Throughout these pages, I painstakingly chronicle (preach?) the things that my wife and I have done to minimize our lifestyle, think happy thoughts and focus on true financial independence and happiness – with a little bit of retirement thrown in. I have improved a hell of a lot over the past couple of years, but even now, I am still not perfect.
Damn, I’m far from perfect.
In the interest of full and complete disclosure with my lovely readers, I want to admit to the things I have in my life that just aren’t necessary, shit that I could get rid of and habits that I should probably break to fully maximize my drive towards financial independence and retirement.
All of the things below were acquired before I made the decision to retire early, but then again, I have not gotten rid of them, either. I’m still not perfect and there is more that I could be doing.
Without further ado…
I have a 2009 Honda Ridgeline (sold as of July, 2015). Though damn comfortable, this vehicle gets horrible gas mileage. This sucker rolls in at 15 MPG in the city and 20 on the highway – though the way I drive, I push darn close to the 19 MPG mark in the city. But still, this vehicle is hugely inefficient and I know it. I keep it because of those times where we need to haul something. Sure, I could probably ask a friend to borrow their vehicle or even rent a small truck for the day when needed, but I don’t.
In my defense: This vehicle is completely paid off, and I do ride my motorcycle the majority of the time to minimize the driving time in the Ridgeline. I’ve decreased my gas bill down from about $40 a week to $8 bucks, max, with the bike. I also found a work-from-home gig so I no longer commute…at all. This saves any remaining grace that might still be available in driving such a large vehicle.
2. I own a 2010 Cadillac CTS. Okay, I don’t exactly “own” it yet, but I am close to paying the vehicle off (paid off as of July, 2015). This was a completely stupid purchase that I made long before I decided to retire by 36, and now, I feel it is more cost effective to simply live with my decision and literally drive this sucker into the ground to get every penny that I possibly can out of it.
Why did I buy it? I bought it because I liked the completely shallow idea of cruising around in a brand new Cadillac (and the 0% interest loan wasn’t bad either). Ugh – what a shitty reason to blow through $40 Gs, but I did it. I made good money and thought that I could afford it. Bad move, but I am now dedicated to squeezing every drop of value out of it because it is now completely paid off.
3. We live in a 1700 sqft house with a backyard pool and mountain view. This house is completely unnecessary for my wife and I. We have taken steps to do more of the maintenance ourselves rather than paying a professional service (ie: monthly pool maintenance, pest and weed control, etc), but it is still an expensive proposition. We also have a pretty kick-ass glass-sharded gas-powered fire pit back there. Unnecessary to the extreme.
Honestly, my wife and I don’t need anything other than a reasonable 1200 sqft house plopped down on a nice spot of land somewhere – walking distance to “stuff” is cool, but even that is not absolutely required (or maybe just an RV!). No pool. No fire pit. This house is nice, but we don’t need it. It’s total overkill. I could easily rock a tiny house.
4. We go out to eat “some”. We have curtailed our restaurant outings to maybe 4 or 5 a month, but we haven’t completely eliminated them. Like I wrote about previously, I absolutely love going out to eat. The food, the atmosphere, the experience – it is all an environment that I love being in. But still, we do go out to eat more than we need, though we make sure to visit less expensive places a lot more than we used to and we use the most advantageous credit card to further our travel hacking abilities.
5. We have dogs…2 of them, in fact. My wife and I are dog people and house two rescued dogs – a little 9-pound poodle mix and a 50-pound boxer mix (we think the boxer has a little pit bull in her). Sure, we love our dogs, but they are not cheap. A quick visit to the vet sets us back a couple hundred,
and we let the dogs spend one day a week at daycare (you know, socialization), which takes another $20 per dog out of our wallets each time they go.
We don’t feed our dogs any of that expensive “gourmet” crap. We don’t cook up weekly batches of filet steaks for their dinners, nor do we buy expensive dog treats or toys for them. They are dogs! Dogs don’t need much more than a loving family and a comfortable and consistent schedule. Dog food is cheap at Costco, so we buy the Kirkland brand beef-flavored stuff. They like it. We like the price, so everyone’s happy.
I will keep adding to this list as I uncover stuff or habits that cost us more money than they should. I could address each of these and completely eliminate them from our lives, but these are the vices (sacrifices) that my wife and I make knowing that they do not positively contribute to our goal of retiring early.
What can I say? I’m not perfect.
Steve is a 37-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.