Many on the path to financial independence often talk about a big moment where they decided to give up their spendy ways forever and start saving for an early retirement. Our story has no such moment, sorry folks. Saving was never an issue for either of us. But, there was a time before we discovered the FI community when we blindly saved without early retirement or a specific goal in mind
So how did this all happen? When we met (and fell in love, and held hands, and made googly-eyes at each other), we were both already big money nerds. We both had spreadsheets, although Mr. WW’s spreadsheet was pretty sick.
At the end of 2012, I, Mrs. WW (still a Ms. at that time) repaid my student loans and Mr. WW repaid his mortgage. We celebrated with a wild and crazy night on the town – hot dogs and ice cream sundaes for a whopping $12 (after coupons). Wild AND crazy!
We had prioritized debt repayment and with that out of the picture, we had a surplus every month without any direction to funnel it into. We looked over our budget and asked some questions: “should we put all this extra money into trips?” “could we try to retire early?” “nah, we don’t have that much money.”
So, we did what any typical American couple would do… we spent it. But, not in a “jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash” kind of way. We did the monthly dinner at a local restaurant with our church group. I bought a few groupons to get my nails done, had my hair done regularly, and started getting a monthly Birchbox. Mr. WW got two fancy SPF shirts. In all, our additional spending didn’t really make a drop in the bucket.
Somewhere during this time, we got engaged (YAYAYAY!) and we had direction for our extra money now. (No!) We knew that we wanted to be true to ourselves when planning the wedding, so while it wasn’t free, it was nowhere near the national average cost. A few months before the wedding, Mr. WW stumbled on a website called “Early Retirement Extreme.” This got us thinking, and sometime in 2013 we took the 21 day challenge.
While we didn’t buy into many of the changes (we wanted more than roman noodles, lentils, and beans), it opened us up to challenging common thinking and eventually led us to many other blogs (including MMM, Frugalwoods, and most recently Our Next Life). This all took place about six months before we got married in 2014. A great time to have these financial conversations, but too late to back out of our dream wedding so we still enjoyed that big expensive party!
In 2013, the master spreadsheet was born and financial tracking began. This has taken a life form of its own. We primarily started tracking all of our spending by category, Net Worth by quarter, and savings rate. We made progress detailing each line item and asking ourselves if that expense aligned with our priorities and values. It has now morphed into a 20+ tab spreadsheet highlighting different financial aspects (tax planning, asset allocation, FI planning, etc.)
The reason we are now striving for FI is to live life completely on our terms and without the day to day necessity of a job. By removing the chains, we can travel freely (and perhaps cheaply via slow travel), spend more time with family, and enjoy what this world has to offer. By living this frugal lifestyle, we know we can handle what life may throw at us (layoffs, downturns, other challenges) and with less stress.
So how does any of this personal information help you? If you are like us and want something more out of life, then check out the vast library of information available in the F.I. community. If you read through the blogs and think “wow, that’s great for them, but my story just isn’t that exciting,” well guess what ours isn’t either. We were big savers and now we are big savers with a purpose. It doesn’t matter how big of a change you made to get you to FI it just matters that you get there on your own terms.