Being single provides optionality (i.e., “having the right but not the obligation to take action.”) Peter McGraw speaks to Anita Dhake (aka the Thriftygal) to examine how money can buy you freedom. Anita retired early and presents ways to lower your expenses in order to gain financial freedom. They talk “F-you” money, her admiration of Judge Judy, the questions she asks before making a material purchase, and their mutual love of salads for breakfast.
Listen to Episode #85 here:
The Power Of Thrift
One of the arguments that I make is that being single provides optionality, which is defined as having the right but not obligation to take action. Basically, this is freedom. In this episode, I speak to Anita Dhake, also known as the Thriftygal, to examine how money can buy you freedom. Her particular focus is on ways to lower your expenses in order to gain financial freedom. Besides covering the benefits of having F-you money and how to lower expenses, we talked about her admiration of Judge Judy, the questions she asked before making a material purchase, and our shared love of salads for breakfast. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.
Our guest is Anita Dhake also known as the Thriftygal. She is the author of The Power of Thrift blog where she journals her attempts at crossing off life’s bucket list items. She checked off item number seven, retire early at the age of 33, which allowed her to check item sixteen off her list twice, be on TV once. Anita graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 2009 and quit lawyering in 2015. She now travels and continues to cross off bucket list items, spreading the word of how remarkable life can be. You can find out more about her perspectives in her book, which is available on Amazon, Operation Enough!: How to Retire Remarkably Early. Welcome, Anita.
There’s that word again, remarkably.
We’ve managed to say it four times already in the first 1 minute and 10 seconds. My readers are used to it. Do you have a particular affinity for that word?
No. It’s just a good alliteration, remarkably retire.
I love the word because I like the term remark. It’s something that people talk about. It’s that noticeable that they’re willing to remark about it. We’re here to talk about the power of money. I found one of your blog posts. I can’t remember how and when. It’s called The Power of Money and it resonated with me. Before we get into that, can you tell us a little bit more about how you got here besides this bio?
I start reading about early retirement when I was seventeen. I read Your Money or Your Life.
Who’s the author of that book? Do you remember?
That’s Joe Dominguez. I put retire early in my life bucket list and then I forgot about it for a while. I went to law school and I found out how much money I was making as a lawyer. I read the book again. I started working and I started my own wall chart where I plotted my expenses and my projected passive income. Five years later, I retired.
We’re going to get into some of that and what you did to do that. This chart shows up on your blog on occasion. It has years on the X-axis and then Y has some amounts of money. You have two lines on it, your expenses and your income, passive and active. The goal is to cross those.
If the expenses are below the passive income line and then you’re good to go. You don’t have to work anymore.
That was in 2015 for you. Congratulations.
You’ve done something that most people never do, at least until they die and then they come together.
I’m very lucky.
I’m already making an observation because you were a little tough to wrangle for this show. I always have mixed emotions about that. As an aside, I have a follow-up show. I can’t promise it’s going to happen because I’m working with someone else who’s even more difficult to wrangle than you. I had to send him letters in order to get him to agree. I sent him two letters. He responded, thankfully. I think there is something about probably that psychology that says, “I’m going to live life on my terms. I’m going to do what I want to do as I want to do it that can lead to retire at the age of 33.” You are solo, yes?
Let’s talk a little bit about this particular blog post called The Power of Money. You make a case for how money equals freedom. Is that a fair way to say that?
If you use it correctly, it’s the way to go.
Tell me more about the evolution of that idea. What do you mean by freedom? What kinds of freedoms does money provide for you or for us solos?
For relationships, the number one thing is having your own money so that you can escape if you need to. You’re not dependent on anybody or any one person. It’s also freedom from a terrible job like if you have F-you money, by language, you can quit a job where your boss is horrible. If you have a little bit of a safety nest egg or if your neighbors are terrible. There are so many things that money can buy you, but freedom is probably the most important.
Let’s go through these one by one. In the blog, you use the term bad romantic entanglement. You use the word entanglement before it was a funny word. Thanks to Will and Jaden Smith. You tell a story about Judge Judy.
That sounds familiar. I talked about Judge Judy a lot. She’s crazy. It’s so hilarious when she yells at people. I don’t remember the actual story though.
If it’s okay, I’ll read your words back to you. Even Judge Judy knows this. She recounted this conversation with her first husband in her memoir, “I said to Ron who was in private practice and could set his own hours, ‘I have to be in court tomorrow afternoon. You need to go to the swim meet.’” I assume this is because they had kids. He had a look of incredulity, “That’s not our deal. If you want to work, that’s fine but your job is a hobby.” Judge Judy goes on and says, “We were divorced within a year and I vowed to never again let another person define me.” By the way, I don’t know Judge Judy’s net worth but I’m guessing it’s somewhere between $20 million and $50 million.
I think it’s much higher than that
Upwards of $50 million so Ron can take a walk. This is an interesting idea. I’ve been doing some research on the rise of singles. This is a phenomenon both in the United States and in many other places. One of the drivers of this is economic freedom, especially women’s economic freedom.
If you’re not dependent on anybody, then you don’t have to stay miserable.
You don’t even have to enter into a relationship unless you want to for other reasons. You said the other one is a cushion from a hostile work environment. You said a bad job. Have you had some bad jobs?
I’ve had some hard jobs, stressful jobs that I ran away from.
Are these the lawyering ones or others?
They were others. The not-so-pleasant jobs. I did telemarketing before. Those were terrible jobs. Lawyering was also very hard but I don’t know if I’d call it a terrible job. It’s very stressful, a lot of hours.
Not getting to the place where lawyering could become engaging probably as a young lawyer.
It’s a little bit boring.
To me, it doesn’t seem like a good match for your personality.
If you’re a hard worker, it can be a good match. I’m a hard worker but the culture, the mentality of more money didn’t appeal to me.
I’ve had some terrible jobs as a young man. I was lucky to find academia. It is hard work but even when the work was hard, it never felt too much like work.
If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life.
As I’ve gotten older, I find that some of the elements of the job become less and less appealing and thus the financial freedom of being able to walk away from it becomes increasingly valuable and interesting.
If you don’t talk away or if you have a bargaining power to be like, “I want to work from home. I only want to teach one class.”
Especially if you’re willing to negotiate and give up money, this is the possible thing. I have a story I’m saving. I’m working on a project related to Solo. I have a story in which I told my dean that I’m not interested in getting a raise. I’ll tell you this, Anita. It was exhilarating to say that because it was such a powerful thing to say. I felt like that gave me more freedom moving forward because there’s not a quid pro quo some exchange that’s going to happen where expectations go up along with a salary in that sense. You also say, “Money is freedom from a negative living situation.”
That’s another Judge Judy’s statement. I think about it all the time. I watch that show all the time. There are so many cases of bad roommates or bad neighbors. Judge Judy is like, “Then move.” That’s the easiest solution if you have money. It’s not so easy if you don’t have money.
You live alone, I assume. I live alone also. I’ve lived alone most of my life. I like it. It agrees with me. I had two years in graduate school where I took on roommates. I did so not out of comradery, although I made the best of that. The math works way better. I moved to a part of town. I moved in with roommates. I made the best of it. I’m a social extroverted guy but as soon as I could get on the other side of it, I did. I appreciate that. I can imagine though having made that decision and it backfiring, being stuck on a lease with bad people rather than people who might not be as tidy. Almost no one’s as tidy as I am. I have to recognize that.
I’m pretty tidy.
I know you are. I’ve gone down the Thriftygal rabbit hole, Anita. It’s a wonderful set of blogs. You’re a very fun writer, I have to say. I do enjoy it. For someone who studies humor, I appreciate it. The other one you have about the power of money and the freedom that it can buy is literal freedom.
Your time, which is exactly what I have. I wake up whenever I want. I go to bed whenever I want. I’m super flexible with my daytime hours if someone wants to hang out during the day. I’m easily able to do that. Avoid traffic if I don’t want to drive at certain points. It’s amazing what you can do when your time is completely your own and you don’t have to report to anybody.
I find it difficult to date someone on a Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 5:00 for that very reason. You’re going to the airport when everybody else is going to the airport. You’re going out to dinner when everyone else is going out to dinner.
You’re going on vacation on weekends when everyone else is going on vacation.
Often I run my errands on Wednesday when everybody else is working. One day a week, when everybody’s working, is a great day to do errands.
I never go to the grocery store after 2:00 PM.
What’s interesting about that is that’s addition by subtraction. You make your life easier and more convenient with regard to that. It is very nice that if you decide to stay up late one night, you can sleep in the next day.
That’s part of my favorite thing about my life.
Are you a good sleeper?
I’m an excellent sleeper.
Have you always been or has that been a benefit of being retired?
I’ve always been a good sleeper. When I’m tired, I go to bed and fall asleep pretty quickly.
I want to lean into this idea about money is fungible. You can transfer it into other things. You can turn money into gold, gold into money and so on but time isn’t.
It’s the only non-renewable resource that we have. Not the only one but one of the most valuable ones.
I’m on the other side of 50. There is a phenomenon as people age. I like to say I’m stealing this from a Guy Ritchie movie called The Gentlemen where one of the characters says, “The sun’s not rising for me. It’s setting.” The recognition that, “I’m going to live do 100.” I’m smack-dab. I know I’m going to live do 100. Anita, you’re probably going to live to do at least 100, maybe 110. As we were warming up here, we both admitted that we had a salad for breakfast.
I ate a salad for breakfast almost every day. You don’t have to think about one meal. You get vegetables to prepare but then not think about it.
It fills you up and it gets you to lunch versus a lot of things that people do. The last one is I was alluding to it, although you had a better answer to it, was that money can buy you justice. It can keep you free, as in keep you away from being in prison. Can you talk more about that? Leave it to a lawyer to come up with the justice argument for the value of money. What lies behind that argument, that money can buy you justice?
You have the best team fighting for you if, for some reason, you do something untoward that you probably not have done.
All of us reading would be falsely charged. That’s what it was. You don’t have to take a plea. You can fight until the end. I think a lot of people don’t understand this. I only know this from watching TV. Forgive me but the little I know is that essentially the way the justice system is designed to work is to win. A win is to have someone admit to guilt.
A prosecutor’s not going to take the case to trial unless he’s pretty sure they could win.
The issue is this. They’ll still try to win by getting a plea even if they don’t think they can win a trial. What happens is if you are willing to go to trial, you might be able to expose a weakness.
This is what I learned from television as well but I believe so.
One of us has passed the bar. Let’s talk a little bit about how. We talked about your chart. To me, there are two ways to go about making those two lines cross. Talk me through your thinking on those two lines. You can decrease the slope of one, your expenses or you can increase the slope of the other, your income or both. Talk me through the logic. It seems to me that you have been more focused on decreasing the slope of one.
I was focused on both of them but expenses are within your grasp. Income has a lot more of an impact. If you’re only going to focus on one, you‘ll probably focus on income. Expenses are an important part of it too. When I went to law school, I found out how much first-year lawyers make for the positions that I was interviewing for. The starting salary at that point was $160,000. I remember thinking if I make four times what the average person makes, I retire four times earlier. In the first year, I’d spent paying off all my student loans, which is over $100,000. For the next four years, I spent accumulating enough to get it over the expense. I projected passive income above my expenses line.
Let’s talk through some of the ways. This is why everybody should know algebra. I’ve used the term on the show before people’s burn rate. Essentially, what are your expenses like? One of the big challenges and I can speak to this as a behavioral scientist, is that what people tend to do is they tend to increase their consumption commensurate with their income. You make more money, you buy a nicer car, you buy a bigger place, you buy nicer clothes, you go on fancier vacations and so on. The difficult thing about this is what’s called the hedonic treadmill. That nicer car, house, clothes, vacation does feel nicer at first but unfortunately, as humans, we’re good at adapting to that new state of the world. Hence on the treadmill, you’re constantly moving forward but not actually moving forward. It’s there. My sense is you already had an intuition about that phenomenon early on.
I wanted more experiences than this thing. I’ve never been a shopper. I’ve never been into accumulating things but I’ve always wanted free time to read, free time hanging out with my friends. That was way more important to me than the latest clothes, latest video games or whatever people spend money on.
Before we get into the expense side of the equation, there are these two sides of the income equation. One is active income. Billable hours as a lawyer, this must be very unappealing
for you if you care about time. As a lawyer, you only get paid while you’re working and the more you work, the more you get paid. The other one is passive income. Can you talk about that?
Stock appreciation and that kind of stuff.
You’re making money while you sleep is the most passive of passive income. For you, your passive income is investments, I’m assuming. Do you have a particular investment strategy that you find works well for you?
I’m very low maintenance. I don’t want to buy something and then not think about it ever again. My index fund of choice is VTSAX, Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund. It’s every stock that you could buy in the United States. The United States has international city areas. I feel like it has a pretty good international mix as well. I say that I’m betting on civilization. As long as civilization continues, then my fund will probably continue to do well. If there’s seriously wrong with the stock market, there’s something seriously wrong with the rest of the world as well probably.
I have that same fund. One of the benefits of that fund is that it’s also low-cost.
There are no management fees or anything like that, which chips away at your earning potential.
I don’t think the average person understands why that’s the case but essentially because of opportunity costs. If you pay high management fees, that’s money that’s not being invested that’s not going to compound and get this hockey stick action at the end of your life where you might need it most, which is to pay for a nursing home. I have a slightly different one. I would welcome you to talk me out of it. You’re already mildly doing so and I’m already mildly doing so. I have a whole the world philosophy. I have two funds that I use mostly, which are the total stock market and then the total international stock market.
I like that one too. I’m not going to be able to talk you out of it because I think that one’s perfectly fine too. Is the expense ratio about the same as VTSAX?
It might be a tiny bit higher.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with having an international portfolio as opposed to a domestic one. I can’t talk you out of that if it’s fine.
I keep them within GDP proportions. The issue with it is they’re correlated because the world’s economy is so correlated. What’s fascinating is that the world is investing in the United States stock market, which is I believe fueling much of the growth that’s there. That extra money then helps these businesses become better. It works inefficiently but it’s our best way to go about doing it at this point. We’ve covered some of these in a prior episode called Financial Freedom with Money Amy. I don’t want to belabor this up with my financial planner to lay out the steps to financial freedom from paying off credit card debts all the way to more complicated balancing portfolios that the average person will never get to. I ended up geeking out a little bit too much and annoyed some people.
I love talking about money and compound interest.
The other side of this thing is to lower expenses, to lower your burn rate. You already said you’re not much of a shopper. You’re not much of a material person, to begin with.
That was always the easy part for me. I was always able to spend less than I earned. It’d be a struggle for me to spend all my money and trying to find ways to spend it all. There’s not that much that I want. I buy everything I want. I just don’t want that much.
Correct me if I’m wrong, you have a thoughtful approach before you buy something.
I do. This was a long time ago. I don’t do this anymore but I had a few questions that I would ask myself to talk myself out of buying anything. I’m trying to find reasons not to. I’d ask myself if it’s beautiful or useful, if it will harm anyone in any way, if the person who made it had a terrible condition with the working conditions or they are a child, if it harms the environment in any way. The answer to most of these questions for everything is going to be yes. Unfortunately, the way a business is set up, the person making it is probably not in the happiest condition and consumption is destroying the Earth. It’s pretty easy to talk yourself out of that when you’re asking yourself these questions and thinking about the implications of everything you buy.
Amazon is incredible talking about convenience. You were saying about going to the supermarket, you don’t go after 2:00 PM. I don’t go to the supermarket anymore because I have the great luxury of being able to order food and it gets delivered to my door. It’s incredible. Once I started doing it, I was like, “I don’t care. I can’t go back.” That’s between the parking, the shopping, the standing in line and the other people frankly, who sometimes may be terrible. I never got any dates at the supermarket anyway so it’s not like it hurts my dating life in any sense.
I’ve been picked up in the supermarket before.
It’s because you’re lovely and I’m a ghoul. It’s not even clear if you’re allowed to “hit on anyone” out in public anyway. It’s fraud. There’s a whole bunch of other things that you don’t spend your money on. It sounds like you don’t even have to ask those questions.
I have this list that I talk about stuff that I never spend money on that most people do. Soda I believe is on there.
As you call it pop, you must be from the Midwest.
I’m from Chicago originally so it’s pop. That’s funny. I don’t spend money on coffee, which I know a lot of people do.
I want to push back on your coffee one.
Everyone has their own little vice, little treat. I’m just naming a couple of common ones that I do not personally have.
I don’t even call it a vice. To me, it’s a tool. First of all, I spend it on coffee that is beautiful, delicious and enhances my life. I’m a big ritual person. It’s part of a ritual. To me, it’s a small price to pay. The general sentiment I agree with is that to go to Starbucks or to go to one of these fancy pants hipster coffee shops and spend that money, you could either go without getting a good night’s sleep. You get a great night’s sleep and you don’t need coffee.
That’s the reason that I don’t drink caffeine.
You don’t need it. You can come pretty damn close to these days in a much lower price point at home if you wanted to. There are cheaper solutions that are out there. If I may, if people have a cappuccino addiction as I do to start the day, between a mocha pot, which you can get for $20 on Amazon, an Italian style mocha pot and then a milk frother, which you can get for maybe anywhere between $60 and $100, you can easily do something equivalent to a Starbucks cappuccino without even blinking. You can’t quite get to the hipster level but it’s still quite delicious and nicer. You’re on the flat part of the curve anyways. I didn’t mean to interrupt but what are some of the other things? I have them all on my list here. If you don’t remember that, I have them.
Cable is one of them. Clothes might have been on there because most of my clothes are hand me down from my sister.
I don’t have that one written down but you do have a series about clothes.
I don’t remember what else is on that list.
I’ll list off a few. You have cigarettes, which is one of the worst things that you’d spend money on. I would probably add alcohol to that list. You’re not much of a drinker.
I used to be when I wrote that list that’s why I didn’t include alcohol but now I don’t drink.
You don’t drink at all?
I drink 4 or 5 times a year maybe.
I’m going to do an episode on alcohol. It’s an incredible problem. If you’re single and dating, it’s exacerbating.
It’s so hard to date when you’re not drinking.
You have cars. Those are depreciating assets and lottery tickets. You have manicures on here. The irony is I got a manicure-pedicure. It was so expensive that I regretted it. I didn’t check the price before I went in. I went to a place and ended up being too much money.
How much was it, out of curiosity?
It was $47.
That’s not bad for manicure and pedicure.
Do you think that’s an okay price? I don’t get them that often. I probably get them quarterly, I would say. Why did manicures make the list?
It’s one of those things I know that people spend a lot of money on that is not a necessity.
You can do it yourself, I’ve heard.
I believe so. Probably not as well as the salon but that’s not my area. I don’t know. I just cut my nails with a nail cutter and go on with my life.
For the gentlemen reading, some of you should go get a manicure.
I’ve had them before. They’re super fun so I understand why people get them but they add up for sure.
This is about rare and special versus the regular. The big one which you have a whole post on it is diamond engagement rings. My community is not anti-marriage. Some people reading may have been married. Some people may get married someday. I even have some married readers. I call it solo porn who gets to read this stuff. Some of them are friends and want to be able to support singles better so they’d like to read this. Let’s make the case against the diamond ring. Assume a marriage will happen. Although as quickly as an aside, the diamond industry at one point was trying to create a right-hand ring for independent women to buy themselves a diamond ring. I don’t think it ever caught on. Let’s talk about someone who’s getting engaged, maybe the receiver of the ring, maybe the giver of the ring, maybe getting it together in a more progressive, unconventional relationship. Why not a diamond engagement ring? They’re beautiful.
They are beautiful but it’s a marketing ploy. You can get a “fake diamond” that’s lab-made. It looks exactly like the real thing. They are much cheaper and as what I’m saying about the conditions of the person who made this thing? Where they mined the diamonds, the conditions are terrible for people.
These diamond mines are atrocious.
It’s a marketing ploy. The De Beers company came up with this idea that diamond is forever. It will be a symbol of marriage. They were wildly successful. That’s what everyone associates with it. It’s a relatively new phenomenon.
There’s a case study if you’re a marketing professor about De Beers and the marketing that they did, which was frankly diabolical.
Are you a marketing professor?
I am. I’m a psychologist by training as a behavioral economist. I teach marketing consumer behavior and marketing management course to MBAs. I don’t teach that case, not in a long time, but one of the things that they did was they put diamonds in movies. They invented a tradition, which is striking. There are a number of traditions that are invented by people who want to make money associated with marriages. The diamond one is the biggest one and the most lucrative. For example, do you know who came up with the two-month salary rule?
I believe that was also De Beers.
The people selling the diamond set the rule. It’s obscene. As an aside, I have a good friend and his then-girlfriend now wife were planning their wedding. Neither of them was into cakes. They were talking to the person helping them with their wedding. It’s a lovely wedding in Cincinnati, Ohio at one of the museums there. It was great. Both of them are researchers. They did some research into wedding cakes. There’s no tradition. It’s just made up. It doesn’t go back to anything. They had ice cream instead. I give them a lot of credit for that.
Go against the grain. I like it.
Frankly, these are the kinds of people who I get along best with, the people who don’t naturally question, “Why are we doing this?” Even if they’re doing it to ask why and consider how they might do it differently. Any other thoughts about this process of not buying things or buying used rather than new, delaying purchases, other stuff in your expertise, in your experience that would be useful for our readers to consider or the person who’s trying to cross those purse?
Take it one step at a time. Build in a little bit of treat too so you don’t go insane. If you are a coffee person, maybe don’t give up coffee if that’s your one treat or joy in life. You got to make it sustainable depending on how much money you make and how much you spend if you’re going to be in for the long haul.
The other thing that’s related to the hedonic treadmill is we’re also good at adapting to negative things. It’s slower. We’re good at adapting to positive things. We’re less good at negative things but we are good at it. Know that when you strip these things away, that you will get used to your new state of the world that’s there, although oftentimes the argument is not to add. If you maintain what you’re doing, it’s probably the first step rather than continuing to add. Let’s talk a little bit about tidying up and minimalism. This goes hand in hand with this removing material purchases. I get the sense from reading your work that you love KonMari.
She’s amazing. Her tidying up is aptly named.
You have a crush on KonMari as I do too. Talk about your minimalist ways and your tidying up ways. It sounds like you don’t already have a lot of stuff, to begin with.
I do the KonMari method every year going through every single one of my positions category by category and deciding if it brings me joy, if it’s going to stay or it’s going to leave. It only takes me a couple of days because I don’t have that much stuff. It’s what you were saying about maintaining. As long as you don’t keep buying things, you don’t have to keep getting rid of them.
For those of you who don’t know the KonMari methodology, you have these different categories. Clothing is one category. Books are a special category. Papers, kitchen stuff, there are a few of these things.
There are a couple of categories too so you can go through and be pretty granular.
The idea is you take these things out of their home and you throw them in a pile more or less.
If you touch it, then you decide if it brings you joy or not.
If it doesn’t?
You donate it or get rid of it somehow.
You give it away, sell it or throw it out. Here’s one of the things that are lovely about this. First of all, that’s very hard for people to do because it enacts what’s called loss aversion. Oftentimes for the average person, the loss of giving it up looms larger than the extra space or the psychic energy that’s been freed and so on, but you think it for its service. That’s so lovely. It is respectful. You’re like, “T-shirt, we had a good time.” One of the things that I’ve heard these closet organizers talk about is people go, “I’m going to miss it.” You can take a picture of it, then you can remember it. Now it’s with you forever, upload it to the digital cloud.
My own experience with this was I’m living in California at the time. I have a home in Boulder, Colorado. I’ll be honest, it’s more home than I need. I lived in that home for ten years before moving out of it. If you live in a place for ten years, even when you’re a tidy guy like me, you accumulate stuff. It took a lot for me to go through the house and create my three bins. What goes with me to California? What goes to goodwill or the trash? What stays behind for my tenant or for when I return? I was thinking about this, Anita and you’ll get a kick out of it. There’s a whole bunch of shit at that house. There’s a lot of stuff that still is there. I don’t miss any of it.
You don’t think about any of it after you don’t see it. It’s out of your life.
There’s one thing I wish I had. It’s a hat I left behind. It’s a winter-style Fedora. I think it’s felt or velvet or it’s wool. I wish I brought it with me. Otherwise, there’s nothing else I go, “I can’t believe I didn’t bring that.”
You get to know what’s important to you, what’s vital and what’s not.
It’s empowering. It gets me to a point where I’m moving to a place where I don’t want to own anything.
The stuff you own ends up owning you.
Besides those two mutual funds, I want to own much more of that.
There is another financial blogger who always likes to say he spends every dime he gets on VTSAX.
I have a Slack channel for the Solo community. Anybody can sign up for it at PeterMcGraw.org. Occasionally, I’ll have some bonus material that I’ll put on the Slack channel. I’m going to put a scene from this movie called The Gambler by Mark Wahlberg. I can’t remember his name. He was on Roseanne, John Goodman. Mark Wahlberg has a thing where the John Goodman character talks about the position of F-U and having F-U money. JL Collins recreates that scene with his own perspective. For the bonus material, I’m going to have both of those scenes for my community. He talks about VTSAX, which is Vanguard’s Total Stock Market. It could be any of the big funds. They’re all more or less the same. Is there anything else about minimalism, the act of tidying up, the focus on experiences versus material things that feed into the freedom that we’re talking about?
This is a solo show about living alone. I wonder if it’s easier to merge if you could find somebody if you’re a minimalist or if you have not that much stuff. If you’re clean, it’s a lot easier to date I would assume.
It certainly makes you a more appealing person to date. They’re like, “My stuff will go over there.” I’m like, “You need to slow down a little bit. We’re not adding a lot of throw pillows to this bed.” I do think that there is something about this minimalist approach, which may make it difficult to merge. It’s like, “It gets a little tidy here.” Let’s finish up. I have a couple of things I want to finish up with. There are a couple of things I don’t do as an act of defiance to my former impoverished self. I grew up food stamps poor, not welfare poor just to give people some context.
Money Amy who’s famous on the show now, whenever we’re making a big decision, she essentially asked me my monthly burn rate. “What do you spend?” I go, “I don’t know. I’m not going to tell you because I’m not going to calculate it.” I spent 35 years of my life calculating it more or less. I don’t want to live like that anymore. The other one is about asking for a discount. I can appreciate this one. I’m not good at it. There are some cultural norms that bump up against me in particular. You encourage your readers to ask for a discount.
I remember that post. That was a long time ago. I totally get why you wouldn’t want to do that. Sitting on the phone and waiting to talk to customer service hasn’t been fun, but it can make a difference. It cuts those monthly bills.
Who should you be asking for a discount from?
For monthly bills, let’s say cable. If they have these yearly promotions, they put you into a higher tier automatically. If you call and talk to them about it, 9 times out of 10, they will reduce your bill. It takes a little bit of time, patience and niceness but it’s not too bad.
You give very clear advice about it. One is you say to be nice.
Catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Also, the thing is I go out of my way to be nice to this customer service. It’s a tough job. I don’t think people understand how tough a job it is. There’s so much observation. They’re being tracked and recorded. One of the things I always do is I say, “Where do you live?” If I’ve been to the place, I comment on it, make a little small talk and so on. I had someone get me on a flight and get the last business class ticket in a desperate situation just because we struck up a nice conversation.
People are human beings. You connect with them on a human level.
They have some discretion. What else? What are some of the other ones? You say be friendly and patient. Tell them to take their time.
If you’re coming from a position of strength like if you don’t need it, you threaten to cancel it. Especially cable, just cancel it.
Another one that you said, which I like and I’ve done before, especially with airlines, is customer service issues in general. It’s like, “If you don’t get what you want, hang up and try again.” You might get a different person.
That does work a shocking number of times.
You roll the dice again. Are there any other thoughts about the idea of asking for a discount? It’s striking the stories about asking for discounts in places that don’t advertise discounts.
I remember I was going with my sister once. We went to Macy’s. She was asking the lady behind the counter, “Do you have a coupon?” The lady gave her a coupon. I was amazed but then my sister was like, “Do you have any other coupons?” She gave her another coupon.
Is it something in your family, Anita?
I think so. The Indian’s blood it’s very frugal.
I have heard this. I don’t want to act stereotypically. I’ve been to India and I know there’s a lot of negotiating going on. I’ve heard specific cultural stories about Indians negotiating outside of India. One of the places I’ve been surprised by is a Best Buy, especially this idea of you’re talking to the associate, you’re working it through and so on and then it comes the time. You go, “Will you do it for $500?”
I can’t imagine doing it at Best Buy.
People do it. The last thing is you have some habits that make your life better. Anybody who reads this show knows how much I love a good habit.
I have something called a resolutions chart where every single month I pick 10 to 15 new resolutions. Every day I go through my chart. If I did the resolution, I give myself a smiley face. If I didn’t to the resolution, I give myself a number. The first time I didn’t do it, it’s the 1. The tenth time I didn’t do it, it’s 10. At the end of the month, I grade myself. If it’s 90% of the day, I get an A. If it’s 80% of the day, I get a B. If it’s 70%, C.
Anita gets As. She went to the University of Chicago.
They are my motivation. I work out, meditate and then 12 to 13 other resolutions every month.
Do you read books? Are you a big book reader?
I love to read.
You better be because you wrote a book.
I’m working on number two.
Is there a book you’re reading?
I’m reading three books. I like to read more than one. I always remember if there is something. One is Hiking the Grand Canyon. It’s on my life bucket list. I want to do that backpacking trip in 2022, hopefully. The Tiny Habits book. The other one is Running with Sherman. Had you ever read the book Born to Run by the same author, Christopher McDougall? It’s about a donkey and he makes it to a heart of a champion.
The last one I’m going to point out for you is you take long walks in the sunshine.
It’s vitamin D. It’s a real thing.
You live in Denver so you have lots of sun there, which is nice.
That’s the reason I picked Denver, it’s the sunshine.
It’s one of the sunniest places in the world. This has been wonderful. Anita, thank you for not ignoring my emails. You’re giving a great gift with this blog, your book and your time here. I’ll have one last question before I finish my thanks. I can’t imagine retiring at 35. I’d be afraid I’m going to get bored.
That’s the hardest part of it honestly, figuring out what you want to do with your time and going for it. Personally, I like to write and read. I spent a fair number of hours doing that. I consider that my “job.” Some people are thinking of music. Some people are building stuff. You got to figure out what it is that makes you happy and go do it. That’s the hardest part.
It’s lazy to think that you need work to fill the hours. There are plenty of other ways.
I’m never bored. I feel like there are so many things to do. I’m taking a woodworking class and archery. There are so many things in the world to try.
Anita, you qualify for one of my remarkable rebellious singles. Thank you for your time and for contributing these ideas to the world. They’re important.
It’s my pleasure.
- Financial Freedom with Money Amy – previous episode
- Running with Sherman
- Born to Run
About Anita Dhake
Anita Dhake is the author of the Power of Thrift blog where she journals her attempts at crossing off life bucket list items. She checked off item #7, “retire early” at the age of 33, which allowed her to check item #16 off her to twice check off her list “be on TV once.” Anita graduated from the University of Chicago law school in 2009 and quit lawyering in 2015.
She now travels and continues to cross off bucket list items, spreading the word on how remarkable life can be. You can find out more about her perspective in her book: Operation Enough! A Guide for Early Retirement.
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