Reflecting on 2015: A year of fun and insane saving

Published December 31, 2015   Posted in How to Think

New Years 2016

Damn, life is good. As you know from last year‘s life-changing reflection, I hate New Years resolutions. Instead, I reflect on the past year to figure out the things that I should keep doing and what mistakes that I need to avoid in the future. I love these posts.

And one thing is for sure: 2015 was a bad ass year, and it all starts with our retirement.

How our retirement changed in 2015

Just a couple months into the existence of this blog, I was not shy about our desire to retire in Sedona. We love it there. It’s a beautiful city with amazing landscape. Hiking trails are all over the place. It’s a vacation spot for many, and during 2015, my wife and I decided to keep it just a vacation spot for us as well.

In short, we aren’t moving to Sedona after all. Instead, we plan to quit our jobs, sell our homesbuy an Airstream RV and travel the country for years to come – with our two dogs in tow.

Oh, and we also plan on putting that into action at the end of this year.

Originally, our planned retirement was somewhere in the neighborhood of 2020. Then, we moved it up to 2018 after we began to consider Sedona. After nixing those plans in favor of RV living, the end of 2016 will be our epic escape date.

All I can say to this is…holy shit.

In one year’s time, my wife and I changed up our retirement plans that originally had us continuing to work for another five years to a plan that now has us quitting in a year (plus two months for my wife’s social security). We moved our retirement date up five years!

To exactly one year from this date – December 31st, 2016. 

When I write this reflections article at the end of this coming year, I hope to be in a very different position – unemployed.

What turned out right

First and foremost, both my wife and I are pretty damn happy. We are happy about the decisions that we made this year and are excited to experience what 2016 has to offer.

Our savings rate kicked a lot of ass throughout the year. We averaged around 70% total savings rate from both of our salaries – and it’s this level of saving that is enabling us to retire so quickly.

Both my wife and I still have well-paying jobs and we remain steadfastly focused on our goals of early retirement and world-wide travel. There is no question that dual incomes help us to achieve our new early retirement schedule.

We sold the Honda Ridgeline. I liked the truck, but it was completely unnecessary for us. Now my brother is driving it, reducing our insurance and gas bill every month in the process.

My wife and I travel-hacked our way to Glacier National Park for my birthday in July, and it was a truly amazing experience. We baked some cupcakes at home before we left and brought them with us in a ziplock bag. On the first day we snagged some frosting from a gas station and prepared delicious birthday cupcakes each night at the park. Cheap dessert, and good!

We also took a family vacation to Disney World in Orlando, FL. It was a whole lot of fun and definitely taught us the importance of planning ahead before tacking the Disney experience!

But oh man, the kids…

In 2014, my wife declared that 2015 will be the year of consistency, and it was. We started tracking our net worth on the blog and also began publishing our monthly budgets. We consistently saved around 70% of our salaries every month and refused to make any major exceptions.

What I could have done better

This is always a tough section for me to write because I tend to think positively and literally forget about my mistakes throughout the year. I’m a “glass half full” kind of guy. But, I’ll try anyway!

First, I never should have bought the Honda Ridgeline to begin with. Though I eventually sold the truck, I rationalized the purchase to myself and made an error in judgment when I bought it.

Also, we failed to hit our budget some of the months – especially in April. But we didn’t vastly over-spend, either, and we like to consider our budget to be a yearly goal divided up over 12 months. So if we are over on some months, it may not push us beyond our yearly spending target.

We also found a couple of retirement accounts that got lost as we were bringing all of our accounts together and viewable within Personal Capital. While we did eventually find this money (one in May and another just a couple weeks ago), it shows that we probably need to improve our organization. We now believe that we have everything tracked, though!

What made me truly happy

As I look back on 2015, there is one element that made me smile more than any other – travel. Our trip to Disney, Glacier National Park and also Key West, Florida over the holidays rocked my happiness level over the year.

Downsizing our home and living with less stuff was another element in my overall happiness over the course of the year. Imagine this – we actually finished the year with less stuff than when it started. And that is an amazing statement to be able to honestly make.

And truthfully, just thinking about our retirement after achieving financial independence makes me happier than ever. While I certainly don’t dwell on what “could be”, I definitely do keep our goals firmly at the forefront of my mind. There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on what Courtney and I are trying to make happen.

And lastly, blogging made me happy. Yeah, I think that I’m going to keep doing it. I have met some truly amazing people this year. In fact, it’s been downright fascinating becoming a part of the personal finance and early retirement community. It is incredibly accepting of people who are willing to give saving money a try, and motivational for those who stick to it.

Thanks for reading, and happy new year to everyone! Stay tuned for my wife’s reflections post tomorrow!

We track our net worth using Personal Capital



Comments

18 responses to “Reflecting on 2015: A year of fun and insane saving”

  1. I can’t believe you two moved up your retirement date 5 years in 2015! That is unbelievable!

    Congrats on a great year. I’m looking forward to following you guys throughout 2016 to see your final preparations for your RETIREMENT in a year! I can’t imagine how exciting it is to know that the date is set and it isn’t that far away anymore. Happy New Year Steve!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Thias! 2015 was a great year, and I’m hoping that 2016 will be even better. It’s my retirement year! 🙂

      Happy New Year to you as well!

  2. Mr. Groovy says:

    Hey, Steve. I’m jealous! Mrs. Groovy and I made it to Montana a few years ago but didn’t get to Glacier. Montana is definitely the most beautiful state we’ve visited so far. We hope to get to Coeur d’Alene and Glacier in 2017. And congratulations on 2015. I think you’ve established a keen insight: more saving plus more minimalism plus more adventure equals more happiness. May your 2016 be just as “bad ass.” Cheers.

    • Steve says:

      It’s true, Montana really is amazing. We definitely plan to spend more time up there, as well as Idaho and Washington State, in the next couple of years as we roll into full time travel. Beautiful country!

  3. Awesome year Steve! Looking forward to all the posts from the RV.

  4. Your RVing plan is my retirement dream! I cannot wait to be tuning in to your blog in 2017 following your travels and adventures. Many congratulations for all of the hard work you two put in – it is now almost time to reap the rewards.

    Downsizing has been one of my accomplishments this year as well, and it is already making a huge difference in our lives.

    Wishing each of you (and your dogs!) a very happy 2016.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks ID – it will definitely be an interesting year, and we are looking forward to getting into it. Appreciate the well wishes, and I definitely return them back your way! 🙂

  5. So pumped about learning about the RV life. Make sure to paint a great picture so I can convince my SO to tag along with me in an RV eventually 🙂

  6. Happy New Year Steve and Courtney! Thanks for the inspiration this year and well done on your consistent awesomeness this year!

  7. Mr. SSC says:

    That sounds like a great 2015! I’m excited to see how the final year of planning goes in 2016, but I’m guessing most will be “stay the course” type planning.
    We went through a similar realization in that since one of us will most likely have income someway, we were able to move our date up to 2017 with a job or 2018 without. We’ve also gone back to looking out west and Coeur D’Alene is back in talks along with other out west towns.
    Funny how things change over a year.

    • Steve says:

      You’re right, Mr. SSC, it’s gonna be a lot of “stay the course” this year, just to finish out my last year of work with the greatest net worth that we can manage. We love Coeur D’Alene and will definitely return!

  8. Mrs SSC' says:

    Now you have less than one year to go – are you nervous? You all have had an amazing year -especially with solidifying your goal and plans. I started freaking out last week because I was thinking we could be FI in as little as 18 months, and we have no idea really where we want to move. I’m going to print out a map of the US so we can start crossing off states and regions! That’s the one thing with kids – is we don’t want to move maybe more that two more times before they graduate high school.

    • Steve says:

      Honestly, I’m not nervous in the slightest. In fact, I want it to come, and fast – like, maybe tomorrow. I’m not nervous because I know that we’re flexible enough to make it work, even if it’s not exactly to plan. And nothing wrong with being FI in 18 months! 🙂

  9. Love reading this rundown of your year — and that great new idea for cupcakes on the road! LOL

    Like you, we’ve been totally floored by the amazing people in the PF community, and the support from all corners, and we can’t imagine not continuing with our blog. Sometimes I want to swap blog life in for real life. 🙂

    I’m sure it stings a bit knowing you wasted money on the Ridgeline, but you learned from it, so it’s not really a waste. And you guys have done so much to optimize this year and move up your timeline. if you’d made better financial decisions when you were younger, you still wouldn’t be able to quit sooner because of the social security credits problem! 😉 So I’d say you’re pretty much kicking ass on every level, and I can’t wait to see how things unfold for you guys in 2016 and beyond!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks ONL, totally agree on swapping blog life for real life, or at least finding a way to do it full time. Sometimes it seems like a full time job, but it’s one of those jobs that I actually never get tired of doing.

      This is gonna be one super fun year. Let’s just hope the market decides to play along. 🙂

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