Stuck in the Doldrums of FI? Here are 11 Things You Can Do Right Now

doldrums min an

Photo by Min An on Pexels

You’ve been ‘awakened’ to FI, and you’ve done all the penny-pinching, investing, and optimizing you can do. All that’s left is to wait for that wealth snowball to come rolling down the hill!

But it’s rolling so slowly. And it’s a really long hill. How will you ever wait it out?

This is what I call the doldrums of FI:

The “doldrums”… refers to the belt around the Earth near the equator where sailing ships sometimes get stuck on windless waters. 

Source: US National Ocean Service

I’ve been there

A couple of years ago, I was stuck in the doldrums of FI. I’d long ago read every Mr. Money Mustache article, optimized our investments, and slashed our recurring expenses. 

All that was left to do was wait and give the magical powers of compounding time to work. But it was impossible for me to just sit around, willing myself to be patient. I needed to do something!

Taking action

As it turns out—there was plenty I could do when stuck in the doldrums. I just needed to get creative and dig deeper. 

In this article, I’ll share the 11 things I did to both speed up my FI journey and make the waiting game a little less painful. 

1. Live like you’re already FI

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Photo by rawpixel on Pexels

FI veterans stress this all the time: don’t wait for FI to live the life you want. They’re right—we can all take steps to be just as happy now as we will be post-FI. 

Here are some of the things we’re doing now, long before we’ll reach FI:

  • Travel as much as we can as a family—even if it slows our path to FI. 
  • Prioritize and consciously schedule quality time with family and friends. 
  • Engage in hobbies and interests—even if we don’t have as much time for them as we’d like. 
  • Indulge in occasional luxuries like fancy foods, restaurant meals, and fun experiences.
  • Do work that we love. 
  • Learn new skills.
  • Constantly work at self-improvement.

Think of all the ways you can add more happiness into your life NOW—then take action.

2. Aim for the next milestone

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Photo by Glenn Carsten Peters on Unsplash

The stretch between $0 and FI is long. And we all know the best way to tackle a big goal is to break it down into smaller chunks… 

So check out these FI milestone articles to see where you’re at, and use them as motivation to reach your next mini-goal:

3. Consume even more FI content

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

You’ve listened to and read all the content from the big names in the FI community—now what? Well, maybe it’s a good time to explore new FI content! Here are some ideas:

  • FI School: I’ve rounded up the best, most-helpful FI content in FI School: The Ultimate Guide to FI. Even if you’re a FI veteran, you could still learn a thing or two!
  • Check out newer/smaller podcasts and blogs: Everyone has a different spin on FI, and you may just stumble across a nugget of wisdom that’ll change your life!
  • Listen to or read your favourite content all over again: Now that you’re more experienced with FI, you’ll take away new and different things from previously-consumed content.
  • Venture outside of the FI community: Check out personal finance, personal growth, and travel content. You may even come across an interview of your favourite FI personality. It’s always enlightening to hear/read about their story from a different angle. 

4. Learn new skills

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Photo by rawpixel on Pexels

There are so many ways to learn new skills at little or no cost. Why not speed up your journey to FI by picking up a new skill, and using it to save money or earn extra income?

Here are some ideas:

  • Car maintenance: I learned how to change my car’s cabin and engine air filters. Easy peasy! Savings: $60+ per filter. 
  • Hair cutting: I cut M and the boys’ hair every three weeks. While I’m no expert, I do a decent-enough job. They even get occasional compliments on their cuts! Savings: $15–$25/cut.
  • Repairs and mending: I’ve always been pretty handy, but when I get stuck and need better techniques or ideas to fix something, a bit of internet research never fails me. Savings: hundreds of dollars.
  • Basic electrical work: I’ve learned to move electrical boxes for outlets and light switches, decommission an electrical breaker, and how to fish wire through walls. It’s fun and so satisfying! Savings: hundreds of dollars.
  • Basic plumbing: I’ve learned how to install: toilets, dishwashers, faucets, braided hoses for toilets and sinks, and more. Savings: hundreds of dollars.
  • Cooking: We’ve gradually learned how to cook more and more of the dishes we love—saving us from having to eat out in order to enjoy them. Savings: THOUSANDS of dollars!
  • Parenting: I can’t count how many parenting skills I’ve learned through books and audiobooks (all free from the library). When you’re a more-skilled and confident parent, you’re happier—and so are your kids. Happy kids have less anxiety and behavioral issues, which equals less need for costly counselling sessions. Savings: priceless.

5. Learn about other investments

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Photo by rawpixel on Pexels

You’ve got your nest egg invested in low-cost, total stock market index funds/ETFs. Things are humming along nicely and you’re perfectly happy with the set up. 

That’s great, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with leaving it at that. But if you’re like me, you’re always looking for ways to kick things up a notch. 

If so, consider learning about different sectors or tactics and how they can enhance/augment your basic index investing portfolio. 

Here are some areas I’ve researched and implemented in our portfolio:

  • Emerging markets: You can increase the returns and decrease the volatility in your portfolio by adding this and other non-correlated asset classes.
  • Small cap value: Many trusted experts advocate for this asset class. While it’s been debated if the premium’s still there, I still believe in the long-term performance of small cap value.
  • Leveraged investing/Smith Manoeuvre: This is how we shaved four years off of our FI date. (Read more about this in 13 Ways to Reach FI Sooner.)
  • Real estate: I researched and mathed this to death, and ultimately decided against it. But it’s a fantastic option for many—just not for me (Vancouver real estate’s way overpriced).
  • General investing: Getting better-educated on investing will help you learn about other asset classes. Check out FI School Lesson 7: Investing for a list of resources to help with this.

6. DIY more of your investing

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Photo by Negative Space on Pexels

If you’re hands-off with your investing, consider learning how to take the reins yourself. 

You’ll get a better feel for your investments and save on fees and commissions. This can add up to a significant amount over decades, so it’s worth learning how to do these tasks:

  • DIY: Instead of using a robo-advisor, do the trading and rebalancing yourself.
  • Tax harvesting: Harvest your losses and/or gains to optimize your taxes.
  • Invest in US-listed ETFs: A great way for Canadians to save on fees and taxes.
  • Norbert’s Gambit: A cheaper way for Canadians to exchange currencies.

Learn more about DIY investing in FI School Lesson 6: Index Investing.

7. Look into lesser-known tax hacks

taxes NjoyHarmony pixabay
Photo by NjoyHarmony at Pixabay

Most people’s eyes glaze over when the topic of taxes comes up. Not so for FI seekers! We know there’s money to be saved by optimizing our taxes. 

There’s a wealth of knowledge out there—but you’ll have to dig to go beyond the basics that everyone already knows.

Here are some lesser-known tactics that I’ve researched and used (🍁 = Canadian content):

To go even deeper, here are more resources:

8. Start a side hustle or house hack

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Photo by Jack Alexander on Unsplash

This is a great way to boost your saving rate and reach FI sooner. Do some brainstorming to come up with a side hustle you’ll love. Or spruce up your spare bedrooms and put them to good use!

Side hustle resources:

House hacking resources:

9. Tackle the small stuff

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Congratulations! You’ve made all the big changes that’ll really move the needle.

Now you can think about the smaller changes. While these changes may not make a huge difference to your bottom line, they’re easy wins. (And sometimes that’s just what you need to push through.)

Here are some ideas:

  • Make your house more energy-efficient: Install LED bulbs, seal gaps, add insulation, switch to low-flow faucets and toilets.
  • Find cheaper service providers: Just a few phone calls could significantly lower your internet, phone and cell phone bills.
  • Reassess your insurance needs: Every 1-3 years, get new quotes; increase the deductibles on your home and car insurance; reduce your life insurance coverage as your nest egg grows.
  • Konmari, then sell your stuff: Declutter and organize your storage spaces, then make some money back by selling your unneeded items.
  • Mend or repair your stuff: Take a look at the stuff you’re wanting to replace and see if you can save money by mending or repairing them yourself.
  • Get frugal and save more: Check out FI School Lesson 2: Frugality and Saving for resources and tips to stretch your dollars.

10. Debrief, reflect, and dream 

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Photo by Lonely Planet on Unsplash

Take some time to debrief, reflect, and dream. Ask yourself:

  • What have I accomplished, learned, and figured out?
  • How did the above help me get closer to my goals and dreams?
  • What are my next goals and dreams?
  • How will I move forward to reach them?

My favourite way to debrief, reflect, and dream is by journalling* in Evernote. (I call it journalling, but it’s more like freestyle note-taking.)

*Journalling keeps my brain uncluttered, helps me to make sense of the billions of fragments of useful info I take in, and keeps me moving forward.

This process may sound a bit woo-woo, but it’s an incredible life hack! Taking time to debrief, reflect, and dream turns your ideas into plans and actions. 

And that’s how you get to FI—by mindfully making plans and taking action to implement them.

11. Accept and move on

Photo by Eli DeFaria on Unsplash

Okay, maybe you’ve already done everything I’ve suggested above, and truly have nothing left to do in your FI journey. If you’re like me (driven and impatient), reaching this point is extraordinarily frustrating! 

Thankfully, I have a simple solution that’ll not only get you through the doldrums, but also help in other areas of your life: acceptance.

Instead of trying to will the doldrums of FI away, or forcing yourself to do things just to keep the needle moving, learn to practice acceptance. 

What’s acceptance?

  • Acceptance is often erroneously thought of as giving up and simply taking the lemons that life throws at us. But that’s not it at all.
  • Acceptance is actually about seeing a situation for what it really is, letting go of our (often fruitless) desire to force our own changes upon it, then moving on.
  • Here’s an excellent article with more about acceptance.

How to practice acceptance

  1. Stop the frantic thoughts. (Try picturing a stop sign, or picture the thoughts as clouds or balloons floating into the distance.)
  2. Give yourself the space to simply breathe. (Try the 4-7-8 technique—it really works.)
  3. Tell yourself: “FI will come in time. I’ve done everything in my circle of control to speed the journey. I can’t do any more, so I’m going to stop torturing myself, and move on.”
  4. Stop obsessively checking your accounts and FI progress trackers!
  5. Distract yourself by engaging in other interesting activities: pick up a new hobby, work on self-improvement, spend more time with family and friends, etc. 
  6. Every time you feel the impatience returning, repeat the steps above.

Paradoxically, acceptance might even help you reach FI faster. Since your mind will be freed from obsessing about FI, you can think about new and different pursuits to earn extra income! 

(And all the while, your wealth snowball will keep growing as it rolls its way down the hill.)


If you’re tired of waiting for FI:

  • Start by living your FI life now—don’t wait for FI to be happy and fulfilled.
  • Fill your time with the activities in this article.
  • If you’re still struggling with impatience—practice acceptance, then move on.

Where I’m at now

These days, I’m mostly unaffected by the gnawing impatience that afflicted me earlier in my journey. I’ve learned to accept that the journey is long and slow, and I’m distracting myself with new interests—like blogging. 

(I don’t expect my blog to make one iota of difference to our savings, but it’s a welcome distraction that’s helped keep me out of the doldrums!)

What about you?

Where are you in your FI journey? How have you dealt with the doldrums? Share in the comments so we can all learn from each other!

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As always, however you show your support for this blog—THANK YOU!

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  • Reply
    Shaidah Karim
    February 25, 2019 at 9:58 am

    What a great article. I have similar DIY skills as you (car maintenance, plumbing, cooking, mending, etc.). But I am working on learning #5-11 while on this journey. There is so much to learn along the way. Thank you for sharing this, you inspire me 🙂

    • Reply
      February 26, 2019 at 12:19 am

      Aww, thank you for your lovely words Shaidah. The inspiration flows both ways! But I think you’d easily kick my butt with your DIY skills. 😅 You and your hubby are hardcore, man!

  • Reply
    February 25, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    Great ideas! I feel like I’m in a similar position where everything is humming along nicely, but still have to wait a while for the big goal. I really have to work on not checking on my accounts balances nearly every day though!

    • Reply
      February 26, 2019 at 12:20 am

      Thanks for stopping by Andrew! Not checking the accounts is really hard! I’m kind of glad we Canadians can’t access Personal Capital. If we could, I’d probably check HOURLY!

  • Reply
    February 25, 2019 at 10:00 pm

    Chrissy, I am impressed with your DIY skills. I must admit that I leave that to my other half, but even he is getting into doing more electrics and plumbing himself – YouTube is an amazing resource where you can learn almost anything. I am hoping to do Airbnb to make a bit of extra money, but it can’t happen yet as there’s still a lot of work to do on the house. I think that reading new blogs is a great idea. Found some more here in the UK to follow and good to see new ones starting up. As you say, everyone has a different take on it.

    • Reply
      February 26, 2019 at 12:25 am

      It makes me feel better that you say you’re impressed with my DIY skills! In the FI community, so many people are way more advanced than me with DIY stuff. We love YouTube also—don’t know how we used to get by without it! Thanks for coming by to comment again. I always love hearing from you, Sam. 😊

  • Reply
    February 27, 2019 at 2:07 am

    Great article, thanks!

    We’re at the stage where we’re still years away from retiring. But we’re also fully committed and want to maximise our savings (86.5% last year!) to FIRE as soon as possible, so we’re not spending money on ourselves that we don’t need to. Sounds dire, right?

    Well, we’re finally seeing real progress with our passive income stream (which we reinvest and compound). It’s awesome to see it growing towards where we want it to be. It’s that progress that drives us, motivates us and inspires us forward, because we can see our dreams coming true.


    • Reply
      February 27, 2019 at 3:48 pm

      I’m SO impressed with your saving rate, Ellie—WOW! I don’t think it sounds dire at all. Keep doing what you’re doing!

      Thanks for coming by to comment. I keep seeing your content popping up in various places. Your saving rate is enviable, and I’m sure I can learn a lot from your story. It’s time for me to go and read some of your articles properly!

  • Reply
    February 27, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Great list!! I do most of what is on your list especially take in more FI content. I listen to podcast on my way to work, read blogs and read a few books that are personal finance related. It’s a great habit to get into because I know that I’m conscious about my finances and being in this mindset will hopefully get me to FI someday.

    • Reply
      February 27, 2019 at 11:12 pm

      I totally agree, Kris—the right mindset is so important. You’re definitely doing the right things to reach FI. I have no doubt you’ll get there one day!

  • Reply
    February 27, 2019 at 10:20 pm

    I’m impressed with your DIY home plumbing electrical skills! Youtube is a great resource. We used it to install our carseat. My husband is not handy. I’m not either haha. We’ve accepted that.

    • Reply
      February 27, 2019 at 11:07 pm

      Ha ha acceptance is a good thing. It’s okay, no one’s good at everything. You’re amazing at blogging, so you’ve got me beat there!

  • Reply
    Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early
    March 1, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Another Evernote fan here – that’s how I track my daily spending 🙂

    • Reply
      March 1, 2019 at 9:32 am

      Love it! Evernote’s AWESOME!

  • Reply
    March 3, 2019 at 10:48 am

    Great article Chrissy! I love all of your points – but particularly #11. Your description of acceptance is bang on, and having that mindset allows you to enjoy the nuances journey rather than always looking to the next big outcome.

    This is something Mike and I struggled with throughout our journey to FF – and it’s only really been highlighted since we retired. Once we didn’t have that next big outcome, we found ourselves in a bit of retirement “doldrums”. (I know….this kinda comes across like I’m complaining about retirement – I’m not! I promise. But it is a weird life shift!)

    We had to stop and do a little introspection – but ultimately realized we had to fine tune our ability to slow down and enjoy the now, without always needing the high of the future goal.

    Had we worked on our acceptance while we were in the midst of our FF journey, I think we would have found the transition much easier!

    As usual – great insights!!

    • Reply
      March 3, 2019 at 8:21 pm

      I don’t at all think you sound whiny, and instead appreciate your sharing of wisdom ‘from the other side’ of FF/FI. That’s what I love about this community—the open sharing of what we’ve experienced and learned. It’s what helps all of us grow and become more fulfilled.

      We really do ‘get’ each other Phia! We’ll have to plan a Vancouver FI meetup sometime. I’d love to meet you in real life!

  • Reply
    March 3, 2019 at 9:15 pm

    I’ve been thinking the same thing! Would love to plan a meet up!!

  • Reply
    Reverse The Crush
    March 5, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    This is a helpful post, Chrissy! I like all your points but my favourites are #1 and #11. There are some things like travel that you have to do even if it slows your path to FI. It’s all an individual decision on what lifestyle makes you happy. I also have had brief times where I feel very impatient about how long my journey to FI will be. I have to remember to enjoy the process and remember that life is short and to appreciate the small steps. Great post!

    • Reply
      March 6, 2019 at 11:30 pm

      Thanks Graham. You’re so right that we each have to find our own path to FI. It’s a balancing act between living the life we want now and getting ourselves closer to the big goal. It sounds like you’ve found a good balance. That’s an accomplishment in itself!

  • Reply
    Savvy History
    March 24, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    I love this post, Chrissy! Like you, I am learning new skills (like cooking), really into self-improvement, doing work I enjoy, consuming massive amounts of FI content, and distracting myself with blogging! Life has been going by so fast since I started blogging and setting small writing goals for myself. It’s really fun! You have so many other great tips here too that I haven’t thought of. Keep up the great work and enjoy the journey.

    • Reply
      March 25, 2019 at 5:18 pm

      Thanks Michelle! You’re so right that life zooms by when adding blogging into the mix. I’ve been doing well staying in the moment here on vacation. I’m not letting myself think too much about blogging… but it’s hard! I love blogging, and I’m constantly coming across new blog article ideas!

  • Reply
    August 11, 2020 at 10:09 pm

    Great post! I can totally relate to this feeling. When first discovering FI I actually had anxiety and stress over how long it was going to take to reach it. Reading about others who just FIRED or were on the brink of it was interesting at first but then started making me more anxious about reaching FI sooner. The best thing that has worked for me so far is living the life we want now instead of waiting for FI. Approaching it from a slow FI lens helps – takes the pressure off. We will also probably be looking into effective tax strategies next to kill time 🙂

    • Reply
      August 11, 2020 at 10:57 pm

      Hi Liz—I can relate to your story as well. There’s a lot of anxiety when we first read about the ‘famous ones’ who retire in their 30s.

      It makes us feel that we’re falling behind or doing it wrong. But all along, we’re actually right where we should be.

      The change to a Slow FI mindset, to live and enjoy life all along the journey, makes all the difference.

      Now that we’re four years into the journey, and committed to the Slow FI lifestyle, there’s no rush anymore. My husband’s happy with his job and I’m happy with the amount of time he’s able to take off and spend with us—we can’t ask for much more than that!

      Thanks for the comment and for sharing your experience. Good luck with the tax optimization!

  • Reply
    October 28, 2021 at 8:57 pm

    Great article! Chrissy. You have provided a whole lot of valuable information that will definitely help during those impatient moments.

    • Reply
      October 28, 2021 at 10:08 pm

      Hi Califf—I’m glad to hear this post was of help to you! I know it’s a frustrating phase to be stuck in. I hope you’ll find your path through… it may just lead you to new opportunities and projects!

  • Reply
    January 1, 2022 at 4:09 pm

    Another great article! We also figured that buying an overpriced rental property in Vancouver doesn’t make sense at this moment… it will take too much time to generate a positive cashflow.

    Impressive DIY skills! I’m in the process of going through all drawers and getting rid of stuff – omg – can’t definitely call myself a minimalist! Ughhhh!

    I’m very excited to read your hand-picked articles on tax hacks – thank you for putting them together !

    I’ve heard about Evernote quite a few times but haven’t tried it – I’d love to see your reviews/tips on the app in the future! *wink*

    • Reply
      January 1, 2022 at 10:11 pm

      Hi VanFIRE—it’s unfortunate that real estate has become so expensive in Vancouver. I’m not sure if we’ll ever see positive cashflow here again!

      We are also nowhere close to being minimalist, but we are better at being mindful with our purchases… so at least we’re not bringing as many items into the house as we used to!

      I really should write a post about Evernote and other apps that I find useful. Thanks for the suggestion!

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