Having a system over goals

One of the topics I picked up during the BE-NL meetup was this: having a system in stead of goals. When I think about it, this could be doable. It is maybe what we are doing already.

Our approach is to have a high level budget. This budget lists all the major expenses we have in a given month. Think electricity, mortgage, car, insurance, our life happens funds,… These expenses and transfers , are tracked in detail despite their predictable nature.

The only reason is to be able to see in my spreadsheet what amount of money we have forcirkus-9918-2 the bigger undefined buckets: kids expenses, groceries (or shopping in general) and our fun money. These are the items we think we need to control in a given month and that need to stay within the boundaries.

This indeed means I have no idea how much we have spend in a month on alcohol, fresh organic food, drinks,… And we do not care.

Over time, we found peace in a certain amount of spending in these categories all together. It is a good balance between having the life we want and the bigger goals we have in life. This does not allow us to drink champagne all night or to eat lobster and oyster every single Saturday.

We adopted  the life style we want for ever

We do the same with the extra money we get from bonuses, tax refunds, vacation allowance,… We define what we want to spend on travel. Everything else is for investing purposes. (I am sure when the kids are older, the nest egg will reduce a little to make my travel dreams a reality)

With this system in place, we will one day become financially free. Before my job switch, this date used to be 2029. Now, I have no idea, no incentive to calculate the current new date based on my current salary. Let’s say I trust the system.

work1This actually removes a lot of pressure. We know we do not compromise too much the now for a future of Financial Freedom. We actually live now a life close to what we want. My wife works 4 days out of 5. I used the nest egg we have as a reassurance for my career switch, we do get a fair amount of travel and experiences with the kids. I my ideal life, there is always room for project work. The more I listen to podcasts with interviews of early retirees, the more I hear they somehow get back to work, because they want.

After all, maybe the real end goal is partial financial freedom


20 thoughts on “Having a system over goals

  1. Fully agree, we too thrive because of a system, not the goals. We actually make very little goals (even the financial ones are not “fixed”), but we still seem to enjoy our lives together without having the idea that we sacrifice or are forced to make certain targets. Guess that’s a good thing 😉
    Talking about work during FI, not against it at all, but it does have to be flexible to accommodate travel and any life changes (and has to be meaningful and add value to your life).


  2. Only one hard goal: Get rid of the mortgage. For the rest: changing over to systems instead of goals more and more. For instance. No monthly cash book and financial administration, but a yearly inventory of the returning costs.

    By the way, started yesterday on the Scott Adams book 

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice musings Amber Tree – indeed, there is no true one method of retiring or how to get there. It’s entirely how you want to, which seems to be perfect for you at the moment. 🙂

    If it were not for our current mindset, then goals wouldn’t be anything. It’s nice to have targets for us though, at this point at least.



    1. After my job change, hitting my savings rate target become very very difficult (I.E. I needed to sacrifice on items I do not want to sacrifice on). I am happy now that the system stays, just the input changes. And when I get a new job or the start up goes really well, then the input will increase again.
      Tight now, I need to watch that the input stays above a certain threshold.


  4. We kind of take a hybrid approach as well, we have savings rate goals but only meet them by using our automation system. And I am with you that there are some things not worth sacrificing 🙂


  5. I love the idea of having a system over goals. I think that is what I’ve done too – now that you mention it. I’ve never been good with goals – but just getting more in the groove that works for me! Nice post – got me thinking for sure!


  6. I’m also kind of switching to a different mindset: you don’t have to reach full FI before a 360 degrees change. Once you’re financially fine and halfway thru your journey, start making changes that make your life closer to what it will look like once FI. Like taking some risks and changing job, or reducing work time to 80% or 60%.

    I don’t believe in partial FI, I still want to reach full FI. I prefer to run last laps happier and slower though!


  7. That’s a smart system. Having really strict budgets can actually lead to overspending: “what, I still have $100 left in this category on October 25? Let’s go shopping!!!”
    Having just broad categories and a goal of Financial Independent in sight is much preferred. That’s exactly our approach, too!


  8. I love this way of describing your financial approach. I would say we’ve had both goals and a system, but the system has been hugely important. Like you, we haven’t sacrificed to the max, and have still traveled and enjoyed life while saving. How wonderful to know that you’re already living pretty close to the ideal life! Maybe you don’t need FIRE after all?!


    1. Not needing FIRE would be the goal! Most people start to do some work again, so why not do work now and fit in holiday. It will prolong the time we need to reach our number. Is that bad? Not really


  9. We have a similar approach.

    It’s helpful to know how much we’re spending on fixed expenses (mortgage, taxes, insurance, etc). But those aren’t things that can be changed without making large lifestyle changes.

    Instead, after deducting those items, we know how much is left for our discretionary expenses. That’s where we can decide how frugal we want to live now while saving for the future.

    And just like you, I’m contemplating some things that may change our spending/savings profile.

    Btw, love the image.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have given this topic quite a bit of thought. The idea of relying on a system rather than a set of goals is appealing. It seems simple and yet very effective at the same time. For now, a combination of 3 elements works best for me.

    My ideal mix is:
    70% system
    25% goals
    5% challenges (to correct things when everything starts to get out of balance).

    But perhaps that over time, all habits and good practices get automated and I will not need the goals and challenges any longer.

    Guess I’ll just have to wait and see.


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