I wish that all of the things that brought me happiness were free. I wish I could say this. Of course, I cannot.
To be clear, many things that bring happiness into my life are free: playing with the baby, ice water, going for a jog, watching documentaries with my wife, stretching. If the list of happiness-bringers ended there, early retirement would be easy. I could fill my days with documentaries and ice water and I could play with the baby to fight off boredom.
Unfortunately, for me and probably you, I also love many things that do bear a financial cost. I could approach these items in one of two ways.
- The “Mr. Money Mustache” way. This is essentially beating the desire into submission, which MMM has so deftly done with such valueless things as second children and pets. (I’m playing a bit; I thoroughly enjoy MMM).
- The “Retire29” way. This is a two-step process. First, ensure that the desire does, in fact, bring happiness. If it does, then, figure out a way to minimize the cost.
The following are items that I’ve run through “The Retire29 Way.” These things bring me happiness, and I’m gonna talk about how I’m doin’ it for less.
Monster Energy Drink
Bernie Mac, may he rest in peace, longed for the day (NSFW) when sex was sold in cans. Well, that day may never come, but the next best thing is finally here.
I don’t smoke cigarettes. I don’t gamble. I don’t do drugs. But, my strength has limits. A man needs his vices, and Monster Zero Ultra (the textured white can) is the best beverage that has ever graced God’s green earth.
I know they’re terrible for me. I know they’re expensive. I know I die a little every time that sweet nectar touches my lips. But, I gotta say, the joy I get from every highly-artificial drop makes it all worth it.
How For Less? For the longest time, I was in a costly state of denial. I would go to the convenience store, like a moth to the porch light, and fork over $3.29+tax for a single 16-ouncer. “Just this one time” I would say to myself. “Tomorrow, I quit cold turkey…tomorrow…”
There would be moments of weakness where a large automobile transported the entire Retire29 household to Wawa for the sole purpose of acquiring “the sauce.” Well, no longer. After a family intervention, I finally acknowledged the problem. Rather than deny myself one of life’s purest moments, I instead admitted that the addiction was still in its infancy. No longer are $3.29 cans part of my budget. Instead, I head to Sam’s and get the 24-pack for a cool $30 (or less, as they’re often on sale). Cheers!
Contestant 1: Bed Sheets……paint……customer service……
Contestant 2: Things in Wal-Mart?
Contestant 1 (shaking head): Tattoos……Fiverr Gigs……Vodka……
Contestant 2: Things where “you get what you pay for”?!
Dick Clark: You got it!
When I was a young Army dude in Alaska, funds were scarce, bros were abundant, and hangovers were easily overcome by some early morning Army PT. A weekend normally started out with four guys splitting the bill for a fifth of Popov. (Yessir, I’d like the one in the large plastic bottle. Yes, the one with the built-in handle.) Nowadays, my wife and I have a bit more money, far more discerning tastes, and a baby that lacks the patience to deal with hungover parents.
By George, Diddy was onto something with this vodka. It’s smooth and crisp and it’s one of the few vodkas I could sip with a straw. Plus, girls like it.
So, how do we do it for less? First, moderation is key. Second, by using the Ibotta app (highly recommended app), it’s pretty easy to score deals like $5 or $7-off (which is the current deal)—a discount that is valid at any store when you upload a photo of the receipt.
Air Force Ones
In a few years, I’ll become an ambassador to the early retirement movement. As I wander the earth as a disciple for total freedom, I want to ensure people see a life that looks worth living. I’ll have a much easier time doing this if I’m wearing fly kicks.
I’ve been wearing white-on-white AF-1’s since the time my wife and I started dating, and I haven’t looked back. They feel good, they look good. I wouldn’t wear anything else.
How to do it for less? I keep several pairs on hand, and I hold on to each pair for years. Raggedy pairs are used for lawn mowing and the like. Seen-better-days pairs are for running errands. And pearls are used only for moments when cologne and hair gel are also involved (in da club?).
This system ensures I always have a level of shoe quality to match the occasion. Of course, when a new pair is needed (once a year or less), I wouldn’t dream of paying sticker. The fresh pair in the photo was had from eBay in a “or best offer” listing for $50—less than half of retail.
Happy wife, happy life. My definition of love is giving somebody the power to destroy your whole world, but trusting them enough not to do it. If my wife left me, I’d be a worthless shell of a human. But, far more than her daily threats of running out (kidding…sorta), is the reality that I really enjoy the wife, and she brings me lots of happiness. However, my wife didn’t exactly sign up for the this lifestyle when we tied the knot. Not that she’s terribly unhappy with the arrangement; she generally agrees that having me home full-time in my early-to-mid thirties and experiencing decades of total freedom together would be pretty awesome. However, she’s certainly going without many things that she had in her past life. And, some of these frivolities bring her happiness.
I’m not sure exactly how to portray this without getting too much into her business, but, bottom line…we have an arrangement. She has things that she likes to get that I see as total wastes of money. However, because we did that whole “Til Death Do Us Part” thing, it is my responsibility to tend to those wants in a compromising fashion. Our solution is a monetary stipend that we’re both comfortable with. In this manner, she has the freedom to do as she wants, while I have the comfort of knowing I won’t come home and there’s a new car on the credit card and my once-rosy retirement plans are shot to hell.
Ah yes, children. NOTHING brings me more happiness than the baby. But, I’ve been told, kids are criminally expensive. According to the USDA, raising the average child from birth to age 18 now costs $24.7 Million. I’ll have to check my source on that number, it looks pretty high. But, whatever other parents spend on their kids is totally irrelevant to what we spend on our kid. In fact, we’ve made money so far on the child. Between tax credits and exemptions, and a slower/cheaper lifestyle outside the house, children have some nice monetary offsets.
Granted, more expensive days are yet to come for our current and future little ones. However, I’m pretty confident that the cost curve we’re on is going to be a lot lower than that of your average American.
This past couple weeks, my brother, sister, and I put together a list of memories from our childhood to put into a booklet as a present to my mom for her birthday. We’re all grown now, around age 30, so these are the lasting memories; the memories that have stuck with us for decades. You know what I noticed? Not a single memory said, “I remember when you bought me ______.” No, these memories were about being there. These are random, quirky things that nobody would make note of when they happened. But, now 20 years later, those unmemorable every-day moments have become the legacy of our mom on our lives. What this confirms to me is that our kids, despite what they may say around Birthdays or Holidays, won’t really care in 20 years what was under the tree on December 25th or in the driveway on their 16th birthday. No, I think our kids will be thankful for the guidance, fun times, and love that we show them in the fleeting moments that they are still under our roof.
Android Fans, feast your eyes, as you’re looking at a couple off full-fledged Apple fan-boys. We love Apple products, and I really can’t see us changing soon. I love the ecosystem that Cupertino has set up. Right now, everything in the house syncs up quite nicely. I’m not about to go changing that just to save a few bucks on inferior hardware.
How For Less? The best aspect of Apple products is their second-to-none durability and residual value. You can still sell a 3-year-old iPhone 5 for over $100 on the second-hand market. Try doing that with your Droid. Apple products are solidly constructed and, if you take even a passing care for them, will hold up for longer than the knee of a Steeler Runningback. So, even though it looks like we have tons of Apple ware (which we do), it was acquired over a period maybe 10 years, it still works fine, and it could all be sold at reasonable resale.
We love travel. There’s something about taking yourself out of your geographic comfort zone that beckons story and adventure. If you and I ever have a beer together, just ask me about the story of how my wife and I ended up in the back of a Florida police car with no idea where we would stay that night and with all of our worldly possessions in the hull of a cruise ship that was slowly drifting toward the horizon.
This sort of story, and many more, is why travel is amazing—and it will be something that we never give up. The problem for many, though, is that travel can be rather expensive. The expense of lodgings, transport, or lack of a home kitchen make cheap travel tough.
How for less? In a word: hacking. It makes everything possible.
The point I wanted to convey with this article was not to say, “Hey, look at how awesome we are!” No, I wanted to convey a very real fact: early retirement is only good if you are retiring to a life that you love.
If you have over $10,000 in investable assets, you could retire today. Honest, you could. You just might not like the kind of retirement I’m talking about. $10k would give you $33/month, or a little over $1/day. Over 1 Billion people on this planet already live on less than $1/day, so if you are willing to take on that lifestyle, then I got a one-way ticket to Delhi with your name on it. However, I’m guessing that such a retirement wouldn’t be a very happy one.
Frugality, early retirement, financial independence, or whatever you call it, all falls under a greater umbrella of maximizing happiness. After all, isn’t that the real goal in all of this? As you examine the things in your life that cost money, the goal shouldn’t be to eliminate them, it should be to find those things that truly bring you happiness, cull the rest, and figuring out how to keep bringing that happiness in the best, most affordable way possible.
Thanks for reading Retire29, and Have a Happy Day!