Balance – Living vs FIREing

Today, I wanted to talk a little about balance.  I was reading my favorite sub-reddit and an interesting discussion popped up.  Basically, asking the crowd, how do you balance living your life and your fire plans.  And actually, I just read another post about this very thing,  Tonya at Budget & the Beach was talking about deciding to book a trip that she has always wanted to go on.  She was torn, and so were a lot of folks in the sub-reddit.  There’s two sides to every coin, yin and yang:


“You only live once” is something that you hear a lot about these days.  You want to experience as much as you can during your short time on this Earth.  Wanna go live the high-life in Vegas for the weekend, DO IT!  Wanna go on a cruise to the Caribbean?  DO IT!!  Need that new purse, or shoes, or that fancy new car.  DO IT!  Everyone will think you are cool and fun, and the whole world will look up to you.


I have to sit in my tiny 50 sqft apartment.  I can’t eat anything but rice and beans.  The holes in my shoes just show that they are loved.  I’ll ride my bike where ever I need within a 50 mile radius.  But, I don’t have to work, I can do what every I want, I just can’t do much.

How do you decide?

The Mrs. and I wrestle with this pretty regularly.  Now, are we misers?  No, not by a long shot.  I mean we spent 6 weeks in Europe on our honeymoon for goodness sake.  But, we also are trying to work our way to FIRE in the next couple of years.  But, what happens to our lives now?  I mean what if something happens?

A few years ago, when we started this whole adventure, we spent a good amount of time looking at our expenses, and seeing what really made our life better.  Cable?  We watch trash network TV anyway, Nope!  Expensive phone service? Cheap providers are just as good, and even come with the added benefits of being able to swap SIM cards while traveling, Not even close. Monthly wine club?  Nope, I can get it from the market when I want some.  Gym Membership?  We can work out and run outside with the added benefit of fresh air, Nadda.

On the flip side, does this mean that we sit in our apartment and count every penny?  Well, of course not.  I’m sure we are some of the very few FIRE folks who have actually been to a SuperBowl.  We travel internationally pretty regularly.  We definitely eat fairly well, tonight we had a nice steak dinner (I cooked it, but still).  We wear reasonable clothes, and we have a pretty nice car.  We even have a nice little house (we rent) in a pretty expensive neighborhood.

So, how do we make these decisions?  There’re 2 keys:

Try your best to spend your hard earned money on things that will make your life substantially better.

As for the SuperBowl thing, we still, to this day, talk about that trip with fond memories.  Every February, we get to relive the trip, and I’m here to tell you it was AWESOME!  For traveling, it opens our horizons and makes us more well rounded people.  Steak dinner? Well, we like to eat good food.  Luckily, I like to cook, and am getting better.  And the new (to us) car?  Mrs. WoW drives all over for work, and has to tote a lot of stuff with her, so it just made sense to get her a comfortable car to replace her 10 year old car.  Plus, tax deduction anyone?

But all that other stuff, just doesn’t add value.  Why would you spend your life slaving away for crap that just doesn’t add any value to your life?  It should be an easy decision.  Does this thing that I am going to spend my money on make my life substantially better?  It’s a simple yes or no question.

Try your best to make every spending decision consciously.  

There’s a really great book I read about making videos: How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck.  It’s basically about how to make vacation videos that people will actually want to watch.  It’s surprisingly good, and easy for non-film folks to understand. But, one of the main tenets in the book is: “If you put any amount of thought or effort into your video, you’re already ahead of about 90% of the people out there”.  (Emphasis mine, just any, not a lot or a huge amount, just any as in more than 0.) And I’ve taken that advice to other aspects of my life, and it’s very pertinent for this whole FIRE thing as well.  And this is how I apply it:  “If you pause to think about how & why you are spending your money, you’re already ahead of 90% of the people out there.”  Does that mean don’t spend money?  No.  But, it does mean that before you do, take a deep breath and think about it, then spend the money knowing full well the repercussions.  You’re missing out on future earnings, you’re gonna have to work to replace that, etc.  You can’t just walk through life, with your credit card in hand spending mindlessly.

That’s really it.  It’s surprisingly simple, that’s how we find our balance.  It’s not always easy, and yes, we slip up.  But, we work our way back and we hit our stride again.  Like anything else practice makes it easier.  Keep at it and you’ll be amazed how it becomes second nature.  Who would have thought that using that 3 pound lump of grey matter in your head would become a part of your everyday life?


  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach January 26, 2017 at 6:20 am

    ha ha the last paragraph is what I’m talking about in an upcoming post. I think that the core of spending money, even on things I value, is guilt. I have to get over the guilt of my decisions. For instance after purchasing my trip, I listened to a bunch of podcasts from FIRE people who never took big trips and ate ramen. There would be a line such as, “if you want to achieve fire you need to do anything to get there.” I hear that and I get a pang of guilt. It takes some talking to myself to know that there was nothing wrong with my decision for ME! I don’t need to justify it to anyone. I don’t need to justify getting my hair cut but someone other than a relative, or choosing not to eat rice and beans because it adds 10 pounds to my ass. Ya know?

  • Mrs. Need2save March 4, 2017 at 9:58 am

    Finding the right balance and reevaluating your choices from time to time keeps you from burning out. You pick and choose your financial battles so to speak. We like steak, vacations, and other conveniences that others may find wasteful as well. FIRE is still possible.

    Just found your site. Hope to return to see what else you two are up to.

    • Mr WoW March 4, 2017 at 11:42 am

      Hey, thanks for the encouraging words! We truly believe that there is a balance. Why should we not enjoy our life as we prepare to enjoy our life? Seems a little counterproductive doesn’t it? Just read through your site, seems as though we have quite a bit in common!!


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