Becky and I are frugal people in many financial aspects, which has led to our financial independence. The biggest place this shows in how we acquire material items (aka “stuff”), but also extends to experiences. But before we get to what we buy, let’s talk about the why of buying. For us, we always start with the question is this something we truly need. When you think this way, you often find you have something else that you can use to make due. Or you might be able to temporarily borrow an item from someone else. Lastly, can you rent or otherwise get for free temporarily? We utilize the public library just about weekly. We can get books, movies, and more for no cost. Need a book they don’t have, fill out a request form and usually, they will get it.
This mentality also extends to activities. For instance, we take part in the free kid’s activities available at the library and through the city. Want something more in-depth? We are part of a local Parent’s as Teachers where we have bi-weekly meetings with a Parent-Educator. This brings weekly hands-on activities and social interactions for our kids. It also helps us expand our parenting knowledge and skills because of the educational documents we read as part of this. We love hiking, which is often free (or low-cost). Not only do you get away from electronics, you help your kids connect to nature and have time together. Parks are another great free option. Again our city also has free events and at many of these, they include meals, activities, and sometimes even free items.
But what about when we need to buy something? When possible we try to make sure we are not surprised by an emergency need. This is important because when you have the time it opens up your options. Options for getting great used items include family and friends, garage sales (online and in-person), thrift stores, corporate second-hand stores (like Goodwill), online websites and groups (like Facebook Marketplace and the various groups selling items in your area), free curb pickups, and more.
We buy the majority (probably around 80% to 90%) of all non-perishable items used. This includes clothes, toys, furniture, workout equipment, books, and more. We often pay cents on the dollar for these same items as you would if you purchase them new. Often times we get items, use them for years and turn around sell them for the same (or more) than we paid for them.
As an example, at one point we picked up a bike we thought our oldest daughter might use for free off a curb one day. As we found a better other option a couple of years later we turned around and sold this bike for $45. This isn’t the norm, and I am not advocating being a hoarder. When you buy something that has some use the price can drop substantially from its new price. Additionally, people often really want to get rid of the item, so they take a low price. We have found that most larger items we have bought used have held their value or sold for more on the recent garage or online sales we have done.
Do we ever buy new things? Absolutely! Because of my allergies, anything that has cloth that can’t be put in a washing machine (for instance couches or recliners) are something we typically buy new. I use my computer daily and always want one with high-end specs. While I do shop around, I buy high-end here. TVs are also something else we have usually bought new. Lastly, and most importantly, we spend more to get quality, healthy food items. While it is cheaper in the short term to buy fast food and low-quality food, the long-term health costs are not worth it. We spend to get the best whole food items like vegetables, fruits, and meats. We buy local when possible (including for all of our beef). We watch specials and do our best to stay in season for fruits and vegetables to get lower prices and better quality. Also, we do a lot of frozen fruit which the kids love and which make the best fruit shakes.
This post has just scratched the surface of how we live frugally. For instance, we have saved money by getting low-interest loans from family members. But this post gives you an idea of how we were able to reach financial independence and retire early. When we spend we always think is this item worth the time it takes to make the money for it? Essentially, is it worth more time away from the kids and more work? We find the answer is often no, and this simple test helps to eliminate a lot of unneeded or want-based spending.
Originally Written: 6/2/2021
Last Edit: 6/3/2021
Have you read “Your Money or Your Life”? It was recommended to me back in the 90s. Not easy to accomplish on one income – so I’m still plugging away at work. Glad the two of you have been able to make this work! Looking forward to following your adventures.
So what is interesting is that I had never heard of FI (financial independence) or FIRE (financial independence retire early) until earlier this spring (2021) after we had started telling family about our retirement and travel plans. While it seems silly now my wife and I were just doing our thing our own way and were oblivious to the fact that others could be doing the same. Once I understood there was a community I took the time to read the most important books, listen to podcasts, and read some blog posts. For books, I started with “Your Money or Your Life.” I am pretty sure Vicki Robin and I would get along well. You are right nothing about financial independence is easy. For us, it is more of a state and guardrail for how to make both important and everyday financial decisions. Thanks for the comment!