Spend Less. Be Happy.

Wanderer
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Wanderer

The Wanderer retired from his engineering job at a major Silicon Valley semiconductor company at the age of 33. He now travels the world, seeking out knowledge from other wealthy people, so that he can teach people how to become Financially Independent themselves.
Wanderer
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Last week, I wrote about a simple rule that helps people get control of their budgets back.

Rent More. Own Less.

Now as with every rule, it’s not a universal blanket that applies to everyone. Rent doesn’t ALWAYS beat owning. But owning big, expensive shit exposes you to the unexpected costs like maintenance, insurance, repairs, etc. associated with owning that big, expensive shit.

And depending on who you are, there are always ways of mitigating those unexpected costs. If you’re Mr. Money Mustache, for example, and can fix a broken window or a burst pipe on your own, or you’re Paula Pant from AffordAnything.com, and understand the financial math well enough to spot an undervalued property. But if you need to hire a contractor every time something goes wrong or if your financial analysis is limited to “But my friend bought a million dollar condo and I also want to feel PRIDE OF OWNERSHIP,” then owning that big, expensive thing is gonna screw you over and you’re better off renting.

The point of doing this, even if it increases your baseline costs, is it allows you to take back control over your spending. Because if your spending looks like this…

…you’re constantly in a state of panic as you run around putting out fires. But once you sell the big, expensive shit and rent them instead, you convert that spending pattern into this…

A steady, predictable baseline spending amount that doesn’t really fluctuate, punctuated by occasional happiness-spiking splurges on fun luxuries like vacations, massages, or wife-swapping sex parties (hey, whatever floats your boat!). And this is important, because the panicky owner up there is spending all his time putting out fires, while the happy renter is happy, relaxed, and sitting by the pool eating an ice cream cone (or another man’s wife, depending on which scenario we’re talking about).

But don’t eat it too fast or it might get all over your face. The ice cream, I mean.

Ahem. ANYHOO, my point is, you can’t sit down and plan out your long-term finances if you’re in a constant state of panic. So that’s the first step. Get out of the panicky meat grinder that Owning too much expensive shit gets you into.

And now we can start the next phase of your FI journey, which is…

Spend Less. Be Happy.

Spending Doesn’t Always Equal Happiness

In a previous life (i.e. two years ago), we were engineers, so we tend to look at money as an unfeeling jumble of numbers on a spreadsheet. But the truth is, money is emotional. It’s one of the most emotional topics there is, right up there with sex and religion. It’s the leading cause of divorce, and that’s because ten people can look at the same spreadsheet and have ten completely different reactions. Just scroll through the comments section on any particular post for proof.

Here’s why.

Everyone’s baseline spending looks like one giant monolithic bar graph but in actuality it’s layered, like this.

The Green Zone

The Green Zone is what I like to call the “Wasteful Spending Zone.” This is the region of spending that doesn’t add any bit to your happiness. This is the frothy wasteful spending that people inadvertently build into their budget, usually unintentionally. For example, think parking tickets or bank fees. When you spend $25 a month on bank fees, does that spending increase your happiness? Of course not! If anything, it has the opposite effect.

So as a result, finding and cutting spending that’s in your green zone is free, in that it doesn’t impact your happiness one bit. So when you cut green zone spending, your happiness level looks like this.

No impact. Win-freaking-win!

Examples of this include:

  • Buying groceries at a discount supermarket rather than Whole Foods. Same items, lower price.
  • Switching to a no-fee checking account.
  • Keeping your purse until it breaks rather than buying a new one every season

These types of optimizations are both easy and fun. You’re really just finding and cutting wasted spending, and oftentimes you’ll be amazed by how much of this can build up over time if you’re not careful. Cutting these is a no-brainer, and requires absolutely zero sacrifice, and very few things in life are all-upside-no-downside, so yay.

The Yellow Zone

Now onto the next zone. The Yellow Zone, or what I like to call the “Spending Hot Tub,” is the spending that you does bring you some degree of enjoyment, and if you were to cut it you’d feel a temporary dip in happiness. However, the key word here isΒ temporary. Cutting into this spending does involve some tradeoffs and sacrifice, and yeah it can be painful at first, but this type of spending reduction is like turning up the temperature in a hot tub. It may hurt at first, but after a while, you get used to it, and then you just stop noticing it.

So when you cut spending in your Yellow Zone, your happiness levels take a temporary dip, but after a while, gradually recover as you get used to it, like this.

Examples of this include:

  • Buying beer at the grocery store rather than a bar
  • Walking/biking to work instead of driving
  • Cooking lunch instead of eating out

Cuts like this hurt at first, and you do feel it, but after a while you get used to it and then it just feels normal. The important part of cutting into this yellow zone is that you do it gradually, over time. You have to experiment and figure out what works for you, and you have to give each spending change time for you to get used to it. If you try to slash everything 50% by changing 5 things at once, your happiness will plummet too rapidly and you’ll give up, just like jumping into a hot tub that’s way WAY too hot.

Slow and steady is the key here in the Yellow Zone.

The Red Zone

And finally, the Red Zone, or what I like to call the “Pain Zone.” This is spending that is actually essential to your happiness, and if you were to dip below this spending level, your happiness would drop, and this is key, it never actually normalizes. In fact, your happiness just gets worse and worse below this spending level, because every day you feel like you’re doing without something you actually need. On our handy-dandy happiness chart, it would look like this.

That’s your happiness level plummeting and staying bad. This isn’t fun, and will eventually result in you giving up and returning back to your original spending level, which will be discouraging and frustrating.

Examples of this include some of the more extreme stuff I’ve read people attemping in order to save money like:

  • Reducing your food budget until you’re only eating beans and Kraft Dinners
  • Moving in with your parents/in-laws to save money
  • Quitting smoking cold-turkey

These cuts hurt too much and, unlike cutting in the Yellow Zone, you never get used to it making each day more and more painful. Eventually, the pain in the Pain Zone becomes too much to bear and you reverse yourself, sometimes even over-correcting and spending more than before to make up for the pain you’ve just endured. This is bad, and cutting into the Red Zone never works long-term.

It’s All About You

Now, here’s the tricky thing about these Red/Yellow/Green Zones. They’re different for each person.

What might be a Green Zone/Yellow Zone spending item for one person might be a Red Zone spending item for another. And that’s what FI blogs (and we are guilty of this as well) tend to not recognize.

FIRECracker and I have…er…some opinions on owning houses. And that’s because for us, owning a big home is unnecessary and doesn’t add even a tiny bit to our happiness. We derive zero joy from cleaning, or gardening, or staring lovingly at a granite countertop like some kinda psycho, so cutting that shit out is Green Zone spending for us. And FIRECracker looooooves to yell at people who believe owning a million dollar home is both normal and completely necessary for their happiness. In fact, you may even argue that yelling at those people increases HER happiness.

This was basically her post-retirement plan.

But turn the tables around and take something we consider Red Zone. For example, we love good food. Show me a beautifully grilled steak and I will show you a soon-to-be-empty plate. So if someone were to show me a spreadsheet showing how much money I would save by cutting meat out of my food budget and instead becoming vegan, I would tell them to fuck off while throwing chicken bones at them. That’s Red Zone spending for me. But it may not be for you.

The Fake Red Zone

However, the tricky part of personal finance is recognizing what actually is Red Zone spending and what isn’t. For many people who write into this blog, and for many of our personal friends and family, they believe their Red Zone looks something like this.

Their Red Zone, meaning the amount they have to spend to have a normal level of happiness, always seems just beyond what they’re currently spending. And sometimes, this is real. If you’re earning below the poverty line and your basic needs of food and shelter aren’t being met, then this is absolutely real, and a HUGE problem. But if you’re reading this blog on a laptop while sipping a latte at work, then you’re probably not in this situation.

So why do these people think their Red Zone is so high? Well, because of this.

That’s their happiness level, and it’s constantly below “normal” happiness, meaning they’re constantly stressed out and unhappy. So they look at their Red Zone, conclude their spending isn’t enough to meet that level, and get depressed. Then, they decide to work harder, go for that big promotion, get the higher paying job, all to increase their baseline spending level thinking that will eventually make them happy. So they do that, and for a while it seems like this works, but soon they slip back into that pattern of frustration and unhappiness, and they conclude that their spending still isn’t meeting their Red Zone requirements.

All because of that constantly low happiness level. But here’s the big secret in Personal Finance. You know who else has the same low happiness pattern? This guy.

It’s the guy who owns too much expensive shit and constantly has to run around putting out fires when stuff inevitably breaks. This guy is constantly unhappy, and if this person mistakes the source of their unhappiness as their Red Zone requirements not being met rather than owning too much stuff, they will fall into this “Runaway Red Zone” trap.

Finance Blogs call this the Hedonic Treadmill, but this is by no means a new concept. Every major religion talks about this. At some point, Jesus, Buddha, and the Dalai Llama all said something to the effect of “Possessions don’t make you happy.” And people often misinterpret this as “If being happy means I have to live in the desert as a monk, then screw that, gimme my frappuccinos.”

They’re not saying that living like a monk is the key to happiness. But what they, and we, are saying is that the key to UNhappiness is mistaking this…

For this…

The Real Path to Happiness

So that’s why Step 1 of the whole process is:

Rent More. Own Less.

Because by doing this, you eliminate the sources of Emergency Spending and therefore the source of frustration and panic from your life. Instead, you replace it with a steady Baseline Spending level with occasional splurges. Even if that baseline is higher than before, your happiness levels will normalize because the Emergency Spending events disappear, instead replaced with happiness-spiking Splurge Spending.

Then you can move onto Step 2:

Get Rid of the Green Zone

Find and eliminate all the Green Zone spending that you can. All that wasted spending that does nothing to improve your happiness. Find it, kill it, and marvel at your Baseline Spending drop with no hit to your happiness. Take that, stupid bank fees!

Then, Step 3:

Gradually Eliminate Your Yellow Zone

This is process that might take months, or even years. One by one, try to eliminate something in your spending and see if the pain from losing that goes away. If it does, that was Yellow Zone spending and you can safely lost it without impacting your long term happiness. If it doesn’t, that was Red Zone spending and you have to put it back. But over time, and by careful trial-and-error, you’ll find that many of the items you THOUGHT were Red Zone items were, in reality, Yellow Zone items.

And then finally, Step 4:

Watch Your Savings Skyrocket

Once you eliminate enough of your Yellow Zone spending, you’re gonna save a lot of money. It just happens. All the finance bloggers out there who reached FI got there not because of super-high earnings but because they realized that their Red Zone spending levels was actually for less than they thought. And if you figure out where your actual Red Zone is and you bring down your spending to that level, you’ll find they you can spend a fraction of what you were spending before while being just as happy (or maybe even happier thanks to all that Emergency Spending being gone). And if you do that, you’ll find your savings level shoot up so high that you can’t help but get rich.

So to recap:

  1. Rent More. Own Less.
  2. Get Rid of your Green Zone
  3. Gradually Eliminate Your Yellow Zone
  4. Watch Your Savings Skyrocket
  5. Retire Happy

And that, my fellow Revolutionaries, is how you

Spend Less. Be Happy.

*Mic Drop*

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46 thoughts on “Spend Less. Be Happy.”

  1. Perfect follow up to Rent More, Own Less! Well done as always, guys.

    I think the key to reducing the Yellow Zone is definitely to go gradually. I have found that when done that way, it almost comes naturally, because once you cut out more and more of the excess and the noise, you have so much more bandwidth to pay attention to what’s really important to you. So over time, you just automatically find yourself honing in on the next area of excess, or sub-optimal value, or however you want to look at it. Because you’ve proven to yourself that your happiness didn’t diminish, and may even have increased, by making whatever change you made previously.

    1. Exactly! Once we figured this out it became almost a game. During the TTC strike a few years ago, we started jogging to work and realized that not only was it totally doable for most of the year, cut out TTC passes, AND cut out our gym membership fees, AND FIRECracker lost weight. It was like hey, certain cuts actually INCREASE happiness. What the?

      So we started looking for more of them like you and the rest is history.

  2. Another suggestion on how to eliminate yellow/red zone spending. It took me a year before I pulled the trigger and became car-free. During that year, each time I got into the car I thought to myself , okay how will I do this _____ when I don’t have a car? And as I would drive to do ____ / go to _____, I’d mentally map out how to do it car-free. There were only two activities that I couldn’t readily solve and I decided that, although I would miss them, I could give them up. When I finally pulled the trigger and sold the car, it was PAINLESS, because I already knew how everything would get done.

  3. For me it’s easier to do this ‘backward’, in reverse.

    Rather then figure out how much I can cut back, I just assume there’s room for cutting back and dive right in. I increase the savings rate into my 401k, which then forces me to figure out how to pay for it. I adjust my spending here and there until I get used to living like that. If I overestimated how much I’m able to cut back, I decrease my savings rate a little.

  4. ” If you’re reading this on a laptop, sipping latte, at work..” You guys know me too well.

    While I struggle with rent or own, I really like this concept of getting rid of the green zone and figure out what’s my yellow and red to get on the fast track to FI.

    For instance, I have a fully functional car now (it will fall apart in 2-3yrs). I’m saving to buy an AWD car next year because I live in a snowy area and my current car can not handle the snow. If I follow the Rent V.S. Own, should not buy and just rent an AWD via zip car for winter trips? I live in the States, so I need a car almost all the time for work and recreational activities. If I saved up and drop a chunk of cash to buy a new (used car) would that be against the tenants of FI? I would love to get some suggestions from you guys.

    1. Snow adds a bit of a wrinkle to the situation, as most rental cars don’t come with snow tires in my experience. I’ve owned a car for years despite it making no financial sense because the things I enjoy doing mostly involve getting out of the city and going in the woods somewhere…

    2. 1) Why would your fully functioning car be “falling apart in 2-3 years”?
      2) I am from a very snowy state and I drive a small sedan with front wheel drive all the time with no problems. What kind of weather conditions are you facing?
      3) How far do you commute to work every day, how far must you drive for your recreational activities, and how often do you participate in your recreational activities?

    3. I would say you need to weigh out the cost of having the car vs the consequences (to your happiness) of not buying it. To me, time/convenience is really important so if giving up my car meant having a long commute or not being able to do something I wanted to do (the recreational activities you mentioned) then it wouldn’t be worth it to me to give up on having a car.

      I used to work a job that started at 5 am. Transit didn’t run that early so if I didn’t have a car the only other options were to pay for a cab each morning, bike to work (for over an hour in the dark in areas of the road with no shoulder) or change to the other shift that was offered which was 2pm to 10:30 and take transit both ways, and I didn’t want to do that because of the lifestyle change of working afternoons and the people I’d need to work with on that shift. I should also mention that while it only took 15 minutes to drive to work, transit took about 2 hours because the bus system was messed up in the area I lived. So in that case not having was car would have effected my happiness to much to justify giving it up.

    4. Hey I’m Canadian. You get no sympathy from me about snow πŸ™‚
      But yeah, I never had a problem with Autoshare/Zipcars when it came to snow. The big question is can you solve the commuting daily to/from work issue without a car? If you can, then yeah definitely just rent the car as you need it.

      1. haha Yeah, you guys definitely know a thing or two about snow. Thank you everyone for the feedback. It helps a lot seeing how everyone approach this issue. I think I’m going to go with buying the car once I have saved up. It does bring me joy to be able to zip to the mountains for snow sports, going to a lot of events around the city after work. I would miss out on those or can’t make the time if I try to catch public transport. This is one of those issues that comes down to priority.

        I did the analysis of my spending budget and habits. My Green zone and yellow zone doubled my red. They are spent on going out, drinks with friends, adventure cost ( rafting, snowboarding, kayaking etc..) and adventure gears. I think I can cut down on the food at whole food, and stop getting so much coffee/drinks, but the adventure stuff makes me so happy.
        How do you guys handle that? What if your lifestyle is spendy, getting to FI would mean changing it, but the whole point of getting to FI is to beable to do more of the things you love.

        1. There are ways to mitigate these costs – for example, I like to ski, but resort costs have risen dramatically since I moved here (it used to cost me < $70/day to ski at Whistler, < $40/day at the local hills, now Whistler will cost me $100-150/day!!) so I tend to do more backcountry skiing than I used to.

          From a gear standpoint, unless you always need the newest and greatest, prioritize your activities and spend the money on the most important items. If you invest in decent equipment for the important categories, you should get to a place where you don't really need to spend much on upkeep. I climb, cycle, hike, and ski. 12 years ago my annual equipment outlay was around $5000/year for about 3 years. Now, my outlay is < $500/year.

          1. That’s awesome Mike. I’m looking forward to the days when my gear budget will go down. I don’t need the greatest or latest. I need things to function well and upgrades when they break.On my list now are new hiking boots and Snowboard Goggles. I have had the old ones for 3 yrs and have ran them into the ground. I love discount sites for gears and technical clothing. I dont’ know if you have heard of these sites? We both get 10 bucks if you used the links below. Check it out.
            http://www.theclymb.com/invite/tranbdo9
            https://www.activejunky.com/invite/95332

            1. I usually buy most stuff new because I use it to the point of destruction. e.g.: My standard hiking boots are 12 years old and I have to replace them because there’s holes in them. πŸ™‚

              Worth bearing in mind is that if you have a large amount of spending to do in this respect MEC is probably your best choice if you’re in Canada and REI is one of your best options if you’re in the US, due to membership dividends in both cases. For example, when I was spending $5000/year, my annual membership dividend was typically in the $500 range. You might not get things quite as cheaply up front, but the dividend combined with better warranty and return policies will pay off in spades.

              I’m also reminded of an experience I had in Taiwan… our guide for hiking / climbing Yushan (biggest mountain in Taiwan ~4000m) wore rubber boots. For most of what he was doing he didn’t need expensive technical footwear that he wore out a few times a season. Figure out your bare minimum needs and it’ll make the whole thing much more enjoyable because you need to carry less on your back and your wallet will remain heavier. πŸ™‚

      2. I’m Canadian too, but some of the places I like to go play are scary driving even with snow tires and chains. πŸ™‚

  5. Interesting way to put it Wanderer. I never thought of it as “zones”, but the idea is the same — Eliminate wasteful spending. Discover spending less doesn’t change happiness. And then tackle the spending you once thought was required for your happiness.

    Good stuff, and true in my experience as well.

    One problem though… I’m never going to be able to eat an icecream cone again without thinking of this post and its interesting…err…analogies.

  6. As I sit in my home office, drinking a French Vanilla Cafe (just add water from General Mills) whilst working on my 5 year old desktop; I say job well done on the post. I agree with the gradual cut back but think cold turkey for some things works as well. I’m unofficially doing the frugal month challenge with the FrugualWoods; it’s been eye opening. We still went out to eat once (instead of about 6x thus far this month) and I buy groceries as usual but I’ve cut my personal spending by about 75% thus far this month. The FrugualWoods and MMM take the austerity thing a little too far for my family but I appreciate their views and posts. Also, I know you guys hate housing but if you can buy your place outright and plan for property taxes and maintenance, home repair isn’t a big deal (and you can save a bundle over renting) – inconvenience (like waiting for a plumber to show up) still exists, but not a big deal. Having a fully paid off house can be a great source of happiness and security. I agree with you generally tho, following the herd into home ownership is just foolish.

    The biggest money killer seems to be habit and convenience. I had a buddy tell me about a service he uses to assemble IKEA furniture. They pay someone $75 for 3 hours of labor to put together a $125 furniture piece; nuts to me but “it saved us so much time.” What a waste; you could have bought a better quality item (not knocking IKEA) and not have paid 50%+ to have it assembled. Same with cooking; it doesn’t save you that much time to eat out (generally) but “it’s so much easier” people do it and pay a huge markup for the privilege of having someone else cook for them.

    So here’s my question which I never see in the blogs; how much is the normal baseline for a family of 3 or 4? Seriously, other than RootofGood and MMM, no one seems to have kids and live in one place. Seems like the # of FI and FIRE folks have no kiddos which can seriously run that red line number up (especially toddlers if both parents work and don’t have access to free/family day care solutions). Any thoughts on their average monthly burn rate?

    1. My experience 4 years in is that necessary baseline costs for kids are a lot lower than most people expect.

      – The biggest single cost has been the time my wife took off work after both kids were born that alone is probably double all of our other expenses so far.

      – If you both work, childcare can be expensive, no doubt, but unless you are both relatively high earning, the more profitable choice is for one parent to stay at home. In Vancouver, for example, childcare ranges anywhere from $800 – $2000 per child, depending on where you are and what sort of daycare situation you get into. Unless you’re earning $1000 or more per month over that cost, you’re basically paying to be able to work.

      – Diapers – use cloth diapers, especially if you plan on having more than one kid. Even with the fanciest cloth diapering setup, it saves a bundle

      – Clothing – if you network, getting high quality second hand clothing is easy. Our oldest is almost 4 years old and we’ve probably spent < $500 on clothing for her, definitely < $1000, with most of the things we've gotten being either luxury (eg: she has the same down jacket we do for playing outside in the cold). Most kids go through clothing sizes really fast and until they're older don't even get a chance to wear it out

      – Food – we found it encouraged us to eat at home more because it's sometimes challenging managing younger kids at restaurants, especially when there's two. This caused us to spend a bit less and despite the fact that they eat a lot relative to their size, they still eat relatively little, so the immediate impact was that my daughter actually consumed what previously had been wastage. One thing we've found is that it's more affordable to do things like buy a whole roast than say, buying individual steaks, which is also easier to prepare. This tends to not cause costs to climb much.

      1. In our situation, both parents are high earners and baseline childcare costs are $1,700ish a month – it makes sense for both parents to keep working. The other costs have been nominal, the daycare costs are the killer since there are no public or cheaper options available (nanny shares cost more than day care and no grandparents or other family are available to help out). I’ve just noticed that most of the FI and FIRE bloggers are nomads with no children… This blog is one of the few that even acknowledges it with the posts about world schooling ,etc.

        1. Unfortunately daycare is unavoidable in that case. Same as us. πŸ™‚ The positive part is that as a high income earning family, compared to other costs (eg: housing) daycare is still pretty mild.

          On the flip side, it’s limited both by child age and can go away once you jettison the working life. Personally, I wish we’d started on this goal a bit earlier for this exact reason. If we had, it would be a non-issue I think.

        2. I check in with Justin @ Root of Good every once in a while. He’s post-FIRE w/ 3 kids. He’s the father of a multi-kid family w/ the house & the trimmings, appears to be making a solid go of it.

          We’re at ~$1400-1700/month on childcare costs for 2 kids ages 9 & 5 with two working parents in the USA. DW stayed at home while kids were little @ re-booted her work life with a career change to software engineer once the youngest was old enough for daycare. She went into it with a lot of optimism, but realized she hated being a SAHM. On August 1st we say goodbye to the daycare bill when the youngest ages out and starts kindergarten. Then we just have to figure out summer for as long as I keep working.

          edit after submitting: I see Wanderer also recommends RoG below. Great minds think alike?

    2. RootOfGood would be my goto for a baseline spend with kids. GoCurryCracker has a kid as well, and he writes that he was able to raise his son on LESS than the child tax credit, so technically he MADE money on his kid!

  7. Great post as always! Extremely insightful and I love the graphs. Also your wife-swapping jokes made me spit out my tea laughing. That helped shake off the Monday morning lethargy so thank you. Luckily I work from home so only my partner was witness to this embarrassment. I of course had to share what had me laughing so hard. I think you just got a new fan lol.

  8. This is an interesting way of breaking down the psychology of what is really necessary in your life and cutting back on what isn’t. Focus on what is really important to you and reevaluate how necessary the rest is. There are so many opportunities to cut out the green zone and yellow zone stuff. Literally, it’s all around us. I agree, you really do get used to it and maintain your happiness. Rent vs own is debatable as you have said. It depends on the particular situation. Ownership of a small home with low maintenance and lower property taxes (and no mortgage as in our case) is definitely a viable option to renting. The key is to seriously evaluate how much home you actually need, which in many cases is much less than you think.

    “Own less, Rent Less” ????

  9. I so appreciate your engineering mind – breaking things into logical systems which make the logic of the arguments so in your face obvious. Can’t wait to share it with my partner

  10. Great post except….for the fuck off (and die) vegan comment. I don’t want to get all preachy but honestly your meat/fish/etc eating could be part of your Fake Red Zone and you just aren’t aware yet. I used to eat that stuff and went plant-based first for health, then the environment/planet and now leaning towards the animal cruelty. It saves a helluva lot of money and will reduce medical bills down the road. You are likely rolling your eyes out of your sockets, but after researching all of the solid science and becoming more aware of animal agriculture, the thought of a steak on my plate is gross. You may surprise yourself with cheaper substitutions that taste awesome. I don’t mean fake soy products, just real food that is delicious. I’ll get off the podium now…

  11. We’re well into the Yellow Zone and defining our Red zone and yes, this makes perfect sense. I was discussing with someone this morning about making these definitions and finding the cracks to save some more money. It’s yours, you earned it, why give it away for stupid crap you don’t really want.

    1. Hey good for you! Once you find that line between yellow and red you’ll be surprised by how much less you can live on for the same level of happiness.

  12. The examples of “yellow zone” expenses are great and very helpful! I’d love to see a list of other examples.

    1. one example of a yellow zone expense that I save on huge is my cell phone plan. I use a pay as you go plan that costs $100 a year and I always have extra credit left over because I rarely use my phone or even have it on but it’s good to have for emergencies. I mostly use email to communicate and have a Magic Jack for a land line.

      Another one I can think of for short people (like me) is to hem your pants at home instead of going through a professional altering service. It is like $7-10 so hem a pair of pants that would only take about 1o minutes at home on a machine. The cost can add up quite a bit if there are a lot of people in a household that require their pants to be hemmed (such as a short couple with short kids). Sewing machines can also be used to mend, customize or create other items and good machines can be bought quite cheap second hand and it is easy to learn using youtube videos.

  13. How come nobody has yet commented on your brilliant wife-swapping jokes! Almost start to think that all your traveling and sightseeing is in reality just a cover up for trying out all sorts of ice cream flavours… so to speak πŸ™‚

    1. It’s because they’re all busy googling “wife-swapping orgies near me” now that they know that’s a thing that exists.

      As for my travelling as a cover…ahem…no comment *buys ticket to Amsterdam*

  14. Your charts are, well, off the charts! I actually think I have a bit of chart envy at the moment… so many pretty charts! Great post, great content and great exit! Mic drop… the end!!

  15. I guess we all get our kicks in our own ways.

    Personally, I love money. I love watching my bank/investment account grow. I hate spending.

    Having money just makes very, very happy. Nothing else seems to be able to satiate me as much.

    It’s just s0mething that’s built into my DNA.

    Suum cuique.

    1. I can relate to this! and now that I understand this kind of stuff more (thanks to this blog) it is a lot more exciting than when I used to just get my quarterly statements for my mutual funds from the bank.

  16. This question is off topic, but what was the “App” that you and FIRE-cracker are making, or are about to launch? You spoke briefly about it in your last posts but I just have missed the punchline.

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