We hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and we wish everyone a very happy 2020!
As you’re reading this, we are on a flight home from Singapore. We spent Christmas in Singapore with my sister, her husband and my three year old nephew. We had a wonderful time and we will make sure to do a Where We’ve Travelled sometime soon.
For regular followers, you’ve no doubt noticed that it has been sometime since our last post. This wasn’t exactly planned and was a mixture of life just getting in the way and a lot of self-reflection on my part about our goals, whether or not we still wanted to pursue financial independence and ultimately what we wanted out of life.
The good news is, I’m back and plan to continue blogging this year.
The not so good news for us is that we haven’t yet answered a lot of those questions. But, I plan to blog about all of them and together, we can work through these issues.
As many people pursuing financial independence do, I read a lot of FIRE blogs. A few of my favourites are Our Next Life, Mr Money Mustache and (newly discovered by me) Millennial Revolution. While these three blogs (and the many others I read) have been a wonderful source of information, inspiration and tips, in some ways they also proved to be a little bit de-motivating for me.
Sometimes, I was finding that the “rules” around FIRE and doing FIRE the “right” way were very restrictive and didn’t necessarily fit into my and Poopsie’s specific situation or even into what we wanted. I’m a smart person and I’ve never suffered from doing things just because it was expected of me. However, I started to find that I felt like I had to do FIRE a certain way in order to do it right. When I didn’t do it that way or I didn’t want to do it that way, I started to question if financial independence was actually what I wanted.
I decided that in order to get some perspective, I needed to extract myself from the FIRE community. I stopped blogging and I logged out of our Twitter and Instagram account (sorry to anyone who send me messages on there, I wasn’t purposely ignoring you).
Poopsie and I also decided to not restrict our spending. We decided to just spend how we wanted to. This coincided with some big life events which, by their very nature, were very expensive (promise to provide more information about this in future posts). As a result, we spent a lot of money in the second half of 2019.
Interestingly, neither of us found we were happier but we both agreed that we were less stressed about money. This was surprising to me as I wouldn’t have described myself as someone who was stressed about money. However, thinking about spending, thinking about saving rates and thinking about financial independence was placing some underlying stress on me. It wasn’t anything major and I’d even suggest (with absolutely no qualification to back this up) that it was a healthy level of stress. However, it felt a lot better to not think about it.
But what I discovered is that the stress came from thinking about what I should be doing. The stress came from feeling guilty when I didn’t do what I should be doing or when I spent money on something I wanted but it didn’t fit the mould of a person pursuing financial independence.
Now, this is can be a slippery slope. For a regular person (ie. not a millionaire) wanting to be financially independent, watching your spending is a necessity so to say that I am going to spend whatever I want is not necessarily correct. What would be more correct is to say I want to spend money on the things that are important to me and ignore the rest. This is not a revelation – the entire point of the FIRE mindset is to spend money on the things you value and to cut expenses on the things you don’t care about.
But what I was finding is the things you value and the things you don’t care about should actually have been renamed the things the FIRE community values and the things the FIRE community doesn’t care about. These are things like riding a bike, wearing cheap and basic clothing, not upgrading a phone, driving the smallest and oldest car you can, not travelling too much but instead really enjoying your local town or city and not spending very much money on a house. The more I thought about this, the more I realised that I didn’t value these same things.
I do not want to ride to work. I get a bit scared riding on roads and I also hate getting ready for work in a steamy communal bathroom.
I like nice clothes. I don’t own track pants, my clothes don’t have holes in them and I have never owned a flannelette shirt or an ironic t-shirt. I don’t have heaps of clothes but the ones I do tend to cost a bit but for the most part, are of high quality and things that I wear for a very long time. I still have a dress I bought when I was at uni and many of my clothes are years old. I like to look nice and while I am sure many people can look nice for far less than what I spend on clothing, this isn’t something I want to do.
I don’t upgrade my phone very often, but I also don’t try and get ten years out of my phone. While I don’t really care about the phone part, I do use my phone to take a lot of photos so a good camera is important to me. I have also been sucked into the Apple cult and I am okay with that.
We recently got a new car. It’s not small, it’s quite big and we also didn’t pay cash for it (details coming soon). I really like this car.
We love to travel and we don’t do it particularly cheaply. We love where we live and make the most of that, but we also like to travel both within Australia and overseas. Neither of us wants to stay in hostels and eating out is one of our favourite parts of travelling, including a Michelin level meal on each trip.
We live in Canberra, Australia. There is no such thing as not spending a lot of money on a house.
A few weeks after I came to this revelation, Tanja from Our Next Life wrote a post reflecting this exactly. While this just gave me more proof that she is my FIRE spirit animal, it also gave me some reassurance that I wasn’t doing FIRE incorrectly.
And that’s the thing: there is no correct way. We are all on our own path as we pursue what we want from life. For some people, that’s extreme frugality and reaching FIRE very quickly. For others, that’s spending a lot and therefore reaching FIRE slowly but still quicker than if they waited for traditional retirement. For others, it’s living extremely frugally now so that they can live it up in early retirement.
I don’t know why it took me taking a break from the community to realise that I don’t need to feel guilty about what I spend money on, but it did. Of course I don’t need to apologise for what I spend money on and neither do you. We all get to spend our money how we want to. Sure, I think we should all try and not harm anyone in the process, but even that is an individual choice of degrees that each of us needs to make.
I’m feeling a lot better about our future path to financial independence. Sure, we could get there a bit quicker if we didn’t buy an expensive house, if we didn’t have an expensive car and if we didn’t like to travel nicely. But for us, the journey is just as important as the destination and that is what makes it worth it to us.
Do you ever feel guilty about what you spend money on? Do you think we should all follow the “tenets” of FIRE or should we forge our own paths? We’d love to hear what you think in the comment section below!
I think for FIRE to work for you it’s got to be something you’re comfortable with. There isn’t much point in cutting cost to the bare bones if you’re not going to be able to maintain that and will blow the budget out again when you give up.
I spend a fair chunk of money on the things that are important to my family like travel, and the bare minimum on things I don’t care as much about like clothes.
You have to find what works for you, not for someone else.
Wise words, Aussie HIFIRE. We have always struggled to find that balance and we probably still aren’t quite there. It’s definitely a matter of spending on what we care about and forgetting the rest.
In the past , I quite often felt like a FIRE fraud against the gospel of the likes of MMM and felt massive guilt for weeks when I bought or did something expensive I really wanted or didn’t do some of the things the frugal crowd espouses. However, as you say, this is our own journey, not anyone else’s so I am now getting better at assessing my purchases against my own values and damn the critics.
BTW, it’s good to see you back blogging again!
Thanks for continuing to read, Ozstache! Damn the critics… your voice will be saying that in my head the next time I am struggling with this!
It makes me laugh when I see people breaking their necks to retire early, worrying that they’ve left it too late if they’re in their 30’s or 40’s.
I didn’t discover the FIRE movement until I was 50. I’m now FI and plan to retire anytime in the next 4 years. I’ve dropped back to part-time so who knows when I’ll decide that the time is right? I want to enjoy my life on a glide-path to full retirement.
I figure retiring at 60 is still ‘early’, especially if you consider when the Age pension age kicks in.
Take life at your own pace and keep a long perspective on things. “Early” is always a comparative thing.
I think you hit the nail on the head – enjoying life on the path to retirement. We have definitely been enjoying life lately but perhaps a little bit too much, we do need to reign it back in. But remembering but there is a level of spending that we are more comfortable with and cutting back further than that may get us there quicker, but will seriously decrease our enjoyment.
Welcome back and hello! Great to hear from you again. Glad you are both well and looking forward to hearing more about your life events.
I find it really interesting that you discovered you were stressed about money. Generally when we think about money stress, it’s because people don’t have enough. But part of FIRE is being restrictive with the money we do have – acting as if we don’t have it in order not to spend on things that don’t advance us towards our goals (not that I’m saying it is anywhere near as stressful as not having enough for day-to-day life – I recognise our privilege here). I hope as you define and accept your version of FIRE. the stress continues to drop away.
Since I’ve stopped blogging, we’ve had a year of change. Part of that was letting go of the budget. I’m getting itchy about it now, but I was able to be OK with it as long as we kept up with our base amount of investing. To put it in perspective, we spent $8,000 more on food/alcohol in 2019 than in 2018. While part of me is gasping at this, I knew it was happening along the way, and I accepted it for what it was at this time of our lives.
I’ve been thinking about my blog, but aren’t at the point where I’m ready to log in. Writing this comment though, I think I’ve rediscovered the importance of the accountability that comes with it!
Oh I am so glad you’re back reading, Mrs ETT! I have missed you.
We are definitely still defining our version of FIRE, but we are closer than we were to knowing what we want that to look like.
Interesting you included your extra spending on food. Wait until you see our 2019 spending post… it is truly diabolical!
Great to have you back.
I’m sorry to hear that money and aiming for FIRE was stressing you out! Hopefully after a review and throwing out the ‘rule’ book you can come up with a plan that suits your lifestyle and goals. No point stressing out and hating life along the way in my opinion.
Looking forward to reading your spending report for 2019 and an updated FI plan moving forward.