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FI Weekly – January 30, 2024: Why Did Your Habit Not Stick?, Merit Aid for College, Lower Streaming Costs and Community Wins

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.

Why Did Your Habit Not Stick?

“It’s one year from now. The habit you were hoping to build during the year didn’t stick. What is the most likely reason it failed?”

That is the question James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, recently asked on Twitter.

I love this type of thinking where you view the problem from a completely different angle in order to get more clarity. “Invert, always invert” as Charlie Munger would quote.

For me, habits often don’t stick when I don’t have enough motivation or clarity.

Simply put, I sometimes pick habits because it sounds like something that would be good for someone, but ultimately not for me.

Running is a perfect example. I loathe running, but almost invariably it’s on my ‘to do list’ of goals every year. No surprise when that habit doesn’t stick.

What is the most likely reason YOUR habit failed?


Merit Aid for College

If you’re the parent of a ~6th through 11th grader and you haven’t listened to ChooseFI Episode 460 with Brian Eufinger, you need to drop everything and listen to that episode.

This was the most eye-opening episode I’ve recorded in years, as I was completely unaware of “merit aid grids” based on GPA and ACT/SAT test scores.

It isn’t an exaggeration to say this episode changed the trajectory of our college search for our older daughter, who is in 10th grade.

A college we really like here in Virginia publishes this merit aid grid and it seems plausible to get up to a full tuition scholarship. We simply wouldn’t have known this existed if Brian hadn’t come on the show.

Reminder that Brian suggests all parents of 10th graders review the presentation they have available on this “Sophomore” page of their site and sign up for one of 50+ entirely free mock testing sessions to determine if the ACT or SAT is better for your student to focus on.

To paraphrase Brian, “better to be Varsity in one test instead of JV in two.”


Lower Your Cable, Streaming and Cell Phone Costs

Steven and Lauren Keys from ‘Trip of a Lifestyle’ linked to this great article in our Facebook group that they titled “Cut Your Cable and Streaming TV Bills to $0 Forever.”

I thought this was a good reminder that though it seems difficult in this age of “needing” to pay for internet access plus a seemingly endless number of streaming services, that it IS possible to cut your costs.

This is also a perfect time to remind you that if you’re paying more than $30 per month for cell phone service, you’re paying too much.

Mint Mobile is where we just moved our phone service after being with Republic Wireless for many years.

For $15/month we get 5 GB of data and for only $30/month you get unlimited data.

The coverage is great and it took all of 10 minutes to move from our old service to the new one (only hangup is calling to get a ‘port-out PIN’).

As we’ve said before, every $100 you cut out of your monthly budget is $30,000 less in net worth you need to reach FI, so even ‘small’ changes like this can make a big difference.


ChooseFI Community Taking Action This Week

“My 1% better actually belongs to my partner: after over a decade, yesterday she finally submitted her last student loan payment and I couldn’t be more proud of her. About 5 years ago, she channeled the overwhelming feeling of despair that debt was creating into positive action: after discovering the FI movement (which she got me excited about as well, in a large part through your podcast!), she began attacking her loans paycheck after paycheck with a discipline which has been truly inspiring.

We still were able to have lots of fun while she worked towards this goal, including our wedding and some amazing trips abroad, but now that the weight of the past is finally off her shoulders, we are so excited to be able to focus on the future together. She reads this newsletter too, and while it won’t be the first time she’s heard it, I just want her to know how much I look up to her for her amazing dedication and strength. Hopefully those reading will be as inspired by her as I am!”

– Stefan

“My 1% better this month was investing in my health by signing up for a new fitness plan my company health insurance just added at the new year. I have struggled for years to find motivation to work out, or find anything fitness related that I enjoyed. I liked fitness classes but they were so expensive that I never seriously considered them. With this new plan, however, for $100/month I have access to about 30 classes a month at 5 different class based gyms of a wide variety of workout types (yoga, Pilates, barre, cycle, HIIT), plus a regular box gym membership and a bunch of digital workouts.

Because I’m a nerd, I found what an equivalent membership would cost at each of these 5 gyms and it added up to over $500. I’ve found that in just the few weeks I’ve had this membership, it has turned into a fun strategy game for me – I am motivated to get the most out of the money I have already committed to spend on this. Plus I am actually enjoying the classes as well! For the first time in my life, I am finding myself looking forward to fitness activities.

I’m also so excited about this that I’ve been telling everyone at work about it. Most of them didn’t even know this new plan was being offered, and several of them have come to trial classes with me to check it out and sign up themselves!”

– Erika

“I’ve been holding onto my 1% for a number of years now and wanted to give a HUGE thank you on behalf of myself and family. I just quit my job of 15 years to stay home with our three young boys and to open some doors for future travel together.

My husband and I are pretty naturally frugal and paid off our house at 30 years old (late 2018), were already maxing out our TSPs (we are both federal workers), and had 529s set up for our kids. So I went searching for our next financial step.

After taking in months of Dave Ramsey podcasts and Suze Orman books, I was no closer to feeling at ease with our financial plan – or lack thereof.

Finally in late 2019, I came across ChooseFI and it just clicked… this is totally us! I binge listened to every podcast and took action… slowly and steadily. Here are the larger 1% actions we took:

  • I started tracking our finances and future projections much closer
  • I started to use Empower’s free account to track our current investment portfolio
  • I opened Vanguard accounts for our Roth IRAs, which we max out every January
  • I opened a Vanguard taxable account, which we auto contribute every pay period
  • We got rid of our second vehicle that we rarely used
  • We started earning travel rewards points with the most basic and low risk credit cards available
  • We lowered our insurance costs, cell phone costs, and home internet costs
  • We opened a HELOC to allow us to have less of an emergency fund (and invest more)”

– Heather (and family)

“My 1% better was finding the YNAB app. I’ve been pretty good with money, no debt, saving and investing, but I’m always looking for ways to improve. A coworker told me about YNAB. I tried the free trial and have gained greater clarity in my finances by giving every dollar a job, including the dollars in my emergency fund. That was a game changer! Now, I’m working on getting a month ahead in my finances. I’m already two weeks ahead and that totally changed what it felt like to allocate funds in my budget this month.”

– Dalisha

“My 1% better was opening my first Fidelity brokerage account and investing in mutual funds that I plan to hold for the long term. I plan to contribute to it every month from now on!”

– Crystal

“My 1% better is finishing my last week at my job strong, and setting up my co-workers for success after I leave. I’ve been working there for 10 years since graduating from college, and I’m leaving to take a sabbatical! I’ll be focusing on rest, and investing my newfound time in my health, relationships, learning and fun!

I’m utilizing my FU money and CoastFI status to give me a taste of the freedom that being FI brings well before arriving there. Thanks to Brad, Jonathan and ChooseFI for being an integral part of my FI journey all these years!”

– Steve


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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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