A FIRE-Side Chat with Mrs. Picky Pincher

A FIRE-Side Chat

Hello folks! I have something special for you today, a FIRE-side chat with Mrs. Picky Pincher! The FIRE-side chat is an interview series I’ve started to share the journey toward FIRE (Financial Independence Retiring Early) from others. I’m a believer that personal finance is personal and it is important to find our own path toward FIRE. I think hearing from others is a great way to help us formulate our own ideas and our own path.

So without further ado, let’s hear from Mrs. Picky Pincher!

Introduction Questions:

First, tell me a little bit about yourself. Who you are and what’s your story?

Hey there! I’m Mrs. Picky Pincher. My husband and I are on a journey to pay off $225,000 of debt–that includes credit card debt, student loans, car loans, and our mortgage. We’ve successfully crushed $25,000 of debt and are now paying off our $65,000 student loan debts in 18 months. Phew!

It wasn’t always this way, though. We got married in 2015 and lived paycheck to paycheck. We barely owned the mattress we slept on. We had big dreams of owning a house, but a 10% down payment was laughable as we ate Ramen for dinner.

It was exhausting worrying about money all the time and we knew something had to change.

We started our Frugal Overhaul in the summer of 2015 and we’ve never looked back. It’s all thanks to cutting the heck out of our expenses, increasing our income, and living below our means.

But just because we live below our means doesn’t mean we deprive ourselves. We still drink beer. We still drive decent cars. We still watch TV. And that’s what being a Picky Pincher is all about: we’re Picky about what pennies we pinch. It’s all about doing what’s right for you and choosing what is and isn’t worth your money. Pinch the pennies that work for you.

When did your interest in personal finance begin? Did your parents have an active role in your financial literacy growing up?

I was always a little frugal growing up. My parents worked very hard to make a great living for us, so they taught me the value of hard work. My dad was in the Army and my mom went from being a Walmart cashier to a sought-after accountant.

My mom was an accountant so she did enlist me to help with balancing ledgers–which was honestly a horrible idea because I am so so so bad at math. Addition and subtraction? It might as well be calculus. That’s why Mr. Picky Pincher manages our budget spreadsheets and I’m forbidden to touch them.

Anyway, I did have some financial learnin’ growing up, but I still didn’t get a good education in financial literacy. I didn’t have a job until I was out of college and I was pretty naive about money and the real world. I definitely cried the first time I efiled taxes.

I didn’t get into personal finance heavily until I started reading Mr. Money Mustache in 2015. Thank goodness he punched some damn sense into my non-Mustached head!

At what point did you learn about and begin your FIRE journey?

We were inspired to overhaul our finances after reading Mr. Money Mustache. His blog was the stiff right hook I needed to get our finances into shape. While I do think MMM can be more on the extreme end, we balanced out his advice in ways that worked for us.

We started slowly at first because we were still Whineypants about most things, like walking places or not eating out every night. But we started making small changes like decreasing our energy bill, walking to work, and making an in-depth grocery shopping plan.

Once we saw that this stuff actually works, we were hooked! We could never go back to our spendy ways.

FIRE Journey Questions:

Where are you currently on your path toward FIRE? Just starting, retired already, or somewhere in the middle?

We started our FIRE journey in late 2015, so we’re still at the beginning of our story.

If you are still on the road to FIRE, when do you expect to reach your goal and what’s your strategy to achieve it?

If all goes according to plan, I should achieve FIRE in ten years at age 35. Not too shabby!

We want to tackle our $225,000 debt while investing and preparing for early retirement. We’ve already eliminated our credit card debt and a car loan. Now we’re focusing on our $65,000 student loan debt and the plan after that is to pay off the mortgage.

We’re still evaluating our investment strategy since we’ll need passive income during early retirement. We’re currently contributing to 401ks and Roth IRAs, but we will need to overhaul our investment plan soon. Again, I’m horrible at anything math, so it’s been a challenge for me to wrap my head around investing.

Strategizing FIRE Questions:

What has been your primary motivation to reach FIRE?

To be blunt: we hate working.

Mr. Picky Pincher and I are just not 9-to-5 office job people. I thought I could go with the flow and work for The Man, but it’s not for me. I want to achieve FIRE so I have the freedom to do what I want. I still plan on working or volunteering in some capacity, but money won’t be my motivating factor. It’ll be all about choosing my options based on happiness.

No more depressing cubicles, please.

What has been your greatest success in the “engineering” your life path or lifestyle? Or are you more of the “go with the flow” type?

I think my best trait is that I am not a go with the flow kind of person. I’m a crazy, Type-A, OCD cat lady. Everything in our journey to FI has been carefully calculated and planned–I’m not a “we’ll just see if this works” kind of person. But that’s worked out very well for us since I tend to be big on to-do lists and productivity.

We always had measurable goals from the beginning, so it’s easy to monitor our goals over the long term.

But don’t worry. We still make plenty of mistakes, like trying to make gravy out of whey and setting our smoker on fire.

I can’t remember where I heard this first, but I hold dear the advice that it is important to “retire to” something rather than “retiring from” something. What will you be retiring to?

Ahhh, that’s the question.

I would say I’m retiring to happiness. I recently had two paid weeks off work. It was the most liberating and wonderful feeling. I wasn’t as stressed or tired and I was able to get so many little projects completed.

I also want to put my money where my mouth is and spend retirement volunteering. I have a big heart for animals and I’d love to volunteer regularly at a shelter again.

What will your housing situation be like in retirement? Do you plan on moving to a low cost area, to the beach or mountains? Or will you become nomadic, traveling the world more freely?

Oooh, I would love to travel more once we retire. We’ve included our mortgage in our debt payoff, so we don’t plan on having many housing costs during retirement (fingers crossed).

We’d love to travel abroad for a month or so at a time. Mr. Picky Pincher has never left the country, so it would be great to show him the world! At the end of the day we’re homebodies, though, so I don’t think the nomadic lifestyle is for us.

Wealth Creation Questions:

Retiring early is quite an extraordinary feat…and requires some pretty extraordinary behaviors to rapidly create wealth. In your focus on wealth creation, do you tend to gravitate toward making more money or arresting expenses?

Our focus has been primarily on cutting expenses. Mr. Picky Pincher and I aren’t set to get significant raises for some time, so cutting expenses has been the best way for us to pay off more debt.

If you’re curious, check out our free 30 Day Frugal Cleanse for all of the steps we took to get our 50% savings rate.

What has been one of your biggest successes in either advancing your career to make more money or taking control on the expense side to progress on your journey toward FIRE?
Our biggest success was slashing our grocery bill in half. We used to spend $1,000/mo for groceries for just two people. Our current spending is down to the $400 – $500/mo range, which is awesome! That freed up about $500 a month to put towards debt.

Here are a few of the steps we go through to cut down our grocery costs–while being very finicky eaters.

While controlling expenses are important, you still need to live and enjoy life. What is one or two of your favorite areas to spend money on?

Mr. Picky Pincher and I believe in spending money on things that matter. For us, that’s dining at nice restaurants and experiences. We prefer to spend our money on indoor sky diving or a four-star meal instead of a cable package. These are the moments that take our breath away and that we talk about years down the road. It’s always worth the money to have treats every now and then for special life moments.

The Wrap-Up:

If you won the lottery or received a large inheritance to the tune of $1 million or so, what would you do with it and why?

I mean, the first thing I would do would be to stand on my desk at work and shriek, “SEE YA LATAH, SUCKAHS.”

But after that… hm, let’s see. I would use a portion of the $1 million to pay off all of our debt–that includes student loans, a car payment, and our mortgage.

After that, I would have a cooling off period. That’s right. I wouldn’t touch the rest of the money for about six months. That’s a crapton of money and I’d hate to spend it unwisely, so I want time to plan out my next move.

I’m pretty sure I would invest the rest of the $1 million after doing my research, in the form of both rental properties and index funds. Hopefully after that some decent dividends would follow. 🙂

What is your favorite finance and non-finance related book, podcast, magazine, blog, etc and why?

Oooh, It’s so hard to pick just one. I only have time to read blogs nowadays, so my favorite finance blog is Frugal Girl. I mean, it’s not strictly about finance and focuses more specifically on frugal living, but it’s still freaking awesome. The photography is eye candy, too.

My favorite non-finance related blog is Things I Find In The Garbage. It’s a blog by a professional dumpster diver and all of the sweet finds they score in the trash.

But my favorite book of all time is The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. In fact, we named our kitten Zaphod after my favorite character in the book!

What advice would you give to folks considering or just starting their journey toward FIRE?
Two words: baby steps.

Mr. Picky Pincher and I tried to go full-on Mr. Money Mustache when we first decided to get out of debt. We hated ourselves. We realized quickly that everyone’s brand of FIRE is different; what works for someone else may not be great for you.

Take small steps and see what works. See where you’re willing to compromise but stretch your limits. I’ve done things I never thought I would do on my journey to FI, like walking to work. Just do what you can and the rest will fall into place.

Where can I find you?

Y’all can find me at www.pickypinchers.com. I try to have new posts out at least 3 – 4 times a week, so we always have some new kooky adventures going on. 🙂

 

Thanks for sitting down and chatting, Mrs. Picky Pincher! I had a great time!

I hope you give Mrs. Picky Pincher a follow and check out her blog. Look for more FIRE-Side chats to be featured here in the future. And if you are interested in a FIRE-Side chat yourself, give me a shout.

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan

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7 Comments

  1. Great interview. Its always inspiring to hear success stories like this. Good luck paying down the rest of that debt Mrs. Penny Pincher.

  2. [email protected] says:

    Thanks for sharing so much of your story! I think this is so important – “We realized quickly that everyone’s brand of FIRE is different.” The personal part of personal finance. Glad you learned that so early in your life adventure!

  3. Great interview Mrs Picky. Your rather gregarious personality comes across load and clear. That’s a compliment by the way 😉

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you say about taking baby steps if you’re planning to trek the path of frugality while cutting back all of that excessive spending. Try to take the leap to full mustachiasm too quickly and it’ll end in tears.

    By slowly reducing spending and finding new ways to cut costs and introducing frugality slowly is the key to success I think. And don’t be tempted to cut too much out of your life too soon. It’s a slippery slope from frugal to just plain cheap.

    Great interview Green Swan. Keep them coming.

  4. Before management closed my workplace and allowed me to work from home, I had one last horrible cubicle experience. We had an employee who always ate at his desk and was a slob. After he was fired, I didn’t have the heart to order one of my subordinates to clean his desk. So I cleaned his desk. It was one of the most wretched things I ever saw. Crumbs and grime were everywhere. For the life of me, I don’t know how vermin didn’t make that desk a home. Anyway, Mrs. PP, your “we hate working” response to the “why FIRE” question made me think of this horror. It’s also the primary answer for why Mrs. G and I pursued FIRE as well. Thanks for sharing your story. Your take on personal finance is very refreshing.

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