Evidently shitting all over ideas that are opposite of your own is now the thing to do. Maybe it always has been, but with all of the insta-news we have now it seems more prevalent. You may recall my rant about someone’s Facebook conversation about Christmas. This post is shaping up to be similar to that only about something that is way more important.
I have posted here and there about being frugal and how it can change your life. I’ve mentioned the Frugalwoods and some of their suggestions. Being frugal has been a way of life for me since I was a kid.
My parents left a comfortable life to do missionary work in West Virginia before I was born. Before you start to applaud them it was because of some weird conviction that God wanted them to be poor. They had to turn their back on any kind of secular success. Which meant neither of them had any kind of career, except preaching and knocking on doors. Don’t get me wrong, both of them worked, we just never had much more than we ever needed.
Hmm, does that remind you of anything?
So, yeah, frugality has been a part of my life since I was born. And I was always okay with that. I never felt deprived. I never felt as if I was inferior to my friends because they had more. I just liked spending time with them because I got to do more while I was with them. In all honesty I preferred to entertain myself. Being the introvert that I am I was always most comfortable when I was alone – even as a kid.
And maybe that’s why spending money wasn’t high on my to-do list. At least until I was on my own and I used buying stuff to fill an emotional need. It worked about as well as eating did…
That’s the context for why I’m writing this post. I will never, ever claim to be some financial whiz, guru. The fact is I hardly ever think about money. If I have it I spend it. If I don’t have it then I don’t spend it. The thought of saving money never really occurred to me when I was first on my own because I fell into the ‘poor’ mentality.
As in, I wasn’t making enough to live on so how could I possibly save anything.
The problem with that mentality is that when you think like that it never matters how much you make, there’s never enough to save. And debt is a way of life.
I’m here to say that there is always a way not to spend everything you make. You may have to give up a few extras – you know like cigarettes, alcohol, going out to eat, impulse/emotional buying, going to the movies, going on vacation – but you can save.
But how could I possibly give up any of that? Those ‘extras’ are the only reason I can make it through the drudgery of work. And what would I be saving for anyway? It’s not like I’m ever going to be able to retire.
Enter the FIRE movement. FIRE stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early.
Sounds like a pipe dream, right?
That’s what I thought when R.J. first brought it up. I’m pretty sure I at least rolled my eyes, or looked at him like he had lost his mind, or just laughed at him. I’m not proud of this, but I have done all three when he’s come across with his more ambitious ideas.
But I’ve also learned that when R.J. sets his mind on something he will get it done. So I said okay what do we have to do even though I wasn’t exactly sure what financial independence was or if I even wanted it. Much like most other Americans I was sure I had to work to have any worth or value and that I would have to work until I died.
Here’s the beauty of FIRE. It can be whatever you want it to be. It doesn’t mean you never eat out again or gorge yourself on popcorn at the movies or have to give up a vacation here and there. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have nice things and that you’ll have to go dumpster diving when you need to replace something.
FIRE simply means that you think about where your money is going and make responsible, logical decisions when it comes to spending it or not. It means that you become comfortable with having what you need and learn that buying stuff will not necessarily make you happy or solve your problems. It means you start learning to do things for yourself instead of throwing money at all of your problems.
FIRE means that you start saving for a life where the ‘extras’ really are extras and are no longer necessary because you’re not stuck in a job you hate. Imagine living every day where you get to decide what you’re going to do, where no one comes storming into your cubicle to yell at you for some perceived mistake, where John Q. Public doesn’t throw a fit because his eggs are runny and of course it’s your fault.
I don’t know about you but that makes it worth it to give up a few things today to get that a few years from now.
But, but, C.J., I only make a little more than minimum wage. How am I supposed to save and survive? After all, even you say life is too damn short.
Yep, life is way too damn short – to be working in a job you hate, living for the weekend only to become so stressed out on Sunday at the thought of having to go back that you act like an ass for the whole day. Life is way too damn short to be wasting money on things that can only bring fleeting happiness and peace.
But, but, C.J., I have bills. I have student loans. I have kids.
Yep, legitimate concerns. I’ve been there. But see all the debt you’ve collected up to now doesn’t mean you have to continue to spend money you don’t have. There are all kinds of ways to have fun, eat way too much, live without going into debt.
But, but, C.J., my friends are going out. My friends just bought a new car, house, dog. My friends want me to go on vacation with them. They have all this stuff.
Get over it. There will always be someone who has more, who has what you want, who looks like that have it all. Here’s a little tip, though, their life is shit sometimes, too. There’s an area of their life they feel just as bad as you do about yours.
Look, sacrifice is not fun. If it was no one would be in debt and we wouldn’t have an epidemic of instant gratification. No, sacrifice, work, effort is not fun but it’s satisfying and worth it.
And just so you know that I’m not talking out of turn, R.J. and I were both bringing home around $30k a year when we both lost our jobs a couple of years ago. Of course R.J. had a few other irons in the fire and continues to do so, which he is able to do full-time all because we made the conscious decision to stop spending money on frivolous things about 5 years ago.
Most of the time… Hey, we’re human and have a Costco membership.
All I’m saying is that FIRE is possible if you want it to be. And you don’t have to be a millionaire. You just have to want it.
In case you would like a more in-depth explanation of FIRE and frugality I highly recommend you check out Mr. Money Mustache. He gives great insight into the lifestyle and sneaky ways we waste money without knowing it.