Early Retirement Plan – Tier 2 – Resource Development

tools                                      “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!

perfect swan

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.


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9 Responses to Early Retirement Plan – Tier 2 – Resource Development

  1. Nice ideas here. We in-source most things in our household including all cleaning, gardening etc. We do outsource the management of our investment property so we can stay arms-length but might change that in the future. I’m a big fan of darning … yes sounds like my grandma!

    • ska@thejollyledger.com says:

      Being frugal used to be the norm and I actually truly believe it helps build community. We also have a PM for our property, however this is mostly because we live 600 miles away from it! It really is a help though and the cost is worth it IMO.

  2. Love this amazing post on frugality! So many great ideas! Mr. FE cuts his own hair, but I still have my hair done professionally. I would like to try cutting it myself someday, but I’m a bit intimidated by it. We do insource many of the things you mentioned like making our own pizza and doing our own cooking. Dough is not the easiest to make! 🙂 We also do our own housecleaning and try and do as many repairs ourselves as possible.

    • ska@thejollyledger.com says:

      I would start with long hair and just do a trim. My hair is super thick so I have to layer which can be tricky, as my recent butchering shows. But honestly I just whip it up into a ponytail, so it doesn’t really matter when I screw up. I will eventually get it right.

  3. Mr. SSC says:

    I recently discovered I have a sprinkler zone that’s not working at all. At first I thought I was crazy and thought maybe it didn’t used to be there, but then I found the heads and knew it existed! haha! I started testing different things to get it turned on, but then I realized the other zones already cover that whole aprt of the yard, so it went straight to the back burner. However, I’ll learn how to do that myself when it comes time to sell the palce and get all the zones in tip top shape.

    I try to insource some tings, but there’s a threshold with time versus money. If it’s quick then I’ll do it, if it wille at up 2-3 days like putting together a fort/swingset/playset combo monstrosity, I will gladly pay someone – at least at this stage of life where 2-3 free days are a luxury, not the norm.

    As far as hair, I let Mrs. SSC try cutting mine once. Just once… We do cut our kids hair and until this new hair style, she cut her own hair. While she has gotten better, the hack job and square ears on mine were enough to convince me, “Not until I am out of the workforce…” 🙂

    • ska@thejollyledger.com says:

      The first time Mr. TJL fix the sprinkler system, he was so frustrated because it wasn’t working and he didn’t know why. Then I said, “did you turn the water back on?” Sometimes it is the simplest thing 🙂

  4. Arrgo says:

    Great points here. Its amazing how many services people just blindly pay for, then complain how broke they are. With a little effort there are many things you can do or figure out yourself. The internet/ Youtube has really become the great equalizer. I don’t have a lot of experience with many things but I am pretty good at figuring things out and am very technically inclined. One example is a while back I replaced the plastic door handle on my Moms 2000 Toyota Camry. I bought an after market part cheap on ebay then searched Youtube. Funny thing was someone had a video for that for the exact same model and year! I took my time and spent a few hours on it but did it. Probably saved at least $100 plus learned something. Total repair cost was about $20. What would that have cost if I took it to a repair shop or the dealer? Probably about $200 including them ordering a factory part. Another way to save with cars is if you know what parts you need, you can order them yourself then give them to your favorite shop to make the repair instead of letting them order the parts with a high markup. I have used the coupon codes/ cashback etc and ordered the cheaper branded parts from Advanced auto parts which saved me a ton then gave them to shop I work with. You can use this technique for other repairs besides cars as well.

    • ska@thejollyledger.com says:

      These are great suggestions. I get a little blocked and scared when it comes to tasks that I have never done, but you are right, after watching some you tube videos I generally feel confident enough to tackle the job.

  5. Pingback: Part-time work to aid your retirement | The Jolly Ledger

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