I commute for more than two hours every day and I’ve found that listening to podcasts makes that time more enjoyable. As you can imagine I get through a lot of content, mainly on the subjects on financial independence and health and wellbeing, see here for a rundown of my favourite podcasts. Recently, I’ve heard a few different podcasts talk about incrementalism or marginal gains – the theory that lots of small changes that build on each other add up to bigger results in comparison to a few large changes.
The Freakonomics Radio podcast in their episode “In Praise of Incrementalism” cited a range of situations where an incrementalist approach resulted in significant changes for individuals, for culture and for society, for example in the Italian Renaissance, LGBT rights in the US and saving for retirement.
The Choose FI podcast in episode 49 “The Aggregation of Marginal Gains” interviewed Alan Donegan and The Escape Artist who also had a blog post with this title. The Escape Artist talks a lot about the British cycling team coach Dave Brailsford and his technique of making tiny improvements to every aspect of the cyclists’ lives resulting in great achievements at the Olympics and the Tour de France. No one tiny improvement was the deciding factor in the success of the team but the sum of them all was more than the parts.
The Escape Artist shows how relevant this is to achieving FI. Giving up buying coffee will not get you to FI but it’s one of a hundred or more tiny improvements that you could make that together snow ball exponentially through the beauty of compounding and that will get you there.
I wanted to reflect on what improvements I have made so far, bearing in mind that I only discovered the possibility of FI last September, and what other tactics I could try next.
Tiny Improvements Made
- Started using the library more to avoid buying Kindle books
- Opened a Vanguard account (ISA)
- Set up a separate savings account for emergencies
- Paid off credit card debt
- Set up additional overpayments on my personal mortgage
- Bought my first rental property
- Swapped to a cheaper supermarket for most grocery shopping
- Grown radish, watercress, coriander and basil to use in cooking (and they are all still alive!)
Planned Tiny Improvements
- Open a pension account (SIPP)
- Pay off car loan
- Find an additional income source
- Reduce grocery bill to less than £200 per month
- Increase contributions to ISA and SIPP at least annually
- Build a full vegetable plot in the garden
What tiny improvement could you make to take one more step towards FI? Is there anything I’ve forgotten that I could be doing?