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There are many things one can give up to reach FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early).
Today I am excited to feature this guest post by Fran who is seeking FIRE like myself. Fran is a 30-something Project Manager who lives in the English countryside with her partner. She is also a blogger at The Thrifty Freckles, where she talks about personal finance, productivity and how to simplify life.
Having just started her journey to financial independence, she decided to share with us what she has given up on to reach FIRE.
What I Have Given up to Reach Financial Independence to Retire Early
I discovered the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) movement a few years ago, and I immediately found it extremely interesting. However, I was convinced it was something unachievable for me. I assumed I was either too poor or too old.
It took a lot of reading, and budgeting, to realize that FIRE was possible. It took even longer to accept that to reach it I had to make drastic changes, review my dream lifestyle, and readjust my plans for the future.
Change is always required when you have goals and are determined to reach them. Often it feels so daunting that we resist it and find excuses. It’s only when we accept and embrace it that magic can happen.
Now that my journey towards Financial Independence has commenced, and I know how great it will be once achieved, all the changes I made and the things I have given up seem so worth it.
I’ve always been quite good with money, much to my family’s surprise. You can read my full story here, but I was the typical ant in a family of grasshoppers.
I always thought being good with money meant I could pay off debt quicker and most importantly stay out of debt. I never really realized money could give me a way out of the ‘9 to 5’ (or ‘8 to 7’ for most of us).
Some members of my family worked freelance, so I grew up knowing that there were options outside the corporate world. However to me, that lifestyle felt precarious, because you are heavily reliant on clients to make ends meet.
So, for someone as money-conscious as me, working for ‘the man’ sounded a more stable option.
The Financial Independence Retire Early movement is not as widespread in the world as it is in the US. When I first read about it I was worried it would not be impossible to reach here in the UK. It took a bit of research to understand that the principles behind it are applicable anywhere!
My Idea of Fire
At this moment of my life, I enjoy my corporate job and I don’t intend on leaving soon. I am developing my professional career and building great relationships with colleagues, who often become friends.
However, I am still working towards financial independence. You don’t need to hate your job to pursue FIRE!
I want to be able to reduce my working hours or change careers, conscious that I can financially take the risk. Alternatively, I could relocate somewhere warm and sip pina coladas on a beach.
The FIRE journey is all about the flexibility of knowing that no matter what happens, I can continue to live a dignified life.
How I Approach Fire – Emergency Fund First
My FIRE journey started with making sure I had an emergency fund in place. That was my top priority in case I had to face some unexpected expenses or lost my job.
Everyone is different and the general recommendation is to have at least $1000, but for me, that’s not enough. I decided to have a years’ worth of expenses is the best solution for me.
I am extremely risk-averse and don’t have family nearby. It is very important for me to have a big enough cushion to fall back on should something happen.
It seems a daunting prospect to save so much money, but it is possible to build an emergency fund with just a few changes to our day to day life.
How I Approach Fire – Mortgage Overpayment
The next step for me, and the biggest, is to pay off the mortgage as soon as possible.
This is a controversial topic within the FIRE community, as money could give better return if invested in the stock market, especially if the mortgage interest rate is relatively low.
I do have a good interest rate, so I totally understand the money could work harder if invested. Getting rid of the mortgage is much more than just reducing debt.
It all has to do with the security that owning your house can give. Knowing that no-one can take it away from you, should something happen.
Paying off the mortgage also means that I could live my life debt-free, which is a great feeling. You can’t put a price tag on that!
How I Approach Fire – Pension and Investment
Not all of my my savings go to mortgage overpayment.
I also put a portion of my salary into a private pension to top up what’s provided by my employer. Accessing this money before retirement is not my plan. This will hopefully give my pot fund time to grow and provide an extra income for when I won’t be working anymore.
Investing a small amount in the stock market, mainly ETF funds, is also something I am doing to create wealth for myself. I don’t have the confidence to create my own portfolio, so I rely on an online provider to create a portfolio based on my attitude to risk.
The amount I invest will increase once the mortgage is paid.
What I Have Given up to Achieve FIRE
I am conscious that saving a lot is only part of the puzzle to reach FIRE. Having different streams of income to support your lifestyle once you quit working is also important.
However, I think it’s key to choose the right lifestyle to help us reach our goals. For me it was only logical that I had to give up something, if I wanted to achieve FIRE.
I don’t actually see these choices as negative. I think it’s just a matter of choosing what’s more important, a lifestyle – often imposed on us by society and social media – or our future.
These are the things I have given up to achieve FIRE.
Living in the Big City
I work in London, UK, and lived there for years before realizing that if I wanted to be able to afford a house, I had to move out of the city. House prices in London, like in most cities in the world, are crazy high and unaffordable for normal people unless you commit to a 30+ year mortgage and give up most of your income.
I now live in a nearby town and love the peace and quiet, clean air and green space.
It’s crazy how much you can afford if you just expand your search in the nearby towns or outskirt areas. The trade-off is a longer commute: mine is two hours daily, almost double than some of my colleagues, but I see that time as a chance to read, catch up on news and decompress after a long day at work.
The Biggest House
I’ve grown up thinking that a bigger house is the sign of a wealthy person, and anyone should strive for that. I obviously didn’t appreciate the cost linked to such a big house: the purchase itself, taxes and general running cost.
A bigger house, especially if you don’t have a big family, often leads to buying more stuff and more clutter.
So when we purchased this house, my partner and I decided to settle for a medium-sized house. Doing this would give us room to expand in the future and have guests, but that was still manageable and adaptable to our current needs.
This has saved us money in the immediate term. We didn’t spend the maximum budget we had available for the house, and it will save us money long term, as we’ll avoid upsizing.
Finding the right budget is one of the most important things to consider when deciding which house to purchase. You can find more information about this and other tips when buying a house in this article.
Driving is something I love. It is so relaxing and it makes everything easier.
Having grown up in a small town, a car was a must to go to school, to work, shopping, or just to get some milk and bread.
When I moved to London it took me a while to adjust to a new life without my beloved car. Having an efficient transport system really helped.
Moving out of London made me seriously consider purchasing a car. I mean, less transport options available mean you need a car, right?
Yes and no. A car would make my life easier. I could go to the beach at the weekend, get groceries from a bigger (and cheaper) supermarket, and join that yoga studio everybody is raving about.
However, it is honestly a nightmare getting to work in central London by car, so it means I would only use it over the weekend.
Could I justify the cost of the car, insurance, and maintenance to use it only 8 days a month? Not really.
That means I have to take the train to get to the beach or arrange for a grocery delivery (and find a closer yoga studio). Being more organized and planning things better has helped me save so much money.
The Latest Technology
I love technology.
Changing my mobile phone every year to get the better more powerful model was something I did without a second thought. At one point I even had two fitness trackers, for no reason other than I really wanted a new shiny one. The old one worked perfectly. And I am not even that sporty!
Now I have learned that I don’t need fancy pieces of tech. I have recently changed my laptop, after using one for 6 years. And I will only replace my smartphone if and when it breaks.
It’s liberating to know that I don’t need the latest gadget, and it’s saving me thousands. This will help me reach financial independence and retire early!
Thanks to these changes I am hoping we can achieve financial independence and retire early by age 50. This will happen if we can finish paying off the house in 10 years. That alone could save us nearly £100,000 ($120,000)!
My journey to FIRE is still at the beginning and it will take quite a long time before I’ll be able to quit my job (even though I am not even sure I want to), however, I find the journey itself amazing.
I have given up a few things I didn’t really need and it has taught me that you don’t need to follow what everybody else is doing just to feel accepted.
Surely these things I have given up won’t be enough to reach FIRE, but they are a great starting point and will definitely help in my journey.
Are you giving anything up to reach financial independence to retire early? Let us know in the comments below!
Ready to start your financial independence journey? My budgeting system will help you to get your finances in check!