For years, I spent my days waking up early and rushing to wash, dress, and sit in traffic only to sit in a cube waiting to rush home. All that time, I was propped up by dreams of a freer life. It’s been two years since I quit my job. In some ways it’s the life I spent years dreaming of, and in some ways, it’s been very different.

Picture of lunch in Costa Rica.Lunch in Costa Rica

How my social life changed

I didn’t move, but leaving my job meant I’d no longer see many of my closest friends on a daily basis. I originally moved to CT for a job, so outside of work, I didn’t have much of a social circle. Without daily social interactions, I wasn’t sure how I’d find new friends. Who would I talk to all day?

It turns out, being preoccupied with work was costing me new friends. We meet people in all kinds of random ways, but it takes time to pursue and maintain relationships. While working, I was often too busy or tired to host the friends we did have. We even missed a lot of events (including some weddings) because of lack of vacation days. Time was money, and I was too greedy with it.

Looking back, that was a terrible way to go through life – weighing the time cost of going to a wedding, fundraiser, birthday party, or even helping someone move. Instead of being there for friends, we were outsourcing social obligations with cards and checks. That’s how you build a business, not a community.

Now my time goes where my heart wants, and I’ve been pouring more of it into my community. By being a better friend, I’ve found my social circle growing – even without the set daily interactions of a job.

Finding new friends

I started writing this blog as a trail of breadcrumbs for any friends or family who wanted to follow our footsteps. To show how you can trade a high priced corporate lifestyle for one that requires less resources (and thereby less time at work.) I wanted them to see how a lifestyle without spending a lot of money can be pretty f’ing awesome. I didn’t expect that this blog would become a beacon for like-minded people.

Picture of fire tower.It doesn’t take gobs of cash to get the most out of life

There are so many fun and inspiring people we’ve met through this blog. Several people who live nearby found us and quickly became close friends because we already shared the same lifestyle philosophy. We also found a massive community online – too big to even keep up with. Some of whom, like Carl from 1500days and Jeremy from GoCurrryCracker, we were happy to meet in person while they were traveling through the area.

Creating community

I’ve even become close friends with my neighbors. Now that I’m home more often, and not in a constant rush, I find myself more apt to striking up conversations.

The neighbor I’ve become closest with is an 80 year old retiree. He has a big greenhouse, and when I was building my own, I stopped over for advice. Since then we’ve been best buds. Mostly because we have shared interests in gardening, Italian cooking, wine making, and wine drinking.

Picture of goats.Running some errands at a local farm

The age difference is to our mutual benefit. He has almost a century of experience to share, and I have a strong back and can google things. I’m happy to be forming these relationships now, and at the same time, sad to look back at how many years I could have been having this community. I just didn’t have time.

I thought I might feel lonely in retirement, but I’ve found myself giving and receiving more love than I did before.

I’m also finding that time is a vacuum

While working, I was happy to see days, weeks, even months fly by. It’s depressing how I lived those precious days of my life waiting for it to be over. Now I find myself traveling to picturesque places and immersing in such captivating projects that I’m constantly wishing I could slow down time.

Picture of camp fire.

I thought I’d read a million books, watch movies, write more, and build more. The thing is, there is only so much time, and like a vacuum it will quickly fill with anything it can grab. I have to be careful with my time on Reddit, and YouTube. While they’re great resources for learning, sharing, and creating, they’re also happy to steal time in exchange for cheap entertainment.

I find myself mindfully allocating time to projects, reading, exercise, social interactions, and travel. The better I manage my time, the more productive and happy I am.

This blog is slowly growing and adding value

I thought that one of my hobbies might turn into a retirement gig. That hasn’t happened, but that’s not to say some of my hobbies, like this blog, haven’t made any money.

While it’s not the easiest thing to make money when you’re writing for fun (and mostly about ways to save money) I have found some mutually beneficial ways. Most of my blog income is from friends using my affiliate links for buying products on amazon. It doesn’t add up to much, but as the blog grows, the income does too.

So far this year, I’ve made a whopping $1k. Not much, but a pretty good return considering this hobby is teaching me new skills, growing community, inspiring friends to reach financial independence, and even inspiring some to quit their jobs. The few extra bucks pale in comparison to hearing a friend say that reading something I wrote helped them make positive changes in their life.

It’s also an artistic outlet for me (even if I’m limited to stick figures) and most of the time I’m writing because I’m excited to share all the cool ways we do awesome stuff for free or on the cheap.

How my other hobbies are adding value

Some other hobbies like gardening don’t add cash, but still enhance our lifestyle. Each year, my garden is becoming more and more productive. It’s a thrill when we get good crops, and I’m happy to be outside with my hands in the dirt.

Picture of greenhouse.The plants are loving my DIY greenhouse

I’m not out selling cucumbers, but we do profit through lower food costs, and a much higher quality diet. In my estimation, we farmed over $1k in fresh veggies, eggs, and meat over the last year.

We’re also traveling a lot more in retirement thanks to travel hacking. By signing up for over a dozen travel cards, we were able to fly to Costa Rica (twice,) Spain, Jamaica, Colorado, and Grenada – all for free.

Last year we spent about $4.5k on travel in addition to travel hacking about $10k of free airfare and lodging. Travel hacking doesn’t produce any income, but it stretches our travel budget more than I thought possible.

I’m still picking up new hobbies

On top of traveling, brewing beer, surfing, sailing, hiking, raising chickens, tinkering, snorkeling, making pizza, growing figs, fishing, gardening, and mountain biking, I keep picking up a new hobbies. The latest one I’ve been immersed in is mycology – mostly mushroom hunting and growing.

Picture of mushroom hunting.

With all these hobbies, I’m constantly in a state of learning, researching, and exploring new worlds around me. Hobbies are a big part of living well for less – they can transform a boring cheap lifestyle into a luxurious adventure of learning and creativity.

How has retirement affected my health and well being?

Every morning I get a shot of gratitude when I open my eyes and realize I can stay in bed as long as I want, and do whatever I want once I get up. It’s like waking up to a holiday, every damn day.

My life isn’t perfect, but about 90% of my stress is gone. No more Sunday night panic attacks. No more worry about whether some software bug is going to cause a financial/physical catastrophe. I chuckle at myself when I get stressed now, because it’s usually over travel planning – something I want to do.

I’m in control of my life way more than ever before. I used to get depressed every winter during the short dark days. This year we just hopped on a plane and spent over a month in the sun surfing Costa Rica.

Picture of sunset.The sunsets in Costa Rica are incredible

Not sitting at a desk all day has also been great for my physical health. I lost about 10 pounds in my first year off, and have remained at the same weight. I’m always busy with one project or another and haven’t really had to worry about staying in shape. The only thing that’s slowed me down so far was a pretty bad case of Lyme disease. But I’m recovering well and find myself busy hiking, biking, and gardening again.

Looking toward the future

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about money anymore. After all, smart saving and minding money is what allowed me to do what I do. Luckily, the value of our simple three fund portfolio has increased more over the last two years than what I would have made working.

So far, I’ve been very happy with what we have, and historically speaking, our portfolio is pretty bulletproof. We’re having a hell of a time while only spending $38k a year, and I’m more than happy to keep doing so.

Picture of chickens.It doesn’t take much money to make us happy

I’ve visited more places, made more friends, and learned more than I imagined. My experiences have been above and beyond what I thought possible, especially on a modest budget. Quitting my job to do what I want has been awesome, and well worth the lifestyle improvements we made to make it possible. Maybe this way of living isn’t for everyone, but for me, this is the life.