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FI Weekly – August 22, 2023: Time Saving Tools, Mini-Retirements, Decluttering Benefits

Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. American Express is a ChooseFI advertiser. Disclosures.

Crowdsourcing Time Saving Tools

A few weeks ago, we talked about “money rules” that Ramit Sethi made up for his own life and that prompted Sean to write in with the following ask of you, the community, to come through with a crowdsourced list:

“The money rules that talk about time saving made want me to ask if we can crowdsource a list of purchases that are time savers?

For example, I have Bluetooth tracker tiles on all my car keys and our wallets so we never have to search for them. About $40 for never having to search for your wallet and keys again is worth it to me.

With thanks,


I’d love it if you hit reply to this email and give an example of a timesaving product or service that you’re using in your life that you’d recommend to the wider ChooseFI community.

Recap of Episode 451 with Jillian Johnsrud on Mini-Retirements

David wrote in after last week’s email and said:

“The real value for the newsletter for me, as someone who doesn’t have time to listen to every ChooseFI podcast episode is to be able to glean information through your summarized bullet points. The last few months I feel like you have gone away from giving condensed “truths” and more towards just pointing me towards episodes to listen.”

Since I consider this a true community, I wanted take action on David’s suggestion, so here is what hopefully turns into a weekly list of my key takeaways from the most recent episode:

  • Jillian Johnsrud came on Ep 451 to talk about mini-retirements which she defined as “anytime you step away from your main profession for a month or longer to focus on something that matters to you.”
  • Jillian believes mini-retirements are a perfect way to get ready for your post-FI life: “mini-retirements are great because they can let you test out 2 or 3 or 4 things. And out of those 4 you may find 2 that you love and you then you carry that over to the next one and you (experiment with) 4 more and you find 2 that you love, so that when you eventually become FI, you have these 15 things that you really enjoy and you are good at…and it makes that transition (to FI) so much smoother.”
  • Can a mini-retirement speed your path to FI through getting a new job?  We’ve seen this with salary negotiation episodes with Financial Mechanic (new one coming out 9/11!).  Jillian said, “For a lot of people, and it doesn’t make sense at the onset, it (mini-retirements) accelerates their path to FI. And one of the simplest ways is that in switching careers, if you leave and if you come back, often times people come back at a higher salary. It then increases their lifetime earning potential a lot.”
  • Fairness is so important in human interaction. We also will see this on the upcoming Financial Mechanic episode. Jillian talks about negotiating a mini-retirement and when you provide a simpler and easier alternative to HR that you’re either going to leave and it’ll be 1-2 years of pain for them (find a replacement who has lower productivity for a period of time) or you’re going to take a 1-3 month mini-retirement and come back, the answer should be self-evident for them.

Decluttering Increases Brain Power

I’m a minimalist at heart, but I’ve still always been perplexed as to why clutter actively makes me anxious and unhappy until I came across this article on Psychology Today that explained the “neuroscience behind the connection between a clean room and a clear mind.”

They described a study that “found that of 60 women who were asked to give researchers a tour of their home, women who believed that their home was cluttered were more likely to feel constantly tired and exhibit symptoms of depression. These effects were tied to the hormone cortisol, which plays a role in how we respond to stress.

Clutter combined with a sense of having no control over it can also lead us to make bad decisions.”

The short article is worth reading in its entirety, but I wanted to quote the conclusion:

“Cleaning your home or surroundings isn’t just a physical process, but a mental one as well. Reducing clutter minimizes distractions, allowing your brain to concentrate on more important tasks at hand. The act of organizing your space can also provide a sense of control and order, which can alleviate feelings of stress and promote a sense of well-being. The mental rejuvenation that comes from decluttering is clear evidence of the link between our physical surroundings and cognitive function.”

ChooseFI Community Taking Action This Week

  • Matt said, “My 1% this week turned into 15% as I recalled the episode on medical payments and the non-profit organization helping to wipe out medical debt. In the episode, just simply calling and asking for payment options and/or pay-in-full discounts to Customer Service I was able to get a 15% discount! The other option was to take the original balance and spread the payment over 24 months; I opted for the discount. Additionally, I’m happy to announce to this community that as of 6/30/2023 I officially “retired/quit” my job as we achieved FI! My family and I couldn’t have done it without the knowledge and confidence that you, the whole ChooseFI team, and this community provided along the way. Keep the FIRE burning!
  • Craig said, “I took my family of four to Japan and South Korea this summer for three weeks. It’s the longest trip we’ve ever been on, and it was incredible. I learned about travel rewards from listening to your podcast. I was able to get business class seats with American Airlines for me and my wife on the way there on Japan Airlines and premium economy seats on American Airlines on the way back. I was able to get economy flights with our miles for our two teenage children. Our 4 round-trip airline tickets to Asia cost just under $185 total (not per person…total). We also stayed three nights for free in the Daegu, South Korea Marriott (wonderful hotel) with our Marriott points. The published price of the one-way business class tickets from the US to Tokyo alone were $13,214 each. The total list prices of the flights and hotel stay came to just over $39,000. We could not have afforded this trip if it was not for the money we saved thanks to our new knowledge of travel rewards. We have already booked our flights for summer 2024 roundtrip to eastern Europe with points and miles. I wish I would have learned about this sooner. Thanks, ChooseFI!
  • Jill said, “Wanted to share our 1% better moves. Over the past month, we have taken a good chunk of money that was sitting in our local credit union savings account (earning next to nothing), and opened up a couple of 6 month CDs at 5+ percent, with the rest moved to our brokerage account. We are leaving the brokerage money in the cash account, earning almost 5% as well. We will rinse and repeat with the CDs once they mature, if rates are favorable.  Trying to take advantage of the increased interest rates while they last! Thanks for all you do to inform us.”
  • Michael said, “Thank you. I wanted to thank you to let you know that the existence of Choose FI made a tangible difference in our lives. My wife and I now have the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere, after she was able to pivot from a physical therapy job to a Salesforce Admin that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Choose FI. I’m sitting here working remotely, as I have had the luxury of doing much of my career with my tech job. What is amazing is that I’m sitting here with my now wife who is *also* now working remotely due to her new tech job, which she wouldn’t have if it weren’t for Choose FI. She used to be a physical therapist (and COO of the company) requiring her to have early morning physical appointments, no flexibility during the day, and lots of stress. Now she enjoys working next to me as we attend meetings virtually, sometimes from the house, and sometimes from our camper in the middle of nature. The short version of how this came to be is, that while I was a long time FI enthusiast, I stumbled on a Frugal Friends episode that led me to Talent Stacker which led me to Choose FI. The enthusiasm we got from listening to Choose FI helped fuel the pivot in her career.
  • John said, “We signed on solar panels for our home, allowing us to completely offset our current electricity usage. This helps to reduce our carbon footprint, as well as saving us thousands of dollars every year. After the federal and state tax credits, we are expecting a roughly 18% annual ROI on the money we put into the system, fully paying back in 5.5 years. We’re really looking forward to having them installed later this year.
  • Judy said, “This might be more than 1% better – for us. My husband hit a deer coming home from a soft ball tournament. Our 2011 Subaru Outback was severely damaged – frame ok. We determined that our insurance company would total the car AND significantly raise our rates. This been a great vehicle and my husband has kept it in wonderful condition. He decided to not go with insurance, he is fixing it himself. My husband is a mechanic by trade (retired – he is 78 years old). Its taken some work finding parts and time on YouTube but, for about $4000 in parts as well as time we we will have our super reliable car running again and don’t have to buy a replacement vehicle. Yea us!

Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. American Express is a ChooseFI advertiser. Disclosures.
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