Is Achieving FIRE Worth The Sacrifice?

So many of us in the FIRE community spend endless amounts of time planning, plotting, strategically analyzing, and calculating every little detail in order to reach our goal.

For us, this means retiring by the time we both turn 50. To be able to leave our 9-5 existence behind us and never look back. To be free to live out the rest of our lives as we wish with few restrictions, and not spend our days trapped in a cubicle until we are 70.

For others, this goal may be exploring the world, becoming debt-free, or the freedom to pursue a career one is passionate about. But whatever the goal may be, we must ask ourselves this one question:

Is it worth the sacrifices that we have to make today, so we can achieve our goal for tomorrow?

This very question has forced us to carefully re-examine our lives. To make sure that we are not sacrificing the important things in order to reach our seemingly illusive goal. It’s not that we believe our goal is not worth striving for, we just know that we must be realists as we look toward the future.

Here are some of the sacrifices we have made thus far:

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Best slice in the North End! Boston, MA
  • We’ve missed out on precious time with family and friends in order to save money.
  • We’ve decided to watch the Red Sox on a flat screen TV in our living room instead of experiencing a live game at the ballpark.
  • We forego eating at some of the top restaurants in the country and opt for a slice of pizza for $3.00 at our favorite pizza joint.
  • We’ve wasted precious hours driving in circles in order to find a cheap piece of land to park a depreciating asset.
  • We routinely take advantage of the early morning specials and miss out on getting together with others at the movies, just so we can save a few bucks on the price of admission.

These seemingly small sacrifices may not appear like much on the surface, but this has had an impact on the amount of joy in our lives. And as we take a closer look at these sacrifices, we begin to wonder if our goal to achieve FIRE is worth what we are giving up along the way.

No one can deny that our future is unpredictable. We can do all of the scheming and plotting we want and have the best intentions, but the hard truth is that our lives can change in an instant. Life as we know it is not a guarantee, and we only have so many hours to experience those joyful occasions. The last thing we want is to look back on our lives and realize that we should have done things differently. This makes us ask another important question:

Will we have regrets later as a result of the sacrifices we made today?

When taking a really close look at what we’ve given up thus far, it’s impossible for us to know how we may feel the day we reach our goal. Will we look back and wish we have lived our lives differently? Or will we be so elated by reaching our goal that we move forward with our lives with much exuberance? Not having a crystal ball, we can’t predict this outcome. We can only make an assumption based on perception or how we imagine the end game may look like.

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Reminders on why it’s worth the sacrifice!

Does this mean we should give up our pursuit to achieve FIRE? 

After a great deal of reflection, we have decided to simply take another look at our needs vs. wants. To shift things around per se. To understand our priorities so we can fulfill our present with worthwhile memories for the future. To never deny ourselves the opportunity to live a joyous life (thank you, Our Next Life!).

Here are some of the ways we can live in peace with our sacrifices: 

  • Find inexpensive activities to do with family and friends – Offer them cheaper alternatives to expensive restaurants so we can spend more time together without breaking the bank.
  • Allow ourselves to see a live Red Sox game or two – Give ourselves permission to splurge once or twice a year so we can see a couple of games at the ballpark.
  • Enjoy a couple of meals out at our favorite restaurants – Work to eliminate food waste to make room in our budget for a few cheat meals.
  • STOP our obsession with cheap parking – Make fewer trips to the city so we can save money, gas, and time looking for a place to park our mobile. No more haggling with gas station owners in Boston to score cheap parking. Yep! We really did this!
  • Go ahead and meet friends at a matinée movie – Purchase gift cards at Costco so we spend only $74.99 for $100.00 worth of tickets, no restrictions.

We realize that these are seemingly insignificant things that we are adding back into our lives, but think about it. Life is made of the little moments. It’s about the small things. Those sparks of happiness that make us feel alive. This way our sacrifices are no longer sacrifices, and more importantly, we no longer need to fear having regrets.

Big or small, what sacrifices have you made in order to achieve a goal? Was it worth it? Do you have any regrets?

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45 thoughts on “Is Achieving FIRE Worth The Sacrifice?

  1. Hi there! Stupid question but what does FIRE stand for? We are also moving towards a debt free more frugal lifestyle. We also debate dinner out with friends vs stay in and other situations. The suggestions you listed are awesome. We are learning that much of what we do is behavior dictated by a consumeristic society. Changing perspectives about societal expectations has been helpful for us. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is no such thing as a stupid question! 🙂 FIRE stands for “financial independence, retire early”. It sounds as though you are moving in the right direction with your efforts in frugality and debt management. Hooray for you! Trust us, it’s so liberating. Feel free to check back in with us and let us know how it’s going! 🙂

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  2. Thought-provoking post. You have found some great ways to modify the ‘sacrifices’, most of which are social activities. Perhaps it is time to start a new trend- socialization sans the spending!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We would like to be able to socialize at the cost of free, but unfortunately whenever we recommend an inexpensive or free activity they turn their noses up. You should have seen the looks on their faces when I recommended a picnic in the park! We are hoping they will come around eventually. 🙂

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  3. I know what you mean. There were lots of little sacrifices during the 2.5 years we decided to pay off our student loans, but the most notable and biggest one was as new residents to Calgary when we first lived here we opted for a modest one bedroomandplace to rent and did not buy any furniture in the living room (which was fair size) and instead turned it into a work out room and dining table which also doubled as a work out room. We initially did this to avoid buying living room furniture in a city we did not know if there would be any permanence, but then opted to keep it this way after we knew we would stay. We saved on the cost of furniture and all future costs associated to hosting. Upside, this probably saved us thousands of dollars during those 3 years.downside, we never got to entertain the new friends we have made in Calgary. But now that we are debt free, we got the living room furniture and are super excited to host. This was a sacrifice that was not originally intended but that we were ok to do for 3 years, but not longer.

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    1. What a great story Pamela! Your sacrifices really paid off and I’m sure you are having far more fun knowing you can do some entertaining at home without having that student debt hang over you. Hopefully, you can keep the cost down on the entertaining by hosting potlucks, dessert swaps or appetizer parties!

      We live far away from our family, so we tend to meet them halfway. Unfortunately, this means they always want to meet up at a restaurant. We are trying to convince them to meet up at this beautiful park. But so far it hasn’t worked out. You wouldn’t have believed the strange looks we got when we made the recommendation to do a potluck picnic and go for a hike! Lol! I guess in our case, the challenge to keep the costs down on meeting up with family lives on. 🙂

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  4. “Life is made of the little moments.” There’s a lot of truth packed in that sentence! This is something I’ve been realizing lately and trying to take full advantage of. It’s made me realize that there’s way more to life than my financial goals. I definitely want to be wise with my money, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of life.

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    1. We couldn’t agree with you more that there is more to life than money! You made the right decision to focus more on your family, and not worry so much about where you are on your financial goals. Besides, the only guarantee we have in life is the present! 🙂

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  5. I think that completely depriving yourself of the things you enjoy now just to work towards financial independence is a bad strategy. For many of us, we choose to go after FI because life is short. Well, if you continue to put off all things you enjoy for 10,15, or 20 years until you hit it, then you are still doing the same thing as waiting until traditional retirement age.

    Life is too short to not enjoy life. You just need to be intentional with your spending and realize you can do somethings, just not everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We like how you said that you need to be “intentional with your spending” because this couldn’t be more accurate! Being able to balance saving for FIRE, and also enjoying your life in the meantime is key. Great insight! Thank you for the comment! 🙂

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  6. When we started our FIRE journey, I knew I might be pushing our tolerance a little bit. So we have a state of the union pow-wow at the beginning of every year to discuss what we were missing the year before and we make the necessary adjustments, all while keeping in mind our ultimate goal.

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    1. Getting together every year to analyze what modifications are to be made for the following year is such a great idea! I think all of us should we having *pow-wows* so we don’t miss out on the important things in life. Thank you for the wonderful suggestion! 🙂

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  7. Great topic. I think frugality is a great tool but it makes a terrible life purpose. I don’t miss most of the things we’ve sacrificed, but we’ve always been cautious to include (inexpensive) time with friends and families and carefully chosen thrifty hobbies. I think my husband feels the sacrifices a bit more than I do; he drives the older, rustier car and perhaps has more adventurous interests than I do. My perfect pastime is reading library books, anyway! I think it’s great that you’re working some of those little things back into your budget 🙂

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    1. Very true! Frugality really doesn’t fit into perfect slot so to speak. It sounds as though your husband is a good sport, and a smart one to be willing to drive the older car. Mr. FE did the same, so I’m sure he can relate. Finding inexpensive activities is a great way to stay on a budget, and makes it so you are not missing out on anything! 🙂

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  8. We have been fortunate to have had dual careers with a saving rate, albeit not super high, to get us into a good place today. The power of compounding is enormous.

    We would not have changed a thing in terms of the experiences we had by spending on things like great family vacations, both pre-kids and after kids were born. Experiences remain in the heart/mind forever. Stuff like cars, TV’s, boats – not so much.

    The rule of living by Arnold Beckman,a great scientist and innovator which we like is:

    “Everything in moderation, including moderation”

    We think it important to always seek balance. Otherwise there are often troubles at opposite ends of the frugality – spend continuum.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Compound interest really is a magical thing!

      That’s so nice how you guys have already figured out the important things. Stuff is just stuff, but experiences last a lifetime.

      Great piece of wisdom by Arnold Beckman! Thank you so much for sharing it! 🙂

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  9. This is a consistent thought for me, it is part of the reason we don’t have a budget – I am not willing to pass up certain things because I hit my budget number to early in the month.

    We find areas to cut so we can spend where we want – we still live pretty comfortably and only pass up things “on the fence” – if we think it will be a great time, we do it

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  10. Definitely a legitimate question to ask. I think it is really an individual preference. I pick and choose what I am willing to sacrifice on. I will give up going out for beers at night with the boys but I won’t give up playing golf for anything. I will cut back on food but I need to take a vacation every year no matter what. I think it is easy to get carried away and make yourself miserable chasing a dream that may never come. My mother died at 57 years old and never got to retirement. I am 47 now and I think of that while I am stashing cash sometimes. I worry I will never get to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I am trying to retire early so I can have a few years of living the way I want to, but there is no guarantee. I think with most things in life, moderation is the answer. Don’t lose sight of that. It is such a thought provoking post, thanks for asking the question.

    -Brian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sounds as though you’ve arrived at the perfect balance between needs vs wants! Golf is a healthy activity and if it’s something you enjoy you shouldn’t give it up. Focusing on the quality of your life is the best way to live.

      Sorry to hear about you losing your mother at such a young age. It’s an important reminder to appreciate what we have in the present and not take things for granted. As you pointed out, reaching retirement age is not a guarantee so it’s important to get as much happiness out of the life we have now. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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  11. Keep the FIRE burning! I recently had a discussion with my wife about this exact question. Of course me (the grinder) didn’t see what the fuss was about. I want to cut deeper and actually “grind” it out. In my eyes, we are at 60% of being on FIRE. I would like to be at 85%, she would like to be at 40%. Our compromise came when we decided to first choose the things that we would not sacrifice before the cutting began. FIRE is worth the sacrifice as long as you aren’t extreme as to place a wedge in your relationship or if it is unbarable. I found that rewards like 3 day weekends and shopping sprees can help extend your flame!

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  12. This is a question that I think all but the most frugal among us on the FIRE path struggle with at some point. It’s tough! But I love the balance that you arrived at — that seems like a great list of compromises that retains the joy of the activities you love while containing spending. And that list is unique to what YOU care most about. We go to the movies like once or twice a year, and that’s enough for us, and we care less and less about restaurants. But if there’s a concert or music festival we want to go to? No stopping us. (If only Costco would sell discounts to those!!) 🙂

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    1. We agree that finding that perfect balance can be hard, but we have no choice if we plan on sticking with this for the long haul. It’s really about adjusting our mindset so we can have the best of all worlds.

      We have purchased tickets to concerts and broadway musicals through our credit cards at a discount in the past, so it may be worth looking into. You never know what you’ll find. 🙂

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  13. Oh Lordy!! I thought we’d lost you back to the ‘Dark Side’ there for a moment. Reading your post I thought I was getting to the point where you would say “That’s it from us. We’re not going to sacrifice ourselves to this concept of sensible spending and plans to retire early. We’re going back to our previous life of wasteful spendiness, and stupid financial decisions so that we can keep up with our friends and family”.

    But no, you are coming up with sensible ideas to enjoy your lives and times with friends without blowing the budget. Good on ya guys. And having the occasional ‘big day out’ or night, doesn’t do you any harm either.

    In fact, when we do that and I see how others are throwing their money around, it only strengthens my resolve not to do it.

    Keep living the plan guys.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol! Happy you kept on reading. Trust us, we are never going to give up on our goal to achieve FIRE!

      We don’t require much…just a couple of meals out and a couple of live baseball games for Mr. FE to enjoy. The rest of the time we are more than content with cooking our own meals and watching the games on TV.

      Our biggest obstacle is trying to spend time with family without it being an expensive undertaking. Unfortunately, they still have trouble grasping the fact that we are on a mission to achieve FIRE. We’ll see how this goes! 🙂

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  14. I’ve read all the other comments and I agree with most that you are finding that “balance” you need to keep forward progress. If you don’t give yourself the few small things you REALLY love, it will be hard to stay motivated! We love music too and give in to the concerts/festivals (although we have hit a few MLB games too!) We cut back in other areas (eating out) so we enjoy these events even more! Great post and keep up the great work! Your efforts to reflect will take you far!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We agree that it’s about finding the right balance so we can stay motivated on our journey to achieve FIRE. We love music too and enjoy the free concerts the city hosts during the summer. We’ve seen a lot of great musicians that way! We appreciate your insight and thank you for the comment! 🙂

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  15. I think it is really important to stay grounded in your relationships. Many friends and families can meet you half-way. I think that balance is really important. Too many friends have passed very unexpectedly and very early for me to think that spending time saving money is the most important thing.

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  16. We have been thinking about this a lot lately. It really is tough– I can’t imagine looking back on my life and being thrilled that ALL I DID was penny pinch and NEVER enjoyed something like being physically present at a ball game. Very thought provoking, thanks for sharing.

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    1. Exactly! Life is meant to be lived, and we agree that there is no point giving up today so we can live tomorrow. It’s worth seeking out that perfect balance so we can have the best of both worlds. Thank you for the comment!

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  17. Great post and something that I have asked a couple of times as well as I start my journey and blog towards FIRE.
    I definitely think it’s all about getting the right balance between retiring young but also living the life you have now! Waiting until you’ve retired in order to do so could mean that you miss out on certain things making FIRE not worth the sacrifice. It’s a very personal thing, but I think for me I’d quite happily work a little longer so that I can travel and do other things, that will inevitably cost money, along the way.

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  18. I struggle with this issue a lot, especially when it comes to the kids. Our goal for financial semi-independence is largely based on a desire to have more time for our family. But getting out of debt and building up assets is very demanding. The best solution I can come up with is to make sure I’m using my time wisely and not wasting it. If I’m not working or side hustling, then I need to play with the kids, or do something meaningful with my time. Even if it’s just relaxing for a few minutes, I want to actually relax – not goof around on Facebook. Also, things like a super-tidy house can’t be a priority.

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  19. Hey Frugalies! Yes it is worth it!

    It is harder to visualize the benefits of something in the future, when you can get benefits now. Nearly everyone struggles with this and that’s okay :).

    Every day, every moment we are deciding what to do with our time. I find your blog interesting, enjoyable, compelling, entertaining and inspiring. I enjoyed reading this post a lot, so I use my time to read and I enjoyed it so much I feel compelled to comment too.

    And you care enough to use your time to read my response so you choose to spend your time doing that.

    Are either of us any closer to FIRE because of this? Probably not! Haha.

    My point is, sometimes things are worth doing, even if it’s got nothing to do with achieving FIRE. We must choose how we spend our time and our money. Our life was happening 5 years ago, it is happening now and it’s happening in the future. I personally try to have as much fun now, without taking away from the future, and allowing compounding to work for me(/us). It is a hard balance to find, and we also have to decide how much money we actually want. I could work until my 50s and live frugally until then, and (hopefully) have many millions by then and have a lavish lifestyle. Or I could work until my 40s, have some millions less, but have more time to enjoy it. I could work until my 30s, have much less money, but have much much more time to enjoy it.

    We must decide what we want – what do you want?

    The only thing I don’t want, is to miss being able to do what I want in ‘peak’ fitness/body years. I’d hate to only start living FIRE after 50, I’d have missed the best years of my life to do awesome stuff.

    Tristan

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  20. I don’t think I’m as hardcore on the whole FIRE thing as you, so I don’t know if anything I’ve given up feels like a sacrifice. We’ve given up a lot – going out to eat more often, expensive gatherings, and buying fancy things. But it’s stuff we won’t regret not doing 5, 10 years from now.

    We still go out to concerts and vacations, we just try to limit it.

    That being said, I admire you and anybody that pursues FIRE with a passion! Keep at it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sounds as though you’ve found the perfect balance between living life and saving for the future so you don’t feel as though you are making many sacrifices. Kudos! 🙂

      Not sure how *hardcore* we are where we also go to concerts and enjoy vacations. Although we never pay for concert events and almost always try to stick to a spending limit of about $100 on most of our vacations. 🙂

      Speaking of vacations…we apologize for the delayed response where we just returned home from a three week getaway! As always…we appreciate your comments and enjoy chatting about FIRE! 🙂

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  21. Ha, I must admit that giving up the chase for cheap parking is something we did awhile ago! Our car has been broken into a few times so forking up for a spot in a parking building on the rare occasion we go out also gives us more peace of mind.

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    1. We certainly don’t miss the parking aspect of living in the city! 🙂 Parking in secured facilities is so expensive so we hope you found a decent rate!

      Sorry for the delayed response and we welcome you to our blog! 🙂

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