I've decided that in order to get my early retirement goal on track, I need to take a more serious approach than just buying into the Powerball pool at the office. Enter frugality: the art of spending as little money as possible. Now I'm not going as far as the Extreme Cheapskates on TLC - goat head is not on the menu - but I'm making small changes that I think will add up quickly.
Change #1: bringing my own lunch. I know this is one of the classic pieces of advice, ala the "latte effect," but I'm really trying to do it. I bring a salad every day, pretty much the same every time - spinach, beans, feta crumbles, and sometimes chopped mushrooms or bell peppers. I can seriously save $8-10/day doing this. Hell-o!
Change #2: Stop buying so much shit. There are certain things I just won't give up, including beer, haircuts, pet stuff, and eating out, but I can still cut back. I don't need to eat out multiple times per week; I don't need to buy everything I want; I just don't need as much stuff as I've been giving myself. The rationale is no longer "I deserve this" - now it's "do I want this more than I want the freedom to not have to work?"
Change #3: I am finding a lot of inspirational articles, blogs, and websites to help keep me focused. Reading about other people who have paid off their houses, quit working full time, and have zero financial worries convinces me that it is completely possible. I really like Mr. Money Mustache (read his "Are You Cleaning Out Your Own Wallet" post - it's spot-on, pardon the pun) and MoneyNing. These guys both have real families and still manage to live frugally yet comfortably. I am convinced that I earn enough money to live comfortably, and still contribute to savings AND pay down my debts.
Here are my goals:
1) Save $750/month in my "emergency savings" until it reaches $30,000
2) Pay an extra $300/month towards my mortgage - this will allow me to pay it off 11 years early!!!
3) Once my "emergency savings" is funded, begin investing in low-cost Vanguard index funds, allowing it to grow until it is self-sustaining (i.e. the dividends getting reinvested equal the contributions I would otherwise be making)
Ultimately, I'm hoping that I can get that mortgage paid off even sooner. Losing that payment would save me $800/month - yes please!! Not to mention that if I then sell the house, and move South towards the sun and its warm rays, I'll have a big ol' pile of cash to start over with. Sounds like paradise to me.