What I’m buying this Christmas

For me, financial independence is a dirty secret.

Most people want to retire early and to be financially free, but not many people have an actionable plan in how they are going to achieve this.

Only my wife (and you!) know about my ambitions to retire early.

I’ve turned a couple of very close friends onto the FIRE movement. They are aware of Mr Money Mustache, of F-You money and the 25x withdrawal rate. Do they know that I’m working towards all of this? I’m not sure.

One of my friends is very keen on investing, but has no idea where to start. I mentioned him and his excessive takeaway habit in one of my first posts. I’ve pointed him in the direction of some of my favourite FIRE websites and blogs, and he’s slowly coming round to the idea. But I’ve not mentioned any books about retiring early.

When it comes to buying Christmas presents, I know exactly what I’ll buy him.

JL Collins’ book is the last word on financial independence. It defines it. As a concept, I’m not sure anything really needs to be said about the movement and what it means. You may have heard of Collins through the FIRE movement, and if you haven’t, I suggest you look at his website.

It sets out a strategy and methodology to start and complete the undertaking and to retire early. Its not preachy or judgemental like other personal finance books. You don’t need an economics degree to understand it, either.

JL Collins’s book is easily accessible. His voice is calm and reasoned. Take a look at this post, where he gives the reader a meditation when the stock market is plunging. The book does what it says on the tin: it sets out a simple path to wealth. In my view, it is one of the best personal finance books.

A Simple Path to Wealth is a perfect stocking filler for those interested in financial independence and retiring early.

Follow me on Twitter @swearingmoney

***The information contained herein does not constitute financial or other professional advice and is general in nature.
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How to save money (with a baby)

You look at the plastic stick. Take stock. Look again. Check once more. Definitely. A baby is on its way. 

Congratulations! Life is about to start getting real for you. 

Soak in this moment. Think about all the joy that a baby will bring. 

And then…boom! You think about the financial impact. 

Ok, that isn’t exactly what happened with me. The euphoria lasted a good few days before I thought about money. But as it’s been a year since our first scan, and therefore the first time we saw our little baby on the screen, I thought it was a good idea to write down some tips that I picked up since my son came along. 

It’s true. Becoming a parent is daunting in so many different ways. 

Various thoughts tumbled through my head: will I be a good father? Will I find the time to spend with my child? How will I pay for him/her?

Luckily, we are in a position where my wife can take a year off of work (yes, I’m jealous!). But we had to crunch the numbers first and work out where we could cut back. 

Make no mistake, finances are important, but in my mind are secondary to raising a child. Clearly love is more important. However, this being a personal finance website, I can’t get all hippy with you. Yet….

Throughout the first six months of his life, here are some things that I’ve learnt. I’m sure that everything might not apply to all new parents, but it’s a summary of how we’ve managed to lessen any financial impact:

Accept donations

I was surprised by the amount of stuff people lent us/gave us when they found out we were having a baby. Friends and family whose children were a little older were happy to part with some of their belongings. 

Here’s a quick list of the things I can remember that people passed on to us:

-maternity clothing (for my wife, not needed for me!)

-baby clothing

-car seat (from our best friend. Be very careful about this one!)

-a bouncer

a walker

-a baby bath

Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine


-a breast-feeding chair

If we bought all of this new, we would probably have been a several thousand pounds down. 

Don’t buy many clothes for the first few months 

Everyone will want to buy your baby clothing. Our little one unfortunately didn’t even get a chance to wear everything he was bought. 

Aside from plain vests and sleep suits, we didn’t really need to buy anything.

Buy things using cashback sites/cards

This is a no-brainer and something you should be doing anyway.

Only use it for essential purchases and sit back as each registered transaction earns you money. 

Over the past year, my wife and I have claimed over £200 from TopCashback.

Buy second-hand

We didn’t really do this, although I wish we had. My wife was sceptical about the condition of things. Knowing more than to argue with a pregnant lady, I went along with her. But friends of ours bought everything on Facebook and eBay. 

I can only dream about how much money they would’ve saved

Try to breastfeed

This isn’t right for everyone, and I know some people aren’t able to breastfeed. This is our experience, so if you’re unable to or don’t want to, that’s fine. 

But from a financial perspective, feeding our baby natures goodness saved so much money for us. And it’s convenient, too.

Going through my numbers, putting aside the bills I’m paying now my wife isn’t at work, there isn’t really much of a difference in my savings rate.

It turns out that having a baby doesn’t need to be that expensive. Although when they get older, it might well be…

If you’re anything like me, your finances will adjust. You’ll eat out and meet up with friends less, but you’ll enjoy spending quality (free!) time with your bundle of fun. 

If anything, having a baby has motivated me more to become financially independent. I want to spend my time with my family; not in an office cubicle.

I wouldn’t change anything. There’s probably never a perfect time financially to have children. You have to adapt.

We’re humans. And that’s what we do best. 

Follow me on Twitter @swearingmoney

***The information contained herein does not constitute financial or other professional advice and is general in nature.
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Dreams about becoming financially independent (and general thoughts about money)

Readers may note that this blog is named after a lyric from a Bob Dylan song, called ‘It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’. At the bottom of this article, I’ll post the whole lyric. 

This song explains, better than I can, my thoughts about money in today’s society. Take ‘advertising signs they con/ you into thinking you’re the one/ who can do what’s never been done/ who can win what’s never been won.’ And then think about the last time you had an urge to buy something because it keeps popping up on your Facebook feed. 

Of course, there are no prizes for guessing the line in the song that grips me the most: 

‘Money doesn’t talk, it swears’.

JL Collins calls it ‘F-You’ money. The moment when you have enough money behind you to walk into your boss’s office and hand them your notice. When you don’t need them, you’re financially independent. 

Having that sort of money is the dream for almost everyone. Yet, it’s accessible to most of us. By thinking about what we are purchasing, lowering our expenses and saving the difference, we too can become financially independent. 

I’ve already explained that I’m very much at the start of this journey. I thought it would be a good idea to give you a bit of background about me. 

I wasn’t born into a well off family. We weren’t poor either. But my father was self-employed. Each day, he would come home and tell my mum how much he had taken. One year, when the UK was in a recession, I remember that nerves were fraught. Work was drying up. 

I’ve never asked him, but I don’t think my father is much of a saver. In any case, this part of my life shaped how I thought about money. 

When I started work, I never took stability for granted. I knew that loyalty between a company and employee counts for nothing. At any moment, I knew that I could be dispensed with. 

Of course, at 17 years old, although these thoughts tumbled around my head, I didn’t have the means to do anything about it. 

Actually, ignore that. I had the means, but I didn’t have the knowledge. I was more interested in nights out with my friends than a 10% return on my investments. Wouldn’t it have been great to have started investing way back then?

Money carries weight in this society. From big business to the man on the street, being financially stable is important.

Known for his turn of phrase, Bob Dylan has another quote that has a FIRE spin: ‘A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.

In a nutshell, that sums up financial independence to me. In however many years, I hope to be able to wake up when I want and to spend my time at my own will. I imagine I will still work at my freelance writing side hustle, but I won’t be a slave to 9-5 work.

Another not-financial-independence-related-but-I’ve-put-my-own-spin-on-it quote is from Charles Bukowski. At FIRE finishing school, they should give out a copy of his novel, Post Office, such is the drudge of working life which he describes. Factotum is the next step, which follows Bukowski’s semi-fictional self’s early writing life. My favourite quote is: “How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so? ”

This is why I want to become financially independent. So I can enrich my own life, rather than those at the top of the company chain.

Anyway, to play you out, here is Bob Dylan:

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying

Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you’d just be one more
Person crying

So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Except hatred

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Make everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it

Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something they invest in

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed
Graveyards, false gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
what else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only


Follow me on Twitter @swearingmoney

***The information contained herein does not constitute financial or other professional advice and is general in nature.
This post contains affiliate links.