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Why We Stink At FI–But Are Doing It Anyways

Hey everyone! Working mom here supporting a family of four. Budgets are tight, but I know my plans are tighter. Our work lies ahead of us and I’ve been excited about it since day one of this journey. However, we probably aren’t the best example of a FI fam and here’s why:

We have student loan debt and it’ll be around for quite some time.

My husband is still carrying some from his undergrad years and while I still have some to pay as well (both undergrad and grad loans), I was fortunate to have most of it forgiven with TLF (Teacher Loan Forgiveness).

My husband is also currently in grad school. Luckily, we caught the FI train last year which deterred us from taking on loans this time around. We are also lucky to have a little bit of help from his parents. We see the grad program as an investment in time and, of course, money. But the end result will give us a dual-income home to fund a FI life.

We rent in a High Cost of Living area.

We live in Los Angeles and I’m on the Trulia app probably once a week just to reassure myself that what we’re doing is right for us. I stopped wishing to buy our own home a while ago when I couldn’t stomach the fact that Angelinos have a really difficult time owning here. The homes in our neighborhood are starting at around $750,000.

I realized though, especially reading about Mrs. Frugalwoods and her adventures, that high cost of living area isn’t a no-FI life sentence. We lived well over our means up until October 2016. I know because told me we did–all I saw were red bars (denoting overspending) almost all of 2016. Gah!

While LA is expensive, we’ve chosen ways to get around it and derive joy from the frugal and the free. Yes, about 32% of my net paycheck goes to rent. Yikes! However, we’re close to a lot of really cool and inexpensive experiences–from trails and camping to museums and just people watching.

We have credit card debt.

I read an article on Mr. Money’s Mustache’s site which made feel that my hair was on FIRE! This debt is the thorn in my side. I’ve seen that debt staring back at me since 2004. That’s a huge problem, but I didn’t acknowledge it until just last year when those red bars on made me feel like I was locked in a cell. I still feel like that sometimes. It’s still sitting there, waiting to fall off a cliff. Ahhhh, one day…

I wasn’t an avid Dave Ramsey fan, but friends of mine were and sent his material to me. The baby steps were palatable so I tried getting my financial house in order–spent days looking to purchase the perfect envelope wallet on Etsy. Sounds ridiculous, right?

Baby step two takes forever.

I didn’t have any patience, nor did I have a plan to pay it off before finding this community. It was just something I thought a good “adult” should do. It’s definitely a great idea — and, now that I’ve found the concepts of FI, paying off the debt will absolutely happen!

Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Reaching FI

We aren’t maxing out any tax-deferred accounts.

We are a one-income family–my income. I’m pretty sure that I’m not able to max out on my 403b (or my 457)–yet. I think my current savings rate is somewhere between 1-4%, but that’s not including the mandated 10% to my pension and, of course, the contributions I’ll make as soon as that darn debt is out of the way!

I did open an IRA for the hubby even though he isn’t working. Right now, I’m like a squirrel with nuts. I’m not exactly being intentional about my savings but when I need it, I’ll know where to go. Oh, wait, squirrels are intentional with nut stashing? Dang.

But, hey, we’re here and we made that decision to address each of the above. We started with tracking expenses through Then we began trimming everywhere we were able. This means we said, “No!” a lot more often to get expenses down so that saving for anything could be possible. I’m super excited and appreciate the opportunity to share our journey and how we chose FI.

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Why We Stink At FI--But Are Doing It Anyways

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