Shaving 10 to 20 years off of your retirement date is one of those eye opening ideas that might keep you up at night. It’s just so exciting! Of course, anybody on the path to FI also knows that after the enthusiasm of a new way of thinking wears off, the journey to FI can start feeling more like a slog.
If that’s you and you feel that there’s just far too much time and distance between where you are and where you want to be, let me help you get over your frustration with FI and focus on getting there with a bunch of little hacks.
While at first, it’s easy to make huge cuts in your lifestyle that lead to huge gains–like cutting back on your restaurant habit or avoiding Target without a concrete list, you might find that your forward momentum begins to slow with time.
Listen to what James Clear says about getting 1% better and the impact that it can make.
How You Can Get 1% Better
- Round out your savings account after every paycheck, just contribute whatever is needed to make the nearest hundred whole (i.e. $178 to $200).
- Call your phone company to get a better rate.
- Call your credit card company to ask them to waive any fees.
- Check in with recurring expenses to ensure prices haven’t gone up without noticing (like your cable or phone bills–they’re sneaky!).
- Pack a “go bag” to make spontaneous frugal adventures easy and leave it by the door or in the car.
- Look into the free programs and classes held by your local library or government.
- Commit to reading (or listening to) one new finance or investing book a month.
- Commit to learning one new skill a month that you previously paid for (like changing your oil or grooming your pets).
- Find free things to do that you haven’t tried in your city and tackle a new one every weekend.
- Plan out a new hiking or biking trail to try every week until you’ve tried every one within driving distance.
- Volunteer with a cause or organization that can help you fine-tune existing or new skills you’d like to acquire (like gardening, photography, or help maintain a website).
- Start a side hustle that you can do with low overhead (like freelance writing, website coding, dog walking) and invest the earnings.
- Swap sitting duty with a friend to cut down on babysitting with kids or kennel costs for pets.
- YouTube ways to fix appliances or home repairs on your own.
- Learn about hypermiling to cut your gasoline usage.
- Unsubscribe from marketing emails & delete restaurant numbers (or apps!) from your phone.
- Experiment with “Meatless Mondays” or do one vegan week a month to cut back on grocery bills.
- Give up alcohol or any foods that are expensive/unhealthy for 1 month to see how you feel.
- Build an at-home gym and build an exercise routine that requires little or no equipment (Pilates, yoga, Barre, strength training).
- Cancel any subscriptions you might have forgotten about.
- Switch up your grocery store to see if you can save (ALDI is a no-frills FI favorite).
- Batch cook your breakfast, lunch & dinner for 2-3 days at a time.
- Make a habit of buying snacks in bulk and portion out for usage (great for popcorn, pretzels, and even breakfast foods like yogurt).
- Cancel your Costco Membership and go halvsies with a friend or neighbor for the membership fee.
- See if your service providers (like a veterinarian or hair stylist) offer a cash discount.
- Evaluate your cell usage and see if you can get a better rate, or switch to a “pay what you use” plan like Google FI or other providers like Republic Wireless.
- Utilize a store’s coupon app (like Cartwheel at Target) or a multi-store coupon app like RetailMeNot every time you shop.
- Shop offseason. Buying school supplies, Christmas wrap, winter clothes and garden supplies as a season ends is much cheaper if you have the space to store it.
- Check if your city provides energy audits & improve your insulation to save on electricity.
- Research & implement ways to make your home more energy efficient and set a goal to cut your usage by at least 10% month over month.
- Rent out a spare room on Airbnb or Craigslist, even for a few months out of the year.
- Learn to negotiate a raise effectively and ask for more money when you deserve it.
- Sign up for a Health Savings Account with your employer if you haven’t already.
- Look into any corporate discounts you can get on large or recurring purchases (many large companies offer perks of discounted insurance rates, gym memberships or appliances).
- Evaluate your health insurance to get a better rate & ensure your coverage fits your current needs.
- Learn about tax optimization to see how you can reduce your tax bill with better tracking and strategizing.
- Understand the Mega Back Door Roth or fine-tune your investment strategies every six months.
- Negotiate a flexible work policy to cut back on commuting.
- With every raise or bonus, you get, save or invest the difference.
- Declutter & donate room by room (yes it can save you $!).
- Focus on building a “capsule” (minimalist) wardrobe that can be used multi-seasonally or dressed up/down instead of unique pieces for every occasion.
- Learn to travel with travel rewards.
- Attend a ChooseFI meetup in a new place the next time you travel.
- Attend your local ChooseFI group or start your own (come on, we’re fun!).
- Gift food or experiences instead of “stuff” and commit to sharing moments, not clutter.
- Abstain from shopping (except food) for one month, learn to make do without any non-essential purchases.
- Plan monthly wine/beer tastings potluck style at home instead of going out.
- Ask a friend or relative to help teach you to cook their specialty instead of going out.
- Host a “Naked Lady” party where you swap clothes with friends, especially great for folks with kids.
- Learn how to cut or color your own hair (or have a friend do it!)–the same goes for any salon services, see what you can do for yourself with a good YouTube tutorial.
These are just some ideas to help you get 1% better in a variety of categories, while hopefully being more socially energized, self-sufficient, healthy, and entertained along the way. Truly, FI is way more fun when you can make small improvements to good things you’re already doing.
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