One of the things that most frustrates me when I read inspiring articles in the news about early retirees (like our role models over at Mr. Money Mustache, Go Curry Cracker, and Frugal Woods) is the comment sections.
“Sure, it’s possible to save money if you are a complete shut-in who eats nothing but rice and beans,” they say.
“These idiots are in for a rude awakening when the money runs out,” they moan, ignoring the fact that the subjects of these articles have all that money working for them.
“Maybe it’s possible if you don’t do anything fun for the rest of your life, but it sounds like torture to me,” they whine.
What complete rubbish! We’re on track to spend about $50,000 this year, of which $31,000 will be our ridiculously outsized San Francisco Bay Area mortgage (and HOA). So the total of our food, entertainment, travel, pet food, utilities, and all other expenses will be in the area of $19,000. This budget is drastically higher than it might have been were it not for the many luxuries we enjoy. Since the start of the year, we have spent over a month abroad, living in hotels and apartments in nine different countries, flying premium economy class, being driven to and fro by local guides, and otherwise living like characters from The Great Gatsby.
Objectively, nobody could accuse us of living a life of deprivation. We eat out an average of once every couple of weeks, have a fully stocked kitchen with lots of delicious food, and we attend a dizzying array of social functions. The point is, we live very lucky, full, social, comfortable lives.
My Flexibility Superpower Invites Adventure
Now, don’t get me wrong- I don’t think I’m anything special. I’m a guy of average education and perhaps slightly above-average intelligence, but I do take a particular sort of glee in finding ways to (legally and ethically) exploit systems designed to elicit spending in order to reduce or even eliminate costs. And wouldn’t you know it, the world is absolutely packed with such systems!
More importantly, we’re not blazing any new trails here. Whether it’s travel hacking or optimizing our grocery bill, every single one of these exploits is available, in bite-sized, hand-holding form on the internet if they would only seek them out.
When we do eat out, it’s often using $30 gift certificates that the soon-to-be Mrs. Vagabond hunts for like a frugal bird of prey, paying $5 or less for. When we fly, it’s because we either jumped on an error fare or used our hundreds of thousands of miles (earned at no additional cost whatsoever to us) to do so for free. When we stay abroad, we use AirBNB and choose places that are adventurous and off the beaten path.
If I had to sum up all of these little hacks into one word, it would have to be flexibility. When error fares appear, that’s an adventure that life is offering up to us. More than once, the travels we weren’t so sure about were the ones that filled us with a new thirst for freedom and experiences. More than once when the STB-Mrs. Vagabond has found a killer deal on a restaurant we’ve never tried, or a cuisine we aren’t sure about, the restaurant has become a new favorite for us.
If the naysayers from the comment sections could exercise the tiniest bit of flexibility– just a little– they would learn to see that life is literally overflowing with great and fulfilling adventures for those willing to alter their expectations. If you wait around for life to throw the pitch of your dreams, you’re going to strike out every time. But if you wait for something that looks pretty good, and you swing for the fences, you’ll hit a whole lot of home runs.
How do you practice your flexibility superpower? Let us know if the comments below!