Ramen($) or Steak($$$): Finding the Balance
My husband and I started our FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) journey in the spring of 2017. We agreed that we both wanted to reach FIRE but figuring out how to get there has been a bit of a sticking point. There have been countless discussions about the best approach to get there. He says our focus should be to earn more so we can save for the future and allow ourselves to indulge in the luxuries of life (i.e. steak dinners). While I agree to some extent, I think our focus should be on spending less since this is more of a controllable factor. Now I’m not suggesting we eat ramen noodles for every meal, but there’s nothing wrong with being more cost conscious.
Our Money Mindsets
The challenge is that we each have different mentalities about money.
His money mindset: We have a savings plan in place and as long as we stick to it, any excess funds should go towards the “treat yo self” fund. We work hard and as long as we keep at it we’ll be generating more income in the next few years. We deserve to reap the rewards of our hard work now. YOLO. Money can always be made and budgets are constricting.
My money mindset: We have a savings plan in place but if there’s a way we can ramp it up faster, why not take advantage? Let’s budget and sacrifice now so that we are that much closer to FIRE in case one of us does decide to leave our jobs. Be mindful of your spending and f*ck the Joneses.
So if you have these opposing viewpoints, how do you find the balance?
A.) You don’t. Tell him it’s my way or the highway.
B.) You compromise
As with everything else in marriage, the answer is option B. And this is especially true if you want to stay married!
Meeting In the Middle
To some extent we’re both right. Although sometimes it seems our mindsets are conflicting, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. We need to set ourselves up for success by moving towards FIRE on both fronts: firstly by continuing to work hard at our current jobs and secondly by being more mindful of our spending habits. The first approach, to increase income by striving to excel at your current job, is pretty straightforward. Utilize the time you’re at work and maybe even the time commuting to learn and grow in your role so that way you become more valuable within your company but also outside of it in case another opportunity arises. But in addition to having a regular day job, a FIRE starter is also looking for alternative source of income or investment opportunities. This definitely needs more thinking outside of the box. I haven’t quite figured this one out yet but I’m hoping to look into a few side hustles in the next few months. I like this idea because it will allow us to try new hats that we typically wouldn’t wear so we can determine what we like and don’t like in case we want to transition into it post retirement.
The second approach to FIRE that we need to improve on is lowering our living expenses. We’ve fallen into a habit of eating out for most meals and ordering whatever we need with a click of a button from Amazon. While I haven’t looked at all the details of our spending in the last few months, I think I’m going to utilize Personal Capital (my sister uses it and here's her review) and track it starting in April. It won’t mean we’ll be eating ramen on most nights, but I would like to see how far a bit of effort and forethought will save us if we meal prep during the weekend for our meals during the week. While I think we could cut costs in other areas, we don’t want it to feel like a constant state of deprivation. I’m all for delayed gratification but to put aside your needs and wants for years on end, well that sounds like a perfect recipe for resentment. Yikes. But that doesn’t mean we should be self-indulgent and allow lifestyle creep to set in.
“No tv and no beer make Homer go crazy.” - I hope it never comes to this.
The Journey Ahead
We are fortunate enough to be a couple of DINKs who have an opportunity to set ourselves up on a good financial path. There will be a some sacrifices along the way, but we will try our best to find balance between saving for the future and allowing ourselves to enjoy and experience life in the present. As cliché as it sounds, it’s about the journey, not the destination. We can’t just disregard our wants and needs from now until we retire. In reality, we are following through on the savings plan that we originally set for ourselves. We are using this as our baseline. The road to FIRE is not a finite path; we will need to re-assess and re-set numerous times as things change along the road. As long as we continue to be accountable to each other and mix in some tacos, wings, pizza and salad nights with the ramen and steak night I think we’ll be just fine.