About a year ago I was reading an article on Get Rich Slowly, looking for inspiration to eat out less often. Like a lot of people do from time to time, we’d hit a rut, and we were eating out way too much. It was taking its toll on our pocketbooks (and our waistlines) and I needed inspiration and motivation to give it up and get back in the kitchen. Scrolling through the comments on this post I stumbled on one from Mrs. Frugalwoods, wherein she revealed that not eating out is part of the formula that enables her family to save 71% of their take-home income. 71%!! I didn’t even understand how that was possible while leading a normal life that didn’t resemble your own personal episode of “Extreme Cheapskates.” Instead of writing this off as another crazy internet comment, I clicked. I clicked and I fell down that rabbit hole, and I haven’t looked back.
I spent 11 years of my life as an undergraduate student, PhD student, and post-doc (and survived almost debt-free), but it wasn’t until I was almost 30 that I was able to start thinking about the investing side of the personal finance equation and not just the frugality side. I’d been reading personal finance blogs since graduate school, and I’m sure to some extent they helped me survive a decade of education with a minimal debt load. During graduate school, I could never manage to save more than a hundred dollars each month, if that. Most of my graduate school savings was socked away as emergency funds in case my aging car needed another major repair, or I had to pre-pay for conference travel, or pay for yet another apartment deposit (since I managed to move almost every year). Now that I was a grown-up with a “real job,” I thought I was doing pretty good – maxing out my Roth IRA and participating in my employer’s retirement program, with a little cash savings and some nebulous goals. So when I stumbled upon this comment, I definitely wasn’t a newbie to the world of personal finance, and I was probably doing better than a lot of Americans. But 71%!! How? And WHY? I had to learn more.
So I keep reading. And, not long after, I stumbled upon The Man, The Myth, The Mustache. I heard from people that, like me, spent a decade of their life in school. I read about people a few years older than me that were getting ready to make the jump into early retirement. People who had some really interesting thoughts about money and life in general. And I read about people that retired at the same age I was currently. Although some of them made a lot more money than me during their working years, some of them didn’t. They all had different goals – to pay off debt, travel extensively, retire early, buy a homestead, spend time with family. Regardless of their goals, their methods had a lot of similarities. Spend money mindfully. Analyze your expenses. Be an educated, DIY investor. Escape the consumer culture and be grateful for what you have. Cook at home. Learn new skills. Spend time outside.
I liked these goals. And, I liked the fact that pursuing this lifestyle could lead me to a certain level of financial freedom I didn’t think was attainable at my income level. I was already working towards a lot of these things, but I knew I could do better. So, in the last year I have learned that focused frugality, living simply, and educating myself about investing could allow me to retire decades earlier than the average American, to provide financial support for my family members, or become the philanthropist I have always wanted to be – in a nutshell, that was my little green revelation.
I’m still not 100% sure what I’ll talk about on this blog, but I had too many thoughts bubbling up inside of me, and too many really fantastic Twitter conversations with others along this path to stay quiet for much longer. My goals and initial focus are likely to be along the lines of:
- Aggressively saving my green and staying out of debt
- Living a greener life by reducing wastefulness
- Loving the green outdoors and growing some of our own food
I’m also hoping the PF community can help keep me accountable and to refine my financial goals as I continue on my journey to financial freedom. Thanks so much for reading, and if you’re reading this – you were probably part of the inspiration that started me down this path in the first place!