Tag Archives: financial independence

How to keep Small Items from Killing Your Budget

As 2016 kicks off, it’s time to start planning our budget for the year. We all know that it’s important to pay attention to the top 3 expenses. For most of us, it’s housing, transportation, and food. If you want to see how your spending stacks up to others, here is an article that shows American spending by household income.

Once you’ve analyzed your top 3 expenses, it’s time to start looking at the small items that tend to kill your budget. Here are items you may consider reviewing:

DINING OUT BUDGET

Budget Eating Out

Some people include dining out in the food category, but many included it in an entertainment category. Many people eat out 3-4 times a week and most average $40. By cutting out just one of these dining out experiences, you can save $2,080 for the year.

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AUTO INSURANCE BUDGET

Budget Automobile Insurance

Each year, auto insurance tends to increase. When your insurance comes due, why not search around for a more affordable policy? Look at increasing your deductible from $500 to $1,000. If your car is older and is worth less than $5,000, consider ditching your full coverage policy in favor of a collision policy, it can save a few bucks.

TV BUDGET

Budget TV Budget

Look at your cable bill and decide if you need all of the premium channels. If you’re paying for HBO, Showtime, and other premium stations, consider replacing that with Netflix or Hulu. Many TV providers like Dish and Direct TV offer a better rate for the first year if you switch. You normally have to commit to 2 years, but if you analyze your entire spend over 2 years, it may be a better option to switch. Bundling your TV and Internet may also save you a few bucks.

PHONE DATA

Budget Phone

Many of us buy more phone data that we need. Most carriers have an online portal where you can log in and see your usage. If you are paying for 5GB per month of data and use less than 1GB, you are leaving savings on the table.  Try to reduce your data usage and save a few dollars.

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CONCLUSION

After you’ve looked at your 3 major expenses, drill into the smaller expenses. If you’ve found expenses to trim that I may have overlooked, please share it below in the comment section.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Steve and his wife built a software company, sold it and retired early. Steve enjoys blogging about lifestyle freedom, financial independence and technology. If you like this blog, subscribe here to get an email each time he posts.

If you like this post, you might also like these prior posts:

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Meet Michael Hall: A 38 Year Old Millionaire with Bigger Ambitions

I first met Michael Hall in 2015 and was impressed with his story. He’s a 38-year-old entrepreneur that co-started and sold a software company that vaulted him into the millionaire club. But Michael is much more than that. He’s an avid learner, believes in random acts of kindness, and is a family man.

I asked Michael to share his story with our readers. Although he has accomplished an incredible amount already, he has bigger ambitions as you will learn in this interview.

If you like the interview, please share it on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

1. Michael Hall: tell our viewers a little about your story.

My name is Michael Hall and I am a 38-year-old entrepreneur currently in hibernation.  I previously started and ran an I.T. management and consulting company for a little over a decade.  After selling the company in 2012, I decided to take a few years off to hang out with my kids (3.5 and 1.5 years old).

Michael Hall

After a lot of soul-searching, I came to realize that my next business will revolve around the success of others.  Thus, I recently launched my own financial/personal development coaching service.  My mission is to help as many people as I can achieve financial freedom (quickly!) while ensuring they are living life with a purpose.  Helping people to step into their full potential is what really excites me these days!

As a related resource, I started a blog several months ago – FinanciallyAlert.com.  At this site, I talk about personal finance, early retirement, and tracks my financials with full transparency.

2. Please trace your professional journey until now.

I grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs and went to University in San Diego (UCSD).  After graduating with an Economics degree, I realized I didn’t know what to do!  So, I decided to flip things around a bit and pursued a career in technology.

After working at an I.T. company for a little over a year, the “Dot.com boom” fell apart.  My company began to implode quickly, so a couple of my friends and I decided to make the jump out on our own.

We grew the business steadily for over a decade, during which time I had the opportunity to wear many different hats, including – Systems and Network Administrator, L3 Support Tech, IT Manager, Technical Project Manager, CFO, and President.

3. Tell us more about your work right now and what made you choose this path.

At the moment, I am a stay-at-home dad which is incredibly fulfilling.  However, I know I’ve been called to do more and had multiple epiphanies during a couple of Tony Robbin’s seminars I attended recently.

So, I recently decided that I’d like to pursue life coaching with an emphasis on personal finance.  I would be so fulfilled to help others grow past their own limiting beliefs.

4. Tell us about the challenges you faced while carving out this path.

I’ve always had a strong faith that things happen for a reason.  But, sometimes it’s harder to see the bigger picture.  When I was selling my company, it was tough because I needed to stick around for the transition to ensure my team was okay, but my heart was elsewhere.  What I came to realize was that I needed to put forth my best effort regardless and extract the juice out of every experience.

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5. How has your journey affected you on a personal level?

The journey has certainly been fun and I can’t really complain, but there were certainly challenging times.  Taking a leap of faith and having the courage to pull the trigger even when the outcome is uncertain is critical to moving yourself to the next level.  Behind this leap of faith are where some of life’s greatest treasures lay hidden.

There is a shortcut however: it’s simply following your heart to pursue your passion and purpose.  Once you figure that out, find other people in the field that have accomplished a lot, and then model their success.

6. What are your goals and aspirations for the future?

I have a big goal of hitting $10M of net worth by the time I’m 50.  I’m 38 now, so I’ve got a little over a decade to get this figured out.  However, being that my next business will be coaching and helping other people, I feel like reaching this goal is much more important than just reaching it for myself.

If I’m truly helping and making a genuine impact on others, it will be reflected in my net worth over time.  In fact, it’s quite exciting!

7. What do you like to do with your free time?

I love to fish in my spare time.  Luckily my whole family enjoys it too, so we’ll enjoy family trips to the mountains to do some stream fishing in the summer.  I’ll also got out on my own to absorb nature alone sometimes.

There numerous lakes in San Diego with a healthy population of largemouth bass.  I also enjoy the challenge of fly fishing in the Sierra Nevada’s.

8. What are some website or blogs that inspire you?

Well, other than this awesome one (weretiredearly.com), I typically frequent sites like:

(My entire list can be found here)

9. What’s your favorite piece of technology you use?

This might sound a bit strange, but it’s my scanner!  Yup, my Fujitsu document scanner has changed my life for the better by eliminating the majority of paper in my life and taking me paperless.  In fact, I wrote a post about it here – How to Eliminate Financial Clutter For Good!

10. Where has been your favorite place to travel and why?

Oh this is a tough one.  I’ve been blessed to travel a lot.  But, if I had to choose one, it would probably be San Sebastian, Spain.  This is located in the Northern coastal part of Basque country.  It has a stunning coastline, great weather, beautiful architecture, and the food here is divine.

It is the second city with the most Michelin stars per capita in the world (only behind Kyoto, Japan).  Life here is good and meant to be enjoyed.  I also love that you can walk everywhere, or take public transportation when needed.  Restaurants and tapas bars are open super late and there’s always something new to feast on (can you tell I love food?!).

11. How can our viewers learn more about your story?

The best place to learn more about my story is on my blog’s about me page.

About this Blog

We hope you enjoyed this inspiring interview with Michael Hall. Steve and his wife built a software company, sold it and retired early. Steve enjoys blogging about lifestyle freedom, financial independence, and technology. If you like this blog, subscribe here to get an email each time he posts.

If you like this post, you might also like these prior posts:

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Financial Independence 101: What are Stock Dividends and Stock Splits?

This is a continuation of my Financial Independence blog posts related to financial education. I’m creating the blogs so that our two sons that will be graduating college soon will have a better understanding of personal finance.

What are Stock Dividends?

Profit is the amount of money a business has left over after paying all its expenses (revenue – expenses). The goal of most businesses is to make a profit because it adds value to the business and allows it to grow.

Stock dividends and stock splits

So what happens if a business makes a profit? They can take that profit and reinvest some of it back into the business to allow them to build better products and services. But many times, there is still money left over after that. When this happens, the business will normally give part of that money back to those who invested in their stock. This is done with a dividend.

Not all companies pay dividends, especially startups. They normally want to keep all of the profits to reinvest into growth. But well-established companies will often pay dividends.

When looking at your investments, you must look at stock appreciation and dividends to calculate the total return on investment.  For example, if you purchase stock A for $100 per share and stock B for $100 per share and both grow to $125 per share after the first year, your return on investment is 25% on each. However, if stock A also paid a 5% dividend, your return on stock A is actually 30%, so it is a better performing stock for you.

Dividend paying stocks (or mutual funds) can be great investments once you retire because they normally pay those dividends quarterly. When they pay the dividends, you can spend that money on retirement expenses.

What are Stock Splits?

When companies grow and are more profitable, the price of their stock tends to rise. Once the stock price rises over a certain price (normally around $150 per share), companies look for ways to reduce the stock price so that smaller investors can purchase shares. This is accomplished with a stock split.

Stock splits

With a stock split, the company will cut the price of their stock but will give their stockholders more shares. For example, if a company’s stock is $200 per share, they may cut the price to $100 per share but give all their existing shareholders twice the number of shares that they had before. This is called a 2 for 1 stock split. They can also split it by any denomination. In the previous example, they could have done a 4 for 1 split, reducing the cost to $50 per share but giving each stockholder 4 times the number of shares than they had before the stock split.

Conclusion

Now that you have an understanding of stock dividends and stock splits, let’s get to the bottom line. Once you start your career, set aside money for savings and have that money automatically deducted from your paycheck. Start with 15% of your paycheck, more if you can swing it.

Open up a Fidelity account and begin contributing money to a few mutual funds. If you want to really diversify, I suggest these 4 funds to invest equal amounts in:

  • FUSVX – A mutual fund that invests in S&P 500 stocks
  • FSEVX – A mutual fund that invests in small and mid cap stocks
  • FSITX – A bond fund that invests in credit-worthy bonds (note: if you are young and have 30 or more years before you retire, you may consider delaying the purchase of bonds for a while since you will not care as much about market fluctuations).
  • FSIVX – A mutual fund that invests in international stocks (like those in Europe).

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Finally, track your budget and investments with an online tool. Personal Capital is an excellent tool for this and best of all, it’s free**. This is a great start to financial independence!

About this Blog

Steve and his wife built a software company, sold it and retired early. Steve enjoys blogging about lifestyle freedom, financial independence, and technology. If you like this blog, subscribe here to get an email each time he posts.

If you like this post, you might also like these prior posts:

What do you think of these financial independence training articles? Leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts!

Follow me: Twitter  |  Facebook  |  LinkedIn  |  Subscribe to this Blog

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What are bonds

Financial Independence 101: What are Bonds?

This is a continuation of my Financial Independence blog posts related to financial education. I’m creating the blogs so that our two sons that will be graduating college soon will have a better understanding of personal finance.

Financial Independence 101: What are Bonds?

Investors tend to talk about buying and selling stocks and bonds. But what is a bond?

Bonds are simply a loan or an IOU, but you serve as the bank. 

Stocks and bonds are the primary ways companies raise money to grow their business. As discussed in our last blog post, when you purchase stock, you are purchasing ownership in the company. When you purchase bonds, you are lending money to the company and receive interest payments on that investment.

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Bonds have a fixed term (called a maturity date), normally 5 to 20 years but companies that issue bonds may “call them” (purchase them back) prior to maturity.

Related Post: Financial Independence 101: What are Stocks?

Who Issues Bonds?

Both companies and the government issue bonds to finance projects. Municipal bonds are issued by city and state governments. The US government issues Savings Bonds, Treasury securities, T-Bills and Treasury Bonds.

Why buy Bonds?

Buying bonds is a defensive play when you are building a balanced portfolio. Generally, the value of a bond rises when interest rates fall and fall when interest rates rise. So normally if the stock market starts to tank, your bond values will rise, protecting you from the ups and downs of the stock market.

When the stock market tanked in August of 2015, the value of my stock index mutual funds tanked but my bond index funds did well. This was my protection. Because we are retired, I draw money from our retirement portfolio every so often to pay for our living expenses. Since our stock funds were down, I could cash in some of our bond funds if I needed cash, and we would not lose money from the stocks that were in decline at the moment.

How do you purchase bonds?

Bonds are sold through brokerage accounts (Fidelity, Vanguard or some other financial institution).  You can also purchase government bonds directly from the US Treasury at TreasuryDirect, but I recommend having an investment account (like Fidelity). Once you have an account, you can buy and sell stock and bonds online. This account will become your portal to financial independence.

Is it risky to purchase bonds?

Bonds are much less risky than stocks but do not normally produce as high of a return. Again, it is your defensive play for when the stock market is in decline. One of the drawbacks of investing in bonds is that they have a set maturity date, so you cannot sell them at will.

Bond mutual funds solve this issue. A bond mutual fund is a collection of bonds (normally hundreds of bonds) that allow you to buy or sell at any time. The mutual fund is managed by a company and you pay a small fee to the mutual fund management company for having them manage it. The amount you pay is called the expense ratio, so look for mutual funds with low expense ratios (I look for those with an expense ratio of .15% or less).

Conclusion

Now that you have an understanding of bonds and financial freedom, let’s get to the bottom line. Once you start your career, set aside money for savings and have that money automatically deducted from your paycheck. Start with 15% of your paycheck, more if you can swing it.

Open up a Fidelity account and begin contributing money to a few mutual funds. If you want to really diversify, I suggest these 4 mutual funds to invest equal amounts in:

  • FUSVX – Invests in S&P 500 stocks
  • FSEVX – invests in smaller yet stable companies
  • FSITX – Invests in bonds (note: if you are young and have 30 or more years before you retire, you may consider delaying the purchase of bonds for a while since you will not care as much about market fluctuations).
  • FSIVX – Invests in international stocks (like those in Europe).

Finally, track your budget and investments with an online tool. Personal Capital is an excellent tool for this and best of all, it’s free**. This is a great start to financial independence!

** Note: I have no affiliation with Fidelity nor do I get any compensation, I am just more familiar with their services than other investment companies so that is why I recommend them in this article. I am an affiliate for Personal Capital, it is a totally free and superior way to keep watch over your investments. I would never recommend anything that I don’t personally use and completely believe in, so give it a try.

About this Blog

Steve and his wife built a software company, sold it and retired early. Steve enjoys blogging about lifestyle freedom, financial independence and technology. If you like this blog, subscribe here to get an email each time he posts.

If you like this post, you might also like these prior posts:

What do you think of these financial independence training articles? Leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts!

Follow me: Twitter  |  Facebook  |  LinkedIn  |  Subscribe to this Blog

Financial Independence 101: What are Stocks?

Our two sons are in their final stretch of college and will be graduating next year. College is great but unless you major in finance, you don’t always get a good understanding of personal finance so I will be talking about these subjects in upcoming Financial Independence blogs.

Financial Independence: What are stocks

Financial Independence 101: What are Stocks?

You probably know people who talk about financial independence and are “in the stock market”. They tend to talk about buying and selling stock. But what is stock?

Stock is simply ownership of a company, so if you have multiple stock owners (shareholders), each own a certain percentage of the company and will benefit as their earnings increase through sales and marketing. 

Stock ownership is a key ingredient on your path to financial independence.

Related Blog: Financial Independence 101: What are Bonds?

Do limited liability companies issue stock?

Not all companies issue stock. Small companies structured as a limited liability company (LLC) do not have stock because they don’t want to sell stock to raise money (capital).

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Private versus Public Corporations

Companies that plan to raise capital will structure themselves as a corporation and will issue stock. Corporations can be private or public.

Private corporations don’t sell their stock in the stock market. Instead, they issue shares of stock to the founders and sometimes early employees as an incentive to stick around and help grow the company into something larger. If they later sell the company or go public, their stock can be liquidated into cash at that time.

When we owned our last company, we structured it as a private corporation, with my wife and me owning all of the stock. Once we sold the company, the acquiring company paid us for the stock, allowing us to retire and achieve financial independence.

Once a company grows, it may decide to become a public corporation. This means that it will sell its stock in the stock market so that others can purchase it. You may remember hearing about companies going public (think Microsoft, Facebook, etc.) and pushing key employees into financial independence. This is because they owned stock and when the company went public, they could then sell their stock for the market price on the stock exchange.

How do you purchase stock?

Stocks are sold on the stock market exchanges, with the New York stock exchange and NASDAQ being the most popular. To purchase stock, you simply need an account with Fidelity, Vanguard or some other financial institution. Once you have an account, you can buy and sell stock online. This account will become your portal to financial independence.

Is it risky to purchase stock?

It can be risky to purchase a stock because if the company goes belly up, you lose all your money. Imagine investing in Circuit City, they were darlings of the stock market and after being in business for 60 years, they went out of business in 2009. All of the shareholders lost their money.

The reason to purchase stock is that it can be a lucrative tool to help you achieve financial independence. With risk comes rewards. Since 1900, investors have averaged a 7% return on their stock investments per year. That’s a lot better than putting it into a savings account that returns less than 1% per year.

How can you make stocks less risky?

As discussed earlier, if you invest in a single stock, the company could go out of business and you lose all your money. To minimize that risk, it’s a good idea to invest in multiple stocks so that you spread the risk. But to really spread your risk, you need to invest in 100 or more stocks. This can be time-consuming and difficult to manage.

Mutual funds solve this issue. A mutual fund is a collection of stocks (normally hundreds of stocks) that allow you to reduce your risk. The mutual fund is managed by a company and you pay a small fee to the mutual fund management company for having them manage it. The amount you pay is called the expense ratio, so look for mutual funds with low expense ratios (I look for those with an expense ratio of .15% or less).

What is the Dow Jones and S&P 500?

The Dow Jones is an index that shows how 30 large publicly traded companies have fared over time. Companies in the Dow Jones include 3M, Apple, Boeing, American Express and other large companies.

The Standard and Poor’s (or S&P 500) is an index that shows how 500 large companies have fared over time. If the S&P 500 index goes up on a particular day, it means that on average, the 500 stocks in that index went up as a group. Some may have gone down, some may have gone up, but as a group they are worth more than yesterday.

How do you make money in the stock market?

Stocks and mutual funds are traded on the stock exchanges and you purchase them for a specific price. For example, one of my mutual funds has a stock ticker of FUSVX. It is a Fidelity mutual fund that invests in stocks that belong to the S&P 500. It is currently selling for $69.34 per share.

When I initially purchased this 5 years ago, I purchased it for a much lower price than it is selling for today. In fact, it has provided a 15% return each year, averaged over those 5 years. So if I had bought $1,000 of that mutual fund 5 years ago, it would be worth about $2,011 right now. In other words, I would have more than doubled my money. Doubling your money is the path to financial independence!

This is because the price it is selling for now is higher than when I purchased it. So if you purchase a stock or mutual fund and the price goes up, you make money. If the price goes down below what you paid for it, you lose money.

A final way you can make money with stock is through dividends. You can think of dividends as profit-sharing. If a company does well, it wants to reward its investors (shareholders) with some of those profits. Some stocks and mutual funds will pay dividends as they generate profits. Some will pay monthly, some quarterly and some yearly. The dividends can be cashed out or you can automatically reinvest them into buying more stock, it is up to you.

Dividends will become an important part of your retirement plan once you reach financial independence because they provide passive income.

Conclusion

Now that you have an understanding of stocks and financial freedom, let’s get to the bottom line. Once you start your career, set aside money for savings and have that money automatically deducted from your paycheck. Start with 15% of your paycheck, more if you can swing it.

Open up a Fidelity account and begin contributing money to a few mutual funds. If you want to really diversify, I suggest these 4 mutual funds to invest equal amounts in:

  • FUSVX – Invests in S&P 500 stocks
  • FSEVX – invests in smaller yet stable companies
  • FSITX – Invests in bonds (see related blog post)
  • FSIVX – Invests in international stocks (like those in Europe).

Finally, track your budget and investments with an online tool. Personal Capital is an excellent tool for this and best of all, it’s free**. This is a great start to financial independence!

If you would like a visual introduction to stocks, watch this Kahn Academy video.

** Note: I have no affiliation with Fidelity nor do I get any compensation, I am just more familiar with their services than other investment companies so that is why I recommend them in this article. I am an affiliate for Personal Capital, it is a totally free and superior way to keep watch over your investments. I would never recommend anything that I don’t personally use and completely believe in, so give it a try.

About this Blog

Steve and his wife built a software company, sold it and retired early. Steve enjoys blogging about lifestyle freedom, financial independence and technology. If you like this blog, subscribe here to get an email each time he posts.

If you like this post, you might also like these prior posts:

What do you think of these financial independence training articles? Leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts!

Follow me: Twitter  |  Facebook  |  LinkedIn  |  Subscribe to this Blog

Podcast: An Entrepreneurial Strategy for Selling a Company

BigPicture

Jordon Bryant of ChambersDS just published this podcast with Steve Miller, who built a multi-million dollar software business and sold it in 2009 and retired. After being retired for several years and traveling the world, Steve is now creating mobile apps in between time he spends golfing, boating, cycling and keeping fit.

Ways To Listen To This Episode

About Steve Miller

The guest for this podcast is Steve Miller, an entrepreneur who built the multi-million dollar Pragmatic software and sold it to AutomatedQA, which is now SmartBear Software, in 2009. He has over 24 years of experience in software development, project management, and software architecture.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Steve:
  • 1:23 : Steve gives us a peak in his consulting days with Microsoft and how this influenced him in forming his previous company, Pragmatic Software.
  • 3:21 : The solutions, features and benefits of their software, and the pivots they had made to fully develop their company including branding and building up clients to make the business viable. These strategies resulted to winning awards and, in turn, made them more attractive to other companies.
  • 06:16 : How they ended up being acquired by creating strategic partnerships and pre-planning integrations with other vendors with products complimentary to theirs. We also discuss the value exchange that happens during cross promotions and partnerships, not only in terms of revenue, but also when it comes to building relationships.
  • 08:46 : We dig into how he came up with a SMART exit strategy and how he ensured that this buyout plan came into fruition. Steve shares the timelines, starting out by identifying the list of companies which would be a good fit, narrowing them down, reaching out to form a relationship to those which remained as potential candidates and finally achieving the goal of being acquired.
  • 12:07 : Steve explains what a buyout earn out is, as well as the things that companies are looking for before doing acquisitions. He adds that they are not just interested in the product but also, they are interested on what you will bring into the table. As someone who knows your product well, they would look at you to be there to support the transition initially. He also shared pay out terms during their buyout and how they exceeded revenue targets which resulted to bonuses.
  • 14:04 : What Steve is currently doing with his free time including travelling, exploring his hobbies, and finally deciding to enter the mobile app development world.
  • 15:10 : His amusing story of how losing his iPad spurred his genius and resulted to his first app creation, aMemoryJog. He also talks about how travel can change perspectives and about his long term plans.
  • 18:41 : The structures Steve had in place when he started working with aMemoryJog starting from looking at the competitive landscape, creating a business plan after his analysis, and documenting his processes along the way.
  • 23:53 : Apart from looking at the App Store, Steve also shared his other validation techniques such as having the app reviewed with friends and family and leveraging on his network.
  • 25:21 : How detailing his specifications helped him in landing a good price and using oDesk and Elance services for his app development needs. Steve also shares advice to people seeking development.
  • 27:57 : Steve’s other marketing efforts including reaching out to bloggers to tap them to become beta testers in different silos to get feedback. He also shares how he plans to reach out to them using a template with a YouTube video and how he tracks response rates.
  • 36:10 : Other key take aways that Steve had learned from his first app that he will be applying for the second: driving social virality through sharing capability and establishing good PR.

Rapid Fire Questions

  • Would you put more emphasis on the idea or the execution? How would you weigh each of them why?
    • Everybody has an idea for an app so for me it’s 10% idea, 90% execution.
  • What is your biggest learning lesson on your journey so far?
    • It’s good to localize but you can localize too early.
  • What is your favorite business book?
  • What is your favorite app?
  • What is the coolest thing that you are working on right now that you want everyone to know about?

Links From The Episode

Connect With Our Guest

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Cost Savings for your first app

Ways to Save a few Bucks

As a subscriber to this blog, you probably know that my wife and I retired early and develop mobile apps in our spare time. When retiring early, you will have lots of years to live on your savings so it is fun to find ways to cut costs.

In today’s blog, I have curated a few articles that show you how to save a few dollars with very little sacrifice and spotlights a soon-to-be early retiree.

Saving on your Cellular Bill

Our family has 4 iPhones and the monthly cost of service has been $250 with AT&T. This provided unlimited talk and text and 10 gb of data. We’ve been on a mission to lower our monthly cost and finally found a solution. AT&T has pre-paid plans that are much less expensive. The one we have chosen is the $30 per month plan. It provides unlimited talk and text but does not have a data plan. In other words, you can only use the internet if you are connected to WiFi, but that lower our costs from $250 a month to $120 a month.

If not having a data plan is a deal breaker for you, another option is the $45 per month plan. It provides unlimited talk, text and data, so you can use the internet while connected to cellular or WiFi. It provides fast speeds for up to 1 gb per month then slows the cellular connection speed down to 128 kb once you hit the 1 gb for the month. Checking our usage, I never hit 1 gb a month anyways, so it is a good plan for us.  With this plan, we can reduce our costs from $250 per month to $180 per month.

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Since we already use AT&T, we can keep our own phones and the pre-paid plan is a month-to-month plan with no long term commitment. Learn more here: https://www.att.com/shop/wireless/plans/prepaidplans.html.

If you have an Android phone, another option would be Republic Wireless. With this plan, it connects to the data plan via roaming WiFi signals and will connect to a cellular tower when a local WiFi signal is not present. The cost varies but they advertise that you can get coverage for about $14.95 per month (see https://republicwireless.com/plans/). Our only issue with this plan was that coverage is not nearly as good as with AT&T, so you may be giving up access to phone service in specific areas. They do have an online coverage map that shows you coverage for the areas you live and will visit.

Related article: 5 Budgeting Tips for September

Online Coupons

We tend to purchase items online and look for promotion code coupons to make purchasing items cheaper. It is sometimes tricky to find a coupon for a specific item, but a browser plug-in called Honey really helps.

honey review - logo

Our friends over at Budgets Are Sexy wrote a great article that explains how Honey works, see that article here: http://www.budgetsaresexy.com/2015/07/save-money-using-honey-browser-extension/.

Related article: 5 Budgeting Tips for September

Mr. and Mrs. 1500

It’s always great to meet people with similar interests. We recently met a couple that goes by the name of Mr. and Mrs. 1500. They are inspiring couple that have a goal of retiring at 43 years old. In 2013, they started a blog called 1500 Days to Freedom and publicized that they would retire in 1,500 days from then. Starting with a portfolio of less than $600,000, their goal was to amass 1 million dollars in 1,500 days (ending in 2017).

On their website, they chronicle their journey and transparently post each month how they are progressing towards their goal. As of today (July 25, 2015), they have already reached $1,000,000 and are now working on paying off their house so that when they retire in a couple of years, they will be totally debt free.

My wife and I recently had a beer with Mr. and Mrs. 1500 and got to know them better. They are truly and inspiring couple.  Learn More: http://www.1500days.com/

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