Our Five Biggest Wins

-Written by Steph 

Over the last several years that we’ve been working towards early retirement, there have been a handful of things we did that had a disproportionately huge, positive impact on our progress. Here are our five biggest wins from the last five years:


We’ve done incredibly well in the housing department over the years. I’ve always been good at apartment hunting, and even now, in the most expensive place we’ve ever lived, our monthly rent is only $787. It would be very easy to pay double or triple this amount, especially to live downtown in a nice building. This is a category where smart hunting really pays off.


Our transportation costs averaged $38/month last year, for two of us – less than $20 each. So far this year, we’re averaging closer to $14 each. Our secret? It’s twofold: First, neither of us has bothered to get a driver’s license, so we’re forced to live in areas that are designed sensibly so as not to require a car. Second, we plan our lifestyle to involve minimal public transit as well, focusing mostly on walking and biking. This also helps us maintain some basic level of fitness, especially in the winter where we’re otherwise inclined to turn into blobs.

Kick-ass Self-reliance Skills

I spent my early 20s focusing on developing a ton of self-reliance skills, including how to shop well, find cheap apartments, cook anything, sew, and do most basic repairs. Now that I’m 30, I’ve had almost a decade of doing this stuff, so it’s very easy for me to come up with a weekly meal plan and bulk-cook all our food for the week, cut Cel’s hair, or do some bicycle repairs myself rather than hire them out.

Avoiding Lifestyle Inflation

This is pretty self-explanatory. Our income has more than doubled since starting our early retirement pursuit, yet our annual spending has actually decreased in that time. It’s probably leveled out at this point at around 27K/year unless we find some way to get our travel costs substantially lower, but I don’t see this increasing at least.


We’ve definitely developed an interest in minimalism over the years, which allows us to live comfortably in smaller spaces than a lot of couples could. We’re also very particular about buying stuff, and generally do not add new items to our household unless we’re replacing something. So far in 2017, we’ve bought zero items that were not either consumables, replacements, or temporary items that we resell (i.e. video games).

There are, of course, many other “wins” that we’ve had over the years that have saved us money – my lack of interest in makeup/hair stuff, neither of us being restaurant or alcohol fans, and so on – but those five have definitely had the biggest impact on our savings rate, and they’re a heck of a lot less ongoing effort than a lot of the frugality tips floating around.


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