If you have figured out your why, and are seeking specific, actionable advice to implement your how to achieve a FIRE lifestyle, physician finance blogger B.C. Krygowski has written an ideal primer.
Her book adopts the confessional tone of a savvy older sister about to fill you in on everything you wanted to know about adulthood just as you are hit the cusp of financial puberty.
This book is the equivalent of your private coffee date with an expert who will not be satisfied with vague instructions to shop frugally and generalized statements about the need to make more meals at home. Rather, she outlines in exquisite detail:
- exactly which grocery stores are highest yield to shop at
- what level of the grocery store aisle are likeliest to offer budget food items
- precisely the systematic approach she adopted to pre-planning meals and shopping accordingly
- the leftovers policy that guarantees her family uses every part of the buffalo, so to speak
- how to exploit your instant pot for maximum benefit
- how to stock your pantry with health-promoting foods that can accommodate the one picky eater in every family
- how to transition social life from the costly (dining out with friends) to the frugal (hosting potlucks)
Given that food has the potential to be a major source of savings, it is not surprising that the book spends many pages investigating how to wring out maximum benefits from changing one's food mindset.
Some explorations are not the fodder of the usual FIRE gospel. Food delivery, for example, might be considered a luxury service by many who are looking to trim costs. Those professionals to whom the book is targeted, however, may have experience with grocery delivery.
Using in-depth firsthand research (that ought to be the basis for awarding her a doctorate), B.C. makes a reasonable case that the ability to resist impulse purchases combined with a professional's increased time-value of money, there are circumstances in which it may make sense to order food using a grocery delivery service.
Yet another option B.C. examines is whether a personal chef or meal prep service can fill a niche for a busy professional family looking to save relative to the cost of dining out. She provides honest appraisals of what worked, what didn't, and where the cost savings did not materialize as promised.
Additional explorations included using apps like Budget Bytes that calculate the cost per serving, cooking time, and dietary preferences in order to meet desired parameters (I'm betting that one was designed by a Trekkie engineer).
One of the more refreshing topics covered was how to avoid food waste. It turns out one's choice of food storage has a great deal to do with how long a shelf life it manifests. There are some helpful tips about making fruit last longer by understanding the chemistry of certain gaseous emissions they produce. I'll be taking my fruit farts that much more seriously going forward.
Frugality Without Deprivation
Personal history break: My paternal grandmother was orphaned, sent to a new country to live with relatives, and working in a Cuban bodega before she was out of elementary school. Her hard-scrabble upbringing included making a rag doll out of a used towel - she did the best she could with what she had.
My father, to this day, has an entire cupboard filled with more luxurious towels than he and my mom will ever use, many with the tags still on them. I suspect this is some sort of subconscious compensation for his mother's early life of poverty. (Should have read that psych textbook in med school more closely.)
In contrast, B.C. wants you to enjoy your vices at lower prices! Hers is not depression-era advice, as she understands that self-induced deprivation does not make for a satisfying early retirement lifestyle. Rather, B.C. bravely adapts coffee snobbery and alcohol consumption to financial goals. She wants your pampered backside to have a g'day enjoying your luxury bidet.
Better (Safer, More Efficient) Homes and Gardens
There is abundant advice that extends to extremely specific behaviors and activities, and that spans every aspect of daily living. She includes tips on weatherproofing for energy efficiency, furnishing your home, reducing your utilities, and cutting recurrent costs such as cell phone bills.
There is advice on distinguishing hand-me-downs for kids, tips for evaluating clothing purchases based on durability and utility.
There is a refreshing acknowledgement that standard FIRE advice a la Mr. Money Mustache may not apply universally to all geographies, as B.C. discusses with her husband's attempt to ride his bike 25 miles round trip to shifts at work (he is an ER doc, and shifts often start after dark). He broke an arm twice, and once encountered a 10 foot alligator on his Florida commute. They decided safety came first, and bought a second car.
Travel Slowly, For Less
One of the areas of niche expertise where B.C. shines is in her description of arranging home exchange travel as a means of cutting down on expenses abroad. This is admittedly a very first-world kind of conundrum, but one many professionals in a certain income bracket list as a major motivation for pursuing early financial independence.
The advice extends to packing travel-friendly snacks, hunting for bargain airfare, and even user-friendly online maps while abroad. It's comprehensive bordering on encyclopedic.
Who Would Most Benefit From This Book?
B.C. is a friend from Fin Con 18, and her voluble personality is well-reflected in this sound collection that is a repository for every bit of advice she has found high yield in her family's pursuit of financial independence.
The casual, conversational tone allows her to broach difficult topics comfortably. Her anecdotes of an upbringing with financial struggle provide context while imbuing her advice with authority - this is a woman who has lived on both sides of the tracks, and was able to preserve the lessons learned in times of hardship and translate them to habits that continue to pay off during these later times of abundance.
The comprehensive nature of the advice and high degree of specificity are alternately a strength (there are sections on beauty savings and weight loss strategy) and a potential drawback (despite her extensive praise of Aldi's, the closest store to me is an impractical hour's drive away, so the detailed chapter on grocery shopping was less applicable to my situation).
B.C.'s magnum opus is best used as a reference to be picked up often and tailored to your specific path. Sections are clearly marked, and the book is designed so that it need not be read chronologically. It is ideally used to navigate those rougher parts of pursuing financial independence (no one has trouble with spending lavishly on what brings value; it's the relentlessly cutting back on everything else that becomes a sticking point).
Just as valuable as the explicit directives is the benefit of entering the mindset of someone who has succeeded in a difficult endeavor and is generous enough to wish you similar success by offering you the unfair advantage of learning her perspective intimately. Getting B.C.'s voice in your head will train you to view old habits of spending with a new, more critical eye.
Spending Habits For Professionals Who Want To FIRE will be a terrific addition to your FIRE library and pour rocket fuel on your journey toward financial independence.