Hello everyone! Welcome back to The Green Swan. I’m a proud frugal millionaire. Over the last 10 plus years of my adult (post-collegiate) working life I have foregone most all luxuries and completely disregarded the notion of keeping up with the Joneses. I’ve lived comfortably, don’t get me wrong, but I have always heavily scrutinized every discretionary expense and it is a rarity for me to ever make a “large” discretionary expense (over $500 or so).
To me, frugality is a means to an end. The end has always been Financial Independence and Retiring Early (“FIRE”). With that end in sight, just a handful of years away, I’ve given a lot more thought on how I envision life in retirement. I’m now approaching a transition point with my view on frugality.
Frugality is a Means to an End
Retirement represents the golden years. Retirement represents freedom. Retirement represents pushing aside all the things I no longer want or have to do for the purpose of managing my financial condition. Retirement is freedom from any financial consideration. That may not be the case for everyone, but that’s the plan for me. As long as I’m being rational when spending money, financial considerations should not restrict me from living life.
In a nutshell, that is what retirement means to me. Am I alone?
So the question is, if that’s retirement and I’m only a handful of years away from financial independence, how do I bridge from my full-on frugal lifestyle? At what point and to what degree do I begin to embrace lifestyle inflation, begin sacrificing money for more time and start to enjoy a few of the modern luxuries life has to offer?
The Frugality Tipping Point
Like I said above, I’m approaching a transition point. I’ve cut a lot of expenses out of my lifestyle. Basically every expense, large and small, has been scrutinized and economized over the years.
- I cut cable back in 2014 and never looked back
- We’ve minimized our phone bill contract and now solely rely on work provided cell phones
- Lucy cuts my hair as well as my 3 year-old boy’s hair and eventually our newborn baby boy’s hair…this is a big savings which will add up huge over the years
- We use a rain barrel to cut back on the cost of water
- We use our “home built gym” and the great outdoors instead of a gym membership
- We make great coffee at home
- I DIY everything I can around the house and even my iPhone screen replacement
- We’ve tried hang drying our clothes
- Lucy and I commute to work together to save on gas, etc, and rely on free parking provided by her employer
- We’ve gone Vegan, as I recently pointed out, which I’d expect to lower our monthly food bill and our long term health care costs
- We travel hack which saved us a few thousand last year alone
- Nobody enjoys paying more tax than required, so I do everything I can to reduce my tax payments which includes in retirement, at which time I hope to never pay taxes again
- I’ve even targeted our electricity bill with a creative solution designed to save thousands over the long-run with my purchase of solar panels.
I’m not about to undo all that I’ve done in the past. I’ll still get my haircuts at home, etc. That’s a part of my normal life now and I’m completely satisfied with the frugal changes I’ve made to my lifestyle. When I talk about embracing lifestyle inflation, I’m taking about adding back expenses on the fringe which make life easier, gives me back more time to my day, and allows me to live more of my life doing what I want. In a sense, I’m talking about coasting into retirement.
Targeted and Intentional Lifestyle Inflation
What do I mean? Examples, you ask? Let me explain a few situations I’ve been jockeying with lately.
- Vacuuming: maid service / Roomba iRobot
- Yard work: Trugreen, mow service
- Grocery delivery
Those have the potential of giving me back loads of time on my weekends to instead spend with family and friends. My weekends can be filled with more walks to the neighborhood park with the kiddos and afternoons trips to the pool.
How much does this all cost? We’ve tried maid service, but weren’t completely satisfied. We may rely on this for the occasional deep clean for a few hundred bucks a year. The roomba was a one-time $600 cost ($100 off on Mother’s Day weekend!!! — so sexist of them huh?…actually not sexist at all as they had the same special on Father’s Day!!). The yard work will cost approximately $500 annually. The grocery delivery (Instacart) will run maybe $300 – $400 per year when including the annual service charge and delivery fees.
All-in-all, embracing lifestyle inflation in this fashion will cost around $5,000 to $6,000 over the next five years as I bridge toward financial independence and early retirement. That may sound like a lot, and it always has to me in the past, but my tune has been changing lately. This could be offset fully by my wife and I simply working two more weeks, a theoretical delay in retirement that we can live with considering all the time it frees up on the weekends for the next handful of years.
Lucy and I have cut out so much that adding some targeted and intentional spending back seems like a great luxury, but in reality it is a marginal expense increase. A marginal expense that is worth it as it will help reduce our weekend rush of household chores.
After all, frugality is a just a means to an end.
What do you think? Am I starting to go off the deep end? Have you embraced targeted lifestyle inflation as you neared financial independence, and if so, what are you embracing? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Thanks for taking a look!
The Green Swan