Author Topic: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...  (Read 11445 times)

theadvicist

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Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« on: November 11, 2014, 09:16:29 AM »
I wanted to hear some tips on how people cope with that period of plateau that I imagine many, like myself, find themselves in a short while after finding MMM.

I discovered this site a few months ago, but had luckily already been steered in the right direction by YNAB, which I started using in October ’12 (thank you Microsoft for disconintuing ‘Money’ or I never would have sought out alternatives!).

I already thought I was pretty frugal, then after a few self dispensed face punches from reading the entire MMM archive I really whipped things into shape.

At the moment, we are saving 50% of our income (plus bonuses, but they haven't been awarded yet this year. That will hopefully take us over 75% as a large portion of my income comes this way). I have been through the budget line by line, and I can see where my fellow mustachians would tell me to cut, but I have decided I am very happy with our current level of spending / saving v. spending money on things we truly value.

So I’m not necessarily looking for cost cutting tips, but tips on what to do in this interim period where the enthusiastic cutting is over, and I have settled into a new way of living, but there are no longer huge rewards from the face punches. Do you know what I mean? It feels like a lull. I miss the thrill of those early days. And I’m not seeing the money pile up so fast as yet that I have the thrill of the countdown.

Any wisdom for me? It seems like it was so fun to cut the budget I'm nostalgic for it already!

Aphalite

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2014, 09:34:17 AM »
You could work on increasing your income/start some side gigs - nothing gets the thrills going than seeing something you created fill the bank account

kudy

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2014, 09:35:14 AM »
I too went through this plateau period... your brain is seeking out that next thrill, but there's not much to satiate it. I don't necessarily have any advice to fight that reward craving, but I can say that it will die down. In my opinion, it's best to just start living your life as closely as possible to the life you hope for when you're FIRE - test out your assumptions, and fill your time with hobbies outside of intense budget and monetary pursuits - see how it goes!

theadvicist

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2014, 09:56:26 AM »
You could work on increasing your income/start some side gigs - nothing gets the thrills going than seeing something you created fill the bank account

Great idea aphalite, thank you. Somewhere useful to channel that enthusiasm!

theadvicist

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2014, 09:58:40 AM »
ill your time with hobbies outside of intense budget and monetary pursuits - see how it goes!

Glad to hear I'm not alone. Ha ha, I need to work on the hobbies thing... My main hobby has been one of the victims of the budget cutting. I've worked out ways to do it cheaper, but still, decreased time and productivity is an inevitable result of less to spend on materials. Time to look for cheaper things to do!

otherbarry

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2014, 10:05:33 AM »
Have you contributed to the right retirement buckets?

1. 401(k) up to employer match
2. HSA if you're in a HDHP
3. An IRA which you have some options for
4. 401(k) to max

Don't think retirement accounts are just good foresight, they lower your tax burden too. If you're happy with your level of retirement saving I guess the next thing is to increase the income coming in without inflating expenses with it. Someone mentioned side hustles, and you can also start investing!

kaizen soze

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2014, 10:09:10 AM »
I experienced the same "now what?" thing.  But I've found that we continued to cut expenses even though I thought that all of the big ticket items were cut.  Perhaps re-read the MMM article about continuous improvement.  As you live your new lifestyle, continuous spending cuts occur organically.  You mention that you see areas where you could cut, but are comfortable with your new lower spending.  I suspect that over time you will make some of those spending cuts as you push the envelope.  A few months after discovering this website, I thought it was nuts to dine out only a few times a year like MMM does.  Once a week was as low as I was willing to go.  Now my wife and I haven't eaten a restaurant meal since August.  At some point, as I began tracking my utility usage, I started taking navy showers just to see how low my water usage could go.  Now I take navy showers as a matter of course, and my wife (never one to be outdone) does the same.  My advice is to focus on other things, like your hobbies and money-making side gigs (or increasing your effectiveness at work) so as to increase income and life-enhancing skills, while continuously making small changes to your spending that add up big over time.  Then enjoy pleasant surprises as your new lifestyle and outlook cause expenses to continuously drop while income goes up. 

mak1277

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2014, 10:15:17 AM »
In my opinion, it's best to just start living your life as closely as possible to the life you hope for when you're FIRE - test out your assumptions, and fill your time with hobbies outside of intense budget and monetary pursuits - see how it goes!

This all day.  This whole thing is about enjoying life...cutting expenses is a part of the journey, not the destination.

surfhb

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2014, 10:15:33 AM »
Work on some hobbies or personal goals beyond finances. 

Getting off this site is probably a good start.    I'm in a similar position as you but still manage to come here for my morning coffee when I should be reading a good book or surfing more.  Oh well :)

mxt0133

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2014, 10:47:53 AM »
This seem typical for most people that were mostly frugal, then cut out a lot of other big ticket items.  Once those were taken care of the optimization of the smaller stuff doesn't have the same umph factor.  I have been there and my FI date is not getting cut as fast anymore.  So what is one to do?  What I have done and most here as well have started focusing on enjoying your current situation.  FI will come you know that, so you should just enjoy the ride.  Now I try to really enjoy trying new things that align with our family values.   Walks in the park are more pleasant as I am not as distracted about the future or other concerns. 

Practicing voluntary discomfort is also something I have been playing with.  I experiment a lot now, not for the sake of frugality, but because I just really enjoy pushing my physical and mental boundaries.

It's amazing how exciting life can be when you are free to explore without( or at least limited) monetary concerns and distractions.

chasesfish

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #10 on: November 11, 2014, 10:54:05 AM »
The "now what" questions don't go away, it's all part of the journey.  You're at the point where the math works for your advantage to reach FI.

When you hit FI, you may have another set of "now what" questions.   One of the interesting things MMM has made me realize how much I enjoy the "playing the game" of my career.  Not having to work (much) for money has made everything else a lot of fun,

Numbers Man

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2014, 10:58:04 AM »
Sounds like you just need to hit the automatic pilot button and enjoy life.

fa

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #12 on: November 11, 2014, 11:03:29 AM »
I have actually found the opposite for my family.  My kids are certainly not volunteering for more MMM.  My wife is naturally frugal, but she reaches a clear end point, where comfort trumps Mustachianism.  She is frugal but has definitely not signed up for the occasional purposeful discomfort.  So there is a resulting natural creep that is somewhat discouraging.  Keeping spending down is an ongoing effort, not a spontaneous evolution for us.

tct

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #13 on: November 11, 2014, 11:16:45 AM »
I'm in the same boat. Been living this "what now" situation for a year now. The bad thing is that I'm getting anxious, and ideas of spending large amounts of money on old expensive hobbies are creeping into my thoughts. Hoping others will share some things that worked for them.

otherbarry

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #14 on: November 11, 2014, 12:28:43 PM »
Well another thing MMM does is learn new skills that can reduce expenses in the future. Pretty sure he does most car maintenance himself, as well as roofing, carpentry, etc. Maybe look for side gigs that can feed into this idea of life skills where you don't have to pay someone else?

Better yet, look at the expenses on your budget you feel could be cut down if you were able to do it yourself. Then you're technically still budget cutting and would still have that same spark while also learning useful skills. A good place to start might be learning to changing your own oil if you think it would be cheaper for you to do it.

Heifey Wifey

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #15 on: November 11, 2014, 01:32:20 PM »
I'm in a similar position right now. The last couple months I have been super focused on getting our finances in order, and now that they are I don't know what to do with all the mental energy left over.  One thing that has been helping me is focusing on the joys of a simple life.  I have been getting more creative in the kitchen by tweaking recipes based on what we have in the pantry.  Also I have been reading some books on Buddhism which help encourage my new non-materialistic life.   

deborah

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #16 on: November 11, 2014, 02:13:20 PM »
Decluttering, learning life skills, getting healthier and generally focusing on the joys of a simple life as the previous poster put it. Finances are only one part of the MMM message.

auntie_betty

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #17 on: November 11, 2014, 02:33:14 PM »
I find it useful to keep looking at my spreadsheets! Set lots of targets/measures - the next $1,000, the next %, knocking a month off your FIRE date. If you're paying interest on a mortgage then look for when interest drops below the next $ a day, if dividends then first day over the next $ a day etc.

Once I've paid my mortgage off I'll be FIRE (though may be happening earlier - yippee) - I 'drew' an excel house and colour in a brick with every £1,000 I pay off. As The Drifters would say, I'm 'Up on the Roof'.

Nice to have such 1st world problems :)

tyd450

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #18 on: November 11, 2014, 02:49:28 PM »
Work on some hobbies or personal goals beyond finances. 

Getting off this site is probably a good start.    I'm in a similar position as you but still manage to come here for my morning coffee when I should be reading a good book or surfing more.  Oh well :)

I am starting to this I may have to leave this site as well.  My FIRE date is about 10 years away and I don't think I can spend the next 10 years being motivated at work if I am checking MMM forums every single day.

I think you have to blow it all up, optimize, tweak and get your system humming and then once that is all set you have to just live your life.

slugline

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yoga mama

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #20 on: November 11, 2014, 11:21:50 PM »
I second decluttering, and also focusing on some of the more emotional aspects of mustachianism.  To echo others, reduced spending is an ongoing battle for my family, but reminding myself what is important, valuable, and really brings me joy keeps me honest.  I'm nearing the same place as you are in, don't foresee any more "big wins" in the near future but am working now on finding peace and savoring mental stillness.  Check out the Raptitude blog.  Just my two cents :)

deborah

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #21 on: November 12, 2014, 01:36:12 AM »
I used money to do simple things around the house to reduce my electricity usage - halved it, so this ended up reducing my budget.

Phil_Moore

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #22 on: November 12, 2014, 02:58:15 AM »
I 'drew' an excel house and colour in a brick with every £1,000 I pay off. As The Drifters would say, I'm 'Up on the Roof'.

Consider this idea stolen!

Torran

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #23 on: November 12, 2014, 06:19:49 AM »
Yep, difficult to still be excited after the initial buzz. I got rid of debt and started some healthy savings, but now I'm plodding along a bit. It's tempting to let things slip a bit.

I second the idea of developing new hobbies - particularly learning skills that will save money (personally I've been mending and altering old clothes, branching out with cookery, e.g baking bread).

Also I really like the idea of practising the art of not worrying so much about money, and honing the ability to enjoy life in the moment. I think this isn't simply a matter of personality or natural temperament - it's a skill that builds over time. A sort of abstract, completely intangible, hugely rewarding hobby.

Best of luck! 

2ndTimer

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #24 on: November 12, 2014, 07:18:46 AM »
I second decluttering, and also focusing on some of the more emotional aspects of mustachianism.  To echo others, reduced spending is an ongoing battle for my family, but reminding myself what is important, valuable, and really brings me joy keeps me honest.  I'm nearing the same place as you are in, don't foresee any more "big wins" in the near future but am working now on finding peace and savoring mental stillness.  Check out the Raptitude blog.  Just my two cents :)

The process of cutting the fat really seems to bring likes and dislikes into focus.  Gosh, I don't miss that at all or I really miss whatever it is.  Starting from there you can optimize your enjoyment of life.   A lot of people find that they spend money on something when they are not actually doing it enough.  I used to buy history books that I never read because I wanted to read more history.  Once I realized what itch I was trying to scratch, I started making an effort to consciously read the books I had with a pencil in my hand so that the reading was an interactive process.   This adds greatly to my enjoyment of life.

So if you miss shopping for fishing toys, go fishing with the toys you have.  If you miss going out to eat, become a great cook.  If you miss the gym, find a new workout activity for free or cheap.  If you were always buying wool, fabric or trees for your model railroad then knit, quilt or run your model railroad more.

tyd450

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #25 on: November 12, 2014, 08:25:30 AM »
I second decluttering, and also focusing on some of the more emotional aspects of mustachianism.  To echo others, reduced spending is an ongoing battle for my family, but reminding myself what is important, valuable, and really brings me joy keeps me honest.  I'm nearing the same place as you are in, don't foresee any more "big wins" in the near future but am working now on finding peace and savoring mental stillness.  Check out the Raptitude blog.  Just my two cents :)

The process of cutting the fat really seems to bring likes and dislikes into focus.  Gosh, I don't miss that at all or I really miss whatever it is.  Starting from there you can optimize your enjoyment of life.   A lot of people find that they spend money on something when they are not actually doing it enough.  I used to buy history books that I never read because I wanted to read more history.  Once I realized what itch I was trying to scratch, I started making an effort to consciously read the books I had with a pencil in my hand so that the reading was an interactive process.   This adds greatly to my enjoyment of life.

So if you miss shopping for fishing toys, go fishing with the toys you have.  If you miss going out to eat, become a great cook.  If you miss the gym, find a new workout activity for free or cheap.  If you were always buying wool, fabric or trees for your model railroad then knit, quilt or run your model railroad more.

totally off topic but do you have a favorite history book or series of books that gives an overall history of the world?  I would love one big book that covers everything if that exists.

theadvicist

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #26 on: November 13, 2014, 01:47:10 AM »
Hi everyone,

Thanks so much for the all tips, there is some really great stuff in there.

Especially the reminder to re-read 'Give yourself the gift of not worrying about money'. I had read it in the past, but hadn't really absorbed that it was advice for people on the path to FIRE, rather than people who had already achieved it. That was a great reminder.

Also the link between shopping and how I really want to spend my time was very eye-opening. I talked about my favourite hobby (dressmaking) being expensive, so the budget was holding me back. In reality, yes, there are things I could buy that would improve my projects but learning to work with what I already have is actually a much better investment than more fabric and notions.

Also, I may too have a house-shaped excel spreadsheet, what a great idea! Thanks everyone.

CatchingFire

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #27 on: November 13, 2014, 06:42:43 AM »
I talked about my favourite hobby (dressmaking) being expensive, so the budget was holding me back. In reality, yes, there are things I could buy that would improve my projects but learning to work with what I already have is actually a much better investment than more fabric and notions.

I too love dressmaking!  It has been an eye opener to track my expenses.  One thing that I've found rewarding is beginning to make lingerie.  The fabric requirements are quite a bit smaller and while notions like elastic are still expensive, I now purchase just white in larger quantities and dye it.  It very much adds to the fun!  Just an idea to throw out there.  Old T-shirts make the best undies.  ;)

theadvicist

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #28 on: November 13, 2014, 06:48:56 AM »
Hi Cathching Fire, nice to see a fellow dressmaker! Yes, undies are one of my favourites - so little fabric, so much satisfaction. Now I have perfected a pattern I can make a pair for about 65p (what, doesn't everyone keep a spreadsheet detailing material consumption and pattern costs of everything they've ever made?!). This is a major saving as my favourites previously were 3 pairs for £10! I use stretch lace which seems to be cheaper than lingerie elastic, and I buy the 1" wide because it's the same price as the 1/2" and then cut it down the middle for leg openings. It doesn't fray and looks really nice - you can't tell I've messed with it.

CatchingFire

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #29 on: November 13, 2014, 07:28:16 AM »
Hi Cathching Fire, nice to see a fellow dressmaker! Yes, undies are one of my favourites - so little fabric, so much satisfaction. Now I have perfected a pattern I can make a pair for about 65p (what, doesn't everyone keep a spreadsheet detailing material consumption and pattern costs of everything they've ever made?!). This is a major saving as my favourites previously were 3 pairs for £10! I use stretch lace which seems to be cheaper than lingerie elastic, and I buy the 1" wide because it's the same price as the 1/2" and then cut it down the middle for leg openings. It doesn't fray and looks really nice - you can't tell I've messed with it.

Awesome!  I'm trying that elastic trick!!

theadvicist

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #30 on: November 13, 2014, 08:21:06 AM »

Awesome!  I'm trying that elastic trick!!

I must say it wasn't pure genius on my part - I'd run out of the thinner stuff so I just tried cutting it to save having to leave the house!

2ndTimer

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #31 on: November 13, 2014, 08:36:38 AM »

totally off topic but do you have a favorite history book or series of books that gives an overall history of the world?  I would love one big book that covers everything if that exists.



Tough question.  I am not crazy about that kind of book because nobody can specialize in all of history so it degenerates into an outline pretty quickly.  Here are a couple that sort of fill the bill

The Oxford History of the United States.   A series in which each book is written by a different historian who specializes in that era.

Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary.  It's a history of the world through Muslim eyes and very interesting for someone like me who grew up with a distinctly American/European view of history.

Will and Ariel Durant's series covers the whole history of the whole world but I find them unreadable.  I even find them unlistenable in audio book form.  It says something when an audio book is too boring to sleep to.




« Last Edit: November 13, 2014, 08:41:12 AM by 2ndTimer »

Jessa

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #32 on: November 13, 2014, 09:08:52 AM »
Any wisdom for me? It seems like it was so fun to cut the budget I'm nostalgic for it already!

On the financial front, maybe set little goals? I'm currently working toward a net worth of $100k. I want to max out my IRA for 2015 (it's already maxed out for this year!)We want to buy a house in a few years, so I have a longer term goal of at least $50k for a downpayment. It's not as much immediate gratification as the budget cutting, but it gives me more short term things to look forward to rather than the 16 years to FIRE.

APowers

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #33 on: November 13, 2014, 09:21:34 AM »
ill your time with hobbies outside of intense budget and monetary pursuits - see how it goes!

Glad to hear I'm not alone. Ha ha, I need to work on the hobbies thing... My main hobby has been one of the victims of the budget cutting. I've worked out ways to do it cheaper, but still, decreased time and productivity is an inevitable result of less to spend on materials. Time to look for cheaper things to do!

My main hobby IS the budget cutting. Other than that, I have enough house remodeling and yard projects and activities with the kids to do to fill in any spare time or mental energy I might have lying around.

plainjane

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #34 on: November 13, 2014, 09:28:09 AM »
totally off topic but do you have a favorite history book or series of books that gives an overall history of the world?  I would love one big book that covers everything if that exists.

I also really enjoyed Destiny Interrupted for a bit of balance to my general history knowledge.   The History of the World in 100 Objects podcast series was really good, and has a book.

2ndTimer

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #35 on: November 13, 2014, 10:18:26 AM »
totally off topic but do you have a favorite history book or series of books that gives an overall history of the world?  I would love one big book that covers everything if that exists.

I also really enjoyed Destiny Interrupted for a bit of balance to my general history knowledge.   The History of the World in 100 Objects podcast series was really good, and has a book.

Wow another Tamim Ansary fan.  We are really hijacking the thread.  For a slightly different perspective on the same subject try "What Went Wrong?" by Bernard Lewis and "Worlds at War" by Anthony Pagden.

Señora Savings

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Re: Tips for what to do when the budget cutting is done...
« Reply #36 on: November 13, 2014, 10:33:41 AM »
ill your time with hobbies outside of intense budget and monetary pursuits - see how it goes!

Glad to hear I'm not alone. Ha ha, I need to work on the hobbies thing... My main hobby has been one of the victims of the budget cutting. I've worked out ways to do it cheaper, but still, decreased time and productivity is an inevitable result of less to spend on materials. Time to look for cheaper things to do!

My main hobby IS the budget cutting. Other than that, I have enough house remodeling and yard projects and activities with the kids to do to fill in any spare time or mental energy I might have lying around.

Get a new hobby.  Why do you want to be financially independent?  I think that most people are on the forums because we like budget cutting, and it's nice to see a shiny new budget to cut, but at the end of the day I'm happier if I've DONE pretty much anything other than reading the forums, looking at spreadsheets and thinking about money.  With that thought, I'm going to go do what needs to get done so I can practice my harp later today.