A Month of Change That Has Nothing and Everything to Do with Personal Finances

Material possessions can easily become a hindrance in our pursuit of happiness. I realized that even a couple like us, who tries to keep our material possessions to a minimum, needs to take a step back and look for ways to clear our minds and the space around us from time to time.

When we reach this point, we begin to purge items that have accumulated over time. It feels great and is therapeutic for us.

We’ve been married for almost three years, and I still have items in our rental property’s garage that I need to get rid of. I just can’t seem to make the time for it.

Furthermore, things accumulated at home. We moved in together with possessions that were supposed to be sold but are still vying for our attention.

Purge and make space for new habits

We also want to improve certain behaviors and establish new habits in our lives. Despite our efforts to live spectacular lives, we are constantly striving to improve, to be better and healthier. Non-financial challenges, on the other hand, are much more difficult for us to stick to.

Another thing we like to keep an eye on is life complications. I’m not talking about health issues. I’m referring to how we can easily complicate our lives even when we try to simplify them.

While we fine-tune certain aspects, others begin to deviate, adding complexity to the process. It’s time to get back to basics and simplify things.

So, in order to improve in the aforementioned areas, we’ve declared August The Month of Change!

Many of us wait until the new year to make resolutions or amend our budgets, but there is no need to wait until the new year to make resolutions or change our ways. We’re going to take action and make changes now that Tatiana has returned from her trip to the motherland in order to end the year on a high note.

What areas do we want to focus on now that August has been officially designated as the Month of Change?

1. Declutter our lives

Change began last month, while Tatiana was away in Belarus. I took a box of files from the rental property garage and ended up shredding the majority of them.

I filled up at least three bags of shredded papers.

That action inspired me to continue decluttering, so I spent an hour deleting apps from my smartphone. It feels great to declutter your smartphone! I removed 50 apps in total, including Facebook.

50 apps are just the beginning! The good news is that they were free apps, so no money was lost. I used to check which apps were free for the day, and that’s how I started collecting “digital possessions.”

When I was looking through my phone for apps to delete, I couldn’t tell you what most of them were for. That’s how little I relied on them.

“Wait a minute! Did you just say that you deleted Facebook?” 

Yes, I did get rid of that time waster! Now that we’re in the thick of election season, it’s an especially good time to avoid the app.

It’s incredible how Facebook can turn into such a bad habit. As I was decluttering my phone, I noticed myself automatically clicking to open the app. I got rid of that bad habit. Decluttering becomes a break from the clutter that takes an emotional toll on our lives.

2. Let’s go for a dry month!

Drinking has been a drain on our finances, and it’s the one that, by our standards, tends to spiral out of control. We significantly reduced our budget for this year, but we are still trending in the same direction as last year.

Many people would consider our drinking habits to be average, but average is never good enough for us. Furthermore, drinking is bad for our health, and avoiding preventable conditions is the best insurance policy for our future FI life.

We decided to detox our livers in August and have spent no money on alcohol so far this month. I scheduled this post for the middle of the month in case we failed, hahaha, just kidding. I’d love to be alcohol-free for the rest of the year, but I’m better off introducing it one month at a time so Tatiana doesn’t think her Summer Shandy days are over.

Our biggest test was spending the weekend at my best friend’s house. They have enough wine bottles to supply the Catholic church, but we resisted! It wasn’t always easy, but we stayed up late singing karaoke, dancing the night away, and drinking non-alcoholic beverages. Yay!!! 

We know that tricking the brain is the key to breaking a habit, so we now reach for organic lemonade with frozen blueberries. It’s delicious, refreshing, and gives us something to hold.

Our true happiness is fueled by financial independence, not alcohol, so let’s put this to rest. It’s also good for our health and our wallets to keep this one under control.

We’ve spent $1,700 on alcohol in the last year. This total includes beers, wine, and cocktail drinks purchased from liquor stores, bars, and restaurants in the United States and abroad. When we go out to eat, we usually split the bill in Mint to keep track of how much we spend on alcohol at any given time.

These figures are extremely telling. By using the safe withdrawal rate calculations, we’ll need to have an allocation of approximately $42,500 just to support our alcohol habits after early retirement!

Maintaining this unhealthy hobby would require working many extra hours at the office.

3. Bike ride with the Mrs.

I recently celebrated my tenth year at work, and our employer gives us a gift from a catalog to choose from. I chose a bike for Tatiana because I already have one and she normally rollerblades alongside me, but I have to drag her back!

The bike was delivered before she returned, giving me time to assemble it. When she entered our apartment and saw the bike right under the stairs, she assumed it was just my bike, until I said, “look closely!” She then became ecstatic and surprised.

The bike came ready for assembly.
When assembling the front wheel, the most difficult part was determining what the “Incorrect” warning on this page meant. I mean, the two circled areas looked nearly identical.
Then I noticed it right before my eyes after I took this picture. The front wheel is backward!!! It wasn’t the wine after all. The instructions were poorly designed. Even a coworker made the same mistake assembling his bike!
And, voila! Tatiana came home to this baby!

I had a great time assembling the bike together and can’t believe some of my coworkers paid to have theirs assembled. It’s like paying to have your joy taken away. It brought back memories of my own bike-repair days as a teenager.

I’d rather do chores that remind me of my childhood than work in the office to pay for assembly. We’re now waiting for the heatwave to pass so we can ride the Chester Valley Rail Trail in our neighborhood.

4. Get more active (again)

Since Tatiana has maintained her gym routine, this goal is primarily for me. I fell off the wagon and must now resume my three days of cardio. Trying to exercise is a never-ending struggle for me. I enjoy walking every day, but I recognize that it is insufficient.

My goal is to do some sort of physical activity other than cooking and biking during the week, such as dancing, yoga, or weight lifting. We must maintain physical activity and get back on track after falling off the path.

Health and money go together like a horse and carriage

We stated that this post has nothing to do with personal finances because these changes were not motivated by monetary considerations but are still improving our bottom line. They improve our financial situation in a variety of ways:

1) By decluttering, we will require less space in the future and will not be forced to upgrade to a larger space due to a lack thereof.

2) By reducing our alcohol consumption, we not only improve our health but also save money now and in the future. Later because if our health deteriorates as a result of alcohol consumption, we will have to spend more money on health care in the future.

3) By riding our bikes and staying active, we maintain our good health and stick to low-cost activities.

Even after accounting for the savings, the most important aspect of these changes is that they improve our overall well-being and maintain our source of true happiness because, at the end of the day… I’m happy!!!

Are you happy?

“Clap along if you know what happiness is to you.”

Are you making any changes in your life to improve your happiness? What steps would you suggest for changing a habit?


After dedicating 13 years of his career to Vanguard, José retired from the corporate world at the young age of 44. During his tenure at Vanguard, he expertly coordinated the production of both electronic and print educational materials for 401(k) participants. Now, he relishes in his early retirement, cherishing time spent with his family, indulging in his favorite hobbies, seeking out new experiences, and savoring meals in the comfort of his own backyard.

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E. Cruceta
E. Cruceta
7 years ago

We are so like minded! I wish I could show you my journal/planner where I put under “this week’s focus”-Back to Basics!! Then I read this and thought wow I am going in the right direction. It feels good to know that I am not the only one who thinks these things are crucial. For me, it is also about clearing my mind as well. The fall semester (Academically) is typically a busy time for me at work, with that being said every other aspect of my life should be more organized. With little time to spare I am taking one hour a day to de-clutter. As well as reintroducing routines to my schedule that help me cope with the busy times. Summer is usually a time where drinking becomes a part of anything you do. I also started the month with a detox mindset. Overall, great article it hit home for me in all its points. Cheers to August! (with no alcohol) 🙂

7 years ago
Reply to  E. Cruceta

Hi! Yes, it’s great to feel that you’re not alone on this journey. I’m glad the article hit home with you as well. It’s day 22 of our detox/dry month and it’s going fantastic. Besides the fact that we already saved $106 by not drinking, we feel great and it hasn’t been as bad as we thought. You just have to replace the alcoholic drinks with regular drinks. For example, we’ve been drinking lemonade at home and adding blueberries to make it fun. Sometimes you just need to have something cold to grab in the hot weather. It’s all about replacing a bad habit with a good one. Cheers!

7 years ago

Well done on staying dry! Doing the same thing here and haven’t looked back since April. Much cheaper and healthier liver ? also supports my health goals of dropping a few pounds over the next four weeks. Now that’s what I call a win-win deal ?

7 years ago
Reply to  LM

It’s great to find company on the dry journey. April? That’s outstanding! I’m sure that the savings add up nicely. We already saved $87 this month by not drinking. I’m sure the liver appreciates it. Keep it up!

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