I’m Saving Toward Financial Independence And All It Took Was Sacrificing All Joy And Minor Luxuries From My Life
More often than ever before, people are making the choice to take their time into their own hands, refusing to let a job dictate their waking hours all the way up until the typical age of retirement. The path to unburdening yourself from your career isn’t easy, but trust me that the end result is worthwhile. All that it takes is simply committing to a standard of living that removes all minor occurrences of joy, happiness, and luxury from your life over the course of the next couple of decades (give or take).
First, I’d like to congratulate you on considering the path to FIRE, as it’s certainly not for everyone. The term “FIRE” stands for “financial independence, retire early.” It was chosen to make our modest lifestyle sound exciting and dangerous, as opposed to the conservative and dorky reality.
You could say that my journey to financial independence started early. I had a paper route as a child and later mowed lawns, which took up the majority of my free time. I had a dozen lawn clients, three dozen papers to deliver daily, and due to my absolute refusal to spend money recreationally, zero dozen friends.
In my college years, I majored in engineering at an in-state university. To cut down on living costs, I roomed at home with my parents and commuted. Sure, it was a two-hour drive each way, but was taking out loans just to hang out in the quad and socialize with my peers really worth it? I calculated the ROI on the “priceless bonds” I was allegedly missing out on forming, and the numbers did not look good.
Reducing your expenses is of paramount importance in order to reach financial independence. A lot of seemingly insignificant spending can add up. For example, that $3 cup of coffee you buy each morning? The one that allows you to remain conscious as you complete your assigned tasks at work with a modicum of proficiency? Skip it. Forego buying lunch as well. I brown bag it daily with a homemade sandwich consisting of thinly-sliced deli meat, processed cheese, and wilted, soggy spinach. All purchased in bulk, to ensure that I cannot use them before the “best by” date. This saves money and provides me with a nourishing meal that tastes absolutely disgusting.
Be careful about committing to long-term decisions that could significantly derail your progress to FIRE, like buying a house if you aren’t positive about the area you want to live in. Combine this with avoiding lifestyle creep as your income increases. This is made easier by surrounding yourself with others embracing the FIRE ethos. For instance, I make six figures and live with six roommates. We all met at a local tech meetup for white, male millennials. We reduce our monthly bills by sharing the same Netflix profile on my mother’s account, though we typically wind down by watching Twitch streams featuring live cryptocurrency trading.
In terms of relationships, I’ve made the conscious decision to avoid dating due to the high inherent financial overhead. Instead, I’ve entered into a legally-binding marriage with a fellow early retiree-to-be I met via an online forum. Sure, I have no intention of ever meeting Brad from Toledo in person, and there are no romantic or platonic feelings between us whatsoever, but the resultant tax deductions provide me with all the love I need.
If you asked me what the best part about the FIRE lifestyle is, I’d probably have to say it’s having vast amounts of wealth, yet no material possessions or memorable experiences to show for it.
So, with a little bit of discipline, and a lot of eliminating any discernible blip of joy from your life as you know it, you’ll be on your way to financial independence in no (i.e., several years’ worth) time. As I near my target savings amount, I’m excited to spend more time doing the things I’m most passionate about: watching the real-time performance of each one of the stocks in my 401(k), publicly bragging about my impressive investment portfolio, and updating my personal finance blog in an ongoing attempt to convince family, former coworkers, and myself that this humble way of living is vastly superior to all other options.