A Month of Change That Has Nothing and Everything to Do with Personal Finances

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Material possessions can easily clutter and become a drag in our pursuit of happiness. I realized that even a couple like us, who tries to keep material possessions to a minimum, sometimes needs to take a step back and look for ways to clear the mind and space around us. When we get to this point, we start to get rid of stuff that accumulated over the years. It feels great and has a therapeutic effect on us.

We’ve been married for almost three years and I still have leftover belongings inside the garage of our rental property that I need to get rid off. I just can’t seem to find the time to get to it. There are just so many other things that I’d rather do with my time, like write for Enchumbao. 🙂 In addition, things got piled up at home as well. We moved in together with possessions that were meant to be put on sale, but are still sitting there fighting for our attention.

We also want to improve certain behaviors and incorporate new habits into our lives. Although we try to live spectacular lives, we are always trying to improve, to be better and healthier. However, it’s a lot of harder for us to stick to non-financial challenges.

Another area that we like to keep in check is life complications. I’m not referring to health complications. I’m talking about how we can easily complicate our lives, even as we try to simplify. While we fine-tune certain aspects, others start to get out of whack, adding complexity in the process. It’s time to go back to basics and keep things simple.

So for the sake of improving in the areas above, we’ve declared August The Month of Change! Many of us wait until a new year to make resolutions or amend a budget, but the truth is that there’s no need to wait for a new year to make resolutions or change course for the better. Now that Mrs. Enchumbao is back from her trip to the motherland, we’re going to take action and make changes to finish the year on a super high note.

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Are there any Enchumbao readers who can hit a high note? 🙂

Now that we have officially declared August The Month of Change, what areas do we want to work on?

1. Declutter our lives

Change already started last month while Mrs. Enchumbao was away in Belarus. I picked up a box of files from the rental property garage and ended up shredding most of it.

I filled up at least three bags of shredded papers.

That action gave me the motivation to continue decluttering, so I moved on to spend an hour deleting apps from my iPhone. Decluttering your smartphone is a great feeling! I deleted a total of 50 apps, including Facebook.

50 apps and that’s just the beginning! The great news is that those were free apps, so no money lost there. I’m one of those who used to check which apps were free for the day and that’s how I started accumulating “digital possessions”. As I looked through my phone for apps to delete, I couldn’t even tell what most of the apps were for. That’s how much I used them.

“Wait a minute! Did you just say that you deleted Facebook?” 

Yes, I deleted that time waster! Now that we’re in full election season it’s an especially great time to stay away from the app. It’s crazy how Facebook can become such a bad habit. I caught myself automatically clicking to open the app as I was decluttering the phone. I kicked that habit to the curb. Decluttering becomes a departure from the junk that charges an emotional toll on our vidas.

2. Let’s go for a dry month!

No, it’s not about going for a dry weather month! It’s about the other kind of dry commitment. Drinking has been a drag on our budget and it’s the one that tends to get out of control, according to our standards. We lowered our budget for this year by a substantial amount, but are still trending the same as last year. Our drinking pattern is probably average to many people, but average is never good enough for us. Plus, drinking isn’t good for our health, and our best insurance policy for our future FI life is to avoid preventable conditions.

We decided to detox our livers in August and so far have spent $0 in booze this month. I made sure to postpone this post until the middle of the month in case we failed, hahahaha, just kidding. I honestly would love to be alcohol-free for the rest of the year, but I’m better off introducing it one month at a time to not scare Mrs. Enchumbao into thinking that her Summer Shandy days are over.

Our biggest test was going to my best friend’s house over the weekend. They have enough wine bottles to supply the Catholic church and we stood strong! It was not easy at times, but we sang karaoke until late, danced the night away and stuck to our non-alcoholic drinks. Yay!!! We know that the trick to breaking a habit is fooling the brain, so we now reach for organic lemonade with frozen blueberries. It’s super refreshing, yummy and gives us something to hold.

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Our true happiness is fueled by financial independence and not by alcohol, so let’s nip this one in the butt. It’s also good for our health and pockets to keep this one in check.

We’ve spent $1,700 in alcohol over the last 12 months. That spending total includes beers, wine, and cocktail drinks from liquor stores, bars & restaurants in the U.S. and abroad. If we buy a drink while dining out we usually split the items in Mint to keep track of how much we spend on alcohol at any time.

These numbers are so revealing. If we want to keep the tipsiness going after early retirement, by using the safe withdrawal rate calculations, we’ll need to have an allocation of approximately $42,500 just to support our alcohol habits! Coñazo! It would take a lot of additional hours at the office to maintain this unhealthy hobby. Although they do say that a glass of wine a day is good for your heart. Who sponsored that research?!?

3. Bike ride with the Mrs.

I just celebrated my 10th year work anniversary and our employer provides us with a gift to choose from a catalog. I ended up choosing a bike for Mrs. Enchumbao, since I have one already and she normally roller-blades next to me, but I have to drag her on the way back! The bike was delivered prior to her return, which gave me time to assemble it. As she got inside our apartment and saw the bike right under the stairs she thought it was just my bike crowding the area until I said: “look closely!” She then became joyful and surprised.

The bike came ready for assembly.

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The biggest challenge was trying to figure out what the “Incorrect” warning meant on this page when assembling the front wheel. I mean, both circled areas looked almost identical. Was I not seeing something obvious after two glasses of wine?

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Then I noticed it right before my eyes after I took this picture. The front wheel is backwards!!! It wasn’t the wine after all. The instructions were poorly designed. Even a coworker made the same mistake assembling his bike!

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And, voila! Mrs. Enchumbao came home to this baby!

I enjoyed assembling the bike and can’t believe that some of my coworkers paid to have their assembled. It’s like paying for joy to be taken away. It reminded me of my own bike repair days as a teenager. I’d rather do chores that remind of my childhood than spend the time working at the office to pay for assembly. We’re now waiting for the heat wave to go away, so that we can ride the Chester Valley Rail Trail in our community.

4. Get more active (again)

This goal is really for me since Mrs. Enchumbao has kept her gym routine. I fell off the bandwagon and now need to get back to my three days of cardio. Trying to exercise is a constant struggle for me. I love walking every day, but I realize that it’s not enough. My goal is to do some sort of physical activity during the week, other than cooking and bike riding, such as dancing, yoga, weights. We need to stay physically active and get back up after falling off the path.

Health and money go together like a horse and carriage

We said that this post that has nothing and everything to do with personal finances because these changes were not driven by monetary reasons, but are improving our bottom line anyway. They improve our financial picture in many ways: 1) By decluttering, we’ll need less space in the future and won’t need to upgrade to a bigger space due to lack of it. 2) By decreasing our alcohol consumption, not only do we march towards a better health, but we cut our spending now and later. I say later because if our health deteriorates due to alcohol consumption, we’ll need to spend more on health care in the future. 3) By bike-riding and staying active, again we maintain our good health, and stick to activities that require very low spending.

Even after taking the savings out of the equation, the most important thing is that these changes improve our overall being and maintain our source of true happiness because at the end of the day… I’m happy!!! Are you happy?

“Clap along if you know what happiness is to you.”

Are you making any changes in your lives to be happier? What steps do you recommend to change a habit?

Please like & share:
The Key Ingredient to Enjoying Early Retirement and Financial Independence
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Mr. Enchumbao

I work for a large investment management company helping people save for traditional retirement. During my spare time, I help others save for financial independence and early retirement by writing for Enchumbao. My journey to FI began in 2012. I was in a lot of debt back then, but I turned things around and became debt free a few years later. My wife and I reached financial independence in 2017 and are preparing to retire by 2020.

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4 Responses

  1. LM says:

    Well done on staying dry! Doing the same thing here and haven’t looked back since April. Much cheaper and healthier liver ? also supports my health goals of dropping a few pounds over the next four weeks. Now that’s what I call a win-win deal ?

    • It’s great to find company on the dry journey. April? That’s outstanding! I’m sure that the savings add up nicely. We already saved $87 this month by not drinking. I’m sure the liver appreciates it. Keep it up!

  2. E. Cruceta says:

    We are so like minded! I wish I could show you my journal/planner where I put under “this week’s focus”-Back to Basics!! Then I read this and thought wow I am going in the right direction. It feels good to know that I am not the only one who thinks these things are crucial. For me, it is also about clearing my mind as well. The fall semester (Academically) is typically a busy time for me at work, with that being said every other aspect of my life should be more organized. With little time to spare I am taking one hour a day to de-clutter. As well as reintroducing routines to my schedule that help me cope with the busy times. Summer is usually a time where drinking becomes a part of anything you do. I also started the month with a detox mindset. Overall, great article it hit home for me in all its points. Cheers to August! (with no alcohol) 🙂

    • Hi! Yes, it’s great to feel that you’re not alone on this journey. I’m glad the article hit home with you as well. It’s day 22 of our detox/dry month and it’s going fantastic. Besides the fact that we already saved $106 by not drinking, we feel great and it hasn’t been as bad as we thought. You just have to replace the alcoholic drinks with regular drinks. For example, we’ve been drinking lemonade at home and adding blueberries to make it fun. Sometimes you just need to have something cold to grab in the hot weather. It’s all about replacing a bad habit with a good one. Cheers!

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