Frugality is the animal that must be bred to achieve financial goals. There is no amount of income that can’t be spent, and then some. If you don’t believe that, take a long look at the U.S. government to get a view of an amount of money that can be spent with ideas to spend more.

The seed of wealth is the money you didn’t spend and instead invested. That is the only course in building a steady stream of income to enjoy the life you want. 

The investment isn’t the problem; the seed is. You can generate a generous income stream from real estate, index funds or a business. In each case it is the excess cash you didn’t spend that is the seed that grows to satisfy your dreams.

The more frugal the lifestyle, the less you need to retire. 

Image a man with a million dollars invested. Is he rich? Could he retire? Well, the questions are impossible to answer. If he spends $300,000 per year the million isn’t so much. If he spends under $40,000, he qualifies under the 4% rule to retire because he is unlikely to ever deplete his nest egg. 

 

We have all seen short lists of frugal things we can do to cuts costs. Those lists tend to focus on daily actions that can save a few dollars. This list will have some of the same advice, but will also include actions that are long-term in nature and build serious financial wealth. Coupled together, the long and short term frugal behaviors, lower your cost of living without giving up anything that you value in life.

Frugality sometimes gets a bad rap because it is perceived as depriving yourself of things you want. Nothing could be further from the truth! Frugality is discovering what you truly value and focusing on those things that give you the greatest pleasure. Nobody ever found nirvana in being a buying unit. (Well, except for that one guy in Tupelo, but I have it on good authority he doesn’t read this blog so I am safe.)

This list of frugal tips and tricks will not ask you to give up anything. I will ask you to reconsider your behavior, as in, how to acquire the things desired.

Epictetus gave us words to consider close to 2,000 years ago:

Demand not that things happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do, and you will go on well.

For our discussion, this means that we can’t gain the maximum benefit from these frugal tips and tricks if we refuse to make even the most minor of changes to our behavior. In other words, you can still enjoy a pot of coffee every day, but every cup doesn’t have to cost $5. (I might ask you to consider a more modest caffeine intake over health concerns if you consume a whole pot every day, however.)

As we begin our list, know that these tips are in no particular order. I am not going from smallest savings to largest or shortest term to longest term tips. I mix it up because that is how life comes at us, in bits and pieces. It is how our billfold gets crushed, too. Rarely are our financial woes the result of one decision (and even if it is, these frugal tips will get you back into the game quickly); it is usually financial death by a thousand cuts.

Let’s begin with our morning cup of coffee since the topic has already been broached.

 

1.) The Best Coffee You Ever Drank for Pennies a Cup

The morning cup of coffee is something many people cannot give up. I understand. Office coffee can be nasty so stopping at Starbucks along the way has become a routine. At 5 bucks a cup (price depends on geographic location) that adds up over a year. 

You can have coffee equal in quality or better with the right coffee machine and coffee beans. Many years ago I wrote a series of short articles on getting a really good cup (or pot) of coffee for a fraction of the price at a coffee house. Fill your coffee mug before you head out the door and you keep $1,825 in your pocket each year, assuming you only imbibe with one cup per day. 

Here is the list of articles I published on coffee:

Gourmet Coffee for Less

Kona Coffee: The Drink of Heaven 

The Best Coffee Machines

Choosing the Best Brew Coffee Machine

The best cup of coffee you ever drank does not have to cost a fortune. Gourmet coffee for less is easier than you think. It’s the frugal thing to do.

2.) Trains, Planes & Automobiles

I never saw the movie, but the title is catchy. 

This tip is a biggie. So big that it can single handedly make you rich! 

I know, I know. There are bloggers that say you should never drive. Bike and walk everywhere. Awesome idea, but not for everyone. 

Your car can drain your finances more than any other purchase! It is a depreciating asset. The speed at which it travels to zero is determined by make, model and condition. But make no mistake; it will end up in the scrapyard like every other vehicle ever made. 

People all too often focus on the depreciation of an automobile. There is another vehicle cost that digs nearly as deep: transaction costs.

I have only owned 3 cars in my life and I’m on the wrong side of 50. I tend to buy used vehicles and keep them for 20 years. (Most vehicles come to their natural life expectancy around 20 years.) 

Depreciation still hurts. Fortunately, I don’t have that accelerated depreciation newer vehicles suffer. The best news is that I have few transaction costs because I don’t do a lot of transacting. Every time you buy a car the state wants a piece of the action. With the exception of 5 states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon) you will also pay a sales tax. 

Used car prices are out of line as I write this. I probably would buy a new car if I was in the market at this time. Regardless, I buy a vehicle when my current vehicle is close to the grave and then keep it for a really long time.

This one tip can save you enough to fund your retirement account if you funneled all those payments you didn’t have to make. And you would trade title, transfer and sales taxes for a tax deduction! Easy choice, I think.

 

3.) Grow a Garden

I’m lucky in that I live in the backwoods of NE Wisconsin. Gardening is easy for me. 

If you have the ability (space) to grow a garden I would encourage you to do so. It doesn’t have to be big. A few tomato plants, carrots, beans and anything else that pleases your palate can make a difference.

Living in an apartment limits your ability to do this. You can still grow a few plants by windows that get sun. There is nothing like enjoying your own fresh tomatoes.

It isn’t the food you grow that saves a lot of money. There are savings, but the real advantage is spending a few more meals at home with your family enjoying a home grown and cooked meal. And that is priceless compared to the $500 or so in savings over the course of a year from avoided dining out.

Might I also suggest planting a fruit tree if you have the room. There is nothing like picking your own fresh apples/peaches/pears/plums . . .  The flavor from tree ripened fruit is nothing like you find in a grocery store.

 

4.) Adjust the Temperature

I know I’m a bit more extreme on this than most.

Living in a northern climate (in the Northern Hemisphere) allows me the luxury of rarely using air conditioning. The winters are another story. 

I have found that my entire family can enjoy a cooler house in the winter comfortably (low 60s F). Yes, we wear clothing in the winter, as in a flannel shirt or other such comfy warm garment. The wife and kiddos cover with a blanker when watching TV (me when I read). The cooler house means we sleep better at night, too.

During the summer we adjust to the warmer temperatures. When it gets hot in July we draw cool basement air into the house. Rare is the year when we kick on the AC. (I actually have a geothermal heat pump for space heating, water heating and AC.)

 

5.) Use the Library

It is well known that I sin when it comes to buying books. I love owning books. It is my one non-frugal habit.

However, several local libraries still know me on a first name basis. Some books I borrow from the library. But the library is so much more than books, books on tape, music and so forth.

I encourage you to read this post on all the surprising things you can get for free from the library. (Did you know your library might offer free college courses, tutoring and more? Some libraries have fishing equipment and one I interviewed even had a sewing machine they borrowed out.)

 

6.) Down Time

One of the most frugal things you can do is give yourself down time. Bill Gates has a “think week” several times per year. Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs both scheduled “no time” where they had no duties or interruptions so they could focus on just thinking creatively.

While it might be hard to understand how down time is a frugal activity, it is time where you are not spending money and instead are focused on making good decisions in your life, finances and business. 

Creativity happens during down time. When I write I close the door. This is “me time”. I’m actually talking to myself and letting you listen in. 

Time spent with the door closed and the internet and email off is vital to mental wellbeing and financial wealth. Your best ideas will come from the quiet time where distractions are not demanding your attention.

 

7.) Write it Down

Along the same line as down time, writing notes, a journal, a blog, a to-do list and any other things you want to think about later during down time is important to a frugal lifestyle. Frugality is not only about money. You can always make more money, but you can’t make up for lost time! 

Slowing down and writing notes is the best way to reduce expenses! You are not buying the best goods and services when you are fighting the clock. 

Notes allow you to slow down and make better decisions. I can give you a million ways to reduce costs, but only you know what things you can reasonably cuts costs on. 

The goal of this post is to provide ideas and spark ideas in your mind. Don’t just do it because some crazy accountant from the backwoods of NE Wisconsin told you to do so.

Write it down. Record your thoughts in a journal and review those thoughts later. Use a grocery list. You will be amazed at how your thoughts change and the money you save. 

And always be willing to revise. Editing your notes and lists is required. The first draft is always junk. That is why you need to review and edit, preferably with the door closed.

 

8.) Health Insurance

This tip only applies to my American readers. Virtually every country on the planet has a single payer healthcare system. In the U.S. getting sick is a major crisis that requires work on your part at your lowest moment of health.

Serious savings can be had by comparing your options. If your employer offers health insurance be sure to review what is and is not covered. Be sure to review the health reimbursement features if your employer offers one.

For everyone else, you need to review the Affordable Care Act options, private insurance and medical health sharing. 

I personally settled on the Christian health sharing options. It was the best value. My worry was it would not deliver if claims were made. A serious illness in my family has put those concerns to rest. You can start your health sharing research here.

And here is a medical health sharing option.

 

9.) Read

Read voraciously! Reading is the acquisition of knowledge. Knowledge is power! 

Don’t read only one source. Not even this blog! (Please, continue reading my blog as a starting point. Thank you.) Dig deep into a topic from multiple sources and come to your own conclusions. It’s important.

Learn to think. Reading builds your thinking muscle. 

Read good books. Even a pleasurable novel now and again.

Read blogs.

Read.

Very few have built serious wealth without serious reading. 

 

10.) Cut Cable

Are you the last person on the planet to cut the cord? Cable is so 1990s. And expensive!

You do know that the local networks broadcast over the airwaves 30 or so channels now? You can watch about as much for free from broadcasts as you can with cable and at no cost.

Then you have YouTube and Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime and many more. YouTube is mostly free. Netflix is still pretty cheap. If you have Amazon Prime you already have a streaming service at no additional cost.

You can also check out the library tip above for even more free programming, including the expensive stuff on HBO, etc. Yes, your library has many of these programs, available at no cost to you. Check it out.

 

11.) Cell Phone

Cell phone service can be out-of-this-world expensive. I (my whole family) switched to Visible Wireless a few years back. You get unlimited data, messages and minutes. Visible Wireless is owned by Verizon.

All this for $25 a month!

Since I live in the boondocks I have few options for internet. I use my Visible phone as my internet as well. They even have 5G in areas where available. I am writing this post over my Visible Wireless data using the hotspot.

Visible Wireless is the best deal for cell service I could find. Be aware the link in this tip is an affiliate link. Also know that I went to check to see if they had an affiliate program if I refer them. They did and I signed up just now because, well, I may as well get paid for my referral if I was going to make the referral anyway.

 

12.) Buy a Freezer

When a food item goes on sale it is time to stock up. . . 

. . . if you have the space.

A freezer can cut 20% or more off your food bill. A meat special can be maximized. You can prepare larger quantities for later consumption. 

For the best meat quality and price, check your local butcher shop. Many sell the whole animal (already in the familiar cuts) for significantly less than buying piecemeal over time. A freezer is required is such a situation. 

A freezer is a must if you have your own garden or fruit trees. Nature produces more than you can consume before it spoils. A freezer pays for itself quickly.

 

13.) Can and Dehydrate Your Excess Food

Canning is a lost art. It used to be that folks in the backwoods canned their food. I only know of one other person that cans their own food now. That is a shame since it is such a money saver.

Mrs. Accountant cans and dehydrates like crazy. Fruits and vegetables fill our cellar. When a semi bringing fresh Georgia peaches to Wisconsin arrives, we stock up. A lot. We eat peached until we had our full and can the rest for later. 

The wholesale trucks are hard to find so keep your eyes and ears open. The prices are super low! A box of peaches can run a few dollar at most. And they are better than we can find in the grocery store. 

Consider canning as a hobby. One that pays you in more than one way.

As long as you are at it, you should consider dehydrating food, as well. This is easier than canning. And your food will taste incredible.

Frugal living is easy with dehydrating and canning food. And your food will taste incredible!

Dehydrating and canning are powerful ways to preserve food. Buy on sale and preserve for all year round.

14.) Cut Your Electric Bill 80%

A watched pot never boils, it is said. I’m not so sure about that. When I was a kid I kept my eye on a pot on the stove, and sure enough, it boiled.

Electric bills are out of control. There are so many phantom energy drains in the average home that half or more of electricity consumption goes down the drain without any benefit to the homeowner. 

Read more about recording your electricity consumption here. This one simple step can lower your energy costs significantly. 

 

15.) DIY, Except When You Shouldn’t

The mantra is getting old. The frugal tip of doing everything yourself is a double-edged sword. 

Sure, you can save money doing it yourself. Sometimes. If you know what you are doing.

When I owned rental property years ago I learned quickly I was not cut out for carpet laying. It was cheaper to hire it done. (Really, I was bad at it. One job was so bad all the carpet had to be ripped out and tossed.)

Where you are able to handle the repair or maintenance, doing it yourself can save a lot of money. Changing the oil in the car, sharpening lawn mower blades, light appliance repair, changing a faucet and other tasks might be under your purview. If so, by all means, consider it a DIY job. 

However, knowing when to hire the professional is important. A DIY job when you don’t know what you are doing can lead to disaster. 

If you want to increase your skills, consider volunteering at Habitat for Humanity. A summer of free time spent learning several crafts of the trade is a powerful education that will pay off the rest of your life.

 

16.) Consider a Spending Fast

Sometimes the best way to accomplish a goal is to go all-in. This is where a spending fast comes in.

A spending fast is exactly what is sounds like. There are 5 levels to the spending fast. Each level teaches new financial skills and supercharges your frugality muscle.

You can read more about conducting a spending fast the right way here.

 

17.) Manage Your Taxes

Taxes will cost you more than any other thing in your life, including your home. It may not feel like spending, but taxes are a massive expense everyone can do better at reducing.

I see people in my office all the time that had prepared their own tax return. In nearly all cases they overpaid the government.

Since income, sales, excise, property and other taxes consume over half of the national income, you will need a two-pronged approach in applying frugality to your tax spending. 

First, most people need a tax professional to assure they are utilizing as many tax benefits as possible. The tax code is complex and getting more so every day. Even the pros struggle to keep up with the changes. What chance do you have? And the over-the-counter DIY software can’t do everything for you either. 

Second, even with a tax pro in your corner you need to keep yourself informed on tax issues. Read about tax breaks that apply to you. Question your tax professional. Don’t be afraid of paying for some consulting with your tax pro. When I consult with clients I have in excess of a 10x return for the client. That means for every dollar they spend they benefit over $10. We call that hyper-frugal!

 

18.) Stay Healthy

Easier said than done. 

Illness is expensive and the cost goes beyond the medical. Lost wages and a lower quality of life are two huge costs of poor health.

Staying healthy is easier for some and harder for others. Regardless, you need to eat quality food in proper proportions. Exercise is vital.

Because everyone reading this will be in a different place with their health, I encourage you to consult with your doctor in building a plan to improve your health. Get on the right diet for you. Find the best exercise program for you. 

Don’t forget your social life. Family and friends play a large roll in your health. If you sit in taverns with friends that drink too much and smoke, you might have a problem. Consideration for your lifestyle is an important part of your frugal lifestyle. Choose who you associate with well.

 

19.) Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergent in the box stores have so many fillers just to make it look like you are getting a lot for your money when you are not.

You can cut your laundry costs up to 98% by making your own laundry detergent. It is easy to do and it cleans better than store-bought detergent. 

Consider the detergent-making process a family project. It is fun and teaching your children the low-cost way of living is priceless; a gift that never stops giving.

 

20.) Stay Put

As discussed above with vehicles, transaction costs add up fast. The same applies to where you live.

It is expensive to move. It takes time and requires helping hands and/or a moving truck, etc. If you are renting there might be some damages that get deducted from the security deposit; the new place will also require a security deposit.

Owning your own home can be a very frugal move! But take a page from Warren Buffett’s book. Buffett is one of the financially wealthiest people on the planet. He bought the home he lives in back in 1958 for $31, 500. His home is worth over $650,000 now. 

Buffett mentioned many times he would not be happier living in a bigger or newer home. He is happy right where he is. And good thing. The money he saved in Realtor fees and other selling costs would have come from the seed money he used to build his fortune.

Fees generally are things you pay that give you next to nothing in return. Cutting fees is the surest frugal step you can take. Stay put. Move only if you have to (i.e.. job change).

 

21.) Use a Clothes Drying Rack

Everyone loves the smell of clothes dried outdoors. 

We saw in Tip #19 how to save money on laundry detergent. How about cutting the cost of drying your clothes to zero?

If you are able to hang clothes outdoors, do so. If not, you can use a clothes drying rack. They are inexpensive and pay for themselves many times over. 

As a bonus, you add moisture to the air during the dry winter months. That means your frugal clothes drying habit will also make your home more comfortable.

You can read more about the clothes drying racks I use here. There are some links to Amazon to help in your search for the best clothes drying rack also.

 

22.) Get a Free Bike

You can save the world and yourself one frugal act at a time. Whenever possible, bike to work, the grocery store, the bank or anywhere else you might be going.

There are bloggers who think you should live close to work to be frugal. I personally love living in the backwoods where I grew up. It is 15.1 miles from my driveway to my office. And I bike it many times every year. 

I had an old Huffy bike I rode forever. I decided to get myself a new flashy set of wheels and pulled out my pencil and paper to calculate exactly what it would take to get a free bike. You can read that story here. It is about halfway through the linked post.

 

23.) Dispose of Disposables

How full is your recycling bin each week? How about the garbage bin? 

All the stuff in those bins is filled with stuff you paid for only to throw it away.

Want to inject frugality into every purchase? It is simple. Buy stuff with the least packaging. 

Packaged foods are the worst. Processed food is a bad health choice, as well. All that packaging is paid for by you. But did you want the food inside or the box? The food, of course. Yet you paid for the box, too. (There is no free ride. The box has a cost and it is added to the price of the product.)

When you purchase something, be aware of the packaging. It is costing you a fortune. 

 

24.) Watch Your Water Consumption

Water isn’t an expensive commodity in my part of the world. That isn’t true everywhere. Water can be an expensive purchase. Heating the water adds more to the cost.

Shorter showers and a low-flow shower head is an excellent way to reduce water consumption. Turn off water when not in use. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.

So much of frugality is common sense. Examine all water use. It should be easy to see where you can reduce consumption in your household.

 

25.) Clean Filters

Filters make a difference. 

I have an open-loop geothermal heat pump in my home. The filter where the water comes in needs to be cleaned periodically. If it gets dirty the efficiency is reduced. If dirty enough, the heat pump trips off. 

The air filter also needs changing a few times per year. I have a reusable air filter I clean and then put back into the unit.

Filters on your vehicle, lawn mower or any other item in the house, need to be charged or cleaned on a regular basis. Forgetting this reduces the life of the item and increases energy consumption.

And clean the grill behind your refrigerator! And under the darn thing, too! Stressing the compressor on your refrigerator can cause the compressor to fail. Have you seen what refrigerators cost? Yes, it is very frugal to clean and replace filters often.

 

Knowing when to do-it-yourself or call in the professionals is the smart way to save money. Sometimes the repairman is the cheaper choice. And the frugal one.

26.) Insulate Your Living Space

A sure way to save money is to keep the heat (or cold) where you want it. Insulate the attic. Wrap your water heater and the hot water pipes. Weather stripping around windows and doors offer serious energy savings. 

Many communities have low-cost services to help with your insulating needs

If doors and/or windows are deteriorated it might be advantageous to replace them. Tax credits are available to reduce the cost. 

 

27.) Dump the Landline

Is there anyone left with a landline? Everyone has a mobile phone today. There is no reason to have a landline as well.

And as long as we are talking about it, stop paying for AOL!!! Or any other unnecessary service. It blows my mind when I see people still paying for dial-up service or other such nonsense.

 

28.) Cancel Recurring Payments

Companies love to set customers up on recurring payments. The customer is later either too lazy or doesn’t remember to cancel the service.

Recurring payments are a cancer on the family budget. It is also low hanging fruit when it comes to frugality. And some subscriptions are outright scams! 

These recurring payments are financial death of a thousand cuts. They drain you dry a few drops of blood at a time. 

You must review all your credit and debit card statements each month. The same for all checking and savings accounts. Highlight the little buggers nickle and diming you to death each month and exorcise them. Be merciless! Your frugal reputation is on the line. You can probably retire 10 years sooner if you avoid these vampires.

 

29.) Review Insurance Annually

Insurance is a necessary evil. At least for home and auto coverage.

The insurance they sell to protect a $100 purchase at Best Buy or Walmart or Amazon is worthless, in my opinion. 

Insurance is a commodity. The insurance company hopes you don’t see the relentless climb in the premium. 

Your best defense is to review and shop your insurance annually. This is the only way to ensure the best insurance for you at the lowest cost. 

Also be sure to review that you have adequate coverage. Especially liability. Lawsuits can take out just about any nest egg.

 

30.) Get All the Rewards You Deserve

Just about everything today has a rewards program attached to it. Credit cards have offered cash-back rewards for a long time and debit cards have also started adding rewards programs.

If you enjoy playing the game, you can find inconsistencies inside rewards programs. You can game the system for profit. Doctor of Credit is a good place to start playing the game. Sign up for their newsletter and get a weekly email on all the deals and specials on rewards programs. There are juicy deals each week. It can even be a profitable side hustle.

Paying with a credit or debit card also comes with hidden perks. Many credit cards offer free extended warranties of products bought with their card. Purchase protection guarantees the lowest price or the card will refund the difference. Roadside assistance, delayed or lost luggage, trip cancellation, auto insurance are all free perks found with many credit cards if you know enough to ask. Even if you have an item stolen, many credit cards will replace the item!

And don’t forget about local rewards programs. A local gas station created so many moving parts to their rewards program that I will pay under $2 a gallon for gas for the next year and a half.

More details about utilizing all the hidden perks on credit cards can be read about here.  

 

31.) Have Fun

Frugality only works if you are having fun. Deprivation is not a long-term solution. Make it easy. Make it fun. 

Your financial goals are closer than you think if you can get rid of all the dead weight spending. 

And it is even okay to be silly about frugality. Here is a post on 10 Ridiculous Ways to Save Money.

Life needs to be fun. Frugality is a way of life, a way of living. There is no need to give anything up! Quite the opposite. You can actually have more while being frugal. And so much of it allows for high-quality family time. It is fun to see how things work. It is not about yelling at the kids to turn off the lights. 

 

I hope you enjoyed these 31 tips and tricks to cutting spending. Frugal seems to be a dirty word until money is tight. I think good money habits are best applied at all times so money stress is reduced or even eliminated. 

And please, don’t let me do all the heavy lifting. My back is sore as it is. Share your favorite frugal tips and tricks in the comments below.

 

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here. 

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.

I need to tell you a story. It is the only way to explain the most important money lesson you can teach your children. 

Personal finance writers miss this tip often. It takes explaining and that slows down the information transfer which is why the lesson is so often forgotten, yet it is vital you have this information. If this were a minor tip it wouldn’t be that serious. But it is the most important of all the financial lessons you must teach your children.

After nearly 40 years in the industry I paid the price for my lack of understanding. It caused more pain than you can imagine, as you will soon see. It is important to read to the end where the lesson is revealed. If there is only one lesson this blog can convey, this is it.

 

In the Beginning God Created…

Five years ago when I started this blog my goal was to leave a guide for my children. Along the way I shared the medical issues my children have suffered so readers could understand the situation and benefit as well. My wife, Sue, and I have been married for over 32 years and going strong. I shared how we met. I shared some of the medical issues my oldest daughter, Heather, deals with.

There is one money lesson you must teach your children before it is too late. (This is Brooke on December 20, 2020 at UW hospital in Madison.)

And then we come to Brooke, my youngest daughter, age 20. Her medical history is longer than a Russian novel. Some medical problems are filled with guilt

The Reader’s Digest version is this: Brooke has a birth defect; she was born intersex. In other words, she had a bit of everything and a lot on nothing, if you understand my meaning. The technical answer is she was conceived male, but the Y chromosome went AWOL after a few cell divisions. Whereas most people are either XX (female) or XY (male), Brooke is about 15% XY and 85% X only. In the absence of a complete sex chromosome the body defaults to androgynous, which is more feminine.  

Her deformities were what was called a “medical imperative.” Her urinary tract exited the penile structure and the vaginal area; a serious infection risk. Her gonads had not dropped (they were where ovaries would be), but were pre-cancerous purplish masses. They need to be removed. 

In the first year of her life Brooke had something like six or seven surgeries. It was a stressful time. Our family strengthened as we fought to hold the family together on this side of the grave.

 

Growing Up

After the numerous surgeries Brooke’s first year things settled down. The initial risks were behind us and Brooke would grow like any other child with one exception: her body would not produce the hormones she would need to move from childhood to adolescence. 

Brooke enjoyed a typical childhood prior to puberty. The unique thing for Brooke is that we got to choose the exact date she would enter puberty. Without gonads her body would not fire up the hormones needed to become an adult and that was a real problem. Without hormones Brooke would go from childhood to menopause and old age. 

Around age 12 we worked with the doctors to start the process. Brooke’s body did not handle estrogen well. We tried every option available. Every prescription made her very sick. Then the headaches started.

A risk factor of taking hormone therapy is stroke. Little did we know that when Brooke started having massive headaches that no pain reliever could solve that she was having mini-strokes. The doctors diagnosed the headaches as migraines. Nobody had an inkling of what was about to happen.

 

Into the Abyss

We fast forward to today. I am writing this December 20-21, 2020. 

November 4th started like any other day. Brooke had been tired lately. We didn’t think a lot of it because Brooke never complains. She stoically accepts life as it is. 

I kiss my girls every day. In the morning I kiss them on the forehead and they kiss me on the cheek. Sue gets a peck on the lips. I do the same when I come home at night and before they go to bed. 

November 4th was no different. I kissed my girls goodbye and went to the office. By 10:00 Sue was on the phone. Sue doesn’t call the office unless it is serious. “I’m at the hospital. Brooke had a stroke.”

Sue was fighting tears and I remember standing up and saying, “You have got to be kidding me!”

Brooke holding a large mouth bass she caught in our pond in August of 2019.

I regained my composure quickly, knowing that stroke was a risk factor Brooke had. Sue didn’t have a lot of information. I left the office for the St. Elizabeth Hospital emergency room. I was not allowed in; it is the Age of COVID. Sue was with Brooke, but they only allowed one person to see Brooke. I had to return to the office.

Little did we know the nightmare entered. Brooke spent several days at St. E’s as they did scans of her brain. The diagnosis: moyamoya

Everything started to fit into place. Brooke’s growing fatigue and endless headaches finally made sense. She was having strokes for years and they got progressively worse. It took a major stroke for us to notice. 

She had a slight droop to the right side of her face. Everything else went back to normal. We got to bring my sweetheart home. We had no idea this was the calm before the storm.

The scans were sent down to Madison where Doctor Dempsey would handle Brooke’s case.

Brooke needed surgery on both sides of her brain to bypass the blockages. The left side of Brooke’s brain has received significant damage. We were lucky that the damage from the strokes didn’t do too much damage to sensitive areas. That was about to change.

Brooke was scheduled for surgery December 4th. The plan was for Brooke and Sue to arrive at the UW hospital in Madison the night before. If all went well Brooke could possibly be home Sunday night!

Doctor Dempsey is an incredible doctor and surgeon. He is soft-spoken with an over abundance of compassion and talent. He prepared us for Brooke’s surgery. He first wanted to work on the right side of Brooke’s brain, but after more thought and consulting with colleagues he changed his mind. Brooke’s brain on the left side was another stroke waiting to happen.  The left side needed attention now.

The surgery went well; the aftermath did not. Brooke started suffering severe pain and her face had a major droop; her face swelled to the point one eye was completely closed. Fluid was building on her brain.

Emergency surgery was required. On December 8th Brooke was back in the operating room. We waited nervously.

The second surgery went well! The swelling in Brooke’s face receded and the pain subsided. By December 10th optimism was high. On December 11th we brought our baby home.

 

The Darkest Hour

It felt good to have Brooke home. She loved up the cats and rested as she healed. It was late so Brooke went to bed shortly after arriving home.

Saturday, December 12th, started good. Brooke was bright eyed and alert in the morning. About 11:00 she started getting tired. We had lunch and Brooke went to bed for a nap. She got up at 2:00. Being Christmas season she wanted to light some Christmas candles. She struggled with the match so I helped her.

We are family. Brooke is under the dog, Pharaoh. This photo of our family was taken with Bernie Keene (holding Pharaoh). He invited us to stay at his place while we watched the eclipse in 2017.

She went into the kitchen. A few minutes later I heard Sue say, “Brooke?” in a weird voice. “Say something.”

I flew to the kitchen. Brooke was crouching, looking into a floor level cupboard. I looked Brooke in the face. She had a blank stare. I called her name. No response. I said, “Smile for me, Brooke.” Only one side of her face went up. “Call 9-1-1,” I said too loudly to Sue. “I’m getting her an aspirin.” “No,” Sue said, “the doctor said no aspirin because of bleeding.”

The only treatment I knew to deal with a stroke was unavailable to me. First responders were at our home in minutes, followed by the ambulance. Brooke was going back to St. E’s.

Once she was stabilized Brooke was transported back to Madison. They put her in a room so Sue could be with her. 

Around 3:00 a.m. the call no parent ever wants to receive came in. Brooke was dying. Sue was chocking on her words. I could hear Brooke moaning in pain in the background. I grew up on a farm. I knew that sound. It was the sound made just before an animal died. 

Heather called my parents and they rushed over. We prepared for last rites.  We are Lutheran so technically it wasn’t last rites, but you know what I mean.

The next hours were the most intense up to that time in my life. Once again, I had no idea the bottom was not reached. 

Brooke was moved to the ICU. Sue couldn’t be there so she went to a hotel next to the hospital. Brooke couldn’t lift her right arm at all, the right side of her face drooped and she could no longer speak as they took her to the ICU. This time the disease was going to extract a dear price.

Doctor Dempsey gave the news the next morning. Brooke had another serious stroke. Her speech and motor skills for her right arm were damaged. (This morning Doctor Dempsey confirmed those areas of her brain are dead and not coming back.)

Brooke wanted to be home so bad. In less than 24 hours she was back at the hospital. At home, when the stroke hit, Brooke gathered herself as the ambulance arrived. All she said was, “I’m done.” Her morale was shattered. She worked so hard to meet the doctor’s goals to get home only to face a massive setback. We were able to get video chat (and later FB Messenger) with Brooke. We kept working to bring her spirits up. She had to fight.

I explained to Brooke about all the people on The Wealthy Accountant Facebook page pulling for her; the number of churches with her in their prayer chain. I was in tears as I explained to Brooke I never saw anything like this. “There are thousands of people who care and are watching. Thousands! All those people want you better so bad.” Brooke was unable to take it all in, but she knew she had to fight, to find a way. She could only say “Yeah” and “No” in response to any questions. Communication was a challenge, but we managed. The best news was that Brooke could understand us.

Doctor Dempsey put Brooke on medication to raise her blood pressure and push more blood into the damaged areas of her brain. 

Result were immediate. Brooke was listed at 10% Monday, 30% Tuesday, 50% Wednesday, maybe 60% Thursday and reached 75% over the weekend.

But the scans showed her brain was still not getting enough blood. If Brooke is to get home ever again and lead a normal, healthy life she needs another surgery. The surgery is scheduled for  tomorrow (December 22). And this is where the personal finance lesson comes into play.

 

The Money Lesson You must Teach Your Children

I am typing these words Sunday night, December 20th, and editing Monday mid-day. We struggled with this third surgery for most of the past week.

The Facebook page for this blog was a place for me to get the story out. My family needed help. Brooke wants to go home, even if it means she will die there. The third surgery on her brain in less than three weeks is “not without risk,” as doctor Dempsey said. The third surgery requires yet another surgeon who specializes in a unique type of bypass. 

The surgery is safer for Brooke than doing nothing. Without it another stroke is going to happen and if it hits a vital area Brooke may die or be vegetative. Sue thought we should opt for the surgery. I felt we should respect Brooke’s wishes to go home.

Brooke at her high school graduation with mom and dad.

This morning (Sunday, December 20th) Brooke came on the video conference a bit down. We were spending a lot of time together digitally this week; it was Brooke’s (and our) lifeline. She was doing so good.

The doctor called so we talked with him. The surgery had to happen. He had talked with Brooke about it. 

We got back with Brooke and broke the silence on the elephant in the room. Brooke was afraid to say anything over fear it would upset us; we were afraid to say anything over fear it would upset her.

Once it was out (and with lots of tears) Brooke acknowledged the surgery was the best course.

Then she broke down in tears and couldn’t stop. She said, “Can I ask something?” in the broken way she now spoke.

“Of course, sweetie. You can ask us anything,” I said. 

“Will you still love me?”

And that broke the record from the week before. I never cried so hard in my life. Brooke struggled to get the words out. I knew why she was worried we might not love her anymore. After the first surgery when things went wrong she said she was worried about the money this was costing us. We explained money is not an issue when it comes to getting her better. Brooke actually believed we would not love her because it was costing money and disrupting our lives!

Here is what I said to Brooke, “Do you know what unconditional love is?” She nodded. “Well, mom, Heather and I love you unconditionally. We love you and will never stop loving you. Ever! I know we work hard to be frugal and save and invest. But this is why. Times like this! If we don’t spend whatever it takes to get you better, what good is having money? I don’t care what it costs. We will not be frugal when it comes to getting you better, getting you back home. I would give every dime I have just to have you.”

The whole family cried for a long time. Brooke finally understood we love her unconditionally, no matter what. But it exposed a major flaw in our teachings about money. 

By tonight (Sunday, December 20th) Brooke digested the new information. Once she knew we would love her regardless the amount of money this would cost, she was ready to move forward. She is still nervous about the surgery, but she knows we will never abandon her or stop loving her.

What Brooke doesn’t understand is that insurance is covering virtually all the expense. There are some hotel and meal costs. Big deal. And we are spending a lot of time with Brooke. I consider that a good expenditure of time.

I see bloggers in this demographic encouraging readers to go with no health insurance or something subpar so they can claim the frugality banner. I am 100% against that advice. Even if you have plenty of money to cover any and all medical bills in even the most extreme circumstances, do you want to spend time with your loved ones or paying bills? To me it is clear. Medical insurance is important for covering medical bills and freeing time during times of high stress to spend with family. I think bloggers publishing about not having health insurance are harming their readers, simple as that. It is irresponsible.

Here is the lesson we MUST teach our children in a nutshell: Frugality, saving and investing are important. But it is worth nothing if you never spend for the right reasons. Health and education are two areas where I am willing to spend. Habits that gave you financial independence don’t die when you have financial wealth. But you have to know when spending is not an issue. Your children must know at all times they are more important than any amount of money. Money is replaceable; they are not!

Now I want to close with a word to the dads in the room. Hug and kiss your children every day. Tell them you love them every day, even when they are adults. This is easier with daughters, I understand. But you have to do it with your boys as well. I give my mother and father a hug and tell them I love them every time I see them to this day.

You need to say and show you love them, even if you have disagreements. If your children are at that age where they refuse, it is okay. Just say, “I want you to know I love you. When you are ready, I am here to listen.” No forced hugs. No preaching. They need to know you care, love them unconditionally and want to listen to what they have to say when they are ready to share their thoughts.

You do this because you never know when you will get a call at work at 10 a.m. and never get the chance to say those words again.

 

Postscript: This drama unfolded on this blog’s Facebook page. I shared the events as they happened. I feel it is important for readers to see how I deal with crisis situations live. If you want to see how this unfolded in real time (and is still unfolding) or know more details, you can visit the Facebook page here.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here. 

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.

 

3 frugal dining options the whole family will enjoy. Home cooked meals under $5 prepared with a variety of home grown food. Even expensive meals like salmon are very low cost. #food #meals #frugalmeals #frugal #dinner frugaldining #dining #qualitymealsIt is easy to get spoiled living in the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin. Cool, crisp mornings and fresh food straight from the garden. Food we don’t grow ourselves is frequently purchased from neighbors who do grow it. 

As you can imagine, the cheap quality fast food peddled in urban areas these days does not live up to the bill. Even the so-called high end (and expensive) restaurants just don’t compare to what we grow and prepare ourselves.

Going out to eat is not a treat; it is something we do when home cooked meals are not an option. 

The cost is what really bites. Dining out is expensive and rubs my frugal nature wrong. I can’t help thinking They charge that much for this! as I chew the cardboard.

There is a solution. Good food is available at a rock bottom price if you know where to look. In some cases you can’t prepare at home any cheaper. And they use high quality, real food in their preparations.

My delicate palate has found three sources of excellent value when dining out that are cheaper than virtually any other venue, save self-prepared.  

So put on your bib and start licking your lips. We are going on a culinary journey.

 

Hospital

Hospitals don’t always have edible food. However, when they do you might want to fake an illness. 

Years ago when my oldest daughter was born I made a discovery at least as important as sliced bread. Mrs. Accountant was having a difficult time of it and even under stress, I eventually knuckled under and went to the hospital cafeteria. 

And was it good! 

Once the stress of child birth passed and we settled in, Mrs. A and your favorite accountant had a discussion. Mrs. A was all for going for a meal periodically. (Yes, Mrs. A is an awesome cook, but she needs a break now and again.) 

St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Appleton, Wisconsin is the place you want to go for lunch. Trust me. They have a variety of food to choose from, all of it prepared like grandma used to and right in front of you. 

The best part is it cost less than a fast food stomach pump meal. Most restaurant food is barely edible and here we were enjoying REAL! food for under $10 for the two of us at the hospital where they can afford to serve terrible food because medical care is really close.

There is one more best part. You don’t need a sick friend or family member to eat at the hospital. Though you sometimes have to answer questions if you see someone you know. I just tell them the truth and they always agree; it is worth visiting the hospital when you’ve worked up a powerful hunger.

Caveat: I found St. E’s by accident. I tried the other hospitals around town and found them wanting. (Note to everyone: If I ever get ill I want to be taken to St. E’s or just let me die.) Even St. E’s had a dry spell several years back. But they soon returned to top form to my delight.

I suggest you do some medical culinary research.

 

Culinary School

I hear you already. “I don’t have a culinary school near me.”

Oh, yeees yooou dooooo!

My oldest daughter (yes, her again) exposed mom and dad to this one. She was attending the technical college and made a new friend which happened to be taking classes in culinary arts.

Well! What do you know about that?

Heather (the big kid) explained to Mrs. A one day that she needed to visit her at college. Heather took Mrs. A out for lunch at the school. 

Looking for reasonably priced dinner options? Look no further. Here are 3 frugal dining out options most people don't know about. So now you know the secret! #diningout #food #dinner #lunch #secret #meals #inexpensivemealsThe real risk—if I would have known in advance—would have been to warn Mrs. A to NOT eat college food. It could make me a widower. 

That night Mrs. A bragged to me about how good the food was at the college. I checked the calendar to make sure it wasn’t April 1st before taking her seriously.

Not to let a good meal pass, Mrs. A and I made a point to visit Heather shortly thereafter. 

Heather made sure we took the correct lunch line. You see, some food is the normal college rot gut, but, if you went over here to this line is was the creations of the culinary class today. 

So we stepped into the right line.

I filled my plate (as I am wont to do, evidenced by my waistline) and figuring it would set me back $10. 

Mrs. A was in front of me. The friendly student on work-study rang up Mrs. A’s plate. $5.50!

“Five dollars!” I said a bit too loud. 

“Oh, no sir,” the kind work-study student said. “Your meal is $6.50. You have the salmon.”

Here, just take my money.

Once again, I was pleasantly surprised by the food. It looked, smelled and tasted delicious! And both of us ate for a bit more than $10! Yes the fish was slightly more, but who is complaining when it tasted this good. 

Since then I’ve had to take back all the things I said about my daughter and apologize for not paying more than a token amount of her college cost (and here to learn more).

Periodically you will hear in the nether regions of the Wisconsin backwoods, “Maawwww! I got the buggy hitched to the the horse. Want to ride with me to town to visit the yung’en?”

I highly recommend the Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wisconsin if you are hungry. You probably have a similar option where you live.

 

Church

Before you say one word, bite your tongue.

From a young age on I always knew a good meal was coming when church put on a feed. It was the one thing I missed (along with the fellowship with awesome people) when I lost my faith.*

The ladies** at church know how to cook. In our parts a meal is frequently served after a funeral. On Election Day in November St. Martin Lutheran Church (Chilton, Wisconsin) has a Chili Supper each year. Easter morning is a brunch after Sunrise Service. There are many other event when a meal is also served.

 The food at church is the best of all three options I have shared here. (Yes, I saved the best for last.)  

Here are 3 budget friendly diner option the whole family will love and cost around $5. Dining out doesn't have to break the budget. Home cooked meals with real food! Bet you never thought of dining at these 3 places. #budget #budgetfriendly #meals #dining #lowcostmeals #goodfood I understand some readers don’t have faith in God, yet I never saw our church turn anyone away from the dinner table for any reason so you don’t need faith to eat. Church people are like that. Very welcoming.***

The churches love to advertise their upcoming events with meals and usually encourage the  public to attend. Keep your eyes open for these excellent dining opportunities.

I have enjoyed meals at other churches around town when they served. Even other denominations! And never once did I get a lifted eyebrow. The Catholics fed this Lutheran as hastily as any of their own parishioners. 

A church setting is about fellowship. The food is excellent. What more could you want. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. Just bring an appetite.

Next Sunday (September 15, 2019) is Bring a Friend to Church Sunday. After the service St. Martin in is having a brunch. You are all invited!

You will love the cost. Many times it is a freewill offering. Sometimes they have a token fee, but it is always so low I feel guilty and donate a bit more. I’m willing to pay for a good meal.

Looks like a certain backwoods accountant is hooking up the buggy to the horses again.

 

I hope you enjoyed my unconventional list of great places to dine at a very reasonable cost. I don’t dine out often so I’m sure I missed a bunch of great ones. Share your favorite places to eat where the food is excellent and the cost family friendly.

 

 

 * I’m working on a TEDx talk on my darkest hour that led to my loss of faith. 

 ** I say “ladies” because the ladies do most of the cooking. The men sometimes help out, but the women deserve the credit for their labor. No offense is meant, nor should it be taken.

 *** My journey back to faith is a long and arduous one. When this blog started I was still clinging to atheism and if you read closely you could tell. But I was far enough along to know lack of faith had as many issues as faith. I was coming home even if I didn’t know it. I’m busy writing a book on my journey back to faith. There is a lot to it and it isn’t all religious. Once the book is finished and ready for publication I will be giving a presentation. My hope is I can convince Valparaiso University in Indiana to allow me to make my debut public presentation there. I promise to take you to hell and back. There will be no dry eyes at the end. It will be the most emotionally draining 90 minutes of your life, I promise. I’ll share details on this blog when this happens.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Credit Cards can be a powerful money management tool when used correctly. Use this link to find a listing of the best credit card offers. You can expand your search to maximize cash and travel rewards.

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here. 

The worldview of financial independence and early retirement has been under assault recently. Suze Orman proclaimed to the world her hate for the FIRE movement on the Afford Anything podcast and set off a firestorm that culminated in a Washington Post article and a belated apology in the form of back-stepping her comments; seems she misunderstood the FIRE movement before passing judgement. (Or, perhaps, books sales were involved. Just throwing that out there.)

One of our very own, Sam Dogen of the Financial Samurai blog, has also turned a critical eye to the nascent FIRE movement. In a MarketWatch article Dogen is reported as saying FIRE stands for:

Foolish Idealist Returns to Employer

rather than Financial Independence/Retire Early.

Ouch!

The promise of financial security and early retirement will never grow old. The FIRE community has delivered since the invention of money and is still going strong. Learn the ancient lessons for a better today.

The promise of financial security and early retirement will never grow old. The FIRE community has delivered since the invention of money and is still going strong. Learn the ancient lessons for a better today.

What precipitated the rebuke was a simple one-month market decline. December 2018 was the worst stock market performance by most broad indexes since 1931. And the death of the movement was declared and a new acronym was created with the hope of replacing the Old World Order. What has so far been the shallowest of bear markets (defined as a 20% or greater decline from a recent market top) has heralded the end of times once again. And we barely (pun intended) entered bear market territory!

It is true the market could once again turn lower and inflict pain on the foolish. It is also true I’ve been critical of the FIRE community myself a time or three. And don’t think for a minute I didn’t catch hell for it too, only on a smaller scale. (Guys, you know when you link an article on Reddit, the web host—that would be me—can see it. I heard the nasty things said about my pedigree.)

As critical of the the FIRE community and the movement as Orman, Dogen and a certain wealthy accountant who shall remain unnamed are, the movement is never going to die! That’s right. The FIRE movement has grown large enough it can make the economic needle wobble now and again and that makes some people nervous. But the movement, the community, will never die.

Who Started the FIRE Movement?

Modern acolytes can be forgiven for thinking Get Rich Slowly, Early Retirement Extreme or even Mr. Money Mustache kicked this whole thing into gear. The truth is the concept of the FIRE movement has been around for a very, very long time.

Retirement, or at least the ability to to live a hedonistic lifestyle, appeals to many people. Age has nothing to do with it. Punching a clock working for the man gets old real fast when you don’t have perspective. Until you realize how useless life becomes when you spend each day creating no value and have no real reason to live do you begin to understand. Then the job looks more appealing. Or starting a business. In either case you get real interaction with people on a similar mission and it brings the spice back to life. (Redditors, fire up your engines!)

Join a community where financial freedom is the phrase of the day. Early retirement and other financial goals are possible when you become part of the FIRE community.

Join a community where financial freedom is the phrase of the day. Early retirement and other financial goals are possible when you become part of the FIRE community.

But I contend, as I often have in this blog, that retirement had nothing to do with the FIRE movement. It was never about retirement; that was the dream sold to get victims in the door. FIRE has always been about wealth, about independence and freedom. People never wanted to be retired like and old worn out machine. They wanted meaningful activities. Financial independence allows the freedom to choose and that is what people really wanted all along.

And still they keep searching because they don’t understand what it is they really desire.

The beauty of the FIRE lifestyle is it encourages elimination of debt and all the stress it brings and investing intelligently in index funds with a long-term time horizon. Without debt you can withstand a lot of economic instability. Every minor wobble in economic activity has the debtor soiling his, ah, well . . .  We’ll leave it at that.

People hate living paycheck to paycheck and love the idea they can choose their destiny. FIRE delivers on that promise. And the concept is not a modern one.

Benjamin Franklin spoke often of money and wealth. In a way he was the father of the American FIRE movement. But if you go back 2,000 years you can read the parables of Jesus and see that over half his recorded teachings involve money and wealth. But even that isn’t the beginning! Proverbs in the Old Testament teaches plenty of lesson about money. I don’t want to go all religion on you, but I do want to point out that the teachings of the FIRE community are not new.

In fact, if you want to know who actually started the FIRE movement you have to go all the way back to Grog, the caveman, as he taught around the evening campfire. He would say to the young and old, “No debt!” Grunt. “Debt bad. Invest in community coconut index fund.”

As funny as I might think I am, man discovered these principles early on. Shakespeare peppered his verse with financial wisdom. Every religion I studied speaks about wealth, debt and money. Great leaders in business from the beginning of time had to acquire the skills of the modern FIRE community if they wanted to survive.

The truth is the FIRE movement discovered some of the oldest lessons of the species and dressed it up in contemporary clothing. Nothing wrong with that. Except some, the snake oil salesmen, don’t get it because they are peddling large loads of manure and they need to discredit the wise to move today’s load of. . .

Evolution

The FIRE movement is not dead; it is evolving. A long bull market in stocks has lured many new converts. Secretly they kept their debt while plowing at least a bit more into index funds. As long as the elevator raced higher on the back of a SpaceX rocket things would be good. Besides, you saw how Elon Musk developed rockets that gently land themselves, ready for instant reuse.

A short market decline will not end the FIRE movement. The Great Depression didn’t kill the philosophy of the FIRE movement, though it had different names back then. The worse the economy the stronger the FIRE message appeals! Mild economic downturns and market corrections will not slow this animal down. If the economy and/or stock market get vulgar the FIRE community message will evolve as it should.

“It was the worst of times, it was the best of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. . . ” wrote Dickens to begin A Tale of Two Cities. Things haven’t changed much in 160 years. It doesn’t end any better either. (You can read the book to understand what I mean.) Things are good right now. Jobs are plentiful, prices relatively low and many investments have moved significantly higher over the past decade. But government, corporate and personal debt are all at record highs, some precipitously so. The best and worst of times. Especially when you realize the debt will be a harsh slave in the next economic cleansing, same as the last.

The best is ahead of us! The longest bull market in the U.S. lasted a decade, starting in the early 1990s until the current bull market. To put this in perspective, the two longest bull runs in the market happened in the past 30 years. The vast majority have no idea what it was like prior to 1980. For the old guys who do, we take extra caution to keep debt low, if we use the acid at all, placing our wealth in a broad mix of businesses throwing off a steady stream of income. We know there are no guarantees, but we structure our financial lives to withstand a very strong storm.

FIRE of the past was about frugality (it always was about frugality) and retiring from enforced labor due to financial condition. This is changing to something more valuable for the acolyte and society at large. Retirement is becoming less the goal and creating value the new mantra.

It’s not about work to fill the day; it is about fulfilling work. It’s about creating something of value, something we can be proud of. Curing a disease, building an advanced rocket or electric car is part of the New World Order inside the FIRE community.

We discovered it was easy in the modern world to save money and invest it. We discovered how easy it was to build a massive net worth, negating the necessity of work. But we also discovered it left us empty.

FIRE’d Up

The modern incarnation of the FIRE movement is young, made up of millennials who thought the dream of retiring at 30 would make their lives meaningful. They now have the experience to know that was a lie.

Travel has been a massive draw for many entering the FIRE lifestyle. What was discovered is extended vacations or a gap year are perfect for exploratory travel. Then, when the road turns weary, there is a home where people gather most days of the week to create an even better world. Call it work; call it your business. Call it what you want.

Financial freedom and retirement are not hollow goals. Join the FIRE community and feel the Strength of a community versed in helping people achieve their financial goals.

Financial freedom and retirement are not hollow goals. Join the FIRE community and feel the Strength of a community versed in helping people achieve their financial goals.

Social media is filled with people in desperate need of financial help. Maybe it’s a tax issue, or debt or other unique challenge. A few weeks ago I saw in a private Facebook group a young lady who was worried about the market. She put the down payment to a home they wished to purchase in an index fund last June and the fund was now down 25%, or $20,000 for her. She wanted advice. Many offered. I said: If you put a home down payment in the market what you are saying is you will buy your home five or more years in the future. Any sooner and you should not have put the money in the market. It was shallow comfort, I’m sure. But if I’m lucky I helped two or three people thinking of making the same mistake.

Orman was wrong. So are most people inside the movement!

The FIRE movement is nothing to hate and the people inside the community should grow some thicker skin. It is said: Of which much is given, much is expected. Those in the community have built a larger fortune than most. Jealousy is a given, especially from those unwilling to take the simple steps outlined for thousands of years by one FIRE community after another.

People will hate you for being rich and hate you for being poor. I’d rather be hated for being rich; it’s less painful.

The modern FIRE community has a gift unlike previous FIRE movements. We are not limited to the few wise locals living the FIRE (or whatever name it was called in the past) lifestyle. We are a worldwide movement, community. The internet has made us legion. We have a massive support group and an awesome responsibility to our world, our community, our family, ourselves.

We have a gift we must share! A market decline, even a large one, will not unravel the FIRE movement. I disagree with Dogen and the MarketWatch article. We don’t need another acronym to identify with responsible financial activities.

The basics make us great. Michael Jordan wasn’t great because he could make the three-point shot (though he was darn good at it, too); he was great because he mastered the basics, like the layup.

Money basics are not that hard and work extremely well. Teach your children, family and friends. Teach your community and share with the world. Together we can make a difference; together we can change the world.

The FIRE community will have its challenges and may soon go under a different name. For those in the know, we know exactly what the message is. It is as old as Grog and his nightly chat around the FIRE.

Remember to share the same message with your children around the hearth.

It is our future. Our only hope.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Credit Cards can be a powerful money management tool when used correctly. Use this link to find a listing of the best credit card offers. You can expand your search to maximize cash and travel rewards.

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here. 

 

According to Sheryl Crow you only need one sheet per visit.

Yesterday was April Fools’ Day; it was also Easter. I couldn’t bring myself to pull a prank on the day celebrated by Christians of Jesus’ resurrection. But today is fair game!

To lighten the mood as your favorite accountant traverses the bowels of the late stages of the current tax season I decided to publish something fun. (Well, it was fun to me.) Be forewarned. After two months of sleep deprivation there is something seriously wrong with my head. While I think this is funny, you may not. Of course this doesn’t belong published on a personal finance blog. That’s why I published it.

Have fun with this, kind readers. The tax season finish line rapidly approaches. Nothing scares the bejesus out of you like the mind of a stressed accountant. That’s why it’s so entertaining!

If you pay careful attention you might find a few hidden gems you can secretly use yourself to save money. I won’t say a thing if you don’t.

  1. One Sheet of Toilet Paper per Event

Sheryl Crow popularized this awesome method to reduce bathroom waste. Not only do you save money, you defend the environment. Considering what TP is used for, limiting TP use might be the least of Mother Nature’s concerns. Mass extinctions have started over less traumatic events.

Once word spread, Crow backtracked on her original recommendation. I’m not buying it! Crow is a one sheet of TP per episode type of girl. I can see it in her eyes. I fully endorse this time honored way to reduce spending by implementing this practice in my household. My team isn’t nearly as psyched as I am. Might need a motivational rally.

  1. One Set of Clothing When You Travel

I ran across this several times now. If I ever hit my head and decide to take up world travel I’m going to use this idea. As a light packer when on the road this idea resonates with me.

The process is simple. You only need one or two sets of cloths when on the road. You shower with your clothes on, lathering up and rinsing off without the hassle of undressing and dressing! After walking around for half an hour your clothes are dry anyway, except in the tropics where if you started with dry clothes they’d be wet within a half hour.

Think of all the luggage fees you don’t have to pay anymore.

  1. Steal Hotel Soap

Sure, your moral compass makes this sound horrible, but stick with me. I personally keep partially used hotel soap. Why waste a good product! The goal here is to outright steal the stuff or keep using every bar of soap at least once so your conscientious is soothed. Either way, you can save $3, maybe $4, every year with this one simple habit.

Remember, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness if caught than to ask for permission.

  1. Don’t Change/Launder Your Clothes

Before you retch, hear me out. We all know people wear clothes longer between washes as they age. Heck, grandpa wore the same sweater for 22 years before it disintegrated off his back! As a responsible blogger I will NOT ask you to go that far.

Am I eating your goat?

What I’m suggesting is a planned attack on laundry. If the shirt or pants you wore today isn’t visibly dirty put it to the side for a day or two and wear it to work again. (Don’t wear the same thing to work for a week straight. Co-workers will notice and file a complaint. Yes, I know the smell is all in their head, but who needs the hassle.)

Underwear and socks are another issue. I always go for the sniff test. It’s important you do this right. You can’t just pull off your shorts and bury your face in them (as much fun as that sounds). Walk outside to acclimate your olfactory nerves to freshness before returning to undertake the sniff test. (Note: put on another set of clothes before walking around outside. I’m sure I didn’t need to say that except for maybe 20% or so of readers. If you get arrested for indecent exposure I’m not bailing you out.)

Guys, don’t do the underwear/socks sniff test in front of the wife and kids. Dad, let mom handle her own sniff tests. (I warned you at the outset this would cross the line. You, of your own free will, traveled this far. Don’t blame me.)

The few simple steps outlined here should cut laundering expenses 80% or more in most Western households.

  1. Cut Your Own Wood and Cook Outside

I joke I cut my own wood and cook meals outside as soon as weather permits here on the family farm in NE Wisconsin. My 10 acres of the world has enough trees to keep the stove hot all summer.

Country living makes it easier for me. City living still has opportunities for people willing to think outside the box. Let’s just say every city I’ve ever been to has a t least one park with trees. Need I say more?

If the cops show up you didn’t hear it from me.

  1. Free Hot Water for Showers All Summer

This frugal idea is an itch I want to scratch so bad it hurts. The concept is simple. Buy a couple hundred feet of black garden hose and place it on the roof of your house. A few strategically placed nails should allow you to spread the hose out for full exposure to the afternoon sun without the hose coming off the roof.

I was this close to using this money-saver when I had calves. I could have used the God-given hot water to mix the milk replacer for the little guys. Mrs. Accountant caught me with the ladder and the whole plan crashed to the ground.

Summer is once again approaching. Late afternoon hot showers are on the menu. (If Mrs. Accountant doesn’t catch wind of my little plan.)

  1. Reusable Toilet Paper

Before anyone says a word, this is a real thing! They (whoever “they” are) call it “family cloth” and you can buy it on Amazon. Once again we have an opportunity to save the environment and money!

Now I know what you’re thinking, my frugal friends. You think I added an Amazon link to these reusable butt wipers to cash in on the craze. And you’re right. I don’t expect to see sales for any of these things, but if I do I’m calling you out. Got it?

  1. Don’t Flush Until It’s Full

Remember grandpa again. He always said, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” It’s a time honored practice preserving the family budget since Julius Caesar took over in Rome. Don’t go against a tried and true method of frugality.

I’ll let you decide when to use the little lever on the side of the toilet.

  1. Get a Gym Membership so you don’t have to Shower at Home Ever Again

This one is just plain stupid, as George Carlin would say. Why else would you have a membership? To work out! Really! If I wanted to work I’d get a job. I belong to the gym for the steam room, fellowship (because I don’t attend church as much as I should) and the free showers.

I’m not going to say I never shower at home, but it’s rare. I visit the gym three or four times a week and shower when I’m done steaming, ah, working out. Every time! This saves on the water bill and the cost of heating the water. Smart people like me is why so many gyms go out of business after a few years. Hey! Don’t blame me. They signed the contract too.

  1. Don’t Wash Your Hands after Using the Bathroom

Speaking of George Carlin, I’m not alone when I don’t shower every day or not washing my hands after every visit to the restroom. Check out the YouTube link of George explaining when you should and should not wash your hands. It makes perfect sense to me. (I wash after every bathroom visit, for anyone wondering.)

Bonus: Eat Your Pets

As I researched this post I found a few really neat ideas to save money I haven’t used to date. This one really resonated because I’ve done it!

Don’t even think about. If you know what’s good for you you’ll put the BBQ sauce away.

You see, growing up on a farm we understood the value of treating our animals right. Then, after an appropriate amount of time we ate them. You call it hamburger; we called it Blackie or Bess. You call it a chicken wing; we called her Cluck.

Rabbits and other critters graced the menu periodically, too. I wanted to finish this post with an antidote about eating the family cat, but due the rude description in my notes Mrs. Accountant used her veto power to prevent me from sharing that frugal idea with you. You’ll have to figure it out on your own. If you’re as frugal as I think you are you’ll know what to do.

 

Okay, before I sign off I want to reiterate this is all fun and games. No animals were hurt in the production of this post. Tax season is wearing me down and I’m not normal anymore. My publishing schedule will be lighter until the finish line. Details are available on the Where Am I page.

I also promise to get serious, too. No more pu—, ah, cat jokes.

 

Today we have a special guest. My youngest daughter, Brooke, is 18 today. I have two daughters and I managed to keep them alive until adulthood. In my mind I’ve done my job. There is some trepidation, however, which will become clear in a moment. I raised my girls to the best of my ability. They’re fine young ladies. But their path to financial independence is a unique one.

Brooke is finishing up her senior year of high school and has some pretty big plans. I asked her to share her story. She listened to me talk around the house for years. She can repeat my financial rules with perfection. I think you’ll hear a bit of dad in her voice. Enjoy.

 

Why I’m Retiring the Day I Graduate from High School

By: Brooke Schroeder

I’m different. I’ve always been different. I was born with a big disadvantage. Before I was a year old I had more surgeries than most people in a lifetime. At twelve I started taking over a dozen medications. Pill after pill is cut and placed in a dispenser like that of a 90 year old man.

I’m on the right standing with my sister, mom and dad. We had our picture taken in Kentucky a few minutes before the total solar eclipse.

Dad picks on me that all the pills I take are a meal in itself. My parents are supportive, but they have no idea how much of a pain it is to be sick all the time.

I’m also different from my family in other ways. My sister wants to travel the world and teach English (more on that later). My dad hates traveling past the mailbox at the end of the driveway. He says he wants to build a wall around the farm. When Trump came out with his wall on the Mexican border dad said he needs to talk to Trump and see if he could get a section built around the farm.

Everybody in the family reads a lot except me. It’s not that I don’t read, I just don’t want to do it twenty hours a day!

My mom stopped working a normal job when she was around 30. My dad is a workaholic. He gets crazy ideas and can’t help himself.  He has the farm and his tax office. Then he writes his blog. He is always starting a business or doing something. And he reads more than my teachers at school. He reads everything. You would think it would get boring after a while.

There is one trait I share with my family: frugality. My dad is tight with money; I mean real tight. I’ve seen my dad pass on an ice cream cone just to say he didn’t touch the money in his pocket for the entire month. Like I said: tight.

I try not to spend too much money either. I certainly spend less than my friends. Every dime I earn goes into an index fund. My first money when I was a baby was invested. It wasn’t much, but it got the account opened.

After the eclipse we visited a botanical garden. It was research for me.

While everyone else is reading I head outside. When not working with my hands I play with computers. I’m not 100% sure yet, but I might go to college someday to learn more about IT. Too be honest, I’m in no hurry to go to college. I like school and get good grades. My friends are there too. As graduation approaches I already miss them.

My friends all have plans. A few plan on getting married. Many are going to college. I guess some will buy a home and car and all the other stuff that messes with your happiness in life. The kids at school don’t share my frugal ways as much as I do.

I started working for my grandparents when I was like eight or nine. My dad has an accounting business and I help out over the holidays getting organizers ready to mail, but my heart is outside an office. My grandparents (dad’s parents) have a landscaping business. Digging in the dirt doesn’t bother me and once I learned a few tricks of the trade there can be real money in it.

When I was younger I worked summers and weekends landscaping. Winter was either a few hours at dad’s office or homework. The money was slow during the school year back then.

I’m milking Bess for all she’s worth. Free is better than any car I could buy.

My dad was adamant I save most of my income. I stuffed my Roth IRA and regular Vanguard account every year. After all these years I have amassed $487,916.12. (My dad made me look it up because he says it’s impressive.) The stock market had a lot to do with it too.

The last few years my income exploded while my expenses stayed near zero. I use my dad’s old 2000 Honda Accord with duct tape holding on the spoiler in back. My plan is to milk that car until it dies. Dad picks on me he is kicking me out on my 18th birthday, but I’m staying. Free rent is good.

The income part has grown nicely over the years. I discovered I could find plants and supplies and sell them in projects for a lot more. We also have a 10 acre farm where I grow trees, flowers and other landscaping plants.

My sister is going to China this summer to teach English and is staying with a host family. I decided to not go to college, at least not right away. After graduation I plan on visiting my sister in China for two weeks. After that I have a few landscaping gigs I need to get back to.

Here is one of the first trees I planted. Dad isn’t taking care of it as you can see weeds and the need for mulch. It’s hard raising good parents.

When summer winds down here in Wisconsin I hope to live someplace warmer in the winter. (Dad keeps the house 60 so I have plenty of motivation.) I’ll probably travel the southern U.S. mostly this winter and the Mediterranean the next winter. It is hard finding people my age to travel with, however. They all have to work jobs.

So that is the plan my dad wanted me to share. I saved and invested. My investments are now big enough so that I don’t have to work after I graduate from high school. Like my sister, I like to travel and see stuff. I give my parents credit for teaching me how money works. I’ll probably always do some landscaping work on the side. If you know what you are doing you can make a year of income in a few summer months. Just finding one big rock a rich person wants in their yard can bring over a thousand dollars!

My dad isn’t kicking me out no matter what he says. If he does I’m still not leaving. My health is reasonably good right now, but with all the medical stuff I deal with it is no guarantee. People with my condition usually live to their 40s at most. Medical technology will probably let me live a long, normal life. But just in case, I saved so I didn’t have to waste time with a demanding career. There might not be enough time for me to do it the normal way so I’m making the most of the time I have.

 

This is where dad swallows hard. I’m so proud of my girls on one hand and sad they are living their own life of which some will be without Mrs. Accountant and me. Brooke is 18 today. She has a plan. I taught her all I know. I hope it is enough.

 

 

Frugal living is challenging at times. What seems like a meaningless small change can energize your budget and fire your investments on a steeper trajectory.

Countless blogs and websites provide lists on how to save money. Turn out lights, turn down the heat in winter and the library are good ideas. Mr. Money Mustache has a strong drive to bike. On several occasions he has published on the benefits of biking. Biking is good for your health and cuts energy use. Reducing or eliminating what he calls a “clown-like car habit”, you cut spending by serious coin.

Like many readers I undertake a number of these ideas. I keep my house 60 degrees F in the winter. To keep warm I wrestle Mrs. Accountant and the kids to keep them away from the thermostat. I use natural lighting whenever available.

The farmstead is a whisker more than 15 miles from my office. I bike about 100 days a year. The savings are modest, but noticeable. A 30 mile round trip costs me about $15 according to the IRS mileage rate. My vehicles are purchased used and run for a couple decades before they are replaced so my vehicle cost is less. I estimate my real cost per mile is closer to 30 cents. This means every bike ride to the office allows me to keep an extra $9 in my pocket, tax-free. (You don’t pay an extra tax for not spending money.)

A Lesson from Walmart. Yes, Walmart

Back around 2008 Walmart started to examine its energy costs. The idea was to offer affordable compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to customers; the thought being CFLs lasted longer so Walmart would soon have more shelf space for other products. The energy savings customers experienced would likely be spent at Walmart on other items.

The discussion eventually turned internal. What if Walmart used CFLs in their stores? One idea was to replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs in the ceiling fans on display. Of the 3,230 stores Walmart had at the time, the average store had ten ceiling fans. Each ceiling fan had four bulbs.

Each bulb produced a minor savings, but when the Law of Large Numbers took hold Walmart stood to reduce their utility bill $6 million per year! Management had an easy decision.

Since then Walmart has expanded their energy philosophy to include utilizing as much natural lighting as possible and electric semis to deliver products to stores around the U.S.

CFLs cost more than incandescent bulbs upfront, but the longer life of the CFL (8-10 times as long) and energy savings more than cover the initial capital outlay. Total savings from reduced energy use is several times the entire upfront cost.

Lesson from a Humble Accountant

My memory is slipping with age. I can’t remember the exact year I transitioned to CFLs and later LEDs. What I can share is how I determined when it was a good idea to make the switch. Regardless the exact date, I was an early adaptor.

We will focus on my office to keep the discussion simple. I used the same thought process to transform my lighting at home.

Lighting is an important consideration in a tax practice. Eyes get tired easy enough looking at a computer screen all days and trying to decipher smudged and faded documents. Security lighting and signage are also important.

The outside of my office building is covered by floodlights and security cameras. The entrance light is always on. Security lights and the sign are on a photovoltaic trigger. This means the two lights at the entrance are on 24/7 and the sign and security lighting average 12 hours of operation per day — more in the winter, less in summer.

I forget the exact wattage used so I’ll stick with 100 watts per bulb when incandescent bulbs were used. My research showed an equivalent CFL used only 26 watts. Each hour of operation used 76 fewer watts per unit.

The hourly savings didn’t amount to much. However, when a light is operating an average of 12 hours a day 365 days a year we get 4,380 hours of annual use. 4,380 hours of use times 76 watts of reduced energy consumption per hour equals 332,880 fewer watts used per year. Reduced energy consumption of 332 kilowatts times $.12 per kilowatt and we save 39.84 per unit! We have twelve units.

The lighting replacements paid for themselves in less than a year! And they lasted longer.

 

Inside the office we have 40 of those 4-foot tube CFL bulbs. We use as much natural lighting as possible, but we still operate half the light banks most days.

The typical office uses what is called a T12 linear fluorescent bulb. Each bank has two or four bulbs. T12 bulbs use 40 watts.

Offices are turning to smaller T8 bulbs. The length is the same but the diameter is a bit smaller. T8s kick out the same light as a T12 and tend to last somewhat longer (modestly in my experience), using 32 watts per hour.

The office has on average 20 lights on each day for 10 hours. Two-hundred lighting hours using 32 watts instead of 40 watts reduces electricity usage 1,600 watts per day or 320,000 watts on a 200 day work year. (I cut the work year to adjust for reduced summer hours.) 320 kilowatts time $.12 adds to a modest $38.40 in saving per year.

T8s are easier on the eyes and don’t fade as much as T12s. You might remember seeing one side of these linear bulbs in an office turning black. This happens as the bulbs ages. The bulb still works, but output is reduced. T8s have fewer problems with dimming as they age. For accountants this is a blessing for our eyes.

 

Security lighting has since converted to LEDs which use even less energy. We’ll forgo the math to keep the story moving. Lights with heavy use are worth the extra cost of LEDs. Security lights, the sign and the entrance are LED lights. LEDs also weather the outdoors and cold better.

LEDs have one additional advantage. Incandescent and CFL lights blast light in every direction. LEDs focus with a narrower footprint. This means our security lighting is brightest where we want it.

No More Complaining

You can hear the groans when Mr. Money Mustache reiterates once again the necessity of biking over an automobile. The complaints follow fast on his heels. You can’t haul stuff with a bike. (MMM proved that wrong.) It’s too cold, hot, dark, rainy, blah, blah, blah. You can’t bike where I live because of the piles of snow, or, it’s too far to bike.

MMM doesn’t buy the complaints and neither do I. Small changes can add up to big savings. There is a point of diminishing returns. As my office lighting energy use has declined, every additional capital expenditure to reduce energy use further has less bang for the buck. With security lights now using 12 watts per hour of operation I need to focus elsewhere to reduce energy use.

LED flood lights available at Amazon.

Driving sucks a lot of cash out of the pocket. Lighting can put a few dollars in your pocket per month; biking can keep hundreds in the First National Bank of Wallet. My commute is a hefty 30 miles round trip. If Pete knew this we’d need the paddles to bring him back. (Don’t walk into the light, Pete!)

Even driving an older vehicle squanders $9 per commute, or $45 per week, or $2,340 per year. (I think I’m going to be nauseous.) Biking when the sun is shining (as I do) cuts perhaps as much as $1,000 per year from my transportation budget!

 

It’s true. Our frugal efforts alone will not change the world. At best it will allow us a lifestyle with a smaller carbon footprint. A couple thousand tax-free dollars doesn’t hurt either.

Where it starts to add up is when we work together as a team. When thousands and millions start adopting better choices in lighting and transportation the numbers become mind-boggling.

An unenlightened major corporation like Walmart was able to shave $6 million per year off their energy bill. The number is already big enough to make a difference.

Now it’s your turn to join in.

Save yourself, save the world. Love frugal without giving up a thing.

 

Compare LED prices at Amazon. A few minutes of math could lower your energy bill.

[Note: This post  is intended as an in-your-face response to complaints against the FIRE community. I’m getting plenty of email telling me how wrong I am only to hear what I said at the end of the article.  Read to the end! I explain why all the negative comments on the FIRE community are wrong and how the community is saving the economy and societal values, not destroying them. I could have written more to clarify, but I was over 2,000 words already.]

 

Members of the FIRE (financial independence/retire early) community might want to sit this one out. It’s going to get rough and I’m naming names!

 

The concept we now know as the FIRE community has been around for a long time under different names. Frugality and minimalism come to mind. Talking with grandpa they held many of these values 70 plus years ago without a fancy name to make it cool. Many of the personal habits of members of the FIRE community sound very familiar when reading the ancient Stoics: Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus.

Guys like Jacob Lund Fisker (Early Retirement Extreme) and J.D. Roth (Get Rich Slowly) put frugality on the map. J.D. made getting out of debt and financially independent cool!

Then Pete (Mr. Money Mustache) showed up the game changed radically. Pete resonated with his “I retired at 30 and doing fine” message. It struck a chord. Some loved the idea and took to it like ducks to water. Others called BS and think Mustachians are ignoramuses.

As a part of this community I’ve had one serious gripe since the beginning. It’s easier to show what I mean.

Would You Like this Person?

What kind of person would you want to work for? Someone dedicated to doing good work and is a team player or someone saving and investing every dime so she can blow this place the first chance she gets?

Employers and those with a side gig, who would you rather have as a partner or employee? The dedicated individual or the guy itching to scream out the door?

What about friends? Or a mate!

That’s the unspoken problem of the FIRE community. They are terrible employees, friends, co-workers, mates and even business owners. As a group their goal is to amass barely enough to pay the bills with a frugal lifestyle and dump the rat race to dick around all day!

Before we start pointing fingers, let me share a story.

Before I stumbled upon the FIRE community I was frugal. The community attracted me due the similar philosophy.

With decades of experience in the accounting profession running my own practice I started to burn out. Like traditional employees I started to feel drained and wanted a different path.

Over the years I set up countdown clocks to mark the date and time I planned my exit. As each date approached I chickened out. The thought of selling my business made me nauseous. What I really loved would be gone so I stayed. I also convinced myself I could milk the business for a lot more cash than a mere sale.

What an idiot I was!

I stayed at the desk for a few more dollars when I wasn’t completely happy with what I was doing anymore.

My introduction to the FIRE community was Mr. Money Mustache. I drank it in like a desert rat.

I also concocted an idea to have my cake and eat it too.

The DIY tax program you see on this blog was something I always wanted to make viable. My goal was to meet Pete and strike a partnership with him.

Pete, the ever gracious man he is, said no. Buuuuut! He was willing to give my business a push, including the DIY tax program. All this activity also meant I needed to start a “real” blog in the demographic as there was a growing demand for my opinion. (Ah, yeah.)

I had no idea what a 5-10 million pageview blog could do to my tiny office in Phuket, Wisconsin. I planned on some added emails, expecting most of the action to hit the tax software and the blog. Well, two out of three ain’t bad!

Ill prepared, my business suffered under the strain. I lost clients as fast as I added them. I stood the real chance this would spiral completely out of control and grant me my dream of retirement whether I wanted it or not.

Every skill I possessed was no match for my epiphany. For the first time my little world was exposed to a much wider audience.

After serious soul-searching I realized I was doing exactly what I wanted to do. It was enough with the countdown clocks and retirement. I’m an accountant, dammit! And account I shall do.

The opening of this post I mentioned what kind of business you would like to patronize or the kind of employee you’d like to hire. When my left foot was pointed to the door it showed in my performance and attitude.

My original thought to milk the business for all it was worth came tumbling down when new clients poured in. New clients expressed concerns with hiring my firm if I was soon to quit. I had to lie and say I was going to stick around when my heart said otherwise.

Once the BS was scrubbed from my gray matter I had to get serious if I was to save my baby!

Once my attitude changed the results followed. Slowly I turned the corner. I wore out countless employees and killed myself working seven days a week during tax season. There were no other alternatives. I screwed up bad and if I wanted to salvage my practice I had to get serious PDQ.

Stepping Back from the Edge

I’m glad to announce the corner has turned! The client list is growing and we are getting work done in a timely manner for the first time in years. Business is good and getting better. It’s not the economy, it’s my attitude!

Employees are finally staying and enjoying their work. The workload is heavy but not drowning the entire team. Technology I refused to consider in the past has been implemented, saving hundreds of man (actually a lot of woman) hours.

Accuracy is up, stress is down. What looked like it would collapse a few years prior was starting to be fun again.

I blame it all on Pete because taking responsibility for my own actions is too much to ask. (That’s a joke, kind readers.) Pete made it look easy. (Michael Jordan makes a layup look easy but I didn’t think I could do that without effort or practice.) There was actual work involved.

Pete sold me on an idea. The people calling BS on Pete had a point, in my opinion. We can’t all do this! The economy would collapse! Chicken Little was never so proud.

Then I started thinking about what Pete really did.

Pete called it retirement, but it wasn’t a dead retirement! He had a rental property at the time. Played with a construction business for a while until he experienced partner problems. And eventually started his very successful blog.

Retirement didn’t mean checking out of life for Pete! Sure, he spent more time with his family, the important stuff. He also became extremely efficient with his time.

He produced value for the economy and society in ways he never could have if he didn’t retire from the path he started on as a young adult!

Killing the Economy or Saving It

A frequent complaint against the FIRE community is that everyone can’t do it! Somehow spending less than you earn would destroy the fabric of the universe. The sun would dim; birds would fall from the sky. Hey, look! There goes Chicken Little again.

The oft repeated complaint is stupid at its best! When has saving and investing ever been bad for the economy? Ever?

The age you retire has nothing to do with how the broad economy will perform! And virtually all members of the FIRE community don’t bow out of life when they hit their magically arbitrary number they consider wealthy.

Pete had a property and business early on. Later his blog added millions to the national and worldwide economy with no end in sight. Now he opened his MMM HQ in his hometown as an education and social center of his community. Not bad for ol’ lazy bones taking the knee of early retirement at 30.

New Kid on the Block

There is a new kid on the block taking the FIRE community to another level. Gwen (Fiery Millennials) took the retirement knee at 27 with 200 grand in assets! What the hell is the matter with that kid!? (Gwen, if you’re reading this, don’t ditch me now. You know I’d never throw you under the bus.)

Gwen’s announcement caught the eye of MarketWatch (I’m jealous). Gwen started to feel my Mr. Money Mustache moment.

People thought Gwen was insane. And she is!

But when you think about it . . .

There is a certain accountant in the room who ditched traditional work in his early 20s after a whopping 14 months on the job to start his own practice. And I had less than $200k at the time! Yes, my $150k or so went further back then, but Gwen has something I didn’t at the time: real estate.

You see, Gwen accumulated a couple hundred K and recently purchased her second rental property. (I read on social media the deal didn’t close so she still has only one property to the best of my knowledge.) Investment property can produce enough free cash flow to live a frugal lifestyle with a very low net worth! Small amounts of investment property can leverage to a very comfortable income stream.

The new kid on the block was taking a path reasonably similar to your favorite accountant’s. By my late 20s I owned income property too.

Now comes the serious question. From the viewpoint of the world at large (according to the numerous negative comments on her MarketWatch article) she is nuts and it never will work. She will fail if some of the comments are to be believed. And she isn’t a contributing member of society anymore!

Okay. Let me ask this. When has providing shelter for families not been a benefit to society?

Ooooh! You didn’t think of it that way. Well, maybe you should.

If every business owner or investor waited until they were 100% financially secure and sound before taking a risk the economy would be screwed!

This concept of only traditional working environments producing value is flawed. Richard Branson runs a coterie of businesses technically under the Virgin brand. The work is done by thousands of employees. Branson’s job is to formulate ideas and to promote the businesses. He doesn’t book passengers on his airline, yet I bet we agree he adds serious value.

Steve jobs never wrote a line of code yet built from the ground up the largest company on the planet in the computer industry.

Imagine the same reasoning applied to Jobs or Branson and it becomes silly fast. Of course Jobs provided value before his early death. Of course Branson provides massive value around the world.

And so does Gwen, early retirement and all.

Retire and Travel

We can’t end this discussion without mentioning the folks who retire early and travel the world.

What a lazy good-for-nothing group of miscreants. To have the audacity to save and invest so you can cash in your chips before the clock strikes 40 and gallivant across the continents is the height of arrogance.

Travel isn’t in my blood so I can feel that way at times.

But when you start to think about it. . .

Traveling and sharing your adventures so others can enjoy their more limited adventures is actually providing value! Travel blogs are not new. Mark Twain wrote several travelogues. I think we can all agree Twain provided incredible amounts of value to society.

I admire those who can slow down more than I can. Elon Musk runs even faster than me.

It comes down to personality types. I speak out against travel because I don’t want to do it personally. But if you want to travel you should!

There is nothing wrong with following your bliss. The world is a better place for it. Imagine how boring this place would be with thousands of weaselly accountants running around and no one else.

Pete continues to expand his impact on his community. I still stamp out tax returns and advice at a rapid clip. J.D is back at the helm at Get Rich Slowly. Jim Collins is a force behind Chautauqua.

Source: The Washington Post

The economic miracle of the 1980s wasn’t the Reagan tax cuts; it was business creation. Small businesses were started at a rate of over 700,000 per year in the early 80s. Job growth and wage increases fueled that economy.

Today we struggle creating 400,000 businesses per year. The FIRE community is the only one I know of that encourages people to step out of their comfort zone, leave their job and start a side gig.

Side gigs are what we call business creation. Tomorrow’s business leaders are the people leaving their job today to think about a new path in life. Every business with rare exception started as a side gig. Apple started in the garage of Steve Jobs. A common story.

The FIRE community is not killing the economy or destroying society. Far from it.

They are the saviors. Our only hope.