< DadBodfi >
Crack a Beer. Crack a Joke. Crack the code to Financial Independence.
It's official, we are more than halfway through the college and NFL football season and I have not paid one penny to watch any game I've wanted. Again- I have had zero cable expense since July. My wife has been able to watch her favorite shows and my kids have been able to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings.
I am able to do this by the aforementioned strategy of Trial Hacking. Basically I sign up for a free trial of streaming service, set a reminder on my google calendar to cancel, and I am never charged for the service. Some trials are 7 days long while others are as long as 30. We have multiple email addresses in our household and because we are combining this with Travel Hacking, we have no shortage of credit cards to use.
This all started when my wife and I made a bet. If I could go a season without paying for NFL Direct TV Sunday ticket (now up to around $300), she would be fine without her Real Housewives. We have been going strong for over 4 months.
Overall, as long as you are diligent with your calendar and don't mind taking 5 seconds out of your day to log-on and cancel your trial, this is a strategy that works. Simply sign up when you know you have programs that you want to watch (football, reality TV) and cancel when you're done. I like this strategy because it also eliminates the idea of "channel surfing", or just sitting down to watch TV because you have it. Go read a book or talk a walk instead.
Here is a list on the streaming services I've used, in no order:
Hulu Live TV
Additional non-cable trials:
Amazon Audible - 30 Days Free and 2 Free Books
Netflix DVDs - 30 Days Free with 2 DVDs at a Time
Amazon Music - 30 Days Free Unlimited Music
Sirius XM Radio - 2 months Free
This past Monday sucked. I woke up around 3 AM and instantly started to think about the work trip I would be embarking on in a few short hours. I thought about having to leave my wife and kids at home and how much I would miss them. I thought about how she would be taking on the arduous task of 2 kids vs. 1 parent over the next 72 hours and how exhausted she would be. I thought about missing my favorite part of the week, where I get to pick my son up from school. I thought about the meetings I had lined up and the pressure to execute. I thought about the long drive and the hotel sleeping arrangements. But this was life right? Every working American deals with this type of anxiety? Later on as I said good-bye to my son before school, it hit me. I actually held back a tear for the first time in a while as I did not want him to see me upset. I was completely bummed.
I arrived at my hotel that evening and my wife called me. Low and behold she was at an urgent care clinic with the kids. My older son had gotten his fingers jammed in the car door like every other kid has done in his/her life. She had everything under control as always and my son was fine. However shes knows me so well that she actually waited until my son stopped crying to call me. She knew if I had heard him screaming on the way to the clinic I would have hopped back in my car and drove 5 hours straight back home. As she calmly told me what was going on, I realized there was nothing I could do and that this could happen anytime, anywhere. I couldn't help but feel helpless.
The day before this was excellent. My in-laws were in town visiting which is always fun (yes I actually get along very well with my in-laws). We took a family outing to the mall to meet Santa and ride the trolley. We watched ICE AGE and then had a dance party in the kitchen (Free Trial from Amazon Music). To cap off the night, my father-in-law showed me a recent method he had learned for cooking the greatest steak of all time (recipe below) and we enjoyed a couple bottles of fine wine.
How could my stress level change so drastically in less than 12 hours? I enjoy my job for the most part and I work for a good company. They take care of me and I put relentless effort into the grind every day. It has plenty of perks - company car, travel reward points, no 9-5 office computer work. However - find me any human who would rather be working away from his family for one extra second rather than spinning his kids around to Justin Timberlake and I will show you a liar.
I always try to find the positives in negative situations. Monday dealt me the favor of confirming the decision I have to made to slash my expenses, pay off debt, and increase my savings rate to pursue financial independence. If I can cut the number of Sunday Scaries by 20, 10, or even 5 years, it will be worth every second. The time we have with the people we love is too short to take for granted and I'm going to do everything I can to maximize it.
Cast Iron Skillet Steaks -
Beer (Wine) Review: Chardonnay - Winking Owl, California (ALDI @ $2.89 a bottle??)
Cheap, well balanced, crisp white wine. I could have easily mistaken this for a $25 bottle. I've been wanting to hop on the ALDI train for quite some time. Today as I was waiting around the auto repair shop I walked across the street to check it out. Way more to come on this store. Official Review: 7/10 (Hard to beat that value)
The path to Financial Independence can be simple if you let it - cut your expenses, eliminate debt, and increase savings. I started this path a few months ago and started to obliterate my budget. I have also been slashing my student loans and most recently I paid off our family SUV. No more car payment feels great. I still can't believe I let that weasel talk me into financing that car four years ago.
As I recall, I shopped around the lot for a few hours test-driving and "negotiating". Towards the end of my journey, I was able to talk the salesman into taking $1,000.00 off the sticker price. He later rescinded this offer, saying that the dealership had mistakenly overpriced the vehicle. According to him, they were going to let it slide this time and I was getting a great deal. I knew this asshole was lying, but I had given enough time to this place and was willing to just sign away.
As my journey completed, I was escorted into another office where I met with a gentleman named Alex. "Let's talk warranties" he exclaimed. I politely told him "Alex, I'm just fine with the manufacturer's issue". The conversation ensued, and he finally talked me into $5 extra a month on my payment for a 7 year extended warranty. I had no clue what this got me but he made it sound pretty great.
I am not here to tell you that I know much about automobile warranties, or that I am an expert negotiator at the car dealership (that honor belongs to my father - he is the first human that I have ever seen walk into a car dealership and be avoided by the salespeople). In fact, I would avoid any car buying situation that is not a used-car cash sale ( see "Spending: The FI Way" http://dadbodfi.com/blog/spending-the-fi-way ). I simply would advise anyone to research what their warranty actually covers for this reason:
On Friday I went to start our car. The battery was dead. Fantastic. Normally, I would call a friend for a jump or maybe even get a tow to the nearest repair shop. I would then get an estimate on a new battery and be told that I have 12 other things wrong with my car. Instead, I researched my aforementioned warranty from Alex. I found out that I could get a free jump or tow as long as it was under $100. I also learned that my battery was covered for full replacement up to 7 years.
I called roadside assistance and they came to my house to jump my car. I drove it to a local shop and they replaced my battery. I had to pay taxes and a small labor fee. The entire fix totaled $27.53. If you factor in the tow/jump and new battery, my 15 minute research saved me about $200. That is how you become a little bet better than the guy next to you and reach financial independence.
Beer: Wild Range IPA (ALDI: $5.99/6-Pack)
6/10 - Great price (3 bucks less than the premium selections at the grocery store) Crisp taste to start, but lacks the depth of flavor of a more ambitious IPA. The maltiness described on the package seems to give it a slightly sour finish that trends in the opposite direction of a traditional IPA.
This article is inspired directly by Episode 81 from ChooseFI - The Year of Less with Cait Flanders. Find this amazing episode here and listen to it ASAP:
This was the first episode of ChooseFI that I listened to after the Travel Rewards Episode (009). The founder of DadBodFI pointed me to this podcast and I was instantly engaged with the CC episode but then I didn’t instantly follow up with the next episode in line. Instead I added ChooseFI to my growing list of Podcasts and got wrapped up listening to the same 3 podcasts as usual.
Then episode 81 popped up and began to play on my drive home and I was hooked. I sat listening in my garage for 10 minutes soaking in the message – stop consuming things that you think make you happy. When you do this; you will no longer have the constant pull of retail-therapy clouding your actions and instead you will naturally replace this activity with something that brings happiness and fulfillment. I was transfixed. This was totally me – I love buying new gadgets for my computer, finding new little things on Amazon was a hobby I needed to kick. Furthermore, my wife and I were getting fast food 2-3 times a week, going out to breakfast and dinner on the weekends, and generally not tracking how much we spent on those activates.
I made a statement – I wasn’t going to buy anything for myself, no fast food, no toys/gadgets, no tools – nothing for an entire month. The first two weeks were… interesting. I noticed something about myself. I craved Chick Fil-A. I watched YouTube videos about the newest computer equipment. I had to try very hard not to instinctively buy a 12 pack of beer during our Sunday runs to the store (@ 15.99 per box). I realized that to re-shape my behavior I had to first change how I spent my time. I wanted Chick Fil A because I was staying up late and running out the door too quickly. I wanted gadgets because I was watching YouTube videos titled “coolest tech under $50.00,” Beer – I was just drinking too much of it so I decided to cut down to 1 day a week and 1 on the weekend.
I made the change and it was empowering; I planned it and I did it. I think this must be one of the fastest Action/Result loops out there and it’s addicting when you get over the initial hill. I kept going and the next month was easier (July). Then into the next month (August)… I faltered – I spent $100.00 dollars online on something that I didn’t need. In fact, it wasn’t even something I could get value from. I got excited about Football season and I spent $100.00 so that I could gamble on an impulse. I felt so guilty and the worst part – I was holding my wife accountable to the same standards and I knew I had let her down.
So now I was a hypocrite. I could have kept it quiet; I manage the money and I have access to that account and she trusts me with this responsibility. But I wrestled with the idea and ultimately I just couldn’t betray that trust. Her reaction when I confessed is just one of the reasons I love her so much. She called me out on it and was righteously frustrated (hence my week-long wait before finally giving in). She had been making sacrifices to adhere to this rigorous routine that I implemented for us and I broke the code. BUT, here is the best part: she didn’t go out and spend money to get even. She made sure I stayed accountable moving forward – that teamwork and stubborn resolve to stick to our plan was amazing. I was surprised by how disappointed I was in myself but then blown away by how my wife totally decided not to give in and instead challenge me on staying the course.
That was 2 months ago and we are still going strong.
Look, in life there are some things that just need to get done. Unfortunately, a lot of those things result in you doing them because if you don’t, they’re never going to happen. Getting your car serviced is one example. It sucks, but no one is going to knock on your door and offer to burn half a day at the service shop sitting in an uncomfortable chair flipping through People magazine from last April. That task is 100% on you. At DadBodFI we kicked around these type of tasks and landed on one that is at or near the top. Shopping for and acquiring a life insurance policy. I know.. It’s not fun at all but hang with us for a minute and let’s work this through.
We write a lot about the journey towards financial independence and it all boils down to time. The decision to value our time above our money. We invest our hard earned dollars in an effort to make our wealth grow to do what? Acquire more time that is not earmarked for work. The second piece to the life insurance puzzle is family. We want to increase the amount of time spend with our family because that’s the time we value the most. We think of life insurance like this: It gives us the opportunity to provide the people we care about most with a tool to acquire time. If you pass away tomorrow it’s going to suck for your family. We don’t mean to present the idea of life insurance as crass by any means, but here’s the bottom line.. Either your family loses you, or they lose you and your income. The choice is yours. Having a life insurance policy is going to feel a lot like stroking a check to nobody for nothing. That can be a tough pill to swallow. However, the key is understanding that while you won’t have anything to show for it tangibly, you are buying something extremely valuable. We’re going to get into specifics here in a moment but we think you’re going to see pretty quickly that the value proposition a life insurance policy offers you is much larger than its cost. Also, we believe that there is a window of time in your life in which life insurance makes sense but in a lot of cases, it won’t be longer than 10 years. Some people say life insurance is either something you have at all times or never have. As if it’s some big decision that can only be made once. We don’t believe that’s the case at all. We believe there is a period of time in which your family losing your income would be particularly devastating. It’s when you’re in the wealth accumulation phase of your career yet at the same time you are well on your way to building your family. The issue of life insurance is after all a matter of risk and we want to mitigate risk where possible. Let’s fire up an example to illustrate this.
Gordon is a 32 year old married, father of two. He and his wife bought a $250,000 house about a year ago, have $25,000 in savings and they have another $150,000 in Gordon’s 401K. His annual income from his employer is $55,000 per year. The risk of removing Gordon’s income from the equation is particularly devastating for two reasons. The first is the fact he and his wife have two young kids. They could be 5 years old or 11, but any way you slice it, they have a long way to go before they can earn a living for themselves. The second reason is that Gordon hasn’t had a ton of working years to build up his wealth. He’s only a decade or so into his career. A life insurance policy can mitigate Gordon and his family’s risk in a major way, here’s how. Gordon can purchase a 10-year term life insurance policy for about $40 per month, that would payout $1,000,000 upon his death. Suffice it to say, if Gordon gets hit by a bus tomorrow, his family would be left with options. Yes, they will have lost him but we are talking solely about his income so don’t get all teary eyed on us. Good news is, Gordon is a fictional individual.. Dude’s going to be fine just stay with us here. Focus on the risk that Gordon is dialing down by purchasing the policy. Another piece of good news is Gordon isn’t going to be vulnerable forever. Let’s fast forward 10 years when his policy has run its term. Now 42 years old, Gordon and his wife have been able to save $100,000 in cash, and because he contributed diligently to his 401K, his balance is over $600,000. His children are also now 10 years older. If Gordon and his family decided at this point the risk of losing his income no longer warrants having life insurance, he is under no obligation to buy another policy. If they end up on the other end of that decision, Gordon can shop for a new policy. At any rate, it’s mission accomplished. Gordon protected his family when they needed it the most. He didn’t waste money, he just bought them options that fortunately for him, they didn’t end up needing.
Check out www.quotacy.com for the latest insurance options available to you. Let’s mitigate some risk.
An HSA, short for Health Savings Account, is a vehicle that most insurance companies offer to help cover the cost of medical expenses. As a father in the FI community, I took some time to dive deeper into these accounts and find out the best way to utilize them. The benefits are outstanding
So if your insurance offers an HSA, look into it ASAP. This a great way to make sure you never pay taxes on medical bills again. It's also another way to fill up your retirement buckets and keep the government's dirty hands off your hard-earned dollars.
Beer Selection - Dos Equis Amber
One of our favorite things to do as the weekend approaches is enjoy some cold beer and complimentary chips and salsa at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant. This Vienna-style lager always pairs nicely. There's something about the bite of Mexican beer that I love. Make it ice cold on a Friday afternoon after a long week? The best.
September brought another round of free entertainment in my household, this time with some TV/movie services. Ever since I've cut the cord on cable (saving me over $1000 a year) I haven't really missed live television. The only service we pay for is Netflix - 7.99 a month. This is mostly for cartoons before bedtime and binge watching The Office/Parks & Rec.
However earlier this month, I found myself scrambling on a Thursday night to find the opening game of the NFL season. Before FI, I would have ordered NFL Sunday Ticket (it's on sale this year for $75 a month. I'm sorry but that's just outlandish. Be better NFL, you're losing fans). However last month my wife and I had come to an agreement: If I could withstand from paying for a football subscription, she wouldn't need cable to watch her reality TV shows, although the 600 pound life is fascinating.
I took a deep breath, took a sip of my beer, and researched how to watch the game for free. Low and behold Fubo TV was offering a free week trial that could be downloaded right to my Amazon Fire Stick. Below is a look at how we took advantage of the system this month.
FuboTV - $44.99 a month. You get all the local network channels and a plethora of sports channels like FS1 and Big Ten Network. However they do not carry ESPN and they have about a 30 second delay on live broadcasts. I was getting fantasy football updates on my phone before plays even happened.
Official Review: Meh
CBS All Access - $5.99 a month. Again, I needed a way to watch my favorite team play last weekend. The game was on CBS so I signed up to try their app on my firestick. The broadcast had limited delay and great quality. However you will be pigeon-holed to CBS only.
Official Review: Decent if you watch a ton of Big Bang Theory.
Netflix DVDs (Yes they still have those) - $11.99 a month. Wow, quite a throwback. Really no need for it these days with all the streaming apps out there, but I gave it a try for a month. I found the trial when I was changing my streaming service from 2 TVs at a time to 1, saving me $4 a month. Anyways I was able to watch Avengers: Infinity War, John Wick, Dunkirk, A Quiet Place, 12 Strong, LadyBird, The Darkest Hour, and Jurassic World all for free.
Official Review: Do you still have a DVD player?
The key to trial hacking is to make sure to cancel. Don't let them bill you. When I went to cancel CBS, they asked me if I would like another free month, banking that I would forget to come back and cancel. However I use Google Calendar for all my reminders and appointments. I'll be back the day before to cancel via an alert on my phone. Suckers.
Beer (Wine) Selection: The Naked Grape - California Chardonnay
Awful. Terrible. The last thing I want in my wine is "baked apple and caramel". It tasted like the apple cider you would get during hey rides at pumpkin patches as a kid - but spiked with gin by an old creepy guy. I don't mind dabbling in the boxed wine area, but this was a miss.
Last week my wife and I began the onerous task of potty-training with our 2-year-old son. We are following along with "Oh Crap! Potty Training" by Jamie Clowacki. We have multiple friends who have walked this path, but like most everything else with young children, every path is different. Throughout this process I learned that potty training is a little like the path to FI. Here's how they stack up:
Round 1 - Accidents
As my son learns this process, he will inevitably have some accidents. His accidents occur when he can't make it to the mini potty in time. This results in a stained carpet or wet Iron-Man underwear. We clean and retry the process.
My accidents are a little different. As I previously wrote, I barely dodged the bullet of leasing a brand new car and buying a home at the top of my budget. However I did have the accident of taking out way too much debt as a student. My result is having a nasty monthly payment and dollars of interest accumulated every day.
Advantage - Potty Training
Round 2 - Long-Term Benefits
As my son completes his path to being potty trained, his body will develop muscle memory that tells him when it's time to use the bathroom. As he gets older he will discover the wonderful 5-10 minutes every man spends in the morning browsing his fantasy football team or checking the stock market.
However my long term benefits on the path to financial independence will be stronger. I will be able to retire much earlier than expected, spend more time with my amazing family, and do the things that I love - maybe even co-managing that fantasy football team with my son.
Advantage - Financial Independence
Round 3 - Gratification
Some may disagree here, but when my son finally made his first deposit into the mini potty, he was rewarded with a piece of chocolate. We also cheered his name throughout the entire house and carried him around on our shoulders like he was Big Papi after Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJyxzaLNlNw - I remember watching this game with my father-in-law live on TV. He got up to use the bathroom and missed this moment).
I definitely get a rush when I buy some shares of SWPPX instead of paying the recently retired cable bill, but that doesn't last long. My gratification after paying off one of my student loans is short lived - I politely tell the lender to pound sand, walk downstairs to have a beer, and realize I still have a long way to go.
Advantage - Potty Training
Official Decision - Potty Training 2-1 in a Split Decision from the Judges.
Written by DadBodFI
Beer Selection: Li'l Napoleon IPA - Pensacola Bay Brewery (Pensacola, FL)
Another business trip requires another local brew test. Pensacola Bay Brewery calls it "strong and hoppy" with "smooth caramel and honey finish". They say that it's so good it "can sneak up on you if you let it". At 6.7% ABV, it certainly did just that, and so did the 2nd and 3rd pour. However there was not quite enough citrus bite for me, and the finish was a too sweet. Score: 6/10
A few weeks ago I received an email from Amazon saying I could sign up for a free 30 day trial with Audible - their audio book service. The trial would include 30 days of ad-free listening, 2 free books of my choice, and a $10 credit to Amazon. There was no long-term committeemen and I could cancel at anytime.
Usually, I would say to myself "trials are for suckers" and delete the email. However since I've discovered FI, I cannot turn down free money. So, I signed up for the service and promptly set a reminder on my Google calendar to cancel the subscription in 29 days. I then immediately downloaded "The Simple Path the Wealth" by JL Collins. Because I'm smart, I asked my wife what book she wanted. It was a World War 2 novel. Done. Finally I took the ten bucks and put it towards our monthly dog food.
Within a couple minutes I was already in the green - 2 books and $10 off a normal monthly expense.
Much like travel hacking, trial hacking requires attention to detail and the ability to not give the offering business what they want. You must have the discipline to cancel on time and read any fine print. Over the next few months I will dive into the trials that are worth your time.
Written by DadBodFI
Beer Selection: COORS Light
The perfect beer for moving. It's light and refreshing, and you don't get a weird look from your wife when you crack one at 9:30 AM. Score: 5/10
The FI Move:
I recently closed on a new home. My family has been growing and we simply need more space. When we found the perfect home that was 5.5 miles away from our current neighborhood, I took a look around our house and started to ask myself "what's the cheapest way to get all this stuff over there?"
The first thing I did was ask a couple moving companies to walk through my home, look at my stuff, and give me a quote on what it would cost to move it down the road. I shopped the quote around - here's where the pre-DadBodFi me would stop and just go with the cheapest quote. Instead, I decided to brainstorm a little further. What if I went to Home Depot and bought a bunch of boxes and packed them myself? This would take a line item out of the quote. Sure, it would be more work, but I would be saving some money.
Then a few days later, JCool sent me a text asking if I wanted a bunch of leftover boxes he had just used for his move. He also had some wrapping paper for dishes and packing tape. I loaded up my truck and began packing boxes. I was already "in the green".
What about getting the boxes from A to B? I drive a company truck that comes with a fuel card that pays for all mileage - personal and business. If I could pack all those boxes myself, throw them in the bed of my truck, I could get them to the new house for free. But why stop there? Why not load everything in there - tables, couches, appliances.
After 5 days of packing/unpacking, an 18 pack of Coors Light, and 17 back and forth trips, we had successfully moved 95% of our stuff. All that was left were washer/dryer, piano, fridge, and bed. We rented a Uhaul for a half day to complete our move for $66.00 (this includes their flat service fee, mileage, and gas). It came with an appliance dolly and ramp that made this last haul quite simple.
There were a few more positives that came from moving ourselves:
1. The Workout - no need to hit the gym last week. I tracked around 15,000 steps per day and lifted plenty of weight.
2. Decluttering - Instead of having someone box every item I own, I was able to sort through it all and throw away or donate a TON of stuff. Man that felt good.
3. Valuable lessons - Along with many other household tasks, I now know how to install a washer/dryer and replace a toilet.
Whether you have a company truck or not, this is the way to go for shorter moves. Oh and the remainder of the $84.00 expense came from buying beer for my friends to help me load and unload the Uhaul on either side. It pays to have good friends.