Spreading the FIRE

As a flight attendant, there are no two things more important than your base and your seniority.  The base becomes your home and your seniority gives you access to the best trips and vacation weeks possible.  For a few years now, my seniority in Chicago has been stagnant due to the droves of flight attendants jumping ship from MDW (Chicago Midway Airport) in favor of the DEN base.  To add insult to injury, DEN has been voted Best Base 4 years running (dethroning MDW from our own winners streak) and has quickly become the more junior base.  What does that mean for me?  My decent seniority in MDW would be muuuuch better if I too took the DEN bait.  Hmmmm…  In early July, I decided to jump a flight to Denver to see what all the hullabaloo was about.  Maybe I too would jump ship.

Let me start by saying, I love the mountains and all the fresh water lakes that they create.  I also love the oudoorsy life and all it has to offer including the fresh air, camping, hiking, kayaking, swimming.  With the exception of skiing (grace is not a word best used to describe me), I love it all!  The closest I ever got to that type of lifestyle was when I worked in the ski shop at a resort in Ashland, OR.  Being surrounded by the mountains and their constant unrelenting beauty, made me feel alive.  In that regard, Denver didn’t disappoint…

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Breathtaking, right?!

After a few days I decided that as much as I loved Denver and all it has to offer (and despite the urging of my DEN friends), I have no plans to move at this juncture. 🙂  Instead, I made a mental tally of the things I liked (Happy Hour, dog friendliness, mountains, outdoorsy peeps) and didn’t like (altitude sickness, cost of living, car dependency) in the event I decide to revisit the DEN base idea in the future.  But don’t worry, folks, this trip was not for nothing.   I’m happy to report I did accomplish something while I was away…

Anita

While visiting, I had the pleasure of staying with my dear friend, Anita.  I spoke about Anita in my last post, how we met through a volunteer trip in Thailand, but I failed to mention we are the SAME EXACT person…minus the fact I am 10 years her senior.  Up until now, our lives have followed similar paths including adventures in real estate, travel, and flight attending. While both of us have no children, we are both dating men in their mid 40’s with teenagers (I happen to live with mine, she doesn’t).  We are both entrepreneurs in various outlets, and love to create new streams of income.  We don’t eat meat, though she is vegan and I a pescatarian.  We both relate to our spiritual sides more than religious.  She has solo traveled all over the world, as have I.  She cranes her head out the window to yell at people riding in horse-drawn carriages on a sweltering city street (witnessed by my own eyes in Golden, CO) and I yell at people who leave their dogs unattended in hot cars.  We both love animals, after all.  😉

Oh, and we are both complete dorks.  But that’s beside the point.

During my stay I was able to catch a small glimpse of Anita’s life in Denver and, ever more fascinating to me, her overall spending habits.  This is where I discovered one glaring difference between us.  She is a spender, ya’ll.  Each day we toured around Denver checking out the sites in her lovely (and new) SUV.  We visited the fabulous home she was due to close on a week later.  Within her current apartment dwelling, I was privy to even more of her fancy lavish lifestyle!!  Plump, bright organic produce stocked in her fridge, cabinets chock full of vegan delights, and her brand new Vitamix gleaming from the counter top.  The apartment as a whole was super cute (her dog being THE cutest); the bookcase chock full of spiritual meditations, travel guides, and reminders of awesome trips from the past.  The bathroom had countless delicious smelling cruelty free/ animal free products to bath and swath yourself in.  I saw shockingly similar spending patterns to those that I once had. To stay at Anita’s was like going back in time.  All at once it clicked, THIS LIFE WAS MINE a mere 5 years ago!

Now, I say none of this to shame or to hate on my girl.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with a consumerist lifestyle (or awesome smelling shampoo!).  It’s “normal”.  But knowing a more fulfilling lifestyle exists, knowing what Anita’s potential could be, I want a better future for my girl.  Instead of hating, I’m telling these inner secrets of my good friend’s world only to explain the next part of her story…

The Awakening

A few days before my trip, I was invited to a meet up in the Denver area by a fellow FIRE blogger (Hi, Carl!).  I accepted with hesitation because I didn’t know what Anita had already planned and I figured it would be a tough sell to someone who has no knowledge of my “other” life…you know, my personal-finance-blogging-financial-independence-seeking life.  I had anticipated the awkward “why would we want to drive an hour North to meet people I have never met before and only know through some weird financial websites?” questioning, so when she said it was an hours drive North I dropped the topic like a big ole scaredy cat and moved on.  Mind you, I am sure had I pressed she would have been game because she didn’t exactly say those words about the weirdo financial sites.  Instead, I filled in the blanks to “It’s an hour North” the way I would have had I been her.  End result, we didn’t make it to the meet up.

Rather than attending the meet up, we found a more neutral way to enjoy our day – eating at an awesome vegan restaurant, checking out a local dog adoption event, and chillin’ in Golden at a brewery that was out of Coors Lite (seriously, the plant is across the street!).  Our conversation over the next two days ran the gamut with everything between our current lives and where they are heading.  Beyond any future travel plans, at some point I sprinkled in the fact that I was due to retire in a few years. Anita, understandably, was shocked by the notion.  We have the same job, after all (though, to be fair, my current hourly wage is nearly double hers).  This bomb I dropped brought us back around to my previous thought regarding the meet up – Why would I want to meet a bunch of people I have never met before and only know through some weird financial websites?  The answer?  Because they are my tribe.  They represent my new life.  My future life.  They are the people who understand that paying $10 (update – she only pays $6.99! 😉 Chicago is making a killing in mark up!) for the vegan equivalent of 12 eggs without any thought is what was once standing between me and financial freedom…hello, avocado toast!  #NoJudgementUnlessYouWantFI

In all the conversation that followed, I explained what I had been up to, how I was accomplishing it, and what my plans were for after.  Anita was clearly intrigued and asked for more info.  I told her how I started my FI (financial independence) journey, who had been instrumental in getting me here, and why this community is so important to me.*  By the time I was being dropped off at the airport, she was asking for a list of resources to get her started.  I sent her a slew of posts from all the greats, podcasts I listen to regularly, and a couple ideas about our work retirement plan.  The FIRE had been ignited, my friends.

A few days later I got a call from Anita.  She had read through the resources I sent her, had clicked on ALL the links each post had embedded, and had fully succumb to the rabbit hole of FIRE (common acronym for the Financial Independence / Early Retirement movement).  She wanted more!  She asked what to do about her car, what to do about the house, and what to do about the boyfriend (something I too have struggled with – t is super difficult (though not impossible) to be FIRE’d up and try to get your partner on board).  She had every single question and inclination that I had when I first started reading about financial independence, including why didn’t I know about this sooner??  The good news for Anita?  She learned 10 years before I did.  Now she has the time to put her financial life in place and retire years before the age the I will.

Congrats, my friend!  You’re the newest member of the FIRE Seeking Tribe! 🙂

I recently asked Anita what she has learned in the past few weeks and what steps, if any, she has taken in her new pursuit of FIRE.  Her response floored me:

  1. Anita started using YNAB (You Need a Budget) for her budget spreadsheet.  She said it “has already helped me tremendously to get a clear picture of my spending and make sure every dollar has a job”.  LOVE!!
  2. She is more conscientious when going out to eat and no longer orders appetizers as well as a meal (Did I mention we both eat, A LOT?).  BONUS – saving on calories while saving dollars!
  3. She is weighing the decision between paying off real estate and buying more (Mental note – introduce her to Paula Pant next!).
  4. Instead of hiring someone to do the dirty work, her boyfriend is doing much of the repairs on her new house though I’m guessing she is paying for it in some way…  😉 (I’ve met Mike – he’s cute AND has muscles!!)
  5. She is using coupons for every new purchase and is being careful not to spend on unnecessary items.  Her example?  She saved money by not buying a fly swatter and instead is using a vacuum to suck them up.  BONUS – This whole thing has helped her to think of energy costs as she also mentioned it may be cheaper for the swatter in the end!  Another example?  She is getting $14 in rebates back for buying 6 packages of Gardein (fake meat).  “They keep in the freezer forever!”
  6. She stopped taking the expensive toll road between her house and Mike’s.
  7. She got a second wind and restarted her Amazon business side hustle. Woot woot!!
  8. She is looking into our companies 401k options and what changes she has to make. (I’ll be helping her with this shortly)
  9. Anita also added that her mentality has shifted to ask herself, “How can I get what I want for free?  If not free, then for as little money as possible.”
  10. Dammit if she didn’t give me a 10th – I love even numbers!! 😦

A-mazing, am I right??  Anita turned her spendy life around in a matter of weeks by recognizing her budget weaknesses and creating new habits.  But no one is without flaws.  In the past two weeks, she has also:

  1. Bought 750 thread count sheets for her new pad.
  2. Bought more vegan eggs!!

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The sheets are totally justified.  As flight attendants, we work at a job where we sleep in random beds (usually alone – ba dum bump 😉 ) for several days a week.  Our home beds are our sanctuary and totally worth splurging on.  The vegan eggs?  Well, certainly not a choice I would make but food spending is a tough habit to break, at least it was for me.  I used to spend a TON of money on food!  Mostly organic and small batch bullshit.  That isn’t to say I don’t still want those things, I do, but I want my freedom more.  One thing I’ve learned from this journey is that you can’t completely deprive yourself.  Give yourself wiggle room for a few luxuries.  Mine is travel.  Anita’s is groceries (and travel)!  She may come around on that, or maybe not.  If not, I will at least have some yummy vegan eggs the next time I visit.  🙂

Take What You Want And Leave the Rest

The road to FI is a long one and full of surprising tidbits that you learn about yourself. How you spend, why you spend, and at what cost you are willing to pay for things that are really important to you. Do you value your time? Relationships? Social life? Hobbies? Vegan eggs? How much do those things really cost you? How many hours do you need to work to continue your life at its current level. Is it worth it? Are you getting back what you put in? Could you be doing something different? All these questions can be answered differently at different times. A year ago I may have answered completely different from how I would today. Again, the road to FI is long and winding.

I have often said I am happy that I found the idea of financial independence well into my 30’s. I enjoyed the shit out of my younger years, making all sorts of mistakes financial and otherwise.  But all those mistakes add up to a plethora of experiences to draw from and that is something I will never regret.

One other thing, I used to HATE talking about myself and the “what are you up to” type conversations.  In the past few years all that has changed.  The greatest joy I now have is sharing my stories and experiences, the good the bad and the ugly, and hoping someone learns from them.  I relish the moment someone turns to me and asks “what are you up to” – it gives me an in to test the waters.  Are they being polite or are they truly interested?  Once you drop the early retirement bomb you are sure to find out!

Special thanks to Anita, for letting me share my stories with her and for letting me share her story with others. THIS is how our tribe will continue to grow and thrive. 🙂

** Have you turned anyone on to FIRE lately? Have you tried to get a spouse or partner on board (Anita could use some help with that!)? **

Until next time…

*I’m working on a compilation post about your Aha moment to FI – what introduced you and how did you react in those first few weeks.  If you would like to contribute or already have a post of that manner, email me (missmazuma@gmail.com) the link or a short bit of your story.  First 10 entries will be featured!  🙂

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43 thoughts on “Spreading the FIRE

    1. Girl, you are telling it. I can’t get my own BF on board and he sees all the positive ways that this FI stuff has impacted me. I spend a few days with her and she does a complete 180! Damn… This may prove the theory that women are better listeners?! Something to explore at Lola!!!

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    1. OMG, Kim! I haven’t come across many people in the 16 years since I left that have ever been there let alone lived there! I know Wiley’s World is gone, what about the co-op, The Beanery, Morning Glory? The Mexican place near Morning Glory that had the best shrimp enchiladas verde?? Why is it all I can think about is food right now?! Haha – I hope to visit again soon. 🙂

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  1. Look at you spreading the good word! It’s really not a tough sell though, is it! Best of luck to Anita and her journey to financial independence- may she Get Rich Quick’ish and retire early! 😃

    Also, this line you used is littered throughout my site and used frequently in my daily life as I weigh purchasing decisions: “Do ‘I want my freedom more’ … than I want this particular item?” The answer is almost always in favor of freedom.

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    1. Duh, obviously I plagiarized it! Just kidding 🙂 It is so true though, I really don’t need many things!

      As I sit here clearing out my apartment I realize how much of my stuff was not necessary to my life. I have sold all my furniture minus a few family pieces, thrown out a ton, gave away, and donated. What will be left is very small in comparison but I feel a total shift in the weight I have been carrying. As this place sat here for a year full of crap, that weight continued to build. Finally I am letting it go. Hopefully your post, mine, and this comment will get people to realize the importance of life instead of tangible objects.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. fierymillennials

    I too have a friend that is older than me that I’ve benefited from (besides you of course!). She’s like a mentor-friend. I keep her young, and she gives me wise advice. I think finding someone so similar to you helped spread the message and catch her on FIRE. Guys think differently than women do, so maybe you need to approach the BF from a guy (or guys’ perspective). Might be time to rope Carl in on that one! Once he gets back from all his awesome travels that is. Are you and Anita kicking yourselves for not going to the meetup now?

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    1. Mentor/Friends are the best! I have learned a lot from people in my life no matter what age they were…though sometimes it is about learning what I don’t want more than what I do! 😉

      Guys definitely think different…did you see my comment to Tonya? Great minds! I also know that depending on where you are in your life, no amount of talking will change your viewpoint. When someone is in survival mode it is hard to teach them how to swim. They will just keep flapping about to keep their head above water and they can’t hear you over the waves. (Damn – that was a great analogy. I should be a writer or something!)

      As for the meet up, it happened how it happened. I would have loved to meet him and check out the area but it didn’t work out this time around. The nice gent told me anytime so I will be sure to take him up on that! 🙂

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  3. TheRetirementManifesto

    Gotta love spreading FIRE! Congrats on the way you handled the potentially delicate discussion. Happy for Anita, she has a good friend in Miss Mazuma!

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    1. Better than spreading other things, ya know? 😉

      Anita is a ROCKSTAR. I didn’t mention in the post that she is a true go-getter. I shouldn’t have been surprised when she took the FIRE bull by the horns. I have a lot to learn from her gusto, that’s for sure! And secretly I am a bit jealous that I am in the wait it out phase instead of the set my house on FIRE phase…I miss that phase! I have already cut the costs, widened the gap, and sold everything I could. If only compound interest would hurry the heck up!!

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    1. Nice!! It all starts at home. 😉

      MMM was definitely on the list of resources I sent Anita…of course, she now has a crush on him! When I got a chance to meet Pete at Camp Mustache I was sure to tell him how his site inspired me to make some big changes. I’m pretty sure he hears that all the time but it just felt important to say. I have always been frugal but I was floundering without direction. The concept of FI gave me something to focus on and it motivated me to stop wasting this precious thing we call time. For that I will be eternally grateful.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I did make her get on top of a fish for a photo op that I promised no one would ever see. I lied! You got to take the bad with the good! 😁

      She is also one of the newest members of the most beloved PF forum around….Rockstar Finance Forum. Heard of it? 😘

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  4. Huzzah!! I love it when you meet the older/younger version of yourself. I have a 75 year old mentor, and a 45 year old mentor, and I hope that I can and do mentor some younger folks myself.

    I haven’t converted anyone to FIRE because it’s not something I talk about a lot, but I have inadvertently helped a handful of friends who struggled with money to feel more confident about making money decisions to build savings through the #1GoodMoneyThing hashtag. As awesome as I think FIRE is, I know there are a lot of people out there who don’t have the earning capacity that we do and getting started on any savings at all is the best thing they can do for themselves.

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    1. When I was little I spent a lot of time with my great grandmothers – I was fortunate to have 3 still living when I was born. Two were within bike riding distance and I would often ride over just to sit and chat. I learned so much from them and then from my grandmothers as well. Now that I am older (not old!), I have learned quite a bit from my own experiences and feel more qualified to help at times. I just needed a bit of seasoning to get here.

      I would also like to say, FIRE isn’t something I talk about much either. Money talks can get awkward real quick. I think the lessons were better received because they didn’t come from just me. I sent a bunch of different resources so the ideas were well rounded. Whatever it was, something clicked and I am grateful for that! I have seen your #1GoodMoneyThing hashtag! Whatever it takes to get people a little more active in their finances is a good thing. You’re right, not everyone is going for FI or ER, but knowing you have some control over your financial future is empowering. Way to spread the word! Oh, and thanks for your contribution to the upcoming post!! Looking forward to reading those links. 🙂

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  5. Nice work! It’s really satisfying bringing in friends and family because you always want to see them do better. Not to mention for them to have time to hang out when also FIRE’d 🙂

    I feel like we’re bringing on a lot of new people these days. Maybe because they see us doing whatever we want and think they might also want to quit thier jobs. Either way it’s nice to grow a social circle of people with the same values and interests 🙂

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    1. Haha – yes, it is selfish on my part. I want someone to travel with!!! As for you guys bringing the troops in… I have NO DOUBT you are recruiting by the masses – especially if your friends see the awesome twitter posts of rad giant cauliflower and delicious New England lobsters! Shoot…I’ve even volunteered to watch your garden while you traipse about the country (for access to all I can eat salad, of course). Building your community is what this is all about. What a waste to power through life only to end up alone. Booooo! 🙂

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  6. apathyends

    Wow wow wow. I feel like I need to track down one of my friends and drop some knowledge! I have been hesitant to share our path with friends and family to date but this went so well for you I want to!

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    1. A knowledge bomb. FIRE bomb? Hmmm – maybe too real. Well, whatever you decide to drop, come in soft. This is one of a few successes – there have been many failures! I just didn’t write about those. 😉

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  7. Working Optional

    Glad you were there for Anita! Sometimes I wish my local buddies believed in FIRE as well – would make for healthy competition for sure :).

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    1. I hear ya! Anita is the only of my friends who is on the same page. I think that is why I love blogging so much because here I have the opportunity for crossover from internet to real life friends! I have met so many lovely FIRE folks by hosting our Chicago meetups, visiting them on overnights, and attending events such as Camp Mustache, Lola Retreat, and soon FInCon! Each time I meet someone in person we get to totally geek out over spreadsheets but also get to know each other on a more human level. Making an online FIRE friend a real one is the best of both worlds!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. “share my stories…and hope someone learns from them” – I love that. I need to “test the waters” with more people. We’ve made our share of mistakes but we’ve done some great things too – and people can learn from both if they want too. I just need to put myself and my story out there to more people I know. I hate it when people say that you learn best from your mistakes. I agree that you learn – not sure it’s what is best though. We all make enough mistakes on our own… learning from the mistakes of others is pretty smart too 🙂 Congrats to Anita!

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    1. So true – you shouldn’t have to learn the really tough lessons by experiencing them if you are open to learning from others instead! Believe me, I wish I knew it was possible to lose all my properties before investing so much money into them! Having learned the lesson the hard way, I’ll be damned if I am going to watch my friends do the same. Anita is a whiz at real estate so at least I don’t have to worry about her! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wait, what? Does this mean Anita and I are cousins, too?
    Writing about financial freedom is a great thing. But to personally make a difference in someone else’s life takes it to a new level. Congrats!

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    1. Yes! New family members. 😊 Financial freedom is a concept that never crossed my mind before starting to read about FIRE. I can’t even tell you how much this community (including you two!!) has inspired me and I am so happy I could get my friend on board the crazy train.

      You don’t know what to don’t know until you do and when you know better you do better. Anita is an awesome friend and I am so happy to have her a part of my journey and me to be a part of hers.

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  10. Chris @ Keep Thrifty

    Anita’s lucky to have a friend like you! I think the FIRE concept is one of those infectious ideas that a lot more people would love to take part in if they only know about it and believed it was actually possible. Awesome job helping get the word out!

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    1. Aww – thanks Chris! Sorry for the late reply. It seems you are supposed to update apps for things to work proper. 😜 I definitely agree with the “infectious” sentiment. FI is a fast spreading disease, for sure. It’s just the type of disease no one wants a cure for!!

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  11. Sonja

    That’s so great, that a friend reacted positively to your spending habits. But the main thing here is that she came to you, you never tried to persuade her before she was ready. My friends keep wondering how is it possible for me to afford certain lifestyle and they keep saying that I have to teach them and explain it, but it usually stops at that. You friend was obviously ready to change her habits and it is great to be a mentor to someone like that.

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    1. Thanks, Sonja! You are so right, you have to be patient and wait for the right “in”. Being in Denver and so close to a meet up that I wasn’t attending was painful but not pushing was totally worth it! Anita response was like many I have seen that are new to FIRE. The swift change of cutting costs and reversing spendy behaviors. Question is – will she stay the course? Having gone through the first stage of sheer enthusiasm for cutting expenses, I know how hard it is when you come to stage 2 which is waiting. Compound interest may be the 8th wonder of the world but it certainly wasn’t created in a day. 😉

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

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  12. You had me at dog loving pescatarian who yells at people who are mean to animals. That’s me tooooooooooo!!!!!! xoxoxox . Love the post and love that you’re inspiring FI in others. You’re clearly a very good egg 🙂

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  13. Tina

    I’ve found my tribe! Thank you, now I know what it is call, FIRE!!! It is true, now I question almost every possible purchases that are not edible. Do I really need it? Even for food, I will hold out until pay day to get to Aldi. In the mean time, meal time for my family has been quite adventurous. 😋😂. I love your blog.

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    1. FIRE – Financial Independence / Early Retirement. We take all shapes and sizes, all races and creed. We are all encompassing. Welcome to the tribe!! 🙂

      I totally do the same with groceries. It’s pretty bare bones this week but we keep coming up with new ideas for dinner!! A little creativity goes a long way.

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