2 Years of Mini Retirement: A Snapshot with Number$

I ran the numbers 50 different ways before we stepped away from our jobs. I tried to find every story out there. How much would this really cost? Would this set us back and waste all the work we put in? Is this the stupidest idea I’d ever had? Well, we are over two years in. Here’s what happened and all the numbers.

mini-retirements with kids

Two Year Mini-Retirement Cost

Year 1: Mini-Retirement Recap

I turned 33. Gave birth to our 6th child (2nd biological). Started writing this blog. Went full in on our first minimalism challenge. Got rid of close to 50% of our stuff. Visited friends and family. Traveled on a 6 week trip in our pop-up camper. Got my first freelance writing job. Adam took classes that were interesting to him at the community college with his GI Bill. I gave a talk to a MOPS group. Build out our master bathroom from the studs.

Here is what all that cost:

How much does a mini-retirment cost

2016 Expenses

Our giving for 2016 was $6400. I use to track giving in these expenses but now mention them separately. 

Year 2: Mini-Retirement Recap

I turned 34. Started doing some marketing/branding/SEO work. Started money mentoring, which actually turned out to be mostly blog/entrepreneur mentoring. Mentoring retreat in Vegas with my best friend. Did some public speaking. Planted a great garden. Traveled to the beach for 2 weeks. Renovated our rental property. Traveled to see family. Built out a blog course based on the 1-on-1 mentoring (did an internal launch and affiliate launch). Launched a Mini-Retirement course (beta, then internally, and as we speak a large affiliate launch). Went to FinCon. Doubled down on my fitness and hired a personal trainer. Made 25 new friends and let a few go. Earned about $10,000 and reinvested 100% into continuing to grow this thing (no business expenses or rental expenses show up in our personal costs, they are all accounted for separately). And, somewhere in all of that, became more myself than I have been in a long time.

Here is what that cost:

Mini-retirement cost with family

2017 Expenses

Our total giving for 2017 was $9350.

Total Cost of a 2 Year Mini-Retirement

two year mini-retirement expenses

2016 + 2017 Expenses

Expense explained:

Healthcare: I get a LOT of questions about our healthcare and have never actually written about it in a post, but instead answered about 50 questions in the comments. So here are all the details (and where I will direct all questions in the future!)

Adam retired from the military and we are covered by Tricare. While we don’t pay a monthly premium, it’s clearly not free. Healthcare is our 3rd largest expense, coming in at $4747 for the two years. We pay up to $450 a year for a deductible before insurance kicks in. Then we pay 20% of the negotiated rate (which sometimes is much lower than the standard rate!)

I did pay $60 a month for dental just for me. Which was a poor choice because it rarely even pays out 50% of the cost and the yearly payout cap is $2,000. This will be canceled soon and I’ll just apply my $700+ of yearly premiums to pay cash, and probably come out ahead most years. Two cleanings run me $250.

Although healthcare is still a big expense for us, and Tricare isn’t excepted everywhere, I am SO thankful we have it. There are a lot of healthcare options and it’s something I cover in depth in my mini-retirement course. But Tricare is a consistent, affordable and easy option for us. I didn’t give healthcare a thought when Adam joined the military (I was 20) but now it’s one of the biggest benefits for us. Funny how that changes. =)

Hidden Lake hike in Glacier National Park


We don’t have one! We paid cash for our house. Still have the property tax, insurance, utilities and upkeep, but no mortgage payment.


I use to track my giving in with regular expenses, but this year I decided to track those separately. I went back into 2016, and took them out of the software. To be honest, sharing your giving (especially in some circles) is one of the most taboo things a person can do. But years ago I worked as a youth pastor, and I realized that unless I talked openly and plainly about things, eyes would glaze over. It’s hard to learn about things we can’t talk about.

Our giving for the two years was $16,100. I know a lot of people struggle with the idea giving and some assume they will start once they reach financial independence. But starting to give when you no longer earn income is very challenging.

Our number reflects 15+ years of growing into this practice. Just start where you are. Even a well placed $10 a week can make an impact in people’s lives. We keep a separate account for our giving, called our giving fund. It’s kind of like a Donor Advised Fund, except just a checking account with a name!

We had saved $50,000 in cash before we left our jobs, that plus some tax returns have helped support our giving. If our online income grows, a large chunk of that will be directed towards new giving.


Our gift spending is abnormally low. It’s not that we are grinches! Gifts are where we use our credit card rewards points. We redeem gift cards to give as gifts or use those to buy gifts. We average about $400-$700 in cash back a year. We put all our rental expenses on our cards and use rotating categories to try to get 2-5% back on all our spending. Almost 100% of our spending goes on our cards.

Which year is “normal” spending?

I would say they are both in our normal range. In 2016 there were a lot of big expenses (having a baby, building out a master bathroom, new upright freezer, 6-week trip, other trips, etc). I would say that is our normal high spending year. 2017 ended up with very few big expenses. We replaced our washing machine, did about 5 weeks of traveling, but no big renovations (and we really don’t have any left to do). We didn’t really try to spend less (our food bill was much higher!), but few big expenses came in. 2017 was kind of our baseline spending. I can’t imagine a year coming in much lower for us. 2018 might be closer to 2016. We are planning a very large 8+ week road trip (although we might rent out our house while we are gone to offset the cost).

Passive Income vs Expenses

Combined Income from 2 rentals: $1200

Military Pension: $1450

Total: $2650 a month or $31,800 year

Our two-year expense average was: $28,400

So our yearly expenses can grow an extra $3,400 a year before we need to start earning income or pulling from investments.

you tube reno bath remodel

My first attempt at setting tile!


renovation cardigans

This remodel happened 4 years after buying the house.

set tile yourself save money

Almost done!

Net Worth Update!!!

I remember being about 22, pouring over compound interest charts. You know, the ones that say if you save $5 a day at 10%, how much you’ll have in 20 years. We took a lot of crap those early years. We were trying to pay down our $50,000 in debt. And instead of catching our breath when we paid it off and relaxing a bit, I plowed headlong into trying to save our first $100,000. Those first few years of compound growth felt like a joke. A silly farce that I wanted to believe but doubted more days than not.

Our Net Worth had just cracked $500,000 when we decided to jump ship from the 9-5.

Two years of chasing down our most meaningful life later, we are at $750,000+.

Wait, what?!? (Falls over from shock…)

Honestly, it’s hard for my brain to even process that. We’ve never earned $100,000 a year, let alone SAVED that much.

So, all my apologies to compound interest. All the times I doubted you. Or felt like a fool for believing in you. You rock, compound interest!

Minus the mortgages, our three homes come in at $515k, stock $210k, and cash $45,000. The strong market winds have been favorable the last few years.

So what’s next for us????

Well, first off, you should sign up for my emails if you want to get the inside scoop on all of that! But the short answer is A LOT!

My theme for the year is going to be: Connection.

More meetups, more 1-on-1 mentoring helping people build out entrepreneurial things, more speaking, more conferences, more in-person, more video, more courses where I can help a small group of people get awesome results. Yup, more connection.  But most of that stuff fills up just from my email list folks, so it never shows up on the blog. (Hint, hint)

If you read: Time to Quit, you’ll remember the job I applied for. It was helping people grow a platform and launch products. But it was full time, and working with 30-50 people a month. The work seemed amazing but the time/focus a bit too much. So I thought to myself…..“What if I refocus my current mentoring 5 degrees and just do that myself. Instead of 50 people, I can work with 5. And still have time and energy for all the other stuff we love.” I already filled one spot, but the other 4 spots will be opening up in a few weeks.


I hope all this is helpful to you guys! I was so nervous before we stepped away from our jobs. I searched the internet top to bottom to see who else was actually doing this. What did it look like, what did it cost? I know it’s weird to share all these numbers. But I hope it’s useful to give you a full picture of what this life looks like and what it all costs. In all the stories and numbers I share, I hope you can find a small piece that resonates with you and makes you go, “I think we could do something like that too!”

For Conversation:

What are your plans for 2018?

Any focus word?

Should I keep doing my monthly expense reports?

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62 thoughts on “2 Years of Mini Retirement: A Snapshot with Number$

  1. Thanks for sharing. Your expenses over the last two years were amazingly low. We spent about twice that. It’s tougher in a high cost of living area. And we still have a mortgage. I hope to move to a lower cost of living area at some point, but I think it will be after our kid graduate high school. School is good here and I don’t want to make a big change yet. Happy New Year and good luck in 2018! Keep it up.

    • Thankd Joe! Having low property tax and no mortgage is a big help. I’m always amazed at how high it is in some places. Especially with how great our schools, parks and libraries are here. Hope you have an awesome 2018!

    • I’m not sure we have time to spend much more! This week we are going to some hot springs, Adam will spend a day skiing and later this month we are doing a night away at Whitefish Lake Lodge, which is basically heaven. Oh, and getting a couples massage. It’s like we don’t even try to keep costs down. 😂

  2. My word for the year is ADVENTURE. We are going to start building adventures into our everyday lives rather than wait five years to have one. And yes, please do keep doing the expense reports. Numbers make me happy and show me opportunities for improvement. It isn’t a competition but they do help spark conversations in my household.

  3. That’s awesome! Good for your guys only spending $30k for 2 years of mini retirement. Now that you have tested the waters are you likely to stay retired?

    I guess only time will tell. Good luck to you.


    • Retired is a weird word to be. Mostly because we love to do stuff! But I doubt we will do anything marginal, unpleasant or unfulfilling in order to earn money. 😄

  4. Awesome to see the numbers and your plans for 2018!

    I always like seeing other monthly expense reports because they give me ideas on where we can improve – please continue them!

    We’re taking a 2 week trip to Hawaii this month and are going to look at 2018 plans when we get back. We’re going to pretend like it’s an 11-month year 🙂

    • Some years I regroup too! This year kind of feels like it’s starting mid-january because I’m still finishing up so much old stuff. All the new stuff kicks off middle of the month or February.

  5. Thanks for sharing and your support! That was helpful for me!

    For your bathroom reno, did you buy the accent mosaic stone tiles or find stones to achieve that look? We are planning our our master bath renovation for later this year.

    • We bought the stones from Lowes in 12 inches x 12 inch sheets. I think they were about $12 a square foot and rather easy to install. That was my very first time setting tile!

  6. There are times where I seriously contemplate getting on my knees every day to give praise to Compound Interest. Although we don’t really notice it in the short term, the numbers are staggering when you review them over the long-term.

    Congratulations on your families success, and I wish you an even more successful 2018!

    • Yeah the numbers start to snowball! That first 100k was a bear! But 600k-700k? Easy peasy! I’m finding my online wirk is the same way. Year one, crazy hard. This second year, much easier. I’ll start year 3 in 2018, and it’s gaining momentum now. Less like pushing a rock up a hill and more like watching it roll down a slight slope. 🙂

  7. Wow! Fine work. Your totals spent look a lot like ours would if our house were paid off, including similar giving, EXCEPT you have 6 kids and we are only two adults! The last three years however we have gone crazy on international travel, taking 3 trips lasting a total of 9 weeks, since we finally had vacation time we could use together and the $ to do it. As we start a family (Lord willing) we’ll likely be doing fewer expensive trips for quite a while. However learning how do do big trips on less $ is certainly one of my goals. I like the idea of using rewards for gifts! We might need to look into that. And yes, keep posting the numbers, it’s inspiring! It’s a good reminder that the first $100,000 is the hardest!

    Our plans for the year are to work hard, play hard, save big. Create a clean and simple plan for our long term finances, focus our adventures locally/regionally and enjoy the sweet new place we live 😉 and try to make babies!

    • The first 100k is a bugger! Literally 100x harder than this last 100k. Actually closer to 1000x harder. Your plan sounds awesome! We did all our international travel before the last 4. 🙂 Now we love slower/camping/road trip travel. No more hoping cheap flights at midnight from London. 🙂 Good luck with the babies! And way to go on the giving! Giving is 50% of my motivation for continuing to earn income. I love it!

      • That is encouraging about the 1st 100,000! As for travel, luckily both my hubby and I have learned the value of capitalizing on the “sights” to see nearby, both by virtue of growing up in beautiful places and loving the outdoors (Washington and Alaska) but also by living abroad for a few years. Realizing that “base camp” travel where you live somewhere reasonably awesome that is also within throwing distance of more awesomeness makes travel cheap and easy. I will never forget the year I spent nestled in a little basement apartment in the heart of the Austrian Alps snowboarding and rock climbing in my own valley and taking weekend trips to Italy and Prague, etc. I earned less that $20,000 but lived like a frugal Queen (though I must admit I saved no money that year–I do not regret that decision). Not to mention that when you travel like that, you only have to buy one plane ticket for a whole year of adventure, which is often the most expensive part of a trip. That’s part of why we chose our new location in Montana. I had never been to Glacier NP prior to this year or Banff, or the Canadian Powder Highway, but oh boy, I’m going to enjoy the heck out of my new backyard for a LONG time!!!! And then mini-retirements that involve slow travel with kids?!?!

        • I think Flathead valley is an amazing base!!! I’m so glad you moved here. =) Adam is skiing Big Mountain Friday, we were at Quinns hot springs Wednesday, and are doing a night away at Whitefish lake lodge this month! All of that for $200! Can’t beat it. I love living where other people vacation. =)

  8. Love these posts! I agree- if no one talks about the actual numbers then how can we learn? My word for 2018 is TRANSITION. By August my youngest will leave for college. By December the mortgage should be paid off. Lots of change happening over here! Thanks for always being transparent and inspiring!

    • So much transition ahead of you! But great stuff. And maybe another trip to Montana? 😉 I gave up added sugar and have been craving another carmel roll like crazy!!!

  9. One thing I picked up on in your 2nd year summary was:

    “And, somewhere in all of that, became more myself than I have been in a long time.”

    You probably couldn’t ask for a better year!

    I appreciate seeing everyone’s spending breakdown for the year. One area we should work on is our grocery spending. Everyone seems to do much better on grocery spending than we do at the Need2Save house.

    For 2018, I’m going to choose Explore for my focus word. So much to learn, so much to try, so much to see.

    • I have been wavering on a whole post about the “And, somewhere in all of that, became more myself than I have been in a long time.” part. Which is why I kept it short here. =) And I love the idea of explore!

  10. Great job, I’m impressed! Our spending was insane in 2017 but we had a lot of life events (wedding and a house) so that’s kind of expected.

    Thanks for sharing the details! Always enlightening.

  11. Super helpful indeed!

    Wow, you guys are killing it and can pretty much keep on keeping on indefinitely. 😀

    I just published my new year goals for the first time ever! If I had a focus word…maybe “willpower,” as I’m halfway through The Willpower Instinct. 😃 I’m really focusing on maintaining good habits: continuing to exercise and meditate when I need to destress, as opposed to emotional eating or crazy long Netflix marathons of shows *I don’t even like*, which greatly helps with any work or blog related goals!

    I personally like limited expense reports — every year definitely works, as it puts total expenses in perspective (includes all misc or one time purchases)

    • I had never really done a yearly one, and I like the overview. =) Willpower is a great word! I’ve been praticing different habits this year. And willpower is challenging but rewarding. I gave up added sugar for a month and it seemed to nearly kill me. Now I’m limiting it to one day a week, which is still hard for me, but getting easier. Life is feeling more normal without all the candy and less like pure torture. =)

  12. Plans for 2018? Ya, you betcha!

    Taking advantage of my part-time status to disappear to Hawaii for most of February. Don’t worry; I’ll still find a way to keep in touch from the islands. We’ve got space to fit a couple more micro-retirements in after that, but the destinations remain to be seen.

    Focus word? Balance.

    I need to find a way to capture most of the time I took away from my job and apply it to family time and / or me time.


    p.s. Should you continute reporting expense reports? Inquiring minds want to know. #keepitreal

    • That is awesome, Hawaii is one of the few states I haven’t made it to. And I love the word balance. That was the trick for us the first year off. Rest, balance, and getting caught up on life.

  13. Very inspiring, thanks. Can you elaborate on your husband’s military career and retirement sometime? It is a key part of your early retirement and I would like to understand it better. From what I have read, I thought you had to be in the military 20 years before earning any pension at all.

    • Maybe I’ll go back and add that to this post! It’s not incredibly interesting, so never got its own post. He put 10 years into the Army and was medically retired (they retired him early) because of foot damage that a few surgeries couldn’t repair. It’s why he did 10 years instead of 20 and also why his pension is so small compared to most people who serve 20. He didn’t get the full % plus less rank and years of service. So we are at $1450 vs $2600-$3000 a month. I wish his feet weren’t broken and he could have stayed in an gotten the higher monthly amount, but we just make the best of where we are at. =)

      • Thanks. One of the reasons I am asking is that I want my kids to consider all there options for a career. I always had interest to go into the service, but never did because of society pressures to go to college and get a “professional” job. Now that I look back, no one ever explained the pension benefits, medical, etc. of the service. It was always “go to college”. This is one of the biggest regrets of my life is that I didn’t research and pursue it further.
        That being said, and beings you have lived it, would you, or are you, guiding your kids towards the military beings it has helped you to do something (retire early) that probably wouldn’t be possible (as early) without it?

        • The retirement benefits are currently changing in the military. They are going more towards a cross between a 401k style and a pension. I would encourage my kids to join, but not just for a retirement option. Any high paying job would work just as well. Considering the 4% rule, our pension is worth about $400k. And that is after 10 years of low income. Earning and saving an extra $30-50k a year would have worked just as well. Except for the healthcare. Which is a nice option to have.

  14. “So, all my apologies to compound interest. All the times I doubted you. Or felt like a fool for believing in you. You rock, compound interest!”

    Haha! I never read an ode to compound interest better than this. Congratulations on a wonderful two-years-and-counting mini-retirement. And thank you for including a picture of Cheesy. I miss that adorable little sh%tter.

  15. I’m always so impressed with how low your spending is, especially with your family size. Thanks for laying out what it cost for your 2-year mini-retirement so far. It’s always good to see the actual numbers and figure out how it all works out for you. Your family is a great example of the fact that money does not buy happiness or a full life. 🙂

    • Happiness and a full life is actually a bit trickier to come by than money! But slowly and surely we are making each year more and more awesome. =) At least once a week we have an “I can’t believe this is our life!” moment. =)

  16. Jillian, congrats on the impressive Net Worth growth while “retired”. The power of compounding is truly amazing, and reaching the point where your Net Worth increases by an amount larger than your annual income is one of the milestones on the FI journey.

    Also, yours is a great example of how minimalism creates options. Incredible that you’re raising a house full of kids on $30k/yr. Good for you!

    • I like to think of it as focused spending! I feel like we do a TON of fun stuff. I can’t really imagine trying to fit in much more. And we spend money on amazing experiences. It’s just that almost all our spending is on stuff that is really cool! Without a student loan payment, car payment, house payment or big cell phone bill, it gets easier. =)

  17. Keep the numbers coming! When I read a book I tend to gloss over the numbers and the charts. I think to myself, “I hate numbers”. In 2009, I started tracking my net worth and continue to do so. I love looking at those numbers and the benefits of compound interest. I took a mini retirement in 2014 and when I resumed work found that I still didn’t love it! 2 years ago I decided to opt out of full time work and instead work per-diem and some side hustles. Life has been really good since I made that decision. Lake Girl@ My Little Blue Kayak!

    • I love that you are piecing together your best life! There are so many more options than most people initially see. And a lot of ways to find happiness outside of a steady 9-5.

  18. Simply inspiring! Wish we’d had the foresight years ago to see the possibilities. But, better late than never! Once again you have shown how straightforward things can be, things so many think are impossible. Thank you!

    • That is spot on! So many things are a lot more straightforward that people just assume are impossible. =) And yes, better late than never. Actually, I wouldn’t even say “late”. We all start at exactly the right time. The time is right for you now. =)

  19. Hi Jillian! Love your blog and we are on our own journey to financial freedom. Can you quantify how your networth jumped from $500k to $750k over the last two years?

    1. $X came from mortgage balance reductions on 2 rental properties – funded by the renters 🙂
    2. $Y came from stock investment growth
    3. $Z came from investing additional principal
    4. $A came from property value increases

    We are struggling with understanding how you guys were able to jump up 50% on a net worth basis of $500k to $750k in 2 years without saving/investing additional principal or deploying additional money to cash bucket? That seems like a lot of compound interest! And we are trying to benchmark it against how our networth jumped up $291k, but we also saved/invested $117k to get there! Ha.


    • Hey JW! I don’t have an awesome breakdown, but I was much more detailed in my 2016 net worth update post. https://www.montanamoneyadventures.com/net-worth-update-2016/ There were some strong stock markets that helped our portfolio this year. But most of the growth was from our 3 homes. We have three houses in the price point that grew the most in our market ($150-$250k). Over the last year, the average price of our three homes went from about $130k each to around $220 each. I feel like the housing market here has stabilized, so I really doubt we will ever see that kind of growth on the house front again. A little bit came from paying down our two mortgages, but the interest rates are low, so I would guess that was less than 10k. We did add a bit to our portfolio but with little earned income, we couldn’t move much cash into stock.

      A rough estimate would be:
      1. 10k
      2. 30-50k (I know we had a lot of growth in 2017 but don’t have the exact numbers for 2016)
      3. 10-20k (we maxed out our last year working, plus a little bit each year)
      4. 200k

      As you grow your net worth, the more of a big jump you will see when markets make a big jump. These years were a bit unusual in that housing and stock markets really grew. It takes a TON of work to get enough skin in the game, but it gets easier. We started investing after the stock crash and had great returns, but we only had about 100k in then. Keep up the awesome work (in good markets and especially in “bad” markets) and you’ll catch a few lucky breaks along the way!

  20. Wow! That’s amazing data. Thanks for sharing that. It really puts things in perspective seeing real numbers.

    I have a question. You call what you’re doing a mini-retirement but haven’t mentioned when you will come out of retirement. You also show that your passive income currently funds your expenditure. Does this mean that you’re going to stay in retirement till your expenses outgrow your spending? Or is there a different plan?

    • Thanks! Glad it’s helpful. =)

      So that is the question of the day! Actually, we live in this new odd world. Some people ask us when we are “going back to work” and others ask us if we will ever retire. This was one of the first posts I wrote almost two years ago, and it’s still true. https://www.montanamoneyadventures.com/not-retired-work-optional/

      Maybe I’ll write a follow-up post about what this work optional life is like. It’s strange. Right now, I feel like we are still 90% in mini-retirement. But to try to give you a straight answer. Yes, we will probably “go back to work” at some point. Most likely I will slowly build work I love. But it will be more lifestyle business than 9-5. We will still take weeks off every year to travel. We’ll still hike on amazing spring days or drop everything to go skiing if the hill gets a foot of fresh snow. I won’t ever do anything I hate for money, or even things outside of my skill set or passion. But I’ll always do stuff. Important stuff. Stuff I love. Until the day I die. That might be writing, gardening, mentoring, spending time with my kids, who knows. Maybe I’ll earn money from it, maybe it will save me money, or maybe cost me money. The money part just matters a whole lot less than it use to. How’s that for clear? =)

  21. Thanks for answering about your health care costs–my jaw was dropping at how long that was for someone in “mini retirement”. That will be our biggest expense if/when we retire early. Although who knows what that landscape will look like when we get there.

    Your overall expenses are definitely low for a family of your size, though. So glad you could enjoy those two years. Sounds like it’s led to a lot of personal growth.

  22. Thanks for sharing. Awesome to know how things have been going for you guys.
    I think the TriCare insurance is key. It may not be the greatest insurance, but it is much more affordable than other options.

    • Thanks, Wealthy Doc! It’s been an incredible experience. Having Tricare keeps things easy and simple. I know insurance is a huge stress for most people, just because of the change or uncertainty. It’s been great to have that stable, affordable option.

  23. Thanks for sharing! Your expenses put ours to shame and we’re only 2 people! Great job on minimizing them. It’s also interesting to think about the fact we’re all just a handful of rental properties away from financial freedom.

  24. Thanks for setting a good example that with hard work and planning this can be done. As a physician just starting my career at 32, it is unbelievable (and awesome) that some of you guys can retire around the same age. Good for you. You certainly put the hard work in to achieve it.

    And thank you from our family to yours for your service to our country!

    • Thanks so much! It was a lot of planning and focused effort and then some luck showed up (as it tends to do). It’s nice to have more options to really choose where we should spend our time and effort. =) And I love how there are so many paths. I know a lot of doctors who hit FI, but there are pros and cons (High income, but later start and more debt). Having those stories are important just like seeing people who earned a combined 50k a year get there as well.

  25. Thank you for the detailed breakdown! I also love that you are still giving while retired. I think giving is often under valued in FI circles.

    • We have always prioritized giving and grown in that habit. It’s actually a lot more challenging to give without income (just emotionally). I big motivation for us to earn income in the future would be to fund extra giving.