to fully experience life. ~Henry David Thoreau
Building wealth the traditional way takes a lifetime. But the FI community doesn't want to wait until the end of their life to finally live.
Don't tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I'll tell you what they are.–James W. Frick
Where do you spend your money? Do you feel it's in line with what is really important to you? If not, being more frugal might be in order. Stop spending on things you don't care about so that you can enjoy the things you do.
Money often costs too much. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
How much is it really costing you to earn money? Time away from your family, limited vacations, traffic. Is it really worth it?
If you are ready to make a change here are 50 ways to improve your finances. Start getting off that hamster wheel!
Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. ~ Epictetus
Minimalism is surprisingly freeing. Breaking out of the consumerism of today's world allows for a peace you haven't had before.
I'm not that lazy, but I don't need that much money. I lead a fairly simple life. ~Karl Pilkington
A simple life is easier to fund than a complex life. The less it costs to live the less you need saved in your nest egg.
Check out how to build a perpetual money machine, that will fund your life without having to work.
Sometimes, it seems like achieving financial independence (aka, FI) is the only thing that matters. You take a hard look at your finances and find every piece of fat you can cut. For a while, it may not seem like a big deal. After all, you’re working toward FI which is the ultimate freedom. However, after a few months or years of living at the bare bone minimum, it can get to you.
So, today, rather than focus on every little thing people have cut out of their lives to achieve FI faster, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at the things Choose FI Facebook group members have decided weren’t worth sacrificing on their journey to FI. In a way, it’s a fun exercise to see what other people working toward FI value most.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what’s worth cutting and what isn’t worth cutting. The answer will vary from person to person based on their values, likes and dislikes. This list should give you a good idea of what expenses to consider keeping around and which expenses you should ditch for good based on your reaction to each item.
Travel and vacations
Travel and vacations were one of the most mentioned things that people weren’t willing to give up.
While some people did decide to give up international travel, others continue to travel internationally. Regardless of whether you want to travel domestically or internationally, you can use travel rewards to help pay for your vacations. Just make sure you don’t rack up credit card debt.
Some people value their expensive gym or CrossFit memberships so much they’re not willing to give them up to achieve FI faster.
As long as people use their gym memberships, they’re usually a good thing. After all, living a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise can help you live a longer life which gives you even more time to enjoy your financial independence.
Similar to CrossFit or gym memberships, quality food is key to living a healthy lifestyle. While there are ways to save on food costs, giving up quality isn’t an option for many Choose FI members.
For some, a home is one of the most important things you can spend money on. For others, it’s just a place to stay out of the elements.
For many Choose FI members, homes were one thing they weren’t willing to give up. Sometimes it boiled down to being in a good school district for their children. Others decided cheaper housing wasn’t worth living in a less safe neighborhood.
Most people working toward financial independence aren’t car enthusiasts. That said, even some car enthusiasts get bitten by the FI bug.
These members strongly believe you don’t have to drive a beater just because you’re working toward FI. Instead, some Choose FI Facebook group members drive their dream cars but sacrifice other expenses to make up for it.
Cable TV isn’t terribly expensive, but there isn’t much point in paying for it if you don’t watch much TV. A few Choose FI Facebook group members keep this relatively cheap entertainment option as a part of their budget.
While I’m not a fan of coffee, beer or wine, Choose FI Facebook group members love these drinks. If there is a drink you love, you should enjoy it. As always, the key is moderation.
Outsourcing certain housework
Outsourcing housework that drives you crazy can be well worth the money. For instance, one person said a $200 per month housekeeper saves their marriage. Others hate lawn care and other landscaping tasks and outsource those.
Some people don’t understand why others have pets. However, those of us that have pets know they’re part of the family. I could never give up a family member because they were expensive. Neither could Choose FI Facebook group members.
In an effort to secure our own financial freedom, some people forget to continue helping others that are in need or less fortunate. Thankfully, not everyone falls into this trap and some people say they refused to sacrifice giving, donations and tithing.
Kids are an important part of our lives so it isn’t a surprise that many wouldn’t sacrifice when it comes to kids activities.
The level of not sacrificing varied per person. Some wouldn’t give up sports activities, while others wouldn’t give up sleep-away camps.
It’s up to you where you draw the line. If you want your kids to experience everything they can, you can make that happen if you give up other expenses or earn a high enough income.
Good toilet paper
Last but not least, quite a few Choose FI Facebook group members said they wouldn’t cheap out when it comes to toilet paper. My wife wasn’t surprised and totally agreed.
What expenses were you not willing to give up on your path to FI? Were any of them listed above? Or were the things you wouldn’t sacrifice different than the majority of Choose FI Facebook group members?
There are a variety of reasons why a couple might consider living off of one income, which can be a bit more challenging for both parties if you’re also striving towards an early retirement date.
If you are in a season of your life where an aging loved one needs more care, one spouse is going through some health problems or job loss, or your growing family needs more attention–it may mean that you widdle your earnings down to one income for a time, or perhaps permanently.
If you’re deciding whether or not can pursue FI on one income, or perhaps this is your new reality and you’re looking for ways to make it work, read on.
Weigh the costs and benefits
If you are facing a situation where you currently do have the choice between one income or two, it’s worth running the numbers to see how living off of one income would impact your FI date.
Living off of one income may seem troublesome, but you can also tally up how much you will save as a household on care costs by having one member do the care-taking. Caring for an aging parent can be even more expensive than daycare, even with good insurance–so do the math to see what would be more cost effective.
While at first, seeing your timeline get longer can feel disheartening, it’s helpful to remember that there’s more to FI than dollars alone. While it may be a bit deflating to see your timeline grow longer, there is something to be said about the power of even being able to make this choice.
Additionally, there are plenty of intangibles involved–like knowing you’re being there for an ailing loved one, or homeschooling your children, which money can’t buy.
Spend less and earn more
If you’re scaling back to one income, frugality is a useful tool since often, being wise about every penny spent is the most effective way to put your money to work even if that income is spread thin. Focusing on marginal gains instead of extreme frugality is a great way to make the adjustments needed without going into shock.
Each month, instead of giving up toilet paper or refusing to run the A/C, simply focus on getting 1% better with how you earn, save, and invest the money you do have coming in. How can you be a little smarter each month and get everyone involved? Marginal gains add up!
Even if one person has to leave full or part time work, that doesn’t mean that they are relegated to earning $0 whatsoever. Could a side hustle be implemented? A room rented? If you’re caring for a family member, could you also provide care to others for payment?
Several stay at home parents also have dabbled in running day care at home or dog sitting to supplement their years at home with small children.
Remember your why
If you’re feeling stressed or nervous that living on one income will ruin your FI date, it’s important to reconnect with why you want to pursue financial independence in the first place.
- Why do you want to reach FI?
- Is it so that you can live life on your terms?
- Be there for your family?
- Have the freedom to do what you want?
If that’s the case–realize that’s precisely what you’re doing right now. Being with a family member or taking time off is a core value and your money is now being aligned with that value. FI itself is not a magical finish line where life is perfect, happy and clear–your life now shouldn’t be too different from life after FI, so stay in touch with why you choose to live this lifestyle and see that you’re walking the walk now.
For some of us, it's absolutely fine to blend our pre and post FI lives if it enables us to be the people we want to be and live the values we treasure most. Luckily, FI doesn't have to be a number or a finish line, it can be a way of life and a journey of your own making.
Remember it’s not forever
If you’re living on one income, it's likely just for a fixed amount of time and could change. Eventually, little ones grow up and go off to school, sick relatives can get better, job markets change, and situations evolve over time.
While living off of one income can be stressful and challenging when you’re trying to hit your FI number, it doesn’t have to be forever. There will be time to play catch up later or get creative with your income streams, but you can’t buy this time back–so do your best to be confident in your decision. You don’t need to feel the FI FOMO, you’re on your own unique path!
It’s a highly personal decision, and no matter what you choose, the FI community is here for you!
We hope this article helps, but if you’re still weighing your options, come to the ChooseFI Facebook group and get some feedback or ideas.
- How To Get Your Spouse On Board With FI
- Why You Should Pursue FI Even If You Can't Retire Early
- How FI Is Different Than Personal Finance
The aggregation of marginal gains is a concept made famous by British cycling coach Dave Brailsford, who eventually lead the British cycling team to take home 10 gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Previous to this victory, the team had not been able to pull off any significant wins.
Brailsford believed that victory at the Olympics would be achieved by focusing on a 1% margin for improvement in everything they did. He decided that he and his team would focus on improving every aspect of performance and these aggregations would add up.
To quote the man himself:
We hired a surgeon to teach our athletes about proper hand-washing so as to avoid illnesses during competition (we also decided not to shake any hands during the Olympics). We were precise about food preparation. We brought our own mattresses and pillows so our athletes could sleep in the same posture every night. We searched for small improvements everywhere and found countless opportunities. Taken together, we felt they gave us a competitive advantage. (Source)
His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1%, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement. In Brailsford’s case, this meant focusing on optimizing in areas of exercise, rest, nutrition, team management, morale, and equipment–not just time spent on the bike.
To anyone taking on any large goal–whether it be reaching FI or trying to secure gold at the Olympics, it can be an overwhelming task simply to get from where you are to where you want to be. But applying small changes along the way and accumulating optimizations, is where we can truly strike our own Olympic gold on our path to financial freedom.
First Understand the Power of Marginal Losses
Making sweeping behavior changes can be overwhelming and often, unrealistic. For someone who has battled obesity throughout their life, weight didn’t simply happen overnight–but often was the result of small choices, time after time that lead to a weight gain I wasn't happy with.
Avoid “lifestyle creep”
We often see this correlation with what we’ve termed as “lifestyle creep” where families slowly and steadily get off track as their incomes improve.
Instead of staying the course and saving money, they start spending just a tad more when they earn more–and the aggregation of all these small increases really add up to bust a budget.
Eating out just once or twice more during the course of a month, making less than stellar decisions with an increased credit limit, or simply telling yourself you “deserve” a brand new luxury car because you got a raise, are all small losses that paint a big picture of debt.
It’s one problem that most FI’ers recognize, or may have even found themselves in at one time. While the aggregation of marginal losses can paint a bleak picture, it also paints the way out to an achievable, FI-friendly path forward.
Understanding the Power of Marginal Gains
It’s easy to spend time on the ChooseFI message boards, or read about bloggers who have achieved FI and lament their wins–surely, they had a stroke of luck, were far smarter than you or, perhaps they had a rich uncle who recently died. Seeing other people’s accomplishments sometimes leads us to think that some big “make or break” moment lead them to hitting their financial goal.
Yes, it may absolutely be true that some folks hit FI because they had a long lost rich auntie who gifted them a mansion, and others did work hard, but pulled in $150,000+ a year as a nuclear engineer.
While these factors are important to consider, the truth behind any success–FI or otherwise–is that it happens as the result of the smallest decisions we make over time. Each decision can put us closer to or further away from where we want to go. That's the compounding power of 1% improvement.
Choosing to focus on even the smallest gains, when done consistently and in tandem with other positive efforts, yields results. Aggregating marginal gains makes it happen.
Applying the Power of Marginal Gains
Using this philosophy towards a victory on our path to FI, applying a 1% improvement means looking at not just the money we invest or how we invest it–but everything that impacts the goal.
For us, it means looking at our entire lives as an ecosystem that is interrelated–our health, social lives, where we live, our work and career, what we eat, what we do for entertainment and where we spend our time.
Here are some areas that can be regularly evaluated and optimized to take advantage of marginal gains:
Home: Moving to a lower cost area/closer to work, energy efficiency, refinancing your mortgage or getting a roommate.
Career: Negotiate for a raise, switch jobs that’s closer to home or has a flexible work policy, take advantage of a 401(k) match.
Health: Cut your grocery bill and eat better foods, exercise regularly, make strides to deal with stress, visit your doctor and dentist regularly.
Personal: Read finance and personal development books, surround yourself with people aligned with your goals, develop a side hustle to earn more income and build your skill set.
These are just a few examples (more to come on the ChooseFI blog) but none of them are related to investing tactics, yet they all help you move the needle forward towards FI.
Reading a book a month or joining a running club to get healthy may not seem like it moves the needle much, but combined with your other efforts to live financially free, you may make more progress in your portfolio than you think!
- 50 Ways To Improve Your Finances By 1%
- Talent Stacking: The Fast Track To FI
- How To Save Incredible Money By Learning One New Skill Every Month
No one wants to think about what happens when we die. But, we have to. It's better to be prepared now than make your family try to guess what you would have wanted after you are gone.
That's exactly why you need a legacy binder!
A Legacy Binder is exactly what it sounds like–a binder (or folder, or bin–you get it) full of your personal information that you leave your family (likely your children, hence the word legacy) so they have instructions on what to do with your belongings after you've passed.
Today, I'm going to be talking a little bit more about legacy binders, especially a specific, easily downloadable binder called the ICE Binder.
First, let's tackle the big question: what is a legacy binder?
What is a Legacy Binder?
When you first hear the phrase “legacy binder” you may have no idea what that’s referring to. It may sound like a weird family tree, but, in fact, it’s simply a location where you keep all necessary information about your life that your family will need upon your death.
Not the most cheerful topic, but a legacy binder is important to have for a variety of reasons.
What should be in your Legacy Binder?
When we say your legacy binder needs all your “necessary information”, you’re probably wondering what exactly we mean. Well’ let’s break down the recommended documents you’ll want to include.
- Last will and testament—While a physical copy may not be in your binder, have instructions as to where it can be found.
- Insurance policies—Include life insurance policies, and the location of all your other insurance policies if you don’t keep them in the binder.
- Bank and credit card information—You don’t have to keep the numbers in here, but include where they can be found.
- Investment account information— You should provide a list of any active accounts, as well as contact information and account numbers.
- Benefits information—This will include information related to your employer, any benefits they offer, and their contact information.
- Income tax returns—Try to get physical copies if you can, but you can also keep a flash drive with any online returns.
- Any information regarding your home—This includes deeds, mortgage documents, and account numbers for companies providing electricity, gas, cable, water and sewer, and trash.
- Usernames and passwords.
- List of personal affects and instructions—The instructions will include where or to whom you want your possessions to go.
A new take on the Legacy Binder: The ICE Binder
Chelsea, from Mama Fi$h Saves, has created an “In Case of Emergency (ICE) Binder”, which is a legacy binder all laid out for you, all you need to do is fill everything out. It includes: worksheets, instructions, and PDF pages you can type right into.
To give you a better sense of everything the ICE Binder has to offer, let’s dig into the details.
The ICE Binder includes:
- Over 90 pages of simple, printable worksheets that help you organize everything your family may need to know.
- 15 sub-sections that are easy to navigate.
- A mix of pages that include official, need-to-know information and more sentimental questions about your family and friends.
Here's a sneak peek of some of the pages in the ICE Binder to give you a better sense of what's in it, and how it can help you.
The ICE Binder includes family, personal, and nearly every financial topic you can think of.
As you can see, it may take a while to fill out all these pages, but imagine starting from scratch. The ICE Binder offers easy-to-read pages that can keep all of your information organized.
You can get a copy of the ICE Binder for $29.
While that’s more expensive than creating your own binder, it will also save you a huge amount of time! Time you could be working on a side hustle, enjoying time with your family, or doing one of your hobbies. Plus, you will have the peace of mind that you've thought of everything.
The ICE Binder obviously includes important financial information, but it leaves room for your personal thoughts as well.
Chelsea has included pages about emotional topics that you really need to consider. You can't turn back the clock and tell people things that you always wanted to. Take action today to make sure you have no regrets.
That's what the ICE Binder is all about–making sure your loved ones have access to, not just your belongings, but to important memories they shared with you as well.
Who it’s for
Everyone should have a legacy binder. But those with significant financial assets and a family are those who really need one.
Should you use ICE Binder?
Why wouldn’t you? If you want a way for your family to be able to organize all your assets without a hassle in case the worst happens, the ICE Binder is perfect. It gives you peace of mind and is inexpensive compared to the hours it could take you to create your own.
Shaving 10 to 20 years off of your retirement date is one of those eye opening ideas that might keep you up at night. It’s just so exciting! Of course, anybody on the path to FI also knows that after the enthusiasm of a new way of thinking wears off, the journey to FI can start feeling more like a slog.
If that’s you and you feel that there’s just far too much time and distance between where you are and where you want to be, let me help you get over your frustration with FI and focus on getting there with a bunch of little hacks.
While at first, it’s easy to make huge cuts in your lifestyle that lead to huge gains–like cutting back on your restaurant habit or avoiding Target without a concrete list, you might find that your forward momentum begins to slow with time.
Here are 50 ideas that you can implement (and may need to revisit a few times throughout your journey) to help you get 1% better and optimize a little more each month in a variety of ways.
- Round out your savings account after every paycheck, just contribute whatever is needed to make the nearest hundred whole (i.e. $178 to $200).
- Call your phone company to get a better rate.
- Call your credit card company to ask them to waive any fees.
- Check in with recurring expenses to insure prices haven’t gone up without noticing (like your cable or phone bills–they’re sneaky!).
- Pack a “go bag” to make spontaneous frugal adventures easy and leave it by the door or in the car.
- Look into the free programs and classes held by your local library or government.
- Commit to reading (or listening to) one new finance or investing book a month.
- Commit to learning one new skill a month that you previously paid for (like changing your oil or grooming your pets).
- Find free things to do that you haven’t tried in your city and tackle a new one every weekend.
- Plan out a new hiking or biking trail to try every week until you’ve tried every one within driving distance.
- Volunteer with a cause or organization that can help you fine tune existing or new skills you’d like to acquire (like gardening, photography, or help maintain a website).
- Start a side hustle that you can do with low overhead (like freelance writing, website coding, dog walking) and invest the earnings.
- Swap sitting duty with a friend to cut down on babysitting with kids or kennel costs for pets.
- YouTube ways to fix appliances or home repairs on your own.
- Learn about hypermiling to cut your gasoline usage.
- Unsubscribe from marketing emails & delete restaurant numbers (or apps!) from your phone.
- Experiment with “Meatless Mondays” or do one vegan week a month to cut back on grocery bills.
- Give up alcohol or any foods that are expensive/unhealthy for 1 month to see how you feel.
- Build an at-home gym and build an exercise routine that requires little or no equipment (Pilates, yoga, Barre, strength training).
- Cancel any subscriptions you might have forgotten about.
- Switch up your grocery store to see if you can save (ALDI is a no-frills FI favorite).
- Batch cook your breakfast, lunch & dinner for 2-3 days at a time.
- Make a habit of buying snacks in bulk and portion out for usage (great for popcorn, pretzels, and even breakfast foods like yogurt).
- Cancel your Costco Membership and go halvsies with a friend or neighbor for the membership fee.
- See if your service providers (like a veterinarian or hair stylist) offer a cash discount.
- Evaluate your cell usage and see if you can get a better rate, or switch to a “pay what you use” plan like Google FI or other providers like Mint or Republic Wireless.
- Utilize a store’s coupon app (like Cartwheel at Target) or a multi-store coupon app like RetailMeNot every time you shop.
- Shop offseason. Buying school supplies, christmas wrap, winter clothes and garden supplies as a season ends is much cheaper if you have the space to store it.
- Check if your city provides energy audits & improve your insulation to save on electricity.
- Research & implement ways to make your home more energy efficient and set a goal to cut your usage by at least 10% month over month.
- Rent out a spare room on Airbnb or Craigslist, even for a few months out of the year.
- Learn to negotiate a raise effectively and ask for more money when you deserve it.
- Sign up for a Health Savings Account with your employer if you haven’t already.
- Look into any corporate discounts you can get on large or recurring purchases (many large companies offer perks of discounted insurance rates, gym memberships or appliances).
- Evaluate your health insurance to get a better rate & ensure your coverage fits your current needs.
- Learn about tax optimization to see how you can reduce your tax bill with better tracking and strategizing.
- Understand the Mega Back Door Roth or fine tune your investment strategies every six month.
- Negotiate a flexible work policy to cut back on commuting.
- With every raise or bonus you get, save or invest the difference.
- Declutter & donate room by room (yes it can save you $!).
- Focus on building a “capsule” (minimalist) wardrobe that can be used multi-seasonally or dressed up/down instead of unique pieces for every occasion.
- Learn to travel with travel rewards.
- Attend a ChooseFI meetup in a new place the next time you travel.
- Attend your local ChooseFI group or start your own (come on, we’re fun!).
- Gift food or experiences instead of “stuff” and commit to sharing moments, not clutter.
- Abstain from shopping (except food) for one month, learn to make-do without any non-essential purchases.
- Plan monthly wine/beer tastings potluck style at home instead of going out.
- Ask a friend or relative to help teach you to cook their specialty instead of going out.
- Host a “Naked Lady” party where you swap clothes with friends, especially great for folks with kids.
- Learn how to cut or color your own hair (or have a friend do it!)–the same goes for any salon services, see what you can do for yourself with a good YouTube tutorial.
These are just some ideas to help you get 1% better in a variety of categories, while hopefully being more socially energized, self-sufficient, healthy, and entertained along the way. Truly, FI is way more fun when you can make small improvements to good things you’re already doing.
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A couple of days ago I ran into an article on Mr. Money Mustache's blog called A One-Question Survey–Who Are the Mustachians? The survey asked readers what their fields of work were. Among the choices were such illustrious occupations as Software Engineer, Lawyer, and Teacher.
Naturally, I proudly placed my vote in the “Trades” category, and then the results came in. Guess where the trades are on the list? If you guessed absolute bottom, congratulations!
What's Up With That?!
The trades worker population is dwindling fast. People are retiring out of positions and there simply isn't enough interest in the youth to join this lucrative and rewarding field.
For a long time now, people have been ushering their kids into college with the thought that a career in the trades was for someone who wasn't smart enough or who didn't have high enough social status. This, as a certain podcast host likes to say, is what's known as a “limiting belief”.
Time To Hypothesize
I've gone over the whole employment gap issue elsewhere; today I'm going to get into my theories as to why we don't see more trades people in the FI community.
For one thing, there is a tendency in the trades worker population to spend whatever is left after essential bills on “toys”. Big, expensive, motorized toys, to be exact. Literally every person I've worked with or known who is in the trades has either a speedboat, snowmobile, ATV, or some combination thereof. Not only are these vehicles expensive to buy, they also require registration (cha-ching), maintenance (cha-ching), fuel (cha-ching), storage (cha-ching), a dedicated trailer that also needs registration, and so on.
The pervasiveness of this lavish consumption means that, according to the social norms of those around you, it is not only okay, it is expected that you have some kind of high-maintenance recreational vehicle parked behind the garage.
As we know, when everyone in our circle of concern is engaged in a particular activity, that activity becomes normalized. When an activity is normalized and even expected, questioning it's usefulness is an act of societal separation.
And Another Thing
Expanding on the idea of cultural norms, the trades have been in a bit of a cultural “bubble” as far as workplaces go. For the most part, the work performed in the trades involves travel to the job site, which tends to be insulated from anyone but those performing the work.
In an office setting, a culture develops based on how the company is managed, how they handle employee disputes, and the cultural influences brought in by the various employees. Therefore, the office culture tends to be more professional than the trades culture.
This has been made apparent to me during several side jobs and time spent under a contractor doing work in an office setting, where the stereotypically crass trades worker can experience a bit of culture shock.
What About The Money
To bring all of my smarmy cultural babble back around to my original point, here is the main reason we don't see more trades workers in the FI community. According to me, anyway.
Companies that operate through a typical office tend to offer benefits packages that include retirement accounts, perhaps even with a company match. They also tend to have HR departments who create employee handbooks for new arrivals which spell out all of the options available.
Companies in the trades, on the other hand, lean more toward getting new hires out and on the job as fast as possible, and if there is an employee handbook, it is likely to be kept in the boss's desk where it is sure to go unread.
These companies are also less likely to make much of a show about any retirement plans they offer, at least according to the experiences of those around me and my own. Especially in the smaller shops, which are a huge part of the overall trade economy, things that are an expectation in the white-collar world may not even be available.
Take direct deposit, for instance. When I worked for a contractor, I tried to open a new bank account so that I could get the generous incentive they offered. One of the requirements was that you sign up for direct deposit. When I approached my boss (the owner), he said they didn't do direct deposit. The checks came out on Friday, and you did whatever you did with it on your way home.
Obviously, without direct deposit, it is a whole lot harder to automate your savings, which is a time-tested and proven tool to help bump up one's savings rate.
A Recipe For No Retirement
Combine the various obstacles in the way of retirement saving, the pervasive culture of incredible consumption, and the general lack of financial education in our schools, and it's no wonder trades workers make up such a small segment of the FI community.
I'm not sure that we'll see any huge insurgence of trades workers in the community any time soon, as they also have a tendency to watch TV as their “wind down” activity rather than peruse the web for financial advice. Not to say trades workers are better or worse than anyone else; I think it stems mainly from the exhaustion of a long day of hard physical work.
Really, I think that is a huge reason why trades workers should be the most prevalent group in our community. I only had about six years working under a contractor before I landed my cushy state job, and those six years took a toll on my body. That's why you see these old-timers who can barely stand up after decades in the business, and yet most of them have next to nothing saved for retirement.
Aggregation Of Marginal Gains
If you're a trades worker out there reading this, congratulations, you are ahead of the game! You are also a black sheep in your immediate community, as you have decided (or maybe you are currently deciding) to get off the hamster wheel.
See if anyone around you is open to the idea of joining the FI path with you! Sure, most of your coworkers probably won't go along with it, and that's fine. But maybe, just maybe, you can hook someone in with you, and then you can be partners in the journey. As Charles Duhigg reports in The Power of Habit (incredible book, by the way), having a like-minded support system of both strong and weak connections can make the difference between success and dropping out.
Want to read more from Captain DIY? Check out the rest of his articles here.