Dumb Luck Is Also Required

Larry MacDonald recently had a post on his blog about Derek Foster which was questioning weather the math of Derek’s strategy would let other people follow in his foot steps.  The short answer I believe is no.

Each early retirement story I’ve read of very young retirements (ie: under 50) all seem to have a common thread.  Each person will tell you how it is possible for you to do the same as them.  Yet the reality of it all is a bit of dumb luck is also required.

Granted most of the very early retirees do have plans to make some money with real estate or stocks and they do have a strategy.  Yet in every plan there is that wild card of luck.  Where the results of your plan far exceed what you expected to happen.  For example, when I bought my first house I knew it had a good potential for fixing it up and reselling.  Yet the renovations were more expensive than I would have guessed.   About $10,000 more expensive due to a leaking roof.  So I was hoping to just break even and not lose my shirt.  The reality was the local real estate market was hot and I made about $55,000 in profit in two years.  You could try to call it good planning or anything else, but in reality it is just dumb luck.

So you see each early retirement path is unique.  I don’t expect anyone to take the exact same path as me, because they will have different values and different opportunities.  Yet learning from each of these very early retirees teaches you something different such as controlling your spending, dividends are good, or avoid tax is important.  Yet each one echoes a similar lesson: luck favours the bold.  If you want a retirement under 50 you are going to have to take a few risks.

How to Host Thanksgiving on the Cheap

I’ve managed to avoid this for almost thirty years, but it finally caught up with me. We are hosting Thanksgiving for my family, which will be 14 people. The good news is I think we can pull off dinner for around $40 to 50 total. How can I do that? With just a few simple steps.

1) Stop being so proud and ask for some help. Get your family to bring over some food. My wife put out the deal that every family has to bring one dish. That way we only have to provide the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and the drink.

2) Plan ahead. We decided to host this about a month ago, the reason being we could space out the costs so it didn’t hit me all at once three days before the big event. My wife also did some research and got a recipe from her mom to do stuffing in a slow cooker making our lives much easier on the big day.

3) Watch for sales. The advantage of deciding to host Thanksgiving in advance is we can watch for a good sale on turkey. The other mistake most people make is they assume people will each much more turkey than reasonable. With a full spread of salads, potatoes and dessert you only need about 1/2 pound of turkey per person unless you want to be swimming in left over turkey.

So that’s my tips for a cheap thanksgiving.  If you got some ideas to help, please leave a comment.

The $0 Baby Room Challenge

After discussing this with my wife I’ve decided to embark on an interesting challenge for us. I want to decorate and prepare the baby’s new room with a total budget of $0. So I can only reuse items from our first child or beg, borrow or steal items to complete the room. The only sort of exception to this is I can use our credit card points to get gift cards to buy some paint.

So why am I doing this? I think people spend too much money on their kids before they are born. This time we are limiting ourselves to using what we have or what we can obtain without any money. It’s the ultimate expression of frugal thinking in my mind.

Looking around the house last night I figure we am already most of the way there. Here’s what I know I have:

  • Cradle – Borrow the family one from my brother
  • Crib – Reuse our existing one
  • Change mat – Get our first toilet trained so we can steal his (he will be three by the time his sibling arrives)
  • Rocking chair – Use our existing one.
  • Paint and related supplies – Reuse what I have in the house already and buy the rest with gift cards
  • Drapes – Use an existing set from storage.
  • Bedding and blankets – Reuse from the first kid’s bedding and if it is a girl ask for bedding as a gift from one of the grandparents
  • Dresser – Borrow one from my parents which is just sitting in storage
  • Clothes – Reuse the gender neutral clothing from our first kid and if it is a girl beg, borrow and request gifts to get the initial amount

So far the only problem item I’ve thought of is how to bath the kid. We don’t own a little tub. So far my plan for that is to just use an existing towel in the bottom of the tub, unless we can get something from someone else.

So what do you think? Can I make it or am I missing something? Any ideas from parents who had more than one kid would be most appreciated.