Are We On The Path To FIRE?

“Are we part of the FIRE movement yet? How will we know when we are?”

FIRE might have been something that snuck up on us. We’ve never been very good at recording dates and memorable occasions. Beyond birthdays and Christmas, we don’t have any specific anniversaries we celebrate, so it’s unsurprising that we’ve lost track of when exactly we committed to the FIRE movement.

It’s currently May 2021 as I write this, but looking back we really began our journey towards FIRE in January. We’d made a few positive steps towards FIRE in the year before but these weren’t conscious choices towards financial independence. These were really just taking control of our finances and starting to look towards the long term. Even our commitment to FIRE was propelled and accelerated by circumstances beyond our control, firstly the Covid 19 Pandemic, during which we were barely leaving our apartment and therefore had the time to research what we should do with our money which was beginning to accumulate now that restaurants, bars and holidays were off the table. Then, on Christmas Eve 2020, our landlord announced that the apartment which we’d been renting for five years was being sold and we would have to find somewhere else to live.

At the time, being forced to leave ‘our’ apartment was an unexpected upheaval and we found it incredibly stressful, but in hindsight it was one of the best things that could have happened to us at that time.

We’d just spent a year learning about the importance of taking control of your finances, living frugally and intentionally, focusing on what really mattered to us and we were beginning to toy with working out our FIRE number. It was with all of this in mind that we began looking for a new apartment. This one big change led us to make a hundred more tiny choices and changes to how we live. The new apartment was smaller – we had to seriously consider which of our possessions increased our quality of life and was worth keeping. We had to face up to how many of the things we’d spent money on over the years could be thrown away without being missed at all. We reconsidered our commute to work and calculated how much it was costing us. We also reconsidered our many shopping habits, what we were buying from where and how often we were making good choices rather than just going with what felt convenient.

It was as we were making these many small changes that we began tracking our spending. It felt like a fresh start and so getting into a new habit of recording our every spend was something we wove into our new lifestyle. Despite being sure we knew where our money was going and what our largest costs were, we were surprised by what we found. In some ways it was great to find that the things I was sure were costing us the most money were, in fact, not. But then were was the money going each month? We had to track all of our monthly outgoings to find the insidious costs that were sneaking out of our bank accounts.

As we tracked our spending we were able to better to predict our savings. We chose our investments and, like many before us, made a mistake in making our portfolio too complex. We are now refining it and each month making adjustments so that it better matches what we are trying to achieve.

Could we have gotten ourselves on the path to FIRE without moving apartments? Definitely. Would we have? Probably. Eventually. It would have taken us longer. Moving home was a catalyst.

I sit here now, with several months of tracked spending and I can see the path we’ve carved in reducing our costs and living more frugally. I look around and I can see the conscious choices we’ve made in shaping our apartment in a way which maximises the things that bring us happiness rather than trivial clutter that previously weighed us down. I think about our investments, the milestones we’ve reached and the goals we’ve set ourselves. It fills me with a sense of optimism. I’m convinced that buy spending less we are in fact gaining more.

When Converse asks me, as he has done several times this year: “Are we part of the FIRE movement yet?” I think back on all of the positive changes we’ve made in the last five months and I’m confident that we are.

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