The correlation between my daily cold shower and people seeking financial independence and early retirement (FIRE)
You may have picked up a few hints that I can be a frugal weirdo when I want to. I’m the person who has talked about getting rid of toilet paper and using only washable cloths. I”m the female who’s never had her eyebrows ON FLEEK.
What I may not have mentioned so far is that I am also the weirdo who has a cold shower every morning no matter what season we are in.
I can’t tell you why I started having cold showers. I think it was a way of waking myself as I worked full time as a teenage single mum so the long hours and caring for DD1 took all my energy.
But that was a long time ago and this is now a totally engrained habit to the point that wherever I am, whatever the outside temperature I always have a cold shower.
In fact I have a love-hate relationship with my local swimming pool. Love swimming, hate the showers as they only provide hot water *shudders*.
What has this to do with financial independence, retirement and being frugal you might ask?
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The first blast of cold
Getting in to a shower knowing you are going to be hit with a wall of cold water when you are still half asleep and warm from your bed is stepping outside your comfort zone. When you are concentrating on early retirement you have to make choices about what you do and don’t do and make choices, investments, that you might not be 100% comfortable with.
You know the initial cold water won’t be the best feeling in the world but the end result is you will feel wide awake and ready to hit the day running.
When you are saving money you choose to not spend all that you earn and go without things that previously you might have defined as luxuries (cable TV, takeaways, coffee on the go). You do so knowing the end result – more savings/early retirement – will be worth it.
In the winter you run the risk of brain freeze where the water is that much colder than the summer. You know it’s going to come, its just a case of when. Can you get yourself completely wet, long hair and all, before the brain freeze hits?
When you are living below your means you will aim to live the best life alongside saving as much as possible. Like brain freeze you will find a savings point where it becomes painful to continue saving. Brain freeze stops you before you go too far. You cannot continue showering when the brain freeze hits.
Generally cold/being practical
Having a cold shower is not a luxurious feeling although in the heat of summer they can feel good! Early morning cold showers are practical and a means to an end. You are showering to wash your hair and get ready for the day. Showers don’t have to be wonderfully enjoyable, they are what they are.
Saving for financial independence and early retirement is about making practical decisions. Do we save now or splurge? If you intend to save £X every month then you have £X less to spend so must spend wisely what you have left.
You live a more deliberate life making choices about everything you do or don’t do. 99.9% of people who end up retired early don’t do so by mistake or without design.
They have been deliberate and practical about their journey, making conscious choices that will have taken them out of their comfort zones at times because they were focused on their long term goals.
Mid shower savings
When Mr2p has a shower he has a hot shower albeit fairly short. But like many people he doesn’t turn the shower off part way through – despite me asking (I’m such a nag!)
Having a cold shower is very different. You are straight into practical mode. Turning the shower off once your hair is wet is sensible due to the cold. You use enough water to get thoroughly wet but don’t luxuriate in the water whilst soaping and shampooing. You use just enough water to do what you need it to do and no more.
When you are aiming for financial independence you are focused on spending what you need to, what aligns with your values, and no more. You are concentrating on the bigger picture, the longer term rather than short term luxury. You are conscious of every little expense including your water bill and do your utmost to reduce them penny by penny.
Every time I shower I am reminded that I am saving water by turning off mid flow. Given we have a power shower, this means I am saving 9 litres for each minute the shower is off.
Unsurprisingly a cold shower does not take very long. My showers are always shorter in length than Mr2p’s even though I have long hair to wash and Mr2p sports a 3mm buzz cut. I am focused purely on washing my hair and getting clean.
There are no thoughts of getting myself warm or waiting to wake up fully or just another minute of enjoying the warm water. Showering is a practical action, a job to complete and move on from.
Financial independence devotees don’t waste their time. They are keen to maximise family time and making money time because their time is precious. Often FIRE devotees are aiming for financial independence precisely in order to gain more time. Time to spend on what they want to do rather than what they need to do.
Final rinse/having enough
We have a mild climate here in the UK so my showers tend to be 100% cold from April through to October. This keeps my showers restricted to just enough to do the job. I remain focused on what my shower is about and as soon as I am clean and rinsed the shower is done.
When you are aiming for early retirement you are aiming to reach your enough point. When you have enough you are financially independent and can retire if you want to. You remain focused over a long period of time on what it is that you are trying to do. You don’t lose sight of this, you track your spending and know when you have reached your goal.
Late Oct – Mar I start out with cold but turn up the heat on the final rinse. I am still maintaining my frugal muscles but its about being realistic. I am not going to get through an entire hair wash and rinse cycle in the winter without a little warmth. Hello brain freeze!
When you are focused on your finances you have to be realistic about your long term goals. FIRE followers know they cannot live on rice and beans every day for years. In theory it’s possible but probably not sustainable by choice.
The reality is you need to have flexibility and understanding of what your pain points are in order to keep on track with your goals. Daily rice and beans is definitely well beyond my pain point as is a cold shower with constant brain freeze. But having rice and beans or a little brain freeze on a less regular basis is ok.
Treats & curve balls
As with everything in life there are exceptions to my cold shower routine as there is to FIRE followers and their goals. Sometimes I can’t cope with being 100% practical from the minute I wake up and have that full cold shower. Sometimes I recognise that today is not that day and I need something different to get me started.
For me this about having tired days, days where I wake up super tired. My body can’t cope on those days so regardless of the season I finish with a decent hot rinse.
As an early retirement wannabe I know my goals, budget and targets are what will get me there. But sometimes life happens and throws a curve ball. And when life happens your budget might go out of the window temporarily. This won’t derail a FIRE wannabe. They incorporate flexibility to allow for life’s little challenges.
Curve balls might mean changes to your budget, it might mean you need to re-think your side hustle or your retirement date. But they don’t stop financial independence from happening, they just have the potential to change how it happens.
Do you test yourself with cold showers when it’s cold outside? Do you do something that links to your savings journey?