The Importance of Slack

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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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As an Optimizer, engineer, and someone who grew up poor, I have a tendency to try to squeeze the maximum value out of everything.

Case in point. Back in 2012, when we went on vacation to London for the first time, I was so excited I made a schedule that broke each day up into 30 minute-1 hour increments. I then assigned an activity to each block like an obsessive little micro-manager, trying to squeeze maximum value out of our 2 weeks. Every minute was accounted for. No museum, castle, or pub was safe from my tornado of efficiency.

I showed said (insane) schedule to Wanderer, beaming with pride, only to get this response:

“Babe, are you nuts?! We can’t do ALL those things. We’ll need a vacation from our vacation!”

“You’ll thank me at the end of next week for planning the best two weeks of your life.”

“Ooookay. Just don’t freak out if things start falling apart.”

I spent the rest of the evening giving him the stink eye, then deliberately color-coding and cooing over my schedule like it was a new-born kitten. I even named it BASE–short for “Best Activity Schedule Ever”.

The next day, day 1, BASE was ready to go and I looked up our first 2 activities:

1: 9:00am: Westminster Abby
2: 10:00am: English countryside bike ride tour.

YAY! Look out, London, here we come!

But as I got dressed and headed for the bathroom, the rumble of thunder outside our window made my blood run cold.

Crap.

Since we were in one of the rainiest place in Europe, the tour brochure mentioned there’s a high chance of the tour being rescheduled or cancelled if the weather didn’t hold up.

I called them from the hotel phone and sure enough, the tour was getting rescheduled for the next day.

And because my schedule was so tightly coupled, I was expecting to be at a different train station as a result of the tour, which was where my next activity started from. And now, because the tour was rescheduled for tomorrow, that was going to have a cascading effect on the rest of my day 2 activities.

“CRAP! CRAP! CRAP!” I yelled while freaking out. Wanderer leisurely ate his breakfast, watching in amusement as I frantically rearranged my schedule.

BASE (Best Activity Schedule Ever) was quickly turning into WASE (Worst Activity Schedule Ever).

I managed to accommodate the change, but the next day my triumph was short-lived when one of our guided tours ended up running late. Once again everything had to be rearranged because of this cascading effect.

By the end of the week, I’d pulled out a ton of my hair, chewed off several of my nails, and had torn BASE up and started over so many times I’d lost count.

Turns out Wanderer was right. I did need a vacation from our vacation.

Had I left in some space, I would’ve been easily able to accommodate the change. Which is why, when it comes to scheduling, budgeting, and general life planning, its important to leave some slack.

I recently read a book called “Scarcity: The Science of Having Less and How it Defines Our Lives” written by Eldar Shafir and Sendhil Mullainathan, two professors who studied scarcity and how it impacts society. I was especially intrigued by the chapter about a hospital case study teaching you how to manage scarcity in organizations.

In this particular hospital, 30,000 surgical procedures were performed annually.  As a result, scheduling the operating rooms was always a challenge. So anytime an unexpected emergency surgery came up, this forced planned surgeries to be re-scheduled since they had a shortage of operating rooms. Which caused a chain reaction of re-scheduled surgeries and overworked staff with lots of unplanned overtime. The hospital ended up being constantly behind, and as a result it had to do more re-shuffling, which caused it to be even more behind. They decided to bring in an advisor to help them solve this scarcity problem.

And when this expert suggested they leave one room unused, they balked. They were already at full capacity and he was suggesting they waste a entire room by leaving it empty?!

But since they were out of options, they decided to give it a shot.

A month later, to their absolute shock, the “slack” room did exactly what the advisor predicted it would do. The  number of re-scheduled surgeries fell by 45%! As a result, they were able to perform more surgeries over the year. The problem wasn’t that they didn’t have enough rooms. It was that they didn’t have enough slack for unexpected emergencies. This was what caused the negative cascading effects of re-scheduling. The empty room that seemed like a waste actually ended up being the slack that saved them.

It’s the same thing with finances.

Create Slack in Your Finances

You don’t want to allocate every penny you earn towards your expenses and leave no room for emergencies. If an unexpected health issue, leaky roof, or other expense comes up, you’ll have no way to recover. Everything is spread thin and you don’t have money to allocate towards the emergency so you have no choice but to go into debt. Which digs you into a deeper hole and compounds the problem.

This is why while you’re working, we recommend having an emergency fund to cover at least 6 months of expenses.

Some people prefer to get a line of credit and rely on that in emergencies, which is fine–but keep in mind you’re at the mercy of whomever is giving you the line of credit. Not only will you be paying interest that will compound over time, but you run the risk of the issuer yanking your LOC just when you need it the most, like if they find out you’ve lost your job.

Avoid the “Cascading Effect”

The biggest problem of leaving no slack is how one unexpected event will cause a cascading effect. When you have no wiggle room, none of the items in your schedule or budget can be moved or swapped without affecting other items. So by not leaving in slack, you end up impacting not just one thing but your entire budget or schedule. And, as I found out, this quickly leads to you freaking out and having a quasi-nervous breakdown on your vacation.

This is why it’s better to have money sitting on the side-lines just in case rather than risk having a catastrophic chain of events happen that blows up your finances.

Leave Slack When Travelling

Time is limited, so we don’t want to leave blank spaces in your schedule because what’s the point of paying all this money to travel if we’re just going to be wasting it? I get it. This was how I used to think. But now I find that my time is much more enjoyable when every minute isn’t used up. Sometimes we’ll spend an entire day at the AirBnb, just writing, without going out to a single attraction. And this is great, because not only does it give me some variety rather than just mindlessly hopping from attraction to attraction, it gives me a ton of flexibility. If the weather turns bad, or a tour gets canceled, I don’t panic.

Because I’ve realized the importance of slack, we now no longer schedule our days down to the last minute. When we arrive in a new city, I usually pick 2 or 3 things we want to go see, and if we have time to fit in something else, fine. Otherwise, we just leave that free time open. Sure, we won’t be able to see every single sightseeing spot, but that’s not the point.

And on days we have a long flight? I always schedule one day before just chilling at a hotel or AirBnb close to the airport. I NEVER try to chain a train or bus ride to a flight on the same day. If we miss out on a day of exploring that city so be it. That’s actually a big reason why after 3 years of near-constant travelling, we’ve never missed a train or a flight and gotten stranded.

In terms of finances, we also keep a cash cushion that can cover 3 years of living expenses, just in case. Sure, that money could have been deployed into our investments, but I’d rather have some money sitting on the side, so I can easily accommodate any unexpected spending or a sudden market downturn.

What do you think? Do you leave slack in your budget, portfolio, and/or travel schedule If so, how much? If not, why not? Let’s hear it below in the comments!



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68 thoughts on “The Importance of Slack”

  1. Great post! In addition to having an emergency fund, I always leave some slack in my monthly budget. Trying to allocate all my cash to specific categories would just drive me crazy. So I feel ok buying myself the occasional nice thing as long as I’m still hitting my savings goals. When travelling with my partner, I’m the one that tends to do the research and makes the long list of things to do while my partner prefers to just lounge in bed until almost midday… Over time I’ve learned to chill out just like you- otherwise we’d argue all the time! We have long three months of travel ahead of us later this year so we’ll try not kill each other 🙂

    1. It’s fun being in a relationship with a B type when you’re an A type isn’t it? 😛 If Wanderer isn’t around to mellow me out, I probably would’ve spontaneously combusted by now.

      Glad you guys figured out your rhythm and enjoy your upcoming 3 months of travel! Where are you headed?

      1. We’re doing a tour of East and SE Asia before moving back to Europe this year (we’ve been based in Thailand for over 7 years). Off to Shanghai, Japan, Taiwan, HK, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, before finally making time to see more of Thailand. It’s amazing that in all the time we’ve been here we’ve barely seen the country (damn 9-5 job…). I’ve spent lots of time in Chiang Mai though! I know that’s one of your favourite spots 🙂

  2. Awesome! Great reminder, i think that’s a mistake many of us are guilty of, and if you forget to leave some slack, you end up causing a series of cascading events that force you down the wrong path…

    I tend to leave some slack when it comes to finances, but i most admit, most other areas of my life, it’s a working progress

    1. Squeezing everything down to the last minute is something we become accustomed to once we start working because of the “go go go” mentality. If less is more than think about how much more will be! It takes some time to get out of that head space.

  3. Hi FC,

    I agree with you on the importance of “slack”. This is evident in my recent overseas trip which was leisurely one. We planned one activity in one day. If the activity proceeded, it was great. If the activity did not proceed due to the event, it was alright. We could have a great rest at the lodge.

    The same applies to my investment and fund. I leave at least eight years of annual expenses at any point of time whilst contributing my new fund (derived from my full-time employment) into my investment portfolio on a monthly basis. You may deem it too much and I should invest most of the fund (till six month of monthly expense which is the standard amount by most people) into the investment portfolio which will generate more dividends for me. I am comfortable with this amount and I can quit my full time employment at any point of time if I feel like calling it a day on my humble career. This sum of money acts as a buffer for my retirement.

    WTK

  4. …And how! We have an entire fifteen months’ worth of spending just hanging out in our credit union. That’s in case we jaunt off to Germany for two weeks AND replace our HVAC system AND repaint the house AND THEN suddenly both get laid off for at least six months (first three are coming up in Q3/Q4 2018; fourth is hopefully not).

    That slack really goes a long way toward a “leisurely eating our breakfast” mindset. I guess money can’t buy happiness, but a nice big cushion of it sure does free us from the worst of our worries.

  5. I’m sorry, but that was hilarious. 😀
    I used to over schedule the trips when I was young too. Now, I just have an outline and go with the flow. It’s a lot more relaxing. Most tourists jump from places to places to see the highlights. That’s exhausting and you miss a lot of the details. Slow travel is much better for us.
    You’re absolutely right about slack in finance too. We just spent $6,600 on a new HVAC system. Luckily, we had some slacks so we didn’t stress out about it. Yes, I know. Homeownership isn’t all it cracks up to be.

  6. Yup yup, I’ve always created *major slack* when it comes to our finances. It’s silly to believe everything is going to go right.

    While some people believe that every dollar should be invested as efficiently as possible to get maximum output, I always wanted to have extra cash around when something (inevitably) goes wrong.

    Same thing with vacations. We don’t try to time our connecting flights too close or overbook a day with activities. Just an outline with plenty of time in-between activities.

    Maybe its’ the Planner in me, but I’ve always planned for things to go wrong. Does that sound pessimistic? Maybe it’s just more realistic.

    1. Pessimism has its advantages–when you have plan B, C, D in place, you sleep easily even when plan A falls apart. I guess it’s more like “realist”. Otherwise, if we were completely pessimistic, we wouldn’t even FIRE at all. Good to hear that slack is useful in your finances and travels!

  7. Well said, FIRECracker. I love the example of the operating room.

    I use the term “margin”, but slack is the same thing in this context! Like you, I’m always trying to optimize my time, but then get caught when it doesn’t quite go to plan. Ergo, I’ve been adding in more slack / margin to my life lately.

    You also make a good point about how the money could have been “better” used in investments, or the time “better” spent touring, etc. I guess what that really means is that you are paying for the slack in terms of what you’re missing out, and in return you are “receiving” the peace of mind that comes with that extra room to breathe. It’s all about the trade-offs.

    1. “I guess what that really means is that you are paying for the slack in terms of what you’re missing out, and in return you are “receiving” the peace of mind that comes with that extra room to breathe.”

      Exactly. And I’m paying for the prevention of the extra costs that come from “cascading effects”. So in a way, it’s kind of like an insurance.

  8. I like slack. And so I am overly cautious with calculating my numbers and having enough cash on hand. But I sometimes wonder, are we being to careful? You see this with ever lowering SWR percentages. I guess the trick is to have just the right amount.

    1. Sometimes you just gotta adjust to find the right amount. As you feel more confidence about your numbers and retirement, you might increase SWR or decrease cash cushion, etc. And vice versa.

  9. That was such a cute story about how offended you got when Wanderer told you it wasn’t going to work out and you spent the night colour coding your schedule and giving it a name.

    I probably have too much slack when it comes to time and money. I don’t travel much but when it comes to activities in everyday life I schedule them far apart because I’m an introvert and like having lots of downtime and I don’t like the anxiety of travel delays and relying on everything to be on time in order to get to where i need to go.

    When it comes to money I’ve always just saved as much as I could by only buying what we needed. I never had to follow a budget because only buying what we need has always left us with a lot of money left over. On the rare occasions where we’d just buy something to splurge, we always had a lot of money available to do it and anytime we had a big expense like a car repair or when I got laid off it wasn’t a big deal because we had so much in savings there was no worries about if we were going to be able to pay for everything.

    I’ve never understood how people who make good money can live beyond their means and not have any savings. I would be too worried about something unexpected happening and not having the money to deal with it.

    1. My thought at the time was “I’ll show you”…and then I totally didn’t. It was nice of Wanderer to not rub it in 🙂 I totally would have.

      Looks like your planning skills and introversion are serving you well! That’s great! I suspect it might be easier to overspend for spontaneous and extroverted people.

  10. Optimizing is super useful until it reaches the point of diminishing returns. This is why I married a Type B. He gives me permission for slack. I’ve spent most of my life trying to figure out how to implement it.

    How did Wanderer figure it out? Born that way?

    1. Good call, Melissa, good call. As type A’s we need B’s to balance us out.

      Wanderer’s a B type so he’s just naturally more laid back and a fan of slack (teehee, that rhymes). When I first met him I was like “are you sure you’ve been brought up by Asian parents? You’re way too laid back.”

  11. I’ve missed flights. It’s fine as long as one has enough additional slack in the system. Most recently a few years ago out of Cape Town. Went rock climbing on Table Mountain but a bunch of things took longer than expected. So I spent an extra two days in Cape Town and got a story out of it.

    Almost missed a flight out of SFO a few weeks ago because I stayed a bit away from the airport and it took longer than expected to get into the Bay Area. Missed the luggage deadline (gotta check the skis, usually don’t check anything otherwise) but they helped me out.

    1. “So I spent an extra two days in Cape Town and got a story out of it.”

      That’s one advantage when things go wrong. You always have a great story to tell. 🙂

  12. Oh, Goodness. I’m sort of the anti-you. I hardly schedule anything. When it comes to travel, it’s about being chill. To me just soaking in the vibe of a place is way more important (and cheaper btw) than doing a ton of activities….. Maybe I have too much slack???? 😉

    1. You and Wanderer are very similar. He could sit in a sauna or on a beach for 5 hours and not get bored. Whereas I’m itching to go within the first 30mins.

      Maybe too much slack could be a good thing 🙂 At least you won’t accidentally pull a muscle in your back trying to beat yourself at a rock-skipping competition you made up just to have something to do (yes, I actually did this. yes, I am insane.)

  13. Slack is important. I like to solo travel and my last big trip was four weeks in Tokyo. In the first week, I overdid it and ended up walking a lot more than I should have. It wasn’t that I couldn’t use the Metro and Japan Rail but I just so loved walking around that I would spend hours doing just that. I got really fatigued.

    By the third week, I had to take a few days off from relentless sightseeing and instead I just hung out by sitting in coffee shops, strolling in parks, and having long slow meals in restaurants, savouring the moment as it were. It is hard to think of Tokyo as a place where you can just “chill” but I found it a great way to appreciate it that much more. I think the thing that Tokyo residents value the most is free, unstructured time.

    1. “relentless sightseeing”. Well-put. That’s exactly what we were doing on vacation.

      Savouring meals in Tokyo restaurants and making use of slack is a great use of time. So much good food.

  14. Uh…I like my vacations to be almost ALL slack. Obviously I identify the really cool things I want to see in each place and generally go to at least a few. But for me, the desire to really immerse myself in each local requires walking around, sitting cafes, unexpected conversations with locals and other travelers and just moonching about with no plan. My most indelible and treasured life memories have resulted from this non-planning. Plus when someone talks about Paris, I can immediately pull up feelings that are nearly physical AND emotional after all these years.

    Just BE grasshoppers! A senior fan….

    1. So true, Sue. After travelling for almost 3 years, immersing ourselves in our surroundings is something which came out of FIRE that I never would’ve been able to do while on vacation. You end up experiencing everything so much more deeply. I get emotional every time I think about Chiang Mai.

  15. What you described about your experience with BASE is almost the exact experience my wife and I had as she tried to plan or honeymoon to the tee. 😂

    Now we make a list of things we want to do / see and stack rank them. If we can do the top 2-3 things, we are content and everything else is just gravy.

  16. Good post. I use slack with my finances. It really is important, especially when starting out. When everything is new you haven’t embedded the new habits and behaviours yet, and one step over the edge of your plans and you are likely to give up. The same can be said for strict diets or the gym. Once people eat one too many pies or miss one session at the gym they say to themselves, “I have failed so I may as well stop”.

    Slack is just about being realistic. Life happens and slack is just a big shock absorber. That is why so many of us have emergency funds, because we realise bad shit happens. An emergency fund is the definition of slack.

    1. Good point about the gym and diet! Back when I was on Paleo, I used to have lots of cheat days. Otherwise, I’d just throw up my hands and quit and it’s more important to make progress than to be perfect. So slack is important there too.

  17. Good point. I like the “slack” perspective. I always teach people to think of an emergency fund as an insurance plan against costly debt. It bails you out when an unexpected expense arises keeping you on track financially and out of debt. I like the “slack” idea and the operating room story. It gives me another teachable point of view. Thanks!

  18. Less than 2 weeks ago, I remember some good discussion about the 400$ a month for food and 700$ a month for EVERYTHING else in my budget (minus my fixed/planned expenses and 25$/ month for transportation). I am the case study “Living Big in the City”.

    I learned the slack lesson when my budgets chronically failed because I micromanaged the fuck out of them. The envelope method I first saw on “Til debt do us part” with Gail VazOxlade worked well, so I adapted and padded it for my means. I have a reasonable maximum ceiling to avoid stressing out (my budget), which translates into additional savings for when I come under budget. I budget resources the same way at work, with 30% overhead being my silent rule of “slack”: people wonder how I achieve my deadlines and deliverables without going bat-shit crazy: the secret is slack.

    I would even argue that slack is more important when you are just starting to turn your FI picture around: you should always set yourself up for success when you try something new. If my first bike didn’t have training wheels I promise you I would never have mastered that skill.

    1. “micromanaged the fuck out of them.”

      This sentence appeals to me. 🙂

      Aww good ol’ Til Debt Do Us Part. Always fun to watch Gail freak out on people. I miss that show.

  19. This is exactly how we travel. And we have our finances this way as well.

    Anything that is too optimized becomes fragile. There’s a great book about this. Anti-fragile.

    Things will inevitably go wrong, so you have to accommodate them. Otherwise it throws a wrench into everything else.

    Love the story, plus when you’re traveling, getting to hang out and relax is the best part.

  20. Geezer-me (as defined by FIRECracker) and bride are headed to Europe in September. Every third day is unscheduled. We’ll either hang out where lodging, or if we get bored, just go out and freelance the day.

    FYI, for any appointments (doctor, car, other), best to schedule early in the day. Like FC’s hospital example, most service facilities have never embraced six-sigma as a model. So, ten am appts become 10:45, and the three pm turns into 4:15, day after day. Why? No slack! 🙁

    And yeah, about a 4-5 year cash equivalent in retirement slack. 🙂

    1. Woohoo! Enjoy Europe. Having an unscheduled day for every third day is a good idea. Wish the 2012 me had been that insightful.

  21. OMG I use to be so like this. I treated every place like I would never be there again. The Louvre in 2 hours?!?!?! Why yes yes I can. Mona Lisa, Venus De Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace. Yes, yes and yes. I would end up so worn out that I would end up having a beer outside a cafe along the street only to find out that I enjoyed that way more than an attraction. We now tell ourselves that we will be back to any given place so that we can give ourselves permission to take it easy and just enjoy! (I still fight the urge to see it all so thanks for the reminder to take it easy and just enjoy!) Thanks for the great post!

  22. So pre FIRE we were the line of credit emergency fund type, didn’t even consider what would happen if issuer pulled it. Actually didn’t know that was a thing😱. Now post FIRE we have an emergency fund, to cover both planned and unplanned housing expenses on our rentals and our home. Still have our line of credit too but never even think of using it. We are leaving for vacation in just over a week, for a vacation with much less slack than usual. Going for 3 1/2 weeks, much less time than usual because we are finding we don’t really want to travel much anymore. Did I just write that? So weird. After this trip we are planning total slack by not planning any more trips until we are dying to go. Not sure if I just am bummed about leaving home in spring summer or if this is some new personality taking over my brain.

    1. Sounds like you could be suffering from travel burn-out. Take a breather, stop travelling, and once you stay in one place long enough, the itch will come back. Or not. Either way, it’s all good. Having choices is what matters.

      1. Yes you are right. Either way it’s alright. Just have to learn to adjust. And not jump ahead of myself. And I think this post reminded me that what I enjoy now is different from what I enjoyed ten years ago. I like slack…..a whole lot of it when I travel. So instead of doing 5 cities in 3.5 weeks, I’m thinking one is enough🙂.

    1. Oh I read this book before! A friend was doing his MBA and lent it to me. Very impressed with how they were able to make a business book interesting by writing it like a novel.

  23. My simple answer is yes! Absolutely. As you refer to slack in these cases, you’re essentially talking about reducing stress, especially when talking about finances. An emergency fund is a highly important requirement in personal finance.
    Slack while travelling leaves so much room for the exciting unknown. Personally, travelling with a jam-packed itinerary sounds dreadful! Vacations and travels are supposed to be fun, interesting and exciting. Leave a little room for spontaneity!

    Great post! Interesting thoughts.

    1. Thanks, Bryan. The Jam-packed itinerary was definitely dreadful. I now know what I considered travelling back then wasn’t travelling. It was an assignment/competition. Not doing that again.

  24. we’ve used a lot of slack in our lives the past 12 years from travel to expenses. i remember a day in new orleans when we didn’t make it out of the hotel room until happy hour due to overdoing it the previous night. we just woke up every couple of hours to take another bite of the leftover po’boys in the fridge. it was a great vacation day. something about scheduled recreation makes it less fun. our budget has been that way forever and for that reason we have never touched the emergency fund in 12 years. that includes surprise tax bills, big boiler repairs, etc. and who cares if you only put 4000 instead of the allowable 5500 into a roth this year and enjoy your life? the direction is still correct. the ox is slow but the earth is patient.

    1. Wow, despite surprise bills you haven’t touched your emergency fund in 12 years? That’s some epic budgeting right there. And you’re right. There’s no need to be perfect and 100% efficient as long as you are going in the right direction. I had no idea how to enjoy life while I was working but retirement is a good teacher 🙂

  25. Your posts are always so funny. You’re like a personal finance comedian. I leave a ton of slack in my travel plans. My husband is a planner so he always wants to pin things down more. I feel trapped if there are too many things on the agenda. What if the most perfect excellent adventure presents itself last minute?? I want to be able to follow it. 🙂 So yes, lots of slack here.

    1. Aww, thanks.

      It’s so true that the perfect adventure could present itself last minute and you miss out on so much. If we had continued down the obsessive-scheduling route until now, we would’ve never discovered Santorini–that was a recommendation from one of our Airbnb hosts and good thing we schedule was wide open. Would’ve been a shame to miss it.

      So it’s definitely a good thing that you have a ton of slack in your travel plans.

  26. Haha, I feel like I was looking in the mirror when you talked about BASE. I currently have an extensive spreadsheet segmenting every hour of every day for 2 weeks when I’m going to Vietnam in November. I’ve done this for every vacation I’ve been on so far, and thankfully I haven’t had an emergency come and ruin it. I do feel like my vacations are more stressful than relaxing though, and I feel the issue largely comes down to using the precious little vacation time I have available.

    If, like you are now, I was financially free and not working, there’s no way I would vacation like I do now. I’d do it just like Wanderer prefers, slow and casual. But when I get 15 days a year to see the world, you can bet your ass I’ll be planning every last minute of that time. It also depends on the vacation. If I feel like I need to unwind, I’ll go to Mexico or whatever and not plan much. If I want an experience though, I’ll go somewhere new and prepare a BASE 😛

    I like to create slack in my income vs. expenses. My wife hasn’t been paid by her vendor for two months now and thanks to slack (or, living on one income), we are getting by just fine. Slack certainly reduces stress!

    1. Ha ha. So hilarious to see you have your own BASE, Vancouver Brit!

      “All your base are belong to us”. Mwahahahah.

      Enjoy your trip to Vietnam! Eat all the Pho!

  27. Slack is such a great tool in any scenario! While the description is accurate, I do wish it was called something else. It always strikes me as harsh. Then again, maybe this impression has to do with it being associated to my PM job…

    Anyhow, for me it wasn’t on vacation but in planning day to day activities for myself where I experienced the ‘crashing into a brick wall’ lesson of slack. I’ve been tweaking with it for the past year. It took me awhile to catch on switching job roles impacted how much social and planned commitments I can handle. I was doing fun things while being irritated or angry and wondering what my problem was. “I’m doing something fun so why can’t I just feel happy?!”

    Live, learn. Trial and error type of thing.

  28. Haha! I totally get the Type A personality must-schedule-everything syndrome. Sounds like me when I first start looking into things to do on a vacation. But you have to be aggressive when you work full time and only have a couple days off.

    To answer your questions:

    On the financial side, I like to keep a minimum 6 month emergency fund. I have never had to use it, but I like having the sense of security. Came in handy this month since I decided to take a couple weeks of unpaid time off between switching jobs. Felt nice to have a stay-cation and not have to worry about anything!

    On the vacation side, I make loose schedules. A bit more than half of all the days are scheduled, but I leave a couple hours every day free. I use this time to either relax, or go to a place I found/was recommended by a local.

    I also make schedules with days that are interchangeable, especially when the plans are weather dependent. That way, if it is a bad weather day, I can just go with the other day plan.

  29. Firecracker, I’m lovin’ everything that you and Wanderer write. Respectfully I think you may be overstating the risk of a bank rescinding or calling a line of credit (LOC).

    I’ve worked with several financial institutions and I’ve never seen this happen. Indeed, we advise clients that a LOC — used judiciously — can help them to support themselves when they’re between jobs.

    Imagine the negative publicity that a bank would get if they cancelled someone’s LOC because the person lost their job. The bank would be removing the client’s safety net right when the client most needs it.

    Of course it’s ideal to have several months of living expenses saved. I agree with you 100% and I’m your biggest fan. So please know that I’m just sharing my experience with banks, thanks! 🙂

  30. When I first discovered FI I had about $35k in student loan debt and decided that I was going to attack that debt with everything I had. For about two years I didn’t leave any room for slack in my bank account. If I had had an emergency I would have been screwed. My friend called my strategy “playing with the devil’s balls.” I made it through but it was seriously stressful.

  31. Hey guys! I would love to hear your opinion on keeping the 6 month (or greater) safety cushion in cash versus an “insurance” package like AFLAC. This is a discussion my co-workers and I have been having recently as we work as independent contractors, so if something goes wrong (and it did!), we’re kind of screwed. Thoughts??

  32. You may have grew up poor. I grew up and wasn’t rich either. I cam from Flatbush Brooklyn and I didn’t have it like that either. I knew hard times. I know struggle. I know hardship. I know that side of life. So I can relate to you on that. Poor is only a temporary condition and a state of mind. Look where you are today. Being poor back then taught you valuable lessons about survival, entrepreneurship, and ditching the day job scene. And look where you are today and how many news networks had you on their show. If anything your boy DNN – Drewry over here from Flatbush Brooklyn is proud of you for doing the transformation business work and staying focused. 🙂

  33. Interesting that I read the same book, Scarcity, but the subtitle on my version is “Why Having Too Little Means So Much”. One point that was interesting for people looking for ways to increase their savings/ decrease spending was that we “pinch pennies on small items, but blow dollars on big ones” – for example, being willing to go half hour out of our way to save $35 on a $100 item but not on a $1,000 item. This violates economists’ “rational” models, but of course our behavior has a lot of less than rational aspects.

    1. Yeah, that book is very eye opening. Though I’d be willing to go to go out of my way to save $35 and $1000. That’s what happens when you have all the time in the world in retirement 😛

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