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Saving for a Better Future Doesn’t Mean Having to Sacrifice Today

by guest on December 6, 2013 · 24 comments

in early retirement, entertainment, Uncategorized

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The RB40 family is on vacation near Palm Springs and today we have a guest post from FI Fighter. 

Life is all about balance. If you work too hard, you’ll burn out. If you don’t work hard enough, you’ll never get anywhere. When it comes to securing a better financial future, chances are high that you’ll have to put in a good amount of effort to succeed. When the passive income starts to pile on in, a lot of people can get sucked in, becoming even more motivated than when they first started! There’s nothing wrong with being motivated, and oftentimes in life success breeds more success. However, one should never lose sight of today, even as they stockpile savings for the future. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to anyone, so remember to also enjoy today!

Background

As a person on the journey to early financial independence, I know how much “sacrifice” a person needs to make in order to get there in a relatively short period of time. My goal is to retire at the age of 30, which forces me to accelerate my wealth building at an even more rapid rate. I try and save 70% to 80% of my earned income each and every month. People who are used to spending (and buy into the whole consumeristic lifestyle) may scoff at that savings figure. How can a person who saves so much of their earned income possibly enjoy life? You’re probably guessing that I eat top ramen every meal and live under a rock, right?

Finding the Right Balance

I’m happy to admit that I don’t do either. Actually, when I eat out, I tend to eat quite well. I just don’t need to indulge in the fanciest restaurants, so my dollar goes much further. I even drive a luxury automobile (although this purchase was a mistake, I’ll admit). Further, I have lots of hobbies and am starting to travel on a regular basis. Honestly, even though I don’t spend that much, I really don’t feel like I’m missing out on life. Here are some tips to help you enjoy the present on the cheap.

Travel

Travel hacking has got to be the greatest tool out there to help someone travel for free, or cheap. There are more sophisticated means that require more advanced study, but just know that this game can be highly lucrative for anyone. There are ways to easily rack up enough travel points to fly first class around the world for free. I’ve signed up for 8 credit cards this year and am starting to reap some benefits. Currently, my plan is to travel out of town once every month. I’ll be in Maui in December. I recently came back from Chicago and Sedona. When I travel, I don’t spend much of my own money, but I’m guessing I still travel better than most folks who do!

Here are some pictures of the free benefits made possible thanks to travel hacking. Let’s save the best for first! My brother recently returned back from a trip to Bali flying first class for free. I’ve racked up enough points to also do so, but am saving my own rewards for next year. :)

Free First Class to Bali:

travel hacking first class

travel first class free

first class free travel food

A few months ago I was in Sedona for vacation. I stayed in downtown Phoenix at a really nice Westin hotel.

Free Hotel in Phoenix:

free westin hotel travel hacking

arizona westin hotel free travel hacking

Free Access to VIP Club Lounge:

free VIP club travel hacking

Sightseeing and Entertainment

If you are taking care of business, you deserve to enjoy a little! Since my passive income doesn’t well exceed my expenses yet, I’m still reluctantly employed. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t use the current cash flow to have fun. As long as you don’t lose sight of the big picture, a few bucks (or hundred) here and there won’t make or break your financial goals.

To stretch your dollar as far as possible, indulge in the local experiences, but don’t break the bank for any one event. If you’re eating out, use Yelp to find the best spots, but instead of dining out at $$$$ restaurants, go to the ones that are $$ yet are still worth trying. In Chicago, everyone said I had to try Lou’s deep dish. It was only $20. In San Diego, everyone loves Phil’s BBQ. Again, $20 just about covers it. Cheap experiences can too be memorable!

Chicago: Lou Malnati’s

travel chicago pizza Lou Malnati

San Diego: Phil’s BBQ

travel phil bbq sandiego travel hacking

I enjoy good food, which costs money. If I find myself spending a lot on food, I scale back on other things. When I visited Milwaukee and Chicago, I ate well. :) So, when it came to sightseeing, I saved money by avoiding guided tours. I simply walked around and took pictures. Still a great experience, and free!

Milwaukee: River Walk

Milwaukee river walk travel hacking free

Chicago: Downtown

Chicago downtown free travel hacking

When I was in Sedona, I didn’t spend so much on food. Instead, I used my money and went on a guided jeep tour that other tourists recommended. So, again, it’s all about balance. Sometimes I’ll spend more on food, other times on entertainment. Enjoy your vacation, have fun, but still keep in mind your long term financial goals. This does get easier with time and practice.

Sedona: Chapel of the Holy Cross

sedona chapel holy cross free travel

Sedona: Pink Jeep Tour

pink jeep tour free travel 

Hobbies

I own six guitars. I have the latest iphone 5s. I am seriously not deprived in any way. For anyone looking to pick up a hobby that allows you to get a lot of bang for your buck, look no further than to guitar and music. If you love music, you could easily shell out $500 for a night out at a local concert. Or, you could pick up a quality guitar and spend the rest of your life working on your guitar skills. Which $500 investment goes farther? I would even argue that the latter will end up being way more satisfying when all is said and done.

The iphone 5s is a luxury… I don’t need one, but it sure makes my life a lot easier. So, how do I own one if I’m a frugal investor who’s trying to save 70 to 80% of my earned income? Easy, don’t buy one and have your tenants pay for it instead! If you don’t have tenants, use your dividend income!

Summary

You can become wealthy tomorrow and still enjoy today! It’s entirely possible and one shouldn’t feel like it has to be an either/or proposition. Actually, if you try too hard to succeed, you might burn yourself out and not even make it to the fun stuff. I’ve been good this year, and put in some hard work to acquire three rental properties. As a result, I don’t feel guilty for enjoying myself just a little. And you shouldn’t either! In fact, I’m even rewarding myself, regularly scheduling trips out of town. A trip to Maui next month will be my ultimate reward for a successful investing year. Find that right balance and you can have your cake and eat it too!

FI Fighter is an early financial independence seeker who aims to get there by 30. This day will arrive when the passive income and semi-passive income streams bring in more each month than is needed to pay bills. Let the journey continue!

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Justin @ RootofGood December 6, 2013 at 11:07 am

Glad to hear I’m not the only one that doesn’t spend much money yet lives a relatively comfortable life! And I still managed to retire by 33.

I’m with you on the travel hacking. We like seeing new places, and value experiencing the places we go in an organic way instead of on guided tours or touristy kind of things. Walking around on foot (guided by your GPS and Google Maps on your smart phone) is free. Public transit is dirt cheap. I love your take on restaurants. I don’t really care for fancy dining, and when we bring the kids along on trips, the $ or $$ restaurants are usually the most fun and most kid friendly (meaning they serve something from the hamburger-chicken nugget-french fries trinity). We did Chicago this summer and all in, we spent $250 for 4 days for the 4 of us. Free hotel, $5 flights (just paid taxes, and used 9000 points from British air). Half off at restaurants using restaurant.com and Livingsocial or groupon. I even bought CTA transit cards from ebay for 75% off!

Reply

FI Fighter December 6, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Justin,

Cool! Another travel hacker. Yeah, travel hacking is the best and if you can find a way to reduce or eliminate the costs of hotels/flights, the rest of the trip becomes a lot easier to budget for.

That’s some good advice on ways to save on restaurants/food. If you can further reduce expenses on that, you should have plenty left over to enjoy some entertainment.

p.s. I love $5 flights! ;)

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Andy @ theFIREstarter.co.uk December 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Quick question on the travel hacking if you don’t mind. What sort of expenditures are you running up on the cards to get the points? Or are you just getting the sign up bonuses and churning them?

I’ve used two cashback (real money, not points) to good effect this year but really it has only worked so well as we got married this year so our expenditures on the cards has been unusually high. I think we’ve got £400 roughly in 1 year, so $650ish (very good actually!)

Either the introductory card deals over here in the UK are rubbish compared to US, or you lot are spending a lot more than you are letting on ;)

Still… even with our normal spending levels, sommat is better than nowt.

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ResilientMan December 6, 2013 at 11:35 am

I am not sure I agree 100% with this post. Saving for a better future means working harder today in order to live off these savings in the future. In my quest for FI I find myself working harder and harder with the dream of FI looking impossible.

http://resilientman.com/looking-financial-independence-dream-slave-pit/

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FI Fighter December 6, 2013 at 7:05 pm

ResilientMan,

I hear where you are coming from — reaching FI definitely takes a lot of hard work to get the snowball rolling. Over time, in my own experience, I’ve found that the workload gets easier with time. That is, you get pay raises at work, compounding from investments, have the option to reinvest your dividends/passive income, etc.

As long as you don’t allow your lifestyle inflation to become a detriment (don’t overdo it), it should be very possible to enjoy today as well as continue to save for tomorrow. By no means am I saying it’s easy, but thanks to things like travel hacking, it does help make certain pleasure very affordable.

All the best!

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ResilientMan December 6, 2013 at 8:53 pm
Moneycone December 6, 2013 at 11:42 am

You know the old saying -all work an no play? Taking a break is vital for the mind and body. Yes one needs to be mindful of one’s spending, but don’t forget to take time for yourself.

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FI Fighter December 6, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Moneycone,

I agree, it’s important to balance work and play. Too much work makes Jack a dull boy…

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Done by Forty December 6, 2013 at 12:55 pm

FI by thirty – that’s so impressive. I’m glad I heard of your blog through this guest post.

I similarly don’t feel like I’m missing out on a whole lot on our path to FI. The key, to us, is to make sure we’re optimizing our spending, not depriving ourselves of spending. Eliminating waste and redirecting dollars to where we get the most enjoyment is the key here. Not that it’s any sort of competition, but my guess is that the average person working toward FI/ER has more fulfilling experiences than the average consumer.

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FI Fighter December 6, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Done by Forty,

Well said. Optimizing spending may be the best way to put it. The efficient dollar goes the farthest. For instance, you I can find a way to secure flights out of town for only $5 (taxes), why wouldn’t you want to take more of these? That’s a lot of bang for the buck!

Take care!

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Prasun Choudhury December 6, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Great article and also inspiring for me (and probably others). I would be curious to know, if you would be willing to share your financial goals by age of 30, i.e. how much asset & cash you would like to have by then and feel comfortable about financial independence, your investment plan and expected return (at a very high level as these things always change with time), etc.

Thanks!

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FI Fighter December 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Prasun,

You can find more information about goals/assets on my website… One thing I should say is that the goals/targets/strategy is always changing.

My original early FI target was $1500, but that was with the mindset of using dividend investing alone. These days, I own some rentals and rentals are obviously not true passive income (semi-passive), and have a lot more expenses associated with them. So, $1500 would be too conservative… It’s difficult to project with full certainty at this point, but my guess would be around $2500/month or so in semi-passive income.

Cheers!

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Micro December 6, 2013 at 2:35 pm

You can usually find some great places to visit in any city that doesn’t involve a lot or any money. I know when I was with my friends in Milwaukee, we wound up biking along the river walk. We got to take in some great scenery but also took some goofy pictures by the Fonz statue they have up. That was much more memorable than most paid things we could have done.

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FI Fighter December 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Micro,

haha, yeah I noticed the Fonz statue and we goofed around and took pictures next to it!

I agree, sightseeing and just walking through a city is immensely fun, especially with the right company. I try to focus more on who I’m with rather than what I’m doing (spending).

Take care!

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Life In Center December 6, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Yeah I like to play guitar aswell, it’s free(almost), easy and really relaxing! If I want excercise I bike around town or use my longboard and rollerblades.
As long as I take good care of them they’re practically indistructible(I have one skateboard from -87 which I still ride sometimes).

Traveling for me means going outdoors camping, and as long as you have all the gear you’re set.

Also after work I usually just enjoy my time with my family…and that’s free :)

When I look at people around me that frantically go shopping or go hunting for the “next thing” I feel like they are the ones missing on something.

Nice post, thank you!

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FI Fighter December 6, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Life In Center,

Wow, we have a lot of the same hobbies. Guitar and rollerblading are two of my favorites. It’s funny, I still wear the same rollerblades that I had in 6th grade… They were too big then, but they fit just perfect now. Those Cosmo wheels are still spinning and not totally worn out!

Agreed — there’s a ton of great activities one can do for free, or cheap. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on life just b/c I’m not spending as much.

All the best!

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Life In Center December 7, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Yeah, best things in life are Free(dom)!

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mike December 6, 2013 at 6:07 pm

hi FI:

yes, more financial details/goals about yourself would be helpful and nice to know.

Speaking from experience for the rentals. Always way underestimate on how much rent you will collect and over estimate on how much expenses will be. That way you will have a big cushion to fall back on when the worst case happens, and it will.

I’ve own real estate more than 10 years and there is a lot of ups and downs. No one tells you about the angry phone calls from tenants, deadbeat tenants that don’t pay rent, destroy your place and move out in the middle of the night. Not to mention phone calls at 3:00am, saying their water heater is leaking…

Being FI through real estate won’t be a quick process, and your goal of collecting enough income in three years from rentals in my experience will be challenging at best.

Sorry to be a downer, but I figure I should tell the uglier side of things.

My advice for you at your age to become FI, is to find a partner to share in the expenses and that can bring in extra income. It helps a lot, and it will be a lot nicer to have a travel and life companion if you don’t already do.

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FI Fighter December 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Mike,

You can find more details on my website. In short, I’d like to get to $2500/month in semi-passive income before checking out of the game for good.

Thanks for sharing you experience with rentals. It’s always good to hear from someone else who is doing it. I agree that one needs to be very conservative when running cash flow numbers, since one big expense can literally wipe out your cash flow (new roof, furnace, termites, etc.).

One good rule of thumb I follow is the 50% rule. Basically take the gross rents and divide that by 2. Over the long run, that’s roughly your monthly expenses. You then take the remainder and subtract the mortgage payment. What’s left over is your net cash flow each month.

Regardless, one should always factor in vacancy, maintenance/capex into their cash on cash or cap rate returns. Expenses are more than just PITI.

In regards to tenant problems/complaints, I outsource that work to a PM. Right now I manage my own two local properties, but may very well end up selling them to recapture appreciation/equity. I definitely don’t want to manage tenants when I reach FI.

Also, a single 1031 exchange into the right rental market will be enough to guarantee the end game for me… If I want to be extra conservative, I will execute this move when the time comes. However, if my early FI dry run works out ok, I may elect to keep my Bay Area properties and just increase the rents instead. The easiest way to reach early FI would definitely be to 1031 those properties though.

Thanks!

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Bryce @ Save and Conquer December 6, 2013 at 8:59 pm

As you mentioned, a lot has to do with balance: how much a person is willing to spend now for enjoyable yet affordable experiences, versus saving for future expenditures.

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Ernie Zelinski December 8, 2013 at 1:23 am

Thanks for this article. I will use it as reference in some of my blog posts and comments that I make on other people’s blog posts.

Recently I got accused for being a liar when I stated that I saved 50 percent of my income when I started making a half-decent income. To read that you save a much higher percentage is a breath of fresh air.

Again, these quotations give the true reasons that the majority of people do not have enough money for retirement:

“People who don’t respect money don’t have any.”
— J. Paul Getty

“We have more people with poor spending habits than we have poor people.”
— Jon Hanson

“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself; tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke

“If you borrow money to make money, you’ve done something magical. On the other hand, if you go into debt to pay your bills or buy something you want but don’t need,
you’ve done something stupid. Stupid and short-sighted and ultimately life-changing for the worse.”
— Seth Godin

“If you want to fix your money problems, get your head examined. It’s your mindset and attitude about money that will either draw it in to you or repel it away from you. What’s in your head determines what’s in your wallet.”
— Darren Hardy

“Money will appear when you are doing the right thing in your life.”
— Michael Phillips

“Elevating all your wants to your need list is another way to trick yourself into being
broke in retirement.
— from Zen I Got Rich by E.Z.

“If you are thinking that the government will take care of you, prepare for a rude
awakening — government is planning on you taking care of it.
— Jon Hanson

“The greatest stock market you can invest in is yourself. Finding this truth is better than finding a gold mine.”
— Byron Katie

“The amount of money you make will always be in direct proportion to the demand for what you do, your ability to do it, and the difficulty of replacing you.”
— Earl Nightingale

“Riches do not respond to wishes. They respond only to definite plans, backed by definite desires, through constant persistence.”
— Napoleon Hill

This I can say: If my parents were baby boomers and earned what the average middle class family earned during the 70s, 80s, 90s, etc, they would have had well over $1,000,000 in their retirement accounts. And my father only went to grade 5 and my mother went to grade 9. But they knew how to handle money.

Ernie J. Zelinski
International Best-Selling Author
“Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
(Over 195,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
(Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

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retirebyforty December 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Ernie, Thanks for stopping by.
We saved more than 50% when I was working too. Now that I don’t have a full time job, we are saving much less. We don’t need to save that much anymore though so it’s not a huge deal.

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dojo December 8, 2013 at 3:57 am

So much truth. We don’t care about the latest gadgets (we do have everything we need and, when one breaks, we get a new one), eating out or fancy clothing. We do love to travel though and don’t scrimp on decent groceries for our food. We save money, take care of our hobbies/pleasures and are frugal with the stuff that doesn’t matter too much to us.

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Jack @ Enwealthen December 30, 2013 at 10:37 am

Definitely agree on the balance. When you’re saving substantial amounts of after tax income, you have to make sure to enjoy yourself along the way.

We aim to spend 10% of our after tax income on ourselves each month – food, shows, etc. This keeps us sane when you’re doing everything you can to save and grow your money elsewhere.

Of course, this is a target, and we’re not obsessed with it, but having a system in place makes it easier to track so you’re not having to consciously track the tradeoffs from one spending category to the other.

Reply

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