Mrs YFG: 7 things I’ve stopped caring about on the path to FI

Being on the path to FI makes you reassess your life somewhat. It’s all about priorities: you let your happiness take priority over other things and plan to do what makes you happy. Part of that is letting go of certain things that once made you spend money or you thought you wanted.

Perhaps some of these are actually just me growing up as opposed to FI-specific. But, they’re food for thought for me at least.

1. What other people have

Most people want to enjoy their money. They feel that, because they work hard, they deserve to live in comfort and treat themselves with nice things. That might well make them happy. So keep doing what makes you happy, people.

You can treat yourself whilst saving for financial independence. The problem arises when people’s idea of comfort, or what they need to be happy, inflates with their income (lifestyle inflation). I fell headfirst into this trap when I got my first proper paying job. I saw all the things my colleagues had, how they dressed, what brands they wore, what bag they brought to work, and I wanted to fit in.

Over the years, I realised that this didn’t make me happy. What I thought made me happy – earning lots of money to spend on nice clothing and evenings out and expensive bags and shoes – was not working. I bought and did these things with the conviction that they would add to my overall happiness. I convinced myself that other people were happier with their lives. If only I had what they had I would be too. Once I had X, I would be happy (or happier).

This, of course, isn’t true. I see you nodding – but it was news to me.

A few years ago I slowly realised that if I saved more money and spent less, I could have more freedom. I could be happier putting time and energy into a job I enjoyed rather than having to maintain a level of salary to fund my happiness ‘hits‘.

My first real challenge was our wedding – seeing other people’s’ fancy weddings and avoiding getting sucked into the spending machine was hard. But we did it, we had a pretty cheap wedding and I loved it.

2. What other people look like

On the outside, I am a relatively confident person and I am happy to give that impression. Beneath this lies a crippling anxiety linked to how I appear to others. Part of this is my appearance. While I’m blessed with a relatively plain appearance (Mr YFG will attest to this) I hate most of my body. Age, long working hours and stress take their toll and I find it difficult to get the image of the 21-year old me out of my head. I don’t look like that now and never will. That’s difficult to come to terms with.

What doesn’t help is the constant reaffirmation of societal norms through my colleagues’ restrictive diets and obsession with calories and gym habits.

I have had to work over the years to accept I am what I am and there ain’t much I can do about my face. Being kind to my body will do it a damn sight more good than trying to desperately poke and prod and improve my body and face. Other people have their own insecurities and other people are at different points in their life. I may have a feature they envy just as I envy one of theirs.

Instead of lamenting about my weight, I have tried to make subtle changes to improve my health. Plenty of water, better food and more exercise. Being nicer to my hair and not heating the sh*t out of it or dying it. Trying to wear less makeup and instead nourish my skin. In short, caring less about conforming and more about what is better for me.

3. Looking the part

I’m not your average corporate lawyer. Not in an “I’m great” way, more like I get mistaken for someone who reads your fortunes or a primary school art teacher instead. I just don’t have that “seriousness” about me – I can put on a face for clients and when I need to, but I find it difficult.

I thought I could fix the gap between my natural personality and my impression of what I “should be like” with money. If I bought the right clothing and got my hair done and went to a dermatologist then I’d be a professional woman, right? I felt so much pressure to do what my colleagues do. I convinced myself that the only way to be a highly functioning professional woman is to wear pencil skirts and razor-sharp heels (Ms Zi You speaks with fierce clarity on this nonsense).

Let’s be honest, it is absolute torture to dress like that. My feet were sore and blistered, my stomach bloated and creased from being cut in half by tight clothing, and I was sweaty from the non-breathable suits. Not to mention tights in summer (special circle of hell reserved for these). I spend 14-16 hours in my office clothes per day. I had to just give up.

Now if I could get away with pyjamas I would, but I can’t. I eBayed all my extraordinarily expensive and uncomfortable “smart” clothes and instead bought breathable fabrics, dispensed with the tights unless it was winter and I flat-out refuse to wear heels. I wear colours and nice prints and not grey and black. If I can, I buy second-hand clothes to keep my environmental impact down and so I can get well-made stuff on the cheap.

Turns out nobody gives a sh*t. Nobody notices my clothes are second-hand. I even get compliments on my clothes and my hair, despite having done nothing but blow-dry it. You can be an experienced professional without being trussed up like a Christmas turkey, who knew…

4. My assumptions about other people’s thoughts

Most people care about what other people think of them – or at least I assume so. How often have you done something or said something and then been wracked by guilt for what you think that person might be thinking about you?

Other people’s opinions of me and how I appear to others is important to me. I don’t want to piss people off or make anyone unhappy. I want to (selfishly) appear to be a genuine, honest person and want my intentions to be interpreted correctly. Linked with my need to please and to give gifts, I have overcompensated for imagined wrongs and paid the price in wasted time worrying or being torn with guilt.

Over the years I’ve learned that other people don’t think the same. I may be worrying about something I said to them last week and they can’t even remember the conversation. But how would I know that? I don’t know what they’re thinking, and I have to stop trying. I will never will, even if I ask them (lawyers are good at bending the truth…) So why bother tying myself in knots?

Like this blog, I have had to come to terms with the fact that not everyone will agree with my way of thinking about life. They will not all share my views on FI, on children or on retirement. They may not agree with or like the path I’ve chosen with Mr YFG or like the fact we blog about it! That’s ok. I don’t have to please everyone. It’s impossible to do so. Writing on a blog is a way to open yourself up to criticism. I used to worry about whether people would like the blog or think my posts were boring. I’ve just had to remember that I write because I genuinely want to.

5. Unsatisfying friendships

I have a good few very close friends, some of them I see more often and some only once in a blue moon. They all take a big piece of my heart and I love them to bits. Most of them I know better and love as much as my family. Some of them I’ve known since I was a child, and some have their own children now (or pets!) who I like to spoil with presents at birthdays and Christmas. I hold them dear and would do anything for them.

I also have a wider circle of friends who I see now and again at social occasions and possibly meet up for a random meal or coffee every six months. They are at varying degrees of closeness and they all have different lives and stories. I meet a lot of people through my Instagram influencing (yest, I’m one of those people) and I like to meet up with them as a way of supporting my community (read: Fan club). These people are from all walks of life. I enjoy their company and get back as much as I put into the relationship.

I used to have a bottom run of the friendship ladder: the time-takers. Whilst they may be lovely people, I get nothing but stress out of any relationship we have. They will only contact me when they need something or want attention and they expect me to be available. They don’t bother to visit when invited to my house. But expect me to join group chats about their birthday dinner. They text, I respond and then hear back a month later. I used to feel like I had to try and keep up the relationship to save face, but I have had to come to the realisation that I just don’t give care.

6. Needing to give gifts

One of my vices is to be over-generous with gifts. Not because people need them, but because of my unflinching urge to repay people for their kindness to me. I cannot stand the idea of being in someone’s debt – figuratively and literally. This costs me dearly – figuratively and literally. I spend thousands of pounds a year on gifts (flowers, birthday, Christmas, wedding, just because). On the path to FI I have had seriously cut this down and get comfortable with just accepting gifts without responding in kind. I have had to ask “is this person genuinely expecting something in return?” – chances are if they aren’t a horrible person then they won’t. So I have to take my finger away from the Bloom & Wild app button.

Birthdays and Christmas remain as giving excuses but I have had to impose strict per person limits on this to save me from myself. Thankfully Mr YFG doesn’t ever want gifts, so we don’t buy each other gifts.

Instead, I am trying to give my time and attention, whatever I have spare. A text or a phone call often goes a long way rather than a bunch of flowers.

7. Making partner in a law firm

The assumption when you start work is that you want to rise to the very top and, being a woman, of course, you want to do this to prove a point. In the legal world, this is becoming a partner at a top law firm.

I was regularly told that not becoming a partner one day would be a waste of my education, of my talent. Those external pressures put a lot of stress on me.

I gave this up a couple of years before I got on the path to FI. Not me, thanks. As I’ve written about before, after wearing myself down and seeing my senior colleagues over the last few years I don’t want their life. It ain’t the life for me. My aim is to have earned more than enough money before I even get close.

How about you?

For those on the FI journey, what have you stopped caring about?

For those who aren’t on the FI-path, what things would you like to stop caring about?

21 thoughts on “Mrs YFG: 7 things I’ve stopped caring about on the path to FI

  1. Love the post!

    Personally, I love my job (IT business), but for some years now I’ve had a growing feeling that it stands in the way of what I really love to do.

    What I really love to do? I don’t really know (yet).

    I think I stopped thinking too much about having a clear goal. To have any specific goals at all. Why do we always need a goal? Why not just stand still and look around us and start breathing? Forget about always having to make progress, being healthier, smarter, more beautiful, own the latest gadgets?

    Not true. I do have one goal. To reach the point where I can afford having no goals. No need for trading my time and labor because I need the paycheck. Having no goals. Then the understanding of what I really want to do will come to me….

    1. I really like this idea- no goals and just being able to enjoy life for what it is. I would love to be in that place, I think I’d just love to be able to act on a whim and do something intentionally because I want to not because it serves a specific goal. Right on the money! Mrs YFG

    2. I reached my early forties realising that I had met the goals I wanted to achieve in many areas of my life, and it left something of a vacuum.

      My approach was to revisit my past – sometimes childhood even – and figure out what I had really enjoyed or wanted to do. I have since gone part-time to give me time to try out those activities again and experiment with new variations of them. Sometimes goals have emerged to complement them eg in the last year, I’ve done a masterclass with a world champion in a sport I enjoy, a photoshoot in a daft costume, met an astronaut, and taken a journey on an iconic train. Often, I haven’t particularly planned these – but the opportunities have emerged and they fulfilled the criteria of offering a period of anticipation, satisfying sometimes a unexpected/long buried element of my personality as well as something to look back upon with playful fondness.

      I would encourage you to experiment with different things that feel like they would be in the right ball park and seeing if anything hits the mark.

      1. Thanks! When I tell people I want to retire early, some of them reply with ‘but what would you do?’ (with an undertone of ‘how stupid can you be’). They seem unable to comprehend that the freedom will actually mean there is room for finding out what you really love and room for actually doing it. Obviously, for some people, it is in their jobs. For me it isn’t. And I look forward to starting the journey to find my passions (love your input regarding this!). And now that we’re talking about passions….this whole FIRE journey is one of them.

  2. Like you, I stopped caring about career progression and titles like Director of etc in favour of simply crafting a job that would give me the right mix of things I enjoy. Being FI helped with that as I could simply float that and say I didn’t mind if that resulted in a part-time non-management job. Roughly a year later, I’m happier than I have been for a long time in my current work.

    For me, a useful filter about stuff to care about is “will this be something I’m bothered about/look upon fondly on my death bed?”. Too often the answer for trappings of status, stuff etc is no. Even for stuff I like, eg antique books, there’s a sense that owning them for a few years rather than “forever” is good enough to get the maximum amount of joy out of them.

    1. I agree, there’s a book called 100 Lessons of Life that poses life in that view, as in will I care about this when I’m old? 99 times out of 100, the answer is no. I am hoping FI will help me put things in perspective. Mrs YFG

  3. This is really interesting as a breakdown, but it’s your point 7 that’s really striking a chord with me at the moment… The reason I got into the industry I’m in is because the roles at a certain level are exactly suited to my personality and skillset and I know (both from previous experience shadowing and talking to them and from being involved in the industry and therefore dealing with people at this level) that this is an area I’m really interested in and would almost certainly really enjoy.

    However, I’m struggling a little because, similar to your partner track, it’s an investment of a decade or two of work I don’t really like, in order to get there. Given my interest in the FI movement, this raises the spectre of the thought that I’ll be getting to around that level just as I’m hitting my FI point, so I may never actually get there… In this scenario, why am I even bothering to do this work I don’t enjoy much of (but am OK with doing for the later goal) when there’s a substantial risk I’ll never get to the point I’m working towards?

    1. Hi Edd I know what you mean. You think if I’m on the path to FI why put in the effort now for a promotion I won’t be around to get? What am I working towards in this career? I’ve tried to deal with this by trying to just appreciate the role I’m doing right now and enjoy it as I know I don’t have to work my butt off to impress someone else. I work hard to feel good about myself and that’s what matters to me! Mrs YFG

  4. Hi Mrs YFG,

    Before discovering FIRE blogs last year, I wanted a bigger house. Now I’ve done the calculations and I see that our house is 44% of our net worth, I cringe! That’s way too high! It must come down!

    As regards appearances, my field of science & tech isn’t really affected by those considerations. No make-up or heels at work for me (only for weddings), and I observe with tranquillity the greying of my hair. I’m getting some cool streaks. I also find smiling a lot helps with the avoidance of ageing droopy face, although I hope you have a few more years before you get to that stage 🙂

    1. Hi Pendlewitch and welcome to the FIRE community! Going grey was something I laughed off when I was younger but the reality is very sobering! I would love to embrace the grey but the wiry texture is something I can’t quite give into yet. I do my best with home dye kits every month (no spending on salons of course)! Mrs YFG

  5. Great post, Mrs YFG.

    Caring about what other people (mostly my family) thought was partially what got me into credit card trouble, so I guess the time I stopped caring was when I decided to dig myself out of debt and live on a budget. Since then, and before I discovered FI or FIRE, I’ve not been bothered what other people have or what they earn – it has no bearing on me.

    I’ve always prided myself on being relatively fit and having always found the time to exercise regularly, my shape and weight has been pretty much the same for the last 20 years although recent extra pounds put on have been impossible to shift – much harder as you get older! However, I am not ready to embrace the grey so that’s the only ‘beauty’ cost that I pay for.

    At work, I’m in a job which I enjoy but where there is no career progression. After a 25-year career, I’ve done all the climbing (there wasn’t a lot!) I want to do. Over a drink in the pub, my boss (who incidentally is the in-house lawyer) said she was in a way envious that I’d managed to position myself in quite a senior position in the company but not quite senior as to have to make the ‘horrible decisions’. This has most certainly curtailed my earning potential over the course of my career but money’s never been the deciding factor for me, it’s always been job satisfaction and good work/life balance.

    1. Hi weenie! Yes embracing the grey may take some time for me as my mum went grey in her twenties and I am too, I don’t feel ready to go silver yet! I don’t pay for anything hair wise I DIY it all. Same with nails and grooming! I just can’t bring myself to pay for something I could do myself. I’m glad that you are settled in your job, so many people feel the pressure to move up a career ladder but I am quite happy where I am as are you. I remember an article about doing things deeper, not wider. It’s often better to go deeper (get truly involved in what you’re doing now and try and do it better) than to go wider (trying to move up or out without having truly explored your current role). I like that analogy when it comes to work and I aim to do that. Mrs YFG x

  6. I’m beginning to find the more you stand up to things at work the more you’re noticed and the more you get to do what you want. I was always desperate to go into management primarily for the money which is the wrong reason to do it.
    I did a part time role to try it and absolutely hated it at least on the ops side of things. I just find spreadsheets numbers and that kind of detail boring and pointless plus until you get higher up you just have no authority and all the accountability which is a dangerous place to be

    Actually now in a sales role I earn more than my boss does with less responsibility. and he’s now asked me to head up our sales team. I’ll do all the interesting bit like mentoring the more junior staff with none of the awful ops bit . Plus the extra responsibility gives me a business case to ask for more money come pay review time Best of both worlds

    1. That’s great to hear! I think the key is always finding the spot that’s right for you- rather than a job where you’re looking upward to some other role you think you should be moving on to. Mrs YFG

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