Chapter 3 – It’s math not magic!

As you already know, Mr. Sweetspot quit his job a while back, and in a seemingly magical turn of events, we’ve since improved our health and saved more money. We’ve since learned through a variety of ways (including the wonderful blogs of Mr. Money Moustache and The Frugalwoods) that this could be looked at as early retirement- with a few exceptions to the philosophies mentioned on those blogs. The main difference is that while we do have savings, they are nowhere near the number you’d need to have to live off of the interest alone. However, potentially against the grain of common practice, we are saving more with a single income (supplemented by Mr. S’s self employment more on that below). Here’s how:

First of all, it is important to note that Mr. S’s salary was waaay below the standard for comparable work. The second factor was his 30 mile commute (totalling an hour and a half of driving each day). In spite of that, the job was really demanding, often asking for 14-16 hour days. This resulted in lots of money going to gas and convenience food- which as we all know is harmful to both the budget and the waistline. Specifically the second one affected me as well- when you’re part of a couple it can be hard to cook for one. Additionally, it becomes easy to fall into the trap of “I work hard, I deserve it” and spend money on overpriced, over-processed food and crazy drinks at the bar in an attempt to escape the struggles of the “rat race”.

The obvious thing to disappear was the commute. With my work a mere 1.4 miles from our home, our gas cost went way down. In examining the annual AAA Driving Cost analysis (and subtracting the insurance cost since we still have the car, as well as the cost of depreciation since we drive a rustbucket) this adds up to roughly $3,386. Again, this is just for traveling back and forth to the Shmallet and does not include any of the additional driving we do. As a side note, this resulted in me taking the bus a few days a week. While not at all expensive (a bus ticket is seriously $1) we can probably estimate around $50 in bus fare for me over the time of his employment.

Based on 15,000 miles Small Sedan Medium Sedan Large Sedan Sedan Average SUV (4WD) Minivan
Annual Total Cost $6,579 $8,604 $10,492 $8,558 $10,255 $9,262
Annual Cost Per Mile $0.4386 $0.5736 $0.6994 $0.5705 $0.6837 $0.6175

Now for the much harder one to estimate- THE FOOD. Cuz you gotta eat, right? Well, you don’t gotta eat like this. In our current estimation, with packing lunches occasionally, both of us would spend roughly $30 per week on food (lunches, snacks, coffee, etc.). Mr. Sweetspot would also have a drink post a major event (he worked as an event manager), at roughly $5 plus tip. We typically went out to dinner once a week ($70) and out for drinks once a week ($40). While this seems reasonable, it adds up to $175 a week. A WEEK! In a year that is $9,100, add back in the travel costs from above and we reach a total of $12,486! Which is BONKERS! As a lapsed catholic, I currently have to fight my urge to go down the guilt spiral… but that’s in the past… and there you have it folks- we were spending his after-tax salary on commute and food.

Fast forward to Mr. Sweetspot quitting his job. Suddenly, we’re a one income household (at least one guaranteed income). The breaks go on. As mentioned, the gas problem solves itself by eliminating the commute. But the food… obviously, it needs to be eliminated. Packing lunches (ALL THE LUNCHES) was the crucial first step. What is more, Mr. S is quite the chef- with time on his hands, he prepares amazing meals, which reduce the want to go out to eat, as well as eliminate the “no-time” excuse.


*Mr. S. will be publishing a selection of his favorite vegan recipes. Stay tuned!

The best part- we actually get to see each other and spend a lot of time together, which we’re both very fond of. As a result, we don’t need to cram all of our activities to one evening of living like a high roller- our relationship can thrive on constant contentment with the occasional laughter through the night. Together, we are much much happier, and feel no need to fill a hole with money bought things.

Becoming more frugal was matched by another occurrence- Mr. S’s self-employment. In all, working for himself an average of just 15 hours a week he has brought in 65% of his previous income… and we blew through…exactly none of it, proudly putting it away since we’re a very happy, frugal, single-income household. That’s the thing about insecurity, by not being sure what he would earn his first few years working on his own, and enjoying all the time we have together (which means not trying to work as much as possible) we’ve stumbled across the sweetspot for us. We’ve had to plan on just having one income, but we’ve gained so much more.

We are currently finding the sweetspot of putting away even more money- more on that later. True confession time: we have NEVER done the math above until the writing of this blog. We calculated expenses against my salary and decided we could afford for Mr. Sweetspot to step away from a hell-ish situation. Now I’m like- “…duh! the savings magic isn’t magic at all, it’s just math.” Cold, hard figures. I am very grateful for the opportunity to look at my life from a new perspective and further confirm that we have no reason to regret any of the choices made in pursuit of the sweetspot.

What has worked for you? Have you had any drastic money realizations, and “Ah ha!” moments in pursuit of your own sweetspot? Let us know in the comments below.


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