Our Story

Our Story

Welcome! This page introduces me and my wife (Mr. & Mrs. FFP) and will give you a bit of an idea regarding who we are and where we’ve come from.

Reading all of our story below in the order that it is written will provide you with necessary background and context for what you will find here on the blog. However, if you’re just passing through or are otherwise limited on time, you’ll find an expandable table of contents below containing links to specific sub-sections.

About Mr. FFP

Allow me to properly introduce myself! I am a husband, father, self-described perfectionist lover of excellence, aspiring do-it-yourselfer, and personal finance nut.

I was cursed born with an independent spirit, an analytical mind, and an eye for detail. As a natural optimizer, inefficiency in any way, shape, or form keeps me awake at night.

I enjoy far too many hobbies and have too many interests to be able to pursue them all, but photography, road-tripping the U.S., writing, volleyball, horticulture, whitetail bow-hunting, cycling, and beekeeping are tops on the list.

When it comes to money, I’ve always been a natural saver. The concept of delayed gratification was ingrained in me from my childhood, and as a consumer I have always carefully-vetted and scrutinized purchases in pursuit of items possessing both quality and value.

A surreal sunset over the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming, illustrating the author's love of both travel and photography.
Two hobbies — travel and photography — for the price of one. A surreal sunset over the Bighorn Mountain Range of Wyoming.

My Story

Family Background

I grew up on a homestead in the country as the oldest of three children in a solidly middle-class family. We never had to worry about where our next meal would come from, but ordering pizza was cause for celebration, and eating out was rare.

No fancy electronics or personal gizmos for us kiddos. To give you an idea of just how deprived desperate we were, we voluntarily performed hours of manual labor along the lines of ditch-digging and picking rocks in exchange for just 20 minutes (strictly monitored by timer, mind you!) of time spent playing basic sprite-based computer games on the old PC. Chalk one up for Mom and Dad on that count.

There was no such thing as an expected allowance in our family. You did chores to earn your keep – nothing more, nothing less. This meant that birthdays and Christmas constituted annual windfalls, with gifts of cash from relatives quickly spirited away into savings accounts for measured use over the balance of the next 12 months.

It was also understood in our family that our parents would not be purchasing or insuring vehicles or cell phones on our behalf, nor would they be assisting with college tuition costs.

High School & College

I had my first job at the age of 12, and worked part-time all the way through high school in fields such as construction, landscaping, and agriculture. I had adolescent dreams of using my stash to purchase a snowmobile, but held out a few more years for my first vehicle instead.

My drive for independence led me to leave home and start out on my own at the age of 18, renting my own place while starting college. Scholarships and a part-time-during-winter, full-time-during summer job enabled me to afford tuition and pay the bills, but there often wasn’t much left over.

Living close to the vest while in college, driving used vehicles, and dating a woman (the future Mrs. FFP) who had perpetual car trouble forced incentivized me to become somewhat of a self-taught backyard mechanic.

What I lacked in skill and experience I made up for with a determination grounded in the knowledge that failure was not an option. With each mechanical gremlin eliminated, my abilities and confidence in them grew. The seeds of a DIY spirit were planted here that would enable me to save thousands of dollars later in life.

Our Story

Humble Beginnings

The future Mrs. FFP and I both graduated from the college where we had met as freshmen and landed entry-level jobs in our respective fields. I saved up for a ring, proposed (she said yes), and so began our happily-ever-after story.

Neither of us brought any student loans or consumer debt into our marriage, a point of emphasis for both of us. That said, springing for a ring, paying for a small-scale wedding and honeymoon, and replacing Mrs. FFP’s daily driver due to transmission failure mere weeks before the wedding meant the new joint savings account was nearly dry.

A beat-up silver Chevy Metro with no power steering, cruise control, or power options. Truly basic transportation illustrating the humble beginnings of the author and his wife at the time they were married.
Truly humble beginnings — pictured, our primary trip vehicle at the time we were married. No power steering, cruise control, power anything. Basic transportation personified.

Shared Philosophies

Despite the fact that Mrs. FFP (the Spender) and I (the Saver) possessed very different philosophies regarding money, one thing we did have in common was a desire not only for a future family, but for that family to have one parent at home on a full-time basis. We also had a desire to own our own home.

We determined that we could potentially achieve all three of these goals if we were able to purchase a house and utilize our dual incomes to pay the mortgage off quickly, relieving us of a housing payment and enabling us to live on just a single-income while raising a family.

That said, we didn’t want to wait forever to start a family. We therefore took our ideal timeline for doing so and reverse-engineered a house-shopping budget based on estimated time to payoff.

The Early Years

With dual incomes (albeit at entry-level wages) at our disposal, we socked away some cash, upgraded one of our used vehicles, and house-shopped for about a year prior to purchasing a home within our budget which we viewed as a starter possessing forever-home potential.

We set up automated quadruple mortgage payments, designed a budget to live on what was left, and put our finances on cruise-control. The plan worked to a T, as we dropped off our final payment in person at the bank exactly as scheduled three years and two months later after saving tens of thousands of dollars in interest.

As planned, Mrs. FFP turned in her notice and “retired” to stay-at-home-wife status, enjoying her freedom and newfound leisure time as we prepared to start a family.

After we retired the mortgage, living off of only one income was a breeze. It proved difficult to scale back the habit of saving that we had formed, and neither of us were attracted to the idea of materialism through lifestyle inflation.

Blue Chevy Aveo hatchback in nice condition, a vehicle upgrade for the author and his wife.
Vehicle upgrade! Purchased with cash from a neighbor just prior to our move.

Driven To Pursue Financial Independence

Meanwhile, I found that work had started taking more and more of a toll in terms of both hours away from home and increased levels of stress. A functional role which grew in assigned responsibilities and scope by the week had combined with a promotion or two over the years to make work-life balance a major issue.

Typical 40-hour work weeks stretched to regular 50, 60, and even 70-hour weeks. Despite being salaried and therefore ineligible for overtime compensation, I gutted it out believing that I was always just one project completion away from being able get over the hump and scale back my hours.

Living in a small community meant that other job options with similar pay or benefits would come at the expense of a 60-minute commute or more one-way, resulting in the same amount of time or more away from family, friends, hobbies, and a healthy (sane) lifestyle.

At one point I sat down out of desperation, weighed my options, and settled on a course of action — further streamlining and optimizing our finances as far as possible in support of building savings to the point that a paycheck became optional, not mandatory.

Journey to Financial Independence

This resulted in the sprinting of a race that many people run at the pace of a marathon. We set our sites on maxing out the company 401K and taking full advantage of a generous match in support of pursuing a life of financial independence.

I became a scholar of as many aspects of personal finance as I could in the name of speeding my date of freedom. It was at this point that I began exploring the ins and outs of the tax code and was able to optimize our tax situation to (legally) eliminate all income tax liability, saving thousands of dollars on an annual basis.

We managed to save a significant portion of our income for several years in this fashion, while job requirements continued to become more and more onerous and all-consuming.

Hours per week occasionally climbed into the 90-hour range. I found myself missing family get-togethers, vacations, and even funerals. My life consisted of an eat-sleep-work hell that involved not seeing my wife for days on end. I couldn’t even live for the weekends anymore, as those found me in the office as well.

View of unending badlands formations from South Dakota's Badlands National Park. This photo illustrates this barren and hopeless time in the author's life due to an insurmountable professional workload.
I’d work long hours to finish an urgent project, only to find ten more waiting in the wings. This view of South Dakota’s Badlands National Park does a good job of illustrating this barren and exhausting time in our lives.

And Then There Were Three

The birth of our first child put a lot of things in perspective, one of which was that the long hours simply had to end. I had (yet another) frank conversation with my employer regarding this point and the need for additional resources. I was assured that this need was understood and would be addressed.

However, the additional resources never came and I found myself often in a no-win situation, left to choose between either working long hours at the expense of my family, health, and relationships or prioritizing family but missing important deadlines at work.

With desperation mounting I began searching for other job opportunities in my field, but none of them appealed to my burned out mental state. It was then that I realized that while we had not yet hit our (very conservative) FI number, we did in fact have enough saved to make a paycheck optional if we made some concessions regarding our “ideal” financial independence budget.

This realization gave Mrs. FFP and I the courage to finally decide that we’d had enough. After much discussion and number-crunching, we became confident in the viability of our financial independence and our decision that I would resign. Due to health insurance deductible considerations, we determined that I would do so at the fast-approaching end of the calendar year.

We eagerly looked forward to the start of a radically different lifestyle, one which would include passion projects such as starting this blog, something I had been talking about doing for several years but had never gotten off the ground.

A baby laying on his stomach in nothing but a diaper, facing away from the camera. The baby's feet are tucked up under his bottom, and his diaper has "Oil Spoil" written on it in black marker.
The third member of the FFP family arrives!

FI Slightly Earlier Than Expected

Several months prior to my planned resignation, my employer brought in a new member of management whom I was tasked with reporting to. Blind to the hours I had been working for years, my pleas for assistance  were viewed by this new addition as simply an unwillingness to buckle down and “get it done”.

This resulted in a rather bizarre and unexpected turn of events in which my employer abruptly opted to end my employment without cause, warning, or explanation, several months ahead of my planned resignation. This was communicated to me a mere one day after I had voluntarily worked through the night and completed an uninterrupted 25-hour shift in pursuit of finishing yet another urgent project.

Shocked didn’t even begin to explain my thought process. I had worked hard over the previous ten years to build a reputation for excellence amongst my peers, and was known throughout the company as a dedicated, diligent, capable, and willing employee.

I had put the interests of my employer above my own for many years at great detriment to my health, marriage, relationships, and hobbies. My attempts to communicate and correct this imbalance upon the birth of my son were apparently viewed as evidence of a lack of “fit” within the organization.

Despite my shock, disbelief, anger, and hurt over this situation, my departure was a blessing regardless of circumstance. In all actuality, my family and I were better for it aside from my pride, as I was given a severance package and we were ultimately able to start our “FI” journey a few months ahead of schedule.

Free of the stress and burden of regular 70, 80, and 90-hour work-weeks, I now focus on the finer things in life, such as family, relationships, healthy living, long-overdue home improvement projects, and in giving back through projects such as this blog. Freedom, at last!

A green, sun-bathed valley surrounded in the distance by peaks of the Rocky Mountain range. An illustration of the rest and relaxation the author is enjoying through financial independence.
Room to breathe. Time to listen to the birds. Learning to truly live again. This photo of a sun-bathed Montana valley surrounded by peaks of the Rocky Mountain range exemplifies my new-found freedom.