I paid off my car loan this month so I could get the title in hand. I would like to sell it and go carless but a huge barrier for me is my parents live about 1.5hrs round trip/80 miles round trip from me (Via public transport, 4 Hours round trip to see each parent, 6 hours on Sundays.) and I like to see each of them at least once per month, so we're looking at 2 trips/mo. I tried to work out a Car Share with BF for the trips, but it's looking like we wouldn't be able to agree on a fee lower than $25-30 (Gas alone roundtrip is $15) and so I'm thinking at these prices it's not really a great solution. Unfortunately we do not have Zipcar, etc around here.
I was thinking maybe I'll buy a 49cc moped instead just for these trips (no insurance required). 75+mpg, so $4 round trip on gas. They cost usually under $1000, but no clue what to expect as far as maintenance goes. Denver actually doesn't get that many snow days, so I could restrict winter trips to days with good weather. The thing that gives me pause there, is that the main roads to get there sometimes have 65mph speed limits, where the mopeds only go maybe 35 from what I'm gathering. I'm thinking though there are probably some slower 45mph side roads I could take and that would probably be acceptable. Anyway I know no one with a moped so would appreciate some chimes in on the feasibility of this plan.
We have an large elderly dog who really wouldn't do well without a yard. Once she dies BF and I will talk about moving into a different place and renting out this place so we both can reduce our housing costs. She was going downhill fast, but she's doing better now, so who knows, that could happen anytime from tomorrow to two years from now. Anyway, I was thinking of a preliminary plan of buying a place for about $100,000 outright, which, with utilities, maintenance, property tax, insurance, I think should be less than $300/person/mo. There aren't many places like this around, but there are enough that it's not a totally outrageous idea. But at the same time I wonder if that's the best way to go about things, because had I just kept $100,000 at a 4% SWR, it would be generating roughly $333/mo and so that is an opportunity cost that has to be considered. Assuming insurance is roughly $100/mo, property tax 125/mo, utilities 100/mo, maintenance $100/mo, you could rent some place for $750 with utilities included, keep the money in the bank, and come out the same. So I am still pondering the solution to this. Even after she dies we'll still have a 30lb dog and a cat so RV living would be a touch crowded, and it makes finding just rooms with other people much more difficult. Giving the pets up is not an option for us. I suppose another option is renting out rooms to other people, too, but I am pretty bad at reading people so I am not confident that the chance of things going badly is worth it, plus the loss of privacy/security, and I'm fairly certain BF would not be comfortable with it. He values privacy and freedom a great deal. Maybe a used mobile home? Or a cheap condo? But I hate the HOA fees, and I would almost certainly have to go to HOA meetings or even get on the board just to make sure they are operating in a sensible way.
The food thing is an issue but more pressing in my mind is that I need to lose weight. Lots of reasons for this, but one good ERE one is that I am certain it would have a good impact on future health insurance rates. So for me, I realize that I am spending more in certain food areas for the convenience and type of foods that will help me get there. This is on my mind, not sure if I'll seriously tackle it this month or not. It would probably include keeping a monthly listing of what we actually buy for food and looking for inefficiencies. I'd also have to get BF on board to keep his receipts. Anyway, so we'll see what happens with this over the next few months.
I am fairly certain that rather than just quitting work cold turkey forever, I will likely go work PT somewhere fairly soon after I reach FI. I have interests in property management, estate sales and bookkeeping (all things that could eventually become a small business with low start up costs) and it would be nice to make mistakes and learn with other people's money rather than risking my own. It just feels like a stupid risk to go for it now. I don't want to be stuck in a job I still hate and yet making half as much as I make now. I want the safety net of FI before I make the leap. So I opted to change to a 4% SWR in my calculations.
So taking into account the above three items getting a little better, paying off my student loans, and putting together a hypothetical ERE budget, I have calculated that all together I need to save about $400,000 before quit day, to yield a monthly budget of roughly $1000 (plus a paid off house). I guess once I amass that sum I can decide if I hate it so much I just want out, or if it would be worth it to work another year or two for some extra luxuries/peace of mind. Quitting with just $400,000 makes me nervous. It is a minimum of living expenses and doesn't allow for much extra to live a little or handle any contingencies that come up (black swans, new technology like tomorrow's cell phones/internet, or family emergencies). I don't know how much more than $400,000 would make me comfortable though, and if the trade off of staying at this job is worth it. I suppose working PT/opening a business would be a nice buffer for that, and I could try to live off of my taxable accounts for the remainder, and leave the TSP in tact for some future date.
Anyway, I am about halfway there which is somewhat encouraging, but what is not encouraging is that it will still take 4-5 more years to FI time unless the stock market kicks some ass and I can pocket some gains, or I come up with some other income source or some way to comfortably reduce the ERE budget (I am reviewing every couple of days and pondering). At least that is 4 years of tracking expenses so when that day comes I should be pretty confident of what my spending levels will really be. As of today though, with a net worth of approximately $158,000, assuming an average 4.5% return on my current portfolio, assuming sometime soon I can average expenses under $1000 monthly, I anticipate FI in 2016 sometime.
=====MONTHLY HYPOTHETICAL ERE BUDGET=====
Note: This is only what I have now and this changes almost daily.
Housing/Utilities: 200 (Assumes the following: splitting costs with boyfriend, with me purchasing a $100,000 home)
Pets: 20 (includes some build up for vet expenses)
Transportation: 50 (Bus tickets, Moped depreciation, occasional car share, moped gas)
Cell Phone: 15 (would likely change to a Page Plus pay per minute plan)
Health Insurance Premiums: 100
Recreation/Bars: 200 (I intend to take some classes)
Travel: 0 (I hope to make this up with the PT work I will do later)
Gifts: 30 (this includes Xmas spending, birthdays, etc)
Medical CoPays: 25 (represents $7500 in savings which I think would work for an HDHP, $5000 for a catastrophic event and $2500 for just "stuff" that comes up. I have no ongoing medical needs.)
Stuff to buy for fun: 50
Household Items: 20
960*300 (4% SWR) = 288000+100000 (house) = $388000