On Being Frugal

piggybankI have often read articles about people who worry that they will never be able to retire, much less retire early. These are mostly young people just starting out, trying to get ahead. Well, I cry “Foul!” Yes, real life sometimes gets in the way. People get sick and have accidents, get laid off from their jobs, etc.

If you live below your means, you can live through almost anything.

My family has definitely had some setbacks. We’ve had our share of periods of unemployment, expensive appliances and cars that need repair/replacement, heinous bills to pay, raised two kids with all associated expenses for activities who are now on their own, and neither of us ever made a six-figure salary. Still, we both retired earlier than most people.

How did I first think of this?

Retiring early was always in the back of my mind. I have always felt you needed a stash of cash to fall back on when things got tough, and later learned this was called an “F-U” fund. This is a necessity nowadays when changes happen in jobs and corporations all of a sudden, without any prior warning at all. With an “F-U” fund, you can quit if you end up with a boss you don’t get along with, or if you get laid off.

Do you HAVE to work like a dog for 10-15 years?

There are many many websites on frugal living and retiring early. Mr. Money Mustache and Early Retirement Extreme are ones I have followed recently. But I realized this was even possible when I read The Retire Early Home Page by John Greeney. He and others at the Motley Fool actually successfully did this. However, they all seemed to have 6+figure salaries and worked like dogs for 10 years or so!!

Being a Type B Minus, I just couldn’t get up the gumption to do that. So, like I mentioned on my “Lazy Investing” page I found a regular 9-5 job that didn’t require me to work extra hours, allowed me to take vacations, and coast along. It took longer, and I didn’t even seriously invest until about 15 years ago, but still was able to retire and do OK.

Things I did right, things I did wrong

After reading up on the various sites on frugal living and retiring early, I made up a list of things I did right, and things I did wrong (or could have done better). And even though I didn’t do everything just right, I was still able to retire. So, there’s hope for you, too. Good luck!

Things done right Things done wrong
Always bought used cars paid for in cash, never a car payment In college, did not major in “practical” subject. Did not choose major for high-paying career
Generally stayed out of debt; never carried credit card balance. Waited ’til age 49 to seriously save for retirement
Did not buy too much house and paid it off in 18 years Married spendthrift hubby, but no regrets there
Neither of us had long commutes; lived close to work. Had kids before financially ready
We always only had Broadcast Only cable (recently installed antenna so we can cut cable entirely. Possibly wasted CPA, but quality of life good
prepared for periods of unemployment Started seriously investing in 2000
sought out jobs that paid more-good benefits We drive everywhere, even short distances
stay-cations & took advantage of hubby’s work for out-of-town conferences Not much of a DIY-er
Rode bus to work on employer’s dime
Lucky to make financial arrangements for daycare
Stayed married thru it all
We never had cell phones ’til 2009, then only got basic phones with cheap pre-paid only plan that’s grandfathered in.

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