Let’s Talk About “Barista FIRE”

Coffee is love

“It’s a concept that can be coined Barista FIRE – not quite FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early), but perhaps just a step below it. At Barista FIRE, your lifestyle is almost funded, and all you need to do is to make a few extra thousand dollars every year in order to survive. You can do that pretty much by doing anything, even just working as a barista a few days a week. For people like me, Barista FIRE might be just as good as regular FIRE.”

Barista FIRE draws a lot of flak, and I can understand why. For one, being a barista isn’t the easiest job in the world. With some comparing it to being a line cook, the term itself sounds privileged and disconnected, especially when people sustain their whole lifestyles “working as a barista a few days a week”. Nevertheless, the term has persisted, so let’s talk about it. Barista FIRE is much more reachable than most people realize. Some might even say I’m there already, working part-time at a liquor store and shooting $2,995 weddings on the side. For some background, here’s the breakdown on my current net worth (including the debt). Can someone be Barista FIRE and still have debt? You decide. As a concept, it’s a bit muddy to begin with, so feel free to embrace the malleability of the idea and move goalposts as you please. I certainly have.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you spend $2,000/month, a reasonable amount for pretty comfortable living. Minimum wage in BC is currently $12.65. Three 8-hour shifts a week brings you to $303.60, or $1,214.40/month. The current tax rate in BC for your first $39,676 is 5.06%, so you’re down $61.45/month for $1,152.95. Your investments need to generate $847.05/month to qualify for Barista FIRE, or $10,164.60/year. Assuming you make 7% reliably off US index funds, you’d only need $145,208.58 to achieve that! This is a reasonable assumption of what a Barista FIRE number should look like, and it’s much more attainable than a FIRE number. “A quick bit of math you can do to figure out your FIRE number is to take your annual expenses and multiply by 25.” If you spend $24,000/year for example, your FIRE number is $600,000. At 4.1x less than this FIRE number, our Barista FIRE number has already earned you the freedom to do whatever job you want! I’ve mentioned before that working forever might not be so bad – I hate the idea of someday signing off on work altogether, and just sitting back to consume, consume, consume – so this was like striking gold to me. Barista FIRE was a new milestone, and it was comparatively easy to reach. Naturally, this is all napkin math, but the results are hopeful. With my 99-year leasehold rented to two roommates, I’m currently generating $1,300/month. My day job, a fun liquor store position that keeps me active, pays me $100+/day. If I brought my expenses down to $2,000/month, that might mean I only need to work seven days a month. It’s all a work in progress, but in my mind, I’m nearly at Barista FIRE. For me, I don’t think I can comfortably call myself FIRE-anything while I still have debt, but once that’s gone, all bets are off. With $22,000+ invested in index funds too, I know I’ll be working-for-health, not-money soon. A future post will talk about that too.

Retirement can be boring, so you’re probably gonna want to do something. You too can retire from the grind and work your dream job. Teach piano, run photography workshops, become a freelance proofreader, start an underground dining operation, or walk dogs. Work out your own Barista FIRE number like so: 1) Figure out your monthly expenses. 2) Work out how much you’d earn working your dream job; e.g. $800 from teaching two $100 art lessons every week for four weeks. 3) Subtract item #2 from item #1. 4) The result is how much your investments need to earn monthly for Barista FIRE. Multiply by 12 for an annual figure, if that’s easier. This is now a clear milestone of when you can retire from a job that sucks, and retire to whatever job you want.

Can you do it? Your dream job awaits.

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Happiness is $100/Day

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You’ve probably heard a $75,000 salary is what you need to be Happy. That’s incorrect. $75,000 is what you need to be Happy if you’re silly and spendy. Here’s evidence of someone Happy at $36,000. Hell, here’s evidence of an Entire Family living on $25,330. For the purposes of today’s article though, I’m pinning Happiness at $36,500, or $100/day. Think of each day of Happiness as one unit of Happiness, and each unit is $100.

In an effort to keep myself honest, I have a confession to make: My jobs make me less than $36,500/year. I have other methods of income, and I get a lot of stuff for free, but the cash reality of my situation is I’m very average. To many, I’d be considered poor. My counterargument is I work way less and am arguably happier, and I’m staying afloat, so I’m just fine. Consider this evidence of another person happy on < $36,500. I don’t even feel as though I’m making sacrifices. I eat at restaurants nearly every day, currently have 30 litres of beer in my fridge, see the latest movies, and I travel enough that I can’t even remember all the places I’ve been. I can’t even think of anything else I’d want! I don’t want anything shiny, and a huge house would just mean more shit to clean. Any more travel would be exhausting because I’m a homebody, AND I’VE ALREADY BEEN TO TEN COUNTRIES! The last thing I want is unbridled consumerism. This article makes me sick. Andy has a Lamborghini Huracán and moans about not being able to fit his backpack and textbooks in it. After a certain level of spendiness, you apparently become an idiot!

Human minds adapt easily to any situation. Get used to living on less and you’ll be happy living on less. I’ve turned it into a game. Since I work only 30 hours a week (but don’t need to), I have plenty of time to brainstorm ways to save money. That’s one of the reasons this blog exists! On the flip side, get used to spending like a maniac and no amount of Hugo Boss tees or Gucci bags will be enough to satisfy you. Once you raise the bar for what makes you Happy, you’ll be miserable the moment you have to eat at Olive Garden instead of Le Crocodile. Is that any way to live?

Now you know that $36,500 is your Happiness Number, here’s what you should do if you make more: INVEST. Occasional splurging is fine, but don’t make a habit of it. Your goal is now to reach your Retirement Number, which is your Annual Expenses times 25. Once you reach that, you should be able to reliably make 5% each year from your investments, and withdraw 4% to finance your lifestyle. Your nest egg keeps growing, and you’ll have enough to live on FOREVER. After that, you’ll learn that Happiness isn’t tied to Money after $100/day. You’ll realize Happiness is actually more like “Money + Time + Freedom”. Come to think of it, that may be why I’m super stoked about life, even as a poor kid. Most of my work hours are optional, which translates to Time and Freedom whenever I want. Huh.

A final note: You can keep “investing” after you reach your Retirement Number. Invest in nonmaterial things that bring you joy. Donate to a charity you care about, put money back into your community, give young entrepreneurs a leg up. You don’t need a Lamborghini Huracán, and let’s face it, you wouldn’t know how to drive it anyway. Andy certainly doesn’t. He can’t even figure out what to do with his laundry.

What do you think? Can YOU get by on $100/day?