I believe in frugality.
It’s been a complete lifesaver for me, literally transforming my life – both now and for decades to come.
Investing is fun to talk about, but it’s really my ability to live well below my means and save a high rate of my net income that allowed me to have the capital necessary in the first place to invest.
Being a great saver is by far more important than being a great investor, in my view. Achieving 12% returns rather than 7% returns won’t mean much if you don’t have any real money working for you.
Frugality is the rocket fuel necessary to escape gravity and launch you into space. Being a great investor is just extra thrust.
It was frugality that really helped me escape the gravitational pull of the rate race, building the six-figure FIRE Fund that currently generates five-figure annual passive dividend income. I averaged a savings rate well over 50% over the last six years.
But it wasn’t easy.
It’s not like you can just skip the “morning latte” and all of the sudden save half your money. Cutting cable won’t get you to financial freedom overnight. It doesn’t work like that.
Instead, frugality must be thought of as part of a holistic lifestyle. It’s the holistic approach to adapting your attitude and lifestyle, realizing what drives lasting happiness, saving money, investing money, and reinvesting dividends that gets you there slowly but surely over a longer period of time. And when you approach the lifestyle holistically, you’ll realize that living frugally not only comes naturally but also actually improves your overall happiness and quality of life.
But it doesn’t mean you have to live radically. You just have to be cognizant of how your savings rate affects how fast you’ll be financially free and conscientiously adjust your spending and lifestyle. Little moves surely add up. But it’s really focusing on the major expenses – housing, transportation, and food – that will get your rocket blasting off.
However, I have made some rather radical moves over the years. And I thought it’d be fun to revisit some of these ideas to see how they impacted my journey. Although I’m in no way recommending anyone make these moves, I figured it’d be interesting to see just how far I’ve taken things on occasion.
Eating Ramen Noodles For A Year Straight
When I first started to become really hardcore about saving more money, I knew I had to address those aforementioned “big three” expenses quickly. I wanted to get my snowball rolling as soon as possible, which meant I had to generate as much excess capital as possible.
So I moved into a cheaper apartment to save on housing. I also sold my car to save on transportation.
The third major budget area – food – isn’t always as easy to conquer because, well, many of us like eating – me included.
Food tastes good. Food is fun. It’s one of life’s great pleasures for many of us. And for someone who doesn’t smoke, take drugs, or drink, food is a guilty pleasure that I’m okay with. Especially considering that I offset much of my food with exercise.
But I also knew food wasn’t going anywhere. If I could become financially free in my early 30s, I could afford to eat plenty of whatever I wanted down the road. Steak and sushi would be waiting for me.
So I went all in: I decided to eat ramen noodles for lunch at work… almost every day.
This meant every workday, Monday through Friday and a Saturday or two per month, I was eating ramen noodles. There were a few “skip days” in there, but it was 99% ramen noodles for lunch at work for a year straight. This was from late 2011 to late 2012.
At the time, a serving of ramen noodles was, like, 15 cents (I haven’t checked prices in a long time). So this is super cheap stuff. I was spending around $1/week on lunch. It was amazing.
Since it’s not the healthiest lunch around, I would try to mitigate the health risks by using only a very small portion of the included salt packet. I’d just pinch off a small section of the packet and sprinkle that in, then throw away the rest.
This saved me a ton of money. I’d see a lot of my co-workers spending anywhere from $5 to $15 on lunch. But they’re still at the dealership; I’m not.
I still remember co-workers making fun of me, either pointing out the health concerns of eating ramen noodles or just the weirdness of it. Of course, we know how things turned out there. Speaking of health concerns, these same co-workers would be downing 12-inch subs loaded with 1,000 calories and far more sodium than my noodles. People are funny.
The verdict is in: this radical move worked out great.
Okay, I’m being a bit deceptive with this one.
I didn’t get a vasectomy back in 2014 specifically and only to save money. In fact, the vasectomy cost me a few hundred dollars. So there’s that.
I actually always planned on getting a vasectomy at some point. I just kept putting it off… for, ahem, obvious reasons.
But the rationale for me wanting to get a vasectomy is actually quite simple: I never planned on having children of my own.
Look, I was adopted at 11, as I’ve discussed before. And I always knew that if I were to have children, I would feel best about paying that forward by adopting. In addition, seeing as how I never had that “paternal drive”, I just felt it most appropriate to make the right move. Adopting would always remain the most responsible and meaningful way for me to have children in my life, if I were to have children, but I’ve also never felt the desire to have children.
However, while this move wasn’t specifically designed to save money, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s estimated to cost approximately $250,000 from birth to an 18-year-old adult.
So using that logic, the vasectomy saved me about 1/4 of a million dollars.
Money aside, though, this move was a rational way to approach the potential of fatherhood. Too many people out there have children irresponsibly, or for selfish reasons – my own birth parents are a good example of that. I didn’t want to bring a child of my own into this world unless I was willing to be utterly selfless about the act, and I guess I’m just not built like that. Maybe I’m a little selfish.
Either way, I still have the opportunity to adopt a child down the road, if I want to. But I feel good knowing I don’t have a child I wasn’t equipped, ready, and excited for. And it just so happens this is a fiscally responsible decision for my personal situation.
The verdict is in: this radical move worked out great.
Laser Hair Removal
I purchased a laser hair removal package from American Laser Skincare back in 2007. This service was designed to permanently remove the hair from my face and head.
When I purchased this package, I had been shaving my head for about four years straight. I started losing my hair shortly after graduating high school, and I vowed not to be one of those guys with a comb-over.
So I decided to take control of the situation and shave my hair off. Liking the look pretty much right away, I stuck with it for years.
However, shaving my head was a time-consuming task that I didn’t enjoy. Shaving bumps that develop can be uncomfortable. And all of these razors and creams are expensive. When I discovered that the hair could be permanently removed, I jumped at the opportunity. I figured it could save me a ton of time and money over the course of the rest of my life.
I spent around $1,500 (if memory serves me correctly) for a package that came with one year of treatments, along with an additional two-year guarantee, whereby the company would continue treating me for up to two years if I still had hair left after the first year’s worth of treatments.
They said the treatments were painless and I’d likely lose all of my hair within just a few treatments.
Well… the treatments hurt like hell. And I still had plenty of hair left after the first year. So they continued treating me for two more years. But I still had some hair left even after three years of continuous treatments.
My guarantee eventually ran out. Later, while I was trying to get the company to do something for me, the office that was treating me closed. The company later went bankrupt.
Although this “crazy idea” was thought up before I started marching up Mt. Freedom, I was still receiving treatments after I started my journey. And it’s arguably the craziest idea I’ve ever had, so I thought it be fun to include it.
To this day, I still shave. I still have to buy razors and shave gels, so it didn’t really save me much money. If anything, it cost me more due to the $1,500 I spent for the treatments that turned out to be less effective than I was led to believe.
That said, it’s a quick shave. I spend very little time in the shower shaving since I have far less hair than before, allowing me to quickly shave and move on. So while this didn’t save me money, it has saved me time.
The verdict is in: this radical move didn’t work out.
So there you have it. A few crazy ideas I’ve had over the years to save money (and time).
Again, I’m not recommending anyone to do any of these things. I just thought it’d be fun to open up to you readers and share some of the more radical moves I’ve made over the years.
Some ideas worked out great. Some didn’t. That’s life.
What about you? Any crazy ideas you’ve had to save money? Any radical moves you’ve made? Did they work out? Why or why not?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
P.S. If you’re interested in achieving FIRE, check out some fantastic resources I’ve personally used to become financially free at 33!