On my post "25 Ways We’ve Tightened Our Budget and Saved Money " (https://www.poniesandfire.com/blog/25-ways-weve-saved-money-and-tightened-our-budget), number 16 was unplug unused electronics.
Prior to this spring, we were rolling along with a pretty high electric bill. We run a dehumidifier in our basement and our pellet stove (main source of heat) runs with an electric auger. We also left tons of things plugged in 24/7 even when not in use, like cell phone chargers.
I was skeptical that unplugging things like our coffee pot and PoniesandFIREjr’s nightlight would make much of a difference, but I decided it certainly couldn’t hurt and got on board with taking the time to unplug.
Through the winter, our electric bills were $120-$130, on average. When we received those audits from the electric company on how we compared to our neighbors, we were always at the top of the average or higher. Ouch.
It finally warmed up enough to turn off our pellet stove a few weeks ago, which I know is the main reason our recent bill is lower, but I have to think my diligent unplugging has also made some difference too!
Our bill came in yesterday and was $88.16! Over $30 below the previous bill! I can’t wait to see if I can get that even lower this next month. Once the spring rain is over, I’m thinking we could probably use our dehumidifier sporadically, rather than 24/7. I’ve also got to stay on top of air drying rather than using the dryer. We were a little lax on that this month.
The only thing that could derail this newfound low electric bill would be the air conditioners. We have two window units in our bedroom and PoniesandFIREjr’s bedroom for when it gets super-hot while we’re sleeping. Our house is 118 years old and the insulation upstairs isn’t fantastic, so it’s cold in the winter and warm in the summer. I’m hoping we can hold off as long as possible this year though.
Goal – below $80 on our next electric bill…
It’s been four days since Mr. PoniesandFIRE and I agreed that downsizing would be a good plan and neither of us have changed our minds! All the other times we’ve discussed this, we’ve changed our minds within 48 hours or less. I guess this time we are going to do it!
We have been working out a tentative timeline and list of projects we need to finish before it’s realistic to list our house. About a year ago we had a couple realtors go through our house with us, so we have a good idea what needs to be done to make it more appealing to the average buyer.
Mr. PoniesandFIRE also told me last night that he’d really prefer we have the truck paid off before we sell as well, as it will be one less payment to worry about while we are in limbo. I like that plan, but that’s $22,440 to pay off. We have sent a timeline of 11 months to get the house on the market, so we had better get our keisters in gear to accomplish all this!
We have about $25,000 in renovations (smaller projects to be done by us, with a couple bigger projects to be done by pros) and some major decluttering/selling of stuff to do. We already have $6,500 towards these projects saved, so that’s a start at least! We are estimating high on some of the projects, so ideally we will come in under budget somewhere.
I’m going to go home this afternoon and list at least three things on FB Marketplace and Let Go. We need some stuff to start exiting our house and any extra income we make selling our junk is going to be put to quick use on these goals.
Our house is large, as in 2800+ square feet. We are a family of three, plus two dogs and a cat. It turns out, we do not need four bedrooms and we literally have rooms we don’t even walk into for months at a time.
I love our house. I love the location, the view, the land, but I don’t love the payment and I don’t love how big it is. It takes forever to clean, it is expensive to heat and we tend to accumulate a lot of stuff, just because we have so much space to stick stuff. The extra rooms are great when family visits, but that’s only one or two times a year. Lately, that just doesn’t seem like enough to justify the space and expense.
We purchased the house as a foreclosure in 2011 and got a great deal on it. It had been sitting empty for a year and it was during the mortgage crisis, so the market locally was a bit dead. Its value, with the minimal work we’ve done, has probably increased $45,000+ above what we spent on it in the last seven years.
We refinanced last year from a 30 year mortgage at 4.75% to a 10 year mortgage at 3.25% and are making huge headway because of that, but the thought of having that mortgage for 9.5 more years, when we could downsize and end up with little to no mortgage is hugely appealing. That extra cash flow would easily allow us to max out our 401ks.
Honestly, without daycare (PoniesandFIREjr starts kindergarten in fall of 2019) and our mortgage, either Mr. PoniesandFIRE or I could stop working one of our jobs and still make the same progress on our finances with a huge increase in quality of life.
This is not the first time we’ve thought about this, but during a long car ride yesterday, while listening to a BiggerPockets Money Podcast about live in flips (this one - https://www.biggerpockets.com/renewsblog/biggerpockets-money-podcast-05-jump-starting-early-fi-plans-live-in-flipping-mindy-jensen/), we realized we were sitting on that potential situation.
We could spend the next 6 months to a year working through some renovation projects and downsizing our stuff and then sell our house and walk away with enough money to buy another smaller fixer upper in cash, or very close. We could literally have NO MORTGAGE by the end of next year by moving!
Now, like I said, I love our home’s location and so many things about it, but you know what I love more? The idea of NO MORTGAGE. Plus, we’d have the added benefits of smaller utilities and insurance costs. We’d also have the mental simplicity of less stuff and a smaller home to maintain and clean.
Have you downsized your living arrangements for the sake of reaching FI sooner or simplifying your life? I’d love to hear other’s experiences with this…
Theodore Roosevelt said it, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Dave Ramsey has his own version when he rails against keeping up with the Jones’. I try and drive it home with my own riding students, when I discuss with them that there is always a better rider with a fancier horse somewhere, but that takes nothing away from your own journey and experience in the sport.
It’s human nature to compare. I find myself comparing our financial journey with others. Part of it stems from a feeling of fear, wondering if we are on track or doing enough. I have to remind myself, to quote my dad, that “there is more than one way to skin a cat.” Terrible phrase, but applicable.
Our journey isn’t perfect. Our journey isn’t going to match anyone else’s. That’s ok.
Everyone has their own financial struggles, strengths and goals. We each have different priorities in our lives and, as long as we are aligning our dreams and goals with our actions and making steps forward, we are all succeeding.
These are three questions I ask myself when I start to compare someone else’s life to mine:
1. Is there something in my life that I want to change that this is highlighting for me?
a. If so, what am *I* going to do about it?
2. Does this take away from my own accomplishments to be happy for their success?
3. Does more people finding success and happiness build a better future for everyone?
I typically find that when I take a moment and think through those questions, I end up with genuine and sincere appreciation for the other person’s success. I can take a moment and revel in someone else paying off their house, even though I know we are years from that point. I can cheer on someone reaching FIRE, even when we’ve had a bad financial month. Neither situation changes anything in my life, except encouraging me forward, that this FIRE plan can work, because see?!? It just worked for those people!
Present day PoniesandFIRE is way more in control of her finances than a few years ago.
We have a decent net worth, retirement savings, a plan, no student loans or credit card debt, yet some days I still feel overwhelmed. The financial goals we have set seem impossible at times and the desire to hit them ahead of schedule is often on my mind. I want to reach FIRE and I want it NOW!
When that feeling of being overwhelmed by the tasks in front of us takes over, here are a few things I’ve started doing to help.
1. Review our monthly financial snapshots. Every month, I write up a word doc with some basics of our financial situation (debt, retirement account balances, 529 balance, cash savings, etc). We have almost two years of these now and it is so empowering to look back where we were 1 or 2 years ago and see the progress we’ve made.
2. Find something to list for sale on FB marketplace. The idea of selling something and having extra unplanned money in the budget is a huge mental boost.
3. Make a list of small actionable items I can do that week or month to help move the needle. I’m obviously all about lists, so this is actually fun for me.
4. Use Dave Ramsey’s investing calculator to play around with how our timeline changes in the future when things like daycare costs go away and we can raise our investments.
5. Play outside with PoniesandFIREjr, enjoy the sunshine and stop thinking about finances for a while!
6. Plan a free or cheap family activity (hiking, fishing, camping in our backyard, etc) and embrace the fun of where we are at now in life.
7. Schedule a little “me” time. I am terrible at overscheduling between my job and my side hustle and when I start to feel overwhelmed, it often means I need to dial it back a touch for a day or two.
8. Exercise. Those endorphins from a good workout are no joke and sometimes my best ideas come during a run.
9. Gather up all the spare change from our cars and house and deposit it! Those few dollars might not be a big step towards our goal, but they might be enough to feel like I’ve made some progress that day.
10. Listen to a financial podcast or re-read one of my favorite financial books or blogs. Hearing about other people’s struggles and successes is hugely reinvigorating! I always end up thinking, if they can do it, so can I!
April was not our best month between taxes, vehicle repairs and the extra-long winter, but we still made some progress!
401k balances increased by $3,091
Mortgage balance decreased by $1,016
Truck debt decreased by $551
Our emergency fund is still fully funded
We are at 7.29x our annual retirement budget
Here are our May goals:
1. Stay on or UNDER budget for groceries again
2. Pay off our car insurance in full
3. Decrease debt by $2,000
4. Add $200 to PoniesandFIREjr’s 529 account
5. Get garden planted!