the 3 Smartest Choices We Made to Save Money
- Lauren and Steven Keys saved aggressively in their 20s and retired at 29.
- They did this by keeping their spending low, side-hustling, and learning new skills.
- Now that they have financial freedom, they choose how to spend their time — and they’ve kept their lifestyle.
Shortly after their college graduation in 2012, Lauren and Steven Keys packed their bags and moved from California to Florida. Lauren accepted a full-time job in marketing, while Steven took a full-time position as a high school physics teacher. They made about $40,000 each.
Less than 10 years later, they left their full-time jobs to retire at 29.
The Keys, who are the founders of Trip of a Lifestyle, say three money choices that allowed them to retire early — which they still use today.
1. Avoid lifestyle inflation
The Keys have always spent no more than they had to, no matter how much they earned.
“We were pretty happy living on a college lifestyle, you know, which is pretty cheap,” Steven told Insider. “So instead of buying more expensive stuff, upgrading the car, upgrading the apartment, all that stuff, we were just like, ‘Well, what if we just invest this money?”
When they moved from California to Florida, they bought a one-bedroom apartment together and shared a Honda Civic worth $5,000 while Steven rode his bike to work and graduate school every day.
Even as their
grew due to pay raises and income earned from their side hustles, the Keys continued to live modestly. “If you can be happy with a certain level of consumption and you’re genuinely living a happy life, there is literally no reason to increase your consumption from there,” Steven said.
They do caveat that you don’t have to deprive yourself of things you value. Instead, distinguish whether purchasing something makes you happier or if that impulse is from social pressure to spend more than you need. It is essential to know what that line is for yourself, but the threshold for spending enough to be content is a lot lower than many people think, Lauren said. “Sure, we bought some stuff we didn’t need during our full-time work years,” they write on their website, “but we tried hard to keep most of it in the ‘inexpensive’ or ‘low depreciation’ categories.”
“If you are going to splurge on something that might be unnecessary, our advice is to buy your freedom first, right? Get to a level of financial independence first, and then consider those things on a case-by-case basis if you feel like it,” says Steven.
2. Be open to making money outside your job
The Keys have always side-hustled. “We did a lot of random little side hustles, and, you know, they didn’t add up to a lot of money. Like maybe we made an extra $10,000 a year roughly on stuff like that,” Steven said, “But when you’re making $40,000 a year at your job, an extra $10,000 a year, just doing some random extra stuff, that’s a lot of extra money as a percentage of what you make at work.”
When the Keys had enough investments to cover all their living expenses without needing to work, Steven proposed working part-time instead of full-time with his employer. Not only did his employer agree, but Steven was offered a much higher rate per hour, and now does about 10 hours of contracting a week to fund their investments.
While working part-time, you can spend the rest of your day taking on side gigs and setting your own rates. “When you eliminate the need to sell all of your available time, you can be much more choosy about what price you sell it for,” they write on their website.
3. Keep learning new skills
Lauren suggests taking on new projects that could advance your skill set, because those skills could come in handy later on by increasing your earning potential, enabling you to take on different side gigs, or saving money on services you can provide yourself.
Especially if you didn’t go to college or don’t plan on going, “work on developing your marketable skills,” they write. Steven and Lauren learned photography and started a profitable side business shooting weddings and portraits. Learning new skills can also reduce your expenses, Lauren told Insider. The Keys learned how to do minor car repairs by watching Youtube, instead of shelling out thousands of dollars at a repair shop.
At age 29, Lauren and Steven entered what they call a “semi-retirement,” working part-time, continuing to grow their investments, and traveling. “As you get richer, you’re supposed to care less about money — not more,” they write. “That’s actually kinda the whole point. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll feel that freedom.”