Make Your Own Phone

I cancelled my cellular plan today.  I had a plan with Ting.  My average monthly bill was around $23. Sometimes it was as low as $14.  That’s cheap compared to most monthly rates.

Even though my cellular plan is cheap I decided if I’m going to shoot towards financial independence it’s best to cut out the fat.

I realized that I rarely ever turn the data on.  I mostly do browsing and texting when I have WiFi.  I also rarely spend time talking on the phone.  It seems like a no brainer.  I will keep the phone, drop the service, and make my own plan.

My plan will consist of iMessage, Skype, WhatsApp, and TextNow.  TextNow is something I stumbled upon recently.  I like it because it allows you to CALL and text as long as you have WiFi.  There you go, a makeshift cell plan for $0 a month.

The added benefit of this plan is that I won’t be checking my phone constantly.  This may be even more important than eliminating my monthly bill.    

The level of phone addiction in our culture is getting to the point of insanity.  People can’t cross the street without getting lost in their phone.  I’m not above this either.  Sometimes I’m embarrassed by how addicted I am to my iCrack.  Maybe the option of not being “connected” 24/7 will free up sometime to actually experience life.

I’m going to give this thing a shot for the next month.  If I can’t live without it I’ll rejoin Ting.  They offered me $25 off for signing back up.  I hope I don’t have to take them up on that offer.  Only time will tell…

This book kickstarted my fascination with early retirement/FIRE.  It’s written by Jacob Lund Fisker the mind behind the popular early retirement blog, Early Retirement Extreme.

Fisker became financially independent in five years.  He didn’t do this by having a six figure income or winning the lottery.  He did it with extreme savings.

I liked his book because it’s NOT a step by step guide to early retirement it’s a complete paradigm shift.  Fisker refers to his book as a “how to to how to.”  He realizes that everyone’s situation is different and there is no one size fits all to financial freedom.  Instead he preaches building an overarching philosophy of what it means to live.

Some important points from the book:

– The lock in – Why you’re stuck in consumerist status quo

– The working man, the business man, the salary man, and the renaissance man, and why you should strive to be a renaissance man.

– Cash flow cycles and making money work for you.

– The true cost of “things”

– Developing skills that will save or make you money.

I would like to say more about how great this book really is, but I feel I can’t do it justice.  If you’re interested in early retirement/FIRE  do yourself a favor and buy this book.

When Should You Spend A Little Extra?

To save money is to cut out the expenses you can do without.

Don’t buy the $3 coffee at Starbucks every morning.  Make coffee at your house and put it into a thermos.

Don’t spend $40 on a t-shirt because it has a little man riding a horse on it. Buy your clothes at thrift stores.

Don’t sign up for a cable subscription.  Use your friend’s Netflix account sign up for Netflix.

There are usually dirt cheap/free solutions to most problems. Craigslist and Freecycle should be your best friend.

When should you spend a little extra?

You could make a case for spending extra on footwear and a bed.  After all, your going to spending the majority of life either on your feet or in a bed.  These are also one time expenses where you can get a lot of bang for your buck.

A good pair of boots will outlive you.  I’ve had my boots for almost a decade and they’re still in great shape.  A really nice mattress has never been a priority for me.  I’ve slept just as well, if not better, on the ground than I have in beds.  With that said, it’s worth shelling out a little more for a quality mattress.  You may not be crazy about getting a mattress off of Craigslist or Free-cycle either.

When purchasing a product ask yourself – will I be using this product 10 years from now?  Will this product last me 10 years?

If the answer is yes, than it may be worth buying.

When you approach shopping with this frame of mine it eliminates emotional purchases.

Cutting Your Grocery Bill: 8 Cheap Fruits & Vegetables That Will Last You A Month.

Your biggest monthly expenses will be housing, transportation, and food.  If you’re American, you can throw healthcare in there too.

Today I will focus on food.

In 2013, the average American family spent $330 a month on groceries.  That’s roughly 4,000 a year.

If you’re like me, you only have to worry about feeding yourself.  This makes it a lot easier to cut down on your grocery bill.  How much should a single person spend each month on groceries?

The early retirement extremist suggest $50-75 per month.

At first glance this seems impossible.  A few days ago I spent $50 on groceries that will hopefully last me two weeks.  Not a good start.

When it comes to food I don’t think I’m ready to go that extreme.  Trying to stay on a low carb diet means eating lots of meat and nuts, and that’s not always cheap.  I’ll spend a little extra on food even if it means delaying financial independence a bit.  I think it’s important, and there’s no way I’m going vegetarian.

However, if you’re vegetarian/vegan you have the advantage when it comes to cutting your grocery bill. Of course, everyone should be eating vegetables & fruits no matter what diet they’re on.  Vegetables & fruits should be a stable for the aspiring financially independents because they’re cheap and filled with essential nutrients.

Some vegetables & fruits are better than others.  When you’re trying to maintain a monthly grocery budget, especially one as extreme as $50-75 per month you want vegetables & fruits that will last.

Here are a few vegetables & fruits that will last for up to  a month and sometimes longer if stored correctly:

1. Carrots – You can find a bag of carrots for under a $1.  Carrots improve eyesight, regulate blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, and improve immune system.

2. Cabbage – Under a $1 as well.  Cabbage is great source of vitamin K, C, and B6.

3. Sweet Potatoes – The average sweet potato costs $0.50 per pound.  Sweet potatoes are a great source for vitamin A, C, and B6.  They also have less carbs than regular potatoes, and taste better.

4. Onions – They basically will throw onions at you in the grocery store.  You could probably dig them up in your backyard now.  They make every meal taste just a little better.

5. Apples – Will cost you $1 per pound.  A perfect dessert.  Apples are shown to reduce risk of hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.

6. Garlic – A full bulb will be under a $1.  Garlic is a cheat code to make every meal taste somewhat decent.  It can also combat sickness.

7. Lemons – Yet another item thats under a dollar.  Lemons may be one of the healthiest foods on the planet doing everything from restoring your pH levels to fighting cancer.  Put a slice in your water bottle.

8.  Celery – This one may set you back a whopping $2 per bundle.  A great source for antioxidants.

Put these on your grocery list and you can’t go wrong.  They’re cheap, healthy, and will last you for at least a month.

* Some of these items are high in carbs like sweet potatoes and apples.  If you have been following my blog you will know that I’ve talked a lot about a ketogenic diet.  If you’re trying to remain strictly keto eating some of these things aren’t for you but if you’re just practicing a low carb diet than you’ll be fine unless you’re eating an entire bag of apples a day.

Financial Independence Is Earned A Dollar At A Time: 8 Tips To Cut Costs Now

The last few weeks I’ve become more aware of my purchases.  I looked at my most recent bank statement and thought what can I cut out?  What are the things that are totally necessary and what are the things that I can live without.  You will notice that most things you can live without or have alternate solutions.

In today’s post I’m focusing on the small purchases that add up.  Usually these are the purchases we rarely pay attention to, like the $3 coffee we get every morning.  I’ve excluded major purchases from the list like housing, transportation, health care etc.  These expenses are harder to tackle.  The smaller purchases usually can be fixed immediately, if your willing to give up some convenience.  Here are 8 ways you can save money now:

1.  Stop buying coffee out:  A $3 coffee every day is $21 a week, $90 a month, and $1,095 a year.  Taking a few more minutes to make coffee and put it in a thermos is well worth $1,095 a year.

2.  Drop Spotify or Pandora:  I used to have a subscription to Spotify.  I only used it while I was working out.  That was $10 a month/$120 a year.  Might not seem like much, but not worth it for how rarely I used it.

3.  Drop the gym membership:  If you live in an area where it’s nice all the time there is no excuse to be part of a gym.  Get outside.  It’s a little different for people in cold weather areas.  I get it, I live in Maine.  With that said, you should cancel your membership once the weather gets half way decent.  There are enough ways to stay fit without gym equipment. 

4.  Drop your cable subscription:  Who watches TV nowadays?  Get Netflix and watch on your computer.  The average cable subscription cost $103 a month.  By dropping cable you’ll save $1,236 a year and free up more time do something productive.

5.  Drop kindle unlimited:  Kindle unlimited isn’t a bad purchase if you’re really into erotic, but a lot of books you’ll end up paying full price for even if you have KU.  Go to the library instead. It’s free.    

6.  Change your phone plan:  I couldn’t believe it, but the average American spends $110 a month on cell phone service!  This is unacceptable.  If you want to save money on your plan go with Ting.  That’s the service I use and average about $16 a month with it.  Republic Wireless is even cheaper.  Or you can just go with the old burner phone.

7.  Stop smoking cigarettes: First and foremost, you should stop smoking cigarettes for your health.  Second, you should stop smoking cigarettes because it will save you tons of money.  The average pack of cigarettes cost $5.51.  It may be higher depending on what state you live in.  If you live in New York it will set you back $12.85.  If you’re a New Yorker who smokes a pack a week you will be spending $668 per year on a stick that slowly destroys your lungs.

8.  Give yourself haircuts:  I haven’t paid for a haircut in years. I use a number #2 shaver and give myself a crew cut.  This may be extreme for most, especially the ladies, but if you feel confident you can cut your own hair give it a try. The average haircut for an American man is $28 and $44 for women.  If you’re a man who gets his haircut once a month your spending $336 a year.

Conclusion

So let’s say you’re the average American Joe.  You have a subscription to cable, Spotify, Kindle Unlimited and a ridiculous high phone bill mostly because of all the data you use.  You wake up and grab a coffee every morning via Starbucks.  You smoke a pack a week to take the edge off.  You have a gym membership at Planet Fitness for $10 down and $10 a month.  You get a haircut every month because you want to look fresh.

If average American Joe were to give up all these expenses he would free up $3,323 a year, if we go by the averages.

What Is FIRE?

FIRE = Financially Independent Retire Early

If you haven’t heard this phrase don’t feel bad.  I just became familiar with it a few days ago.

I’ve been reading a lot of mrmoneymustache.com , jlcollinsnh.com, and earlyretirementextreme.com lately.  All blog based on becoming FIRE.

Mr. Money Mustache: You may have heard of him.  He is one of the leaders when it comes to early retirement.  He and his wife retired when they were only 30 through frugal living and smart investments.

JLCollinsNH:  Is more FI than he is RE.  He focuses more on investing and building Fuck You Money, and lots of it.  He isn’t retired per se, although he has gone through many “mini retirements.” He only still works because he enjoys his work.

Early Retirement Extreme:  Became FI in 5 years spending only $7,000 per year.

After reading these three blogs I’ve become determined to become FIRE or at least FI with the chance to work when I want.  The truth is, I’ve been on semi retirement for the last year and I’m getting bored as hell.  I also know my pot of money isn’t going to last forever.

The semi retirement has been nice, but I’m definitely not bringing in enough money to become FIRE.  I have also been spending a bit too much, a habit I would like to nip in the bud.  In the last year, I have strayed far from my frugal ways.  Not only did my old ways save me more money, but brought me more joy.

When I was living abroad for two and half years I had already fell into a life that some of these FIRE bloggers talk about. 

My housing cost were minimal.  I lived in hostels, couch surfed, camped, and stayed at my cousin’s for a while rent free.  When I finally did get an apartment of my own it only ended up costing me $250 per month (utilities included).

For two and half years I never owned a vehicle.  Which means I didn’t spend money on gas, car insurance, or repairs.  I used public transportation, biking, and hitchhiking.

I didn’t have health insurance. Didn’t matter.  One time I gashed my knee open in Australia and had to get stitches.  It cost me $60 and I got tetanus shot for free.  God bless socialized medicine.

My grocery bill didn’t put a dent in my wallet either.  I routinely ate chicken hearts with rice.  I had no TV, just an iPad.  All my clothes had to fit in my suitcase.  I even owned a shitty little burner phone that cost me all of $10 a month.

When I moved back to the U.S. I didn’t keep up with the frugal lifestyle.  I bought a car, and drove it even for small trips that I could have easily walked.  I bought and iPhone, and became, like so many others, addicted to it.  I started to eat out frequently instead of cooking for myself.  And of course, I couldn’t find rent anything close to $250 a month.

Reading so much about FIRE in the last two days has inspired me to become more cognizant of how I spend my money.  My new goal is to become FI by the age of 37.

Why 37?

This seems about the time that most males energy levels take a major hit.  I want to be FI by that age so I don’t have to work if I don’t want, but not necessarily retire.

I also want to start investing.  Index funds of course.

Buying a rental property or two is on the bucket list as well.

I will chronicle my journey to FI through this blog, with the hopes that stating my goal to the World will hold me accountable.

13 Things I’ve Noticed After 3 Weeks On A Low Carb Diet

It’s been 21 days since I started my ketogenic diet, scratch that, my low carb diet.  I can’t say it was completely ketogenic because a week and a half through I upped the carb count from 20-30 g’s a day to 50-60 range.  I may up it a little more.  I lost so much weight during the first week of keto that a few of my family members told me I looked emaciated.  I withered down under 155 lbs.  It’s been a long time since I weighed 155 lbs.

The first 21 days of this diet have been interesting.  I’ve been pretty strict.  I’ve cheated once.  But overall I don’t even feel the urge to cheat.  In fact, I can’t see myself going back to a “cheat day.”  I feel too good cutting the carbs & sugars out.  Here are a few other things I’ve noticed during my first 21 days of a low carb diet:

1.  My cravings for carbs & sugar are gone.  I don’t feel tempted by bread, pasta, rice, or sweets.

2.  My body craves fat.  When I’m hungry I’m tempted by meat, avocados, and cheese.

3.  I can finally sleep like a normal human.  This has been the biggest and most beneficial part of the diet.  I’m a long time insomniac.  Since starting this diet I’ve slept like a baby.  As soon as my head hits the pillow I’m out and I stay out till the next day.

4.  Restaurants are a waste of your time.  Sure you can find ways to eat low carb but it’s usually a chore.  Just learn how to cook and avoid restaurants at all cost.  You’ll be helping your wallet and your body.

5.  I’ve lost a lot of weight.  Too much weight.  If you live an active lifestyle you may have to add some supplemental “good carbs” to you’re diet just to avoid emaciation.

6.  The first week or so of the diet was rough, but once I got past the keto flu my energy levels went through the roof.

7.  My libido is through the roof too.

8.  I don’t know if I’m experiencing mental clarity, but I’m definitely experiencing less anxiety.

9.  I’m less hungry.  I eat slower.  Sometimes I have to remind myself to eat.

10.  Not having a meal until noon  is not a problem.

11.  Coconut oil has become my most used food stuff.

12.  I no longer look forward or even care to have a “cheat day.”

13.  I will continue to stay on a low carb diet and I suggest you try it too.

The Shockingly Easy Way To Make Cold Brew Coffee

You wake up.  You lazily walk to your kitchen still half asleep.  You open the cabinet and reach for a fresh bag of coffee.  It’s fair trade dark roast.  It costs a little extra but like Jimmy from Pulp Fiction when you drink coffee “you want to taste it.”  You open the bag.  “You have to be fucking kidding me” you mutter underneath your breath.  You have accidentally bought whole bean coffee instead of ground.

The problem: You want to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee but have no way of making it.  After all, you don’t have coffee grinder.  You also feel like you just wasted money buying a bag of beans you can’t use.

But wait…

It’s not a wasted investment yet.  You can use the beans to make cold brew coffee.

Cold brew is all the rage these days.  You have probably seen it advertised at many coffee shops, and said to yourself “isn’t cold brew just iced coffee.  I bet is just some marketing gimmick to get people to spend a little extra on brown water.”

Cold brew is not hot coffee placed in a refrigerator and served with ice.  Cold brew is not a marketing gimmick.  Cold brew is made by slow steeping coffee beans before straining them out.  This process results in a dark, bitter, and highly caffeinated form of coffee.

How To Make Cold Brew

Making cold brew isn’t rocket science.

First, you’re going to have to coarsely grind your beans.  I know what your thinking.  “I’m trying to figure out a way to use whole beans because I don’t own a coffee grinder.

Relax.  You don’t need a grinder.  If you have blender you can put the beans in there and give a few quick pulse.  If you don’t have a blender put the beans in a sturdy bag and use a rolling pin or a hammer to break them up.

You don’t need to spend a lot of time grinding the beans into a fine powder.  In fact, the finer the powder the harder it will be to make cold brew.  Ideally, you want to just break open the bean so it’s easier to extract flavor but still large enough that it won’t make it through your strainer.

Second, grab a mason jar.  Fill the jar with the crushed up beans and water.  I used a 1:2 ratio (2 cups of beans to 4 cups of water).

Third, wait.  Place the mason jar in the fridge and let it steep for 24-48 hours.  I left mine in for 2 days.

Forth, strain your mixture so you don’t have any chunks of beans in your brew.  The remaining liquid is your cold brew.  Fill up a glass and enjoy.

*You may want to dilute cold brew with water or cream.  Cold brew has twice the amount of caffeine as hot drip coffee.  Diluting it will also take away some of the bitterness.

*The shelf life of cold brew is about a week or 2-3 days if you dilute it with water.

More Sprints Less Jogging

The evidence keeps mounting against chronic cardio.

Why are you jogging six miles everyday?

Is it to get washboard abs?  To win a ribbon? Bragging rights?  Or perhaps your just a masochist who prescribes to the old saying “no pain no gain.”

The reality that chronic cardio may do more harm than good is a tough pill for me to swallow.  I love a good run.  Since summer started I’ve been doing 8 mile runs at least three times a weeks.  I thought I was doing good but since reading Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint I realize that I may want to trade my long runs for short intense sprint sessions.

Benefits of Sprinting

  • Increases testosterone production
  • Increases muscle fiber strength
  • Increases aerobic capacity
  • Increases muscle mitochondria
  • Increases insulin sensitivity
  • Increases human growth hormone production

Save Time

Not only does sprinting have more health benefits than excessive cardio training it also saves you time.  A 6 mile jog could take you an hour to complete, whereas a session of 10 sprints shouldn’t take you over 15 -20 minutes.

A normal sprint session should look like this:  Warm up/ stretch 5 minutes.  Start sprinting.  Each sprint should be between 10-30 seconds each with 30-60 second rest periods between each, or when you catch your breath.  After you have done 10 sprints you can cool down with some stretches.

You should never finish a workout feeling exhausted.  You will definitely feel it.  But it should be more of an invigorated buzz than a hands on your knees panting like a dog.

No Gym, No Problem – 4 Functional Strength Movements You Can Do Anywhere

A gym membership these days are cheap enough.  The giant chain gym like planet fitness have memberships for $10 a month.

But maybe you don’t care for gyms.  I don’t.

I live in New England.  The weather is miserable here for at least half the year.  The few months I want to take advantage of it.  I want to be outside soaking up vitamin D instead of packed inside a gym.

Since it’s summer I’ve been exercising outside.  I run, play basketball, and do a few simple strength movements.  These strength movements are so simple they’re often overlooked.  They can be done almost anywhere by all ability levels, and there functional, unlike many of the machines you see in the gym.

What are they?

 1.  The Pushup:  Will target your chest, shoulders, triceps, abs, and wing muscles (serratus anterior).  Add a chair to mix for incline or decline pushups.  Try doing 3 sets of 25.

pexels-photo-176782

2.  Pullups:  You’ll have to find pull up bar, but that shouldn’t be a problem.  Most parks will have a pull up bar or something you can use as a pull up bar.  If worse comes to worse, use a tree branch.  Will target your upper back, shoulders, biceps, forearms, and abs.  Try doing 3 sets of 5.

Pull-Up

3.  Squats:  No barbell necessary.  Will targets your legs and abs.  Trying doing 3 sets of 50.

air squats

4.  Plank:  Will target your abs & obliques.  Plank on your sides for more of an oblique workout.  Try doing 3 sets – front, right side, and left side).

wh-planks-intro-05

Conclusion

All you really need are these four movements.  Do three sets of each exercise, allowing 30-60 seconds rest periods between each exercise.  It shouldn’t take you more than a half hour.

There you go,  you have a full body workout and didn’t even have to step foot inside a gym.  You also got to soak up some much needed vitamin D.  You can never you the “but I don’t have a gym membership” ever again.