Slowly Sipping Coffee

Road Less Traveled – SSC Style

Last week, the folks over at Our Next Life proposed a challenge called The Road Less Traveled. They laid out what seem to be the “Commandments of FIRE” and they’re hilarious and pretty spot on, you should go read them if you haven’t already. Some of my fav’s are “Thou shalt make thy choosing between Vanguard index funds or dividend-yielding stocks” and “Thou shalt be frugal in all things, and shall not partake of worldly temptations like cable television. Bigger riches await those who partake only of self-powered travel.” Outside of these sort of Personal Finance community commandments, the challenge is what do you do that is different than these sort of “rules” everyone seems to profess and follow. I don’t know that we have much that is different from “The Commandments”, but I’ll let you be the judge.

First of all, let’s call a spade a spade and admit where we follow said Commandments. We have some diversity in our portfolio, but most of it is in Index Funds and when we enact our Lifestyle Change, we’re going to switch most of it to some income earning dividend index funds! Riveting stuff, isn’t it?! We also use the 4% rule along with our carefully tracked spending history to determine what’s a good safe number for us to aim for if we want to maintain our current lifestyle in our Lifestyle Change. Also, we do love biking and get out with the kids whenever we can, but there’s no way at all it’s practical to bike to or from work everyday for me – it’s 29 miles each way, no thanks! While neither of us is in IT, we are both geo-scientists, and until Mrs. SSC left her job a week ago to teach, we worked intimately with engineers most days. Actually, I’ve had to learn more reservoir engineering than I would’ve thought entering this field, just so I can QC my prospects and ideas to see if they’re economic before moving them up, so I guess we’re partially guilty on that commandment too.

So, that’s where we follow said Commandments, but like the challenge proposes: Where are we different from “The Commandments”; how do our choices differ from those around us in real life, and what big plans do we have in early retirement?

If I had a million dollars, I'd still probably move here.

If I had a million dollars, I’d still probably move here.

For new readers, I keep referring to our Lifestyle Change, because we don’t necessarily want to retire, but we desperately want a lifestyle change, so we came up with the idea of Fully Funded Lifestyle Change. I mean, tomato, tomahto, retirement or Lifestyle Change, but I think there’s a difference in how most people view retirement as being sedentary, involving watching lots of golf, maybe cribbage/pinochle/euchre and naps, loads of naps. God help you if you earn any money, because then you’re “not retired” you’re still working! Gasp! So, balls to all that noise, and we’re just looking for a Fully Funded Lifestyle Change. We may work, we may not, we most likely will volunteer at one or two different things that we find where we relocate, but we will most definitely not be watching golf and napping. Okay, I’m gonna nap whenever I get a chance, but I already love naps, and kids kind of kill naps.

That’s another route where we are a bit different – we have 2 kids. There are a lot of people out there with kids doing this same thing, Elephant Eaters, Ditching the Grind, 1500 Days, Root of Good, to name just a few, but it adds more complexity. Saving for college, full ride or not, clothes, sports/activities, all the equipment for those sports/music/activities, extra food, higher car insurance at some point, great googly moogly it’s just a lot more to think about and plan for.

Frugality – ahhh frugality. We’re not super frugal, there I said it. We’re about to cut the cord on cable, but I’m not above resubscribing to something in september/october if I feel withdrawal from football availability. We’ll see. We also use house cleaners, now only down to once a month, but yes we pay someone to clean our house. If I could find someone to mow our yard and not trench it up, I’d pay for that, but that doesn’t exist, so I spend an hr and half every other week, and 1 hr every week mowing. ( it would SO be worth $20/wk) We paid to get our playhouse put together – it did take the guy the recommended 10-12 hrs and he had all the tools and a system worked out. It was SO worth it. Currently, we have money but not much time, so I’ll trade money where I find it saves me time. It’s win-win because they get money and I get my time back. That will change when i have more time, but for now – I’ll pay instead of being frugal.

We live in a “fancy-pants” neighborhood and a pretty big house… Yep, it’s a McMansion. To our defense, slightly, it is Texas and they do have loads of land to make everything bigger in Texas… Defense over. Ultimately it came down to timing, a 7 month pregnant Mrs. SSC, and a hard deadline on our start date with our new departments, we had 3 previous house deals fall through and ultimately we had to get moved from LA to TX. So, we went from expecting to spend about $400-$450k for a 30-40 year old 2500 sq ft house because we were looking to stay closer to work, but realized that wasn’t going to happen, because we’d still need to upgrade those $450k older homes. NO thanks! Instead we found a nice 3900 sq ft house that’s only 10 years old, and has loads of neighborhood amenities and is just 10 minutes further away from work. And Yes, we definitely plan on downsizing when we move, this house is ridiculous and SO much bigger than we need. On the plus side, I love our neighborhood, all the green trails, lakes we can walk to, daycare we can walk to, elementary school we can walk to, 1 pool we can walk to, and grocery 5 minutes away. It’s great, and if I had to do it again, I’d make the same choice, no second thoughts. I’d just get a longer home warranty so we wouldn’t have to replace one of the AC units out of pocket. Ouch!

Where we’re different from our real life counterparts – we don’t live paycheck to paycheck like a few colleagues we know. We didn’t buy a $200k house, tear it down and rebuild our current house there, and we don’t drive fancy new cars. Okay, I just got a new Jetta, but it’s a basic S model with technology, so I do pretty much everything myself, except for connect bluetooth, it can figure that one out on its own. We also don’t go out to eat every week or go out period. We do lunch dates on our friday’s off, which is every other friday for me, and occasionally will do coffee dates instead, and yes, that coffee date happens at a Starbucks, even though we can make perfectly good coffee at home. We live comfortably but not lavishly, and we save the rest. We like to vacation comfortably, but still go the VRBO route because you can get an awesome house, usually for way less than a hotel cost.

As far as plans for our Lifestyle Change, man, who knows?! I have lots of hobbies: Beer brewing, music playing (banjo, guitar, dulcimer, resonator guitar), gardening, woodworking, fishing, hiking, gaming, I mean, there’s so much to do that I bet it will seem busy as hell living life, taking care of the kids, and trying to find time to squeeze this stuff in. I don’t know that it will actually be different than life now, except I won’t have a “job” to go to I’ll just be living that job. On the other hand, that in itself seems a bit scary…


Well, that’s my version of our Road Less Traveled, thanks again to Our Next Life for the challenge, and I’m looking forward to reading some more of your posts about this too!

Did I miss anything? Feel free to let me know.


30 thoughts on “Road Less Traveled – SSC Style

  1. Apathy Ends

    We can relate in our household and I like how you put it “comfortably but not lavishly”

    No judgement from me on the cable, we will have a similar situation when our introductory period ends and I have to choose between football and a bill….

    1. Mr. SSC

      Thanks, it’s taken some effort, but I’m going to try and pull the plug when our contract is up at the end of the month. I’ll let you know how it goes from this end…

  2. The Green Swan

    Hi SSC, that sounds like a nice road you are traveling! I wouldn’t say we are that much different. I’d also describe our lifestyle as comfortable, not lavish. Although we may be a bit more on the frugal side right now, we have been found ourselves trading money for time and convenience more often.

    1. Mr. SSC

      We’re more frugal than we were, but still have room for improvement in that regard. I see that change happening when we get more time and can DIY more stuff on days that aren’t the weekend. :)

  3. Steve @ Think Save Retire

    I admire your honesty! Man, about 20 of our Airstreams could fit inside your home based on the square footage! But hey, if that was the right house to buy, then so be it. I definitely understand your desire to downsize. Granted, my wife and I don’t have kids, but our previous 1600 square foot house felt way too big for us. I can only imagine what a 3900 square foot house feels like!

    We are taking a similar route to your regarding work in the future. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. It all depends on what we think makes the most sense to us. But whatever we do, it will be on our terms, period. :)

    1. Mr. SSC

      Downsizing will be welcomed when we move. It’s not that the house feels gargantuan, but we realized you could easily trim off 15-20% from each area and it would still be a functional cozy house. In that regard some of of it just seems like excess space, but oddly, our living room area feels way more cozy than our last house that was half the size.
      It will be nice to get to choose whether you work or not and ahve it be on your terms versus “I need this job to cover bills”.

  4. Fervent Finance

    I’ll definitely have to check out that ONL post. At the end of the day you have go with the beat of your own drum. I’m not as frugal as many in our FIRE community. Sunday I went out to eat for breakfast and dinner (the horror). But as long as I can keep my savings rate above 60% – I’m okay with living a little with certain expenses. I also just dropped $350 on a new bicycle – but hey – cheaper than a car. Also love the Vanguard vs. dividend stock camps – they get along like the GOP and democrats :)

    1. Mr. SSC

      OMG – 2 meals out in one day!! GAH!!! lol It’s funny, when we first got into the PF community, we felt like we were pretty extravagant comparatively. It’s all about what fits great for you and your situation is our take on it, and just like I’m not trying to keep up with our neighbors in real life, I don’t want to try and keep up with people in the PF community either. It’s comforting knowing that you can just be and still be accepted and supported.:)

  5. Edifi

    Haha, sometimes hitting those big lights at the feeder make it hard to feel like you’re on the road less-traveled. But hopefully it’s just short-term. My accounts’ fees are like oil wettability: The lower the fees, the lower the theta, and the more likely the green color stays in the bank.

    1. Mr. SSC

      So, you work in petroleum too? Nice analogy for the few of us that will get it. :) We definitely plan on making big changes to a lot of how we currently live now, but for other things, they will stay just the same. The house will definitely become smaller though, I mean who wants to keep up with all those bathrooms and floors? Not me…

  6. Brian @ debt discipline

    Plenty of points of view on the topic, just need to be happy on the road YOU are on. I like the idea of downsizing, just having less stuff to maintain, clean, store, etc, is appealing to get time back to enjoy more experiences, like napping. :)

    1. Mr. SSC

      Exactly! We are pretty good about doing a 70 in 7 type challenge every quarter or so where we find 70 things each in 7 days to donate, sell, or trash. It’s gotten a lot harder lately to find things because we’ve been doing it for so long. It stays in line with less stuff to clean, maintain, store, etc… Plus, it’s a pretty good feeling just letting go of that stuff.

  7. Mr. PIE

    We break some rules for sure. We elected to buy a second home ( gasp , horror, what??). Steve at Think Save Retire will be horrified. Costs are manageable as we have no mortgage on the second home but running costs when when you are not there still mount up. Saying that, it is part of our grand plan to relocate to the second home in two years once we hit FIRE and sell our primary residence. It is a smaller home but with much more land and considerably less expensive when we bought it compared to our primary residence.

    Like you I am hesitant to cut the cable cord because of sports like football and soccer. Trying to work out if we can get a package which will stil allow me to watch the Patriots and English premiership soccer without paying for the endless other channels of garbage. Cable companies are just evil in their plans set up. We have made large inroads into our expenses through cutting back on many other things like restaurants, groceries, wine budget, cleaning service reduction to name a few.

    1. Mr. SSC

      We haven’t found an area yet that we wanted to commit to specifically and are in a major quandary about that. We’ll go visit our frontrunners out West next year, but don’t want to buy something and then decide the winters are too long/cold/whatever after spending a decade or more in the Gulf South. The same with our NC/VA prospects, they could be fine, but then we’d be missing out on living out West for a few years or longer.

      I’m really only worried about cable from the “missing football” standpoint. The ret I can do without, but I do love football, and like you said, you can’t just get football without 200 other idiot channels and a big package. Besides that, we have managed to reduce our expenses in other areas over the years like you mentioned.

  8. Ditching The Grind

    Thanks for the shout out! We’re very similar to you guys. Living comfortably in a big house in Texas, saving money fairly easily without much effort. Looking to slow down and live life more on our own terms.

    The kids add a little complexity. At least we won’t have to pay child care much longer. Our oldest is only 8 and he’s constantly hungry. Can’t imagine what it’ll be like when both boys are teenagers!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Oh man, we have our oldest starting kindergarten this fall, and that child care cost will drop significantly. I’m also worried about our oldest boy as a teenager, and even before then, because I expect the food bill to skyrocket for a few years. They do add a bit of complexity in planning and so many other ways.

  9. The Personal Economist

    I loved ONL post too. We are similar to you, probably more money than time and we live in a nice area in a pretty good house (a pig with lipstick!) and have 2 kids. No Vanguard funds but we do have more bikes (including a Mr & Mrs BMX) in our garage. I say break the rules of society, break the rules of FIRE and do what’s right for you and your family.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Definitely, those “Commandments” were hilarious! Our bikes seem like they keep mating and having “baby bikes”. First, we just had our two, then we got a Strider bike for our oldest, then some scooters at yard sales, and now another small “real bike”, and a bike attachment to the back now that our oldest is too big to ride in the iBert seat and I look over at that part of the garage and it looks like a bike family! lol The Mr and Mrs BMX sound fun!

      We definitely try to do what’s best for us even if it doesn’t quite follow all the “Commandments of FIRE”. lol

  10. Harmony@CreatingMyKaleidoscope


    I also love your terminology for the “fully funded lifestyle change.” I may steal it to use instead of “semi-retirement” when the time comes for us to announce our decision to family, friends, and employers.

    We are really doing everything backwards with owning a rental property and still paying off debt . . . but we’re making the very best damn lemonade possible, with the lemons we’ve grown for ourselves over the past decade or so.

    I think that’s my favorite thing about PERSONAL finance: we’re all building something uniquely wonderful, while learning from each other’s journeys.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Feel free to use it as you wish, we find it’s more fitting and accepted than “retirement”. It just heads off all the usual – you’re too young, you won’t be able to afford it, sort of conversations and instead implies you’ll still be productive, just working less, maybe…

      I love the lemonade we made with our lemons, I mean you should read some of my early posts on bad money mistakes I’ve made – I mean who cashes out a 401k – this guy! lol

      I think it’s more about how you grow from mistakes and deal with them versus being “financially perfect”. :)

  11. Our Next Life

    Thanks for taking the challenge! I feel like I know you guys pretty well by now, so not a lot of surprises here, but that’s a good thing. You guys have a consistent philosophy and you seem to really be living it — nothing extreme (no crazy frugality, massive home downsizing or obsession with getting to FI as fast as possible), enjoy life now and in the future, and create space for experimentation. That seems like a pretty perfect path. :-)

    1. Mr. SSC

      I would say we’re still kind of obsessed about getting to FI sooner than later, but even that has cut back to a healthy level from previous. It’s sort of like we were laser focused and working every angle and relocation and all that stuff, and then reality hit. We realized that no matter what we do – within our situation – tht short of some extreme craziness, we’re on track for 2018, possibly 2017 (until Mrs. SSC decided to teach, lol) and um now it’s waiting and staying the course. :)

      I’m looking forward to getting to a SAHD sort of role sooner than most, and getting our kids to an area where they can grow, explore and have a greater appreciation for the outdoors, and like your recent hiking uptick, end up somewhere that we can do that every day as well. Yeah! :)

      Until then, I’ll keep focusing on staying present and appreciating where we are, not necessarily always looking forward at where we “should” be.

  12. Elephant Eater

    We’ve definitely adopted your FFLC philosophy and are looking at something that is more semi-retirement. We were originally gung-ho on getting our investments to 25X our expenses to do the 4% WD strategy b/c that’s what your supposed to do, and then like you we realized:
    1.) We’ve never lived on a budget and the idea of thinking that the remainder of our lives will revolved around a fixed level of spending because that’s “what early retirees do” sounded about as appealing as the alternative of working 40 hour weeks for 20 more years because that’s “what everyone else does”.
    2.) We both want more balance in our lives to do stuff we like while we’re young and healthy enough and we can be around our daughter when she actually wants to be around us, but we both like a lot about our jobs and we don’t really want to completely give that up.

    I love the concept behind this and ONL’s original post, b/c I think it is really easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing, even if that is supposedly going against the grain.

  13. Mr. SSC

    I have to say, my biggest worry when we began all of this was the budget aspect of this choice. I was deadset against being forced to “pinch our pennies” and cut everything everywhere that we could and I think that’s the number one reason it took me so long to get on board. However, after a few years, when Mrs. SSC pointed out that we’d been living off of that amount she planned for in our FFLC, then I realized, “Okay, it doesn’t feel like we’re budgetarily constrained, and we still live pretty comfortably and not worrying about money all the time. I can deal with this.” :)

    Your second point is exactly Mrs. SSC’s reasoning as well. She has seen her father dealing with back and bone issues that have sidelined an ordinarily healthy and active guy. He no longer gets to bike, hike, or even woodwork due to the pain he’s been in the last few years. Hopefully, the surgery will correct it, but that’s almost 3 years you don’t get back trying every alternative before the surgery…

    I definitely like my job more than most it seems like, but if i can spend some more time with the kids while they still want me to spend time with them, then that’s a much better option for me. :)

  14. Patricia

    I also love the term “fully funded lifestyle change”! Might start using it as well.

    I actually learned the US government definition for being classified as retired. It is 2 criteria: 1) working less than full time – that’s 40 hours, and 2) income from a retirement-qualified or equivalent source (ex. pension, SS, IRA, etc.). Note that retirement does NOT mean not working! Interestingly my husband who “left” his job when I “early retired” from mine (I have company retiree benefits) is technically retired (he gets a pension) and I am not (not old enough to tap any of those sources). Ah well, that’s the government for you!

    But even given the term & it’s government definition, there are many people who still equate retirement to the old model, which has been gone for awhile. Old tapes! We need a car commercial… This is not your grandfather’s retirement! Have you driven a retirement lately? Today’s retirement is more active, more diverse, more exploring, more about freedom and choices. Definitely a new lifestyle for me!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Feel free to use it as you want, it’s a nice way to look at it that doesn’t evoke pictures of rocking chairs, or old people running on beaches, lol. :)

      I bet we’ll be in the retirement category though based off of those definitions. I like the car commercial for retirement, that’s pretty funny!

  15. Jason

    This sounds a lot like us. I don’t plan on cutting cable (I love movies, football, and Game of Thrones) and I am a political junkie. I haven’t gone to having someone clear our house, but I have thought about it because we dislike doing it. We did buy a cheaper house, but it is because we have student loan debt. We try to travel two to three times a year but school pays for a couple of these trips (that is a benefit Mrs. SSC will have shortly…travel money…hopefully). I think your terms are great. I mean this is personal finance. Look forward to reading more.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      We’ll see how cutting cable goes, as it will get chopped this week most likely. I’m not above resubscribing to something once I get a deficiency in my “football vitamins” this fall. :)
      I love that it’s “personal” finance and not everybody does the same thing finance, so while some things we value, and others may not, that’s the beauty of catering your plan to you.

  16. Julie @ Millennial Boss

    I attended the financial independence retreat in Ecuador, Chautauqua, last October and expected everyone who attended to live the “commandments” except for me. Turns out everyone has their things they spend money on. We all can’t or even want to be as extreme as the legends in the FI community. As time passes though, I find myself becoming more and more extreme. I cut cable last year. Recently moved to a new place and haven’t gotten internet. Just use phones and wifi at coffee shops. I surprise myself at what I can live without.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I definitely agree that the more people let you in on their lifestyle the more you find out that the commandments are kind of mythical. :) We’re cutting cable this week, and are looking at different internet options that may be cheaper. It is amazing how much we’ve cut over the past 5 years and now wonder why we spent money or put effort towards stuff that evidently we didn’t need in the first place. Little changes here and there add up over time…

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