Early Retirement Extreme 21-Day Makeover

The beginning of my family’s get out of debt journey, it was all about being a frugalite in order to help accelerate payments. We also set up the budget and our snowball schedule.

Definition of a Frugalite: One who is frugal, yet fun. A person who wants to save as much of their hard earned cash as possible – but in creative ways.

But as time goes on,  because our finance payments are automated and in sync with our snowball schedule, I have noticed we don’t practice being frugal as we used to be in the former days. I believe this happened because we freed up some funds for free play and convenience is easier to accept. The bad side of this… our get-out-of-debt-journey is going way toooo slow for my liking.

Early Retirement Extreme 21-Day Makeover

Many of you read Jacob’s blog called, Early Retirement Extreme {if you don’t, you should}. He has what’s called the Early Retirement Extreme {21} Day Makeover: the practical guide to “retiring” in 5 years with a nest egg sufficient to cover all your living expenses. He’s done it and he tells ya how it can be done.

I want to get out of debt, now. I am tired of waiting. There is plenty more I want to do with my life than sit around handing over my hard earned money to my bills. I am toying with the idea of taking part in this 21-Day Makeover and analyzing it from a family’s perspective.

I know there was a comment on Jacob’s blog about how to retire early when you have 2 kids. This got me thinking. How does a person/people with children meet their goal of becoming debt free? I know I struggle with paying down debt while raising teenagers because they seem to be uber expensive. And I struggle more in paying our debt down with gazelle intensity.

But Jacob hit the nail on the head with this Q & A:

Q: How can someone with children retire early?
A: The same way as people without children. By themselves, children actually spend very little money. The problem is parents spending money on their children without limits. If you adopt the same basic guidelines for your children as you do for yourself, the cost will be low. The fiscal or frugal problem happens when parents are willing to spend less on themselves but still create a consumer lifestyle for their children. I believe this is doing the children a disfavor.

{*raises hand* Yes, I am guilty of this !}

The Difference in Scenarios

Jacob was a student, single {now married} and had more freedom to make these extreme choices. And those choices were able to continue to the near degree even when he married, because DW knew the situation before hand {she did, right Jacob? ;)}

I have a family {me, hubby, tween and teen, 2 cats, and fish}. The family did not come into extreme circumstances and it is my obligation to care for these children {meaning, income will not be brought in from my kids or pets}.

The Project, The Reason

I don’t know that I want to live ‘extreme’ forever. But I do know that I want to retake the steps, obtain the lifestyle, that will help me get rid of debt with gazelle intensity. Here are the plans:

  • Take each day’s makeover steps {prolong each step in 1 -3 week increments} and apply it to my family.
  • Update you via vlogs {video blogs} and posts with our progress, our gripes, why I think this could or could not work in a family setting or if I am just doing the makeover steps myself. Oh ya, I’ll add the frugal recipes on here, too! {I may divide these updates between vlogs/posts and a newsletter – Haven’t decided yet}
  • Add ‘how-to’ post sprinkled in between {how-to mend a sock, plant an herb garden, batch cook & freeze, how-to sell your stuff, ect…} . If you’re a blogger with a keen knowledge of a how-to {frugal} and would like to Guest Post, I would love to hear from you!

Like this vlog, above. My daughter and I made the conscious choice to walk to school instead of drive. In fact, we had a great talk  and she had fun recording the short video. By walking, I would like to keep track of how much I am saving in terms of gas and oil changes {and hopefully I can tell you of some weight loss, too}.

Other conscious frugalite choices I did yesterday: drove home without the AC {it was hot yesterday, too}, packed my lunch for work, and made home fries for dinner instead of running out to the store.


Anyone will be able to benefit from project {or perhaps you’ll find cheap entertainment in watching/reading these posts}. Whether you have kids or no kids, getting yourself out of debt needs motivation. Isn’t that why we are all blogging?

But, this project will definitely help those who do have children and struggle with paying down debt. I hope that I can bring forth guidance, that you & I can learn what may or may not work, find some helpful recipes {share yours, too}.

And this will hopefully help me and my family speed up this get out of debt drama I’ve been hanging on for so long!

So go print out Day 1: Finding a Place to live and we’ll bring it up for discussion in a few days! In fact, go read the whole 21 days and get those thoughts brewing!

Single Mom, Rich Mom, want to chime in any thoughts or tips?

Posts I enjoyed this week

Check out the Yakezie Carnival on Beating Broke. He did quite an awesome job creating a huge list of recent blog posts written by Yakezie members {What is Yakezie?}

Hear of the Catfight of the Personal Finance Blogger Chicks? It’s a challenge of “who can spend the least in the month of June” and I’ve signed up for it {and am deemed to win, too}. 😉

Personal Finance Blogger Chicks:
Single Mom, Rich Mom {Host}
Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance
Move to Portugal
and myself…

Let the brawl begin!

My New Hopefully Passive Affiliate Site: DIYThemesGallery.com I still have a bit more to tweek or add, but I am pretty much done with the site. Plus, many of you personal finance bloggers using Thesis as your theme choice are profiled on the site.

35 thoughts on “Early Retirement Extreme 21-Day Makeover

  1. Single Mom Rich Mom

    Oh goody!!!
    I’m a big believer in ZERO-based budgeting once in awhile when we really want to meet a goal. I think for the most part when we track, we expect to stay within a certain range and think we’re doing okay if we do that. Which does work when we look at the long haul.

    But if we start off by thinking EVERY expense is (possibly) not a given or does not have to be made, we open up our creativity. I cut cable for a few years back in the late 1990’s, went for a period of 2 years where I did not step foot in a mall even once just to detox myself from my spending addiction. Cut my own hair for 2 years… loads of little steps like that. I think I got our grocery spending down to around $3-4/day for 2 people back in those days at some points. I’m double that now, but probably still 1/2 of the average person.

    Amy Dacyczyn (The Frugal Gazette) documented that she could feed a family of 4 on $42/week (mid 1990 prices) which is the same figure as my estimates (but I’m in Canadian $, therefore groceries – and pretty much everything – is more expensive). She averaged out at $180/month with 2 adults and 6 little kids (1-9 y.o.) – mid 1990 prices (with her own garden).

    In Amy’s world (and mine when I was broke, in debt, and digging my way out), everything gets broken down into one of two categories:
    Essential and Optional. Fruit for your kids is essential. Coffee, candy and soda is optional. Dry clothes are essential, using your dryer is not.

    Having raised my oldest and over-spending on him, it was essential when the second came along that I never allow him into stores once he got to the age that he could ask for stuff. 😉 He was well-trained I guess since he rarely asks for things even now – and doesn’t like going into stores either. 🙂 When he does go, he comparison shops with me because I want him to understand unit prices – and sometimes the difference between getting something like a game he will really love and use a lot that might be more expensive than the cheap game but the utility cost is higher.

    FWIW, I think you’re going about it the right way. Get down to the point where saving more on something becomes kind of painful or annoying and then move up one level from there to something you can happily live with.

    Looking forward to seeing how you do this month!

    1. Money Funk

      I definitely believe in keeping track when there is a goal to be met. I even keep a food diary when I want to lose weight {works great}.

      Essential and Optional.
      Your statement, “dry clothes are essential, using your dryer is not” <-- love that. Most people, as myself, would not consider that notion. But I can see thinking like that opens a whole new thought of money saving possibilities. {That might be why, as a single mom, I did not get out of my debt}. Thank you, Jacq. I look forward to the catfight, too. 😀

      1. Darren

        I’d also like to highlight Amy Dacyczyn’s books if you really want to cut costs. She’s written several Tightwad Gazette books that I think should really help.

        As far as drying clothes, do you live in a pretty sunny state? If so , just hang your clothes outside in the sun. I’m sure it’s save some electricity costs, and it’s not super complicated to do.

        Good luck!

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  3. Beckey & Jeff

    Awesome post. I’m checking out the full 21 days now. By the way, I like the new look of your blog and thanks for updating your picture. 🙂

    1. Money Funk

      Haha. Well someone should have told me about the picture. 😉 Actually, my husband’s friend at work {female} told me I need to update my picture. It was one of those things on my list.

      The 21 Days makes you go ‘hmmm…’. Glad to see you are still around. And I hope financially moving up in the ranks.

      1. Beckey & Jeff

        We are not going anywhere. 🙂 We are moving up financially in rank, so far we have paid off almost 10k in debt this year, and that’s just up until the end of May. We are annihilating our debt and our Debt Free Date is about 2 years away, so we are stoked. We both can’t wait to be debt free.

  4. alex

    of course it can be done. I dont remember exactly how Jacob explains it but I lost my job at one point (I was 8 months prego) and found myself in a tight spot. Being a single parent (father was n still is no help) I had to fend for myself. I refused welfare and instead threw all caution to the winds and seas and with my savings opened up my own company. two years later Im financially independent, retired and traveling and enjoying life with my daughter. I didnt see it then, but not having that job anymore was a blessing. It was the motivation I needed to open my eyes and remember that money isn’t real 🙂 money is a concept. Karma.

    1. Money Funk

      I’d love to hear what kind of company. And nice that you had that savings to help you. So, your FI, too?!
      I understand that if a person’s living expenses are low than an FI doesn’t necessarily means you need a lot. But despite what your cost of living is, its still a sizeable chunk of money {that most people don’t accumulate}.
      I love all these FI people coming out of the woodwork, being heard about my way. And traveling with child? Truly envious! I’ve always wanted to do such a thing.
      Thank you for sharing!

      1. Alex

        I own a real estate company. It makes over six figures and looking at expanding. I started with 100k, that was basically everything in my savings account that I was saving for a house n decided to rent instead and buy an income producing property. A year later I bought two more properties, n earlier this year I bought another property. Anyone can do it, when fear is your motivation and you know there’s no one yo help you but you, you become very creative and bold.

        Yep, 🙂 I try to take my baby everywhere I go. Looking at settling down sometime this here and actually staying in one spot. I’m looking at sending my daughter to private pre-school and it’s expensive. However education is one thing I’ll never skimp on. (at least not hers anyway) i figure if I place her in the right environment early enough she’ll develop the “life-long” habits I feel are lacking in a lot of children nowadays.

        My primary residence is 5 bedrms 2.5 baths n it’s a full house (family had financial issues and they needed a place to go) thankfully I found one for 20k just took a lot and here I do mean a LOT of sweat equity to rehab the house and make it liveable. However, it was worth it.

        You’re doing great too. And yes, I’ve been living below my means since I started working. Someone got to me early and informed me about investing and not being a consumerist 🙂 gotta love my uncle Bobby.

        1. Money Funk

          Dang, very nice job. Love success stories {don’t we all?} It sounds like you are very good at Real Estate. Kudos for following your strong suits.
          And manual labor is a great workout. 😉 That is an awesome price, too {or maybe I am really jaded by living in California}.
          Savvy Saving Bytes has the same awesome financial habits like the ones bestowed onto you from uncle Bobby. I just wish I had someone to teach me the same. But I am hoping to pass on such wisdom to my daughter. Hopefully my son will pick it up and its not too late to be persuaded {he’s 15 1/2 yrs old}.

          Thank you for the thumbs up. It will be great to me when I see that bank account rise and the debt gone. Time to really put some sweat equity into my financial life. 😀

  5. Evolution Of Wealth

    Sounds interesting I’ll have to check out all 21 days.
    In regards to walking to school instead, does it take extra time? It makes sense that you would save money from a car standpoint but are you giving anything up since walking usually takes more time? Maybe you could have worked an extra half hour or cleaned the house or maybe you just like spending the time with your daughter instead?
    The air conditioner in the car thing always kills me. There have been studies that show, driving with your windows down or with your air conditioner on are about the same. You won’t see any savings between the two. Yes, both are better than driving with all the windows up but that’s not usually an option in the heat.

    1. Money Funk

      Actually it is a short walk. About a mile roundtrip. Took me 15 mins each way But we spend more quality time walking together. It worked out great. I think taking time to do these frugal activities, thus possibly slowing down my time, is a good thing. We overwhelm lives with so many to-dos that I think slowing down to do one thing with dedication is probably better. Just like I enjoy hand washing dishes over rinsing and sticking them in the dishwasher. Kind of meditating exercise. 🙂

      I have heard that about the AC, too. But I can feel the pull in my car with the AC. So, I am assuming that that it will take less with the windows down. When I tally the amount spend in one month compared to a typical month… it will be interesting to see if there is a substantial difference.

  6. Financial Samurai

    Careful about that dog on the walk to school C! Sounds like a fun challenge, and look forward to the mini videos.

    Good luck in Jacob’s challenge. It may be easier for Jacob to do as someone without kids than someone with I have to imagine.



    1. Money Funk

      I’ve got the pepper spray! I enjoy challenges and the motivation it presents. So, it should be fun to see the variety of emotions this depriving frugal stance will take me through. ERE tweeted it would take 6-12 months to get over materialistic withdrawls. LOL.

      And if I can put forth in my blog with the plans in my mind… it should be a great journey to follow.

      Not only the kids… but with a spouse who doesn’t always agree with completely frugal ways. But darn it! I want out of this debt. So we will find a mutual way to make this work. 😉

  7. Early Retirement Extreme

    I agree on the “go to the edge and then take one step back”. Eventually though, it’s not so much about cutting down monetary expenses as it is replacing the activity of buying with 1) not wasting (throwing out food, clothes that can be repaired, buying things that don’t get used) and 2) creating (not buying when a solution can be improvised).

    This takes time to learn. In particular it will take a little while to learn to do things better (for instance cook) compared to buying the solution.

    1. Money Funk

      There was my problem, right there. I cut my expenses down low but got stuck; felt deprived and sometimes alone in my quest to live w/out consumerism. My next step should have been using Freecycle, Craigslist, setting up a neighbor exchange… steps like that. I look forward to giving it go.

      Thank you for your input. It truly helps. 🙂

      1. Early Retirement Extreme

        The issue of being in the minority will never go away. The feeling of deprivation can be completely eliminated, though, by getting actively involved in something that does not cost money. If it makes money, even better. It has to be captivating though. Since it is hard to find something which is interesting 100% of the time, I have several things going on.

  8. Little House

    Sounds like quite a challenge! But I hear ya on wanting to get out of debt and fast. I’m tired of my crummy line of credit hanging over my head. I can’t wait to see all the things you plan do to. I like the idea of an herb garden, might have to use it!

    1. Money Funk

      Right… it is a drag, literally. I love my herb garden {when I have one}. I think it comes in quite handy for making very yummy dishes {fresh basil in salads and spaghetti – delish!}.

      So, how are we going to get the men to live in an RV to run that debt down faster? 😉

  9. Jenna

    Love your definition of a Frugalite: One who is frugal, yet fun. A person who wants to save as much of their hard earned cash as possible – but in creative ways.

    Excited vlog on Early Retirement Extreme.

  10. ConsciouslyFrugal

    I don’t have kids, but I’m still really interested to see how you do this! I hope this helps motivate me to kick it up a notch. Thanks for including the vlog as well. It’s nice to see the folks behind the type!

  11. Money Reasons

    Too cool! We’ll be routing for you!!!

    Hmm, the 21 day’s part must be because after 21 days of doing something it’s habit forming!

    If you pack your lunch and do as you say, you will have pass me on the frugality scale!!! Very Very cool!!!

    I’ll check back, and watch your progress on your new challenge… I have to admit, you’re motivating me to start packing lunch again!

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  13. Joe Plemon

    I have read Jacob’s story and it is indeed extreme. Hoping your 21 days will be a real learning experience for you, hubby and kids. I am anxious to read your follow up(s)!

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  17. Mizé

    The catfight sounds really cool!
    I wish Good Luck to all…such strong competition 🙂
    Jacob´s extreme makeover is really interesting. Been thinking about it ever since I first read it (just a week ago). Also wondered if it can be done with a family. Now I´m even more curious.

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