Our Financial Wake Up Call

My name is Chris and I’m a spend-aholic… No, that’s a weird way to start this. We’ll get back to the spending issues, but first let’s give some background details.

I’m Chris and I live in beautiful (and expensive) Portland, Oregon. My girlfriend Jenny and I live with our two cat overlords, Morty and Miep, who occasionally allow us to focus on activities besides petting them. We enjoy camping, hiking, traveling, cooking, learning new things, as well as the occasional TV show, movie, and video game.

Until recently I always thought that I had my shit together and that I was doing things right financially. I went to college, like I was supposed to, and got a job in the tech industry. I paid down my student loans within 5 years of graduation. I put money into a 401k, but never increased my contribution above the amount my employer would match, thinking I’d get around to that later. I always kept a few thousand dollars in savings, but never really got it above $3,000 as there was always something that I “needed” to spend that extra money on. I never left a balance on my credit cards at the end of the month… until fate interceded and I had to (ominous foreshadowing).

We purchased our first home in December of 2016, primarily due to the fear of getting priced out of the crazy Portland housing market if we waited any longer. We didn’t save any money for a down-payment beforehand because banks would give us loans without it, so why not? Looking back, that was obviously a sign that we should have waited, but our fear of missing out on home ownership due to a Portland housing shortage and an ever increasing amount of people moving here led us to push through buying a house anyway.

Shortly after we purchased the house we had several financial setbacks, including Jenny being out of work for a significant time period, one of our cats racking up thousands of dollars of vet bills (only to find out that there was no real issue), mystery car problems that were difficult to diagnose and ended up costing thousands of dollars to fix, and medical expenses for a minor surgery. So many things went wrong at once it felt like our life had turned into a sad, cliche country song. Throughout all of this we didn’t really consider trying to cut back on our spending because we thought the bad times would be over soon and we’d be able to get back to normal quickly. We ended up with a credit card debt of around $10,000, which we are just about to finally pay off in July of 2018.

Once I started seeing the wasted money on credit card interest I knew I could no longer tell myself that I had my shit together money-wise. I was actually money-foolish and it was finally starting to dawn on me. This realization combined with a growing dissatisfaction with my work life led me to start investigating ways to get better with money, which brought me to the doorstep of the ever-growing FIRE movement.

I started learning about FIRE on Reddit, specifically focusing on the r/FinancialIndependence and r/LeanFire subreddits and then reading through the excellent Mr. Money Mustache blog. Recently, I’ve been reading the newly updated version of the book “Your Money or Your Life”, by Vicki Robin, which was the main motivation for creating this blog. One suggestion in the book is to publicly commit to the changes you’re making in your money life by creating a blog and using the potential for public shame to keep yourself on track and accountable, so here we are.

It quickly became crystal clear that we were spending way too much money. I cringe thinking about how much I wasted over the years going out to bars, eating out at fancy restaurants, buying the newest gadgets, and paying for all of the streaming services out there. The worst part about all that spending is it really didn’t do anything to make us happier. We told ourselves that having all those things added to our happiness, but that was really just the training from 30 years of marketing and TV advertising coming out of our mouths. “Feeling down? Buy yourself something and you’ll feel better!” “Hard week at work? Go to that new fancy restaurant and don’t hold back, because you deserve it!” We’ve been force-fed that kind of garbage since before we could talk, so no wonder it felt like the right way to live and like we actually needed those things.

From what I learned from the various resources out there we found many ways to savagely cut our expenses. We used the money we saved to start paying as much as possible towards the remaining credit card debt, while also increasing our emergency savings fund up to $5,000. Once we finish the credit card off we’ll expand our emergency fund to at least $15,000 before we start investing any additional money we save. This is just the beginning of the process, but based on what we’ve already learned we believe that with the right plan we can snowball our savings and investments to the point where we could potentially retire in about 10 years, if that’s what we decide we want to do.

So now we’re all caught up on our background as well as why FriskyFire exists. We hope this blog provides some inspiration or guidance to you, while it’s keeping us motivated and accountable on our own path towards financial independence. We’re excited to see where our new money mind-set can take us and we’re hopeful that you’ll join us on the journey.

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