This is What Frugal Looks Like is a series that highlights different ways that people can be frugal in their lives- after all, frugality doesn’t have to be drastic or just about clipping coupons. Frugality can be fun and easy. Each respondent answers the same four questions. Today’s interview is with Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme.
What does frugality mean to you?
It is a less wasteful way of living. An interesting exercise is to add up all your life time income so far, then subtract your savings and compare the amount of your accumulated stuff and experiences to what you paid for it. Whether or not you think you got a good deal will tell you right there whether or not you have been frugal and gotten good value for your work. If yes, you have been frugal. If not, then you haven’t. Being frugal to me means always getting good value and minimizing waste. This does not mean just money but also personal aspects like time, opportunities, self-respect, and social aspects like other people’s time and opportunities and more generally resources, pollution, poverty, etc.
What is something that you do that is ‘typically’ frugally?
I cook everything from scratch (except cookies). I also do not eat much meat or milk products, which are unhealthy anyway. I put on a sweater instead of turning up the furnace. I buy most things used or second-hand. I don’t like the idea of perfectly good gadgets ending up in landfills. I barter and swap. I use the library a lot. I also do a lot of my own repair work and maintenance instead of hiring someone to do it.
What is something frugal that you do that is unusual?
By being frugal, I have saved a relatively large amount of money which allowed me to retire when I was 33 or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it allowed me to change career to become a capitalist and live off my investment returns. Since this does not require much time, I spend most of my time reading and writing (on my blog and a book project) trying to inspire others to do the same. I currently live in an RV (the frugal way to live in sunny California) with my wife but in the future I may buy an apartment complex or a mobile home park intended for tiny houses and change “career” from capitalist to landlord.
What are some of your long term goals that being frugal will help you to accomplish?
Frugality creates a low overhead and thus it only requires a small income, perhaps from part time work or in my case by investing my savings, to fulfill my needs. Frugality combined with a handful of years’ work has thus in a sense created a lifetime of freedom. Currently I focus on writing to inspire others to do the same. As a side-effect, perhaps they can inspire others who in turn can inspire others and maybe we can reduce the amount of waste and pollution our consumerist way of life is creating. I am probably not going to be writing forever though. One of my long term goals is to do a long-distance sailboat cruise, but I remain open to other interesting opportunities as they come along.
I am a recovering research physicist, who used to spend all my time thinking about things that are immensely interesting to about 5 other people in the world. Moving to a new country/university every few years and sitting in front of a computer screen for 14 hours a day, it made little sense to accumulate a large number of possessions and so I saved my money instead. At some point I realized that I could invest my savings and use the cash flow to cover my living expenses. It seemed like a fairly robust method: Work at an average paying job for a handful of years while becoming extremely frugal and avoiding the usual trappings of a salary like mortgages, car loans, and stuff, and you can gain your financial independence before you turn 30.
It seemed strange to me that such an obvious idea was not more widely known, so I started my blog to share my ideas and it eventually grew to be more popular and interesting to people than my “real work”. Hence, I changed career from a researcher in physics to a “researcher” in personal finance if you can call it that. I try to write a daily post which analyze and question popular money/life conventions and put them in a different perspective and give suggestions to alternative ways of handling one’s finances.