The Cost Per Use Rule

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve found about being frugal (specifically, about being more mindful of your spending) is the Cost-Per-Use (CPU) rule.

Here’s how it works.

Set a limit for yourself on the CPU of anything you purchase from here on out. Obviously this only works on physical, non-consumable goods… like a hammer, or coat, or deluxe baby stroller.

For me, I’ve set the limit at: $1.00

When you go to a store and you’ve got a product in your hand, take a few seconds to estimate what the CPU is based on how many times you will use the item in a year. If the number of times you will use the product multiplied by your CPU is greater than the price of the product, don’t buy it!


You want to buy a new flashlight that costs $12.00 and you remember that you went camping six times last year where you used the old flashlight and used it twice to rummage through your car at night and you used it for five nights when you helped the school crossing guard for evening classes. Based on that estimate, your math looks like this:

$12.00 (Price) x $1.00 (CPU) = $12.00 / 13 (estimated uses) = $0.92 CPU

Buy it!

If my math is wrong, forgive me, it wasn’t my strongest suit in school. Also, I’m aware that this goes against the theory that you should always buy the best version of whatever forever product you plan to own, but this is less a rule and more a way of looking at frivolous spending.

In the scenario above, if the flashlight cost $25.00, the CPU would have been higher than the price and you probably shouldn’t buy it. It’s important to be honest with yourself about the number of possible future uses because you can convince yourself that you will use ANYTHING more than you actually will, just to buy it.

This rule also gets a little tricky when you consider Feature Creep.

“It’s only $3.00 more to get the flashlight with the built-in carabiner! This deal’s a steal!”

IF… and that’s a HUGE IF, you went to a store on purpose to buy just one product, you weren’t planning on buying a flashlight with a carabiner. So you probably don’t need it. And… that carabiner option probably only cost about $0.12 for the company to add. It’s NOT a deal.


Welcome To Bootstrap FIRE



I decided to make a blog to chronicle my family’s march towards Financial Independence (FI) and Retiring Early (RE)… sometimes written as “FI/ER,” or “FIRE,” or “FI/RE.” Before you dig too deep, be aware that I am not a licensed financial planner and hold no certifications or official positions in the PF field. As such, please use any advice you read here or at the linked websites at your own risk. If you want to learn more about the basics of what these ideas are, you can cruise over to one of the MANY websites designed around the concept:

Mad Fientist

Go Curry Cracker

Mr. Money Mustache

JL Collins NH

Financial Samurai

Millennial Revolution

Retire By 40

Those are just some of the most talked about. As a quick note, if you’re going over to Mr. Money Mustache, be aware that the community there takes Frugalism and investment seriously. The attitude feels a little elitist, but there’s tons of great information there.

Why BootStrap FIRE?

Because I’m presently serving in the United States Air Force and have reached 20 years of service making eligible for retirement from the military with a pension. Because of my position, you will need to take some of the information I plan to post here with a grain of salt. My family’s health care bills are covered which, I understand, is a huge portion of the budget for many families. Also, we don’t pay tax on a portion of my income and we have access to TSP (which we do contribute a bit to). There are some other perks that enable us to have some money to put into savings but those are the biggest items.

Why a Blog?

Because I want to tell the story of my investment journey and discovery of the FIRE community from the beginning and from the POV of someone who started late in the game (currently 37 with no investments other than TSP). We have only been contributing around 5% (fluctuates based on personal choice) to TSP monthly.

I believe this blog will also help others in the military who don’t get a lot of training on investments and saving for the future. If you stumble upon this blog, as a service member, please pass it on… I will be doing updates on TSP performance and what I’ve learned about the program here.

The blog will also have fun frugal ideas I’ve learned from other sites and some I’ve come up with on my own. It was surprising to learn how fun frugalism (read: smart choices, not, being a cheapskate) can be and I hope to pass on some of that excitement.

I hope you enjoy your time reading here (outdoorsy posts also incoming) and if you do, let your friends and family know.

Thank you!