Freedom > Money > Stuff

Print this off and put it in your wallet this week:

Freedom > Money > Stuff

FREEDOM = Being able to do whatever the hell you want, whenever the hell you want. And it’s what happens when you’ve got your $$$ on lock and the system in place where you can actually *not need* to think about money anymore. It’s all working behind the scenes for you as you live your kick-ass life! This is the concept behind F.I.R.E. (Financial Independence Retire Early), and it still means you can work if you still wanted to. The difference being it’s a *choice* vs a *need*.

MONEY = This is the beautiful green stuff that we all love and want more of, but it’s also only a tool. It’s not as good as financial freedom, but of course it’s what’s needed to get there. For the first 5 years of this blog all I cared about was gobbling up as much of this stuff as possible. I worked 20 hour days, hardly hung out with my friends, and was on the brink of becoming a workaholic. Then I had kids and remembered what the point of living was again – TO LIVE!!! :) I’m glad I worked so hard while I did since it means I don’t have to as much later now, but it’s important to recognize that the end all be all is not the money. It’s the amazing future it buys us.

STUFF = This is the hardest habit to break, and some of it we cannot because we need a roof over our heads and comfy places to sit our buttocks on. We also need to wear clothes and have a computer unless you’re living in certain communities :) There’s a lot of items we need, but a lot more that we desire. And it’s these desired things that trip us up the most! As my friend Paula says, we can afford anything, we just can’t afford everything. But that’s okay! We don’t need everything. What we need is “enough.” And the better we get at being happy with what we own already, the easier it will be to save more of the above (money) and reach the ultimate level (freedom).

Do we already know all of this stuff? Of course. I’m sure all 1,946 of my posts over the years (true fact) have covered this same topic to some degree. But it’s also something that needs repeating because we’re all humans and constantly forget!! Which is exactly why I want you to print this off and put it somewhere as a physical trigger to snap you back into reality :) Make it a sticky if you’d like, it doesn’t matter.

Freedom > Money > Stuff

Put it somewhere and then make sure to do something about it. The worst is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. Try purchasing one less thing this week or selling/ donating something. Put together your net worth or a list of all your credit cards/accounts all on one page if you haven’t done so already. Go out of your way and try earning an extra $20!

Whatever you do, just remember there’s a point to it all in the end: living a life on your own terms. You don’t have to work for the rest of your life if you don’t want to, and you certainly don’t need as much stuff as those around you seem to think. All you need is a reminder to keep pushing yourself and that you’re on the right track. And I know you are because you’re reading this blog :)

So keep going!! Every little action adds up!

UPDATE: Here’s a much prettier picture you could download or print off :) (Thanks Cait!)

freedom money stuff

Yes that is a miniature box of Campbell’s Soups on my monitor… the things you find on the ground!

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  1. Petrish @ Debt Free Martini April 8, 2015 at 6:18 AM

    You don’t have to work for the rest of your life, if you don’t want to. Your right and I don’t plan too. This is awesome and I’m printing it now! Thanks for the motivation.

  2. Free Money Minute April 8, 2015 at 7:08 AM

    This is my primary motivation in life these days. Work hard to eventually have the choice to do exactly what I want each day. Thank you for the motivation!

    1. Sarah @ #hartzogswag April 8, 2015 at 11:54 AM

      I know! “Sarah, what on earth are you going to do if you retire early?” “Whatever I want!”
      It’s a hard concept to explain because it requires such a massive point of view shift for some people. Especially when the people asking are still working in corporate jobs like the one I’d like to leave, welllll past my current “retire early age” of 48.

      – #hartzogswag

      1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 12:34 PM

        Haha – yup!

        Hell, it took me a handful of years for this to really soak in too. And really not until last year when I started reading more early retirement blogs. It’s a huge shift in not only mindset but also day-to-day actions. We’re lucky it’s dawning on us now when it’s not too late to work towards the dream!

      2. Darrell April 8, 2015 at 3:58 PM

        Who are all these people questioning the idea of retiring early?

        1. JC13 April 11, 2015 at 11:46 AM

          People like my mom and dad, for starters. Retired at 70 last year but easily could have retired before that. I asked him why he waited so long. He said it was because his whole life he’d been focused on working and saving for retirement that he didn’t know anything else. It was a monumental shift in mindset to go from working and saving to not working and spending his retirement money.

          Some people suck at saving and thus can’t fathom retiring young or even at all. I’d wager for a lot of folks, they simply just don’t know anything but work and save.

  3. Mrs. Frugalwoods April 8, 2015 at 7:13 AM

    Yes! Right there with you! I think our culture often conflates owning lots of stuff/spending lots of money with freedom, when I think it’s the exact opposite. The more you own, the more beholden you are to paying for, maintaining, cleaning, storing, and otherwise being owned by your stuff! And the more you spend, the more beholden you are to your job–you can’t escape. Conversely, if you chart a path to a simple, fulfilling life, you don’t need much stuff or money at all!

  4. Chris @ Flipping A Dollar April 8, 2015 at 7:52 AM

    As someone who’s ready to clean out boxes that are in their garage and haven’t been touched since we moved in last July, can’t agree more. This crap has just sat there and I really don’t need it.

    I may keep some of it until our community wide yard sale but then again, I want to be out buying then! Maybe the wife will stay home? Who knows.

    “living a life on your own terms” Hell yeah. This is it. People I’m working with just don’t get it. That’s why you got me coming back!

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 12:35 PM

      And I’m very glad you are coming back good sir :)

  5. Jon @ Money Smart Guides April 8, 2015 at 8:01 AM

    This is a great reminder. I’ve run into so many people that act as if working until age 70 is the only way to live your life. They don’t think it’s possible to quit working and live their life as they want, mainly because of money. But these same people are the ones always buying more stuff, so they never value freedom enough to do anything about it.

    1. Darrell April 8, 2015 at 4:01 PM

      Their cousins are the people that think good health isn’t possible in this day in age while they eat like crap.

  6. Mr. SSC April 8, 2015 at 8:41 AM

    I was amazed and in disbelief when my wife first told me our number for living off of each year if we “retired early.” It was amazing in the fact we spend so little yet still feel like we’re living very comfortably.

    It’s also really freeing to not measure yourself by the amount of things you own, or latest gadgets that you have, or the vehicles you drive.

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 12:46 PM

      And that’s the part most naysayers/lazy asses like to harp on too! That by “living on less” you’re living a crap life. I’m sure if you take it to the extreme that’s the case, but there’s plenty of people just has happy – if not more – by being more conscious about their money and lifestyle. I know for me a big change happened when I switched what I do when I’m bored. Old me would go shopping and watch butt tons of TV and new me goes out for a walk or works on an entrepreneurial project. I can’t even tell you the last time I spent money on something frivolous and I’m a much happier person these days than I was!

  7. Tonya@Budget and the Beach April 8, 2015 at 8:43 AM

    I think one of the hardest things is having enough patience to either wait for a purchase or say no because the payoff in the end is much higher with having financial security. It’s hard to see the forrest through the trees.

  8. John @ Frugal Rules April 8, 2015 at 9:12 AM

    “Then I had kids and remembered what the point of living was again – TO LIVE!!! :)” I could not agree more J$! Kids are such a great reminder that life just goes and moves WAY too fast and that you need to sit back and enjoy it regularly. The last thing I want is to work myself to the bone and look back and realize I didn’t live life and enjoy it. If that’s the case, then what’s the point in it all? Thanks for the reminder!

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 12:51 PM

      Also – kids are so dang creative and HAPPY all the time! They just love playing and having fun with random stuff like boxes or sand, haha… they could care less about money or fancy toys :)

      1. The Roamer April 10, 2015 at 2:19 AM

        Amen amen amen!
        We need to act more like kids I think and get back to our roots

      2. connie kolita April 15, 2015 at 2:41 PM

        I dunno, the kids with whom I hang around, all they want is dad’s money and more Stuff…!

  9. Budget Nerd April 8, 2015 at 9:12 AM

    I would think that the ultimate goal is to obtain enough passive income producing assets in order to live comfortably and do the things you’re most passionate about. Obviously, if your passion is to buy yachts and go on expensive vacations, I guess you’d better be making a TON of money!

    However, I think that for most of us in the PF and FI community, the ideal life is cherish and enjoy that which matters most. It doesn’t necessarily mean living as frugal as you can or working multiple jobs to earn as much income. Simply put: “spend less, work hard, save much, and invest wisely” – paraphrased from one of my all time favorite books – The Richest Man in Babylon.

    Great post J$

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 1:00 PM

      That’s a great book indeed.

  10. Richard April 8, 2015 at 9:49 AM

    “Living a life on your own terms” – I love this. Having got rid of all my debt I’m now saving hard and sometimes it can be a real struggle when all around me friends and work colleagues are spending money like it’s going out of fashion. Right now, I’m basically planning for a better life and saving every penny I can – but sometimes you need a reminder like this post to help keep you focused on the long-term goal. Thanks J!

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 1:11 PM

      I think it would be different if we all walked around with our bank accounts on our chest :) Imagine what that would do with competition?? We’d all be banking our $$ to one-up each other in a much better way – hah!

  11. Kali @ XY Planning Network April 8, 2015 at 9:52 AM

    Preach! Stuff is overrated :) I’m all about prioritizing how I can earn more money to turn into more freedom!

  12. zut April 8, 2015 at 9:55 AM

    Ha. Last week I printed out the pretty one you had on FB with the seagull. ;)

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 1:18 PM

      oh yeah! forgot about that one!

      My girl Cait made that – will go and update post with it in case others want to use too – thx :)

  13. Tiffany A. April 8, 2015 at 9:56 AM

    Yep, you hit it right on the head J$. One of my favorite quotes I found on Pinterest says, “Some people are so poor… all they have is money.”

    It’s sad that this work-until-you-die culture is so ingrained in American society. My ex-boyfriend had that mentality. I was trying to work with him on it but unfortunately don’t feel like I got very far while we were together. He was careful with money, but not as frugal as me (for instance we were cooking one night and I was cleaning green beans over the trash can.. I dropped one.. dove in to get it, it was on top of papers so not really THAT gross… he wouldn’t let me put it in the pan.. haha). Sure green beans may not necessarily be the ticket to retirement, but it’s the attitude behind it I think… I feel like people have been BRAINWASHED to think work ends at 65. It makes me so thankful that I’ve found an online community that totally gets it!

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 1:21 PM

      haha I would have picked it out too and eaten :)

      And now totally going to tweet that quote, good one!

  14. Wigges @ FirstYouGetTheMoney April 8, 2015 at 9:56 AM

    It’s so easy to get caught up working crazy hours determined to be successful. It’s so important to take a step back every once in a while and evaluate what is truly important to you. Are you missing important life events and experiences because you’re slaving away on the computer? I’m not against hard work and putting in the time required to succeed, but take a break sometimes and enjoy life. Money is great, yes, but WHY are you so driven on obtaining more and more of it? Don’t let the accumulation of money (the tool) be confused with obtaining financial freedom (the goal). The day the tool becomes the goal is the day you’ve lost your way.

  15. Elise @ Simply Scaled Down April 8, 2015 at 9:56 AM

    It wasn’t until lately that I’ve felt that my stuff is getting in the way of my freedom. I love reading your blog, it motivates me to get rid of my things and fund what is really important (my life with my family, retirement, and experiences) rather than fund my ‘ appearance account’ (things, trying to keep up with the Jone’s etc).

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 1:23 PM

      I’m so glad it’s helping Elise :) And love that you’re spreading the good word to your audience as well on your blog!

  16. Fervent Finance April 8, 2015 at 10:22 AM

    Freedom is what I’m shooting for in my FI/RE goal! Any money after that will just be icing on the cake. Luckily I’ve for the most part shed my affinity towards stuff.

  17. Michelle April 8, 2015 at 10:58 AM

    We all need a reminder of this from time to time! I appreciate it :)

  18. The Money Spot April 8, 2015 at 11:00 AM

    Great post. It feels like this should be so simple but we get tripped up along the way and need to refocus.

  19. Even Steven April 8, 2015 at 11:37 AM

    I have actually gotten over the I need stuff with my physical wallet, I might need to tape this over my computer screen instead.

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 1:25 PM

      Haha yeah – Amazon sure makes it hard sometimes!

  20. Done by Forty April 8, 2015 at 11:38 AM

    Post it created! I know the money > stuff part, but the other > is trickier for me to remember. The point is to get choices, not just to accumulate more in our investments.

  21. Michelle April 8, 2015 at 11:41 AM

    Love this post! Freedom definitely trumps everything else, especially stuff!

  22. Courtney April 8, 2015 at 12:47 PM

    Being an engineer I LOVE this. I would add Happiness != Stuff. Happiness != Money. BUT Happiness == Freedom. :)

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 1:26 PM

      is it bad that that just turned me on?

  23. Tawcan April 8, 2015 at 1:04 PM

    Great reminder and that’s a great formula (if you can even call it a formula).

  24. Christine @ The Pursuit of Green April 8, 2015 at 1:06 PM

    That reminds me that I still need to fill out that spreadsheet you shared to see what age I can retire at realistically!!!!

    Our work culture is def messed up and we’re spending so much time working/stressing and shortening our lives in the US. It always amazes me to hear how the rest of the world lives.

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 1:26 PM

      Fill ‘er out!!

  25. Jack April 8, 2015 at 1:49 PM

    Definitely down with the concept. Implementing it in a family takes a lot of patience and leadership. For example, my wife is very frugal in general, but loves buying things for the baby. Money out the door, and wise, more stuff in the house.

    Life is full of tradeoffs. Looking forward to reaching that freedom goal. Freedom from stuff. Freedom from worry. Freedom from “the job.”

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 4:44 PM

      that def. makes it harder, yes.

      My wife is similar in that she doesn’t want a smaller house or to live “crazily” like I do (come on, who doesn’t want to live on a house boat or trailer?? :)) so negotiations are def. key. And in the mean time we keep trying to break them down!

  26. jestjack April 8, 2015 at 4:25 PM

    Hmmm….What I enjoy about the whole early retirement movement is not only the freedom but the creativity that it spawns. Making things last or finding alternative solutions. It is a “mindset” and once you’re locked in… that’s it. For example, riding down the road last week and see two lawnmowers sitting out in front of a house with the trash cans. I stop and ask what the story is…Meet a fellow landlord who just threw the tenants out and I’m welcome to both mowers….”they’re crap”….I beg to differ….so I throw them in the back of my truck run my errands and take them home. Yesterday I fiddled with the first one …. clean it up a little… put in some gas…starts right up. It’s a self propelled Husqvarna….a $350 Husqvarna when new….It’s going on Craigslist for $175….Not bad for “crap”….it’s a “mind-set” or …a curse…

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 4:45 PM

      There you go!!!! Now an only better ending to that story would have been you coming over here to test out those lawnmowers on my yard for me. Preferably every two weeks, and for free :)

      1. jestjack April 9, 2015 at 3:47 PM

        If you lived just a little closer….no problem…

  27. Heather April 8, 2015 at 4:30 PM

    Love it! Great reminder!

  28. Adam @ April 8, 2015 at 4:31 PM

    Looks like you and Carl Richards over at Behavior Gap need to do some drawing together.

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 4:45 PM

      Hah – I concur.

  29. Kayla @ Hello Pre Nurse April 8, 2015 at 4:44 PM

    Great post! I need to remember this more often. I’ve tried explaining it to my parents, but they just don’t get it. I still struggle with it, obviously, but I can’t get them on board with it at all. :(

    1. J. Money April 8, 2015 at 4:54 PM

      Well, on the positive side they did bring you into the world so they did the most important thing there is :)

    2. connie kolita April 15, 2015 at 2:45 PM

      My husband doesn’t get it either… all he does is say I’m thinking about (early) retirement too much and as a result doing nothing in life (like not going out to restaurants enough or something, I guess)… and yet I press on !!

      1. J. Money April 17, 2015 at 12:09 PM

        It’s going to get awkward when you quit working to have a ton of fun and he has to keep going ;)

  30. Will: April 8, 2015 at 6:21 PM

    How am I the first person to mention Suze Orman?

    “People first, then money, then things.”

    This post reminded me of her. Whether I like thinking about her or not. :p

    1. J. Money April 11, 2015 at 3:34 PM

      hah! it does indeed, didn’t even cross my mind :)

      I actually randomly came across her very last show she did too the other week… I think i’ve only watched a total of 20 mins over the years of her, but it seems she has quite the following!

  31. Kristin @ Brokepedia April 8, 2015 at 9:44 PM

    Yo, I know you covered Carl Richards’ new book–I really liked his thoughts on asking WHY money is important to you. Like, define the importance of it to you, yourself, specifically, as a person. It’s almost always about freedom. But freedom from what? Why do you want freedom from, specifically? What would you do with more time or resources? And then that answer is what you should focus on, rather than money itself. Anyway, your post reminded me of this, because it’s totally about freedom, and beyond that, it helps to keep in mind exactly what that means to you.

    1. J. Money April 11, 2015 at 3:34 PM

      YES YES YES!

  32. Revanche April 9, 2015 at 1:51 AM

    PiC just asked me if we could AFFORD for him to take a pay cut a few days a month to spend more time with Little Bean. I look at him like he’s got three heads and they’re all on backwards. Of course we can! Why in tarnation would I insist on saving saving saving if not to have the freedom to make less and spend time with the most important job we’ve got, right??
    To be fair, he knows I worry about the money but I do that specifically so that we CAN make these choices. These cute and adorable days won’t last forever, I’m storing up all the snuggles to ward off the chill of the teen years when I bet LB will be too independent to be hanging with ole Mom and Pop anymore ;)

    1. J. Money April 11, 2015 at 3:35 PM

      I knowwwww!!! That’s going to be a horrible horrible time, haha… hopefully they make up for it in other areas, but geez. no hugs = hell.

  33. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life April 9, 2015 at 7:58 AM

    I thought I was getting pretty good about my “stuff” accumulation (or lack thereof), but now that the bf and I are apt hunting together, I’m freaking out over how I’m going to fit it all in a shared tiny space. Time to purge more!

    1. J. Money April 11, 2015 at 3:36 PM

      oooooh look at that next step ;)

  34. Lil' VEE April 9, 2015 at 10:07 AM

    J$, you should put “Freedom > Money > Stuff” on one of those silicone wristbands and sell the crap out of them! I’ll buy one for sure!!

    Lil’ VEE

    1. J. Money April 11, 2015 at 3:37 PM

      Not a bad idea :)

  35. Lauren April 9, 2015 at 11:55 AM

    Love the photo. I need that plastered like, all over my house, and my screen save on my computer, and my cell phone background, and taped to my cats backs… (okay… that may be extreme)

    I love this. I think many people (myself included) feel bad about striving to want money or to have money. It has been engrained to me that monetary goals are not to be focused on in life, that one should just be a good person. However, I do think it’s okay to want to be comfortable and independent and have the freedom to do as you please, and allocate your time an energy in a happy beneficial way…

    Love it, thanks J%!

    1. J. Money April 11, 2015 at 3:38 PM

      I would DIE to see that taped on a cat’s back, haha…

      Seriously – please do it and send me a picture :)

  36. Syed April 9, 2015 at 4:04 PM

    Words to live by. I think there’s also a correlation between freedom and stuff: the more stuff you have usually means the less freedom you have. Better to get rid of unwanted stuff and turn it into money, which can turn into freedom!

  37. EL April 9, 2015 at 4:19 PM

    Good point and in our society it should be Stuff – Money – freedom, because most people never experience freedom and are still stuck in the stuff stage. I am in the money stage and I want to realize freedom just because I like having choices to do as I please.

  38. Professor April 9, 2015 at 6:30 PM

    Your point about money is very true. It is just a tool, a mechanism by which we are able to attain something else–whether that’s F.I.R.E., a home, or a safety fund. Problems, in my view, arise when people forget that money is a tool and instead think of it as a scorecard.

    1. J. Money April 11, 2015 at 3:38 PM


  39. Kelly @ Money Millennial April 10, 2015 at 10:07 PM

    Great points! Sometimes you just need to find that balance between money, freedom, and stuff to get to a happy place in your life.