“what’s in your tool chest?”
Last week, we shared our early retirement withdrawal strategy and addressed the big picture in terms of “where will the money come from?” Our early retirement plan also encompasses two additional tiers; resource development and health. In this post, we will address Tier 2 – Resource Development (sounds like some goofy corporate trap doesn’t it?)
Resource development for early retirement is learning how to insource as many of your expenditures as is reasonable. A year ago, we were busy getting our financial life in order. Now that we are comfortable with our finances and The Plan, we have time to work on our self-reliance skills. Our goal is not only FIRE, but to have fewer expenses because we don’t need to outsource every problem. Living in FIRE shouldn’t cost as much because we will have time to fix, grow or make things ourselves and develop strong relationships with our neighbors and community.
Brace yourself, scenario time
After the winter season, you turn on the outside water to the sprinkler system. You discover the water line is broken and must be fixed. Before you call the plumber, ask yourself:
- Can you do that task yourself?
- Can you learn to do it?
- Is there a cheaper way of solving the problem.
- Can the expense be deferred?
After the initial frustration settles, I promise, you CAN solve this problem and all the other household annoyances that occur frequently. First, do you know how to fix this problem? If so, notch out some time to do the work. It doesn’t have to be that day. If not, can you learn to do it? The answer is YES! In this amazing age of the internet, You Tube is your best friend. What’s that you say? Your best friend is a plumber and can help? Ask him for a favor, and then make him dinner. Trading services is a great way to be frugal!
We regularly trade goods and services with our friends and neighbors. We trade homemade pizza and fresh veggies from the garden for free eggs! We trade baby-sitting and dog-sitting services. We trade physical labor in exchange for physical labor. We beg and borrow if we are missing a crucial item for a trip. I didn’t have any appropriate office clothing for a two-day meeting at our corporate offices (I normally work in “the field”). I borrowed two outfits from a friend. No reason to waste money on clothing you will never wear again.
Other Insourcing opportunities
- Cooking – This one is obvious, but most of our monthly expenses are food related. This saves lots of dough. Get books from the library, internet or mix it up and learn from friends. Make it a party!
- Haircuts – I cut my hair and Little Miss TJL’s hair. Mr. TJL has not let me touch his precious locks…yet. I’ve got my shears ready.
- Home gym – carve out a corner and work out! Run around the block. Go for a bike ride. Do seven sun salutations before work in the morning. No need for a fancy gym membership.
- Car Maintenance – Simple tasks like changing headlights, fuses and troubleshooting. More involved tasks like oil changes and repairs. If you need the right tool for the job, stores like Auto Zone and O’Reilly are tool lenders.
- Bicycle Maintenance – local bike shops frequently give tune-up courses, and check You Tube!
- Household maintenance – dishwasher repair and install, refrigerator repair, washer and dryer repair, small appliances, make your own cleaning supplies, fix your vacuum, paint or refinish, install a storm door. Almost anything can be done yourself, including cleaning your own house.
- Sewing – most clothes can be repaired pretty easily with just a needle and thread. Some clothes are just beyond repair. Go ahead and re-purpose them as rags.
- Finances – learn how to manage your finances and do your own taxes.
These few examples save us $thousand$ of dollars per year! Some competent people are completely self-sufficient. They produce and kill their own food, tan leather, birth babies etc. When the Apocalypse comes, I will seek out these people.
Let’s get real. You will suffer. Initially, it will feel awkward and you will probably fail. You might have to redo a project two or three times before you get it right. But, oh what existential value you will gain! During pre-FIRE training, the learning curve is steep. I ruined the pizza dough I made from scratch at least five times before I got it right. Now it turns out perfect every time. Our irrigation repair lasted only one year and we had to fix it again, but took less time. I totally butchered my hair, but I will let it grow out and try again next time. I hope our DIY skills will continue to improve and it will feel natural to look to ourselves for solutions.
Some tasks that should be outsourced unless you have considerable skills or licensure
- Electrical work – I wouldn’t mess with this stuff, short of replacing a fuse or two. Maybe, we would install a fixture or two…but still, relatively easy stuff.
- Gas line work – if you have experience with this, try it out, just don’t blow up the neighborhood. Otherwise get trained properly.
- Water main or sewer work – some things are just illegal.
Full-time workers and busy parents often start outsourcing major portions of their life. We stop fixing our own cars, plumbing, and other household items. We stop raising our children. We stop participating in our community. We become insular and overly protective of our time .
In addition to accumulating passive income, FIers have to be in training to build up self-efficacy; to learn how to handle minor and even some major tasks on our own, even if we have never done them before. Never before has the time been so ripe to do this. You Tube and the interwebs can teach you how to do virtually anything. Just look at this swan I made!
Just kidding, I made this crane:
Since Mr. TJL and I have started our FIRE journey we have insourced our plumbing, sprinkler irrigation, some minor car maintenance, cooking and baking, vacuum repair, refrigerator repair, toy building, sewing, haircuts, and more. We are building our muscles and our brains. One task at a time, we are becoming self-reliant and, as a result, reducing our expenses and making our early retirement plan more resilent.
And if that weren’t enough, I am becoming more confident in my abilities as a capable person. I am wasting fewer resources and solving problems. FIRE has helped me reduce my carbon footprint and regain my status as a friend of the Earth. As opposed to being an active participant in the disposable economy, this action aligns with my true ethics, values and purpose in life.
Readers, what are you doing to strengthen your resilience? What skills have you developed that you are most proud of? For me, it’s definitely that crane.