What are Your Plans to Retire Early?
”Retire” hacks written by Frankie Calkins
If you want to retire early, you have to begin with the basics: being smart and frugal with your money — especially on the big categories that matter most.
You probably know most people (maybe including yourself) spend too much money on the 5 things I’m going to cover today. But I’m here to offer creative ideas or solutions to help you bring these common costs down or eliminate them completely.
Because a dollar saved is a dollar earned and a dollar earned and invested is lots of dollars, maybe.
And no, I’m not coming after your lattes.
Here are the 5 things you need to stop buying if you want to retire early:
- Pokemon Cards
- Birkin Bags
- A Hollywood personal trainer
- Mr. Beast Burgers
Let’s start with Bitcoin. Totally kidding of course…
Now that I have your attention, I’m going to tackle a much less sexy list but remember, it’s the saving money part that’s sexy.
Let’s start with a biggie. Stop buying…
1. Too Much House
A big mistake many people make is buying too much house, tying up a huge portion of their net worth and monthly cash flow.
According to Investopedia, the average single-family house has grown nearly three times in terms of square-footage from 983 in 1950 to 2,623 in 2018.
Spending beyond your needs or means can lead to becoming “house poor,” meaning you’re paying too much for your house and don’t have enough liquidity to pay other bills or save sufficiently to retire.
Counting on a home as an investment is risky. You should always diversify and not rely on real estate as the bulk of your net worth. After all, you can’t retire on home equity alone.
In an article titled “Here’s how much space we waste in our big American homes…”, Marketwatch highlighted how much house goes wasted according to a research study by UCLA. They summarized it in this chart:
Renters can rent too much house as well. Here are some quick tips for saving money as a renter:
- Always negotiate when your lease is up for renewal.
- See if you can lock in a better rate by committing to a 2-year lease.
- If you live alone and have an extra room, consider a roommate.
- Look for a new place between November and February when you’ll have less competition.
- Search for photoless rentals on Craigslist. You might score a great place with no competition because of an incomplete ad others will ignore.
2. Eating Out
Let me get this out of the way, if you want to retire early: Stop going out to brunch.
I have a few spending pet peeves and this one peeves me. Breakfast is the most inexpensive meal of the day. Make some damn eggs and toast. Make bacon if you’re feeling extra. Call a friend while you eat your cereal if brunch was “for the social aspect”.
Do anything but going out to brunch and ordering bottomless mimosas, please.
Cook at home.
But don’t just cook each meal at home (that can get expensive if you’re following full recipes and don’t have a stocked pantry). Seek out meals and portion sizes where you KNOW you’ll have leftovers. Then use those leftovers for future lunches and even dinner.
Plan and prep and NEVER go into the grocery store on an empty stomach.
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Another tip is to document what you make you have a handful of great ideas available to you that you can remake when planning your next grocery run.
I recommend the app Kitchen Stories. Specifically, I love the recipes that call for just 5 ingredients.
If nothing else, set a maximum limit on eating out each month. For me, it’s 2. That way you don’t feel a huge amount of guilt when you do go out.
3. Streaming Services
Do you remember the beginning of quarantine when you found yourself doing a puzzle on a Spring Sunday morning, reading for the first time in a month, and replaying old board games you already own?
It seems like people already forget how much joy we all found in the little things as we tried to distract ourselves with so much unknown ahead.
Then, all of the sudden, a dozen new streaming services came out and took all of your money. You signed up because the trial was free. But you didn’t cancel, did you?
I get it. But pick 1 or 2 services and cut out the rest. Alternatively, do the free trials of Pluto, Shutter, BritBox, Quibi, and Cinnestream, etc. but set an alarm to cancel on your phone. (I only made 1 of those up. Also, RIP Quibi.)
You might have access to more than you realize. Prime Video is an obvious example. Apple is practically giving away Apple TV+ if you just breathe in their direction. You get a free year with the purchase of a new device, and they just extended it further. Plus, you can share your subscription with up to 4 “family members.”
Beyond streaming, consider all subscriptions you have. If you have an iPhone, there’s a really easy way to see digital subscriptions you might have forgotten about. On your phone: click settings > go to your name or iCloud profile > subscriptions > cancel.
4. Lottery Tickets
Never, and I mean NEVER count on any form of the lottery as your financial problem-solving plan. Odds are greater that you’ll get hit by a meteorite than win the Big One and you’re five times more likely to get hit by lightning, twice.
This one is simple but here’s a pro tip if you do like those $1 or $5 scratchers for fun from time to time: Always have your tickets scanned. Even ones you deem as losers.
A few years back I kept a (small) pile of losers throughout the year and had them all checked before tossing. To my surprise, I had almost thrown away $12 in winners!
Casinos shut down most of 2020 and life went on. Stay out of those when they reopen. Stop buying the big lottery tickets because you saw a large pot on the news. Put $20 towards your IRA instead.
5. Brand New Cars
This is common knowledge but worth reiterating: The moment you drive a new car off the lot it loses 10% of its value. After 5 years, cars lose roughly 60% of their value.
Cars last 15 to 20 years on average so let someone else take the hit on depreciation and buy used instead. You do not need a new car every 3–5 years.
People in the FIRE community (financial independence, retired early) recommend this strategy if you must own a car: buy used, pay for it in full in cash, and stay in the $5,000 range.
If you buy from a dealer, NEVER trade-in your used car. It’s always a rip-off. Sell private and keep some money in your pocket.
If you own a car and don’t use it often, rent it out on Turo — especially if you have a new car. Get some of that 10% depreciation back if you’re comfortable lending it out.
If you have a partner you live with and you have 2 cars between you — consider selling one and sharing the other. If you can life without a car, live without a car.
Finally, shop around for your gas. The convenient option is almost always the most expensive. Try the free GasBuddy app or search “gas prices” in Google Maps (yes, this actually works with decent accuracy). If you have a Costco or Sam’s Club membership, hit the warehouse pumps.
If you want to retire 5 years early stop buying:
- More house than you need
- Restaurant food and food to go
- More streaming services and subscriptions than you need
- Lottery Tickets
- Brand New Cars
Thanks for reading. This article was originally published on medium.
Frankie Calkins (M. Ed) is a Digital Marketing Manager by day. On nights and weekends, he’s an author, YouTuber, and finance course creator. He lives in Seattle, WA. Contact: email@example.com