Today we have a guest post from Ember who blogs at An Intentional Lifestyle. Ember is an extreme optimist who writes about finding joy and enjoying the journey each day. She, along with her husband and 3 kids, work towards FI on a single income, dishing out frugal and financial tips along the way. With a dose of southern hospitality, she shares marriage and parenting advice from their own life adventures on An Intentional Lifestyle.
Financial independence is the big goal many of us have set. To get there takes a whole lot of work and even more sacrifice. No, we don’t live in boxes or eat beans for every meal (at least, not all of us do that). But to retire early, with savings and the ability to still live after, takes more than many know. We set up calculations and countdowns to see when the big day will be here, doing a jig every time the ticker gets a bit closer. And this is all great! It keeps us motivated and focused to meet that goal.
But no matter how much we want it, there is always a line. A line that is drawn for what we are willing to give up for that dream, and what we’re not willing to give up, because we want to enjoy the journey. That line looks different for everyone. Some may have very few things they care to enjoy along the way, while others may have too many and need to rethink and prioritize what’s worth it.
We drew our line 6 years ago, when we started our debt free journey not long after our daughter was born. We knew we wanted to retire early, but we also knew that we couldn’t stay focused without enjoying the ride. What did we feel was worth slowing down our FI journey?
5 Things We Refuse To Give Up To Retire Early
I know many people feel anxious to have kids before they meet their FI goal. But for us, having kids now rather than later was always the plan (although my husband probably didn’t expect them so fast….or so close). We started having kids at 22, and had 3 in 5 years. We were done at the age of 27. In case you don’t want to do the math, we will be empty nesters, enjoying the FI goodness when we are 44.
We know kids will slow us down when it comes to our goal. They do cost, although not near what so many think they do. But they bring an unimaginable joy to work, travel, and general day to day living that we all do.
Let me be honest. They will and do drive you insane on a regular basis. But, seriously, they are worth a bit more time to reach the goal.
We have a bucket list goal of visiting all 50 states (not to mention all the travel abroad we want to do). So we have a whole lot of traveling to do in our lifetime. And we don’t want to wait until we are FI, 44, and wealthy to do it.
Traveling doesn’t have to cost a ton. With our kids all being young, we choose to stay within about a 3-5 hour distance from our home (for sanity’s sake). But that still leaves lots of opportunities to see and do things. We have most of the Southeast taken care of state wise, but have much more to explore within each state.
There are tons of tricks many frugal-minded individuals use, from air miles to credit card hacks, there are so many ways you can travel without spending much at all. We love seeing new or even places we’ve been through our kids’ eyes. Nothing like hearing your kids say “Butt!” (loudly, might I add) while staring at a naked statue to make you appreciate how kids make things fun. Traveling makes life even more interesting, and worth doing now, not waiting.
Oh boy. This is something most frugal people are against. But we have such an addiction to eating out. We’ve learned hacks to make it a cheaper thing to do, although never healthier.
Our habit started in college, when I worked as a server and got a discount on my meals. My husband would come visit and bring food some nights, or we would go out after I got off. Plus, it was college. What else did you do? We may have been the odd married couple in college, but we still didn’t want to stay in every night.
That’s how it started, and although we’ve slowed down a good bit since having kids, we still eat out. We budget it in each month, because it’s something we enjoy doing. Joy, y’all. Always keep joy in what you choose to spend your money on.
As I type this, I hear the snores of our two dogs. One giant Labradane that we’ve had for 8 years, one little Aussie/collie pup who was a recent birthday present to my husband. The Labradane was a “free” pup from my sister’s dog. I use that term lightly because free isn’t in the realm of reality for pets. Between vet visits, kennel, food, toys, and the cost of replacing fences (the joy of a lightning storm blowing an invisible fence circuit)….. a free dog’s price goes up fast.
The newest addition cost us $150.
Why in the world did we choose to pay for a dog?
Everyone tells you to adopt, adopt, adopt. But adopting isn’t like it used to be. These days, you’re paying way more, up to $300 or more sometimes for a dog that just needs a home. So instead, I chose to get a dog my husband has always had, and he is smitten with her. All the same costs go into her as went into the “free” dog, racking up an even bigger price tag, most likely.
So, given all these expenses, why have a pet?
That’s simple. I’ve always loved, and felt safer, with a dog. I grew up with tons of animals, and my husband grew up with none. His dream was always to have a dog. And now can’t imagine not having one, despite the additional price tag that comes with it. We find happiness is the floofy fur coats of these animals. Happiness is key. And it beats out the expense.
5. SAHM/Choosing one income
So this one is a biggie, which is why I chose to save it for last. The choice of becoming a SAHM/one income family was really hard (for me, not my husband).
See, I am a workaholic, and truly love seeing the results of what I do. When we had our daughter, we lived away from family, knew no one, and were only 22. So for us, choosing to become a SAHM seemed like the only, but also the best, choice for our family. That doesn’t mean it was an easy choice. I have struggled and fought my way through working from home failures, because I haven’t been able to accept that I’m a SAHM (still don’t—thus, the blog).
But being at home with our kids made me available to homeschool our kids when we felt God calling us to that. It was difficult again, to do that (although for all sorts of other reasons). Being home has given our family the firm foundation to grow the way it has. My husband has been able to put his all into his job, to move up and earn more, to be his best because he feels secure in the knowledge that:
- The kids are being taken care of
- Our family is doing what we need to do
- Our finances and focus is on what we feel is important
Why? Because I am available to help us do that.
I’m not saying that being a two income family is bad or wrong. For us, it has made us happier and more productive. We feel like we are more able to make a difference in our children’s lives and can focus on each other more when we’re together, because we’ve still put into our family what they need. My husband’s career has moved up and fast, still putting us on course to retire early by the time he’s 40 at the latest. One income has slowed us down, but the home life we’ve gained from me being at home is worth much, much more than any second income.
FI is a huge dream, one that we will reach. But not at the expense of our daily happiness. The normal age for retirement (outside the FI community, y’all) is 60’s. On our current trajectory, with no additional income, we will be there by 40. That’s 20 years earlier than average—on one income. Sure, we could do it by 32-35 with a second income, eating beans and rice, with no kids, travel or pets, but what’s the fun in living a life without any of that? Where’s the joy?
Everyone should have a list of their own, of things that are a pillar in keeping the joy of the journey. The journey is just as important as the destination. It makes you who you are, shapes you, creates your image of happiness. We have to remember that while FIRE is awesome and will be absolutely spectacular when we get there, we need to enjoy our life along the way.