Should you give up stuff, you love to reach FI? The answer to this question is as simple as it is ambiguous–“well, yes you do, and also no you don’t.” If you’re on the FI path and you’re wondering if it’s okay to still have two cars, hire a nanny, pay for a cleaning service, or spring for a spa visit, read on.
FI Is A Continuum & A Process
Most of us see ourselves as changed when we realize there’s another way to live–beyond working for around 50 years, filling up storage units, and keeping up with Joneses. If you’re trying to hop off the hedonistic hamster wheel cold turkey, you may suddenly find you’ve changed too much too soon, and perhaps the people in your life would agree.
If you’re not willing to give up a few perks and splurges, that’s OK. It can be helpful to track the pluses instead of focusing on the negatives. You’ve made strides in cutting out the expenses that brought you no joy, and you’ve optimized your recurring expenses. Chances are you’ve made strides so you can afford these little must-haves–most of us find joy in the middle between “totally blowing it,” and “insanely optimized.” Dwell where you’re happy and chalk up the wins you can along the way.
FI Is A Journey, Not A Destination
While some people see FI as the ultimate pinnacle of financial success and personal freedom, it can be excruciating and unfun to put your personal fulfillment on hold until you reach a specific dollar amount.
To stay sane, there needs to be wiggle room for mistakes, stupidity, and splurges. Yes, there is the Mustachian way of doing things, but there is also room for grace for the rest of us. You’ll screw up but try to have fun along the way. Otherwise, you could reach FI with plenty of burned bridges and no idea what to do with all of your spare time. Some solid advice from other FI travelers: be the same person now as you would be when you’re FI. If that means you hire a house cleaner or take a cruise–so be it.
Needs Change But Don’t Go Insane Along The Way
Right now, you cannot imagine life without your monthly trips to the salon–it is your most beloved splurge. Or perhaps it seems cruel to spend hours on YouTube to figure out how to fix a messed up washing machine after your long day at the office.
Other times, you worry about spending money on fun seems like a waste–but you realize that your little ones won’t be into Disney forever and you want to make a special memory with them before they’re grown. If that’s you, it’s okay to spend the money.
You may be tempted to go on the Choose FI Facebook board to get a flogging for hiring a cleaning lady once a month, but you have permission to be sane. You have permission to feel joy. You have permission to mess up, spend your money a bit, or feel naughty when you spend your hard earned coin on something totally “un-frugal.”
If you’re in a season of your life where some small expenses have a big impact on your overall happiness (or are even the key to your sanity), you may not need them forever, roll with it. Kids grow up, workloads can lessen, and appearances at work can become less important–you may be able to bootstrap and DIY later, but for now, just do what you can.
If It Really Matters & Money Is Tight, Innovate
If there’s a will, there’s a way. If you have a few things that bring you sanity or joy, but you feel guilty about paying full price, how can you get what you want without having to blow your budget? The internet is a glorious place, and likely, someone has an answer.
In the Choose FI community, we are extraordinarily lucky as we have access to a slew of smart people who likely have also given your splurges some thought. You’re not the first FI’er that wanted to take their kids on a super expensive Disney Cruise, nor are you the only one who is struggling with which car to buy to survive harsh Midwest winters. If you’re coming up short on how to make something that matters work in your budget, ask.
If YouTube doesn’t have it, a fellow FI’er may have something you can borrow–whether it’s an idea or a power tool. You can always negotiate your rates for certain services or see if paying in cash would get you a discount. Ask around to see how other people made the salon visits, cable bills, and pool cleaning more affordable.
Related: Frugality Without Deprivation
If You Do Have To Go Without, Be Strategic
There will also be times when you do the math, and realize that to hit your goals, you just can’t make a certain expense work. You’ve tried to earn more or spend less in other categories, and you aren’t able to make it happen. It can be a real bummer to give up things you love to hit your financial goals but remember, these sacrifices can be temporary.
One helpful tip to better frame up sacrifices is that you can try cutting back some of the things you love and pulse them back into your budget. If you can’t afford a cleaning lady every month any longer, try going without for 2-3 months, then hiring them back in. If it’s something you could go a year without, keep in mind the savings you’ll accrue and determine a point you’d be okay spending money on it again.
Having a plan takes the pain out of scrimping because setting deadlines or milestones toward your progress can make it feel more like determination and less like deprivation.
Only you can truly determine what needs to go and what can stay. Running the numbers and talking over your goals with someone involved in the process, or someone you trust can help you gain a fresh perspective. Remember, the path to FI is a marathon, not a sprint.
Budget in a bit of wiggle room expenses for things that give you a high-impact emotional reward, and phase out whatever doesn’t. For anything you can’t live without, you can still find ways to make it work in your budget with some creativity to borrow or make it differently. If there’s a will, there’s a way!