I have a number of insightful conversations with friends about pretty much every facet of Financial Independence fairly regularly. I love these conversations because they make me stop and think about why I do things the way I do.
I hope that my posts also make you stop and go hmmmm………….. at least once in a while 🙂
My friend Cubert recently asked what things had people given up in their pursuit to FIRE:
On the one hand, it’s kind of difficult for me to say if I’ve given up anything. I started my financial independence journey so early in my adult life that this way of life is really the only way I’ve ever known. From that angle, I haven’t given up anything at all as everything has been a deliberate choice.
On the other hand, I did deliberately choose to NOT upgrade certain aspects of my life, so one could argue I’ve given up the upgrades. Or, at least significantly delayed them while banking the difference. I’m going to go over 3 different areas where I set out to keep my spending low…… and how that’s going to change in the future.
If I were like my “normal” friends, I would’ve lived in a nice apartment downtown near all the bars and shops. Then I would’ve bought a cute little house sometime around 24 or 25. The house would have a few bedrooms, a nice backyard, and an attached garage. It wouldn’t be optimized around house hacking potential or profitability. I would’ve bought a house because that’s what normal people do.
Instead, I rented for a long time (often with roommates either in their house or in my place to lower costs even further). When I did buy a house, I chose it based on its excellent projected money-making abilities. While it didn’t exactly work out the way I planned, I did save a TON of money by buying a house with built-in rental income. Literally built-in. My mortgage payment was a mere $700 a month, and my rental income was $1100 when I had both of the other units rented. That’s $500 a month going into my pocket (or, in the case of reality, $500 less from my pocket into various repairs).
I took one of the biggest expenses people have and turned it into a source of income. If you can find a way to flip the “normal” narrative, you’ll have a solid chance at financial independence.
I’ve had two cars my entire life. My first car arrived during my senior year of high school and was a 2002 Dodge Neon that I bought for the grand sum of $4,000. I put roughly $2,000 down and financed the rest (my step-dad cosigned the loan but all the money was my own). It took me about 18 months to pay it off. I had a few glorious months of no car payment before a deer fought a valiant battle with my Neon that ended in a murder-suicide. Did I like that car? Not really. It barely got up hills and some seal in the car leaked. The back footwell on the passenger side was constantly wet in the summer, and had a mini ice rink in it during the winter. However, that car represented freedom to me, and so I loved it in its own way.
My second car was bought outright for $8,000. I had some insurance money from the old car and some extra money saved from my enlistment bonus. I bought a 2005 Pontiac Vibe in 2011… and I still have that car today, 8 years later. I’ve put the usual maintenance and repair money into the car, but not having a car payment has allowed me to put thousands of dollars into my retirement account instead. If I had bought a new car in 2014 after I started working, I would’ve spent at least $20,000 on a depreciating asset. Instead, that $20,000 is still in my pocket and contributing positively towards my net wealth. I’m accumulating wealth instead of appearing wealthy.
Y’all. Furnishing an entire house is EXPENSIVE. Washcloths, hand towels, regular towels, beach towels, plates, small kitchen appliances, silverware, glassware, kitchen utensils, pots and pans, dish soap, sponges, cleaning supplies, rugs, living room furniture, bedroom furniture.….
takes a deep breath
There is a LOT of stuff you have to buy when you get your own place. Would it be easy to go to Bed Bath & Beyond or Target and load up your cart? Stupid easy. But, that route is also stupid expensive. Nearly every piece of furniture I’ve ever bought has been sourced secondhand, either from people I knew, or some online marketplace like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. The only piece of furniture I bought new from the store was a media console because I couldn’t find anything that I liked secondhand. Even then I bought it over a Memorial Day sale for 30% off.
This has saved me thousands upon thousands of dollars since I became an adult that had her own place. The first set of plates I had were these incredibly nice brown stoneware dishes. I got them for $5 at a garage sale when retail is about $80. My first set of silverware was sold to me for $2 by my high school Spanish teacher. I bought 4 glasses from an estate sale for $1 a piece. Did it all match? Not at all — but they did the job and that’s what mattered.
I should clarify — that’s what mattered when I was 23 and just starting to save.
Now? Things have changed slightly.
Buy Second(hand), First
Let’s take a second to recap where I’m at now. I have roughly $225k net worth at the age of 29. I have no major debt (just a few moving expenses to pay off on my credit card). My car is 15 years old. I live in a beautiful historic apartment where I’m not required to pay for maintenance. I have a new good-paying job with great benefits in the medium cost of living city Saint Louis, MO.
Because I am in a different place (literally and figuratively) than I was when I was 23, I’m relaxing the rules I’ve imposed on myself over the last 6 years. My spending is about to look a little different than it has previously.
Like I said above, nearly everything I own has been bought secondhand. I’ve let others take the depreciation hit on my stuff and saved the difference. However, I don’t feel like I’m being well served by a lot of the things I had.
That plate set? My favorite thing about it was the fact I got it for $5. I have come to realize I didn’t actually like the plates. They were heavy. They were kind of a weird brown color. They weren’t very functional as all I had were cereal bowls, small plates, and big plates. Did you know they make shallow, wider bowls specifically meant for pasta? I had no idea until I was blown away when going through my new roommate’s kitchen cupboards when I lived in DC. That dish quickly became my favorite to use and I was sad when I didn’t have access to the dishes anymore when we went to our own apartments. (Also sad I didn’t get to live with my roommate anymore. Obviously.) I realized me not liking my dish set was actually one of the reasons I stopped making food for myself (there were many reasons, which I’m slowly working through). So, I gave away that dish set on my Buy Nothing Group and got a different set. I grew up with Corelle dishes and that’s what I wanted for my new place. They came out with a super cute pattern that I asked for and received for Christmas. I’m eating cereal out of the cereal bowl right now. Corelle makes plain white pasta dishes that will go well with my new set, so they’re next on my list to buy.
I also realized my silverware set wasn’t working for me. I got them at an estate sale when I got my own apartment in Northern Virginia. Again, they worked, but I didn’t like them. I also only had 3 knives, forks, and spoons each. I did some research online on the “best silverware set” and bought a set on Amazon after carefully checking out the reviews. I’m really excited to have a matching set of silverware for the first time in my life. It cost about $100 for a 64 piece set of silverware. That’s enough utensils for 12 people to eat at once, plus some serving spoons and big forks and stuff.
Why did I get so many utensils? I want people to be able to come over to my new place and enjoy good food and good company. I also bought a china set so I even have enough fancy dishes for 12 people! (The first 20 or so pieces were bought for $4 total, and then I finished off the set by buying a bunch of dishes from eBay in a deal that surely wasn’t worth it for the seller.) I’ve wanted a fancy china set for quite a while now and after shamelessly begging my family for their pretty dishes didn’t work, I got my own!
I also realized I wasn’t being well served with the style of secondhand furnishings I’d collected over the years. I got rid of a few pieces when I left the East Coast and got new ones that worked better for me upon arriving in St Louis. I can confidently say my new place has a fairly cohesive sense of style that I actually really like. It’s amazing how homey a place feels when the curtains and rug and pillows coördinate.
Like I said above, I’m really glad I’ve stuck with my steady and reliable 2005 Pontiac Vibe. We’ve been through a lot together and our adventures were even sweeter as we did them without an installment payment hanging over us. I’ve watched jealously as friend after friend gets a new or new(er) “big person” car. Resisting the siren call of all the dealerships has been difficult, I’m not going to lie, especially as Levi gets older. However, watching my net worth steadily increase year after year has really helped soothe the sting of jealousy.
Now that I have that solid base of investments, it’s time to turn my attention to Levi’s eventual replacement. I’ve thought about getting an older car to bridge the gap between Levi and a newer car, but there’s not much out there that I want to get that doesn’t also need work. If I’m going to work on a car, it’s going to be the car I already own outright. So I’m putting in a bunch of work on Levi and will start saving aggressively to be able to get a replacement with cash. Or a very hefty downpayment, either or. I would love to buy an electric vehicle but I don’t think the charging network is ready in the Midwest just quite yet. My work just put an electric charger in the garage, but there’s only one and I’m not allowed to park in that garage yet. I can’t charge a car at my new apartment, so I’m better off keeping my gas-powered car for now until my situation changes. I’m not sure if I’m going to buy a new to me car or a new car right now, but I’m open to either as I’m going to keep the car for a very long time.
I think homeownership is like childbirth. It can go terribly wrong and put you off from doing it again.…. until the passage of time works its magic and you forget how awful it was. I’m going to start saving for buying a house in the future. I’m not entirely sure when that’s going to be, but the kind of things I want to do with my lifestyle really requires owning my own house. Fortunately, I have all those lessons I learned from the first time around and know what to look for/avoid this time. I’ll more than likely buy a cute little BRICK bungalow in a centrally located area of St Louis City. No big old beautiful historic house with amazing architectural details. I’d like a place with a garage, a basement to work on crafty things, a roof where I can install solar and a backyard big enough for a garden and firepit. I’m really fortunate I’m in a position to be able to save for these big goals without jeopardizing my future retirement plans.
I intend to go into more detail in future posts, but with all the different sources of income I’ll have in retirement, hoarding all my money into pre-tax retirement accounts no longer holds the appeal it did when I was younger. If I work until I’m 55 (a mere 25 years from now), I’ll have a solid pension and access to heavily subsidized health care from my current employer after I retire. Add in my other pension from my first company, my hefty former 401k and my current 401k, and I’ll be set for a solid retirement.
I’ve decided I’m going to start enjoying the fruits of my labor a bit more than I did in the past few years. Don’t worry — I’ll still write about all the things I’ll be doing even if I’m not focused on extreme early retirement anymore! Life is good 🙂