Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of my favorite movies from the 1980’s. On the surface, the movie is about a trio of highschool kids who skip school one day to have a good time. But the movie is really about living, and experiencing life to its fullest. Carpe Diem.
At one point in the movie, Ferris quips, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” He couldn’t be more right.
A lot of times we get too wrapped up in the details of life. We focus on the little details — Jobs, paying the bills, commuting to work, what to cook for dinner, how much cash is in the checking account… Sometimes we forget the bigger picture that is life.
Our summer has been like that, all about the details. It’s been extremely busy. My writing has even reflected it lately, I’ve been totally zoomed in on the financial details, rather than the broader aspects of FI life.
Today I wanted to take a step back, and appreciate just how good life is after reaching financial independence.
I don’t say it often enough — A financially independent life is a really really good way to live.
First and foremost in my life these days are the boys. I spend a lot of time with my kids, Tako Jr. #1 and #2. Time with our kids is an absolute gift that goes underappreciated by most parents…even me.
It’s one of the reasons why I wrote The Best Reason For Financial Independence post. Kids grow up in the blink of an eye. Blink and you’ll completely miss that precious childhood. You simply can’t get that time back.
Sometimes I forget how involved I am as a father. I take the stay-at-home-dad life for granted. It seems totally normal to me… but it really isn’t.
I was reminded just how abnormal I am last week when we took Tako Jr. #1 to the doctor (for an issue he’s been dealing with). I was describing his symptoms and the doctor suddenly remarked, “Wow! I’m completely amazed at how involved you are. Most fathers that come in here are just not that involved with their kids.”
That was a golden moment for me. I was pretty proud. It was a sudden and welcome reminder that I’m living life a little differently.
Having kids isn’t always sunshine and roses, but if I was working I’d sure miss a lot more of those “sunshine and rose” moments when they do happen.
This summer, the boys were a little older (ages 2 and 4), so we decided to start traveling a bit more.
Most new parents have a rough time traveling after the birth of a child. Our family was no different. The first couple of years with an infant are pretty difficult, and we were pretty tied down to one spot.
Even simple road trips are difficult with infants — Not only do you have to bring tons of extra stuff, but there’s the constant feeding and changing every two hours that necessitates frequent stopping. It’s a huge pain to go anywhere.
Thankfully, things get a little better once they metamorphosize into toddlers. This summer we started traveling more because of it — We took road trips to southern Washington, day trips to the beach, a trek to see eastern Washington college towns, and we even have a huge trip to Japan planned.
The biggest disadvantage to traveling with toddlers, is the added expense. Once they hit 2 years old, the airlines won’t let them ride in your lap for free anymore… you have to buy full-price airline tickets.
Ugh! Even though Tako Jr. #2 only weighs 20 pounds, he still has to buy a full-priced ticket. This seems like a rip-off. For international travel, it ends-up being pretty expensive.
Thankfully, financial independence has big advantages here too. We started our initial adventures into travel hacking this spring. While that isn’t a huge amount of time to generate points, we were able to shave at least $1,000 off our Japan-trip airline tickets by monkeying around with credit cards, locations, and airline points.
To make a broad generalization, travel hacking works… assuming you have the time to monkey around with it.
Just having the time to travel is a huge advantage over my previous working life. I usually received two weeks of vacation per year (plus a few holidays). It’s not a lot of time to travel, but this amount of paid vacation is considered normal in the United States.
We easily spent more than those two weeks traveling this summer… and it was great! There’s no way my previous employers would have said “yes” to that and a additional month in October.
I’m sure I’ll be writing a lot more about our travels in the near future…. especially traveling “on the cheap” with a family. We’ll be “frugaling it up” in Japan… a country not generally known for it’s affordability.
Long gone are the days of TV dinners, instant food, and takeout for our family. Other than the occasional meal-out while we’re traveling, we make every meal at home.
For some people, cooking at home sounds like a big sacrifice. Boy do they have that one wrong! Not only do we save ourselves thousands of dollars per year, but we’re eating better than ever.
Because we’re saving so much by not eating-out, we don’t skimp on quality ingredients. Often times we splurge on expensive ingredients for our meals. Fancy foods like shrimp, fresh fish, and the occasional tenderloin land on our table — often enough to make us feel like we live a pretty decadent life.
By making our own food, we know every ingredient that goes into our food. There’s no mystery about what we’re getting. Our economic garden also provides plenty of delicious home-grown organic veggies which are added to our meals… all for the cost of mere pennies.
Again, doing these things takes time — Time I now have to give, and I’m thankful for it. I wouldn’t have had the time to cook for my family if I was working my previous wage-slave hours of 9AM to 7PM every day of the week.
It just wouldn’t have happened.
This summer was extremely busy, but I also found a little time to work on personal projects. I usually get time to do this after the kids have gone to bed.
My biggest personal project is this blog — I can easily spend 8 hours writing, researching, and editing a single blog post. It’s a ton of work! If you look at the complete library of posts (over 176 now!), you can easily see where I spend most of my spare time.
If I was still working, my life would include NONE of these activities. Either I’d be too stressed with work to take on personal projects like this blog, or I would just never start due to lack of time.
It’s almost as if I was using my job was my excuse — “I can’t do X because I need to get-up early for work tomorrow.” “I don’t really need another hobby, I should probably just work harder to get that promotion at work.”
Making those excuses, I never started the projects I really wanted to work on. Inevitably I’d end-up watching TV, and wasting those hours of my life instead. Thankfully, those days are gone. Every spare minute I have gets spent working on personal projects.
Besides working on the blog, I also love to build stuff… usually from scrounged materials. Yes, “scrounged” as in completely free materials.
This spring the boys and I also started a new project we’re calling “The Robot Project”. Our plan is to build a robot together from scratch using entirely recycled parts. We’ve been scrounging parts all summer from broken inkjet printers and scanners being given away. Printers and scanners are a fantastic source of free DC motors, stepper motors, sensors, switches, buttons, and stainless steel rods. All of those items we’ll use for this upcoming robot project.
Based upon the incredible number of free printers we’ve disassembled this summer, inkjet printers must be terribly fragile electronic gadgets. The funny thing is…. once I get one of these “broken” printers home, I find there’s usually nothing mechanically wrong with it. Either they’ve run out of ink, the print head has gotten misaligned (an easy fix), or they’ve simply gotten clogged-up.
It’s amazing what people will give away for free. I honestly think the biggest reason people give away these printers is because they get tired of replacing the overpriced ink cartridges. Those things are crazy expensive.
When I first started on this Financial Independence journey, I figured our finances would be more of a challenge. Instead, life just keeps getting easier. I’m immensely thankful for that. Our net worth has continued to grow without me working, and 2017 looks set to continue this annual tradition. It’s a great new tradition I hope to repeat every year.
Don’t get me wrong, I watch our expenses pretty close. Those frugal habits die pretty hard —
I still compile our dividends and expenses every month, and go through it with a very fine tooth comb. If you’re curious, it all gets compiled into our monthly Dividend Income and Expense reports. This only takes me a couple hours every month… it doesn’t take a lot of effort to maintain.
Most months, the numbers simply tell me we’re doing just fine.
There isn’t a lot of financial stress in our life — We live in a pretty expensive house that still has a mortgage (but we could easily pay it off). We spend money on pretty much anything we want. We eat really high-end food (basically anything we want to eat)… Yet our net worth continues to climb. How awesome is that?
Let me say it again (because it’s worth repeating) — A Financially Independent life is a pretty damn good life. You should try it sometime.