I stumbled across an article recently that was just too good to pass up, one that attempts to boil down the majority of the personal finance community to just basically being cheap.

The article, written on a blog that now appears to be old and defunct (go figure), is only five paragraphs long, but somehow distills us personal finance peeps down easily and effectively using just a few words of carefully crafted wisdom. This guy is clearly on the top of his game.

The article begins:

There seem to be a growing number of personal finance blogs touting super early retirement (ie after around 10 years of working).  These guys are “living the dream” after “jumping off the debt-powered treadmill” and they’re preaching that you too, you fool/drone/sucker*, can wake up like Neo in the Matrix and realize what a sham this whole consumerist world is.

Our boondocking site outside of Bend, Oregon.

Actually, that is spot on accurate and I couldn’t have said it any better myself. We early retirees ARE living the dream – our dream. The dream that we worked hard to achieve using basic economic principles that put our happiness over temporary gratification that results in wholesale hemorrhaging of our precious money. Yup, check.

As he states, we are 100% debt free. We put our dreams into action by selling both of our homes and buying an Airstream travel trailer. We live primarily off-grid and enjoy every minute of it. We are proud of what we’ve done and the lifestyle that we lead. And, we aren’t afraid to tell the world about it.

He then begins the PF distillation process:

So what how does this work?  It’s so simple I can sum it up in one sentence: You need to be cheap as fuck.

Of course, the truth of the matter is the majority of us make it a specific point of differentiating cheap and understanding the meaning of “value”. Being cheap means re-buying the same Chinese manufactured shit because it was $10 cheaper when, if I had only spent an additional $20 bucks, I could own a product that lasts four or five times as long. This requires an understanding of value.

See, value. Not cheap. Those of us who know the value of our money spend money based on that value, not necessarily price. All else being equal, of course we’ll opt for the lesser expensive item. But, the item’s price is only one factor in our decision-making process. This is a crucial element to personal finance and one that I’ve noticed throughout the blogosphere. Early retirees understand object value.

Of course, this also assumes that we actually buy the item in question. Most of us in this community reject our subconscious desire to buy more stuff because we understand that stuff to provide us only with happiness that is temporary and fleeting.

Also, many of our blogs talk heavily about the simple art of investing. Save 50% of your income and your retirement age will plummet. Save 70%, like we did, and that age plummets even further. The best thing about this is you don’t need to be an investment expert. You don’t need to be good at math. In fact, you don’t really need to know a damn thing about investing to invest.

You just need to DO IT. Then, let compound interest take over. How we spend our money is only a small fraction of what it takes to retire early. I haven’t read a single PF blog who hasn’t discussed investing in some shape or form.

Being “cheap” won’t let anyone retire. Investing, though, will. And, making smarter choices with your money is a great way to reduce the cost (burden?) of your lifestyle and make your post-retirement life much, much easier.

And rounding out our community, he continues:

I don’t mean “no more lattes at Starbucks cheap”.  To work for 10 years and retire, you need to be “I rotate my bike tires so they last longer” cheap.  You need to be “I buy a year’s supply of rolled oats when they go on sale” cheap.  That’s basically what every one of these blogs boils down to.

Personally, I eat like a king. Prime cut meat. We even go out to eat, though we’ve curtailed that habit to only a couple of times a month. We do, however, buy our oats in bulk from Costco, only because the additional packaging of individual portions of oats requires needless money, waste and storage space. We don’t need to be early retirees to understand the value of buying in bulk.

Parmasean cheese. Avocados. Asparagus. And tons of sweet potato, onions, and black beans. Beer, wine and spirits. Tons of beer. More wine than we know what to do with. We aren’t hurting in the nutritional department over here in our humble little 200 square foot abode.

Until we officially set sail, we also drove around in a Cadillac CTS. Now, we have a gas guzzling Dodge Ram 2500 diesel pickup truck to pull our Airstream. I buy costly camera equipment (used, ’cause I’m “cheap”). My wife spent $120 a pop for hair appointments when we were stationary.

We also have two dogs, and those girls aren’t cheap. Grooming for our poodle. Costco dog food every month. Vet visits. Basic dog-owning shit.

If this is what it means to retire in your 30s, quite frankly, I’m okay with it. We live in the lap of luxury, sacrificing nothing meaningful to achieve the lifestyle of our dreams. But, I suppose we do live up to the stereotype of buying our oats in bulk. Shame on us. We’re cheap bastards.

If, like me, you’d rather have your hand slammed in a car door, I just saved you a few hours of blog reading.

Have at it, my friend. Care to put your money where your mouth is and prove that statement to us? I promise to post a video of it on this cheap-ass blog if you do it and send ‘er over to me. 🙂

Kidding, of course! I won’t hold you to it because it just sounds painful…we’re good like that in the PF community. 😉

And for the record, and to end this blog post on a positive note, the author of that blog is also an avid photographer and has some pretty beautiful stuff over at ajkessler.com.

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