Hi there! I know it’s been a while, but I have another Wednesday installment of our Your Three Year Experiment guest series, featuring people who are sharing their own three year experiments–their plan to engineer the life of their dreams over the next three years.
Today we’re featuring the story of someone who has some quite amazing self-discipline in the spending front, spending less than $18,000 per year while earning a six-figure salary! In this interview, you’ll learn:
- How A Purple Life increased her salary to six figures by age 27
- What her annual spending has been for the last four years
- How and where she decided to move for the lowest COL/highest salary combo
Tell Us About Yourself
Hi! I’m A Purple Life. I’m a 29 year old who lives in Seattle and works in marketing. I’m in my 5th year of my financial independence journey and I’m aiming to retire next year at age 30.
What’s your background? Early years, education, married, kids, jobs?
I was born and raised in Georgia and after graduating college I moved to Manhattan with my partner and started working in ad agencies. My partner and I are coming up on 10 years together and we are a bit unique (or so my friends tell me). We are not getting married, never having kids and do not combine our finances in any way. I’m reaching for early retirement with just my own money based on my spending alone. We’re very independent people.
How did you come to the realization that something needed to change in your life?
I’m embarrassed to say that it actually took me YEARS to come around to the idea of financial independence. My partner introduced me to the idea and on a bus from Manhattan showed me the math behind it (I suspect he chose that moment because I couldn’t run away). At the time I was barely saving any money because of how little I was making combined with Manhattan’s insane rent. I didn’t think it was possible.
My turnaround happened slowly. I quit my first job because it was so toxic I couldn’t stand it anymore. It was negatively affecting my health and my partner and family finally just told me to leave because they saw it was affecting me. I had no other job lined up and $5,000 in the bank. This move began my job-hopping extravaganza. I’ve had 6 jobs in 7 years because I kept looking to fulfill this ‘list’ I had of all these items I needed to find in a job to be fulfilled.
- How to Be a Rockstar at Your Job
- Thinking of Changing Careers? Why and How I Did at 36.
- Location Independence, International Jobs: Jim from Route to Retire
Then I found it. I got a job that checked all the boxes I had outlined over the years and I still wasn’t fulfilled. I still couldn’t see myself doing this for 40+ more years. Luckily one part of this job that I loved was the fact that I finally had time to think. Working in client service and at ad agencies is very stressful and includes a lot of long hours to meet short deadlines. [Laurie here. I used to be an account executive at an ad agency so I understand very well what this environment was like! Probably one of the reasons I became a stay-at-home mom after Junior ThreeYear was born!] This job wasn’t like that – I had time to breathe.
I used this newfound time to start reflecting on what I wanted in life and it boiled down to 3 simple things: more time with the people I love, the freedom to travel and generally more time for myself and what I want. This is when the idea of financial independence and early retirement finally clicked for me. So I started devouring every blog and book about how to reach this goal. My evenings were spent pouring over tax documents and investing blogs. I was going to figure out how to reach freedom.
What did that change look like?
The first thing I did after starting this journey was analyze my spending. It was immediately apparent that renting in Manhattan was my biggest expense by far and it needed to go. So like the nerds we are, my partner and I made a spreadsheet to discover where we should move based on cost of living, salary potential, accessibility to public transit (we’re carfree) and weather.
Based on this criteria, we decided to move to Seattle and pull the trigger on some domestic geo-arbitrage. This one change cut my time to early retirement from 10 years to 5. In my industry, Seattle and Manhattan salaries are the same and the cost of living in Seattle is half of the cost of living in Manhattan. In addition to those facts, Seattle has no state or city income tax, both of which are very high in Manhattan.
That move was the biggest change we made, but in addition to that I kept tracking my spending and decreasing it as much as I could while still living a wonderful and fulfilling life. For example, below I’ve outlined my annual expenses during my previous 4 years on this journey:
2015: $29,344 (Note: I lived in Manhattan for the first half of this year)
I’ve also increased my salary by continuing to job hop and look for new opportunities. As a result of figuring out how to decrease spending and increase my salary, I saved $68,000 last year and had a savings rate of 77.5%.
How are you employing a three year experiment to make it happen (i.e., what’s your three year plan)?
As I mentioned, I’m in the home stretch to early retirement. My current time horizon is a little less than 2 years (market willing). This year I’m focusing on continuing to save as much as I can while living a good life and seeing if I can increase my income further at my full-time job. In the fall of this year, I need to decide if retiring in less than 2 years still looks feasible. If it does, I’m going to book a victory lap trip to Australia and New Zealand to lock myself into that timeline because I am a serious candidate for One More Year Syndrome.
Next year I have plans for basically every month to prepare for early retirement, which will include selling all my possessions. The year after that I hope to be retired and I’m planning to be a vagabond for a while and live out of a backpack. I would like to move around the country and the world every 3 months at least.
What are some of the things you’ve already done that have helped the most?
Moving based on numbers was huge. A lot of my friends are still in Manhattan, paying crazy rent even with four roommates and staying at the same job with the exact same salary. In comparison, I started earning six figures a month after my 27th birthday because I job hopped. The combination of increased incomes and lower expenses was an insane turbocharge to my plans.
One thing that has helped me lower my spending in a sustainable way was really analyzing how each big purchase affected my happiness and realizing a lot of it didn’t at all. For example, I used to spend thousands of dollars a year eating out. I rarely cooked. Since then, I’ve made an effort to teach myself how to cook and that skill combined with my discovery that butter makes anything super delicious, has led to my eating out budget plummeting.
I also started looking for ways to still travel, which I love, but at a more reasonable price. I taught myself how to travel hack and in a few years amassed over half a million airline miles, which I’ve used to fund flights around the world. I also convinced my Mom (my travel partner in crime) to travel with me to countries where our dollar stretches further, such as Thailand and Ecuador instead of Fiji and the Maldives (which were two places we traveled before I learned about geo-arbitrage).
What have been some challenges you’ve run into?
Impatience has been my biggest challenge during this journey. When I declared I was 10 years to retirement in 2015 it seemed so far away. Now that it’s NEXT year this dream is starting to feel real and it’s made me feel impatient to pull the trigger and live a life of family and travel now. But I’m not there yet. So I’m trying to live in the moment as much as possible and enjoy the journey.
What have you found easier than expected?
Reducing my expenses was much easier than I expected. I used to be addicted to getting the latest iPhone, blowing a hundred dollars on a night out and taking taxis everywhere in Manhattan because “I deserve it” after a hard week. Analyzing my spending made me realize that I didn’t actually need any of that. For example, I love walking – it helps calm me and brings joy to my life. Walking is my main mode of transit in Seattle by choice. There are buses everywhere, but I prefer to walk. It gives me exercise, helps my mental health and happens to save money. Wins all around.
Do you think you’ll reach your goals in three years? Longer? Shorter?
Hopefully 1 year and 8 months as of this writing!
What are you looking forward to once you’ve reached your goal(s)?
I’m looking forward to being able to hop on a plane without having to ask my boss for permission and file a HR form first. I’m excited for my time to truly be my own and not be owned by clients or email pings. I’m excited to be able to drop everything if necessary to help a friend without worrying how doing so might affect my career. I’m looking forward to being a more present person without the shadow of work.
How would you like readers to get in touch?
Feel free to reach out with any questions or follow my journey on my blog APurpleLife.com. I’m excited to hear from you!
Don’t these travel pictures make you want to jump on a plane? I’m quite impressed at all that A Purple Life has managed to do in such a short few years, and while keeping her epic sense of personal style alive with that purple head of hair! Make sure to reach out in the comments with any questions for her!