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Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 07:29 AM   #1
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Scaling back lifestyles

I'm curious. What kinds of steps have some of you taken in order to scale back your lifestyles in order to achieve ER? After scaling back, have any of you had any regrets? missed any of the luxuries afforded by the old life?

According to the numbers, I am ready to ER this year. However, I am still a little skittish about giving up some of the luxuries, most notably travel. A few more years at the grind would make it easier to afford travel and I am trying to balance that against the benefits of ERing now.


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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 07:51 AM   #2
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

Probably the big thing in our case was downsizing from the 3300 SF house into a 1700 SF house. Only regret is that we didn't do it five years earlier. Haven't missed mowing two acres, hi heat and electricity bills, higher taxes, etc., etc., etc.
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 07:57 AM   #3
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

Haven't scaled back very much; was already living on less than half of take home.
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 08:04 AM   #4
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

Speaking personally, scaling back a home is one thing, and I would not have a problem with that within reason.

OTOH, scaling back lifestyle to less than I am used to in terms of travel, recreation, entertainment is more problematic. We don't live exorbitantly but we do live well. I would be frustrated if that had to be curtailed at retirement, or even after the first downturn in the stock market. After all, if I couldn't do the things I enjoy after FIRE (within reason, again), why did I bother?

So we'll probably work a little longer or perhaps arrange a bit more part-time work after FIRE to achieve that comfort range.

I think that scaling back too much solely to move FIRE ahead by a year or two could backfire.

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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 08:31 AM   #5
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

I agree with Rich. A big factor in deciding to RE was so we could travel - a lot. There are obviously trade offs that we all have to make: how much longer do I work to have the cash to do what I want vs how much longer can I afford to work before I'm too old to do all the stuff in retirement that I want to do. I guess I might feel differently if I had not been able to RE in my 40's. As it was, after 25 years my attitude about work and the organization was nearly mutinous, and if I had been stuck there another 5-10-15 years - who knows what compromises I may have been willing to accept just to get o-u-t.
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 08:46 AM   #6
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

Quote:
Originally Posted by ScaredtoQuit
I am still a little skittish about giving up some of the luxuries, most notably travel. A few more years at the grind would make it easier to afford travel and I am trying to balance that against the benefits of ERing now.
What's the point of ERing if you can't afford to travel?

Maybe you can do part time work to fill out the travel budget.

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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 08:50 AM   #7
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

I wanted to take up amature sportscar racing as a hobby (see www.scca.org for info). Its really expensive, like $10k per year and up for operating expenses, with nothing to show for it except memories. That was what got me interrested in personal finance.

I thought that maybe I could learn some personal finance "tricks" to pare back my expenses to afford this hobby. I spent a lot of time in the library, and more time making budget spreadsheets and so on. By the time I got up to speed, I learned that taking up that racing hobby would basically force me into a lifetime of working for a living. So now instead of squandering all my money on tires and gasoline, I invest for retirement.

Is that pre-emptively scalling back on my hobby for ER? Maybe.

Certainly I've learned a thing or two about sacrifice. I'm sort of the counter-example to when folks warn about not sacrificing today for an uncertain future. I am willing to give up on my desire to race cars, at tremenous expense, so that I can establish a secure financial foundation for myself and my family.

Its really not that bad. After all, I'm just sacrificing something that's a fun hobby. Its not like I moved the whole family into a tent or something. In the mean time, I can find plenty of other fun hobbies that aren't nearly as expensive.
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 09:29 AM   #8
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

Quote:
Originally Posted by ScaredtoQuit

According to the numbers, I am ready to ER this year. However, I am still a little skittish about giving up some of the luxuries, most notably travel. A few more years at the grind would make it easier to afford travel and I am trying to balance that against the benefits of ERing now.
If you don't mind work there is nothing wrong with waiting a few more years. I would not intentionally cut back in retirement - in fact, I want to travel more for the next 20 years or so. I retired when I calculated DW and I were at the point where we could afford it. DW, like you, wants to be more than doubly sure so she is working a couple more years.
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 09:43 AM   #9
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

DW and I have always planned on what you call scaling back. We call it simplifying. Her stated goal is to become the Ingles family and live in the "little house on the prairrie". Me, not quite that much, but I do yearn for a simpler, more self-sufficient lifestyle.

Sure, we're going to travel. But even there we differ from the norm. Our idea of travel is motorcycle camping. At most it will be a motorcycle in the bed of the pickup and towing a travel trailer, setting down roots a month at a time to see the sights.

We find that local theater groups and college seminars are more interesting than Broadway. Movie theaters are just too ridiculous, so we rent occasionally. If we see one we really like we'll buy it. Spending $50-$100 to eat at some fancy schmancy restaurant doesn't do anything for us. But having $25 to splurge on the same fixings and then spending the afternoon in the kitchen together floats our boats.

We just started learning to weave. Gardening and building all of the furniture for a 1500 - 2000 sq ft house will be a major source of entertainment. And I think I want to try to train my next Airedale to be an ATCA hunting champion or an AKC Agility champion.

You will notice that scaling back has nothing at all to do with depriving oneself of pleasure.
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 10:11 AM   #10
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

One set of my grandparents never had that much money. Just enough for a middle-class retirement (he had been a shoe salesman, while she was a homemaker). They enjoyed the simple things in life, especially those things that were free. Local bridge games/tournaments, the library, free lectures from visiting professors and scholars, concerts in the park, local orchestra and theater performances, etc.... They didn't bother with the popular attractions because such attractions typically featured high admission prices. I'd daresay that their quality of life was higher than many of their peers who had money, simply because they didn't have the money or inclination to keep up with the Joneses.

As for traveling, I remember a line from an Kung Fu episode where one of the characters was suddenly struck with a bolt of wisdom: "If you stay in one place long enough, the world will come to you." I firmly believe this, and in many cases, you can bring the world to you through travel videos, books, audio guides and of course, the Internet. Pretty soon, virtual reality will make its appearance, and then there may be little purpose in risking travel halfway around the world if all you want is knowledge and understanding of how things are "over there" (which you wouldn't really gain by spending a few days doing the tourist thing anyway). On the other hand, if you want to brag to your friends that you've gone to Timbuktu, it's your money....
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 10:18 AM   #11
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

We havent really scaled back yet - Getting better value on our family season pass skiing in Tahoe. We have skiied 5 times already this year - we used to buy our lunch at the resort(25-30 bucks). Now we bring cheese, crackers, cold cuts and fruit - tastes better and is better for us.
When we travelled before ER we would often eat out 2X per day. Now we pull over and have lunch in the RV - still have dinner out often esp. if we are in an area like New Mexico(chili fix) or New Orleans(gumbo or a muffaletta) enjoy the local cuisine. I don't feel like we have given anything up other than my stress. I have always felt good about getting value and not wasting. But, now we have the time to make it happen.

We do shop the specials at local markets on things we use/eat - and buy household supplies at Costco
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 10:39 AM   #12
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

We scaled back on the home and sometimes we wish we had more room but honestly our new place at half the size of the old is perfectly adequate...most of the problems come from stuffing 3000 square feet into 1800 and then adding my wifes 1500 square feet of stuff.

Travel took on a new form. We used to need 2 week vacations to bleed off a years worth of stress. Now we take day trips in the car to destination sites in northern california like san francisco, marin county, lake tahoe, napa valley, etc.

For a while I skied more on cheap midweek passes until my knees told me that I was done doing that.

I trade a little time for better shopping bargains and we cook almost all of our own meals. Warehouse club shopping yields large quantities and its kind of fun trying to figure out what to do with a gallon of sour cream or two pounds of blue cheese.

So I guess living in a regular house, eating in and taking day trips seems less glamorous than living in a mcmansion, eating out almost every night and taking expensive vacations. But I like the trade.
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 10:47 AM   #13
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

Our costs have gone down considerably, but I can't really say that we feel deprived in any way shape or form. Technically, I don't think we've actually "scaled back," but we're sure spending a lot less on daily living expenses and much more on traveling. We purchased a house in the Pacific Northwest two years before we retired. The home we bought is on a larger lot, but is about the same number of square feet as our previous home. We gave up a pool & spa, but now have a 24x24 shop. Living costs have been reduced considerably because: 1) we now have lower electric bills, because we don't need air conditioning in our cooler summer climate and lower humidity 2) lower gasoline costs because of not having to commute to work 3) no need to buy new clothes for work 4) upkeep on our vehicles is much lower, because we drive fewer miles 5) we have more time to shop for the lowest price on things we need and thus obtain lower prices 6) we can now travel off season and benefit with lower costs 7) we're no longer paying into social security, etc. 8) property taxes are lower 9) our water bill is considerably lower because we now have natural landscaping 10) no need to buy gifts for co-workers 11) trash pickup is now one-half of what we were paying before 12) I have more time to do household and automobile repairs myself instead of paying someone else 13) we paid cash for the house we live in and no longer have a house payment 14) we sold our previous home 2 weeks after we retired and banked what was left over after paying off the first trust deed 15) we have more time to cook and spend less on prepared frozen meals, etc. 16) we have more time to manage day to day expenses and thus keep them lower 17) we no longer have to pay into state disability insurance 18) our commutes around town are much cheaper, because the city is smaller and everything is closer 19) we no longer have high speed cable internet service, but instead have high speed DSL which is nearly as fast and comes with a lifetime price guarantee that is one-third lower than was the cable company 20) our federal and state income taxes are much lower21) no more monthly contributions to 401k and 403b tax shelters 22) we now spend less money on Tylenol, because we no longer have jobs that cause headaches.
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 12:48 PM   #14
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

We are still in the planning mode of ER and started last year by paying our mortgage off. For the past 2 years we have kept a spreadsheet with our expenses. We're going to categorize our expenses better this year, so in December we can see where the money really went.

Since we want to be able to do some fun things when hubby pulls the trigger in another couple of years, we won't deprive ourselves now. I think this will give us a better picture of how much "play" money it will take to make us happy. If our expenses are more than what our calculated projection is at the present time, DH will work a little longer.
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 04:34 PM   #15
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

We downsized from a large home to a 2000 sq.ft. penthouse. Gives us much less maintenance costs and projects. I am sure Home Depot misses us. The condo enables us to travel without much thought. Our housekeeper comes to live in our place when we leave to take care of the plants and the cats.

We still have the 2 cars that we had when we retired 4 years ago. Had we been working we would have had to upgrade. Our wardrobe is more casual now with more warm weather clothes for our 2 months in PV and 1 month in San Diego.

We eat out less often because we have the time and energy to cook for ourselves. We probably drink a bit more red wine with meals.

We spend the same amount with travel replacing work-related expenses.
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Old 01-10-2007, 05:13 PM   #16
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

Quote:
...in many cases, you can bring the world to you through travel videos, books, audio guides and of course, the Internet.
I think that's very valid for some people. I took my parents to the Grand Canyon one year -- they spent 10 minutes looking over the side, said "that's nice," and were ready for dinner and a hotel.

For myself, I will NEVER forget the half hour I spent in front of Da Vinci's "Annunciation" in the Uffizi in Florence. Yes, I'd seen posters, seen it on the Internet, etc... and I thought I knew what it looked like.

Not even close.

Same goes for many of the works of art and the places I've seen. You may one day stand atop a virtual Kilimanjaro, but I'll never believe that will equal the rewards of climbing there yourself.

Whatever works for you, but be sure not to cheat yourself unknowingly. There is beauty you cannot imagine in the world outside your door.
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Old 01-10-2007, 06:42 PM   #17
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay_Gatsby
As for traveling, I remember a line from an Kung Fu episode where one of the characters was suddenly struck with a bolt of wisdom: "If you stay in one place long enough, the world will come to you." I firmly believe this, and in many cases, you can bring the world to you through travel videos, books, audio guides and of course, the Internet. Pretty soon, virtual reality will make its appearance, and then there may be little purpose in risking travel halfway around the world if all you want is knowledge and understanding of how things are "over there" (which you wouldn't really gain by spending a few days doing the tourist thing anyway). On the other hand, if you want to brag to your friends that you've gone to Timbuktu, it's your money....
Those travel media sources are great and have their place ( I love travel books and websites, they are very informative and entertaining in their own right), but I must say that one week as a tourist will give you infinitely more insight to a place than some pictures on a website. When you read a book, look at a video or website, you're getting an impression of a place through someone else's eyes and getting information on a very limited perspective. No one can experience a place the way you, yourself do. What about smell, taste and sound? How does that affect you in relation to your expectation?

If one doesn't enjoy travel, fine. But don't think a travel book or audio tape can substitute for real life experience. And there is far more risk commuting on an interstate each day for two weeks than a trip overseas for the same period of time. And there seems to be some notion out there that travel is expensive. Well, it is compared to doing nothing, but when you line it up against many other home based hobbies, it's not. Just because you travel somewhere doesn't mean you're trying to impress people. I know people that claim they can't afford to travel, yet can spend $4K restoring an old car as a hobby.
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-10-2007, 07:19 PM   #18
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

Yes we did the Amalfi Coast and Tuscany. Now we want to go rent an apartment in Rome for a month or two. Rent a car for part of the time and explore the surrounding countryside. Fantastic. I like it better than Greece or France for now but I will come back to Provence eventually. We spent a month in Spain in 2005 and loved it too.

So many places, so little time.

Oh yes and we want to rent an apartment next to Central park in NYC in the early fall too to enjoy The City...
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Old 01-10-2007, 07:29 PM   #19
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

Figure out what is really important in life and then budget that into your retirement calculations .
Better to work part time then to deprive yourself in retirement .
Moe who loves to travel !
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles
Old 01-11-2007, 10:01 AM   #20
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Re: Scaling back lifestyles

Quote:
Originally Posted by ScaredtoQuit
I'm curious. What kinds of steps have some of you taken in order to scale back your lifestyles in order to achieve ER?
This question seems to have an implicit assumption that FIRE requires "scaling back", and it's hard to tell whether you mean "frugal" or "deprivation".

I can understand scaling back for FIRE in a survival situation-- can't stand the job, can't continue working for some reason (like getting laid off), got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that only works with a bit of cutting back. But I'd say that the vast majority of FIREs did the math, hit their targets, dithered a while, and finally retired with no compromises.

We've scaled way back on our work-related expenses. I consider housecleaners and yard services a work-related expense, too, and we're doing our own or doing away with as much as possible. (I don't want to be pruning mango trees in my 80s.) Now that we have the time to do the things we want to do, we're spending a lot more on home improvement and labor-saving infrastructure. I don't like paying high utility bills, so we're figuring out how to reduce those expenses... which coincidentally goes green in more than one way. I like optimizing solutions to squishy engineering problems, and oddly enough most of the answers involve a capital outlay which pays for itself in reduced expenses.

But we're not "scaling back"-- we're "doing what we want to do". The first is nowhere near as voluntary as the second.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ScaredtoQuit
After scaling back, have any of you had any regrets?
I can't think of a single one! Anything that was important to me just followed me home or got easier without having to go to work... spending time with family, sitting around shooting the breeze with real friends, high-bandwidth Internet access, having the time to read & think. I certainly can't think of any regrets that pushed me back to the workplace.

I used to miss being being among the first to know all the cool info that goes with having a high security clearance. But now I realize that it's like watching TV news-- a lot of the content is created just to fill the time or to justify the payroll. And any personal "benefits" of a high clearance certainly aren't worth the initial effort or the maintenance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ScaredtoQuit
missed any of the luxuries afforded by the old life?
This one's pretty easy-- what luxuries?!?

A lot of the workplace benefits came with me into retirement-- a COLA pension, an affordable & decent healthcare system, and access to military services. But while all of those could have been replicated elsewhere with more effort & assets, we weren't willing to exert the effort to get more assets.

You have to decide what's important to you. A decade ago I had enough assets to live in a campground, commute by public transportation, and read library books all day. I elected to keep working long enough to afford a more "luxurious" lifestyle than that-- but while I won't tolerate deprivation, we've enjoyed simplicity.

BTW, maybe it's worth taking another look at your travel costs. Do you want to fly somewhere for a week or two on a fixed itinerary and spend like a tourist? Or do you want to wait for an off-peak season or a bargain airfare, wander around aimlessly, and live like a local? Maybe you can already afford the type of travel that's more rewarding to you... I know that I'd regret all the missed opportunities (and be colossally pissed off) if I kept working for another year or two to "afford" something that turned out to be a lot cheaper than I'd assessed it to be.

One more caveat about a behavior that we see a lot of on this board: Don't confuse "padding the nest" with "I'm scared to give up a paycheck". The symptoms may appear to be the same but the treatments are as radically different as the diagnoses. You have to determine if you're fooling yourself with the former when it's actually the latter...
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