Big City dreams without burning the budget with FIRE influencer and author Grant Sabatier

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Grant Sabatier was ready to retire at age 30 with over a million dollars saved - in large part by being mindful of his big expenses. The the author of "Financial Freedom: A Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need” shocked many followers by moving to New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world. 

In Grant's money story you will learn:

  • The reason behind Grant's controversial to move from Chicago to the more expensive NYC- despite it's impact on his FIRE goals

  • How much more expensive NYC really is compared to Chicago if you apply Grant's money strategies

  • Why he feels NYC lifestyle justifies the higher cost

  • One thing he loves that is actually less expensive in NYC than it was in Chicago

  • The surprising differences he found in cost of living between the two cities.

In Grant’s money lesson you will learn:

  • Why he feels that "money only matters when you can live a life you love"

  • The things you can do to retire in 10-20 years or less

  • Why he feels that cutting out the small things that bring us joy isn't necessarily the best way to save

  • The best areas in budgeting you can save your money in

In Grant's everyday money tip you will learn:

  • The exact questions he asks himself-and you should before making a purchase to determine it's true cost and value

  • Where to find resources to make the calculations yourself

In My Take you will learn:

  • How using a calculator can help to change your mindset

  • Why it's important to not get caught up in the labels and trends

Episode links:

Check out Grant's websites -

Follow Grant!


Transcription

Speaker 1:
What kind of life do you want to live is the most important question. And then the second question is, okay, how much money do you need to live that life?

Bobbi Rebell:
You're listening to Financial Grownup with me, certified financial planner Bobbi Rebell, author of How to be a Financial Grownup. And you know what? Being a grown up is really hard, especially when it comes to money. But it's okay. We're going to get there together. I'm going to bring you one money story from a financial grownup, one lesson and then my take on how you can make it your own. We got this.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hey Financial Grownup friends. So excited about this episode. Amazing guests we have here, Grant Sabatier. He is the author of the new book Financial Freedom, a Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need. That sounds pretty good. He is also known as the creator of Millennial Money and as you will hear, he went from having just a couple of bucks to his name to being a millionaire. In fact, having more than a million bucks by following the principles of the FIRE movement. By the way that stands for financial independence, retire early.

Bobbi Rebell:
Grant also came up with a lot of new ideas of his own that he put to work to reach his goals. He recently did something very controversial and surprising to many people in the FIRE movement. In fact, I personally was totally caught off guard and thought I heard it wrong because it just didn't make sense that he of all people would do this. More in a sec.

Bobbi Rebell:
First, a quick hello to everyone. We have a lot of new listeners in the new year, so welcome. We interview high achievers here on the Financial Grownup Podcast who share many stories that we can all learn from along with everyday money tips. And we keep it short so you can stack a few episodes together to fit your commute, your workout or whatever you're up to.

Bobbi Rebell:
Let's get to Grant's unbelievable story. So many takeaways from this interview and then from his book. Again, can't believe he actually did this. Here we go.

Bobbi Rebell:
Grant Sabatier, you are a financial grownup. Welcome to the podcast.

Grant Sabatier:
Hey, glad to be here.

Bobbi Rebell:
And congratulations. You book, Financial Freedom, a Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need is about to be a huge best seller. We were just talking offline about all the big plans you have, including your trailer just came out. I just watched it. So cool. Congrats on all.

Grant Sabatier:
Yeah, thanks. I appreciate it. It's been a long time coming. It's like a two year plus project and I'm just super excited to have it released worldwide and hear and get the feedback and help as many people as I can.

Bobbi Rebell:
So this is the latest step on a journey you've been on since going from having I think what $2.26 to your name, something like that, to having $1.25 million. You skyrocketed to fame with your Millennial Money website.

Grant Sabatier:
I feel, even though I'm only 33, I feel like I'm kind of in the bonus years of my life in a lot of ways and it's super cool and I'm grateful for it.

Bobbi Rebell:
Well, I hope every year feels like a bonus year for you. This has been a big year. I want to talk and you agreed to share his story about a controversial decision that you recently made that sounds contradictory to a lot of the things that people in the FIRE movement, which is financial independence, retire early, which you're part of advocate. You moved to New York City. My home. So welcome by the way.

Grant Sabatier:
Thank you.

Bobbi Rebell:
Not the most bargain place to be building up your financial nest egg Grant. What's going on? Tell us your money story.

Grant Sabatier:
Yeah, that's a great question. I've gotten that a lot recently. You're right. Compared to Chicago where I was living, where I became financially independent, New York City has about a 2.35X cost of living multiple, meaning things are about 2.35 times as expensive here than in Chicago. So based on that, you would expect to need at least double the amount of money.

Grant Sabatier:
But those are just statistics and one of the things that, I did quite a bit of preparation before I moved to New York City to get a sense for obviously what apartments cost and what food costs. And one of the things that I pretty quickly realized was you can make whatever life you want in New York City. Even though writ large, it's incredibly expensive. It's incredibly expensive to buy real estate here. It often doesn't make sense to buy real estate if you're going to be here for less than six or seven years.

Grant Sabatier:
But from a rental perspective, there's actually an incredible amount of affordable rentals that I was able to find. Food is actually categorically less expensive than in Chicago.

Bobbi Rebell:
Really?

Grant Sabatier:
Yeah. Good example, I'm a huge raspberry fan. I eat them every morning. I love them. It's just something that I know the price of. And in Chicago it was about $4 for just a little bunch of raspberries. And a block and a half from my apartment in New York City. I'm able to get them for $1.50.

Bobbi Rebell:
So wait, tell me, let me stop you here. So why did you move to, a lot of people might be surprised because to achieve financial freedom, a lot of people, including you, talk about yeah, watch the little things, but really watch the big things. Like housing, like your food bill, the big things. And yet you upsized the biggest thing to some degree. People often move to less expensive locations, at least while they're building up their nest egg, which I understand you already did.

Bobbi Rebell:
Tell us about the decision to move to a more expensive city, or more expensive in most ways. Why and what it's been like.

Grant Sabatier:
So actually, ironically, I've been in New York City six months and I spent, I think it's 17, I keep track of all this stuff about 17 to 20 percent less than the previous six months that I lived in Chicago. So it's actually been less expensive to live in New York City. My rent here is less than the mortgage payment that I was paying on my apartment.

Grant Sabatier:
I moved to New York City because I lived in Chicago for pretty much all of the last 14 years. I went to college in Chicago and was more than ready for a change. I always wanted to live in New York City. I grew up on the east coast. I wanted to come back. I don't know if I'm going to be a New York City lifer, but because the book's coming out, the proximity to media, I'm a huge fan of the Catskills and the Hudson River Valley. I think they're incredibly beautiful. I'd visited them a few times. And in fact I spend quite a bit of time there now.

Grant Sabatier:
And so for me, obviously housing, transportation and food, that's where the average American spends 70% or more of their income. And if you can control those three expense categories, then you can really kind of win the game. And so the most important thing with my move was affordable housing.

Grant Sabatier:
It's important to mention that I'm already financially independent. And so I became financially independent in 2015 and so I've had a pretty solid market since then. My investments have done well. So now I have more than enough money, so I'm able to hedge in that way. I think it certainly would be more difficult if I had started my financial independence journey in New York City. I had a lot of advantages to doing it in Chicago, which is writ large, more affordable. But because I'm already financially independent, I have more advantages.

Grant Sabatier:
But with that being said, the past few years, I never spend with my wife more than $50,000 a year. I'm on pace based on the way I've set up my life to probably spend in the $45,000, $48,000 range in 2019 in New York City.

Bobbi Rebell:
You mentioned that people have questioned this decision, including me. Do you feel that you've had to kind of defend it as part of the FIRE movement?

Grant Sabatier:
Oh, definitely. I think there's a little bit of a judgment inherent in some of the community and to me FIRE, it can really mean whatever you want it to mean and that's the beautiful thing about it. It's what kind of life do you want to live is the most important question. And then the second question is okay, how much money do you need to live that life?

Bobbi Rebell:
So what is the lesson for our listeners?

Grant Sabatier:
I think the lesson is that you have so much more control. I mean, money really only matters if it helps you live a life that you love. I think that that idea is so central to money. And if you're not happy with your life, if you're stressed out and you're paying too much rent, you have the ability to move to a different neighborhood, get a roommate for a while to downsize.

Grant Sabatier:
I mean, when I was becoming financially independent in Chicago, I moved from a $1,500 a month apartment to an $800 a month apartment and yes, it was smaller. Yes it was crappier. But I was able to sleep better at night because I knew I was investing that money.

Bobbi Rebell:
Let's to your everyday money tip and this could apply to small items or to big decisions. And one thing I liked in your book, as you do a lot of math and you have a special way of calculating purchases or things you're considering buying that can really illustrate the impact of different choices. Go for it.

Grant Sabatier:
Yeah. So in the book, in one of the chapters, Is it Worth it, I outline 11 questions that you can ask yourself. If you go to financialfreedom book.com, you can download these 11 questions, keep them on your phone. You can print them out. And the questions are built around helping you figure out is it worth buying. And some of the trade offs that are in the book that you can calculate are how much of your life did you trade for this purchase? And one of those things, we can go to a car example, a $40,000 car if you're making $20 per hour after you factor in taxes and commuting time, it's gonna take you 2000 hours, an entire year of your life to afford that car. And on the flip side, you also lose the potential of that $40,000 to grow, which is even more profound.

Grant Sabatier:
And one of the things that I found, because I was interested in buying a $40,000 car, is that I would actually have to work almost six years longer in the future in order to afford that car because of the lost opportunity of not investing that money.

Grant Sabatier:
The best way to save money is just not to spend it because there's kind of, I call it the net effective spending, where whenever you buy anything, not only are you trading the time that you spent to make that money, but you're also trading the ability for that money to grow and the freedom that it buys you in the future. And that's kind of a mindset shift because I actually figured out that every $100 that I would spend, you know you go out to a nice meal and have a couple of drinks with your partner or with a friend and you know, say you spend $100. I figured out that I'd actually have to work four more days in the future in order to afford $100 purchase.

Grant Sabatier:
And so every time I spent $100, I was sacrificing for days of future freedom. And I literally went around and I have a calculator that I built called the Financial Freedom Calculator at financialfreedombook.com where you can put in all your own numbers and it'll tell you whether it's a $5 cup of coffee or a $40,000 car. It'll tell you in your own life how much freedom, how much time you're actually trading for that purchase.

Bobbi Rebell:
One are the things that I love about your book is all of the tools that it has and the different links. So it's kind of like the book will live on beyond the printed book, although some people will listen to it and read it on electronic books. But I love those tools because it makes it very granular and very specific and user friendly. Tell us a little bit more about the book and where people can find more about you and all your social channels grant. We love to follow you.

Grant Sabatier:
Yeah, so financialfreedombook.com is the best place to learn about the book. On the book website you can learn all about the book. You can also use all the tools and the book for free before you even buy the book. So there are nine calculators on there. They all work on your phone. I already have people who've read the book and they've bookmarked them and they're going into the store and they're using the calculators, which is super cool. So financialfreedombook.com. It's available wherever books are sold. Barnes and Noble, Amazon, your favorite local book seller. So I guess just go check it out. It's a bright blue cover with a bird on the front.

Grant Sabatier:
Social channels, you should check out the book Instagram account that I just launched. You can follow me around the world. I'm going to be visiting 40 different cities this spring and 17 countries in the fall so @financialfreedom on Instagram. And then hit me up, millennialmoney.com is my website. At millennialmoney on Twitter, those are the best ways to reach me.

Bobbi Rebell:
Love it. And I also love your new book trailer. We're going to leave a link to that in the show notes as well. So thank you Grant.

Grant Sabatier:
Thank you Bobbi. This is a lot of fun.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hey everyone, so glad we were able to talk about those calculators. They are a good thing in this case.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial grownup tip number one. I'm not always a huge fan of big budgets and counting up every dollar that you spend because it can feel so restrictive and you feel deprived. Almost like being on a diet. It is kind of like being on a money diet. And no one's going to feel good about that. And when you feel bad, at a certain point you're going to reach your breaking point and that's going to be the edge. You're going to fall off the bandwagon just like you do with the food diet. And hopefully as we get through January, we won't be falling off the bandwagon with all of our goals. We're all working on it.

Bobbi Rebell:
Anyway, taking the time however, to use a calculator like the ones that grant has put together to figure out the relationship between your purchases and their true cost and your life can totally change your mindset. I remember when Starbucks started putting calorie counts on the food in that counter, all those yummy cookies and goodies and stuff. So I love this yellow icing lemon cake. They have it there still in many of these Starbucks. I'm still obsessed with them as you can tell, but I don't really get them anymore because even though I always knew they were high calorie, I didn't really see the number. It didn't really register with me.

Bobbi Rebell:
And then they put the calories there. It's over 400 calories for this little slice of cake, which is not going to fill you up. And that visual, that number, calculating the percentage of that, of the number of calories that I'm supposed to eat per day and knowing what a high percentage was going to go to something that really didn't give me that much bang for my calorie buck really motivated me to change my behavior. I'm far from perfect when it comes to choosing the snacks, but I am more likely now to go for a protein box where it may not have the absolute lowest calories, but I know at least I'm going to get some nutrition for my choice.

Bobbi Rebell:
I think it's the same way when it comes to money. When you really calculate the true cost as Grant points out, it helps.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial grownup tip number Twitter, do not get caught up in labels and trends to the point where you don't do what you want to do. Grant is managing New York City on his own terms, but he's honest. There are places that he could live where he would reach his financial goals faster and without having to watch his finances as tightly, but he is putting his life first.

Bobbi Rebell:
Never live your life backwards or for someone else's idea of what they think you should be doing.

Bobbi Rebell:
Big thanks to you Grant. So happy for all he has achieved including his first book, Financial Freedom, a Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need. Go order it now. As an author, guys, I have to stress buying it on preorder really makes a difference at hitting the bestseller lists and all that comes with it. So if you like Grant and you think you're going to like the book, go right now and preorder it so you get it right when it comes out and you also help Grant a little bit in the process as they say.

Bobbi Rebell:
We're going to have a link for it in the show notes as well, and also meaningful you. Be in touch. BobbiRebell1 on Instagram, BobbiRebell on Twitter and our email address is hello@financialgrownup.com.

Bobbi Rebell:
Big thanks to Grant Sabatier for helping us all get one step closer to being financial grownups.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial Grownup with Bobbi Rebell is edited and produced by Steve Stewart and is a BRK Media production.