I’ve lived extremely frugally for years now.

A thoughtful approach to spending has been a key component to the overall lifestyle that has allowed me to retire decades before most people.

If you’re not familiar with my story, I retired in six years on a $50k salary — going from below broke at 27 years old to retired at 33.

But nothing I did is off limits to you or anyone else.

[ad#Google Adsense 336×280-IA]Everything I did (and still do) to save money can be replicated by anyone.

To prove that point, I’m going to discuss five real-life changes I’ve made over the years to my own spending.

These five changes are going to be explored over a multi-part series of articles.

This is the first article.

Before we begin, I’m going to note that most of the changes I’m going to discuss could be thought of as extreme.

But extreme results oftentimes require extreme measures.

If you want to retire decades before most people, you’re probably going to have to operate way outside the norm. As you can probably already tell, this series isn’t going to be talking about just “cutting out the daily latte”.

So I’m going to show you, via real math, what the implications are to making these changes, and how these methods can lead to real and lasting wealth for anyone.

This real and lasting wealth can then be used to generate the passive income necessary to quit your job and become financially independent.

So if you’re serious about retiring early – I mean, really serious – consider implementing some of these real money-saving ideas in your own personal budget, which could substantially speed up retirement.

Money-Saving Method #1: Stop Spending So Much On Food
The first thing one should be looking at is how to cut back on food spending, especially how much one spends on eating out.

Food is one of what I call the “big three”: housing, food, and transportation.

These three budget categories together account for the majority of the average person’s spending. As such, it makes sense to attack and optimize this spending way before getting down to smaller, more insignificant budget categories.

When I first started taking a look at my overall spending way back in 2009, I noticed I was spending around $500 per month on food.

That’s just crazy.

Yet it’s not as bad as the average.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average consumer unit spends about $7,000 per year on food.

Of course, the average consumer unit is also retiring quite late in life, right?

So we need to do a lot better than average here, folks.

I’ve often spent less than $200 per month on food since aggressively focusing on cutting my spending, and this is about what I’m spending these days. I’m talking all food. That’s about $2,400 per year.

The difference (between average spending and my spending on food) is $4,600 per year.

Let’s consider for a moment just how much money $4,600 per year is.

You might not think it’s a lot of money. We’re talking just a few hundred dollars per month, right?


It’s actually a lot of money!

If you’re able to squirrel away that $4,600 per year and invest it intelligently for 20 years, it turns into approximately $227,000 at the end of that 20-year period. That’s starting from zero.

Now, this is assuming 8% compound annual returns (well below the average annual return for the stock market over the last 100 years). That’s also ignoring taxes and inflation.

Not a terribly high hurdle to leap, folks.

Yet the reward is pretty incredible.

However, maybe you’re not able to drop your spending as much as me.

But if you can save just $2,000 per year on food, the savings could turn into approximately $99,000 after 20 years (using the same assumptions as above).

You have to ask yourself if your regular restaurant visits are worth a hundred thousand (or two).

So just a few small adjustments to just one category of your budget can yield an amazing amount of wealth over time.

When I first took a real good look at my food spending, I noticed I was spending a lot of money on restaurants.

And much of it was just a waste.

I mean, what does food at a restaurant provide you that food at home cannot?

Satiation? Nutrition? Quality?

The answer is nothing.

In fact, food prepared at home can actually provide better nutrition and quality because you’re able to control the ingredients.

I can say that it was eliminating most of my restaurant visits that led to much of my spending on food being cut so dramatically. In fact, I visit restaurants very sparingly these days. There are many weeks that go by where I don’t even come close to sitting down in a restaurant.

Once you’re not eating out of the house so much, you can focus on saving even more money on your food eaten at home.

Buying in bulk helps. Planning meals out also gives you an idea of exactly what you need. That way, you’re buying just what you need (and not what you do not).

And I’ll share with you my favorite money-saving meal of all.

A classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

It tastes great. It’s not terribly unhealthy. And it’s super cheap.

I’ll eat a PB&J sandwich at least a few times every week. It’s my go-to lunch meal.

Sure, you can laugh at me. But at less than 50 cents per sandwich, I’m laughing all the way to the bank.

Don’t like PB&J? Well, no problem.

Get some rice in the 10-pound bags. Buy boneless skinless chicken breast in bulk. Throw in a few sauces and spices.

Wham! You’ve got meals for weeks.

Stir-fry. Slow-cooked chicken. Soups. Grilled meat and a side. Chili.

Another tip is to get protein powder in large bags (10 pounds, if possible).

I’ll mix up some protein powder, around six ounces of milk, 1/2 a banana, and a teaspoon of peanut butter. That’s a cheap, healthy meal that anyone can make in a pinch. I find it costs me way less than $1 a serving.

It’s not hard, folks. You just have to be thoughtful about your food. And you have to be thoughtful about your money.

Think about your money. And then your money will think about you.

Click here for Part 2.

— Jason Fieber