The Ninja is aggressive, to say the least:
- 85% savings rate?
- FI targeted before 30?
Holy hell! Very good. but there were scary parts too:
I had set myself the goal of reaching the highest savings rate possible, and I’d get there by any means necessary.
In today’s guest post, the Ninja ponders some of his decisions...
By Any Means Necessary
My idol is Jacob Lund Fisker.
His ‘10-year update’ post was awe-inspiring to say the least. I read his book – Early Retirement Extreme – 3 years ago; since that day, I’ve been trying to transcend into an all-knowing frugal Buddha, just like him.
This obsession has dictated where I’ve chosen to live, where I work, and what I eat. So far, living this lifestyle has allowed me to reach a savings rate of 85% and I hope to reach my FI target of £300k ($396k) before I turn 30 years old.
We in the Financial Independence community are always preaching to save more; we tell others that better experiences, that will make you happier, can be achieved for a lower cost.
That keeping expenses as low as possible is paramount…
But is there a point where it can be taken too far?
My Life so Far
I’ve always had an inclination towards frugality. Growing up poor in the North of England instilled a strong desire to earn and save money, it also deeply rooted the notion of not needing to spend a lot in order to gain happiness.
I knew that you could holiday vacation on the cheap. I knew that these trips could in fact bring you more happiness than luxurious, expensive get-aways.
I learned that you could buy food staples and make delicious meals for a very low cost, often being more nutritious than in-the-packet varieties. And I definitely understood that brandless clothes were just as good if not better than over-priced, branded ones.
I always kept my childhood lessons stored up in part of my brain, but I temporarily lost access to them when I started my first ‘grown-up’ job after University. I had a good chunk of money to be spent at the end of every month for the first time ever.
I got into the habit of counting how many PlayStations I could buy with all of my excess disposable income every month and I used that metric to calculate how wealthy I was.
Before long I’d bought a sports car via finance, stupidly only calculating the monthly cost. For the next two years, I continued to ratchet up my financing agreements and spending into oblivion. I’d squandered all of my pay and was actually in negative net worth due to the debt.
It was at this point in my life when a friend at work sent me Jacob’s book. My eyes grew wide as I read the veritable pages and learned of all of my wrongdoings. I had been going through life in a completely wrong way. My preconceived thoughts of taking on as much debt as I could get and buying as big a home as possible soon dissipated; dreams of thrift and financial independence started to materialise.
All of my misplaced frugal thoughts came flooding back to me with a vengeance…
I’d… LOST TWO YEARS!
Segueing onto a Different Journey
Over the course of two years, after reading Jacob’s book, I changed my life beyond recognition. I had set myself the goal of reaching the highest savings rate possible, and I’d get there by any means necessary.
I bought a home in the cheapest area that I could find; I’d moved jobs multiple times and ended up working at one of the richest FinTech’s in the UK; I’d given myself a 3-hour round trip commute; I’d also picked up a number of extra side-hustles like Matched Betting and Merch by Amazon effectively upping my work week to over 70 hours.
I was going all in! I had basically cut ALL of the non-essential spending out of my life and upped my workload to maximum burn-out phase. That’s when I created SavingNinja and began tracking my progress each month.
My mandatory annual expenses dropped – and have remained – at £5,700. This covers my mortgage, living, and food. It costs me an extra £2,400 for my London commute, and I try to spend at least £2,700 per year on holidays and ‘luxury items,’ but I struggle to do so.
My spending has pretty much bottomed out to the lowest that it can physically go. This has no doubt been great for my finances; I was able to clear my debt and reach the milestone of £100k within my first 2 years of hard saving, I should feel on top of the world…but I don’t.
An uncanny feeling which has been with me since the beginning of my journey has begun to grow too strong for me to ignore. My perceived well-rounded mental health has started to show it’s true colors through the cracks in my psyche.
Has my neuroticism got the better of me?
My Never Ending Quest for Success
Growing up I played video games a lot, especially MMOs like World of Warcraft. I was the type of player that was known as a ‘guild hopper.’
In order to gain entry into a guild of a certain caliber, you’d need to meet a minimum threshold of progress to even be considered. The fastest way to get that progress was to join a lesser guild who hadn’t advanced as far and progress with them.
Instead of the normal route of joining a guild and having fun whilst progressing and learning together. I saw each guild as a stepping stone to the next best thing; I’d get my progress and then move on. Consistently doing this landed me in one of the top 10 European raiding guilds at the time, I was raiding in the so-called ‘premier-league’ of World of Warcraft.
All of my gaming lives were lived in a similar fashion. I was like a masochist with the never ending thirst for PROGRESS! I damn needed it; I couldn’t be happy unless I was at the top…
Every game became an addiction.
This is the same mentality that I’ve bought with me into the real world. Forsaking current happiness for future results in any way possible. The FIRE movement was damn near perfect for me, but maybe that’s why it’s also my kryptonite?
I don’t want my life to be one never ending game of World of Warcraft where I farm gold for 12 hours a day and then quit when I’m the richest person in the game.
Bad Value Makes me Sick
I’ve written before about how I’m allergic to spending money. Being part of the FIRE movement for so long, and feeling the dread of missing out on previous years of saving has broken something inside of me.
Now whenever I’m faced with the need to buy something that is of bad value, I feel physically sick. It doesn’t matter how much I have to spend, even if it’s just a £4 pint of beer in the pub; my breathing will quicken, I’ll become flustered, and I’ll begin to feel nauseous due to the possibility of wasting that money when I could buy the same beer for so much cheaper at the shops.
This feeling accompanies most things that you can think of:
Going out for a meal? Forget about it.
Buying a bunch of flowers for a loved one? Unimaginable!
Buying a birthday card for Grandma? What a waste of money.
If it’s going to affect my FI target, it gets flung out and the Horrible Feeling gets ushered in. Even if there’s simply the possibility of bad value, I tend to forego the purchase simply from the fear of the Horrible Feeling.
It’s not a Good Thing!
This is actually extremely bad.
It affects my life negatively in so many ways.
Why do I need to fret and feel shitty over figuratively losing a tiny little droplet from my reservoir of savings?
If I can increase the time it takes me to get to financial independence by 0.01% in exchange for a little bit of happiness, however trivial, right now; shouldn’t I greedily gobble up that opportunity? The whole point of the FIRE movement is to be happy…right?
Sometimes we need to spend on bad-value, there simply are no other alternatives. Or sometimes the experience is worth the increased cost. If I can’t accept these opportunities without retching at the mere thought of them, there’s something seriously wrong with me and it needs to be fixed quickly.
The Pursuit of Mindfulness and Balance
I went to a FI meet up last year and I got talking to the founder of the Frugal and Freegan Facebook group about my malaise. He said something that has stuck with me ever since:
Frugal habits are hard to break. If you’ve been extremely frugal for many years, you won’t be able to stop no matter how much you have saved.
Doggedly obsessing over anything in particular is surely not healthy, no matter how much I want to be like Jacob Lund Fisker.
I still want to focus on minimalism and saving, but I shouldn’t have to feel a wretched twist in my gut when – and it’s an inevitable when – I need to spend.
I want to pursue my FIRE dreams with mindfulness and balance. I want to reach my goals peacefully with the intelligence and character of a scholar.
I don’t want to reach my goals as a raggedly old miser with no friends, who’s devoid of love and happiness in his heart…even if that means I reach my goals years later.
So, this year, I’m actively trying to lower my savings rate. I’m going to force myself to spend money until I don’t feel bad about it anymore.
I’m going to pursue…happiness-inflation.
I reached out to Carl to talk about this issue as it seems there is no one discussing it. I LOVE…and I mean really love the Financial Independence community. It’s my life and I care about the movements’ ideologies deeply, but surely there’s a point where you’re probably obsessing too much? A diminishing returns of saving?
We all need to look within ourselves and see if we do have a problem. There’s so much positive reinforcement for saving that it can sometimes take a really long time to realise that you might be pushing too hard – I know I struggled with this; It’s almost like having an existential crisis.
So, I would like to shout out into the blogosphere; Does anyone else feel this way?… How did you combat it?… Or are you still struggling?
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