In 2013, shortly after my husband and I got married, we bought a brand new Jeep Wrangler. Moving in together and merging finances surely meant we could afford the $400 monthly payment. At least that's what we told ourselves.
But with the Jeep payment, a smaller payment on another car, a mortgage, his child support, and a plethora of other bills, expenses, and discretionary spending, our dual income wasn't going as far as I thought it should.
I began looking to answer the question above and more. How were other people doing it? How could we save more money? Were we investing enough for our future? Would we ever be able to retire?
After some false starts and one-size-fits all advice from the internet, I stumbled upon an article introducing me to the term FIRE, or financial independence, retire early, and started reading everything I could about it.
I was 45 and my husband was 46, which put us past the age many FIRE followers were retiring. But I quickly realized making changes could still allow an early retirement for us. It took me several tries to persuade my husband retiring before 67 was possible. Eventually, the spreadsheets and figures convinced him, and we set out to achieve that goal.
Initially, our goal was to retire in 2024, the year he would turn 58. We knew it might not be easy to add more than $1 million to our combined net worth of $300,000 in just over 10 years. Yet believing it was possible was incredible fuel to get us going. Visible progress stoked the flames, and we achieved financial independence within six years.
Here's how we did it.
Though some of the first money-saving tips I read seemed generic, we began following them. We canceled our cable, dined almost exclusively at home, brown-bagged lunches, and even cut our own hair.
Learning to be mindful of where our money was going and spending wisely by evaluating whether something was a need or just a want also kept more money in our pocket. The bonus was it helped us stop accumulating more stuff and taught us to repurpose already owned items.
Then we put the savings from doing all these small things towards paying down $50,000 in car loans. Once those were eliminated after 18 months, we decided to sell both vehicles and purchased used older models we're still driving today. And then we invested the difference.