Lifestyle change vs early retirement

Discovering the FI/ER (Financial Independence / Early Retirement) movement has changed my life in more ways than most people probably realise. This year I’m aiming to eat 80% of my food at home, other homes or for free, I walk or cycle or take the bus into work as much as I can, I average a taxi or less a month, have savings & a pension and pay cash upfront for everything. Yesterday, I went to a paid comedy show for the first time in two years.

This is a far cry from the years I spent racking up debt because I didn’t think anything of spending £50 on an evening dining out several times a week, paid for the gym even when I never went, forked out £70+ a month on a Sky subscription and took Ubers to work almost everyday. One of my motivations for this change in lifestyle has been because I aspire to make work optional by 2028, when I will turn 45.


Mussels for dinner – yum! Luxuriously thrifty dining is one of my favourite hobbies


What do I need to do to retire by 2028?

A lot!

  • Pay off all my debt – currently £11,773.77. I thought that this would be very easy but unfortunately I keep getting distracted from paying off debt because I support my family and my friends.
  • Maintain at least a 64% savings rate for the next 10 years or spend around £18,000 a year on living. This means ruthlessly slashing fun stuff like travel, socialising, dating and eating out. Sometimes it feels a bit easy but I’ve struggled to maintain any momentum or consistency. I also need to take up my pension contribution from 5% to 40% within the next 5 years.
  • Side-hustle to supplement my income or move to a lower cost-of-living area. Living in London means that there’s only so much I can cut back on rent – a house share in a nice, safe, accessible area with cheap council tax and 2 housemates costs me £755 – 775 a month. I thus have to side–hustle to afford the other things that are important to me which means sometimes working 30/40 extra hours a month. I could move but I have doubts that I’ll find a job that pays me this well yet is also as wonderful as the one I’ve got.
  • Cycle, walk or take the bus to keep my average transport costs at around £99 a month. If I bought a zone 1-3 travel-card, it would cost me £153.50 a month. I have to cycle most of the time for the warmer half the year and then walk / take the bus for some journeys in the colder months.
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Alfresco dining – a pleasure I experience in warmer countries than England

What I am really trying to achieve is an optimum work/life balance. How else could I do that?

I work from home a couple of times a month and enjoy taking the odd day off in the middle of the week to potter around London. So far this year, I’ve lucked out and spent two incredibly sunny days off wandering through bits of London playing sport or rambling through parks. I feel energised, renewed, and grateful to be able to do such things. This morning I requested time off for a number of trips that I’d like to take this year and realised that if I stuck with the plan I had, I would run out of vacation days by the end of September. So, I’m going to cut out one of my holidays which is a bit of a bummer.

If I were financially stable, I’d be free to work a little bit less every year. Here are a number of other options that could help me achieve the same goals:

1. Work a shorter week – 4 day weeks or a 7 day fortnight


  • Less time working overall means that I’m less likely to burn out or hate my job
  • Ability to fit in holidays / travel at a rate that suits me because I’ll have long weekends as default and will only need to request time off for longer trips
  • Able to contribute to pension for a longer period because I could perhaps retire in 2033 / 2038 instead. Still early but not ridiculously early


  • Still unable to take time off in longer than 2 or 3 week chunks

2. Work fewer months a year – take a 6 month Sabbatical every couple of years or work in 9 month stints


  • Allow me to tick larger travel or personal achievement related goals because I’ll have larger chunks of time to dedicate to things like slow travel or learning a foreign language by immersing myself in the culture.
  • Allows me to earn more money even though I’ll work fewer hours overall
  • Potential to work in a variety of industries and countries


  • Depends on my staying highly employable and being able to work as a contractor
  • Will need to set up a self invested personal pension (SIPP) and pad my emergency fund spectacularly since I’ll no longer be entitled to sick-pay and paid vacation time.

3. Work remotely


  • I could get paid the same amount of money, or more, but be able to operate from a lower cost-of-living city
  • Allow me to tick larger travel or personal achievement related goals because I’ll have larger chunks of time to dedicate to things like slow travel or learning a foreign language by immersing myself in the culture.


  • Still unable to take time off in longer than 2 or 3 week chunks
  • Depends on my staying highly employable
  • I’ll lose the face-time and office camaraderie that makes me a better worker and allows me build new friendships

I could never tire of the opportunity to walk whenever the weather is gorgeous

What am I going to do in the short-term?

I’d like to set myself up to be able to try the first one of these opportunities that I can. This means that I really need to try to double down on my debt pay-off as well as boost my savings. I’m now thinking about a 2 year plan within which I can prepare for the first of my experiments

  • I’d like to end 2019 with no debt
  • I’d like to get £12, 000 saved for my emergency fund (a bare bones year of expenses)
  • I’d like to have £25, 000 saved up in my pension as a minimum
  • I’d also like to have £10, 000 in the stock market / Vanguard low-cost ETFs

Once I’ve achieved these things, I’ll feel a bit more confident about checking out one of these options above. This means that I still need to stick to my ambitious savings and side-hustle plans for 2018 and 2019 and then I might be a little bit freer afterwards.

It feels like a life-style change might be a better short-term goal since it doesn’t detract me from early retirement but might bring my goal of the best work/life balance for now and the future, that little bit closer to reality.


4 thoughts on “Lifestyle change vs early retirement

  1. Sounds like a great, well thought out plan. And you’ve even got options already worked out. I love to travel as well, but am curtailing my travel now, with the understanding in three years I’m free to go wherever, whenever. Well that’s the current iteration of the plan.

    P.S. you are rocking it at £18k expenses a year.


    • Thank you – re the planning. I’ve thought about this quite a lot. I haven’t got to the £18k spending a year. If I account for the additional income I generated in 2017, then yes. I made it. However, there’s still a bit of expense cutting to be done to get to that figure sans additional income. I hope I can nail it at some point this year.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: My luxuriously thrifty 2018 budget | Diary of a reforming spendthrift

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