frugal life money

Financial Independance through Bad Ass-ity

I’ve been thinking a lot about financial independence these days.
One thing that has spurred these thoughts is the two periods of annual leave I took in August. During this time I didn’t go abroad, I did not go hiking to Everest and neither did I stay out late, ending every night in a drunken stupor (I don’t drink anyway). I pretty much stayed in Hampshire enjoying the simple things like walking, cycling, catching up with friends, personal projects, the odd spot of eating out and the occasional trip to London.

It was kind of bitter-sweet towards the end of each annual leave because sometimes it felt like another week would be good. Not that I hate my job, far from it, the thing I like most about my work is the people I work with – a bunch of well-balanced, talented, friendly dudes.
All this got me thinking… what would I need to do to perpetually be on annual leave? eg. have an income from something that pays ALL my expenses and simply allows me to live a fairly simple life as described above?

A bit of Googling turned up the blog of Mr Money Moustache – also known as “MMM” or “Triple-M”. I urge you to check out his “Start Here” post but in a nutshell, his idea is pretty simple: by living frugally and saving 50% of your take home salary you can be financially independent in 10 years.

OK so there is a bit more to that. For instance, living frugally might not sound like fun to some of you reading this: What about the latest iPhone I want to buy? And that car I desire? Or the latest videogames? Or that all-expenses guided luxury vacation to Veneuzela?
Well, there is nothing that terribly wrong with those things. But MMM’s point is that those things do not necessarily bring you lasting happiness. They bring short term happiness definitely but as someone who has owned a nice, fast car after a short while it becomes “just another car” – it stops being special. Then you need to save up for another more expensive, faster, more polluting car in order to get the same buzz! The scales to many things such as phones all the way up to houses and private jets (!).

The things is, after absorbing some of his posts and listening to several interviews with him on YouTube (link below) – I feel I have arrived at some of his conclusions independently and know them to be true. I’m not financially independent though – MMM is well ahead of me on that front. He retired at age 31 and by all accounts has a very happy, fulfilled life with a wife and one child all living at under $25,000 a year (that is about £18,560 in UK money).

So what do I mean by “arrived at some of his conclusions independently”? Well, here are some things I do that are in tune with the “Moustachian Way of Life” (thats what fans of MMM call it)…

  • cycle as much as you can to get around – it is good for you, fun, exhilarating and you can discover some amazing short-cuts and places not far from your home.
  • do not spend more than you can afford (except on big, important purchases things like your home… and maybe your car)
  • if you want something, try to make use of what you have – or sell something first to justify it (I did this with video-games, complete it and sell to fund the next one – I enjoyed games much more this way)
  • eat a sensible diet, preferably home cooked/prepared with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables – minimize processed food
  • keep eating out to an occasional treat, not an everyday things
  • if you prepare your own lunch then you can save a lot of money in a year… and you will really value eating that cooked lunch at the canteen on a Friday when you allow yourself a day off from tuna sandwiches 🙂
  • move more – walking to get your groceries, doing your own garden work and home improvement, do not employ a cleaner
  • keep fit and active, you can get your own home gym (used weights from Gumtree/eBay etc) or fit exercises into your life in novel ways
  • read real books by real authors – the internet is largely advert-driven and aside from authentic writings from blogs like MMM is not something to read for self-education
  • realise that spending and consuming is not a long-term, sustainable recipe for happiness
  • live life in balance – consume things in moderation, do not be overly frugal
  • save money where you can, in other ways be generous, especially spending on friends & family
  • avoid world news topics and worrying over geo-politics you have no control over
  • try to avoid convenience (eg. take the stairs rather than lift)

Do you identify with any of the above? If not, then I would urge you to try some of these things even as an experiment.

If you want to get the MMM message in a nutshell then I recommend you listen to this fascinating 30 minute interview. The key thing is that MMM is not “anti-money”, he admits of his own weaknesses which in his case is a luxury home (but attained with hard-work and developed largely by his own hard work in doing it up!). His blog message is “anti-waste” and to shine a light on the problems of over-consumption in modern American society. He seems to be very authentic in his position of being very happy living on relatively modest means – and I believe him.

Anyway, the list above shows how I’ve arrived at this mindset already. Especially the idea that consuming more shiny things does not really bring lasting happiness. That is not to say you should go without basics. However the feeling of getting shiny new car will fade after a while into just a desire for something reliable to get you from A to B. Therefore it is best to go for something sued and sensible. For me a new car does not excite me unless we’re talking a BMW i8 – even then I know the “wow” feeling will probably last a few months or so and then fade into “just another car to maintain”.

I think as one gets older, we get wiser. We know ourselves and what we can sustain, what makes us happy and what does not. You can leverage this ability to focus on the what makes you happy/unhappy to cut out the crap and double-down on the stuff that truly brings happiness. Try to calculate how much you would save over 10 years if you cut out some “expensive indulgences” and replaced them with “bad-ass” versions of them – this can range from your daily £5 latte coffee, your new expensive mountain bike (which you hardly ride anyway) to your new VW Golf which you bought on credit thinking it a good deal and “just what everyone else does” 😉

You also realize that “less is more” and the relentless march towards “faster, more convenient, smaller, cheaper” does not necessarily mean “and better for you”.

I’m not perfectly frugal though, neither am I “mustachian” (a term that describes the teachings of MMM). I could do more of my own home improvement projects. I really admire people who do their own major home improvement like Mr Money Mustache. I am making some small changes in that direction though.

Over to you, give me examples of your own “bad-assity” in the comments!


Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

It’s no secret among my family and friends that I absolutely love the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. In my opinion there is not a bad film among them, they all set a high standard.

WARNING: This review has spoilers for the movie!

For me what sets Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 apart is the emphasis on family and what people really mean to each other. With this comes emotion and feelings – both negative and positive. The movie really does “hit one in the feels”. Aside from that, this is a Guardians movie so you can count on a visual spectacle along with a healthy does of comedy.
One thing they wisely avoided was showing the Guardians crew all getting along fine without any friction. That would have been boring and unlikely – and too early, this is only the second film. However showing them as hostile and unlikeable would be too much at the other end of the extreme.

In the opening act we find them being sarcastic to each other but each character takes a little time out from the battle to show concern for baby Groot. It neatly shows how they all have a heart while still showing badass-ity.

"Hi :)"
“Hi :)”

In the first film we discover that Peter has an unusual heritage and so it is good that we are given a glimpse into Peter’s origin a bit more in Vol 2. Going back to 1980 is also skillful way to weave some well-known music tracks into the story.

Although the progression of Peter finally meeting and getting to know his Dad was interesting, in my opinion it took second fiddle to the other story arcs – those being the redemption of Yondu Udonta and the real source of Rocket’s bad attitude.
The Rocket arc was good to watch as it involves the two biggest ego’s in the team – those being Peter Quill and Rocket Racoon. Of the two, Rocket is to me the least likable because Peter seems to genuinely want everyone to get along.

It seems something is preventing Rocket from getting too close to anyone. He keeps his a-hole act up almost all the way through until Yondu see’s through it (it is one of the best character scenes by the way).

I’m not going to do a scene-by-scene breakdown in this review but suffice to say the climax is every bit as good as the first movie – but in a different way. In Vol 1 we had an Infinity Stone so the final battle had to be something worthy of such a powerful artifact. In Vol 2 though we have Peter finally realizing how to tap into his celestial heritage to the tune of “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac. Just hearing those first few simple notes of the track, with all the other sound effects dimmed, was enough to give me goosebumps.
OK, so I’m secure enough in my masculinity to admit I cried at several points during the movie.

I mean how could anyone not shed a tear at Peter’s simple eulogy for Yondu? Certainly not Chris Pratt and I’m sure those tears were not CGI.

There is also a touching scene with the Guardians passing baby Groot to each other, nurturing him in a totally un-self-conscious way while Cat Stevens “Father and Son” is playing.

One thing I noticed is a small dialogue change between the theatrical release and the home release. This being Yondu referring to Rocket as “boy”. In the theatrical release, I’m pretty sure he referred to Rocket as “rat”.
I have a feeling that because “rat” is rather cold and rude, by calling Rocket “boy” (in the same way he does to Peter) it kind of reinforces the father-figure-by-stealth role that Yondu occupies during the story.

All the Guardians get their particular moments with perhaps Drax being a little neglected. He is in one of my favourite scenes though – we get an idea of what’s going on inside his mind when Mantis does an empath touch on an externally calm and reflective Drax …she is immediately overcome by a wave of sadness and loss 🙁
It was good to see Gamora and her sister reconcile. I felt that little arc was a nice counterpoint to Peter and his father. I really like how Karen Gillan delivers the line “All you wanted was to win, I just wanted a sister!”
I really loved some of the ridiculous moments like Peter asking everyone for tape as a fierce battle rages around them and Drax asking if scotch tape would do (despite not carrying scotch tape himself). Let us also not forget baby Groot bringing back a desk in an innocent attempt to interpret Yondu’s instructions.

When all is said and done, I can’t really fault the film that much but if I try then I probably have two niggles:

  • Yondu was perhaps too brutal in his revenge against his Ravager crew. Taking out “Taser-face” I can understand but the whole rest of the mutineers? If you think about it – there is a mass slaughter going on and it is only made light of from being put to Jay and the Americans – “Come A Little Bit Closer”!
    I guess the preceding scene where they killed the Yondu loyalists and beat-up baby Groot goes some way to show how they “deserved it” but still… it was pretty cold. On top of that, three-quarters of the ship gets destroyed in the process.
  • I didn’t quite buy-in to the Sovereign being a real threat with their drone space armada. They seem too comical to me. By the way did anyone notice the 80’s videogame sound effects used by the fighter craft pods?
"You suck Zylak."
“You suck Zylak.”

Did anyone else realise it was Michael Rosenbaum as the voice of the “crystal ravager guy” who appears as Sylvester Stallones lieutenant? The character name is Martinex. Rosenbaum played Lex Luthor in the Smallville TV series. I really like that these well-known actors have been added to the MCU pantheon along with Michelle Yeoh and Ving Rhames as Ravager captains. I can just imagine other actors telling their agents something like this: “listen, if Marvel Studios call tell them it’s an automatic YES.”
Liked the introduction of the Zune as the next logical step from the squished Walkman (although I would have loved to see him given a MiniDisc player – mainly because I still use the format!).

Cracklin tells him everyone on Earth is listening to them these days which is an ironic reference to the Zune actually losing out to the iPod and being discontinued through lack of sales.

Now one thing about the film puzzles me. I didn’t get is the brief exchange between Peter and Rocket near the end during Yondu’s funeral.
Rocket: “He didn’t chase him away.”
Peter: “No.”
Rocket: “Even though he yelled at him. <pause> I was always mean. <pause> And he stole batteries he didn’t need.”
Peter: <looks quizzically for a moment at Rocket> “Well of course not.”

I didn’t quite get it – is Rocket talking about Yondu or himself? Can someone explain it to me in the comments below?

The post-ending scenes were a delightful treat. Especially Cracklin trying out the prototype fin to control the arrow. It also looks like we’ll see Adam Warlock in Vol. 3? Will he turn out to be a “conceited douche-bag” like his creators?

In the final act of the movie, Yondu tells Peter that he uses his heart to control his arrow – I feel James Gunn approached crafting this amazing slice of pop culture in the same way. A supremely worthy film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

No one better squish _my_ Walkman...
No one better squish _my_ Walkman…