Because of personal finance blogs we’ve read and personal finance bloggers we’ve connected with, we paid off our debt and we’re making progress on the journey to financial independence/early retirement. I can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciate the personal finance community.
Throughout the month of December, I’m sharing with you personal finance stories from bloggers themselves who I hope will inspire and encourage you to keep making progress on along your own journey. Please follow these bloggers on social media to stay in touch!
Who are you and what’s your blog all about?
Name’s Felicity, and I write at Fetching Financial Freedom — Come for the dog pictures, stay for the dog pictures, but also I talk about money sometimes. I’m one of those crazy people looking to “retire” before 30 (in less than two years)! It feels weird to say “retire,” as what we’re really trying to do is be able to travel more and work on all the random projects we have planned.
Fluffster of Fetching Financial Freedom… ❤️ this furry face!
My husband, Fergus, and I are engineers in the Boston area with a passion for design and user experience, so we like to create interactive calculators, like Time to Financial Independence (a quick retirement calculator for FIRE folks) and our Multi-family Rent vs. Buy calculator, aimed at newbie real estate investors interested in being a live-in landlord. We hope to design and build a lot more in the future, so be sure to check in from time to time to see what we’ve been up to — and let us know if there’s a calculator, tool, and/or visualization you’d love to see!
What has been your greatest struggle and how did you overcome that?
Not feeling bad about spending on what’s important; it took an awful visit to the emergency vet to make me reassess my relationship with money.
About three years ago, our dog, Fluffster, suddenly started dry heaving on a walk. Less than an hour later at the emergency vet, we were told he had bloat and were handed an itemized bill for roughly $5k. Bloat in dogs is where the stomach fills with gas and twists, meaning nothing can come in, and nothing can come out. It’s incredibly painful, and the only treatment is emergency surgery.
Five thousand dollars was over four months of rent, and roughly two whole months of living expenses for us. It was an unfathomable amount of money for us to spend all at once. My numbers-obsessed brain couldn’t help but calculate the life expectancy of our already-senior dog as I looked at the cost of anesthesia and overnight care; if the mortality rate with treatment is typically 20-40%, what would an old dog’s chances be? Is $5k worth an extra year?
Fergus saved the day with the two questions: “How many weeks of savings is it?” and “Is he worth that much to us?” The moment the situation was reframed in my head as a matter of time and value as opposed to money, the answer was insanely simple.
Fluffster went into surgery that night, and now over three years later is staring at me with puppy dog eyes as I type.
I spend $4 per month on my cell phone. I cut my own hair, and my husband’s. My rusty 2000 Toyota Camry is worth maybe $1k. Massive data plans, stylish haircuts, and fancy cars don’t interest me, but I have never regretted this $5k+++ fluff ball.
What keeps you motivated along your personal finance journey?
Freedom. We have a literal list of things we want to do and create, and with full time jobs, it’s hard to really make a dent. My ideal future life is a series of sprints — being able to focus on one ambitious goal every few weeks or months. One month we may focus on a new monte carlo simulation for our website, and then the next few months may be devoted to a mobile game based on personal finance and real economic data. Couple that with slowly traveling around the world, and I’m drooling more than Fluffster before dinner.
Also I will read all the books. Twice.
When will you know you’ve achieved your goal? What does that look like?
Our first goal is relative financial independence, where we define that as a net worth 25X our yearly spending (4% withdrawal rate). At that point, we may drop to part time work, or one of us may quit entirely. When our net worth hits 33X our yearly spending, we’ll consider ourselves able to fully quit work (3% withdrawal rate), though we may quit earlier, depending on job satisfaction and risk tolerance.
Favorite Personal Finance Book?
Happy Money [Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton] is such a good read. It’s based on studies that look at the intersection of money and happiness, and it’s an easy read even for people who don’t consider themselves frugal. The main premise of the book is that they’re not telling you to spend less, but to change your spending habits in order to be happier.
What is your best advice for those who are just starting out?
Track. Your. Spending. I’ve gone through this with friends in real life multiple times. We’ll talk about finances and goals, sometimes debts and struggles. If they ask for advice, my first suggestion is to track spending.
Without fail, eating out seems to be the biggest budget destroying ninja. Only you (and maybe your accountant) can determine if you’re spending too much on any one category, but people as a rule seem to invariably spend way more on eating out than they ever thought possible. One friend was spending $1,200 a month eating out, for two people, and another friend’s actual spending was literally double her first, very confident guess. We were the same way.
We used to spend about $400 a month eating out, mostly on fast food or fast casual meals, and could not believe it was high. Now we spend ~$100 a month eating out only once or twice, donate $225/month to our favorite charities, and save an additional $75/month. Plus, eating out only occasionally lets us splurge and really savor the experience. One month we even went to an all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet!
What main takeaway do you want readers to have?
Really think about what you value in life, and try to match your spending (of both money and time) to your values. If family is important to you, does it make sense to have 60+ hour work weeks? Should you spend more on self care? Do you really value Chipotle as much as last month’s spending indicates? Not everyone has the privilege to ask these questions, but if you do, treasure it.