My Path to Financial Independence

Live Richly Without Money

Yesterday I finished my 6th triathlon race and learned yet another lesson from the sport: It is possible to live richly without money.

I’ve learned this lesson before, and I’ll probably learn it again many times over.

I thought to myself, “I’m living a rich lifestyle, even though we don’t necessarily HAVE a lot of money.”

The common definition of “rich”, which everyone is familiar with, is having a lot of money or valuable possessions. This agrees with the “simple definition” provided by Merriam Webster seen as the cover photo for this post.

I scrolled down past the first  page to see the “full definition” and was surprised to find seven more different definitions what it means to be “rich”. Only one of these listed money!

Live Richly Without Money - Full Definition

The other seven describe the feeling I had during and after the race: living life in a meaningful and fulfilling way.

I can see a counterargument that we need a baseline of money to cover essential needs such as food, water, and shelter, before we can even begin to say we live richly. I agree with this completely. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs means we can only enjoy higher level needs once our basic needs are met.

Assuming those needs have been met, I still find too many of friends and colleagues feel “poor” because they don’t have extravagant luxuries.

Perhaps, it is the constant bombardment from media that tells us our lives are missing their product or their service. 

We live in the most prosperous time in human history. We have healthcare, transportation, and entertainment that kings and queens of old would have gone to war for. We live in a day and age where we can learn about anything from the internet.

That’s why I can’t help but think we CAN and DO live richly without money.

Do you think we can live richly without money?

Master Distiller

Personal Finance in Relationships

How We Went From Earning a Living to Building Wealth, Together

Today’s post is inviting you to check out my recently published article over at The Huffington Post. I wrote about our journey away from money being a source of stress to what it is now: a tool we utilize to build our confidence, our future, and of course, in building wealth, together.

We actually spent a bit of extra time on this article knowing that it would open us up to a bigger audience.

We’re very happy to see our readership grow.

I’m also excited that my blog is now in the top 200 personal finance blogs according to

Apparently, I’m doing something right over here! So, thank you to everyone who stops by to read a few sentences, or reads the entire post & leaves comments.

I started writing this site to share ideas, learn, and grow within a supportive community. I didn’t start this site with the intention of making some quick cash.

I’m happy to see so many gains over the course of this year and I look forward to finding more ways to offer value to you as readers.

My triathlon race is this weekend, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for clear skies. There are rumors of scattered thunderstorms, but like life in general, we shouldn’t let the worst case scenarios consume us to the point of not taking action. I’ve learned a lot this year from my training, and that is definitely one more lesson that can be added to the list.

Here’s the link again for our Huff Post article. Let me know what you think in the comments below or on their site!

Master Distiller


Why You Should NOT Start a Blog

If your intention is to make money, then there are a hundred different ways you can make more money FASTER than it takes to create an online source of income. It may be off brand, but this post will detail why you should NOT start a blog. I’ll also dive into the reasons I started my site and what keeps me going as I approach my one year mark.

First, let’s get one thing out of the way. Blogs DO make money. Some blogs make A LOT of money. Site’s like Mr. Money Mustache, can make as much as $400,000 in a year.

Not a bad income for an early retiree. 😉 (disclaimer: I do love MMM’s site so I give him mad props for creating something of value in retirement as opposed to sitting on the beach sipping on pina coladas all day. I don’t think he gets even 1% compared to the amount of life changing value he’s provided to millions of readers, myself included.)

With that being established, I’ve noticed a lot of new people enter the realm of blogging. I’ve now been heavily involved in the space during 2016 and I’ve seen many people quit along the way.

At this stage, I’ve noticed one theme resonate with all new bloggers: If your number one intention is to make money, you’ll probably fail. I don’t think creating an online source of revenue is a bad idea, but if money is the FIRST reason you think of when asked why you started a site, it won’t be enough to keep you motivated through the process.

You simply will not have the drive to create content that people will read. And readers CAN tell when you write bullshit; if it’s not relatable, if it feels fabricated, it won’t stick.

The reason being because blogging takes TIME and ENERGY and you’ll see ZERO returns at first.

Or at least, zero cash directly from the site.

If you want QUICK sources of income, I’ll recommend applying one of the approaches below.


Is Car Ownership Worth It?

When I think of the single greatest action anyone could take right now to accelerate their journey towards personal and financial freedom, I think of how I learned to bike again. This single decision has the power to immediately increase the rate at which we build wealth.

This one decision has led to an increase in my assets of nearly $50,000 in the past 4 years of my working career.

So, you might be asking yourself,

Is Car Ownership Worth It?

If you’re thinking it is impossible to take this advice, because car ownership is a MUST in your life, then skip ahead, but first, I’ll clarify how I arrived at such a large number.

The average cost of owning a car today is approximately $8,698 per year.

An argument could be made that a frugal person can buy a beat up, used vehicle to save on money, but I’ll counter that point with an offset cost associated with keeping a car in an expensive city. My hometown of Chicago means parking can run anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500 a year.

Instead of spending $8,698 on a vehicle each year, I’ve invested that same cash flow into my 401(k), which is pre-tax. Assuming a tax rate of 30%, that means I would have needed to earn $49,703 to have paid $8,698 each year.

Frugality, Investing

55 Money Tips From 7 Bloggers

I had a great time doing a guest post on Allan’s site Allen put together 55 money tips from 7 bloggers, including myself. I loved the list and have been meaning to share it directly with my readers. Given the post is now hitting its one month period, I figured now is a better time than ever.

Click here now to check out the full post on 55 Money Tips from 7 Bloggers.

Personally, I had many favorites but these were the few that stood out for me. I’ll list them here, but know that each one on the list contains a brief description from the blogger.

Here’s my favorite money tips from the list:

15. School is just as much a place to learn as it is to network

25. Drink more water (DD: this is the example I use when I explain compound interest to new people. Opting for water during lunch and dinner every time will save you a buck or two and will help keep you lean and mean!)

35. Read The Millionaire Next Door (DD Note: This is amongst the top personal finance books I’ve ever come across. Tremendous book.)

40. Increase your chances of success by automating your savings (DD: Automating as much as possible feels great, its smart, and it leaves more time for learning more about other ways to save money OR to just enjoy life.)

50. Be sure to look at the total cost of the item (DD: easier said than done when people market to us the monthly payment all the time.)

I’m not sure what it was with the increments of 5’s but it worked out!

Oh, and I’ll toss in that being from the Midwest and being a fan of whiskey, I also enjoyed tip number 56 – PreGame! 🙂

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the tips!

Any tips you would have added to the list?

Master Distiller

Book Review

Smart Women Finish Rich Book Review

As a reader, I’m always looking for ways to challenge my way of thinking. Many books will often contain one or maybe two golden pieces of information within a few hundred pages, but I find it is worth spending time reading to discover these. I recently finished Smart Women Finish Rich, by David Bach, and wanted to share with you the few golden nuggets I received from reading this book.

One of the best experiences I have while reading comes from tackling the same topics but from completely different perspectives. It helps me break out of my usual pattern of thinking and challenges me to explore why others might see things differently.

This was one of those books.

Smart Women Finish Rich is about taking financial ownership over our lives so that we can end up financially secure.

With Smart Women Finish Rich, the first few chapters were extremely worth the read. The middle section of the book was more into the nuts and bolts of investing (which I advocate an index fund approach vs the book’s recommendation of mutual funds and an advisor). And the final portion of the book offered a valuable list of 12 items we can do to attract greater wealth (detailed below).

Frugality, Personal Finance in Relationships

The Smartest Decision We Made to Build Wealth Rapidly

In order to build wealth rapidly, the smartest decision we made over the past year, was to live far below our means. But, what exactly does that mean? In the past few months, I’ve explained how we save money on groceries and on dining out, but neither of these come close to today’s topic in terms of the amount of money we are saving.

This post will detail how our choice of living has been, from a numbers perspective, the biggest factor when it comes to doubling our savings rate in 2016 and helping us build wealth rapidly.

Before I dive into the numbers, I’ll reiterate the importance of finding something to aim for. Doubling our savings rate hasn’t been an accidental byproduct, but a carefully crafted and conscious decision made by us
at the start of this year.

Lewis Carroll summed this concept up best when he wrote,

Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

Determining where we wanted to go was the first step. The second step was finding ways to reduce our spend.

Blogging, My Path to Financial Independence

Why I’m Not Going to FinCon 2016

FinCon is the place to be if you’re involved in personal finance. Many bloggers descend on this conference once a year to share ideas on how they can leave a bigger impact. Or so I’ve been told. Despite all these great things, I’ve decided not to attend FinCon2016 and I’ll share why.

Before I started Distilled Dollar earlier this year, I had a naive approach to blogging. I didn’t realize how much work was involved until I sat awake at 2 AM, editing a last minute article, only to discovering the image doesn’t integrate correctly in my WordPress theme.

Last minute technical difficulties in blogging turned into a rite of passage for me. The same can be said for basically any profession these days.

You might consider this overly optimistic for starting something new or what’s known as the planning fallacy. Either way, it led to a lot of headaches the next day.

When I first heard about FinCon 2016 being hosted in San Diego, my immediate thought was that I needed to be there. After all, if I am serious about building my blog and I know there are a hundred different realms I can improve upon, then why not go and learn from the best?

So, I came up reasons why I shouldn’t go and I weighed them against the reasons I should go.

Here’s my recap on why I’m not going to FinCon 2016:


1. Common Values

The first step is always understanding our shared values. In my relationship, my girlfriend and I always make sure we’re on the same page.

This year, we’ve put a focus on doubling our savings rate. Attending FinCon would be such a large exception to our plan that it would lead to us failing on that goal.

I find that once we make one exception, the next one becomes a little easier. Slowly and piece by piece, the entire plan starts to fall apart.

Thanks to being held publicly accountable this year on my blog , I’ve had a clearer decision making process. This has led us to staying on track for our goal and we’re accelerating ourselves towards financial freedom faster than ever.

Frugality, Guest Posts

What Ramen Taught Me About Financial Freedom

Today’s post comes from Elsie Brown where she takes a humorous approach to some of the lessons she’s learned from making compromises to live more frugally on ramen. Elsie is a blogger, student, and all around cheapskate who writes about how we can all live better on less. Read more on or follow her on Twitter @Gundo_Money.

Let me know what you think of her hilarious guest post below! Without further ado:

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried the delicacy that is Top Ramen but it’s delicious. It costs about $.05 per 5 million calories and has the nutritional value of a moist towelette. Many a poor college student has subsisted on Top Ramen over the years, to the point where it’s become an icon of cheap food.

I don’t actually eat Top Ramen that often anymore but I got to thinking about what it taught me about saving money.

Lesson #1: I Can Get Used to Anything

My Path to Financial Independence

What Triathlon Training has Taught me about Financial Freedom

This month I’ll be completing my 6th triathlon. Now, you might be thinking, “Wait, isn’t this is a personal finance blog about financial independence? What does triathlon training have to do with gaining financial freedom?”

Well, I’m glad you asked.

The journey of training to complete a triathlon and the journey of achieving financial independence have a lot more in common that you might think.

This post will detail the common themes I have discovered that have helped me achieve results personally and financially that make me feel confident and happy.

The Approach

An early habit you develop with triathlon training is understanding that it requires a holistic approach. Training (which I’ll get to next) is one step amongst many that come before the race. There are many other components that go into training besides the physical sweat and tears.

Much of the effort to fuel your body comes from knowing your body. What I mean by this is understanding how much rest and recovery you need after a workout, or knowing what foods will help and which foods will hurt you on race day.

This holistic approach applies for personal finance as well.

I’ll be the first to say that life is not about money, however, it does have a way of creeping into our lives. Our finances can be a source of turmoil and stress; that might be the reason you want to get things squared away.