Everyone likes to think they’re normal. We wake-up every single day and tell ourselves this little white lie of normality.
“I live a normal life. I work a normal job. I earn a normal income. I live in a normal home and save a normal amount of money. Life is pretty good”
Why do we tell ourselves this lie? I think it’s because being normal is comfortable. No one criticizes normal.
As a species, humans seek-out comfort. From the temperature we set on the household thermometer, to the clothes we wear, most of our modern society is built upon providing greater comfort for humans.
It’s nice to have a comfortable life, and live in a society where everyone accepts you. People who are outliers get criticized and live on the “fringes” of society with hardly any comfort …
Right? Not always…
Mr. Tako Is A Big Weirdo
Frankly, I’ve always been a pretty frugal person. Like many people, I grew up in a middle class household; with everything I needed and some of what I wanted.
But even within this well defined “middle class” there were loads of people who lived an “easier” lifestyle. We didn’t. My family had to work extra hard at having that middle class lifestyle. We had everything other middle class families had, we just had to work extra hard for it.
This is where I probably first started to become a weirdo. Being extra frugal sometimes means you have to do unusual things to save money or achieve similar results with less money. Essentially, being a big weirdo.
Yes, I’m a weirdo. I totally admit it. I’ve embraced my weirdness over the years, and it’s not a just “phase” I’m going through. It’s who I am.
I understand this means I’ll never lead a “normal” life. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll never have tons of friends or be accepted by “normal” society. I might even miss out on some of the “normal” comforts of modern life.
This doesn’t bother me. I’m happy with my weirdness. I’m happy only having a few close friends that “get” me. It’s made me financially independent and richer than average.
So what if I miss-out on a couple creature comforts? — My weirdness has purchased me the ultimate comfort: The freedom to do whatever I want with my life.
How am I weird? Oh, let me count the ways…
1. No Coffee, Thanks!
The fact that I don’t drink coffee always throws people for a loop. “What do you mean you don’t drink coffee? How is that possible?” they ask.
In this day and age it’s hard to find an adult that isn’t hooked on the beans. It blows their mind when I tell them I don’t know the difference between a latte, a mocha, a cappuccino, or brewed coffee. Those four words are the total extent of my coffee knowledge too!
It’s not that I’m depriving myself to save money either, I just don’t drink the stuff!
(Yes I’ve tasted it a few times but never really liked it.)
Over the years this has turned-out to be a good way to save money. When co-workers would “go for coffee” or “out for drinks”, I’d stay behind and save my money instead. Rinse and repeat nearly every day of my life and this adds up to serious money.
2. What Subscription Services?
If I did a quick straw-pole of my friends, family, and former co-workers, the vast majority of them would each be signed-up for two or more subscription services. The variety would be extremely numerous — Magazines, Newspapers, Cell phones, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Cable TV, Pandora, Home alarm services, Meal kit services, Wine of the month clubs, Organic veggie boxes … you name it!
There’s a vast array of subscription services available in this modern world. Maybe it’s odd, but I don’t subscribe to ANY of them.
Don’t get me wrong, many of them are great services, but I prefer my consumption to be à la carte. I believe in consuming only what I need. If I don’t consume, I don’t pay.
In my mind, subscription services are the devil’s highway to overconsumption.
I’ve literally seen people’s jaws drop open when I tell them I prepay my cell phone for the entire year and it only costs me $10.
“Why is it so cheap?” they ask. My answer is simple — I just don’t use the phone much. I don’t need a fancy data plan because it’s unnecessary — I’m constantly surrounded by a sea of wifi hotspots. If I need to call someone I can always use Google Voice to make or receive calls.
Certainly some people believe they need to consume considerably more in life, but after decades of living without, I can honestly say that subscription services are unnecessary.
3. Clipping Coupons & Shopping Sales
I have this rich Seattle techie friend who laughs at me every time I excitedly tell him about a great coupon or bargain I found at the store.
“I don’t do any of that. What a bother! I just buy whatever I want regardless of whether it’s on-sale or not. Why waste your time clipping coupons?”
This kind of thinking seems completely insane to me — Why would a person willingly pay more when it takes two seconds to clip a coupon or plan a meal around what’s on sale?
It’s not like I make special trips to every store in town — I’ll go to my same grocery store every week, using coupons and planning delicious homemade meals around the store’s weekly promotions and loss leaders.
Yes, meal planning is more than just deciding what to eat — it’s about optimization. One week eggs will be on sale, so I’ll make omelettes and huevos rancheros.
Next week it’ll be broccoli and dungeness crab — so I make broccoli soup and cook up some crab. It’s really that easy.
I still get to eat “whatever I want” (just like my rich techie friend) but with a few constraints. I save a reasonable amount of money doing this too. Our monthly food bill averages about $500 for a family of four people. That’s not bad!
So yeah, you go ahead and keep laughing at me for using coupons. I’m sittin pretty eating delicious low-cost meals during my financial independence.
4. Frugal Cooking Is a Weird Skill
While I’m on the subject of food, I might as well talk about frugal cooking. Frugal cooking is an actual skill that has be learned and practiced. Not only that, it requires a little creativity to do it well.
I first learned the ropes of frugal cooking in the kitchen of a 4-star restaurant. It was the nicest restaurant in town, and I worked there during high-school. As a kitchen-hand, I washed dishes, made simple recipes, cleaned-up after the chef and sous chef, and did pretty much any needed.
This head chef was a master of frugal cooking. In his career, he’d already started, run, and sold 4 successful restaurants — the restaurant where I worked was just his latest project. “I do this just for fun!” he would say to me.
One of the first lessons I learned in his kitchen was about food waste. Food waste is evil. We did everything we could to NOT have food waste at that restaurant
It started with inventory management — only buying what they thought the kitchen would need. This was always a guess because we never knew what dish might be popular with the customers. Sometimes we’d run out of a popular dish, but inevitably there was always extra of some ingredient.
That’s when creative remixing came into play — Monday’s french onion soup became the base for Tuesday’s onion baked potatoes. The fresh tomatoes for Tuesday’s salad would be put into Wednesday’s marinara sauce. Wednesday’s vegetable side became part of Thursday’s stir fry recipe … and so on.
We constantly reused and remixed fresh ingredients. It was a never-ending frugal battle to avoid the waste of fresh ingredients before they went bad.
Yes, I know it sounds weird, but the customers raved about the food. Even today (decades later) the same restaurant maintains a 4 out of 5 star rating on Yelp.
Now that I’ve a kitchen of my own, I use this trick all the time to keep our food waste minimal — I meal plan so that leftover ingredients to find their way into soups, stir fry recipes, curry ingredients, or maybe even the base for a tasty sauce.
Weird, but effective.
5. Investing Is Awesome
If you’ve read this blog for very long at all, you already know that I’m a big DIY investor. Our portfolio contains a mix of many individual investments (ETFs, Index Funds, preferred shares, REITs, and individual stocks). This is entirely self directed and I spend a lot of time researching investments and reading 10k’s.
I get a lot of comments on this blog asking me why I bother. Most people don’t want to spend their time researching investments. They have better things to do (they never seem to tell me what these ‘things’ are however).
“Why don’t you just invest in index funds and then forget about it? You’ll save yourself a ton of time!”
The truth is, I love it. Investing is awesome! I love reading and researching different companies and investments. They’re like unique little machines or puzzles that I need to figure out, and they’re always moving and changing. Never the same.
It’s the kind of difficult puzzle that stimulates my mind.
DIY investing has also brought some incredible wins to our portfolio over the years. We maintain a relatively concentrated portfolio, and that concentration means BIG changes can happen when good events occur — One year we made over $100k in dividends. Other years we significantly outperform the indexes.
In general, I would say DIY investing has been an incredibly positive experience for us. Are we going to see such great performance all of the time?
Probably not, but if I followed the “standard path” our net worth would be considerably less today.
Weird Isn’t Bad
OK, I could probably keep writing about how weird I am for days, but I think you get the general idea. (I should write a Part 2 to this post)
Yep, I’m a bit of a weirdo. While some people might use that word in a negative way, like “Oh, he’s such a weirdo!“, I actually view my weirdness as something incredibly positive.
Being weird means I get different results out of life. I don’t just dream about them, I actually realize different results that are far from average.
If I wasn’t this incredibly weird person it’s unlikely I would have reached financial independence at such a young age. If I was normal, I’d probably be drinking my wealth away, eating out frequently, driving new cars, and paying some financial advisor to do my investing for me (assuming there was any money left).
Thank god I’m not normal.