Sunday, February 27, 2022


The financial part of this blog is all about investing in companies that have a long track record of raising their dividends.  This is one of the major investment strategies of those who are following the "F.I.R.E." lifestyle.  Financial Independence Retire Early....  

The main pillar of F.I.R.E. is utterly simple:
  1. Spend less than you earn
  2. Save the difference in investments
Well, no shit..   

You will never reach any type of financial independence without spending less than you earn, or simply earning more than you spend.  

Blowing money on any random thing at any random time will never lead to F.I.R.E.  
I know. I did that for decades...  

Many of the leading bloggers in this field live very frugal lifestyles.  Cutting costs by lowering housing costs, cutting cable, getting rid of a car, using cheaper cell phones, eating cheaper, getting clothes at thrift stores, and doing side hustles.  And on and on.

But to what extent does this frugal living reach a limit?  At what point does it lower the enjoyment of living on this planet for the limited time we have?   Is it a sacrifice that's worth it? Now It is an individual thing. 
You can find ways to make major cuts in every major expense in life.   You can survive on almost zero money spent.    But then are you only telling yourself: "This sucks but someday I will be rich."?  At what point does frugal living morph into a miserable existence?  At what point does it morph into "I really missed out on a fun life being a skinflint"?   

It's a fine line.  My home is not huge, but comfy.  I found my comfort zone.

No one is sure our health is here when we achieve that level of independence from "the man".   Travelling the world, for example, is not so fun when you can't walk so well.  Clubbing in Ibiza is not so fun in your 50's...  Just sayin'.    

My mom was a miser.  She was never happy. She also never felt secure financially, so it just kept going and going and going.  Her house needed fixes, but refused to invest in them.  Now she's in a memory care facility.  She never went back to her homeland of Greece to visit family and I had to sell the beat up home to pay for the care.  It sold with major discount due to its condition.  And it is also why I keep my house in tip top shape.

That is why I spend a few weeks in Hawaii every year.  I can afford it and saving the cost is simply not worth it. I need the relaxing warmth.  

For some, I am sure there is no outward appearance of misery.  Looking forward to the goal of F.I.R.E. erases the suffering at this time.

For others, some of modern life's luxuries are too vital to give up on.  The cutting of your costs are maybe only a portion of what you could do, and your goal to hit F.I.R.E. will take longer, but you still have a comfortable life.  And that is fine with them.  

The old adage "Money doesn't buy happiness" is the real thing.  But neither is not having enough to be free of working.  Toiling a job at age 70 to survive is just as bad as being rich and miserable.

In my case, I lean more towards the trimming some costs and refusing to rack up any new debt.  The extra money can be invested.  With ZERO debt, doing so is easy.  

I like where I am at.  I'm content.  So is my wife and kid.  I had spent enough time living on ramen and driving a piece of garbage to be through with it forever.  I have no mortgage.  No debt over my head.  Losing a job with a mortgage is a major crisis to say the least.. 
My major expenses are only food and utilities.  

The utilities have remained pretty much a constant.  I need the internet.  We watch streaming TV quite a bit.  That is staying.  My electric bill has actually lowered since I switched all lights to LED.   The cell phone bill is what it is (AT&T) since T-Mobile and Verizon have almost no signal at my home and the savings are minimal. My gas bill is fortunately low and has gone down since we resided the house.  Our 104 year old house had ZERO insulation before residing.  NONE.  Same with the original wood windows.  Switched them out for vinyl ones.  

Our food bill has been rising with inflation.  Before child, we used to go out to eat quite a bit.  Now it is only weekly or so and has saved tons of cash.   We never were one to blow money on huge ticket food items regularly.  But I will spend to get healthy foods like salmon and fresh veggies.  Saving money but sacrificing health is idiotic IMO.

What made the big difference for me was not purchasing the "luxury" items. The fun stuff. The electronic toys.  We replace the computers when the old one dies.  The TV is 43".  We can't go bigger.  The house does not fit it.

Another luxury was fancy clothes.  A job change did that for me.  I can wear whatever I want to work, and no longer have to wear business casual.  Jeans and t-shirts from here on out.
My wife cut way back on her clothes after the kid was born.  It's a luxury we don't miss.

Our cars were dying.  We splurged and got 2 hybrids.  I had the cash to buy them outright.  In the long run, the gas savings are mind blowing, especially with the Ukraine thing.  
I would get electric, but I don't have a garage.

But more than living frugally, a major impact is increased income.  I fortunately earn more than my food and utilities cost.  The rest gets invested.  

That's my level of F.I.R.E. - don't spend over your head but don't miss out on what life offers you.  In short, I am not really sacrificing much to fund my portfolio. I'm just not splurgng. 
And I am happy.

Some may say that the point of F.I.R.E. is to leave your job. 
Then what?  
Sit around slowly getting bored?  Endless travel?  That can get really really pricey.

I actually enjoy going to work.  I like my job.  I love my co-workers.  Spending time at work keeps me from spending money when I have no job to go to.   I had a 3 month gap between jobs in 2015.  I got real bored after my garden looked like a professionally groomed park.  After working out and gardening, I was down to surfing the internet too much and watching the grass grow while reading a book.  It gets boring.  The social interaction was lacking

My wife cuts hair.  Took an 11 year break after we had our daughter.  She missed the work.  The job gives her a sense of fulfillment.  That's as important as living free from being tied to having to work.

How low can you go when it comes to living frugally?

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