Mrs. Physician on FIRE Speaks! A Guest Post by Request

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, I am thankful to be married to my lovely wife. We have been together for 15 years, married for 12, and partners in parenting for 11 years now.

She is more than I could ask for: an outstanding mother to our two boys, a loving and understanding wife, and an all-around fun and joyous person. She knows how to keep me and the kids in line, and she’s always game for our next adventure. And you’ve never heard from her… until today.

 

A few months back, I received the following message via Facebook:

 

“I’d love to see a guest post from your wife. Tell her not to hate me.

After seeing your $90k house purchase, it got me thinking. Most physician spouses wouldn’t stand for a $90k house. There may be some teaching points she could share about contentment or true wealth or the value of travel over possessions.

I’m a physician; my husband primarily stays home with kids. We live below our means and are working on building real estate passive income. I’d love to cut back and work less while kids are still little. Thanks for your teaching!  It has helped us.”

 

I followed up by asking my wife not to hate the woman physician who asked the question and to please not shoot the messenger, either. She looked it over and pondered the idea for several months.

A couple of comments from some sensitive souls who misconstrued a few of her words in her podcast debut had her feeling a bit reticent about opening herself up to criticism, but I assured her that she had some great insights to share, and she proved me right.

I also assured her that she would encounter a friendlier audience here and that I hold the key to the comments section. I don’t believe I’ve deleted a single non-spammy comment before, but I have that power and I’m not afraid to use it!

Full disclosure: this post was slightly edited by me. I had to remove about seven paragraphs that detailed just how caring, charismatic, and devilishly handsome of a husband she has. It was really over the top. Everything that remains, though, is all her.

 

Mrs PoF

Mrs. Physician on FIRE Speaks! A Guest Post by Request.

 

I suppose that after almost four years of the Physician on FIRE writing a successful blog, it is time for me to chime in! I’ve never commented or posted anything up to this point for several reasons — primarily, I’ve never felt like I had much to add to the conversation!

Leif handles the finances of the household and does a steller job. I’m definitely a novice when it comes to investing and writing. Also, I’m kind of a sensitive soul and do not want to make myself a target for the trolls of the internet… I may even ask my hubby to turn off the comments of this post to protect my feelings!

 

About that $90,000 House

 

To the heart of the matter- do I love my 1150 square feet, $90,000 house!?

Yes! Yes! Yes! There is so much to love about downsizing!

For several years now, we have been traveling as a family of four for weeks at a time. We’ve done Paris, Iceland, Hawaii, Arizona, Orlando, Mexico, etc… These trips have usually been for 3-plus weeks and done with, at most, one suitcase and one backpack per person!

We pack 4 to 5 days worth of clothing, lots of reading material, school supplies, games, and snacks. I do laundry often and no one complains about the lack of clothing options or toys. We book a two or three bedroom Airbnb (save $40 off your first stay) with one or two bathrooms and a small living space, and everyone has a great time.

Most summers, the boys and I stay at our Mullett Lake cabin. It’s about 700 square feet, with 2 bedrooms and 1 small bathroom. We share a laundry facility with the neighbors. Again, everyone is happy!

Then we come home to our 3,700 square foot house with detached 3 car garage and I lose my mind! Why do we need so much space? Why do we have so much stuff? Why can’t I close my children’s clothing drawers? Who needs 40 tee shirt options and 7 different pairs of jeans!? How many drinking glasses can we possible use? Believe me… everyone hides!

 

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Forced Minimalism

 

Forced minimalism is the way to go!

When you own a large house with ample amounts of storage, there is never a reason to get rid of things. Just put them in a closet — out of site, out of mind! When you purchase a house less than on third  the size, suddenly storage is at a premium.

Everything counts and if you don’t love it, you just can’t keep it. As a couple, we have donated or given away more items this year than we probably have in our entire 15 years together! And it feels great!

Have I mentioned how much less time I spend cleaning? It used to take me hours to do the floors alone! Now it takes me minutes and I often make the children do it since it’s not that big of a chore any longer.

We’ve gone from three bathrooms that were being used on a regular basis to one.  Previously, I divided the bathrooms between our boys and I and we each cleaned one bathroom on the weekend. Now that we have one bathroom, the boys can handle that as well!

Best of all, we haven’t lived in our small house for very long, but we are guessing that our bills will be reduced to about ¼ of our previous home’s cost. That’s a lot of money that we can spend! Or save! Or give away!

 

gilbys apple orchard

not what we had in mind when we told the kids to invest in stocks

Am I happy living on our $80,000 dollar budget?

 

Definitely! I do not want to say anything negative about the “Joneses.”  Being married to a doctor means that you get to meet a lot of Joneses and they are often in your social circle.

I love them, I really do. The Joneses that I know are intelligent and fun, they work hard for the things that they have. And while I don’t necessarily want the same things, I don’t begrudge them one bit.

 

“Comparison is the thief of joy” – T. Roosevelt.

 

Here are some things that I’m not interested in:

 

  • Shopping– ugh.  Luckily I get first pick of my physician cousin’s hand me downs!
  • Hair– my husband cuts my hair. Free and no appointment needed! [PoF: This was her idea! I resisted as long as I could, but I’ve found it to be very simple to do.]
  • Dyeing my hair– I have LOTS of greys! I’m open minded to dyeing it in the future. Or not!
  • Makeup– I’m too lazy to wash my face at night.
  • Purses– I have a bagalinni and it’s all I’ll ever need. I’ve probably owned 3 purses in my adult life.
  • Jewelry– I wear a ring on my wedding finger and the necklace given to me on my 21st birthday.

 

When Leif and I were dating, his residency friends were getting engaged with $10k dollar Tiffany rings. I have never been a jewelry kind of girl and made it very clear that I wasn’t interested in a huge diamond. When our time came, he bought me a beautiful ring for $1,800. I loved it then and I love it now!

It comes down to knowing who you are and what makes you happy.

 

 

What Makes Me Happy

 

Of course, the things in life that make me the most happy aren’t things at all: my faith, my marriage, my children, and my family and friends.

And then there are some actual objects that bring me joy! Books, books and more books.

I love to read and at one point in my life spent a good amount of money on books. It was back in 2008 that I spent 40 dollars for three new books at a local bookshop. A week later, I had nothing to read…

That’s when I decided that the library was the only way to go!  If you are a reader, you are never bored! My only investment in reading this last ten years is my Kindle.

While I still prefer a real book to an e-book, traveling the way we do requires everyone to have their own Kindles. On occasion, I will buy used books so that I can read them and pass them along. My goal is always to read 50 books a year, but I’m over 80 this year already…

Food! I do love to eat! While we rarely eat out of the house, we eat like kings at home. Leif and I both cook on a regular basis and we have evening meals as a family. Our grocery bill is probably higher than it needs to be, but we don’t skimp on fresh fruits and vegetables or high-quality meats. Seafoods like salmon, tuna, and shrimp are a staple in our home.

I also love Chinese food from my hometown restaurant and I’m not known to turn down candy. Especially Jordan Almonds. Or Haribo gummy bears. Or Skittles… Plus, you can only get Better Made BBQ chips in Michigan and they are fantastic! Did I mention I love food? [PoF: I’m starting to wonder if that registered dietitian certificate of yours is genuine. And that masters degree in nutrition? I’m skeptical.]

We are big fans of continued learning. New hobbies are always fun and can be expensive too. I took a quilting class 10 years ago and had a lot of fun making quilts for some time. Occasionally I still sew, most recently making my boys weighted blankets and duvet covers for them.

 

Spending for Happiness

 

I started playing piano when I was 30 and ended up owning three digital pianos; those aren’t cheap! I was doing triathlons for a few years and needed a road bike. My mother-in- law and I took a soap making class. The boys and I have been taking Spanish classes at Escuela Falcon an hour a day for 150 dollars a week. You get the idea….

And the big one, travel! Although we do not do any first class, five star type travel, it still adds up! It’s worth every cent.

We used to travel without our boys, leaving them with grandparents that we felt fortunate to have available. Then after two days we would miss them terribly and start talking about them non-stop. We would get home and our youngest would be mad, trying to hit me and push me out of the house.

Now we just take them with us everywhere and it’s so much better!  It’s amazing to see the world through your children’s eyes.

 

NPH Honduras

our sponsored “Goddaughter” and her sisters at NPH Honduras

 

The point is, you should only spend the amount of money that you are comfortable with. Never let anyone tell you what to spend money on or how much to spend!

I love my seemingly simple life and that may not be the right lifestyle for you — or perhaps your life is even more simple and less expensive than mine!  To each their own! I would spend more money if I thought it would bring me more happiness.

I think it’s true that you can’t buy happiness (I’ve seen some people try). I think money can buy you comfort, and happiness is a gift you can give yourself. Being financially independent has certainly brought me a lot of peace of mind.

If there is something in your life that you spend money on and it brings you happiness, I want to know what it is! Share it with me and let’s spread the joy around!

 

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35 comments

  • Dee B

    Great post, Mrs. PoF!
    Ironically, I have the same list of things I’m not interested in – none of those things bring me joy. In fact, the thought of shopping is dreadful and my Love cuts my hair too.
    We spend money on experiences or things that allow us to share more experiences together.
    Admire and respect the things you value that are not things – faith, marriage and family.
    Thanks so much for sharing – appreciate your willingness to offer your insights.
    Wishing you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving.

    • Jill Green

      Nailed it Mrs. PoF!
      Love the Roosevelt quote…. that’s exactly it. I live in a big house and love it (also midcentury modern and in the woods- perfect place for our family) but never had an engagement ring and don’t want one (heck I also don’t have a wedding ring but we know we’re married! Lol) there’s something in your post for everyone to connect to…
      Your 50 books a year goals has me thinking that I need to get back to that lost hobby (having kids never gives me a moment to focus and read a good book)
      A very happy thanksgiving to you and yours!

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  • FIRE Makeup Money Saving Tip: Don’t wash your face at night! Doubt that one will make headlines!

    Great piece! Hopefully you will keep writing Mrs. PoF so we can understand what is tongue in cheek and what is the actual magic sauce behind the PoF families’ success!

  • What a fantastic article. For an investment banker here in London, a big house outside the city and a sports car is pretty much de rigeur. In contrast, my wife and I lived in a one-bedroom flat for the first 5 years here and only moved into a two-bed when we had our first child and needed a bit of extra space.

    What we do have is: a central location, a gym across the street, three museums and two parks within a 15-minute walk, a 20-minute commute to work and plenty of travel (even with two young children). Our quality of life had never been higher and I can’t imagine trading our lifestyle for anything.

    Thanks for posting and hope to see more from you!

  • Jules

    Thank you for sharing with us Mrs. POF. No criticism here, I think you are simply wonderful and doing a fabulous job living your best life and raising those adorable boys. Happy Thanksgiving and keep doing what you’re doing!

  • Jena

    Great post from the Wife on Fire! What spoke to me is that you really know what brings you joy – and what doesn’t. I suspect those who haven’t taken this this approach have a lot of boats, cars and toys they don’t even look at anymore! Would love to hear more!

  • I love how you missed your kids immediately on travelling and prefer travelling with them. When we put ours to bed its relaxing for 15 minutes then we promptly look up pictures of them to get our fix.

    ALSO…

    Leif cuts your hair?! My wife cuts mine (guy hair is simple and we don’t have much anyway) but if I came at hers with some scissors she would beat me off with a large stick.

    Your headshot looks awesome so it seems like he might have an encore hairdresser career in the making and one for you too as a chinese food/candy oriented dietician!

  • Lynne

    When I was in college I lived for 14 months in an RV. I loved it! Like you said, cleanup is a breeze and it forces material minimalism. It was my very own refuge from the world, because I could afford to live alone and enjoyed the quiet. And I was on the same property as my horse, which meant I could go see and ride him anytime.

  • James Fretwell

    Great Job! I am a Physician, and our family currently lives well within our means with a goal of FI in the near future. I appreciate how you shared your lifestyle and priorities! We can certainly learn from your experiences. Your writing is motivating and reminds us that happiness is obtainable and defined by us, not those around us. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  • What a great post Mrs. POF. You are obviously a courageous person. Both for sharing your experience, but also for having the courage to act upon your convictions in a counter-cultural way in the first place. It definitely takes an aligned couple/family to do this successfully. We are in the process of radically simplifying also, but we still haven’t found the collective courage for me to cut my wife’s hair.

    From what we’ve seen, there are two main groups of reactions from others seeing this type of action. There is a group that is shocked and a bit annoyed that you’d make this change. They paint it as you taking a step backwards. I think that is largely a defense mechanism. At some level they have some cognitive dissonance about the fact they are working more than they want to maintain their “stuff”. Seeing someone with the courage and conviction to dodge that trap makes them uncomfortable about their own choices. Or they simply have strongly different values. Fortunately, there is also a group that resolves that disconnect by pausing, looking at what they are doing, and possibly changing course if they are out of alignment. I think that your voice will contribute to the latter group. Thanks for that.
    -LD

  • Leif you better watch it or you may be relagated to the 2nd best writer on POF.

    You really nailed it by marrying your wife. I met her briefly at Fincon and I could see the love of live you both have with each other.

    The fact that you are both in lock step with your financial goals and how you approach life is amazing and something I hope to attain one day (did not have that at all in my disastrous first marriage). It is appropriate that her first post published on Thanksgiving day because you have a lot to be thankful for with a spouse that approaches life like this.

    I hope you continue to contribute to POF, Mrs POF. Congrats on realizing what is truly important.

  • Julie

    Great post! I am a peds doc, hubby is tech. All of my peds doc friends are fairly frugal, so it’s not the doctor friends that are living large, it’s the neighbors! We bought a big expensive house 14 years ago. None of our neighbors are drs., they are engineers, financial advisors, entrepreneurs and business owners. I didn’t realize that when we made the decision to live here, we were also choosing our kids to be exposed to such crazy spending. Where my husband and I realize what real wealth is, our kids minds are more impressionable. If we lived in a more modest house, the neighbor, 16 year old wouldn’t have gotten a Range Rover for his birthday!
    Thanks again for writing the post and keeping it real!

  • When I was doing locums, we would stay in a small apartment with very little “stuff” in it. It was very much a place of peace and joy. I discovered that less is more. There was less tranquility when we got back home to the 4000 sq ft house. Learning to live out of a back pack when we walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain was also a freeing experience. Thanks for telling you side of the story.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success

  • Laura

    Great words of wisdom! The joy of reading I share with you and FI would be farther off if not for my library and app for ebooks. Thank you for sharing your perspective, I am the physician and my husband works less and does more of the home management, so I appreciate your view of things. There are many of us who appreciate more simple/minimalist paths, but I think we are happy to live that way and not speak up as much, since the Joneses are all around and societal expectations of living like a doctor are tiring to defend. Happy Thanksgiving

  • Thanks for writing. It’s scary to write for a big audience that you didn’t necessarily build yourself. Reminds me of Katie’s post a few years ago:

    https://www.whitecoatinvestor.com/the-wci-story-from-another-point-of-view/

    It’s been 5 years. I should get her to write again.

    At any rate, it’s so wonderful to have two people with matching spending habits. Eliminates lots of conflict.

  • Gervasio Sanchez

    Beautiful post. We all have to learn from you. You are really an inspiring family. Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving!

  • isabelle

    Thank you for this post! I love how you write. We have a lot in common and we too are looking on a 80 000$ budget. Travel with our girls are our most expensive budget line :-). If you even decide to write again, I would love to read your perspective on taking the plunge to early retirement. We are FI and my husband is ready to plug out, but I’m scared. Where you?

  • Lordosis

    50 books a year!
    80 books a year!!!
    Fantastic. I love to read and I do not think I have made it over 30.
    What genre?

    Do your kids share the interest?

  • This post gives me all the good feels. Thanks for writing here, Mrs. POF, and sharing all your wisdom. I’m with you in being stressed out by big houses. Congrats on downsizing! You and your family are so beautiful, inside and out.

    Disha

  • Eskimo

    Glad you realized that your kids are important.
    Strange that you would leave them behind.

  • Matthew

    Great post. My wife always turns down the offers of jewelry etc. she’s rather read a book too. I would say she is the most valuable thing in my life! Put that in the net worth Excel 😊

    You ought to contribute more often. Well written post.

  • Jennifer

    Love this! I’m Peds, hubby is SAHD. When we got engaged 23.5 years ago, I didn’t want a ring. I wanted a trampoline. I got a ring and a mini-trampoline. We have a big house, but it’s paid off, and 3 minutes from my job. We travelled with the kids when they were younger, but now they are teens and have sports and friends, etc. So now, we are counting the days until we are empty nesters (4 years, 9 months). I still work — even though we are work optional, because I love my job so very much. Great article!!

  • DC

    I am a work from home MD with flexible time and downsized too. Love this because the big home was just room to buy more things. Being able to always be there for the kids, while making great income, saving, spending for experiences, and always being in an underspent position feels awesome. Other Moms confuse me for the stay at home Mom… it’s great. Working on your health will help you look great in even Walmart clothes. Jewelry only distracts from the beauty and fitness of naturally gorgeous people.

  • KW

    Thanks for your post Mrs. PoF! We need to amplify more perspectives like yours that the “stuff” rarely brings happiness and living in a smaller space is actually more liberating. I have always lived in 1800 sqft or less and cannot imagine what we would do with more space. I’d love for the idea of the big Doctor house to go away. Maybe it’s a secret we hold for now but more people should join in. Please write more!

  • jane

    Great Post Mrs PoF. I have many similar traits as you. I do have my hair cut but it’s just a simple cut that I don’t need a “salon” for super cuts will do. I’m also debating if I want to bother with dying my hair, the answer is not yet if at some point I don’t like the grey I will. As for the make-up, the having to take it off is also why I just don’t bother now as well.

  • I LOVED this post! I can totally hear your voice in my head as I read it 😉 Best line: “It comes down to knowing who you are and what makes you happy.” Great job – was so happy to read your guest post.

  • Psy-FI MD

    Thank you mrs. POF for having the vulnerability to give us a glimpse into your life!

    It’s not easy to cut against the grain of following the big doctor Jones’ stuff and realize what really matters. I bet each of us in this physician personal finance community have had to deal with this.

    The decision to make the “atypical” choices are much easier when your spouse is by your side, supporting you with the decisions.

    It was wonderful reading about your perspective and makes me grateful that I have a spouse that has a similar role in my life!

    Regards,

    Psy-FI MD

  • Serina

    I really hope you write more posts! I feel like we have a lot in common and would love to get more of your perspective on being more minimalist.

  • Mrs. POF for the win! So happy to see you coming on hear and telling your side of the story… even though I may or may not have been one of the people persuading you to do it in the first place. You have so much insight and value to add to this community so hopefully this is only the first post, but not the last… But I’m a little upset that you did not talk about your 20+ year old belt lol. Maybe you could do a whole post about that?? Come to think of it, maybe I’ll do one about mine too haha.

  • SZ

    Agree with everyone – this is a phenomenal post. To me what stands out is just how rare it is to see two people so aligned financially. It really hammers home how key your spouse/family is to achieving financial success.

    POF reached FI before even realizing what the term meant or consciously trying to get there, and I think this article really shows a big reason you two were able to get there (seemingly) effortlessly.

  • 1) I love your brutal honesty about the internet trolls being a reason you didn’t want to share . Lately I’ve felt it too… and it’s one of the reasons I don’t write and post much anymore. Sad they are quieting the voices of so many. Glad you wrote anyway.
    2) I loved so much about this article. We’ve rented 2 bedrooms for up to 3 months at a time and have also discussed downsizing. We haven’t had the guts to do it though. Our house/pool/yard/horses are by far our biggest budget expense.
    3). I’m wondering if my husband could cut my hair. I tried “cut your own hair” recently…. there’s a YouTube video that shows you flip your hair over and put it in a ponytail and cut. I did it… and I highly recommend no one ever try it.
    Thanks again for sharing. Hope you write again soon.

  • Ether to FI

    Great post, Mrs. POF. It is great to hear from you. You seem to have nailed down exactly what is important in life. You and Mrs. ETF would be best friends. I asked her if she wanted her wedding ring “upgraded” after I started making an attending salary. She laughed at me and said all I wanted was a plain band, to begin with. Leif is lucky to have you.

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  • It is clear to all that read your sage musings that PoF is a team effort of like mindedness and complimentary skill sets; a great balance of IQ & EQ on both sides of the equation. 1+1>>2 in your case for sure and your many individual and mutual talents compound. I have learned a lot from both of you, mostly about Curiosity and Giving of Time & Money. Thank you for telling your side of the story. Send any trolls to me in the ED. We’ll “fix ‘em!”:)

    PivotPointsMD

    PS Your coiffure looks fabulous and suits you! I hope you tip your stylin stylist!:)

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