Top 8 Reasons to Buy Forever Items

In the pursuit of financial independence many of us try to save, save, save. That means forgoing almost all purchases in the hopes that one day we will have enough money to leave the workforce and enjoy the atypical life of freedom.

But I am here to tell you, it is NOT ALL ABOUT SAVING.

Every item we buy has a purpose, or at least it should have a purpose. If we buy something with no purpose, then why did we buy it in the first place?

Without further ado, here are the top 10 reasons that you should buy forever items.

1. You will only have to buy the item once.

This should be obvious from the name, forever items. However, many of us on the path towards financial freedom are extremely frugal and are trying our best to find the cheapest way there. The cheaper we can be the sooner we can leave the rat race, right?

Most of the time, this is true. But when you buy a forever item, it may be more expensive, but you will likely never have to buy it again. This far outweighs the downsides of paying more for the item upfront.

2. Resale value stays high.

When we buy our forever items, they are  items of high value, but they also allow us to resell them in the future. A good example of forever items is camera lenses. We buy them because we enjoy photography and to help us achieve financial and personal freedom sooner, despite them being expensive items. Sometimes they cost $500+ each, which seems outrageous. However, camera lenses, as long as you take care of them never wear out. You can keep one for 10 years and then resell it for nearly the cost you paid for it.

We are getting ready to sell our Nikon camera system because we switched to Olympus. Our favorite wide angle lens, a Tokina 11-16 mm f/2.8, sells for around $400 new. We bought it for $330 used, and I expect to sell it for the same amount I bought it for after having it for an additional 4 years. This is the true power of forever items. Value lasts!

3. Quality is second to none.

When we buy a forever item, we know we have done our research and have found the best item available. A forever item is expected to last forever, thus it requires the quality to be second to none. A forever tool, like a set of Snap-on wrenches for your workshop, have a lasting quality to them that can be used over and over again without ever wearing out.

4. Forever items are in the eye of the beholder.

Not every forever item needs to be the top of the line purchase. Does the hobbyist really need industrial grade tools to work on cars or are the regular Craftsman tools sufficient? Obviously, if you are not going to use your tools on a regular basis, then the cheaper ones will last a lifetime and that makes them a forever item for you.

5. Most forever items come with spectacular warranties.

Back before I started my journey towards financial independence, I just wanted to buy things. And buy things I did. I needed a blender, and after doing hours of research, I landed on the Blendtec Blender. You may have seen the youtube videos from “Will it Blend“. I decided that this was the blender that I needed, and $400 later I had my very own Blendtec blender. Now, I have had it for over 4 years, and this past week, the blade’s seal wore out and we got rubber seal in our smoothies. This was very disappointing coming from such an expensive piece of equipment. I remembered though, Blendtec has an 8 year warranty on their blenders, so I filled out the  warranty information on their website, and the next thing I know, I have a confirmation of shipment for a new jar. No haggling, no complaining, just great customer service. This is what you can expect from top-end forever items.

6. You will save money.

Because a forever item lasts forever, you will save money on the purchase. The upfront purchase price may be high, but the fact that you will not buy another one in your lifetime means that the cost is averaged over your remaining lifetime. My Blendtec blender, bought in 2013, now cost approximately $100 per year. By the time the warranty on it runs out in 4 more years, it will be at $50 per year. I was going through $30 and $40 blenders once or twice per year, so in the end, it is cheaper for me to have purchased the high quality forever item.

Another way to look at the cost of ownership is when you plan on reselling it. If you buy a forever item for $500, own it for 4 years, and then resell it for $400, then your cost was only $100, or $25 per year. Because of the high resale value, your cost of ownership of forever items comes way down. The caveat here, is that you must be willing to resell it. But because I know you are all pursuing financial independence and minimalism is a value held by us, I know all of us are willing to let go of items.

7. You can buy forever items used and still have a long life expectancy from it.

Because the quality of forever items is so good, you are able to buy them off the used market. Ebay and Craigslist are 2 of my favorite places to buy items in the US. If you are patient, you can score great deals on these sites for forever items. If the original MSRP cost is $1,000, like our new camera the Olympus E-M1, but you get it used a couple years later for $500, then you can enjoy the item for a lifetime well without the cost of it new.

One of my favorite methods to save money on the journey to financial independence is to let someone else take the initial value out an item before we buy it used. The first 30% or more of an items cost is markup, so we might as well let someone with money to burn take that cost out for us, especially on forever items that last a lifetime.


8. You can pass on your forever items.

Everybody likes to get things for free. Your kids and later your grand kids will appreciate acquiring quality forever items. One of the most common forever items to pass on is quality cookware, currently from the 1930s and 40s, however the idea continues to apply. A forever item can be passed on and appreciated for generations to come. No one wants to receive garbage hoarded for years, but will genuinely appreciate a lower number of quality items.


As you can see, buying forever items does make sense even for a frugal family pursuing financial independence and freedom. By spending more upfront, you save money in the long run and cost over a lifetime is what really matters. Spending money to save money is a concept that is normally passed over, but there are times, when it can make sense. Buying forever items is one of those times, and I encourage all of us to consider purchasing forever items when the option is available. Not everything we buy needs to last forever, just always keep in mind lifetime cost.

By keeping an eye towards the end goal, financial independence, and we can guide ourselves to the right decisions. Let me know in the comments if you agree or disagree.

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How to Slash Your Taxes: Tax Liability Estimation

With tax day fast approaching, most of us are in crunch mode to get our taxes submitted by the deadline. It is now crunch time to finish before time runs out and penalties are assessed. Despite the desire to just finish our taxes, we should all take a step back and think about tax estimation.

Tax liability estimation is a very useful skill to have. Put to good use, it can slash your taxes and bring your freedom date closer. It allows you to leverage your knowledge of tax liability with your employer to lower your tax withholding from your paycheck and have a higher take-home pay each month.

Because estimating your taxes allows you to lower your tax withholding and not have a tax refund at the end of the year, you are able to put your money to work sooner gaining precious days and months on your freedom date.

As I worked with my tax preparation provider (paid for by work), I prepared a tax estimation spreadsheet. There are numerous calculators out there for estimating taxes, but none are as powerful and customizable as the simple spreadsheet. I developed it using the infamous Form 1040. Taxes always have a mystique of being complicated and impossible to do without help, but through my creation of this tool, I learned that it is not nearly as complicated as we are led to believe.

I went through the 1040 line-by-line and brought all applicable items over to the spreadsheet to be able to calculate my actual tax liability. Because I have the expat package now, this was a huge tool for me. I have $15,000+ per year that is un-taxed from my perspective because of gross-up taxes paid by the company. My tax preparers are doing my taxes based on not saving any money to tax-advantaged accounts and after I was able to estimate my tax liability for the next year, I was able to get them to lower my taxes over $300 per month. That is $3,600 for the year that I can invest up to a year earlier and get compound growth on.


If you are interested in seeing my tax estimation spreadsheet for yourself and playing with the numbers to optimize your situation, sign up below. Be prepared for extreme savings!

The 1040

The 1040 is broken up into sections to make it easier to understand. The sections are:

  • Filing Status (single, married filing joint, married filing separate, head of household, qualifying widow)
  • Exemptions (Used for the standard exemption calculation)
  • Income (All your various income streams are accounted here)
  • Adjusted Gross Income (allowed deductions to your taxable income)
  • Tax and Credits
  • Other Taxes (additional special taxes e.g. self-employment tax)
  • Payments (how much you paid through the year)
  • Refund (if overpaid on taxes throughout the year)
  • Amount You Owe (if underpaid on tax throughout the year)

There are a total of 79 line items to fill out on the 1040, but for most people, the majority of the items will be not applicable and the form quickly becomes very easy to fill out.

There are numerous software tools to help you fill out your taxes, but the tax forms are not complicated and can be filled out personally. Doing this will give you a more intimate knowledge of taxes and help you to slash through the waste.

How to Estimate Your Taxes

Everybody should track their income and expenses. Because you track your income and expenses, it is very easy estimate your tax liability for the year.


First, you need to be able to project your income. This includes not only your salary, but dividends in your taxable investment accounts, business income, taxable refunds, capital gains from investment sales, taxable retirement income, rental income, farm income, unemployment compensation, and other miscellaneous income. Basically if you make money in any way, Uncle Sam wants a part of it.

From this list of taxable income, you should take notice of the dividends, capital gains, and retirement income. These are your personal levers to reduce taxes from your income. These may not seem like income during the year, but Uncle Sam sees it that way.

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)

Second, you will estimate your deductions for the year. Your AGI is your income after allowed adjustments to income before the personal and standard deductions. AGI gives you an overview of your income that wasn't saved into tax-advantaged accounts or spent on tax-advantaged goods. Your main adjustments are:

  • Educator expenses
  • Health Savings Account (HSA) contributions
  • One half of Self-Employment Tax
  • Pre-tax retirement plan contributions (Traditional IRA, SEP, SIMPLE, Solo 401k, 401k)
  • Self-employed health insurance deduction
  • Student loan interest deduction
  • Tuition and fees to qualifying schools

This list is not comprehensive, but represents the most common deductions taken on your taxes. Normally the 401k deduction is accounted for on your W-2 and does not show up as income, however, when estimating your taxes, you should include it as a line item under AGI.

Tax and Credits

Tax and Credits is home to your personal and standard or itemized deductions. After subtracting these from your AGI, you get your taxable income. From your taxable income, you can determine which tax bracket you fit in and determine your taxes.

The US uses a progressive income tax. In other words, being in the 25% tax bracket does not mean you pay 25% of your income to Uncle Sam, it means you pay 25% of the amount above the 15% tax bracket and 15% of the amount between 10 and 15% brackets, and 10% of the amount below the 10% bracket.

tax ~= taxable income * 25%
tax = 10% * 10% tax bracket + 15% * (15% - 10% tax brackets) + 25% * (25% - 15% tax brackets) + ...

You pay less than your tax bracket sounds like.

You have your tax liability calculated and now it is time to take your tax credits. Credits are much more powerful than deductions because they directly effect the tax liability. They are directly subtracted from the tax liability. Credits available include:

  • Foreign tax credit
  • Dependent care credit
  • Education credit
  • Retirement savings contributions credit
  • Child tax credit
  • Residential energy credits
  • Other credits

Bringing it all together

Now we have enough information to estimate our tax liability. When we know our salary, contributions to tax-advantaged accounts, deductions, and credits, we can accurately estimate our tax liability for the year. Even if you get a bonus or some other windfall, your estimation is accurate and the bonus is just added in on top of what you already predicted.

The true power of the estimation is the chance for optimization. With a plan for the year and a model you can manipulate, you can see how different scenarios can effect your bottom line. The goal here is to minimize your tax liability and the only way to do that is to know how it works. By playing with the numbers you can watch the tax liability vary and determine the best way to plan out your taxes.

Spending your time on optimizing your taxes and determining how to qualify for the various tax credits will give you a huge return on investment. Not only can you minimize your tax liability today and get your money invested sooner (no tax refund), but you can also have more money overall by minimizing and planning your tax approach.


If you are interested in seeing my tax estimation spreadsheet for yourself and playing with the numbers to optimize your situation, sign up below. Be prepared for extreme savings!

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March 2017 Atypical Life Income Report

Welcome to the third monthly income and expense report from the Atypical Life family. We are pleased to share this with all of you, so that you may have the inspiration to achieve financial independence and freedom from the man sooner. As an atypical family, this income and expense report will look very different to most family budgets, however, it is 100% real and is achievable under the right circumstances.

I share my finances to inspire others to reach for freedom earlier. I hope to show from my income and expense reports:

  • Income can be generated in multiple ways. The regular 9-5 job is not the only way to make money and is also the best way to be a slave to the man.
  • Lowering expenses is really the path towards financial freedom. The lower your expenses, the more you can save. Also, with lower expenses, it takes fewer savings to live on.
  • It is possible to have low expenses.
  • Becoming an expat is a great way to financial freedom
  • To keep me accountable.

Tracking Your Money

Keeping track of your money is the number one way to reach financial independence. We track all of our income and expenses and then analyze it all at the end of the month for you.

Using Personal Capital is the best way to aggregate all of your accounts into one nice easy view. With your accounts spread across so many different platforms, it is hard to get a whole picture of your finances. Personal Capital gives you a view of where you are, if you spent too much, saved too little, or went into debt. Keeping track of your Net Worth on Personal Capital is super easy.

The best part of Personal Capital’s service is that it is free! It fits in perfectly with our frugal sense and allows us to track and reach financial independence faster. Check out their retirement planner to estimate how far away you are from retirement. It is one of the best I have seen for those of us pursuing FIRE.

If you haven’t started tracking your finances, it is not too late to start. Give Personal Capital a try and you will soon be on your way to being a personal finance guru.


Company Match$1,112
Expat Income$1,266
Gifts Received$50
Salary (Mr. Atypical)$6,467
Salary (Mrs. Atypical)$131

March was another great month for us in the Atypical household. We had our regular salary and our wonderful, but regular expat income. This expat income is a 20% location premium or hazard pay in expat vernacular. It is additional income for us that is grossed up by the company, so we do not have to pay taxes on it.

I was stoked in March when our company actually paid the Short-term Incentive Plan (STIP) at 100% funding this year. This amounted to a 7.75% bonus on my new annual salary. All of the extra funds got saved and invested with 50% going directly to the 401k, ~25% going to taxes and the final 25% paid out to me and invested in the HSA.

One problem with the 401k contribution this month is that it still has not posted. I received my bonus on March 10, and the $3,010 that were “contributed” to the 401k, have still not shown up in my account. I was waiting for the salary contribution posted (around April 7) before approaching HR about this lack of contribution. I am not sure of the company’s intent here, but it seems they are holding on to my money for their own gain rather than paying it out to me on time.

My company has a fairly generous 401k match of 9%, as long as we contribute 6% to the 401k. This goal is very easy for us to achieve, as we contribute 50% of our income to the 401k. There is one caveat to my 401k contributions, though. They are only calculated on salary, expat income is not included, so 50% of $6,466 goes to the 401k each month to ready us for an atypical life of freedom. The 401k matching contribution is free money and we make nearly $6,000 per year from this income source.

March is when all of my VTSAX investments pay out dividends, so we had a $725 dividend payment. The payment for this quarter was very low compared with past payments. Even though I have more investments than I did in December 2016, the dividend payout was down 25% on a per share basis.


Medical Expenses$70

Our March expenses were to be expected and slightly over budget! They were the highest of 2017 so far because of hosting my parents in China for a few weeks.

The bonus we received in January from the local Chinese government got put to further good use this month on a new lens for our Micro 4/3 camera. The Olympus E-M1 that we bought in February is complemented nicely now by a wide-angle Panasonic 7-14 mm f/4 lens. This lens gives us a new perspective to use and will continue to expand the possibilities of beautiful photography for our blogs. Along with that, we improved our blogs with new plugins, so keep an eye out for new formatting. Because the bonus was paid in RMB to a Chinese bank account, we were not able to invest it without the fees and hassle of a wire transfer, so we have decided to allocate it to business expansion.

Because my parents are here, our budget, in general, got overstretched. We are trying to show them a good time and that involves traveling. We took a week long trip to Gansu province where we got to see numerous Danxia formations and got the must do in China done, visited the Great Wall. We are also getting more food out at restaurants as a result of them here. Introducing them to the local food is enjoyable, but certainly more expensive. It gives us a feel for what the cost will be to live when we have kids in the future.

In addition to the business expansion from the Chinese bonus, we treated my parents to covering the flight cost to Gansu and back. Both of their birthdays are in April, and we are so appreciative of them coming to visit, we felt that covering the flight was a great idea.

Our Gansu trip spread from March 28 – April 4, so is split over 2 months again. The portion spent in March was $876, however, half of the non-flight cost will be paid back to us by my parents. because they do not have a free way to get RMB to spend, we are covering all costs and they will reimburse us at the end of the trip via PayPal. Keep an eye out for our upcoming post about our Gansu trip.


The shopping budget was over this month at $427. The reason we were over budget again is due to my parent’s trip to China. Because we can’t buy some things in China (I wear a size 46 shoe 13US), we bought them from the US and had my parents bring them to us. This saw the purchase of a pair of Chaco sandals for me, a pair of cycling sandals to replace the ones that I broke last year, and 2 horse riding helmets for Mrs. Atypical. The last one was a mistake due to a website malfunction and we will get reimbursed for the helmet when it gets returned to the store.

Mrs. Atypical and I are very into exercise and use it to spend much of our free time. Since cycling here is not too fun and the air is not too clean (think a thick headache inducing smog 150+ PM2.5) she asked for a bike trainer so she could ride inside. There was no way I could say no to that, so we purchased one that I would ride as well, and she is well on her way to getting stronger because of this purchase. I did not buy the cheapest version of a trainer because tools should be bought to last, and good quality can make all the difference. In the pursuit of freedom, we cannot forget to live and enjoy ourselves.


Our insurance for the month is on an accrual basis because we paid for the year entirely in December. We dropped our company sponsored health insurance that cost us $250 per month and the company $750 per month in favor of a local insurance company that was ~5300 RMB or $890. This covers us for all medical expenses in Greater China and also qualifies us to use the supercharged investment vehicle, the HSA.

We had our first medical costs of 2017 this month with the purchase of 12 months worth of birth control. China has it right because birth control is over the counter. There is no way they could have maintained the one-child policy for years without easy access to birth control. In the US, the government has put up barriers to access which does not make any sense.


Our home cost remained at $325 and will remain at exactly that level until we finish the contract up in China. Our internet was paid in full this month for the following year. For the service (fine during the day, slow as dirt at night), the price is reasonable at $255 for the year or $21 per month.


Our grocery and dining budget ballooned this month from my parent’s visit to $427. With $335 spent on groceries for the month, it is evident that we were stockpiling ingredients for the month ahead. I purchased 10 lbs of butter in preparation of baking wonderful Western sweets. Since we get the butter delivered, I thought it was better to stockpile before it gets hot here to stop melting during delivery. I am always happy that the cost of food in China is so low beside our splurges for sanity’s sake on butter, sugar, and chocolate!

The HSA Experiment

Our HSA, currently residing at HSA Bank, incurs a fee of $2.50 per month for a balance under $5,000. We will incur this fee and an additional $3 per month on that account, so we can keep all of our HSA money invested at TD Ameritrade and buy VTI, the best possible investment vehicle. VTI is the ETF equivalent of my favorite mutual fund VTSAX, Vanguard Total US Stock Market Admiral Shares.

My second month using this platform was much more successful than the first month. I did not make the same mistake as I did in February with incorrectly moving funds from HSA Bank to/from TD Ameritrade. I was able to put an additional $3,500 into the HSA bringing my total investment to $5,000 for 2017.

The investments made into the HSA will save us a good amount of taxes for 2017. At the 25% tax bracket, if assumed the HSA contributions are taken off the top, it is $1,688 in tax savings. I will be in the 15% tax bracket after all of our savings so, even there our tax savings are $1,013. These savings help to accelerate our path to financial freedom.


Everybody hates taxes. They eat away at our income and we never even get a chance to see it. Taxes were 49% of our expenses for March totaling $2,729.

There are 2 certainties in life, death and taxes. ~Benjamin Franklin

Our taxes for March were extraordinarily high because of the tax withheld on the bonus. I initially thought it was way too high because they withheld 25% federal income tax from it, however it ended up correct. Because it is additional income above the estimated tax that I pay on my normal salary, it is taxed at my max tax rate of 25%. The 25% income tax was levied on the entire bonus, even though 50% of it went to the 401k in pre-tax contributions. Due to the expat package, I do not pay real income tax, but estimated income tax to the company, the accounting is done differently. The tax rate should probably be 15% since my saving plan for the year will put me in the 15% tax bracket but is not worth arguing.

After doing a review of my tax situation, I approached my tax preparation company about reducing my estimated taxes for 2017 and the future. I showed that I would save into pre-tax investment vehicles:

  • $18,000 to the 401k
  • $5,500 Mr. Atypical Traditional IRA
  • $5,500 Mrs. Atypical Traditional IRA
  • $6,750 to the family HSA
  • Total Value of $35,750

This is able to reduce my taxable income significantly, and when combined with personal and standard deductions on the 1040, it brings our taxable income very low. The purpose of reducing our tax withholding is because we know best how to take care of our money. The government obviously does not know what is best for me. We can put our money to work as soon as possible by investing in VTSAX and VTI, without waiting for a tax refund at the end of the year. This can gain us upwards of 12 months of growth (or decline…). It also allows us to raise our contributions throughout the year to achieve a healthy total portfolio to pursue freedom sooner.

I would never use a tax preparation company right now if it was not provided by the company. Taxes are not nearly as complicated as they are made out to be. Due to the tax equalization policy that my company implements for us, we have to have a professional tax preparation firm handle our taxes.


In total, we made $10,239 in March and were able to save the majority of that into investment funds. It was a very successful month financially, but that doesn’t matter if we did not enjoy ourselves. We should not kill ourselves to reach freedom. You should enjoy life all the time, knowing in the future it can be even better.

“Love the life you have, while you create the life of your dreams.” ~Hal Elrod

My parents came to China to visit and we got to go on a wonderful trip to Gansu province to check out the scenery and mountains there. It is nice to know you are loved and that people will travel half way around the world to come and visit.

How was your March? Are you heading towards financial independence as well? Let me know in the comments below.

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March 2017 financial review