I “met” Rachel over summer in a blogging course we were both in. Some of the criticisms about that FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement is the sense that it’s a path of deprivation. What I love about Rachel’s story is that she and I both make frugal choices but in the end neither one of us feel deprived. You see saving for FIRE is not about deprivation. At least that’s not her story.
Rachel is a married, 30-something working mama to a toddling baby boy. She is passionate about challenging assumptions and finding creative ways to save, spend, and make money.
She blogs over at Money Hacking Mama, and her big goal is for her and her husband to be able to retire by the time they are 40 with a net worth of $2 million. If everything goes according to their plan, that will be about nine years from now. Currently, she lives in Southern California and saves around 50% of her income as part of her active pursuit of early retirement.
I read this article recently about how a guy was able to save a lot of money for early retirement, but that it came at a high cost to his personal satisfaction and happiness. While I believe that personal finance is personal, and everyone needs to make the best decision for them and their family, I don’t think everyone on the FIRE path will find their happiness going down the FIRE road.
While the media loves to highlight these types of examples, that’s not everyone in the fire community.
FIRE doesn’t have to be about deprivation. Saving for FIRE is about curating your life.
To me, FIRE is about being intentional with my money, challenging common assumptions, and trying to design a life and future that I’m really excited about.
If you’re wondering what it’s like to save for financial independence and early retirement from someone who considers themselves happy and doesn’t feel overly deprived here’s a window into my life…
I wake up and heat up hot water so I can make tea and my husband can make himself coffee.
One of us will make breakfast. Lately, I’ve been into having ham, egg and cheese scrambles. Sometimes we throw that on an English muffin with some Boursin cheese. ?
Eventually, my son wakes up and we’ll change his disposable diaper (not every FIRE person uses cloth diapers). I personally like the Target brand of diapers and find them the most affordable especially since we stock up when they’re on sale. We do spring for the more expensive Huggie overnight diapers when he goes to bed because they are more absorbent so he (thus we) sleep better at night.
In the morning, while my husband gets ready for work I’ll get my son ready, feed him breakfast (he loves banana and peanut butter) and get some morning cuddles in while we’ll read some books.
When my husband is ready for work he takes my son to daycare ($38/day that also includes meals) and then I get ready for work once they leave.
While I get ready, I usually listen to a podcast (free edutainment). Before I leave for work I’ll pack up my lunch (I bring snacks: cheese, crackers, fruit) and the leftovers from the night before. Not only does this save money but it also is much healthier and gives me more “me-time” on my lunch break because I don’t have to drive to a restaurant or wait for food to be made.
I then go to work, drink the tea that my office provides, and eat my leftovers for lunch. On most workdays, I don’t spend any additional money. I live relatively close to work so I only fill up about once every other week.
Note: Occasionally I’ll eat out for lunch with my co-workers, and I plan and budget for this so I don’t feel guilty when I do. Fortunately, the culture at my work is that most people bring their lunch so we all heat it up in the breakroom and eat our lunches together.
While my day-to-day expenses are relatively low, I love to spend money on things that are important to me and add value to my life. Here are some examples…
Every other week our housekeeper cleans our house. It’s $90 each time she comes (our house is about 1,200 square feet). It took me a long time to talk my husband into this expense and we used to spend a couple of hours cleaning together every weekend. However, based on our hourly rates it’s much cheaper to spend $90 for someone else to clean than it is for us to do it ourselves. This also gives us more time to live our lives and play with our son.
It took going to a funeral for this to set it for my husband and on the way home from the funeral he agreed to get a housekeeper because he realized memories were more important than the money we would save cleaning our own house. That being said, if we had more time and were retired I could see us considering doing this ourselves again. Time will tell…
Every Friday our gardener comes. They charge $90 a month to come every week. I didn’t have to talk my husband into this one. We’ve had a gardener since we moved into our house. For around $21/ week, I don’t mind this expense at all!
Like most people that work Monday through Friday from 9-5 pm this is probably when most of the expenses happen.
Around once a month we’ll go to Costco and stock up on things we need there. There are usually impulse purchases from the samples we try or things we forgot we needed but at this point in our lives we don’t mind and they don’t break our budget.
We also go grocery shopping every Sunday. We shop at Sprouts but generally, our bill is $100 or less for the week.
My son goes to bed early (7:30 pm) and doesn’t seem to sit still at restaurants so we generally avoid them for dinner and just cook at home. That being said, we’ll usually go out for breakfast or lunch at least one day on the weekend. It’s nice to get out of the house and experience new things. The great news is that lunch is usually cheaper so it’s around $30-35 when we go out (we generally drink water and share our food with our son).
Other than food, we don’t spend much on the weekends. Occasionally my parents will watch our son and we’ll go see a movie. Usually, however, we’ll watch movies at home via Netflix or amazon prime once my son goes to bed.
We also don’t shop for clothes much. I used to go to the mall or Kohl’s just about every weekend. However, I have so many clothes now I’m actually trying to get rid of many of them. I try to buy classic pieces that are timeless. I also store my seasonal clothes away and switch them out when the seasons change. This makes me get the thrill of “new” clothes with clothes I already own because I haven’t seen them in a while.
As for my son, I buy him clothes when I find them on sale and I shop at thrift stores and consignment stores for huge discounts. I buy items before he’ll fit into them and just save them. His grandparents also buy him clothes they find on sale so he always has plenty to wear.
The biggest expenses for my son are daycare, his college fund, and diapers. The great news is that eventually, the daycare cost will go way down when he goes to school. While we’re saving for his college fund, I was able to get full-ride scholarships and I plan on leveraging what I know about that to help him get scholarships as well. Diapers add up, but that’s another expense that luckily won’t last forever once we get him potty trained.
Here’s a look at our weekly budget. Investing: $725 (for more info on our investment strategy click here)
To be clear, this isn’t what we spend every week, but what we set aside or budget each week for each category. For example, we save for Christmas and vacations all year long, but those expenses only happen a few times a year. Basically, we build balances, and then we deplete them when we need them.
Our biggest splurge is on saving for early retirement. However, we don’t feel like we’re depriving ourselves to save and invest this much.
We live in a modest home, but we’re on track to pay it off in less than 15 years. We save extra money to do upgrades to make it how we want it. For example, we’ve updated our kitchen and out bathrooms. This year we’re getting out pipes redone. As mentioned before, we also have a gardener and a housekeeper which comes out of this category.
I also have a new car that we bought before my son was born. It’s a Mazda CX-5 so it gets great gas mileage and has amazing safety features that were important to me.
Daycare and saving for our son’s college isn’t cheap, but we made the conscious decision to have a child and taking care of him and setting him up for a debt-free future is important to us.
We love to travel and while we stay closer now because flying long distances with a toddler isn’t easy we still fly and get out there. This year we’ve gone to Seattle and Yellowstone and we’re planning on going to Austin and Tahoe before the end of the year.
We also enjoy eating out. While the frequency is less because of my son, when my parents will watch him well occasionally splurge on a nicer restaurant in la. For example, for our anniversary we went to Majordōmo in Los Angeles.
At first, this list was hard for me to come up with because I’ve built the habit to not want or need most of these items so they’re not top of mind. However, after doing a quick internet search to see what people waste money on I was able to recall more easily the things we don’t spend money on at all, or very often. I tried to list them from largest savings to smallest…
So, what do you think? Does this look like an over-deprived life to you? Let us know in the comments below.
Income can be divided into two categories, earned income and unearned income. Earned income is…July 16, 2020