My latest interview is with Kel Galavan from MrsSmartMoney. Interestingly, I have heard Kel’s name mentioned at this stage more times than I can actually count or remember. So, when I first heard Kel speaking at the Financial Independence Ireland meetup recently, I found myself tuning in, pressing pause on what I was doing and taking notes.
Shortly after this, I again heard Kel presenting at an Informed Decisions webinar. This was it for me, it now meant I had to make contact as I had a potential interview candidate for the running theme and I had my fingers crossed for a yes! 🙂
In the usual FireDave style I decided to do some research, reach out to Kel and set up the following interview in the normal 3 question format.
Kel obviously agreed and I am really excited to share this interview with you all, enjoy..
Who are you, and how did you discover fire?
What a great question. Who are any of us? I suppose I’ll start off with how I discovered FIRE, a fundamental factor in who and what I am today.
Like so many others, I fell victim to the Celtic tiger temptations, bought a house, got married, overextended myself all at the pinnacle of the boom. The next few years were a roller coaster ride, and we white-knuckled it through coming out the other side licking our wounds and carrying heavy debt.
I never felt so vulnerable or powerless in all my life. I was a turning point in my life. I resolved never to put my family or myself in that position again. I decided to take back control of my life and get to grips with money. I began to listen to podcasts ( mainly American), read widely around economics and personal finance and budget like never before. It was during this time that I discovered the concept of FI. It was a revelation to me, the missing piece in my life.
But like many enthusiastic people who find their passion, I threw myself in too deeply and, for the next few years, sacrificed my family and home life for the security that I wanted FIRE to bring.
That was until one morning, I realised that I hadn’t seen my kids awake for over a week. I would kiss their sweaty sleeping heads in the morning as I left and again when I got home. This was not what I had signed up for. This was not how I wanted to be, stressed, no life and missing my children’s fleeting childhood. For a long time, I was torn, but eventually, it came down to one thing. I knew that I could always work but what I could not do was turn back time.
So I packed in my 16-year career and stepped into the unknown. However, what I did know was if I was going to cut our household income in half. Then I would do everything I could to make that income work as hard as possible. This year, I cut our families outgoings by 27.5 K. It changed our lives for the better in ways I could have never imagined.
This spawned into me becoming self-employed as a money mentor, where I help people get their budgeting and money life straight. It also led to me teaming up with Orpen Press to release my new book – Mindful Money Money money more Freedom More Happiness.
What is the backbone of your fire strategy?
The backbone of what I do is focused primarily on developing good money habits. A habit is something that is acted on without thinking, without a sense of deprivation. A well-embedded habit is made without even thinking, like having a morning coffee.
The No Spend Year highlighted main habits repeatedly applied to keep the budget on track. They were not demanding or onerous but resulted in more savings being made on our half income than what we were making when we had two professional incomes.
If good habits are developed, results happen naturally. I never want to stress or be stressed about money again. Having systems ( or habits ) that are consistent, simple and forward-moving see that stress is never a factor anymore.
The habits include initiatives like:
Pay yourself first: You work hard for the money that you earn. You have trained, gained experience, commuted, given away hours of your day, month to your job. In return, you receive a paycheck for that effort. This money is all that you have to build everything in your life, from wealth to health. If you do not put at least a small amount of that money aside for yourself each pay period. Then you may as well have worked for free that month. Most of us don’t love our jobs that much to do that. So don’t let it happen.
No Spend Days: No Spend Days are any day where you do not spend any money over and above groceries and essential bills. Aim to have at least 2 or 3 per week.
The goal with these is to curb mindless spending. Mindless spending is the sort of expenditure that happens when we are weakened. Especially when we are tired, bored or dazzled by a deal for things we never knew we wanted.
Making a day a No Spend Day focuses you on a particular goal and prevents distracting spends that have been the downfall of so many savings targets.
Use Mindfully: This habit is all about getting the most of what we already have. It is focused on the consumables in our lives; the lotions, potions, shampoos and cleaning products that we don’t really think about, but the cost of which adds up.
There is only one rule with this habit. That rule is this – you can buy whatever you want. However, you must use up what you have before you replace it, and when you are replacing it, it must be with only one thing. A thing that you genuinely love and enjoy using.
This is such a money-saving habit to have. It also plays a significant role in sustainability, decluttering, repurposing, finding products that you really like that work, and even a bit of pampering time set aside when this project is taken on.
What do you plan to do once you reach FI?
I am focused on FI (Financial Independence) part of FIRE more so than the RE (retire early) part of the equation. It’s a long game in my book, particularly since walking away from my professional career. Before, when I was working as a PAYE, I fantasised about the day that I had enough security to step back and start really living my life. I was on track to hit FIRE at a reasonably early age. I was razor-focused on my FIRE goal. So much so that I may have learned it with a little too much earnestness. It put everything else in my life out of balance.
Walking away from not only my career but my guaranteed path to FI in 2018 was the scariest thing that I’ve ever done. Back then, I felt I had to choose between my family and FI. I never thought that taking such a perceived step backwards could actually catapult us forward.
The experience that was the No Spend Year caused the tables to turn completely. I realised that there was an alternative path. A path where maximising income and valuing every euro just the same as the next could have such a massive compounding effect.
This new alternative life that I lead has opened up many more opportunities that I never knew (nor would have known) existed had I stayed on my previous path. As it stands, I never want to give up working. I am doing something that I love and feel no need to put an end date on that.
So really, for me, once I reach FI, I don’t believe much will change. I’m living a life that I love now and am happy to build on this.
However, as the kids get older, I want to expand my business. Also, I have a list of hobbies that I want to develop and spend more time on, like travel and learning piano.
My life should not change that dramatically. However, it will evolve as time goes on from what I’ve experienced so far. All I can say is bring it on!
Book is available wherever books are sold
Kel’s story is fascinating and keeps me motivated with the interviews as it is another proven example of a member of the FIRE community taking a different Financial Independence or FIRE path than one might expect Kel to have taken. This intentional combination of a “No Spend Year”, coupled with a desire to stay on track actually ended up catapulting Kel forward. Which is great! It is lovely to see the strong emphasis on family when making such decisions and knowing what is important. Kel, thank you so much for interviewing for Fire Dave.