Mr. Frugal Toque Gets Laid Off

Foreword by MMM: The following is a tale from my good friend, Mr. Frugal Toque. We went to engineering school together many years ago, and started our careers at the same time. Although I moved to Colorado 13 years ago, we’ve kept in touch regularly since then. 

He recently went through a rare experience for a software engineer: a fairly long period of unemployment. I got to follow along with him by email through the whole thing. His experience was so interesting, that I cajoled him into writing this story about it to share it with You.

Being Laid Off is Not the End of the World

About three months ago, I was declared “redundant” at the high tech company for which I had worked.

It was a very strange thing, when the poor sod who’d drawn the short straw came around the lab and called my name. Those in the lab knew what it was – we’d had a very brief period of warning. People react in a lot of different ways to such a realization. Variations include shock, hysterics, violence, calm acceptance, belligerence and all sorts of combinations.

My reaction was odd. I looked at the guy who’d been tasked with fetching me and said, “Layoff? Seriously?” I don’t know what I was going for. Indignation? Indifference? Humour?

It’s worth noting, at this point, that engineers in my area get calls from recruiters on a fairly regular basis. It’s also worth noting that, like good Mustachians who had been watching my former company burn through its cash reserves, my wife and I had kept a good chunk of our investments numbered for just such an emergency. So I could afford to be calm, financially speaking. If we had “car payments” and “credit card balances”, I might have lost my trademark cool.

So there I was, having accepted the thing they called a “package”, gathering up my personal effects and heading home. My wife took it well. She’d been through this once, too, and understood the importance of keeping things positive. One should never ignore the power of a supportive spouse.

When I got to the computer, thinking to look up some of those recruiters, I received a call from yet another, enjoining me to take an interview that very week.

I questioned the wisdom of taking an interview so soon. Wasn’t I supposed to be in shock? Wasn’t my ego supposed to have been shattered and crushed by this cruel blow? Maybe part of staying out of depression is declaring yourself undepressable. I know I’m trivializing. Depression is a serious thing. Whatever it was, I went to the interview and handled the technical part in such a way that the interviewer was pleased. Then I asked for a salary slightly higher than what I’d been making.

That was quite a bit of confidence. I wondered then if I was just messing with myself, trying to convince myself more than anyone else that my pride had gone unwounded. The recruiter got back to me to tell me that the requested salary was the deal breaker.

But life went on. I spent a couple of hours each day tailoring resumes for two or three job openings. There’s only so much of that one can do in a day.

It was also summer. My wife and I started running. When the six year old finished school, he started either running or biking with us. We pitched a tent in the backyard and we all slept in it. Camping preparation, we called it. We went hiking. We had ice cream afterwards. We spent afternoons at the library. The kids loved it.

And still, the whole time, I was doing interviews, sending out resumes, talking to people on the phone. Hiking adventures would be delayed or bumped occasionally, which the children understood since daddy did need to find a new job eventually.

I felt like my chest could expand more; that a greater amount of cleaner air could fill my lungs. It was a feeling I had caught the very day I had been laid off. Surely unemployment should have been stressful, but it wasn’t. My job, unbeknownst to me, had gradually become so heavy on my soul that being laid off was more relaxing. The very night my job had been taken away, I had slept better than I had in a long time.

And still, through it all, there was always the desire to do something. Fix something. Go out. Teach the children. I promised them that a play structure would be built in the backyard once I secured new employment. We all spent several days drawing on the white board to determine exactly what it was we all wanted. Accessories were procured via kijiji and Craigslist as they became available.

By this time, about a month and a half into my unemployment, I’d had two really good interviews, but still no job offers. It was taking a bit longer than Mr. Money Mustache had predicted when he first learned of my layoff.

One prospective employer, a jovial fellow who interviewed me in a skylit meeting room, surrounded by people who had no black circles under their eyes, quizzed me with a short list of very penetrating questions. Without the aid of an annoying technical interview, he gauged my skills quite effectively. The only drawback was that he wanted someone right away and I wanted to enjoy a little more summer with my kids.

A second interviewer, who did subject me to a technical test, did the oddest thing. He asked me to write code that I didn’t know how to write and invited me to ask him questions, or surf the Internet if I preferred. He didn’t want to quiz me. He wasn’t attempting to mimic Final Jeopardy. His goal was to see how I figured things out. I thought that was rather bright, and told him so. While I was away visiting family, they sent me an invitation for a second interview. Decent people were met upon my return.

I continued to enjoy my time with my family. My wife said that she’d really enjoyed my time at home and that we should ride the early retirement bandwagon even harder once I got a new job.

At last, after almost two months of searching, waiting (and enjoying), a job offer came in. To say it was generous would be an understatement. It turned out my former company had been shorting us for some time. You see, every single person who had been laid off – absent a few who were so financially secure they weren’t even looking yet – had landed a job for higher pay.

I looked at the offer, looked at my wife, and the first thought in my head was that here was a way to retire even faster than my most optimistic assumptions had allowed for. We did the math. This would indeed change things quite a bit. It never occurred to us that our largesse should be spent to lease a bigger car or get a bigger house. Financial stability and future summers of quality family time were foremost on our minds.

I’m not writing to brag. I’m not writing this to slap you in the face if you lost your job and have trouble finding a new one. I’m writing this for two real reasons.

First, I want to underline the importance of having a ‘stash. What allowed me to remain relaxed throughout this process was the combination of money set aside in semi liquid investments and the lack of big monthly payments on borrowed items. The fact that I could have afforded to spend the better part of a year unemployed was what let me enjoy my time with my family. It was also what let me approach each employer with an analytic eye. I could see which interviewers had those circles under their eyes; the dark indications of either a sweatshop or a few too many attempts at making Horcruxes. I went to interviews relaxed and smiling, which gave the right impression to the people who did finally make the offer I wanted – the impression of a lighthearted, hard working individual with a lot to offer.

The second thing I learned was how pleasant retirement could be. There are always productive things to do, from home repair and gardening to play structure building and writing. At the same time, there are so many things to do that are just fun, I couldn’t even do them all in over two months of unemployment. There are books to read, children to teach, evil fifth-level Human Conjurers to defeat*, people to visit, places to hike and bike. The world will not let you run out of things to do if you’re the type who likes to do things (and you are, or you wouldn’t be reading this, would you?).

I’m in my first week at the new job, and I’m enjoying it very much, not least because I found it myself, for myself, without the help of any recruiter. I think I’ve found a place to do something useful and interesting while piling up my ‘stash in what a wise man referred to as, “the anchor leg of my career”.

The greatest benefit of the experience, however, is that it has at least doubled the Toque household’s determination to achieve early retirement.

* – for which I recommend wearing the wooden necklace the old lady gave you just before she died. Just sayin’.

  • Heath August 27, 2012, 6:28 am

    A beautiful story!

    I’ve always thought of the times between jobs as a kind of vacation. Though I must admit my apply/interview cycle hasn’t ever been as stress free as the one you described. The difference being that I never had a big chunk of investments and savings, and filling out job applications stresses me out (but interviews are usually smooth).

    Why would people ever worry about running out of constructive things to do in retirement? As you experienced, there is a whole WORLD of great stuff to do, without your job siphoning off your free time.

    It’s good to know you enjoyed your taste of early retirement and came out with an even stronger income :-)

  • Holly@ClubThrifty August 27, 2012, 7:16 am

    Nice! That was a great story. Every time I am on vacation, I feel like I am getting a taste of early retirement. We always end up strengthening our resolve to stay debt free and save like crazy/

    I hope you have a great day!

  • RetirementInvestingToday August 27, 2012, 7:21 am

    I had a very similar experience in 2011 when I found myself unemployed here in the UK. Prior to the period out of work I had already committed to Early Retirement. This meant I already had no debt, an Emergency Fund in place, a lot of assets to fall back on and was living on a fraction of what I could have been had I ramped my standard of living as my earnings increased.

    This all meant that the period of unemployment was a time of battery recharging, considering options and increasing my levels of fitness while being able to wait for the right job. It came along in a few months for higher pay than before. This is in contrast to the person who lives pay check to pay check who I imagine would have been stressed and forced to take the first job that came along.

    So while I was out of work for a while, I don’t think Early Retirement day moved, as the lost earnings (and hence savings) were compensated by the increased savings possible with the new higher salary.


    • Dan August 27, 2012, 1:01 pm

      I’m self-employed so I put myself through these periods of “not working” (as opposed to unemployment) every so often. Last year I worked about nine months out of the year and strangely I also worked out a lot during my breaks. It seems this is very common. It begs the question, how much more attractive would the world be if we didn’t work?

      Anyway, I guess you could say I’ve been sampling early retirement periodically. To kind of draw a line opposite of the post by Mr. Frugal Toque, in retrospect I would rather have the three months of money than have had off. I only spent a month of the three doing something amazing (travel) and the other two months could have easily been mistaken for laziness/hedonism. It was nice to recharge, whatever that means, while I was doing it, but I’ve had to do a bit of income ju-jitsu this year to pay down some debt on a rental property (first world problem) that wouldn’t have been necessary if I had worked a bit more last year.

      So if you find yourself unemployed, don’t freak out unless you are a debt-ridden slave to consumerism, otherwise you should definitely freak out. For the rest of you though, enjoy any time you get away from work but either try to make the most of it or just go the hell back to work. Otherwise, you may regret it and come back to complain about it in the MMM comments.

      • Mr. Frugal Toque August 27, 2012, 4:53 pm

        I gave a lot of consideration to taking work as soon I could find it, but then I remembered that financial independence is not, in and of itself, the goal.
        If it was just about retiring as soon as possible, I should have taken the first reasonable offer available and then hoped to hop jobs as soon as something better came along.
        But since the *real* goal is free time, there is no better time to be at home than when the kids are out of school for the summer.
        So I figured that I would make a trade with Future Toque. I took 2 months off to spend with my youngsters now in exchange for 2 months or so when they’re teenagers. It turns out, though, that Future Toque won’t have to pay that price because waiting around got me a higher paying job anyway.
        It was a win for Present Toque *and* Future Toque, and it all came down to having the ‘stash to take my time.

        • Karawynn @ Pocketmint August 28, 2012, 6:44 pm

          Ha! Yes, trading kid-time for teenager-time is a no-lose proposition. When they’re teenagers, they won’t have time for you anyway!

          Glad things worked out so well for you, and thank you for sharing!

  • CH12 August 27, 2012, 7:44 am

    It’s wonderful to see the perspective of someone who is unemployed, but not stressed out at all. This is like “A Man with Savings” but contemporary.

  • jlcollinsnh August 27, 2012, 8:09 am

    Damn considerate of them to lay you off just in time for summer!

    Glad you made the most of it and enjoyed a bit of advanced retirement. More to come.

    Having some $$$ tucked away makes all the difference….

    have fun with the new gig.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque August 27, 2012, 10:00 am

      A number of people who were employed during that time were making jealous comments regarding any one of: my tan; my relaxed demeanour; my weight loss.
      I have to believe, however, that I would have been equally calm and fit in the winter. Just less tanned.
      It did work out for the best, getting to spend so much time while the kids were off school, so I can’t complain.

      • ToRetireOrNotToRetire February 11, 2016, 1:46 am

        I am getting ready to be laid off after 15+ years with my (first and only) employer. I am toying with trying my hand at early retirement; my biggest fear though is in a few years I’ll change my mind and want to go back to work. As an IT professional, I’m afraid once I am out of the market I will be kept out for good. Thoughts from anyone in IT who has had experience with job seeking after an extended break? Also, any recommendations for an extreme type A to try to loosen up and enjoy early retirement? I’m so afraid I will get bored or my mind will go to mush…

  • Dragline August 27, 2012, 8:26 am

    This really illustrates the importance of living below one’s means, even if you are not planning on retiring any time soon. And its not so much the financial aspects, but more the emotional ones. The emotional burden of debt is a high one and is underestimated by most people. Debt = slavery is one thing I have been trying to pound into my kids’ heads.

    • J.Reid August 29, 2012, 1:54 pm

      Our kids have been on our debt journey right alongside us these past couple years. When we knocked down the last of our Debt Tower (made from Legos and taken apart month by month), we had a party. When we completed our emergency fund, we had a party.

      And when they overheard that I had signed up for the MMM-recommended Chase Give-Me-Five-Hundred-Dollars credit card, they FREAKED out. “WHAT?! Are we going to have more debt??!!!”

      I feel things are going well for us in the Child Debt Education Department.

      • Mr. Money Mustache August 29, 2012, 2:24 pm

        Yeah, that’s one of the finer points that people transitioning from Consumertown to Mustachianism need to learn: Credit Cards have Nothing to do with debt once you are managing your finances adult-style. They don’t tempt you to spend more, and of course you would never buy so much that you’re out of cash at the end of the month.

        If as a Mustachian you are THAT close to the edge, you should still be living in your parents’ basement, and while you still might have a credit card, you wouldn’t be putting any more on it than you earn at McDonald’s.

        People who don’t realize this often accuse me of “shilling” credit cards on this site, going against my own principles, being a big sellout, etc.

        In reality, credit cards are just an illogical but convenient necessity in the US-style commerce system. They give us cash back for using them, and they don’t give us discounts for not using them. Some places, like rental car outlets and hotels, require them to check in at all. So we use them for all our purchases, and yet we magically stay out of debt!

        • AA July 8, 2013, 3:55 pm

          I just recently signed up for a cash-back type card (with a $100 sign-up bonus), and I find myself using it for every purchase I can, even small ones that I had the cash for in my purse.

          I used to have this “cash-only” philosophy born out of having a credit card number lifted from me. But I’ve made a concious decision to stop being a wuss about it for two reasons: 1) The cash back is worth it and 2) I really hate the nebulous “Uncategorized” budget in Mint! I want to know exactly where that money is going.

          – and yes, I know I am a wussy pants because the cash mostly goes to a lawn guy, but I am not in good enough physical condition to mow it myself. I’ve tried to do it myself and began feeling physically ill on several occasions. I swear I at least tried… :(

        • phred September 23, 2013, 8:34 am

          I am now seeing discounts for cash everywhere. But, I don’t know if it really is a discount, or if using a credit card is now a surcharge.

        • Oh Yonghao October 9, 2014, 4:50 pm

          I completely agree with this, and have sadly seen the results of consumertown citizenship which some friends have earned with thinking that a credit limit increase means they can now afford to purchase some new gadget. Right now I have roughly $60,000 in available credit card limits. When I got my first card to $10,000 my friend suggested I should make some sort of large purchase. Instead I just kept using the card as usual, for things I need and paying it in full every month. That card now has a $30,000 limit on it. Sometimes I think of how funny it would be to purchase a new car with the swipe of a card, but I have no use for another car, my 2002 BMW is happily sitting in the garage (due to the lack of other stuff that people get on credit cards and store in there) waiting out the week on the tank of gas I added almost two months ago, and I do not have enough yet in the liquid portion of the stash to pay that purchase off in full anyways.

          YNAB got me started out straight with the philosophy that a credit card rightfully starts off with $0 on your budget, not with the silly $1000 limit, or whatever your credit score got you through the credit card companies risk algorithms. As such my net worth is easy to calculate, and paying off a credit card does not affect it one bit, I am guaranteed to have the amount to pay it off sitting in my account for the automatic payment which is turned to last months balance rather than the ridiculous minimum payment.

  • Jen August 27, 2012, 8:43 am

    Truly a nice story to read.
    I went through a similar situation a year ago. I was laid off and without job for several months. Financially not stressful at all, as all our living expenses and debt (mortgage) payments can be covered from one paycheck – either mine or my husband’s – with cash to spare. Emotionally was stressful though, as my spouse, unfortunately, was not as supportive of my “vacation” – got daily sermons about my “lost wages”. But overall I enjoyed the experience, as I had some spare time to learn some things – e.g. started a small online store, which generated some small income, though it is currently neglected, as I am back to work. Got a taste of what it will be like to be FI. It felt goooooooood :)

  • Mr. Everyday Dollar August 27, 2012, 9:12 am

    Great post Mr. Frugal Toque! The reasons you laid out why retirement is pleasant would be the same reasons for me. I have never had a stretch of unemployment or have taken off a few months between jobs, but I think I have plenty of interests and hobbies to fill the 9-5. And I know some people who are the opposite. They live for the 9-5! They live to work. I work to live. And some day I won’t even have to work to live. And at that point I can follow my curiosities with abandon.

    I am getting closer to making early retirement a reality. Like you just did, a few years ago I re-dedicated myself to retiring early. With my re-dedication I feel much better that I am working towards a goal, it is motivational. I see an end in sight. If I was operating under the reality that I would be working until my 60’s or 70’s I think I would be downright miserable!

    I recently did a case study on a guy who is ready to retire early (http://mreverydaydollar.com/reader-case-study-william/) but he is questioning if he should really pull the plug. I think when I get to that point I will have the same concerns. Then hopefully I will snap out of it and realize early retirement will be pretty much awesome. And hey, you can always go back to work!

    Thank you for sharing your experience!

  • mike crosby August 27, 2012, 9:22 am

    Couple of questions if I may:

    What does this mean: * – for which I recommend wearing the wooden necklace the old lady gave you just before she died.

    And is it possible for software engineers to work independently? If you make $100K working for someone, couldn’t you make $20-40K working a day/week?

    Thank you for taking the time and sharing your life Mr Toque.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque August 27, 2012, 9:55 am

      The evil fifth level Human Conjurer has a lightning burst and magic missiles, so you really don’t want to mess with him without *some* kind of protection (given that the adventurers are a 1st level Fighter and Ranger). The old lady had the wooden necklace enchanted for that purpose.

      As for money, it’s true that I could try something like that. I was offered a short term contract, but I prefer the security of full time work until I’ve reached financial independence.

      • Mr. Money Mustache August 27, 2012, 10:13 am

        Uhh.. yeah Mr. FT, but I think we’re still operating without much context here. For example, are we talking about a character that is common in dungeons and dragons? Or a board game? A video game? A movie? Our friends have not all played the same games we have.

        Or are we supposed to wait until we’re retired and playing with our six-year-old, at which point it will all become obvious? :-)

        • Mr. Frugal Toque August 27, 2012, 11:15 am

          It takes a bit away from the thrill and mystery, but all right …
          I started a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for my kids, simplifying it to the point where the 4 year old had a pretty decent idea of what he was doing (although I have to keep the trickery and riddles to a minimum, as both kids are pretty naive).
          I made a villain at the end who be impossible for them to beat if they didn’t at least try to save the old lady from the bandits and get the wooden necklace.

  • Geek August 27, 2012, 9:25 am

    Do you find it easier to spend even less now?

    Mr. Geek and I are both in software – he was recently able to take 1.5 years to pursue his own (eventually monetarily not-profitable) thing. The biggest benefit to the retirement ‘stache is that it is super easy for us to live on 1 income now… and we have 2 incomes again.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque August 27, 2012, 11:25 am

      It’s hard to say if our expenditures will drop in the future. They certainly dropped while I was unemployed, but a large portion of that was motivated by a need to weather the unemployment storm for as long as possible without touching our savings.
      Will our expenses stay *that* low? Probably not, given that I’m back to consuming resources like a worker instead of a retired guy and we know that there’s income available.
      Will our expenses go back up to what they were?
      The period of unemployment must have strengthened our frugality muscles, plus we’ve got a much greater motivation now to keep them in shape.
      But I’ve only been back at work one week, so I don’t have any numbers for you.

  • Joe @ Retire By 40 August 27, 2012, 9:32 am

    An engineering job can become very stressful over time and you need extended time off once in a while. It’s great that you were able to spend time with your family and didn’t have to be stressed out over the finances. I left my job last month and I’m enjoy my retirement tremendously. I’m done with corporation and won’t work for another one again. After the kid goes off to school in a few years, I’ll explore more self employment options.

  • Cecile August 27, 2012, 10:52 am

    Thank you Mr Toque for sharing this great story !

    It is so incredible the feeling you have when you have a good stash (a year of expenses in my case) ! So incredible that I wonder why not everyone is doing it.
    You go to work with a lighter heart, you enjoy your evenings better, you sleep better, I even think that you work better… Your story is another proof of this.

    Good luck with building the playground for your kids. Probably going to be a lot of fun!

  • Chris August 27, 2012, 12:04 pm

    Good on ya FQ!

    The idea of retiring in your mind came up on this website a ways back, and I’ve used that state of mind quite often on days I’m tired of the grind. I don’t think most people realize how much their daily jobs and financial situation, add stress to their lives. The key point I took from your story is the power of having an emergency fund, for us working types, or FU money, if you will-it changes the whole mindset of the game. I was figuratively cheering for you as you talked about enjoying your time off, fairly stress free and walking into job interviews, cool as a cucumber-its a game changer living below your means! Power shifts back to you and away from the employer!

    Thanks for sharing and good luck with the new job!

    • Mr. Frugal Toque August 28, 2012, 7:35 pm

      It’s good that you captured my main purpose in telling this tale:
      Maintain Your ‘Stash!
      Your ability to peruse the Buffet of Life and select the very best Dishes is much improved once you’ve paid off the Maitre d’.

  • Rod August 27, 2012, 1:00 pm

    Glad you found a suitable job, and had a summer free to be a kid again. I often think of that layoff scenario, and how I would handle it. Seen many friends have it happen, and some take the first thing offered, or move across country, or just fall apart. Seems like work is a thin piece of wire, holding all we cherish dangling in the wind. I am in a somewhat dying field, and have side work galore, I have a few trade skills but none really drive me fully, as I am a jack of all trades and master of none. My son, 14 years old, helps me in the sidework field. He is stashing money, wants for nothing really and can figure things out well. I have always had work and a bit of spending money to burn, I actually am overworked but know change is coming, always has and will. I now take savings seriously, and feel prepared for the shit to hit the blades, but it won’t bend them up as bad. If I do get layed off, I am going to take a 2 week survival camp, all by myself, to think and enjoy life and nature. Then upon my return, take a month to do whatever the family wants to do. We will survive, and after my retooling session, My step will be lighter and that will be the best vacation span I have had in 25 years or so.I am 42 and still able to go strong all day, just not as willing to freak out over work like I used to do. Thanks for contributing, good skill to you, and a bit of luck as well when needed.

  • Marcia August 27, 2012, 1:02 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your story. It echoes those of several friends who have been laid off in years past. They have enjoyed time with their kids, woodworking, surfing.

    I haven’t been laid off for more than a week or two. But I did have the fortune of maternity leave this summer, which allowed me to cook, sew, and take my 6 year old to the beach, while keeping the baby under the umbrella of course!

    I really enjoyed reading about the hiking, biking, and running you did. If I weren’t sleep deprived, we would have done a lot more.

  • Tim Stobbs August 27, 2012, 1:12 pm

    I so wish I could have had your experience at being unemployed…when it happened to me it was shortly after being in my first ‘career’ job. So with high debt load and almost no savings…I just got out of university, come on folks…it was highly stressful. I have to say perhaps that helped me firm up the idea that I wanted to never be in the situation again.

    Ironically if I got laid off today I think I would actually smile at the idea. I commented the other day to a friend that my day job is starting to really get in the way of everything I want to do in life.

    Thanks for the story, it’s good to be reminded on why we are on this path.


    • mike crosby August 28, 2012, 1:14 pm

      I’ve been self employed for over 25 years.

      Business was slow so I interviewed for a job. I got it. More money than I ever made in my life, which isn’t saying much ($52,000).

      I lasted 2 weeks. They bought me all new equipment including a new van. Felt bad quitting, but it almost felt as good as my last day in the military.

      • jlcollinsnh August 28, 2012, 1:57 pm


        reminds me about what they say regarding owning a boat. The two best days are
        the day you buy it
        the day you sell it

  • Amicable Skeptic August 27, 2012, 5:01 pm

    Great story and thanks for sharing. The funniest part is that the title in my browser tab is shortened down to “Mr. Frugal Toque Gets Laid”, can’t believe I’m the first to note this, I guess it speaks highly of where Mustachian’s minds are (not in the gutter).

    • Daftshadow August 28, 2012, 10:17 am

      I’m insulted! I can’t think of any community more likely to roll up their sleeves and get dirty in the gutter! ;-)

  • Huck August 27, 2012, 8:51 pm

    I recently found out the new term for this period of time between jobs (at least for those like FT who can enjoy the time stress free): FUNEMPLOYMENT.


    • Jen August 28, 2012, 2:19 am

      Love it! :)

  • jd August 28, 2012, 1:03 am

    Thanks for sharing your story, MFT.

    I was actually hoping I would get laid off from a previous job to get out of a bad work environment and to have some extended time off for some traveling (plus the severance package). Eventually I saved up a big enough ‘stache to just quit the job and take a year off. While that may have pushed retirement back a bit, I don’t regret it at all, as it was a great experience that changed my perspective on life (and work).

  • Dan the Canuck August 28, 2012, 5:56 am

    wonderful story Mr FT.. While I am in a union job with little chance of losing it, I too hope to soon be at the point where, if I did lose my job, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it whatsoever. I am just now starting to really save the big bucks as my debt is almost gone for good. Couple years from now things will be even awesome-er than they are right now. And, is it wrong that I knew you were referring to D&D before you spilled the beans on your nerd-ery?

    • Mr. Frugal Toque August 28, 2012, 11:47 am

      Olde Time Unions are pretty interesting, in this context.
      I don’t think that people are dumber than they used to be, or have less willpower.
      Sure, it’s *possible* that people are worse at saving than they used to be.
      It seems more likely that people haven’t changed much, but the low willpower, non-savers of yesterday couldn’t go for a walk without stumbling into a union job with a compulsory pension plan attached to it.
      Company pension plans don’t exist in most places, and where they do they shouldn’t be trusted. Part of the mission here is to increase the willpower – the Frugality Muscles – of the general populace so people don’t need crutches like union/company pension plans.

  • MsSindy August 28, 2012, 12:24 pm

    It sure feels good to have a ‘stache, don’t it!? It really changes your perspective.

    We received notice that they were shutting down the refinery that my DH worked at (Union workforce, btw). Just about 2 years ago I got serious about saving for FI and ensuring that we had a ‘stache and no debt – it was only begrudgingly endorsed by DH at the time. When the notices came, he saw his fellow colleagues packing up their families and moving all over the country for work or taking the first jobs they could get and the talk was always about money & debt (def panic mode). We had options, and it was a nice place to be in. We could take our time and weigh our options in a thoughtful manner – and it turned out that he was able to score a position with a 17% increase and 45 min closer to home!

    After experiencing what a more frugal life has brought him (peace of mind), he is more on-board with FI (although he still has room to improve!). Just the other night he asked me….”now, that 3 year plan that you were trying to show me before….what do we have to do exactly….” there’s hope!

  • Partwaythere August 28, 2012, 4:50 pm

    “…MAKING HORCRUXES”!!! How come no one else has commented on that? It was HYSTERICAL. Oh, to choose jobs not managed by evil soulless villains – THAT is the true moral of this story and why everyone needs to live for the FU money and not the ‘stuff’ (or the cable sucking IQ points from the house).

  • BadassCPA August 28, 2012, 5:07 pm

    A year ago my wife and I decided we would soon be ready to start a family. But before we did that, there was just one thing I wanted to do first. She had studied abroad in college for a semester and always said it was the best experience of her life. Other friends of mine had said the same thing. I did not think 5-6 months was economically responsible, but I made it my goal to go to one country for 4 weeks (not hopping around as seems to be popular).

    Once I got back I would quit my job and start looking for a more family-friendly one (closer to home and less hours). I dreamt of finding some way to have my employer fire me so I could get a severance and unemployment during my time off. In reality though, it cost me double as it depleted 4 weeks of vacation they had to pay me when I eventually did leave. Regardless, our penny-pinching lifestyle helped as the smaller payout upon quitting was merely an annoyance, not a decision changer. None of our friends (we’re in our 20’s) could believe we were going to Greece for a month, but when you have backup funds it is much easier to be guilt-free about it than when it’s going on credit cards.

    All in all, it was an incredible experience. Now our first daughter is due this Friday and we couldn’t be more excited!

  • Cole August 31, 2012, 7:24 pm

    That D&D reference was awesome. I think it’s great you are playing with your kids. Mine is still too young, but I am really looking forward to playing with them someday!

    Actually, in terms of a Mustacian activity, Dungeons and Dragons is actually pretty perfect. The books I own have lasted for YEARS and have seen ridiculous amounts of use. Unlike board games, it really is different every time you play and never gets stale.

    Also, for those of you worried about the “nerdery” of it, I have managed to convince a bunch of my university friends who were hard partiers to try it. It became our “weekly poker night”, and we even managed to get our girlfriends to play…

    If you can overcome the stigma’s associated with not spending money on frivolous things, I am sure you can overcome the stigma associated with a pretty sweet game!

    • Mr. Frugal Toque September 5, 2012, 7:33 am

      If you choose your boardgames carefully, they are different every time, although none of them have the diversity of something like D&D where you can literally invent any kind of adventure you like.
      As it is, the trick right now is not to make the mysterious part of the adventures too clever for the kids. On the other hand, the campaign can grow with them, getting as complicated as is appropriate for them.

  • Julie September 4, 2012, 10:30 am

    I’m convinced that you are more employable when you don’t need the job. I’ve gotten my last two jobs after layoffs by being brutally honest with employers, because I didn’t have to exagerrate my skills in interviews. I could actually say “no, I’m not good at that” and I think the interviewers found that totally refreshing.

  • jeff September 5, 2012, 5:32 am

    Just out of curiosity, what is a good stache to have in case of losing your job and having the travel extended / vacay option ?

    $100k, $200k ? I’m sure this is different for everyone depending on age, mortgage, loans, kids education, etc

    • Mr. Frugal Toque September 5, 2012, 7:50 am

      That’s a tricky question, as you said. I can only give a vague idea of what we did when we saw that the company for which I was working was in trouble.
      In Canada, we have a “TFSA” (tax free savings account). The rules for this are:
      – after tax income goes in
      – can be invested in almost anything
      – up to $5k a year goes in, starting when you’re 18. Any unused or withdrawn portion accumulates through the years
      So instead of paying down our mortgage with extra payments for the last little while, we ‘stached our extra money in a TFSA.
      How much? It was enough, if we were to call the bank and set our mortgage payments to the lowest level, to last us through to next year
      After that, we’d have had to go into RRSPs (untaxed savings accounts) or through our lines of credit, which had plenty of room.
      I think that the appropriate thing to do is have access to 6 months of expenses (NOT income, EXPENSES) even if its only through a line of credit.
      As it was, with the market here for software designers, I didn’t even need to touch the TFSA. The severance package and cash on hand were quite enough.
      Frugality often works out that way.

    • Rosie August 4, 2016, 11:04 am

      Very late response but I figured I would chime in here. I am planning on an 8 month ‘extended vacation’ in South America next year (backpacking, living on a shoestring) and my ‘stache is only around 25k right now. I plan to use around 15k for the actual travel, 10k (about 4 months of living expenses) left when I get back and start working again. No debt, no kids, in my early 20’s. Just goes to show that it does indeed depend on your age, mortgage, kids, travel plans, risk aversion, retirement goals etc.

  • lian September 5, 2012, 10:32 am

    I just got laid off. There will be no relaxing or enjoyment for me. At 57, I have little chance of finding another job in my industry. I lived beyond my means for much of my adult life, so I have only myself to blame for my current panic. I have spent the last 5 years undoing my financial mess, but I’m afraid it’s been too little too late to become mustachian. I have managed (just 3 months ago!) to finally become debt free and have built an emergency fund of about one year of living expenses; however, I have not built my assets to where I can subsist indefinitely or even think of retiring. I’m OK with working the rest of my life – an achievable financial independence for me would be to build up a stash over the next few years where I could choose when and how to work, and not have to panic over losing a job. Hope unemployment is temporary and I can still get there. I want to shake sense into every overspending young person I know. Maybe I can be a lesson in the consequences of a mis-spent youth.

    • Russ September 5, 2012, 8:21 pm

      Lian, best of luck to you, hope things work out. I’ve just turned 50 and am not debt free yet, but am much closer than a year ago when I started getting control of my finances. Fortunately my naturally frugal daughter has been watching what we’ve been through and is in pretty good shape. I plan to introduce her to this site, with luck she could retire by 45.

      I guess there’s something to be said for serving as a bad example! :-)

  • Lianne September 6, 2012, 1:07 pm

    I went through this a couple of years ago. Thankfully, I work in a field where I haven’t had trouble finding work (never been out of work for more than four months since I graduated more than twenty years ago), and usually at a higher salary.

    But after being laid off three time, and knowing how little EI (Employement Insurance. Canadian, here), I make sure to have enough money to cover at least six months without outside sources. These days, I have about 7-8 months set aside, especially since I current work as a contractor, so I don’t qualify for EI at the moment.

    But last time, since I ended up having to wait two months for them to go through the security clearance checks, I enjoyed my spring/early summer, just like you did. And in the end, I started my new job on my birthday, and I’ve been there for more than two years now, and hope to be here much longer. But you never know, so the advice I give co-op students is to build up and financial safety net as fast as possible, because in the high tech industry, the only thing you can be sure of is that eventually you’ll be laid off.

  • Jo Russell March 26, 2015, 5:36 pm

    My early retirement epiphany came when there was a labour dispute at my firm and we were locked out for two months. The strike pay was a fraction of the regular salary and I was fretting over pending property tax bills, etc. What I discovered by tracking my expenses and using due diligence on spending, I could live quite comfortably on that strike pay. And I was enjoying the decompression from work. I was healthy for the first time in ages! Once we went back in I set about implementing my early retirement plan – I continued to live on the amount of that strike pay and invested any money over and above that amount – a saving rate of 75%. I retired 6 years later and continue my frugal ways to this day, while my ‘stache continues to grow. I’m free! Wish I had done it sooner! I could have done it much earlier if I had known. You twenty-somethings – don’t fart your money away. Get a solid saving/investment plan in place and you’ll be laughing in no time, free to choose how you want to live.

  • Blisseth August 23, 2016, 12:54 am

    Hi Mr. Frugal Toque, curious, which industry do you work in? I have a good ‘stash that allowed me to work minimum-wage internships 2009-2010 and do a little travel when I was laid off from the biotech world in ’09, and the same ‘stash allowed me to quit a job that wasn’t a good fit end of 2011 and take 6 months to find a better fit. But I notice for my field (biotech)and my sub-specialty, it takes maybe 6 months or so to find a well-paid, good match. Always curious about what fields are in so demand that one gets so many offers AND a huge pay raise? Guessing software engineering?

  • TigerLily May 6, 2017, 6:43 pm

    Excellent post – I lost my job 3 weeks ago and the range of emotions has been quite interesting. First, SHOCK, then anger, then panic (until I remembered I have a 9 month “stash” and thus no reason to FEAR), and now I’m actually enjoying my Forced Sabbatical. A new job will come along eventually, but I’m enjoying more time with the family until then.


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