Any day now. It’s coming up. The annual wintertime vacation to someplace WARM. In two weeks, the Cubert family will be getting on a plane (you know how I love air travel) and zooming off to the desert southwest. After perusing the plethora of topics on the MMM forum this morning, I figured I’d waste some ink here on how to have fun and not worry about shit so much.
As for that little vacation, thanks to a steady stream of credit card bonus miles, the “getting there” part is quite cheap. Accommodations and getting around are very reasonable too. Yep. We’re staying with the in-laws. Don’t hate me – my in-laws are actually fun to hang out with. And thanks to Mrs. Cubert’s parents residing just outside Vegas, we’ll have a place to stay and a car to use, as needed. Ching!
All this anticipation to escape the Minnesota deep freeze (it’s zero degrees outside) has me feeling less frugal of late. I think it’s an annual cycle I go through. Right around raise and bonus time, vacation hits, and I’m feeling a bit loose with the purse strings. While on vacation, I ask crazy questions, uncharacteristic of a FIRE-brand preacher:
“Wanna go play some blackjack?”
“Are you sure?!?”
“Why not? We’ll hang out at the $5 table and blow before the cigarette smoke gets too bad.”
“What. Play for five minutes?”
And so it goes. We’ll hit the tables maybe three or four times during that week-and-a-half in the sunny warmth of Nevada. That’s right. Who needs great weather and fresh air when you have cards to play? All those bells and whistles and lights from the incessant casino slot machines… Bring it!
Don’t get me wrong, we milk our time out there in the “warm sunny” with hiking, golf, or just chilling on the back patio with a book. We’ll go for walks with the kids and check out model homes at the Del Webb office. (Some old people have all the fun.) Anyhow, there’s all sorts of activities that don’t require hats, mittens, and boots, but do require sunglasses and sunscreen.
How did we end up in Minnesota again?!? I know, I know, schools in nice places suck. Schools in the deep freeze are good.
Sometimes you need a break from worrying about MONEY
I have to remind myself of this from time to time. We optimize so much of the financial side of the equation that it’s easy to fall into a trap of “well, what do we do now?!?” And because I’m a non-stop thinker and have a tendency to get absorbed into random thoughts (ADHD perhaps?) the big picture often escapes me.
We’re doing all this financial wizardry because…. Oh, right, because we want early retirement. Because then all our problems are solved and manna will fall from Heaven. Something like that. Or so Mr. Money Mustache says. (I’m pretty sure that’s in one of his stone tablets, er, posts…)
Sometimes you just need to put that brain on pause and HAVE FUN. We’re pretty good at keeping some reasonable limits on our funness. For instance, we use those handy credit card points for all our travel needs. In fact, Mrs. Cubert and I have a two night stay at a spa resort in the middle of our trip, paid for, you guessed it, by bonus points.
When we go on our hikes under the always sunny skies of Nevada or Utah, my mind often drifts to money and early retirement. I’ll dwell for a bit on thoughts like, “Gee, wouldn’t it be great to just say ‘toss this!’ and move out here NOW?” And then I’ll catch myself not living in the moment and refocus on BEING HERE NOW. David Cain is a good source for folks like me, who need to get their life-perspective realigned.
Reconciling Fun (Vacations, etc.) with Frugality
The trick of all this is to remember that extreme frugality can be an easy trap to fall into. Sometimes we become so damned frugal, people start to whisper about us behind our backs. It starts to feel like a contest.
“Man. That Cubert sure is a cheap motherf*cker. He makes good money and still drives around in a tiny, used Honda Fit and makes his kids share a bedroom?!?”
Of course, those are the same people who don’t witness me on vacation, losing $100 at the Crazy Aces within a half hour; courtesy of poorly executed double-downs and split 8s. Scratch further beneath the surface, and you’ll find a family that loves to plop down $100 on the occasional (weekly?) dinner out, and even buy popcorn at the movie theater.
Heck, we even occasionally purchase new clothes for the twins. Those darn kids grow too fast!
And then there’s the vacations that will be forthcoming, especially as the kids get older. We simply choose not to imprison ourselves with big-ticket luxury crap, so we can instead do what the beef we want, when we want. Thank you, Mr. Maslow.
Forgive Me, Father, for I have Spent
If you’re like me and you have the occasional tug-of-war with spending, try not to beat yourself up too much. There are seasons for blowing money like a dope, and seasons for saving like a coupon-clipping maniac. Finding your balance is key. Again, so long as you’re avoiding house envy, car envy, and Disney Cruise envy, you’re probably doing just fine.
There are plenty of hard-working readers out there who are scraping-by, looking for answers. In my 20s and 30s, it was a lot harder to keep up with monthly bills that included student loans, car loans, and higher mortgage payments. I wasn’t as savvy back then, subscribing to a gym membership, cable TV, and landline phone service.
In certain instances, where you have debt up to your eyeballs and either circumstance or bad decisions led you to that point, you may not qualify to “not give a shit.” In these cases, you need to double-down on your debt payments, instead of those split aces.
Entering Stage 2 of the Journey
What I think I’m realizing at this stage of life, with a year-and-a-half before FIRE, is that you can safely ease up on the gas, enjoy life NOW, and not be wound up around the axle so much about money.
I’ll probably continue, as usual, to find the creases and margins in our spending and investing opportunities. But it’s oddly somewhat more of a sport to me than anything these days.
After a while, after you’ve put many years into setting up a strong financial foundation, you can afford to obsess less about money. At this point, it becomes nothing more than a means to an end, and you can redouble your focus on a life with few regrets.