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Lately, I’ve been pretty down on myself in terms of how my financial goals are progressing, and I’m afraid it’s starting to show publicly to my friends and family, and even occasionally online within the FIRE/PF community. We’re so often barraged with stories of other peoples’ success that it always feels like whatever we’re doing isn’t enough. At least, that’s what I’ve been struggling with.
In the three years that I’ve been in the workforce, I’ve watched my net worth go from $0 to $55K, while simultaneously working on paying back my parents $35K of student debt. In just a few more months I’ll be debt free. While my student debt situation is unique, the idea of paying back student debt over the span of a decade (or more, for some) is, to me, mind-boggling. I’m excited to be (almost) debt-free at 25, and I’d love to be financially independent by 35. It takes a ton of work, however, to get there, with a lot of strict financial planning along the way.
MadMoneyMonster shared a great story on the clash between the FIRE community and the real world. It can be really tough to explain the idea of FIRE to those who don’t see its appeal or maybe haven’t given it much thought. I’ve been in a few situations where I’ve been judged as overly frugal. I don’t share that sentiment. In February, I spent $300 on a pair of Frye boots that I am absolutely in love with – they’re high quality, classic (will never go out of style), and should easily last me a decade. Last fall, another $300 was spent on a Club Monaco trench coat that isn’t even waterproof. Whatever, I can use an umbrella, because when I wear that coat, I feel like a boss.
My point is, I’m still spending a lot of money, so I don’t feel particularly frugal. Purchases like that are few and far in between, but it’s not like I keep my credit cards frozen in ice in the freezer. Instead, even though I’m pretty happy with those purchases, the fact that I still make them makes me feel like I’m not being frugal enough, which is frustrating. Sure, I’m putting away over $3K a month towards retirement/investing/saving/debt repayment, but it doesn’t feel like enough. It’s a huge chunk of my pay, but because I set up auto-deposits and create a budgeting plan early on, I’ve never felt like I’ve been living on significantly less than the people around me. As a result of this, I constantly identify ways where I can cut down on expenses even further (regardless of my ability to follow through). It’s about balance, though. Spend $300 on a coat one day, but spend months keeping meal costs low. Cut expenses, but in the right places.
This lifestyle is a choice. I save a lot today to give my future-self more freedom, because I know I don’t need the money right now. There will come a day when I get married, have kids, and buy a house (or at least consider it), and I don’t want to stress out about money then the way I do now. Think about the name of this blog, Cash Fasting. Technically, that means to abstain from all spending, but obviously, that’s not what I’m doing. I want to abstain from frivolous spending, but, at the same time, I don’t want to regret spending money on experiences that I enjoy. It’s a balance that I haven’t quite achieved, and I know I’ll continue to flip back and forth between overly frugal and excessively frivolous.
The most important thing that I can ask for is understanding — acknowledgment that the path to financial independence is a journey, and one that I have chosen for myself. I welcome all those who are willing to walk this path with me, as it’s nice to have company. For those who don’t, that’s fine too — give me your support; that will help me through particularly tough moments. But please remember: Just because I’m trying to be frugal AF doesn’t mean I’ll turn down every opportunity that isn’t free. I do hold certain opportunities in greater value as a result of this lifestyle, even if they do cost money. It may sound contradictory, but clearly I’m still figuring out my own boundaries.
This is the most significant goal I’ve ever embarked on, and I really, really want to be successful.