“Life is not designed to make things easy for us, but to present us with challenges that make us grow.”
Its 4:30AM on Friday morning and my alarm is going off to wake me up so I can get dressed, have my protein shake, and then leave for the gym around 5AM. As winter is approaching, the mornings have been darker and darker and today is no different. To keep myself busy on the 24-minute commute to the gym I typically listen to The Daily podcast by the New York Times which works out perfectly as the podcast is about 25-minutes long and ends just as I pull up to the gym.
About 5 minutes in to the podcast I started daydreaming though, I realized I haven’t taken time to enjoy the simple things in life as of late. I have been so consumed with work I have turned in to a working, coffee-drinking, eating, and sleeping machine. Maybe it was time to take a quick getaway…after my morning workout I decided to search Airbnb just to see what they had to offer. I ended up finding an amazing, quaint place near the mountains of Argentina for a reasonable price. What was I thinking though, this is crazy, I haven’t planned anything, I haven’t packed, you don’t just take a trip like this without planning it out, right?
Then again, why not? Isn’t life about experiences? To be quite honest, I like to walk the line between being comfortable and having those butterflies in your stomach when you aren’t sure about what you are doing. Fuck it, I clicked “Instant Book” and the place was rented. I then went on to google flights and bought a round-trip ticket to Santiago, Chile (the nearest city to the Airbnb) for 8PM which would give me a few hours after work to pack my things. As I was reflecting on what I just did I came to the conclusion that my actions were very impulsive and I hadn’t really thought them through…which made it all the more exciting. See you in 2 weeks normal life, I’m going to Argentina!
The short narrative above is just one of the many recurring thoughts and dreams I have throughout the week when I am going through my normal routine. Don’t get me wrong, I need, and even enjoy, routine in my life. Routine gives me structure and allows me to build habits which free up mental capacity to be used on more creative endeavors.
In addition to my weekly routines though, I need to have what I have heard referred to as mini-vacations, these can be little trips as short as a weekend or as long as 1-3 months where I can just get away from life as I know it and shake things up a bit. When I say “shake things up” I am not necessarily referring to anything extreme such as partying hard or climbing a mountain, I just mean changing up my routines for a bit in an effort to stimulate my brain in different ways. Its the thought of taking these mini-vacations without the need to worry too much about money that motivates me to work hard everyday to get to my goals!
With that being said, I wanted to write a quick post sharing some updates on how things on my journey to financial freedom are going. Let’s get started…
As a quick refresher, the point of this blog is to document my journey from a normal person working a 9-5 job in a tech firm in Silicon Valley to a financially independent lifestyle where I am no longer working with the paycheck being my primary motivation, rather I’m spending my time the way I want to spend it. Examples of how I might spend my time in the future could be visiting my family in Florida, pursuing cinematography as it has always been a dream of mine, teaching underprivileged people professional skills, etc.
My initial plan is to pursue financial independence through 3 primary channels: investing in real estate, creating income through E-commerce, and reducing my spending habits to give me the ability to save a much higher amount of money.
After recently reading Your Money or Your Life and I Will Teach You To Be Rich, books about reframing how to think about money and life, I realized I need to focus on building a strong financial foundation first. This financial foundation begins with:
- Paying off all my high interest debts (credit cards)
- Saving 6-12 months of expenses as an emergency fund
- Putting money away in a 401K or Roth IRA
Once these are taken care of I’ll move on to more active investing of my money in to real estate.
As far as E-commerce goes, I created my first Etsy shop just about 1 month ago. At the beginning I had no idea where to start. With a little bit of searching I found a great blog post talking about a system to help find a product you can sell. The blog post boils down to picking really anything to start with, calligraphy, t-shirts with funny sayings, digital downloads, etc. and then closely watching what happens with the traffic to your site and adjusting as needed.
I ended up creating about 42 products varying from t-shirts, mugs, beach bags, towels, pillows, and more. As I add more and more products to my shop I am starting to get more organic traffic to my site. I had a few friends check out my shop and purchase a few products that caught their eye so I could better understand the customer journey. One of the things I instantly learned is my profit margins on physical products are almost negligible after accounting for shipping and handling. I should mention I priced my items low on purpose in an effort to draw in customers to gain traction, but if I want to make money in the future I will definitely need to raise prices.
I haven’t made any organic purchases just yet but I still have a long way to go in regards to getting the look and feel of my site to really reflect who I am and to tell a compelling story customers can get behind. More on this to come.
Reducing my expenses and increasing my savings
Between the 3 channels I am currently pursuing, I have made the most progress in this one. I have been a user of Intuit’s Mint application to help closely watch my spending habits month-to-month since 2013. In the past I played more of a passive role, I would see where my money was being spent and would try and reduce spending if it was getting noticeably out of hand, but for the most part I just sat by the sidelines watching.
Now that I have clear goals and targets I am working towards, I use Mint as a way to track my progress month-to-month and make sure I am very conscious of where my money is being spent. For example, I noticed I was spending a decent amount of money eating out “here and there.” Each time I ate out I justified it by telling myself “I don’t do this all the time so its okay,” but in the end all those small decisions added up to a lot of money.
Over the past 9 months I have paid down my credit card debts from a total of about $28,000 to about $6,000. On top of this, I have drastically reduced my spending beyond basic things like rent, cell phone, groceries, gas, and utilities. My current financial goals are the following:
- Pay off all my credit card debt by June 1st, 2019
- Save 6 months of expenses by the end of 2019
Once these two things are taken care of I’ll move on to putting my money in to retirement savings and then looking in to basic investing avenues such as stocks.
I realized I am at a big learning stage of life, in my day job I’m learning how to manage enterprise sales which involves everything from telling a compelling story to keeping up a momentum with potential clients to being direct with potential clients and asking for their business.
In my side hustles I’m learning things like how to be active in planning my financial future, how to (hopefully) clearly convey my thoughts on a blog, how to market products on an E-commerce site, and more.
Finally, in my personal life I’m learning things like the importance of being disciplined, of setting clear goals, and of appreciating all the things I have in my life.
The truth is I have no idea where all these skills and potential businesses will lead me, but I do know I feel satisfied with life and with each little win I get along the way, even something as small as 1 new visitor to my blog, I get more motivation to keep moving forward, keep refining my product, and find a way to achieve my goals.
Are you on the path to achieving big goals in your life? If so, I would love to hear about how you got started and how things are going? If not, what is stopping you? Let me know in the comments.