FI: technically, the letters mean Financially Independent. However, we use FI as a word all the time, with a different meaning. A good example would be me saying something like this: “Look babe, we just took a 10-day vacation using credit card bonus points, we are FI as shit!” What I realized after thinking about this is that the acronym FI had taken on a life of its own in our household. I don’t think we are the only ones who do this.
Financial Independence (or FI for short) is usually referred to as a state where one no longer must work to earn money. I like how Paula Pant over at Afford Anything described it as “…the ability to escape trading time-for-money” (https://affordanything.com/about/). Either you have saved enough money that you can live off your savings or you are getting enough money from passive income sources to pay your expenses (or some combination of both!). There are many ways to think about this and many ways that it can be accomplished. What FI really means to each person (or couple or family) is very personal and unique.
We use FI as a word – an adjective to be exact – in our daily lives. But when we say it, we don’t mean that we are financially independent, because we’re not. No, we’re still indentured servants to the companies that employ us. So when Hubby says, “I’m so FI, I picked this nickel up off the street this morning,” he means that he is embodying the FI way of life by realizing that every little bit counts. It is a small way to remind ourselves to approach life with the values of FI while we strive to reach actual Financial Independence.
Why do we do this?
I think there are a few reasons:
- It makes the journey more fun
- It turns the pursuit of FI into a game or competition
- It keeps the FI principles front of mind, which helps us stay on track
The road to Financial Independence can be a long one. Along the way, you (hopefully) will not be buying the next big shiny object that society says you “need” to be happy. You’ll be forgoing a new Acura in favor of the 2002 Toyota that still runs like a champ (or maybe that’s just me 🙂 ). Let’s face it, comparing unit prices on canned tomatoes is not sexy; you might as well make it fun. Using our alternate meaning of FI helps us make it more fun. “Do you see how FI I am? I just found these diced tomatoes for 0.2 cents less per ounce!” High-five!
If you’re working toward FI as a couple or family, you can compete against each other to see who is more FI. If you’re going it alone, then compete against the you from yesterday, last month, etc. We treat it like a game and try to beat ourselves by constantly looking for ways to get better at saving. The other day, we were standing in the kitchen getting ready to use some flatbread that had a sell by date of January (it was June). Hubby said, “Look at that date, that’s how FI we are!” Don’t worry, the bread had been frozen since January.
Previously, we would have had to make a trip to Trader Joe’s to get the flatbread because we didn’t stock up and keep extra in the freezer. Giving ourselves time back to focus on the important things is a big part of our FI plan. Therefore, we’ve improved upon the version of ourselves from last year by using bread we froze in January. So fucking FI!
I might say, “I bought two boxes instead of one since the unit price was lower for two, because I’m super FI!” Each time we do this, we remind ourselves that by making slightly more thoughtful decisions, we are adding value to our lives. Going back to the canned tomato example: saving 0.2 cents per ounce may not seem like much, but if you add up all your savings over time, the picture changes dramatically. Check out this article on the aggregation of marginal gains by the Escape Artist for a detailed explanation of how this works.
Furthermore, even when we make decisions that are not the most frugal, they are still thoughtful…”This is not the FI choice, but it is preventing me from losing my shit, so I’m doing it.”…and, as a result, they still add value. The key is that we are being intentional in our decision making and keeping our goals at the heart of everything we do.
I encourage you to make Financial Independence part of your everyday vocabulary. Keep the pursuit of FI fun and interesting and make it a part of your everyday life. It should not just come up when you are budgeting or paying bills. It should be an ever-present aspect of your life that helps guide all decision-making processes. It is not always easy, but we’re all doing it for our freedom, so it’s worth it. So please…
- Find ways to make it fun
- Find ways to motivate yourself to continually improve
- Find ways to incorporate your FI goals into every decision you make