I’ve always been frugal. Ok, let’s not sugarcoat anything, I’m a cheapskate. No splurging on clothes, no Lu-Lu lemon or designer threads. I don’t get giddy about shoes, have worn the same Target flats for the past three years, even to work events, and will most likely wear them until the soles wear out. No expensive makeup or beauty products, in fact don’t wear anything but Burt’s Bees face lotion and sunscreen. My hair hasn’t been cut or dyed for over a year (which I admit isn’t something I should tell anyone) and pedicures are an annual affair and in my opinion, take too long. On vacations, we try to pick Airbnb’s that have kitchens, so we can eat breakfasts and a few meals in, while still enjoying the wonders of being in a new local. Below is a picture of me cooking dinner in Portugal!
Why do I feel the need to refrain from indulging in any of the above? Multiple reasons, including I’d rather spend my time outside doing something badass then in a beauty salon, but mostly because I’d rather spend my money on more meaningful things. Things that will give me experience and will add to my overall happiness.
Please do not mistake this admittance as judgement. The more I dive into the glorious world of personal finance, I’m constantly reminded that it is just that. Personal. What you choose to spend your money on is entirely, and rightfully, up to you. But have you ever considered the notion of exchanging an hour of your time chained to your desk for that pedicure or pair of Lu-Lu Lemon pants (which are over $80 dollars!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? They’re workout pants people!!!!!). And there is the lone, economically minded freak. Except I now have a coven.
The Money-Minded Mavens (there are 4 of the ladies on the left) hatched out of conversations with several of my girlfriends out in Colorado, girls who are like-minded, outdoorsy, and had one goal in mind: to share information, tips, research about all things financial. Now, this is not a ‘hey, how much money/debt/investments do you have?’ kind of group. It is a circle of trust formed to empower each other, dive into the intimidating world of index funds, HSA’s, tax deferred accounts, hold ourselves accountable for moving the needle towards Financial Freedom, FIRE, working towards being debt free. These are concepts we dive into each month, bringing our own perspective, takeaways, insight and experience.
Each member of the group came with different goals in mind, unique life perspectives and positions (some married, some with kids, some who rent, some own), but we all had the desire to learn more. One of my best girlfriends, Janine, has been on the frugal path for quite a while, and has been a dedicated Mr. Money Mustache fan for years, and really helped make the group a reality. For those who are not familiar, and don’t want to dive into the Mustachian madness, he is THE FIRE Guru, a man who retired at 30 by living frugally, investing aggressively, and thinking about the world with an efficient, non-spending mindset. The principals and practices he writes about often align with how I’ve lived my life, how the girls in the Money-Minded Mavens are living theirs. But he has only been the tip of the iceberg! The number of mentors, financial ninjas, Retired-Early podcasters I’ve been introduced to in the past 7 months (our first meeting was in October 2018) has been motivating beyond my wildest imagination. The conversations held in our group have led to life-altering decisions, eye-opening discoveries, jaw dropping realizations.
Here are four things that have had the biggest impact to date:
Tracking my expenditures
I’ve never kept a budget, never had a number in mind that I could or couldn’t spend on groceries, trips, fun, eating out, beer…..I’m frugal so I don’t go overboard, don’t eat out every meal, so I don’t need a budget. I’m still of that mindset, although a budget and knowing what you are spending your money on are two very different things. This financial group has allowed me to dive into these exact things, because you can not manage what you don’t measure. I started tracking just that after I joined the MMM’s – putting my expenses into different categories and it’s really been eye opening and allowed me to adjust things and be aware of:
- Where my money is going & how much I’m spending on beer, eating out, groceries
- My everyday bills
- How much it actually costs me to live in a month, where I could cut back and months I may have expenses that aren’t monthly (vet bills, ski passes, trips)
Framing up/structuring my emergency account
As a saver, I always have a pretty decent amount in liquidity, so I never really separated accounts. A number of financial gurus I follow though say that having an emergency account with one-twelve months of expenses in it allows not only for a security net, but a mental load off. You do not have to stay at an unpleasant job with such a security net. You can be confident about asking for a raise or push back when there are work-load pile ups knowing that you would be ok if your work circumstances change. This is huge. Once I knew how much my monthly expenses were, by actually tracking them, I could outline:
- How much I felt comfortable with in my emergency account – both from a practical and mental standpoint
- The savings amount I could afford to invest in, once my emergency account was well-funded
- Setting up a more aggressive account (I opened a Money Market Account, with a 2% interest rate)
Rethinking my Automation
One of the things we do on our monthly calls is go around the horn and specify any adjustments, hacks, tips we’ve taken over the last month to move the needle on our financial goals. It’s not a dollars and cents conversation, just allows us to hold ourselves accountable for the small steps we’ve taken. This has been a tremendously positive exercise for me, as it helps keep my personal finance goals top of mind. A number of ladies in our group listen to Paula Pant, a Podcaster who has a gifted financial mind and a Tweak of the Week outline we have been implementing. One of her tips mentions automating your savings by an additional 1%, which is a small amount when you think about it. By reminding myself to do this though, I’ve been able to:
- Look at how much is going into which accounts and up almost all of them
- Upp my mortgage payments – shaving off several years and $10k of interest
- Add additional funds to my brokerage account contributions (index funds baby!)
- Start an HSA (and learning what that was) and invest the surplus
You work all your life, collecting a pay-check, taking a few days off here and there, maybe a vacation or two a year, then you retire and lay around, not working. I guess that’s what a lot of people think when they contemplate retiring. Or perhaps, people haven’t given much thought to retirement at all? This financial group has really helped me re-frame the way I look at non-traditional work life. I’ve had a ‘F*&k it’ list for a long time (something that deserves its own post) and this group has allowed me to think realistically about designing what I want my ideal day to look like…..when time allows. So, with all of these like-minded people who are saving aggressively, thinking beyond the cube walls, it’s really opened me up to:
- Think about time in a finite way – we do not get any more of it, so start using it wisely, now
- Plan my days, weeks, months carefully and with intention
- Devise a plan for post-traditional work that I can work on and execute now, so when I am ready to hand it up, I have wheels in motion
Thinking about your own personal financial path? What tips can you lend to anyone just starting out or well on their way? I’d love to hear! Happy Saving!