When we started on the the path to financial independence, I started to track all our expenses. This was a sobering experience. I then started to obsess about our savings rate and how best to optimize every dollar.
Mr. BITA loves his coffee. We have a Nespresso machine at home to help him get through the day. His work place provides him with a free supply of quality coffee. Despite this, if he finds himself unattended near a coffee shop, he is almost guaranteed to nip in and order himself some caffeine. A few hours (or minutes) later I will do one of (my admittedly obsessive) refreshes of our Mint account and fume when I see another few of our precious dollars have made their way to the coffers of a Starbucks or a Peets.
Having seethed silently for an appropriately unhealthy amount of time I started to bug Mr. BITA about our runaway coffee expenditure. He looked at me as if I had grown two heads. In the most private recesses of my mind I fantasized about clocking him with a brick. We were at an impasse. Was he merely paying lip service to my new FIRE craziness? Did he understand that we need to transform ourselves and the way we think about saving money? Was the brick thing really such a bad idea?
While our coffee drama was brewing on the back burner of our lives, the date for the expiry of our Nissan Leaf lease was drawing nigh. We (shock! gasp!) own three cars. We have a Honda Insight, bought used, fully paid off for nearly four years now. We used to carpool to work. We leased a Leaf because Mr. BITA was really keen on the idea of electric (but not convinced that the technology was mature enough to warrant a purchase). We loved the Leaf. We loved the way our halos glowed brightly as we drove along in our zero emission vehicle. We loved feeling smug and sanctimonious and oh so very green as we trundled down the highway. Most of all, we loved the white sticker that we were awarded that allowed us to carpool even when one of us was on vacation or working from home. We use the Honda only for road trips that extend beyond the range of the Leaf. Then our work situation changed and car pooling was no longer feasible (on the plus side though, Mr. BITA’s new employer offered EV charging for free, yay savings). I started to take the gas car in to work. My quality of life took a nosedive. I resented every minute that I had to sit in traffic during rush hour. Eventually we decided to throw money at the problem. In January of this year we leased a Chevrolet Spark for three years. We put $2000 down (and received a $2500 rebate from our state, so we were $500 ahead) and our monthly payment is $160. Our insurance costs went up, but overall the second white sticker seemed well worth it.
Cut back to present day. It has been three years since we leased the Leaf. The plan was that Mr. BITA was going to return the Leaf and then either acquire another or some other similarly priced EV and we would maintain the status quo. He had always maintained that my Spark was too small for him and that he wanted a ‘nicer’ EV. Maybe a BMW i3. Or a Bolt. Then one night Mr. BITA sat me down and said, “We’ve made a FIRE plan. We want to save more. What if we just return the Leaf and get nothing to replace it?”. Now it was my turn to look at him like he had multiple heads. He pointed out the obvious – two cars would cost much less than three. He also pointed out that within the next six to nine months his office was moving very close to my place of work. So the question was – until that happened and we could carpool again could we ‘share’ our one EV (and each tolerate a couple of bad gas car commute days a week)? As a backup plan, if it truly became intolerable (I: Intolerable? Intolerable? Having a first world problem right here aren’t you? Me: Yes, yes I am. I feel ashamed-ish) we could give up and acquire another Spark. I got on board this savings plan as fast as my little legs could carry me. We’re going back to being a two car household.
I am simultaneously proud of Mr. BITA and ashamed of myself. While I was thinking inappropriate thoughts about bricks and obsessing over maybe $20 a month spent at Starbucks, Mr. BITA had come up with a plan to save us hundreds a month. I was additionally ashamed because while I sulked like a baby, he had attacked our spending like an engineer. He has successfully applied the Pareto Principle to optimizing our budget and we are going to be the richer for it.