One Month Unemployed – Is This What FIRE is Like?

calendar-jumbleThe first month of my unemployment has come and gone faster than I would have thought. Sure, it’s February, technically the fastest possible month that could go by, but the fact remains. A month of not working, with my days my own – my first such month in the better part of a decade. While I am tracking my spending more than ever, I can honestly say that I didn’t really reckon with the financial implications of being unemployed. Is this a taste of the FI life? Is this bliss?

First things first, despite the lack of a job, mine is not exactly a life of FIRE. Most prominently, I would not be spending hours each week in the pursuit of a job, exploring the market, drafting and sending off cover letters and resumes. And I am aware that this month was more of a “break” from reckoning with long-term finances than any sort of permanent release from it. I still haven’t deposited the last checks I received from my working days, which are sitting in their envelopes a few feet away. The mental break will end and pressure will begin to slowly mount to find something – at a certain point, exploration and pursuit won’t be enough. Finances will have to be taken off the existing auto-pilot and reexamined, then stabilized, for where I am today.

However, I have had a month, and during this month I’ve made exactly the kind of effort to set my own priorities, accomplish my own goals, and own my days that I think I would have made if I truly were FI. My “free” days were perhaps crimped a little with job-related activities, but the overlap is substantial. It’s time to take stock of how that went.

It seems fair to go back to the goals I spelled out when I began this blog to start framing my answer.

1) This Blog. I never give myself a chance to write, and I miss the reflective power of journaling more in my youth (aka, the last time I wasn’t working). I also think blogging here about my goings-on will keep me honest.

Writing in this blog has been a good experience – as with most personal writing that I do, even when it’s hard to drag myself to my desk, I’m happier after I’ve done it. That being said, I haven’t posted a ton lately, which means I get less of the exact happiness I just referred to. I’m happy with my start here, and will be happy to continue it (and more) next month.

2) Other Blogs… One will be geared towards creative writing… I’m also planning to start a blog in [the e-commerce] vein… if I can find a way to approach it that feels honest and not soul-draining. If all goes well, these blogs might earn me a buck or two.

Oof. I get no credit here. I have not started either of these blogs, and I can’t even blame it on burning out from posting here every day. I have thought about both of these blogs, what I’d put in them, how I’d run them, but there’s hardly any visible results. I need to reexamine this goal and see if maybe it isn’t actually so important to me, and if it is, I need to figure out how to, and then commit to, begin getting it off the ground.

3) Home Stewardship… I’ve already begun keeping a sharper eye on my household costs and cooking a lot more. Without being tied to my computer for eight hours, I am now free to take this to the next level. If I do this right, I anticipate I can slash thousands off our yearly home budget, chiefly through the cooking of delicious food.

This one’s gone pretty well. I’ll have the final numbers in a couple of days but there’s no doubt that our food/grocery bill is lower this month than last month. I’ve really enjoyed cooking more, including baking cookies from scratch just for the fun of it, and am further integrating bulk shopping into my routine. I think my main goal is still just to get even better at this.

It’s helpful to look back at these goals because it’s easy to wonder just what I’ve been doing with myself. It’s been a month! As I continue to wrestle with the distractions that prevent me from being as focused – and happy – as I’d like, I have to admit that it’s a work in progress.

A month feels like a long time, but in the scheme of things, it’s not, not for a significant lifestyle change. I’m still doing some paid editing, all that job-seeking, all the extra dishes and cleaning that comes along with doing more cooking, reading more, and slowly decreasing our expenses. I know I could be doing more, but that’ll pretty much always be the case, and it’s key to let that thought feel inspiring, rather than dreadful.

So how’s it been living a life of faux-FIRE? I have been waking up far more often excited by the possibilities of what I will do with my entire day, rather than by trying to remind myself of what I might be able to squeeze into my night after work. I have had more time to spend on things I enjoy, and am much less interested in ever “getting through” a day of my life ever again. I still need to intentionally remind myself to align my actions with my desires, a task not made easier by simply having more time on my hands… it’s hard to say whether I’m doing better percentage-wise on that score than I was when I was employed, and that’s an area of continued focus.

I imagine that would be my central challenge in a life of FIRE. Though I’ve come to realize how good they can be for me, I’ve never been particularly successful at getting routines to stick.

One month in, and though I am a long, long way from FIRE, it’s interesting to reflect on this time as a bit of a case study. It’s not without its challenges, but unsurprisingly, I think I’d like it. That’s going to take getting back to work and building the ol’ stash up though, because it’s a marathon, not a race. We all just have to keep moving as steadily as we can.

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