If You Want to Retire Early, Start Doing These 12 Things Right Now

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If you can implement some or all of the items on this list your journey to early retirement will be short and sweet. The hardest part is actually starting.“The thing to do is to make so much money that you don’t have to work after the age of twenty-seven. In case this is impracticable, stop work at the earliest possible moment, even if it is at a quarter past eleven on the morning of the day when you find you do have enough money.”-Robert Benchley

Dreaming of Early Retirement

While I won’t retire by the time I’m 27(I’m 36), I’m hoping to retire before I’m 45.  I’m getting more and more antsy at work.  I pretty much daydream about early retirement whenever there’s downtime.

Even though I’m not retired yet, the following list are things that I have done or currently do to help me reach early retirement as fast as possible.  If you follow this list, or do only some of the items on the list, it should help you reach early retirement as well!

Max Out Your 401k and IRA if Possible

Look, I know it’s really hard to save that much money.  Start small!  It was only 4 years ago that I was putting in 3% every paycheck.  3% was the amount I needed to contribute to get the match.  I wanted to pay down my debts before I really started investing.

Once I was debt free I slowly started contributing more and more until I was comfortable contributing the max amount.  I’m pretty sure I changed my contribution amount like four times in one year!

Pay Off Debt

Some people suggest paying off all debt before investing anything.  When I was in debt, I saved enough to get the 401k match and then focused on paying off my debts.  Making sure that my emergency fund was fully funded when I was paying off my debt was also a high priority for me.

I kept a fully funded emergency fund because I had been laid off before at a time when I wasn’t in a secure financial situation and IT SUCKED! Thanks to parental help, I made it through, but it’s a situation that I never wanted to be in again.

Increase YOur Income

This one can be tricky, I’ll admit.  This is the one I’ve been working on for a while.  I’ve been looking for a new job that pays better than the one I currently have.  It also needs to be close to where I live because Mr. Frugal Turtle has a good paying job that he doesn’t want to leave (until he retires).  We don’t plan on moving until after we’ve early retired.

In lieu of finding a job within those parameters I’ve been looking at making money at a side hustle.  I’ve been slowly monetizing this blog in the hopes that it’ll bring in a little money every month.

I also have some books I need to try selling on Amazon.  If I have success with that, I may venture into retail arbitrage.  It’s a little intimidating to think about, because I have no idea what I’m doing!  That’s why I’m starting out small with used books and will increase it from there.

Keep track of what you spend with personal capital

Personal Capital (affiliate link) may be one of the most important tools of my early retirement journey.  Every single month I keep track of what I spend, save, and earn.  It’s a valuable tool to have, because I can look back through the months and see what areas I need to work on.  This year, I really want to work on lowing my grocery budget.

One pretty cool unintended detail of keeping track of my expenses is that since I’ve started writing down every single item I buy, I tend to buy less crap.  I think about where my money is going and if I really need that item.

Personal Capital is really easy to use and I have to admit, I’m kinda addicted.  You can link your credit cards, banks, and investment accounts to this site and it updates all the time.  I log in and check my net worth almost every single day.  It also has a pretty sweet retirement planner that tells you what you can work on to make your retirement even better.

Drive Older, Used Cars

I tend to drive cars until it costs more to fix them than they’re worth.  I currently drive a 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix with over 190,000 miles on it.  It has some rust and a few small dents and scratches, but it’s a great car!

I’m not looking forward to replacing it when the time comes.  However, I will be prepared when it happens.  I’ve been slowly adding any extra money to my Capital One 360 (referral link) savings account.  I call it my “New Car Fund.”

Did you know that the average car loan amount is $30,032 with a monthly payment of $503?  This average car loan has a term of 68 months.  That is insane!  

I can’t stop thinking that the $503 monthly payment would be better off transferred to a 401k or IRA instead of towards some greedy bank charging 5% in interest.  Who really needs a $30,000 car?

Don’t window shop, shop with a purpose

A crazy amount of money was spent at the mall when I was a teenager.  On stupid stuff.  Stuff like glittery make-up and Lip Smackers.  I spent money just to spend money.

Heck, even as an adult I would walk around Kohl’s with one of their 30% off total purchase coupons and wander the aisles looking for stuff to buy. All because it was 30% off.  Doh!

I’ve gotten better at this the past few years.  Being intentional with my money has saved me hundreds, maybe even thousands since I realized my goal of early retirement.

Now when I go shopping it’s for specific items and I almost always avoid the mall at all costs!

grocery shop with a list

Mr. Frugal Turtle and I keep our grocery list right on the fridge.  If we use something up or if it’s getting low we add it to the list.  Then we just snap a picture of the list before we go shopping.

I need to get better buying only what’s on the list.  A lot of times I’ll see a good deal on something that we don’t really need and in the cart it goes! And of course it’s usually convenience food that’s not very healthy!

I usually try to check out the sales flyers before we get to the store so I know what the good deals are.  I also pay very close attention to the store coupons.  They have much better deals than the manufacture coupons that you find in the Sunday paper.

One app that I found recently and love is Ibotta (affiliate link).  With this fun little app I’m able to save money on everyday items like milk, bread, eggs and orange juice.

I also just started using Target’s Cartwheel app.  How did it take me so long??  The app has a scanning feature that allows you to scan everything in your cart to see if there is a discount that can be applied.  On one of our last trips to Target almost everything we had in the cart had a discount that we could apply!

Stop Eating Out at Restaurants!

Not only does this habit add inches to your waistline, it empties your checking account as well!  What used to be seen as a treat is now an everyday event for a lot of people.  Those $10 lunches add up.  And if you go out to dinner as well and consume appetizers, drinks and desserts with the entrée, no wonder you’re having a hard time saving money.

Learn to cook at home!  There are so many excellent cookbooks and websites out there that show you how to cook.  There are no excuses for not doing this!  If you think you don’t have time during the week then batch cook several large meals over the weekend to enjoy on the weekdays.

If you can’t bike or walk to work, try to carpool

I live about 17 miles from my job.  That’s a little too far to walk or bike to work.  Carpooling was an option for Mr. Frugal Turtle and I when we worked the same hours.  It was awesome!  I saved so much gas money and wear and tear on my car.  Now, unfortunately, we work opposite shifts so there is no more carpooling.  I really wish I could carpool again.  🙁

don’t go on a fancy vacation every year unless you can use credit card points to pay for most of it

I don’t churn credit card points like a lot of people do.  Mostly because I’m not even sure it’s worth it for me.  How do people with low expenses spend enough money on new credit cards to get the bonus points?

Anyways, since I’m not one of those people with 100,000 credit card points, guess what?  I don’t take fancy, expensive vacations.  I’m not trekking off to Europe for a month-long vacation or planning an around the globe vacation.  Last year, Mr. Frugal Turtle and I vacationed at a state park that was three hours away and slept in a tent.  I love camping and suggest it to anyone.

 Cut Cable

This one is a HUGE money saver.  According to this Fortune.com article the average monthly cable bill is now $103.10.  That’s the AVERAGE!  People pay over $100 a month just to sit on their butts and watch TV.  That’s just sad.

We get by on subscribing to Netflix for our TV fix.  For about $10 a month we can stream a large variety of TV shows and movies.  It suites us just fine.

Use the Library

Thanks to the library I haven’t bought a book or DVD in ages.  I rarely reread books more than once, so the library is the perfect solution.  I also just love wandering through all the aisles and looking at all the titles.  It’s very relaxing to me.

Our library system has branches so I can check out a book or DVD in one location and return it at another location.  It’s pretty useful because the main library that I don’t get to as often has a bigger DVD selection than the smaller library that I normally frequent.  So I’ll check out quite a few DVDs at the main branch when I can and then just return them at the local library.  It’s a great system!

So there you have it!  These are the things that I am doing to get to early retirement.  If you are just starting out on your early retirement journey and confused with what to do first, just pick one item from the list above and do that first.  Slowly work on the rest when you are ready.

The journey to early retirement can be long, but it is so worth it!

What are you some things you are doing to help you reach early retirement faster?

If you can implement some or all of the items on this list your journey to early retirement will be short and sweet. The hardest part is actually starting.





2 thoughts on “If You Want to Retire Early, Start Doing These 12 Things Right Now”

  1. I love this list! I don’t max out my employer sponsored retirement accounts because then my bi-weekly paychecks would be approximately $0, BUT I contribute beyond what my employer matches and try to increase it with each cost of living raise. Obviously I need to work on earning more but I have more income than just my day job. I also have a huge problem with eating out-I just love it so much. I love cooking, too, but sometimes it’s hard to get excited about cooking after a long day at work.

    1. Thanks. I hear you about the small paychecks! But then I see those weeks as a challenge, like “how little can I get by on for the next two weeks?”

      I used to like eating out as much as the next guy, but then my cooking skills increased over time and I started to realize that I’d rather eat my cooking at home. Now it’s a rare occasion and I like it that way!
      Thanks for the comment!

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