Food & Nutrition, Getting Started

Breakfast of FI Champions – Part 2: Overnight Oats

I wish my Overnight Oats looked this amazing each morning

This is my second post in a series: Breakfast of (aspiring) FI champions: Making a nutritious and filling breakfast to fuel your FIRE with Overnight Oats.

We started in part one with the coffee, now we’re moving on to the actual food.

Overnight Oats: I got this idea from a write-up in the Costco magazine that turned up in the mail at the beginning of the year. I’m sure I had seen it elsewhere a few other times before, but this time it really looked like an appealing option. I also think Overnight Oats are now starting to get some traction with a broader audience in recent months; my wife mentioned to me that her co-worker was also recently singing the praises of overnight oats, and diligently making up a batch in the afternoon to keep in the staff room fridge for his breakfast the next morning.

My base ingredients:

  1. Raw Oats – Half a cup
    1. I’m using Quaker Oats “Old Fashioned”, which cost me $3.99 at Wal-Mart for 42 ounces (2lb 10 oz, or 1.19kg)
    1. I previously had a smaller container of Quaker Oats “Steel-Cut”, and I think to be honest I liked them better. I suspect it was the way that they were cut that helped them to absorb more of the liquid overnight and provide a better consistency.
  2. A milk product – 2/3’s of a cup
    1. I’ve tried both 1% milk and almond milk
    1. My preference is currently “Almond Breeze Unsweetened Chocolate” (40 calories / serving) which set me back ~$3.50 for a half-gallon carton from my local “Stop and Shop” store.
    1. I just bought some unsweetened Walnut milk for a similar price and I’m excited to explore what this will taste like with my next batch
  3. Yogurt – Half a cup
    1. I’ve bought Chobani Non-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt from our BJ’s store at $4.99 for a 40 oz (2.5lb, 1.13kg) tub.

Other ingredients to consider:

  • Chia Seeds: these are packed with omega fats and I’ve been adding a teaspoon or two to each batch; thankfully we had them in the cupboard already
  • Vanilla essence: If you really enjoy an extra kick of vanilla flavor
  • Spices: I enjoy exploring the addition of spices like ginger or cinnamon to my batches
  • Hot chocolate mix: I enjoy adding a teaspoon of dark chocolate hot cocoa mix for just a bit of sweetness to improve the taste of it all
  • Nuts: I added some glazed pecan pieces in one recent batch and enjoyed the crunch and slight sweetness 
  • Fruit: I’ve also sliced up banana and put it into the mix as well. Keep in mind any fruit you add should really be consumed within 24 hours. When I mix up the base ingredients, I’m generally fine with them sitting for up to 48 hours.

Nutrition and Cost

Now I’ve made some choices in the ingredients to keep things pretty low in sugar, but the nutrition of these ingredients combined makes for a pretty stunning and comprehensive meal. By my calculations from the base ingredients in the proportions that I’ve detailed above, this gets us to:

  • ~240 calories per serving
  • 17 grams of protein per serving
  • 4 grams of dietary fiber per serving (from the oats)
  • 4 grams of natural sugar per serving (oats and yogurt)
  • 3 grams of monounsaturated fats and 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fats
  • ~$0.93 / per serving (Oats = 13 cents, Almond milk ~30 cents, Yogurt ~50 cents)

Personally, I think these is some pretty impressive nutritional statistics for a healthy start to the day. One of my favorite aspects of using these Overnight Oats is that it is a very filling and satisfying meal, and I don’t feel hungry for many hours, which has in turn reduced my snacking before lunch.

I also just picked myself up some mason jars at Wal-Mart to make my oats in moving forward. To date I had been mixing them up in coffee mugs and covering them with aluminum foil while in the fridge.

A fresh batch of my real world Overnight Oats ready for the refrigerator

A cold breakfast combo for a FIREY appetite!

I’m not eating this for every single breakfast, but I have eaten these most mornings, and particularly during the work week since the beginning of 2019. I do have a personal goal to lose some weight this year, and I suspect a regimen like this could help me to reach those targets.

That takes my breakfast combo of Overnight Oats at 93 cents, and my Cold Brew Coffee at 26 cents to a grand total of ~$1.19 per breakfast.

In conclusion, I feel like this breakfast is a solid step forward from a financial and health perspective. Have you tried Overnight Oats yet? If so, what other ingredients are you using to make them delicious?

Food & Nutrition, Getting Started

Breakfast of FI Champions – Part 1: The Coffee

The fuel for my morning commute

This is my first post in a series: Breakfast of (aspiring) FI Champions: Making smarter choices with your coffee consumption can improve both your wallet and health.

Welcome to the Breakfast of FI Champions series, and to kick things off, coffee is deservedly the foundation of this discussion around breakfast choices. I need my coffee to get going in the morning, like many of us do, and specifically I prefer iced coffee; and yes, I generally prefer it even through the frigid temperatures of winter.

There was a time years ago when I would try to regularly stop in at Dunkin Donuts a mile or so from my office and order myself a large iced coffee, and if I was feeling extra extravagant, an old-fashioned donut to boot. As time went on, I slowly came to the realization it was no good for me or my wallet and this couldn’t continue.

In recent years I have developed a taste of cold brewed coffee. There is something about it that seems to reduce the bitterness of the coffee, and as a result I can happily drink it straight without any sweeteners or dairy. I captured this image in our local Walmart today and this is by far the tastiest brand of packaged Cold Brew Coffee that I have ever tasted: StŌk. I would highly recommend trying it as a special treat, my personal favorite is the green labeled un-sweet flavor. There is just something about how smooth and tasty it is without any flavoring agents or anything. However, at the end of the day its just too cost prohibitive for everyday consumption.

Stok Cold Brew was less expensive than my Dunkin Donuts habit,
but I needed to bring my daily coffee costs down even further

Even though $4.42 per bottle would get me ~3 servings and that was roughly what I was paying for a single Dunkin Donuts coffee, it still wasn’t entirely satisfying; there had to be more I could do to optimize my coffee drinking while supporting a more economical approach.

Then came my own cold brew kit from Amazon with a metal filter and enormous glass mason jar. At this point, I’m buying 45-ounce bags of Dunkin Donuts coffee at Costco, and brewing up two jars worth per week; I find that I get about three large coffee servings out of each jar, so I need the second one to safely get me through the week.

The bag of coffee ordinarily costs $17.49 for 45 ounces, and I generally use 12 tablespoons per jar that I’m brewing up, which the internet tells me is ~2 ounces of coffee, so this works out to about $0.78 / jar of cold brewed coffee, or about 26 cents per morning serving (assigning zero cost to my water and ice) 😉

Preparation and Process

I tend to brew it up on a Sunday evening, and Monday morning I’ll pull the filter out and dispose of the coffee grinds, top up the jars with water, and I’m ready to roll for another week.

I also really enjoy my tall 24 ounce vacuum sealed Contigo travel mug during my one hour plus commute. It has an amazing ability to keep the coffee cold; there are often days where I still have ice cubes rock solid at the bottom of the mug after sitting there all day long. The push button auto-seal function also does a great job of keeping me from spilling it on myself as I drive along.

I could always find less expensive brands of coffee, but at 26 cents a serving I’m feel pretty good about my morning cup of Joe being pretty economical and helping me get to FI a little faster. I also have to be reaping some health benefits by cutting out the dairy, sweetener, and occasional donuts that were consumed in my earlier morning routine from a few years ago.

What does your Breakfast of FI Champions look like from a coffee or morning beverage perspective? How are you handling coffee consumption to better align with you goals of becoming FI?

Getting Started, Goals

Writing a Financial Independence Mission Statement

Laying the foundation to build our journey towards FI

Writing a Financial Independence Mission Statement can help to articulate and crystallize the framework for your journey forward

Earlier this week I really enjoyed the latest edition of Paula Pant’s Afford Anything podcast with the New Year’s topic of “One Tweak a Week in 2019”. The action item that particularly resonated with me was the concept of creating your “Why?” in 100 words or less: Why are you so interested in, and committed to pursuing the path towards Financial Independence?

Maybe it could be called a Purpose Statement or a Mission Statement; for the sake of making a decision and moving forward I’ll just go with the latter in this post.

I had never really thought about a Mission Statement outlining my reason and rationale for pursuing FI; ever since becoming familiar with the concept it just felt intuitively aligned with what I wanted to achieve and how I would prefer to live.  

Recently I’ve developed an interest in creating Mission Statements, but I am still trying to follow through on the creation of these. I’m told that Mission Statements can be created for various dimensions of your life: Work, Family etc. Overall, I think it makes a lot of sense because:

When you can clearly articulate what it is that you believe in and are working towards, you have a much higher probability of success.

In a way I guess it shares some similarities to the goal setting I completed for 2019 in my recent post, however I believe this FI Mission Statement should be more of a holistic summary, outlining a long-term and overarching vision. In the true spirit of “just getting started”, let’s take a stab at this:

My Financial Independence Mission Statement:

“We are seeking to increase our savings rate and accelerate our journey towards a life of Financial Independence. Spending less on material goods will simplify our life, be healthier for the environment, and allow us to focus on what matters most. Financial Independence offers the ultimate freedom: The ability to spend your time and efforts focused on the people and endeavors that deliver you the most enjoyment and meaning. This journey should be enjoyed, and will be the result of an accumulation of many positive choices and practices that compound over time, along with our net worth.”

Well, what do you think? Once I got started it became a challenge to squeeze in all these thoughts and concepts into 100 words or less. I feel pretty good that it captures the key elements that are important to me, and I do think this could be something that is pretty durable for the long-term.

You’ll notice there is no mention of escaping from the corporate world or W-2 jobs, and that’s the way I want it. I see FI as something where I’m being pulled towards a life that is more desirable, rather than being pushed away from the grind of regular employment.

There are also no specific goals: savings rates, net worth, date for achieving FI etc. That makes sense for me: the reality is that life will throw us curve balls and these targets will fluctuate over time depending on the circumstances we are facing in that moment. I’m thinking of my Mission statement being the foundation and structure of my journey, much like the constitution is the foundation that sets up the government. My annual goals for the year can serve to capture the more near-term and tactical objectives that I want to achieve.

What about you?

Have you created such a statement for your journey? I’d enjoy seeing and hearing about statements that others have created, and the opportunity to compare and contrast the elements of each.

I think Paula also put out the concept that you could use this Financial Independence Mission Statement as a screensaver on your phone, as a regular reminder of what you’re working towards; She’s full of great ideas!

Save, Savor, and Soar!

Background, Getting Started

SAVE. SAVOR. SOAR!

Save. Savor. Soar! This is our tagline and mission as we approach this journey to Financial Independence.

I think these three words succinctly capture what this journey is all about for me, and I’d like to stick with this as our tagline for FI & Fly Free:

  1. SAVE: In general, we need to save at a relatively extraordinary rate compared to the average person, to build that “perpetual money-making machine” that will fund our freedom
  2. SAVOR: Tomorrow is not guaranteed, and its important that we enjoy the journey itself towards Financial Independence (FI). Personally, I want a sense of balance between saving aggressively, but also choosing to pursue and fund areas of my life that bring a lot of joy: travel, giving, etc.
  3. SOAR:  Take the reigns and live your dreams: Fly Free!

More of our Backstory: Early in our journey to FI

I work in Healthcare and my wife is a teacher. We currently both enjoy most aspects of our jobs, and I think our careers still carry a lot of opportunity for growth in the coming years, but personally the allure of having complete control of our time and daily efforts is strong.

We live in New Jersey (NJ) with two children, and they bring an enormous amount of joy to our lives, but between work and family it can often get extraordinarily hectic. While Mr. Money Mustache is a personal hero of mine, he’s not particularly supportive of the New Jersey and New York region when pursuing FI; primarily for weather and cost of living reasons based on what I read, but I’ll do my best to challenge these assumptions and overcome the odds.

I consider myself both curious and highly analytical, and I enjoy both thinking deeply and writing. All of this combined should yield a lot of interesting ideas that readers could consider for their own journeys.

We are not currently at or near FI, we are relatively early on in this journey to be honest. We do currently have a higher than normal household income, but I think you’ll find us to be relatable and down to earth in many ways. I don’t envision us embracing extreme frugality to achieve FI, but I’m positive we can and will embrace a relatively simple life for living in “Jersey”. There is still plenty of fat to cut from our spending, and I’ll keep note of the areas where we are streamlining things to help raise our savings rate.  

Today we live in a townhouse, and we own two basic cars with a lot of miles. We use credit cards and are a few months into a more intentional travel hacking process, but recognize how critical it is to pay them off in full every month.

Front-load the sacrifice

In a recent episode of ChooseFI, I believe they were speaking with the White Coat Investor and the phrase came up: “Front-load the sacrifice”. This is such a visually rich phrase that really sums up what is necessary to achieve FI, and FIRE (Financial Independence and Retire Early) in particular.

It again gets back to the space shuttle analogy, and putting that hard work and effort in at the beginning to get the momentum going, and then over time you will have things so much easier.

I’ve chosen to focus on FI rather than FIRE specifically with this blog. I still need to explore the analytics and quantifying what it will take to get us to FI, but I am envisioning and dreaming of a roughly ten to fifteen-year journey that will have us retiring in our early fifties. And when I say retire, I’m more envisioning pursuing hobbies and maybe my own business; I don’t anticipate stopping all work indefinitely. Maybe some extended travel and exploration after wrapping up the standard employee work.

Hey, thanks for sticking with us and reading through our second post!

Getting Started, Motivation

Just. Get. Started.

This is the very start of our financial independence journey blog, and the theme is fitting: It’s important to just get started.

There is a good chance that you will find this to be a simple and consistent theme for people pursuing financial independence, and living a meaningful life in general: The single most important thing is to take action, and get the journey started.

You don’t need to have experience. You don’t need to have all the details figured out, and a perfectly efficient way to get there. Just getting started with putting your ideas and dreams into action will immediately put you ahead of so many others in this world.  

The most important aspect is really just be willing to get started and give it a try, bringing a positive and curious attitude to think about how you can continually improve your approach, and before you know it you will be soaring through the air faster than a falcon.

This blog is an authentic example of me living by this very philosophy. I don’t know how to build websites, or how to navigate WordPress,but I’m getting started and I will just keep iterating and trying different things to continually improve it.

It seemed like such a fitting topic for our very first blog post, and I genuinely feel it is the most critical aspect to keep in mind whenever you are interested in pursuing something new. There is an enormous gap between wanting to do something and actually doing something, and the reality is that most people can’t be bothered.

In many ways its very similar to a rocket launch: So much of the energy that you need to expend will occur at the very beginning to get you off the ground. But after a few moments you start that momentum and things get easier. As you push onward you begin to find the atmosphere thinning, earths gravity losing its grip, and before you know it you are traveling faster than you ever thought would be possible; You’re really flying!

Welcome to FI and Fly Free (FI&FF)!!

We’re so excited to have you here, thank you for taking the time to explore this. I really see the purpose of this blog as being an outlet for chronicling our steady journey towards Financial Independence (FI), which I feel is the purest form freedom that I can imagine.

The FI&FF goal: To be inspiring, entertaining, and delivering practical ideas to help others towards FI

My hope is to build a platform that readers will find interesting, inspiring, and generate ideas that could be considered for their own journeys. I’ve heard the gentlemen at ChooseFI use the phrase “aggregation of marginal gains”, and I’m a big believer of this philosophy to just keep making minor improvements and efforts, that will compound over time to generate substantially better outcomes in how we live.

What to expect:

I’ll aim to release two posts each week, and I’ll try to keep these posts bite-sized and something that can be read in less than five minutes. I am still working a W-2 job, so there may be periods where my work life gets crazy and the posts suffer, but I’m determined to be disciplined with the regularity.

About Us:

I believe we have done a reasonably good job at managing our financial lives compared to average already, but as you know, we in the FI community want to achieve the extraordinary, and you’ll see there is still an enormous amount of room us to optimize and accelerate us down the path towards Financial Independence.

At this point we do not have a specific amount of money or time frame in mind for achieving Financial Independence; We’re just seeking to continually raise our savings rate and optimize our efforts and approaches. As we find and explore new tools to help us evaluate or turbocharge our progress,we’ll share it all here.

We don’t have all the answers, but I hope you’ll consider walking with us on this meandering journey, and that ultimately together we can: FI and Fly Free. We’re glad you just got started.