6 Ways to Spring Clean Your Savings Strategy

Spring is finally here, even if the weather doesn’t seem certain yet. That means that we have endless opportunities ahead of us to get out and enjoy the sunshine, smell the fresh flowers, and refresh our outlook on life. Usually, Spring is a time of the year when we like to get rid of the clutter in our homes and try something new.

However, it’s not just a good time to spring clean your property; you can also spring clean your saving strategies too. There are plenty of great ways to start working on your budget in the months ahead. Here are our top tips for 2019.


1. Hang Your Washing Out to Dry

We know how difficult it can be to find a day in the US when it’s not pouring down so that you can hang up your washing. In the spring, there’s more chance that you’ll get at least a couple of hours of sunshine that you can work with. However, even if you don’t want to hang your washing up outside, you can try a clothes dryer instead. The sunlight will still dry your clothing faster than you might think. There’s also the option of a heated clothes dryer too, which only cost about 10c an hour to run.


2. Download Some Plugins

The chances are that you won’t want to fill your browser up with endless plugins designed to save you money. However, there are some apps that may be more helpful than you’d think. For instance, a single automatic coupon app that works on every website will be able to tell you whether you’re really getting the best price on your products before you hit the “Buy Now” button. You could save a fortune with coupons and voucher codes that you never would have found on your own.


3. Compare More

Remember the days when you used to spend forever walking from one store to another trying to find the best deals? Fortunately, those days are over. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be comparing prices anymore. Instead, you can do it all from your smartphone or desktop computer instead. Simply log online and compare the costs of the products you want to buy with a quick search on Google. There are even comparison websites available where you can check you’re getting the best deal on your loans and finance (even with bad credit), car insurance, energy bills and so much more.


4. Have More Bubble Baths (or Showers)

Who doesn’t love a nice relaxing bubble bath after a long day? Filling a bath around half way will cost you about $10 a year when you have a standard gas boiler installed. On The other hand, baths aren’t the best idea for people who have an electric immersion heater. If you have an electric heater, then you’re going to be spending almost triple as much as you would with a gas boiler. In that case, you’ll be better off having a shower instead. Find out what kind of boiler is heating up your water and start from there.


5. Use Your Phone

We’ve already acknowledged that you can use your phone to compare the price of crucial products and services online. However, did you know that you can also take your strategy to the next level with money apps too? Your phone’s app store is brimming with fantastic tools that help you to track your spending and improve your budget. You can even find apps that will invest any leftover pennies you have from your purchases into businesses. In no time, you could be making some serious cash off the change that you wouldn’t have noticed without your new app.


6. Use Your Spring Cleaning to Make Money

It’s the season of spring cleaning – so why not make the most of it? If you’ve gone through your clutter and found a bundle of things that you’re sure someone what might want, put them on eBay and see whether you can get a hit. There’s also the Facebook marketplace and other selling groups that you can try out too. Remember, you might not make a fortune selling things this way, but if you were just going to throw the items out anyway, then you might as well see what you can get. On the other hand, if you can trust the weather for an afternoon, you could pay the minimal entry fee and sign up for a local car boot sale if you think that will get you some more buyers.




Wow! This Baby Thing is Getting Expensive

Two months ago, my wife gave birth to a beautiful little girl. Of course, this beautiful little life is priceless but can actually be pretty pricey to raise a child. From diapers to cribs, to strollers, the list can go on and on. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to save money as new parents.

You must have heard these crazy figures like this one from the Times: The Cost of Raising a Child Jumps to $233,610 but the actual cost of raising kids is only what you spend for them. If you are frugal parents and spend consciously,  you can easily provide an amazing and plentiful childhood to your kids without breaking the bank. In the past two months, we have been raising our baby without spending a ton on gadgets and trinkets and it’s been perfectly fine.

P.S. If you are not a parent and do not plan to become one, you might want to skip this.


Things we got so far: Our Cost
All-in-one stroller with car seat As a gift
Travel stroller (optional) $140
Crib As a gift
Sheets As a gift
Travel crib / Playpen (optional) $200
Clothes, socks, hats… About $50
Baby bathtub As a gift
Baby washcloths $10
Electric breast pump (rental) $125
Changing mat As a gift
Wipes (2 boxes) $23 x 2
Wardrobe storage $1
Diapers (4 boxes) $30 x 4
Cloth diapers (pack of 6) $40
Flushable diaper liners $10
Baby carrier As a gift
Boppy Newborn Lounger As a gift
Ikea armchair $70
Mobile $5
Total $817


Nursery money saving tips

The first thing you might do before giving birth is to set up a nursery for your future little one. So many people go bananas on this one and can end up spending thousands on their nursery.

Nursery money saving tipsUnfortunately, all these things will only get used for a few months and then your newborn will be too big for them. This Ubabub Pod Crib, for example, sells for $2,300! If you set up your whole nursery to match, you will pay upwards of $10,000.

Even the cheaper options are pretty expensive, Costco sells nursery sets anywhere from $1,300 up to $2,000. These come with a crib, dresser with a changing tray, and a nursery glider but are still pretty pricey.

Instead, buy used and look for furniture and accessories that can do double duty. Instead of shopping at specialized baby stores, buy regular furniture or, even better, use furniture you already own.

  • We got a hand-me-down crib for free from our family
  • My grandmother made us some sheets.
  • Some blankets were given to us as gifts and we bought a few more at the thrift store for only $1, total.
  • Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a nursery chair, we bought a $70 armchair at Ikea. We can then use it in our living room later on.
  • frugal parent tipsWe bought a mobile at Walmart for only $5.
  • A neet discovery (but totally optional) was the boppy newborn lounger. Our little girl loves it and it allows us to put her down anywhere in the house with us.
  • Instead of spending hundreds on a specialized dresser with a changing tray which will be useless once our baby grows up, we simply got this diaper changing Pad and liners and laid it on top of a dresser we already owned.
  • The Dollar store sells great little nightlights. We did not find a need to get anything more expensive.
  • How to save money on babyFinally, we found a nice wardrobe storage at the thrift store but can also be bought on Amazon for just $3.

Every store is out there pushing some baby things but half of it is either useless or will be after a month or two. You do not need to buy everything they sell, there are endless amounts of stuff being marketed to new parents but as frugal parents, just get what you need.

All your baby really needs is love, safety, and attention.

Even if we spent about $100 on our nursery, we do not feel deprived. Honestly, we cannot think of anything else we would want.

We did not bother with painting the room or any special decor since she will only be a baby for so long before she will want to choose her own styles.


Save money on baby clothes

For clothing, your baby does not need designer clothes (even adults, actually). Even if Hermes has a baby line with $2,425 baby blankets and $3,075 plush animals, it does not mean your baby needs it.

No one needs a two thousand dollar blanket!

Don’t buy baby clothes far in advance since they will probably not fit. Our girl came a bit early, at 37 weeks, so even New Born sizes were too big, while my sister was born at 10lbs, which is already at the 3-months size.

Aside from the gifts we received, we bought all her clothes at thrift stores for pennies. Seriously, pennies. They charge per pound so we can get about 5 outfits for $1.

We are already donating back some outfits, after only two months, because she grows up so fast. If we had bought all her clothes brand new, even on the cheaper end, each outfit would have cost at least $10-$15. Instead, we spend as much for her whole wardrobe!

We are just smart about what we buy for our newborn.

  • Onesies are cheaper than 2-piece outfits and much easier to put on.
  • Before she starts crawling, our baby does not need any shoes.
  • Buy a size too big, she will grow into it in a week anyway.


Say yes to free

They say the best things in life are free.

We had a baby shower and got the essentials as gifts. Even without any expectations, people just like sharing this moment with you and are generous.

We received a bunch of clothes, the Boppy newborn lounger, a diaper changing pad with liners, a baby bathtub, two different baby carriers, and a box of diapers.

If you can, try to nurse at least for the first six months. That is another great free trick. Not only is it healthy, but you will save at thousands in formula costs. Breast milk is free, why not use it.

In our case, my wife is breastfeeding but our baby would not latch properly for the first weeks so we had to pump at the beginning. The best deal we found was to rent a breast pump from our pharmacy. A quality electric pump can be expensive (up to $800) but renting was quite affordable. We ended up paying $65 for one month and bought the plastic attachments for $60 since you should not share those. The best would be to borrow a pump from a friend but otherwise, it is still pretty cheap to rent if it is for a short period of time.

We also consulted a lactation consultant at our local clinic. It was free, your local breastfeeding organizations may also offer home visits or phone consultations.


How to save on diapers

When it comes to diapers, we like to think big. Buying in bulk reduced our cost per unit from 33¢ to only 12¢. We buy the Huggies Snug & Dry Diapers from Amazon or when they go on sale at the grocery store. We found them to be the best and cheapest option, aside from cloth diapers.

Ways to Save Money on diapersYou can also sign up for company newsletters from Pampers or Huggies and get coupon offers to save even more.

For cloth diapers, we bought a 6-pack from Amazon for about $40 and use them when we are at home. They are not ideal when out and about but they are surprisingly easy to clean and maintain.

To compare, this expense equals roughly a box and a half of disposable diapers (about 300). You would need to use these cloth diapers for a month or two just to break even (yeah, they go through a lot of diapers when they are young!).

And skip the diaper bags. These things are clunky and will only be used for diapers. Instead, we simply use a backpack we already owned and always carry our six baby essentials:

  1. Few diapers
  2. Changing pad
  3. Wipes
  4. Garbage bags
  5. Extra onesies
  6. Extra blanket


Our travel preparations

For our future travels around the world, we bought a few extra things that are totally optional but will make traveling much easier.

Instead of our clucky all-in-one stroller, we bought a sturdy travel stroller for a hundred and forty dollars. It is super compact and airplane friendly so we will be able to board with it as a carry-on.

The only other thing we got was a foldable crib which will fit in our suitcase. This will double as a playpen during the day and will allow her to sleep alone pretty much anywhere.


To conclude, just remember that kids only cost as much as you spend on them. We try to focus on what you really need to buy and skip what you can do without. If you ignore the marketing and stay frugal, there is plenty of ways to save money and raise beautiful kids in abundance.

We only spent $800 so far and now own everything we need. For the following year, we will need more diapers and wipes. These will run us about $50 per month, although we are using cloth diapers more and more.

As she grows, we are constantly donating clothes that do not fit her anymore and getting new outfits at the thrift shop for a few dollars here and there. I am confident we can end the year 2018 without spending more than $1,500 for our newborn. 🙂

There is no reason to feel peer-pressured or influenced if that’s just not you. Stay true to your frugal-self!




Financial Independence Saving

How to Organize your Finances and Stop Wasting Time

We invest for our future and our family’s future, but why? We are building wealth for a greater purpose, to buy ourselves financial freedom, but to what point?

Some obsess about money while others are oblivious to it. We try to live a calm and relaxed life without focusing on money too much while still looking at our finances enough to optimize it properly. Just like with anything, there is a balance to be found.


If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free. If our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed. – Edmund Burke


Being completely blind when it comes to your finances, might get you to miss a few payments, pay interest you could avoid, and miss out on proper investment returns. On the other hand, if you are obsessed with your financials, you might make bad investments decisions, or miss out on more productive opportunities because of all the time you spend looking at your finances.


Are you financially blind?


The financially blind might:

  • Overpay almost everything he buys since he is never price-shopping.
  • Be late on credit card payments, or worse, keep a balance and pay interest.
  • Invest in products most marketed to him such as actively-managed mutual funds and end up paying high management fees on his investments.
  • Overpay his taxes.


On the other hand, the financially obsessed might:

  • Spend hours couponing to save $1 on a product he does not need.
  • Get emotional with his investments since he is following news and looking at price movements every day and end up making bad decisions.
  • Spend hours looking at his investments instead of enjoying life.
  • Spend sleepless nights and stress about small corrections in the markets.


The secret here is to find a balance. Even if finances are not your favorite subject, you do not want to completely close your eyes to them. And on the other hand, if you cannot get enough of it, you do not want to obsess about your finances to a point where it takes away from your quality of life. In the end, it’s just money.

Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto introduced the Pareto’s Principle back in 1906, better known as the 80/20 Rule. The 80/20 Rule means that in any situation, 20 percent of the inputs or activities are responsible for 80 percent of the outcomes or results. This is a great way to organize your life and dedicate your energy to the most productive tasks at hand.

This can be applied to so many things in personal finances. For example, you can get 80% of the rewards focusing on only the top 20% credit card offers. Travel hacking does not need to be complicated if you focus on what is really worth your time. You can also get 80% of the savings with 20% of the price-shopping efforts, and so on… Trying to optimize every single aspect of your life can be tiring (if not impossible) so focusing on what is most important is crucial.

In a given month, our time can be allocated to various “tasks” like looking up the current credit card offers or reviewing your investments. We structure these tasks to optimize our own time, stay efficient and avoid going crazy over finances.


How to organize your finances

Credit card offers

These activities should not take more than an evening. We check deals sites and a few bank websites to compare current credit card offers less than once a month and apply for the best ones. We also follow a few travel blogs and track our current cards but do not spend more than an hour per month on travel hacking.



When it comes to shopping, we shop for our groceries once a week and buy most items on sale. We do not use coupons but rather use credit cards to maximize our rewards and lookout for in-store promotions. We try to avoid the convenient, higher-margin, grocers and rather shop at discount stores for most of our basics. Time-wise, we are pretty efficient in a grocery store and know where the good stuff is located.


How to save on groceries


The secret is to only shop outside the aisles. You can quickly get all your produce, milk, meats, fish, bread, and get all your shopping done relatively quickly. Most grocery stores are configured that way. All the processed food is in the aisles, shopping the outside will keep you healthier and the save you a lot of money.

The other shopping we do is done online or at particular stores when we know exactly what we are looking for. In both scenarios, we price-shop quickly online to make sure we are getting the best deal. Clothes or everyday essentials can always be found on sale.


Investment check

Once a month, we check our investments, review our contributions, and adjust our asset allocation in an hour or so. Whenever we have some investment play we want to do with a small portion of our portfolio, we might spend a few extra hours researching a certain stock but this is not part of our 80/20, that is just for fun.

Most of our gains come from boring investments which never need additional research or even frequent price checks; index funds. Our 20 is mainly to keep our portfolio at our desired asset allocation and make sure we contribute enough to reach our goals. Since we want to reach financial freedom in less than 10 years, we are trying to invest at least 50% of our income.


Bills review

We also keep an eye on all our bills to make sure everything is in order. With apps like Mint or Personal Capital, we verify all our expenses to make sure we did not overpay anything. We review our bills to make sure everything is up to date and call any provider that might have overcharged us.

We end up saving a lot on our cell phone, internet, and other recurring bills simply by being aware of what they charge us every month.


Stop being late on your bills


Credit card payments

Finally, we set up all our credit card bill payments to pay the full balances and never pay a cent in interest. This is a crucial step in our financial plan. There are no rewards worth paying 20% interest on credit cards.

The minimum payment is not the required payment to avoid interest charges. By the end of each month, we pay our bills in full and on time by electronic bill payment through our bank.


Are your late paying your bills?


Stay organized and once everything is in place, it should not take much of your time to optimize your finances and spend more of your time doing things you truly enjoy. Financial freedom is attainable, you simply need the right mindset for it.





Win 85,249 Books! (And Learn Speed Reading)

Since I started reading one book per week, this has been an enlightening experience and I highly recommend it to everyone. I used to read three, maybe four, books a year. Slightly better than the three American out of ten who did not pick up a book at all during the past year but still less than the 12 books per year readers go through on average.

Use your local library

I used to think I did not have time to read. I just could not find anything interesting. But all that was just excuses my brain was thinking up.

Then, I forced myself to take the time. TV, internet, and other fast-paced stimuli made my brain lazy but it can be retrained.

Over the past few weeks, I have forced myself to go through a chapter or two a day and retrain my brain into this slow-paced, relaxing, educating, world of books.

Now, you must be wondering how I can afford all these books. One book purchase per week would add up to thousands of dollars per year! Well, today I will share with you my little secret and let you in on a way to get 85,249 books available to you for free.

In the 9,091 public libraries across the United States sits a total of 775 million books and serial volumes all available to you free of charge. (This is an average of 85,249 books per library but most small-town libraries hold about 10,000 books.) If you never explored yours yet, find your local library and enjoy everything they have to offer.

Most libraries now offer a large array of media such as eBooks, DVDs, music, and games. In our town, for example, we even have access to a media room with audio recording equipment, a 3D printer, video production equipment and other cool things.

According to the Pew research center’s internet and American life reading habits survey, 35% of Americans ages 16 and older used their library in the past year to do so. Slightly more than three out of ten American are taking advantage of these amazing, free, resources.


Library use in the US


The most surprising thing to me is that, according to this survey, lower-income households are the ones which visit the least the public library system. This is free materials which everyone should benefit.


Great alternatives

If you live too far from a library or your local library is too small, you can always search the and access their 2.7 million eBooks or access the Smithsonian Libraries or Project Gutenberg for free.

Little Free Library

Other options are local book swaps. You might find them on street corners or in coffee shops. You take one and leave one, and the sharing goes on. An even better idea is to start your own. Build a closed box, ideally with a windowed front door, and set it on your lawn with a few books and simple instructions for your fellow neighbors. The Little Free Library organization is a great place to start if you need a little inspiration.

Alternatively, you can also visit used bookstores or thrift stores to buy some book for only a few dollars or less, then return them and repeat. Books and novels at my local thrift store are only 25₵. At that price, it is impossible to say no.


Books are knowledge

Since books are permanent, we can learn from past generations. Absorbing their wisdom and increasing yours. Reading the 1861 Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, for example, is just like time travel. These findings are still thought today and will continue to live on for the decades to come.

There’s a lot of very interesting things online and knowledge is more accessible than ever on sites like Wikipedia or Coursera. We can learn everything about any topic for free but books go through a certain editorial process. Publishers and editors checked the material for factual accuracy and literary suitability so that the end product can be considered as reliable and authoritative. Depending on the topic, some publications also go through a peer review process.

I am not discrediting online material but I think we cannot forget about print materials. In addition, there is still a vast amount of knowledge in print that has yet to be put into digital form. Some online resources are amazingly researched and can share depth, emotions, and insight but books go even deeper. Often, a blog post or Wiki page will cover a topic but a whole book on that topic can explore different directions and get you to think differently about it. Taking the time to read a book forces you to learn more about that topic and go deeper into fields you might not have thought of Googling in the first place.


Books are travels

Great fiction can transport you to different eras, different cultures, or different worlds. Autobiographies can make you feel like you are living someone else’s life. Travel journals or guidebooks can make you see the world from your living room and recipe books can make you salivate before even turning on the oven.

I read a lot of finance and investments but I also like spy, humor, and fantasy fiction novels. Even if they are not considered “knowledge” I still learn a lot from them. I have learned to explore different universes and expand my horizons beyond my personal experiences and views of the world. Movies try to show you fictional universes sometimes but they feed you the shape and looks of it. Novels actually get your brain to think and imagine those universes and fantasies.


5 tips to read more

Before starting my personal challenge of reading one book per month, I was barely reading paperbacks. I always followed many blogs and read the news but rarely picked up anything substantial. If you would ask me if I could read a whole book in a week, I would have replied a chapter might have been more in line with my level. However, here I am.

Here are a few tricks I use to read more,


1. Set time to read

This is the first, and easiest, step. If you just read whenever it happens, it won’t happen.


2. Keep a book here and there

I used to read one book at the time but eventually, I would get bored and stop. By keeping a few books around different areas of the house, you keep it fresh and always have something to read. I keep some books at work, besides my bed, in my office… Having a book around just pushes you to pick it up and having different books for different moods also helps.


3. Keep a list

Having a list of your current and past reads is a great motivator to read more. An added benefit to this is that you will always have great recommendations if anyone asks. You can keep it on paper or use services like Goodreads to track your list.


4. Share with others

Talk about what you are reading and share with others your discoveries, dislikes, and insights. Sharing will not only help you retain information but might also entice your friends to read your book once you are done with it.


5. Learn speed reading

Sometimes, I am reading and suddenly, my mind wonders off for 10 minutes and then I need to reread everything I just went over. An easy trick to avoid this is to read in 20-minute sprints. This keeps you focused and gets you ahead in your readings. Another tip I can give you to increase your reading speed is to stop reading word after word. Instead, view the lines of texts as lines and try to eliminate regression and back-skipping.


Speed reading


Avoid sounding out the words in your head and try to utilize your peripheral vision as you read faster. As long as you understand what you are reading and are still enjoying yourself, practice and practice even more. The more you read using these techniques, the faster you will read.


What are you reading this week? I am starting How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Mr. Xyz.



Budgeting Saving

Spend on What’s Right

Don’t you wonder sometimes how to spend your money? It all seems so frivolous and abstract but spending on what’s right can actually make you happier. The small things in life can sometimes make a huge difference!

I do not know where you are at the moment but where we are from, it is snowing. It is snowing a lot and it will snow much, much, more in the next 4 months to come. When we were living in the city, we had an indoor garage and ever since we owned a house, we paid someone to plow our driveway.

Depending on the neighborhoods and driveway size, snow plow services can charge up to a thousand dollars per season. The going price seems to be driven by your driveway size, location, and supply. In our case, our driveway is 2 cars wide, we live in a lower to middle-class neighborhood, and there are a lot of farmers around us. Being in a more rural town dramatically drops the prices since farmers want to put their tractors to work during the winter. Since the supply is high, prices go down.


Why are you paying for thisWe paid this guy to do the job.


Calling the 4 major providers in our town, we got quotes from $200 up to $350 for the whole winter. It’s not a lot but it is easy to do it ourselves and save that money for something we actually value.


Why pay twice?

If you think about it; you can pay others to do the work for you, and then pay for a gym membership to exercise. Or you can just do the work yourself and get free exercise out of it.

In our region, there are, on average, 10 big snowfalls per year. All the rest do not really need plowing. This means we were paying about $20 per snowfall, even with the cheapest guy in town.

We just had our first large snowfall this week and it took me 30 minutes to plow everything. This means that $20 can be saved in 30 minutes of exercise. In other words, I am paying myself $40 per hour to get a workout. 🙂

Shoveling snow is fun and a 30 minutes workout burns about 243 calories, even more when it drops below 14°F (-10°C).

This is why, for the first time, we decided to plow our own driveway this year. This expense just did not align with our values.


It’s not about the money

Like most decisions in life, money is not the main driver. Even as money bloggers, we do not make the cheapest choices all the time. It’s all about what we value.


Your values are what should dictate how you spend your money, not just the price tag.


If you are a bit lost and have not found your core values yet, your first step is to identify the times when you were happiest. What are you doing during these times? Ask yourself what objects are required during this time and how much this activity is costing you if anything. Most of the time, you will notice the happiest moments in life are free or very cheap.

Then, identify the times when you feel the most fulfilled and satisfied. Some of the most expensive things in the world are actually pretty shallow. Will this $60,000 Hermes bag actually fulfill you or is it just a big marketing scheme?

Find out your values and associate them with the things or experiences you enjoy most. For example, some of our values are a spirit of adventure, education, and open-mindedness, so we highly value traveling. We like to go on an adventure, explore our beautiful world, and learn about other cultures. Find your own values and then try to find the things or experiences you value. Core values include:

  • Achievement
  • Appearance
  • Being the best
  • Cleanliness
  • Commitment
  • Compassion
  • Consistency
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Dependability
  • Education
  • Efficiency
  • Environmentalism
  • Family
  • Fitness
  • Good humor
  • Honesty
  • Innovation
  • Motivation
  • Open-mindedness
  • Optimism
  • Passion
  • Patriotism
  • Perseverance
  • Positivity
  • Privacy
  • Professionalism
  • Reliability
  • Respect
  • Safety
  • Service to others
  • Spirit of adventure
  • Teamwork
  • Worldliness

This is not an exhaustive list, write your own and add all the core values you can think of. When looking at our expenses, we could easily find stuff that is not necessarily in line with our values or stuff we could easily find better alternatives.

As an exercise, go through all your expenses last month and ask yourself if this is in line with your values. If so, spend a quick 5 minutes searching for an alternative. All you need is a quick online search to see if you are overpaying for these.


Step One: Aggregate

Once you know your values, the first step is to glance at your budget. Go through your expenses and see if you are spending money on things you do not particularly value.


Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. -Epictetus


You can go about this by category or, if you really want to be thorough, look at each expense one-by-one. We highly suggest you go through at least a month’s worth of transactions to spot even the small amounts which are wasted. To see all your expenses in one place, we suggest Personal Capital or Mint, they are free and highly customizable.


Why use Mint


Step two: Make it fit

Once you know your values and your spending, make each expense or category fit with some of your core values. This can get tricky, no one gets joy and fulfillment from mortgage payments. However, your home might be perfectly in line with safety, dependability, reliability, or even appearances. Our mortgage is our biggest expense and we value its resulting asset very much.


I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too. -Steve Martin


All jokes aside, going through our expenses, we can see how we align our purchases with our values. We mostly spend on food, we really enjoy discovering the flavors from around the world, spending quality family time together, and eating healthy home-cooked meals. This would correlate with our worldliness, family, and health values.


Our Expenses and Values


In this snippet of our spending, we also spent on charity, our pet, and entertainment, all things directly aligned with our core values.

Try it yourself. Going down your list, ask yourself why you did that purchase and if they are in line with your values. Start eliminating the things you do not care for or cannot answer why you bought them in the first place.


Step three: Find alternatives

Finally, you will be left with the actual expenses you value and enjoy. From there, try to find alternatives to each of them. This might be a different provider, a different brand or store… You do not need to change anything but at least you will be aware of the other options out there.

In some cases, you might find that you can get the same happiness and fulfillment out of a cheaper product and you will end up saving a bit. In other cases, you might find better, more expensive, options that you value even more. For example, we highly value skiing and spending on a brand new pair of skis last year was one of our best purchases of the winter. Even if we already had perfectly fine skis, spending more on an upgrade was worth it in this case.

After this little exercise, you should end up with the optimal spending for optimal happiness and fulfillment. Of course, this was looking backward but you can consciously think about each and every purchase you make and go through these steps quickly in your head. Hopefully, you will live a better life, save more, and be happier. Mr. and Mrs. Xyz.



Financial Independence Saving

How much should you spend on a car?

What if we started spending all of our paychecks instead of saving half of them? What if we started living paycheck-to-paycheck without regard to savings or investments or financial independence?


After all, everyone else is doing it!


With all that money, we could drive brand new cars to work. Nothing fancy but we could finance a 2018 Honda Civic sedan and, since everyone else is doing it, an SUV to go with it.


How much should you spend on a car?

After sales tax and fees, a Honda Civic would only cost us $451 per month to finance for 5 years.


Should I buy a new carSource: Honda Canada


But then again, why would we tie ourselves to a loan for only 5 years when we can make it last 7 years and only pay $348 per month? The interest rate jumps to 5.14% but why look at this when the payments are so low and they do not even require any down payment?


Brand new car purchase

We could do the same for a nice Jeep Grand Cherokee. Let’s stick with the base model for this one. The next purchase price comes down to $43,640. Oops, I mean only $587 per month for 7 years!


Should I buy a new car


Forget I said anything about the price and focus on this nice low figure instead. You know what; we can even get a deal for only $121 per week for 8 years! How generous of Jeep. Allowing us to only pay $121 per week for the next 8 years of our lives and they even keep the interest rate at 3.49%.

How much interest you are paying on your carBuying cars that we cannot afford to pay for cash would mean that we end up paying a ton of interest to the bank. Over a five year period, a 5% interest rate means that about 12% of the monthly payments go towards interest.

After all this fun shopping, we could be driving around town with sweet rides, base models but brand new base models, for a total of $935 per months for the next 7 years. This represents $11,223 per year.

Now, if we keep investing this amount instead, we would end up with a whopping $102,243 after only 7 years. This assumes 7% annual returns after inflation which is very close to what the American markets returned for the past few decades.


Magic of compound interestSource: Bankrate


Unlike the value of these cars, the value of these investments is historically likely to increase over the long-term. If we look at the depreciation and maintenance costs of these vehicles over a few years, investing the money looks even more attractive.


2017 Honda Civic

5 Year Details

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

5 Yr Total








Interest Charges







Taxes & Fees





































Adapted with data from: Edmunds


2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee

5 Year Details

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

5 Yr Total








Interest Charges







Taxes & Fees





































Adapted with data from: Edmunds


As shown above, even if we sold the cars after year 5, we would only get half the price tag for them since most depreciation happens in the first few years. The numbers shown in the totals would represent the estimated cost of ownership even after selling the vehicles after the five years.  On top of this, brand new cars end up costing much more in taxes, fees, and insurance than older models.


Think five years down the road

Obviously, we cannot simply compare buying brand new cars and investing in the markets. That would leave us on our bicycles. Reaching financial independence is great but we still like our small luxuries.

If we complete the same exercise with the five-years-old models instead, we could then compare the true cost of car ownership. Let’s assume we would buy these models used, the going prices at the moment for a 2012 Honda Civic with reasonable mileage is around $12,000. Right there we are saving $12,530 due to depreciation. In addition, the depreciation hit we would be taking in the following years will be much less since depreciation is much higher in the first years.

A recent Fidelity study showed a drop in the value of nearly 30% in the first year of ownership. It is important to remember that new cars have some advantages too. The maintenance and repair costs are (hopefully) minimal and gradually increase over time. Between the 2nd and 10th-year, the cost of maintenance increases by more than 68%. From the 10th to 15th-year maintenance costs increases by another 28% on average.


Cost of buying a carSource: Fidelity


There is a balance to be found for every model but using our example, a 2012 Civic would eventually depreciate another 50% over the next 5 years but this only represents $6,000. All the other costs, except maintenance and repairs, would also be much lower. The secret is to find the sweet spot for the particular model you are interested in.

This is why we are still driving our old Honda Fit and SUV. Both of them are now 10 years old but have not required any major repairs yet. Our car has required very low maintenance and we have spent roughly $1,000 on it since we bought it 3 years ago and our SUV needed a few parts replacement so we spent around $4,000 on maintenance and repairs in the last 5 years.

We paid cash for them so we do not incur any interest costs and our insurance premiums are kept to a minimum since they are not worth much. Our premiums, for both cars, with both drivers, are only $56 per month.

Depreciation is also minimized and is almost constant year-by-year since we are on the lower end of the depreciation curve. We are only estimating using the going prices online but it is slightly under $1,000 per year per car. To compare, the brand new cars used above depreciated over $15,000 in the first year alone.

Over time, even when we compare with the purchase of lightly used cars, financing two brand new cars adds up to a  total opportunity cost of over a hundred thousand dollars. This is a crucial part of our plan to reach financial independence. Once you tackle these main expenses, the rest is easy.


What to look for in a car?

Dream cars are nice and flashy but no one actually needs them. Functionality should trump showy, but you still deserve some comforts.


Minivan or SUVMight be functional but…


There is nothing wrong with minivans, some financial independence bloggers like Justin love them but it is just not for us. This only goes to show how important it is to assess your needs. If you have a large family or often have bulk to haul around, then a minivan might make sense. They are much cheaper than SUVs or pickup trucks, offer low ground clearance, sliding doors, fold-flat seating, and get better gas mileage.

  1. Are you driving around more than 4 passengers regularly?
  2. Do you often haul large bulky items?
  3. Will you be towing a trailer or camper?
  4. Are looks important to you?

If you answered yes to all of the above, a minivan would be great for you!

For any category of vehicle, there are questions you ought to ask yourself before settling on a model. If you live in a climate where you will end up driving in snowy or icy conditions like us you might prefer a higher ground clearance. The same goes if you prefer sitting upright instead of in a low sports car. If you prefer having 4 doors rather than a Coupe you might consider less sporty models.

There so much variety in the car world that you can find practically anything at your price point. The Kia Soul is a great example if you prefer SUVs but do not want to pay the SUV premium. Other smaller models like the Honda HR-V offer a lot for half the price tag as the full-size Honda Pilot.

The same can be done for cars. Models range from 2-door Smart cars to compact cars like the Civic to mid-size like the Sonata to full-size sedan like the Taurus. From there you can compare brands. We always buy Japanese brands since they are renowned for their reliability but they do come at a slight premium on the used market. American brands can be cheaper to purchase and the parts are slightly cheaper but they have a history of failures.

  1. How big do I really need?
  2. What build do I prefer?
  3. Which model do you prefer?

Once you have asked yourself these three questions, you can start comparing listings online. Both the new and used market are easy to shop and compare through.


Let the kids pay for their own college

To wrap this up, we still ought to speak about this famous $100,000 car. We could buy and finance this $58,045 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 for only $935 per month for 84 months. The opportunity cost of such a car payment would add up to a whopping $102,243 after 7 years. (Assuming 7% returns after inflation)


True cost of carSource: Bankrate


There you have it. Skip the monthly payments and save over $100,000 over the next seven years. That is not even counting all the other costs. This is only considering the monthly tie-down of the car payments.

When we talked about money in our last post, we discussed the difficulties when starting to save and invest but all these are deeply rooted in your ability to save. Your savings rate will be the biggest driver of wealth in the early years of your path towards financial freedom. Whichever car you choose to drive, stay within your budget, be aware of compound interest, and make it work for you instead of for the banks.

Cheers, Mrs. and Mr. Xyz.



Financial Independence Saving

8 Things to do Now to Live a Better Life

The year-end is right around the corner, leaving us a bit more than a month to finish on top and improve ourselves. As part of our Better Self series, we explore the little things that can, over the long-run, make a big difference and bring you closer your ideal self. Try these and start living a better life.


1. Revise your finances for a better life

In this Holiday time of gifts and expenditures, it is important to keep your spending in line with tools like Mint or Personal Capital and cut the inessentials. Even if the Holidays are coming up, there is no excuse for busting your budget.

Before choosing how much to spend, you need to identify your income and calculate your savings rate. Most of us are getting year-end bonuses and raises next month and it is too easy to give up to lifestyle inflation.

Instead of increasing your spending and getting used to this new level of income, invest all of your bonuses and promotions and keep living just as you were last month.

We invest all our bonuses automatically in our RRSP (401k) so, one, we do not feel the urge to spend it, and two, it lowers our taxes. We also increase our automatic contributions for the next year to match our new yearly rate after our promotions.


Calculate your savings rate


If you keep a steady savings rate and your income increases, you end up spending more but if you increase your savings to keep the same budget, then you increased your yearly savings drastically. In the example above, you end up saving 36% more over the year by increasing your savings rate according to your raises.

If you do the math, your savings rate would need to rise from 20% up to 27% for you to keep the same lifestyle.

How to save with Mint

With the income side figured out, you can then choose how much to budget for your year. Looking through your spending for the past 11 months helps determine if you over-spent or if you still have room in your budget for the Holidays.

Review your utilities and any recurring payment that you are paying. You can probably find services you are paying for, but are not even using.

Compare providers and negotiate your bills. A simple phone call can save you hundreds per year.

This time of the year might pressure you into buying more stuff but there is a ton of ways to spend Christmas without spending. A great low-cost gift idea we’ve found in the Huffington Post is the Tell-Me notebook.

Free gift idea

Buy a notebook and fill it with questions depending on who you are giving the notebook to.


The questions I asked my grandparents were like: “Tell me about your first house.” “Tell me about something you are proud of.” “What do you remember most about your mother?” “Tell me about three memorable friends.” – Liz Evans


It will get you to think about the person you are giving the gift to and then will start amazing conversations with them.

To complete your financial review, take a look at your investments and assess if you need to rebalance or change your asset allocation altogether.

By using free tools like the Personal Capital Fee Analyzer Tool you can quickly evaluate if you are paying too much management fees on your portfolio. They also have great tools to evaluate your asset allocation and estimate if you are on track to reach your goals.

Before the end of the year, we make sure our investments still meet our time frame, risk tolerance, needs, and preferences. This is pretty easy for us since we are only invested in Exchange Traded Funds and follow a strict asset allocation to reach our goal of early retirement in the next decade.


2. Stay motivated along the way

Using reminders to be a better person

Enjoy the last month of the year, day-by-day, and focus on the main things you had planned to do back at the start of the year. Any New Year’s resolutions you never got to?

Any goals you have almost reached but have not quite completed? Start each day with your mental to-do list (or you can write it down and hang it up at your desk or fridge) and aim to achieve your objectives.

We use our calendar app and Google Keep to note anything and everything. Not only do we list when bills are due or when our next appointments are but we also include things we would like to accomplish.


Use tools to stay motivated



Stay motivatedWhen it comes to motivation, calendars can also keep you on track. We recently started using the Goals option in Google Calendar to stay focused on health and self-improvement.

For example, by setting up a goal like “run three times a week” the app will automatically find you a time to do that. You can even match it with Google Fit and it will log it into our Calendar once the tracker app marks it as complete.


3. Eat better to improve your body, mind, and spirit

Nobody is perfect but we can make an effort. There are only 5 weeks until the end of the year and we can surely find some ways to improve our diet until then.

If you eat out often, go out for lunch with colleagues, try saying no and bringing in your lunch just once per week. This will add up to 5 lunches or enough savings for a nice Christmas gift for a loved one.

If you are already home cooking most of your meals, try cooking at least one extremely frugal meal per week for the next 5 weeks. Here are 5 super simple recipes we love which you can cook at home for less than a dollar per portion (4-6 portions per recipe).


Frugal meal


Easy chicken and vegetables

Simply bake a whole chicken or chicken piece in a casserole with chopped carrots, onions, and potatoes. Set the oven to 350°F, sprinkle some seasonings of choice and leave everything in the oven for an hour and you are good to go. Make sure the chicken is fully cooked through before serving.


  • 1 Whole Chicken
  • 3 Carrots, chopped
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 3 Medium Potatoes, chopped
  • Seasoning of choice for skin


Cheap recipe


Tasty burritos

Another great recipe is our famous rice and beans burritos. Who needs Chipotle when you can cook those in 20 minutes for less than a dollar per portion?


  • 2 Cups dry instant brown or white rice
  • 1 Can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Can corn, drained
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 1-2 Cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 1/4 Cup shredded cheddar
  • 6-Pack of Tortillas
  • Salt to taste


For this one, you can even use leftover chicken and shred pieces for your burritos or skip the meat and do a vegetarian version. Start by cooking rice by added 4 cups of water for 2 cups of rice. Bring to a boil then let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

While this is cooking, add a diced onion to a pan and let those cook on medium until brown then add a can of black beans, corn, and your shredded chicken. Once all of this is nice and cooked, join all ingredients to a tortilla and roll up. For optimal results, grill your burrito before serving if you have a Panini press at home.


Cheap homecooking


Magnifico alfredo

One of our favorites is pasta. It is super cheap and quick to make. For day 3, we have a Fettuccine Alfredo which can also be served with chicken if you want to add meat to the dish.


  • 12 Ounces fettuccine
  • 1 Head broccoli, cut into florets, stalk peeled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 Cups skim milk
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 3/4 Cup grated Parmesan
  • Salt to taste


Cook the pasta and meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the broccoli for 3 minutes then drain. Heat the milk and butter in a large saucepan over low heat and slowly whisk in the flour. Let this simmer until slightly thickened, whisking constantly for about a minute. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan and salt then add the pasta and broccoli.


Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili


Lazy chili

If you own a slow cooker, there are a ton of recipes that can be done for under a dollar per portion. We like to slow cook this vegetarian chili and serve with tortilla chips. Even without meat, you will get a lot of proteins from beans. This is a super easy recipe, simply poor every ingredient in a slow cooker and cook for 3 or 4 hours.


  • 3/4 cup diced onion
  • 3/4 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cans tomato puree
  • 1 small can of corn
  • 1 can kidney beans with liquid
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Easy Shrimp Pizza


Finger-licking shrimp pizza

Instead of ordering pizza, we bake our own with simple ingredients. You don’t even need to know how to bake the doe, use pita bread as your base.


  • 6 pita bread
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 medium-sized cooked and peeled shrimp
  • 1 can sliced black olives, drained
  • 2 small tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 pinch dried basil or sliced fresh basil
  • 1 pinch dried oregano


Put every ingredient on the pitas and place them on a large baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 450 °F and place the pizzas in the preheated oven 8 minutes. Serve whole, or cut into slices. You can always add vegetables to taste or add different cheeses.


4. See the people you love and share happiness

Whoever you spend time with shapes who you are and they might be depleting your energy or energizing you. We are, in a way, the product of our entourage so choose wisely and foster those relationships that you care about most.


We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends. – Daniel Gilbert


As we get older, life often gets in the way. In school, we used to see our friends every day but this quickly extended to once a week once we all started working and now it is slowly turning into every other week or month!

The good news is that spending time with your friends can be very cheap and bring you great joy. Get together, get around a board game or host a potluck. Food and drinks have been bringing people closer for centuries, long before the hipster pubs and high-end eateries.


Save on parties, do a potluck


Take this time of the year to spend more time with the people around you and truly enjoy their company. It is too easy to be busy and put off the Saturday night meetup but try to make time for it.

You can even get twice the rewards by inviting your friends to reach common goals. Stay fit and go to the gym with a friend, learn new recipes and cook with a co-worker, or get two things ticked off your to-do list by walking your dog with your neighbor.


5. Rethink your stuff

Who said you need to wait until Spring Cleaning to declutter? December is the month of giving and the last month of the year, December also has 22 weekdays. Pick one item every day of the week and give it away to a local charity. Give away that shirt you haven`t worn in the past 4 months to a thrift store so others can enjoy it. Give away the toys your kids stopped playing with to kindergartens, hospitals, and other charities. Finally, give away all those canned goods sitting in your pantry to a food bank.

Want to take it a step further? Donate something every day until Christmas. That gives you 25 days to donate 25 things in your house you do not need anymore.

Need to go the whole mile? Donate something for every single day from tomorrow to the end of the year. This will give you 35 days to donate 35 things to people in need.


6. Relax a bit

Make sure to allow yourself a break. Meditate, listen to a podcast, read a book, or just enjoy your morning coffee. Sometimes, we just need to disconnect and relax. Our bodies need to recharge sometimes and our fast-paced lifestyles sometimes can become overwhelming. Taking some alone time can do wonders, try it at least once before the end of the year.


7. Get chatty

Get to know your coworkers, get out that cubicle and network. Knowing the people around you will make work more fun, more efficient, and who knows, you might even make a new friend.

Even if you are just sitting on a bus or waiting for a train, take the time to say hi and meet new people. We are both introverts but it is very rewarding to make a new friend. The first step to meeting new friends is simply to talk to new people.


8. Just in case (always better be safe than sorry)

If it is not done already, write up a will, your list of accounts, and review your insurances. Yes, this can be super boring but it is critical.

A simple hand-written will is considered valid in Canada in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick. In the U.S., the states of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming accept hand-written wills as well.

There are states with exceptions but all the ones listed above accept hand-written wills without witnesses as long as they are written entirely in the handwriting of the testator. This means you can write your own will for free without the help of a lawyer. We used a template like these to get the text right and simply wrote it all down on paper instead of paying for their package.


How to write a free will


To help your spouse or close ones, make a list of all our accounts and keep all your documents in one safe place. We wrote down all our bank accounts, investment accounts, and other accounts along with the username and password to access all of them. This might get tricky when you change your passwords constantly but that is just another reason to make it part of your annual review.

Review your life insurance needs

Finally, take the time to review your life, critical illness, disability insurance, etc., you have in place. Make sure the coverage still is adequate to meet your family’s needs and review your premiums to make sure you are not paying too much. There is a lot of quote comparison sites out there, most of them will give you a quote in a few minutes.

Now, once you accomplished all of this, January is right around the corner and it’s time for a New Year’s Resolution! How will you be a better person next year?




How to Cut Expenses Drastically and Live More

Since we started saving over half our income, our budget has slightly changed. We now shop less, eat out less, buy less, but that’s all good things!

Honestly, we buy a lot less stuff, but we value experiences a lot more anyways. Even if we spend way less, we still travel a lot, eat out in amazing restaurants, and do fun activities… We just spend way less time at the mall.

A huge thing that helped us a lot with this is cutting out advertising. Since we cut the cable and now exclusively use Netflix, enabled adblocker on our browsers, and listen to podcasts or Spotify instead of radio, there is just no more room for ads in our lives.

Those small changes can actually change your purchasing habits. Marketers have been at this for decades, they know how to get you to buy stuff.


Consuming happiness

Consumerism is through the roof in America and there are no signs of slowing down. Even for exorbitantly expensive products like the new thousand dollars iPhone, people are lining up and cannot get enough of it. According to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple will be shipping 40 million iPhones X this year and between 80 million and 90 million in 2018.


apple store customers linePeople stuck in a consumerist lifestyle.


Now, this is a huge number! Over 120 million phones at a thousand dollars a pop! No wonder credit card company stocks are all up over 30% this year.  When you think about it, there is no way so many people can justify throwing over a thousand dollars on a gadget that will be out of fashion next year.

Most of these purchases will, unfortunately, end up as outstanding credit card balances.

Over one hundreds of millions of Americans carry credit card debt and the national average per household (as of 2016) stands at $8,377. Now, this is another huge number!

Using that amount and the average credit card interest rate that ranges anywhere between 15% and 20%,  we can estimate that the average household pays anywhere between $1256 and $1675 in interest per year. That’s an iPhone and a half just in interest! Every year.


Average credit card debtSource: WalletHub


If you were to buy that iPhone on a credit card an choose to just pay the minimum payment (2% of the balance) it would take you over 6 years to pay it off and you would end up paying over $1500 for it instead of the regular price tag.

If you can afford this phone and it works out in your budget, go ahead, but please don’t put yourself in a bad financial situation just to keep up with the Jones. Instead, we prefer keeping up our savings rate!


Spend less, live more

Buying less stuff and saving over half our income is not a huge sacrifice for us, it is simply our new way of life. We decluttered our house and constantly try to keep our shopping activities to the minimum.

Focusing on cutting down those expenses where we used to spend the most; Housing, Transportation, and Food. With little tweaks here and there, we were slowly able to save a bit more by the end of the month.


How to save more


Here is the secret; no one starts an extreme diet like the Strawberry Diet and keeps up with it. Going cold turkey and jumping into something drastic like eating only strawberries as a meal rarely works over the long-term and the same goes for your finances.

Don’t go from a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, where you spend every penny you earn, to a high-saver diet, where you try to save over half your income. It just will not last. You are best to take small steps and slowly change your lifestyle to increase your savings rate.


7 ways to save money today!

  1. Start with clear goals. Know what you are saving for and then aim even a little higher. No goals are too far to reach.
  2. Make a budget in line with those goals and follow it. We suggest free tools such as Mint or Personal Capital to track your finances.
  3. Take a deep look at your monthly expenses. The latte here and there or the avocado toasts will not make or break your budget but a $600+ a month car payment might. Cars and Housing expenses are the hardest to change but anything can be done. Never think that you are stuck somewhere or that you ought to keep your car. In the end, it’s just stuff.
  4. Cut down a bit, one expense at the time. If you go out to eat every week, try to go every second week… If you have a huge house, try renting out some rooms like we did…
  5. Make it a habit to save and invest. Try to set up most of your savings on autopilot. We set aside an amount at every paycheck and it just invests itself automatically. This takes the emotions out of investing.
  6. Also, make it a habit to live with less. The less stuff you need, the more you can save. Cut the ads out of your life and acknowledge how marketers are affecting you.
  7. Finally, stay on top of things! Actively look through your statements every month (or through Personal Capital) and know where you are standing.

As you go, slowly increase your savings rate until it is enough to attain your goals in a reasonable timeframe. No matter what stage you are at, all these steps can be applied. They work just as well if you are carrying a lot of debt and trying to pay it off or if you are saving for your first million.

Being in debt is not fun. Feeling trapped can sometimes be overwhelming and becoming debt-free is a huge milestone that you should appreciate and celebrate. One extra step we would add here if you are carrying debt is to look around and refinance your debt to a lower interest rate. We recommend SoFi to save thousands on your student loans, consumer debt, or mortgage.

Once you start saving, start growing your money. As our friend Slow Dad puts it, “There is a huge opportunity cost associated with squirreling money away in the bank or under the mattress, as that same money could be invested productively and put to work”.

He personally keeps enough cash on hand for day to day expenses and keeps an emergency fund for genuine emergencies like disaster or accidents. Everything else is invested. He also suggests viewing any savings you are putting aside for a future expense such as a wedding, a holiday, or a car purchase, as deferred spending rather than savings.

All these small steps should get you very far. Good luck, Xyz.




Living a Frugal Lifestyle and Simple Living vs Being Cheap

In our journey to financial freedom, we face a dilemma. To reach our goals, the math does not lie; we need to either reduce our spending, increase our income, or both! Being frugal isn’t always fun but there is a big difference between being frugal and being cheap.


On the income side

We try to increase our income with constant self-improvement and career development. For example, I studied a lot while working full time to pass new reglementary exams which got me sweet promotions and, most recently, got a 15% raise by switching companies.

However, the income side of the equation is not unlimited (technically it is, but I will not become CEO anytime soon) nor does it come without a catch. The more income you want to earn, the more hours you need to put in (usually). Even with passive-income projects, the time has to be inputted at one point before you reap the rewards.

Most 6-figure jobs expect you to work a lot of hours and put the job before your family. Even if you have the top job in your firm and you are now earning $1,000/hour, you had to put the time in to get there. People who do not put in the time, whether it is to study, to network, or to prove themselves, simply do not get the top promotions.

Unfortunately, neither of us has a strong desire to put in a lot of time towards our jobs.

We work 37.5 hours per week and once we get home; work can wait. Our secret; we do not bring back work at home and stop thinking about it all together. By constantly self-improving at work and trying to learn things to add to our skill set, we get promotions or new roles without the time commitment.

Finally, aside from little side hustles we enjoy running, we are not aggressively pursuing the dollars.


On the frugal side

So this brings us to the other side of the equation; cutting our spending.

Don’t be cheap. Be frugal.

We are prudently saving by consciously thinking about our purchases and try to minimize wasteful spending. This does not mean we do not spend money, we actually spend a lot on things we like a lot.

Inspired by previous Money Challenges, we invite our friends to share their top 5 Frugal, Not Cheap items and we will track all of them for you to get inspired.


Frugal, Not Cheap Challenge!

Frugal, Not Cheap Challenge!


Frugal transportation alternatives

Our first point on the list is Transport. Unlike some other frugal bloggers, we do not bike to work. Actually, we do not remotely bike enough to even consider it a mode of transportation. We live in the suburbs and work relatively close but still need cars to get around. We own one, small, hatchback car and one, large, SUV.

Our frugal hack here is that we buy used, old, good quality, cars. The secret is to look for reliable cars that match your needs. We did not buy the cheapest cars available on the market since, over the long-term, the maintenance, and repairs (and the hassles) are just not worth it.

We bought quality vehicles when they were a few years old and they still have plenty of years to go without any major repairs. Both our cars were purchased around the 5 to 6 years mark and both had roughly 50,000 miles on the meter.  For that reason, we paid half price for them, our insurance premiums are lower, and we are losing less to depreciation when the time comes to sell.

Here is a chart of the depreciation of our Honda Fit over the first 5 years. Basically, this is what we saved by buying used!


Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 5 Yr Total
$3,576 $1,457 $1,283 $1,137 $1,020 $8,473

Source: Edmunds


By the end of year 5, we saved over eight grand but the car still runs great, looks great, and never had any issues since.

We also have an SUV which we bought about five years ago. It is certainly not a frugal purchase but we buy things that make us happy and this vehicle brings us (and all our gear) to a ton of fun activities we like to do like skiing, biking, hiking, and camping.

Having that extra space is worth it for us and we still made a conscious choice when buying this SUV. We got it used, with about 50,000 miles on it and it did not have any major issue since.


Gas mileage 27 mpg vs 20 mpg
Cargo space 20.6 ft3 vs 78.2 ft3

Source: Car Sort


Some sports cars have worst mileage than our SUV but we did not this to show off (even if it is pretty nice!). We got it for the weekend trips, for the fun adventures, and for the road trips! The chart above compares the gas mileage and cargo space between our car and SUV.

Sometimes, we spend a bit more if it is in line with our needs. If you do need a car, try not to lease or buy brand new and stay away from financing a brand new car purchase. Search through Craigslist or other sell-by-the-owner websites to find a good, used, model that suits your needs and will last years to come.

If you do need a car, try not to lease or buy brand new and stay away from financing a brand new car purchase. Search through Craigslist or other sell-by-the-owner websites to find a good, used, model that suits your needs and will last years to come.



Tech on the cheap

Or next frugal hack comes from a recent Computer purchase we made last week. Anything techno can become a real money-grabber but again, staying conscious about your purchases can greatly help your wallet.

Mrs. Xyz has been working on the same laptop for about 4 years. It worked great for here but recently started to reboot or shutdown by itself. We tried fixing the issue but it seems to be some hardware that disconnects or something. In addition, it is getting pretty slow so it was time for an upgrade.

Our tip here is shopping!

We compared a dozen sites and compared new versus refurbished options. We ended up getting a refurbished laptop from Best Buy which still comes with a 1-year warranty and our credit card gives us an additional year warranty for free as part of the benefits so we are covered for the next 2 years. In the end, we spent a bit over $400 for the same laptop we wanted at $800 just by buying the refurbished version.

We did not go cheap on this one; we bought a good-quality laptop that will run all our fancy programs easily but we found a frugal way to get what we needed.


venice beach


Cheap travels (or free!)

Our third point on the list is Travel. We spent over $9,000 on travel last year, it was definitively our largest expense after housing.

However, this year, we started travel hacking and now book all our flights through reward points and stay in fancy hotels for free with points.

Our travel expenses were cut by 90% with this one simple trick!

With the right credit cards, you can accumulate enough points to travel the world for free but remember; always pay your credit card balance in full each month!

Traveling on points is the furthest thing from being cheap. We stay in 4-star hotels, get to use luxurious airport lounges, and fly the world in comfort. But it is certainly frugal! On our latest trip to California, we only spend a few hundred dollars on food but all the rest was free.


Buy for life


Dress for less

Our next frugal move was on Clothing expenses. We do shop for new clothes but again, we shop consciously. If you want affordable new clothing, shop at places like Winners or Marshalls instead of Walmart. You can find great deals on high-quality clothes instead of buying cheaply-made clothing from fast-fashion stores. Buying quality means that you are buying less, consuming less, and polluting less.

We tend to buy outdoors brands such as Patagonia that will last a lifetime and that are timeless. Our latest find was a Patagonia flannel shirt at our local thrift shop for a grand total of $1. That’s right, a $99 shirt for only $1, now that’s frugal!



Eating frugally

Lastly, our next tip is to save on your Food expenses. We limit eating out to social activities and do not eat out just out of laziness. Meal planning is an easy way to cut down on restaurants and lower your food expenses. We find the right mix of online stores, grocery stores, and bulk stores to save on groceries.

Most household items are cheaper on Amazon and ethnic supermarkets offer the best produce at the lowest prices. We also subscribed to a local, organic farm, food basket that delivers almost all the vegetables we need every week. That is a frugal way to eat very high-quality meals and you will eat a much healthier diet.

Be part of the Frugal, Not Cheap Challenge and share your tips!

Mr. and Mrs. Xyz.



Financial Independence Saving

Our Personal Expenses Spreadsheet and Savings Rate

We are in June and it is time for the mid-year assessment of our household budget. Our last Open Book series article was published a few months ago so we thought it would be time for an update.

We have been tracking our income and spending for years. Since we discovered the whole concept of financial independence, we also started to track our savings rate. The amazing thing is; the more we can increase our savings rate, the faster we can claim our financial freedom.


Early Retirement GridSource, Four Pillar Freedom


Our friend Zach who writes over at Four Pillar Freedom shared with us this great early retirement grid. It is an easy way to visualize how many years you will need to reach financial freedom. Simply match your annual spending from the vertical column with your annual net income (take-home pay) from the horizontal row. The number where they meet is the number of years it will take you before reaching FI. This assumes a conservative 5% annual return on investments and a 4% safe withdrawal rate (see Trinity Study).

So far, we held an average 61.5% savings rate for these first 6 months of the year!

If we can keep this up, we can retire 9 years from now. Roughly 11 years after we first discovered financial independence was even possible. These rough estimates came from our assumption that we can be living off 4% of our portfolio once we retire and we assume 7% annual returns on investments given the historical averages of an equity portfolio (10%) minus the average inflation during the last century (3%).

This is a new record for us. We are super proud to cross the 60% bar for this considerable amount of time. We will calculate it again at the end of 2017 and, hopefully, we will have stayed above this mark.


Your personal savings rate =


Annual savings including any employer match (or any debt repayments) x 100

Total income less taxes, plus any employer match


The income side of our equation is slightly higher since I started my new job now with a 15% higher salary than my past position and we did earn a few dollars from sharing our home with travelers.

I still benefit from a generous employee stock ownership plan. They match part of my stock purchases so we included the match in too.

Our spending actually decreased from last year so our savings rate jumped quite a bit. To put numbers to the equation, increasing our savings rate from 50% where we were last year to the 60% we are now aiming to decreases our working years a whopping 4.2 years!

That is 4 more years to enjoy doing whatever you want to do. 4 more years not waking up to an alarm clock.

4 more years of freedom!


Household Budget

We did a lot this year, we traveled to British Columbia, New York City, and we booked a trip to LA and San Francisco in August. All of these were very cheap since we now get free hotel stays and free airfare through reward points but we are running out of vacation days!

All-in-all,  we spent about $1,000 for those three trips and most of that was restaurants. In our last spending post, traveling was our second biggest expense at a staggering $9,582 for the year but we were able to cut this so much that it is not even in our top spending categories anymore. Keeping this up for the whole year should decrease our annual spending by almost 14%.

Unsurprisingly, our biggest expense is our house. We spent $9,846.38 in the last 6 months on our mortgage payments, home insurance, home maintenance, and property taxes. This does not concern us too much since we greatly enjoy our house. Lately, we started maximizing its utility by renting out our spare bedrooms on Airbnb. In the last 6 months alone, we made over $2,000 just for hosting a few guests.

In our Food and Dining category, we spent $3,730 in the past 6 months. This brings our average monthly spending down to $621 compared to the $723 per month we averaged last year. We did not change anything to really cut our grocery bill except for an organic, locally grown, vegetable basket subscription we now enjoy. This small change not only decreases our monthly spending on fresh produce but also helps our local farmers thrive. We believe in sustainable, local, farming and it also tastes better. The $100 cut in this category mostly came from less dining out.

For the last 6 months, we spent a total of $2,102 on Bills and Utilities. This includes our two cell phones ($60/month plans), home internet ($45/month for unlimited high speed), and electricity (winter just ended so we had $200/month bills but we pay roughly $50/month during the summer). Our heating is all electric and we do not pay for water or cable TV.

For Transportation, we spent $2,553 or $425 per month. This includes car maintenance, gas, and repairs of our two cars plus any transportation we use during our travels. We do not have any car payments and do not advice you get one either.

Our last considerable expense was Shopping which includes some household goods we bought off Amazon, clothing, gifts, and a few little trinkets. This adds up to $1,508 in the past 6 months.

Including all the smaller categories that we are not budgeting for, we spent roughly 30% less from January to June than we did from July to December of last year. This is mainly due to the huge cut in our travel spending since we started getting free hotel stays and free flights through reward points.

We were spending thousands of dollars on travel and we are able to cut this down with a few credit card applications. The welcome bonuses these companies give to attract customers are more than worth our while and we can help you find your own way through travel hacking if you need a little help.

We wish you great savings and a wonderful summer, Mr. and Mrs. Xyz.