Many people dream of retiring early. In fact, there’s even a movement these days, called FIRE, that offers the hope of financial independence (“FI”) and the ability to retire early (“RE”) from the grind.
However, it’s important to note that in many cases, FIRE requires a great deal of planning — and sacrifice. You might need to reduce or eliminate some spending to set aside enough money to reach your FIRE goals.
Let’s take a look at some of the expenditures common to U.S. households, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Then, we’ll look at ways to reduce spending so that you’re more likely to reach FIRE status.
The average spent on shelter by U.S. households in 2019: $12,190
Want to reduce your housing costs? Consider getting a roommate or downsizing. You could even move in with relatives for a time.
However, if you prefer to maintain your own home, you can turn it into a moneymaker. Rent out a room through a vacation rental website like Airbnb or VRBO, rent out your whole home when you’re not there, or explore the other options we detail in “8 Ways to Earn Extra Income With Your Home.”
You’ll pay off your mortgage faster, reducing your costs and providing a place to live debt-free after you retire.
The average spent on groceries by U.S. households in 2019: $4,643
On top of that, if you want to make some extra money, there are ways to earn cash delivering groceries. A little extra, set aside from your gig, can get you to FIRE status that much faster.
3. Vehicle purchases
The average spent on vehicle purchases by U.S. households in 2019: $4,394
If you want to avoid this cost, one way is to get your car to last a little longer to eliminate the need to buy something else.
If you do make a vehicle purchase, consider buying a late-model used car. Some gently used models can save you as much as 56% compared with the price of a new model.
4. Eating out
The average spent on eating out by U.S. households in 2019: $3,526
Maybe it even makes sense to spend more on groceries while spending less on eating out. Cooking at home is usually a lot cheaper than getting take-out or using meal kits. It certainly costs less than eating at a restaurant.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t go out. With a little planning, it’s possible to slash your restaurant costs, as we detail in “A Former Restaurant Critic Shares Her 11 Best Tips for Dining Out Cheaply but Well.” All your savings can be put into an account designed to help you reach FIRE goals.
5. Gas and motor oil
The average spent on gas by U.S. households in 2019: $2,094
Keeping your car running can be costly. There are ways to save at the pump, though. Taking the time to reduce what you spend on gas can pay off in the end.
Another way to save money on gas is to use public transit if it’s available and reliable. Plus, if you’re not using your car, you can make extra money by renting it out. That can offset some of your costs and even increase the capital you end up with, helping you get to FIRE.
6. Clothing and footwear
The average spent on clothing by U.S. households in 2019: $1,883
One of the best ways to save on clothing is to shop at thrift stores or secondhand shops. For pointers from a veteran thrift store shopper, check out “11 Secrets to Finding Quality Clothing at Thrift Shops.”
There are also plenty of online sites offering gently used clothing, including brand-name and designer clothing. You can even make money off the clothes you no longer wear by selling them online using a service like thredUP.
7. Cellphone service
The average spent on cellphone service by U.S. households in 2019: $1,218
Looking to save hundreds of dollars a year on cellphone service? Consider switching carriers, joining a family plan or buying your phone outright instead of buying it on a payment plan. With a little planning and creativity, you can get the connectivity you crave for less.
8. Car insurance
The average spent on car insurance by U.S. households in 2019: $1,545
Take the time to shop around for car insurance each time your policy is up for renewal, and you could save money each month. If you don’t have time or don’t want to comparison shop, a third-party service like The Zebra or Gabi can do it for you and give you quotes to choose from.
Or, avoid the need for car insurance completely by using public transportation.
9. Alcoholic drinks
The average spent on alcoholic drinks by U.S. households in 2019: $579
Want to reduce your drinking bill? The best way to save is to give it up. If that’s not your style, consider buying alcohol at a warehouse club. You can get a lower price, and those savings can fuel your FIRE effort.
Not a warehouse club member? That’s not a problem for some chains, including Sam’s Club — you can buy wine, beer and spirits there without a membership.
10. Prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs and vitamins
The average spent on drugs and vitamins by U.S. households in 2019: $486
You can slash prescription drug costs by as much as 50% by using tips such as paying with a discounted gift card or even paying out of pocket for some medications, as we detail in “5 Ways I Slashed My Drug Costs up to 50%.”
Take the time to shop around and compare prices, too. There are free websites that make this easy, and you might be surprised at how much you can save.
11. Cleaning supplies
The average spent on cleaning supplies by U.S. households in 2019: $185
This category includes laundry detergent, which can be expensive. You might be surprised to learn that you might not need laundry detergent at all on lightly soiled clothes. But if you do need detergent, it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to make. See “3 Easy Ways to Get Laundry Soap for Nearly Nothing.”
Other cleaning supplies are just as easy and cheap to make on your own, as we detail in “Never Buy These 7 Overpriced Cleaning Products Again.” There’s no reason to spend a lot on cleaning supplies.
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