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A woman who sacrificed her entertainment options and dating life to save $200,000 in her 20s in a bid for financial independence actually made herself miserable.

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Gwen Merz, now 33, said she participated in the FIRE movement — financial independence, retire early — between 2014 and 2018 after discovering the program in her junior year of college.

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The St. Louis resident began saving money 18 months into her first job, which paid $65,000 a year, but she realized it wasn’t realistic to set aside a lot of money while single.

“I was saving a high percentage — at my peak, it was somewhere around 75% on a fairly routine basis — but there just wasn’t a whole lot left afterwards,” Merz told Business Insider. “That really cut into my quality of life.”

She decided to forgo sporting events and concerts where ticket prices can be high, and instead focused on board games with friends, bonfires in the backyard and frisbee golf to entertain herself.

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“It worked pretty well for friends, but I never really found a partner that had the same mindset when I was dating,” said the Cardinals fan. “So that made being single really hard — by not wanting to spend any money on it, because it came off as cheap and controlling.”

For housing, Merz bought a single-family home that had been converted into a triplex. Mortgage and taxes came out to $700 a month. She rented two units, which brought in $600 and $450 a month, respectively.

However, she sacrificed her space in the home by choosing to live in a tiny studio.


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“I had about three inches of counter space total between the sink and the stove, so I had to cram a kitchen island in there to have somewhere to put something or prep my food,” she said.

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The cramped space also didn’t allow her to do hobbies like quilting after she earlier bought a $3,800 sewing machine.

“While I had that triplex, my spend was next to nothing. I was making money on it, but I was miserable and so unhappy and so stressed out the entire time,” she said.

“I was like, ‘This is not worth it. This will never be worth it to me.’”

At 27, Merz had saved up $200,000 in five years. But she realized that the sacrifices she had to endure were not sustainable and other areas of her life, including her mental health, were beginning to suffer.

Merz, who now works in information technology, is saving 10% of her pay for retirement and is much happier. She doesn’t have any regrets.

“I think that was the perfect time in my life to do that, and see what I liked and what I didn’t like,” she said. “It definitely benefited me in the long run. I am much better off than I would be otherwise if I hadn’t saved up all that money.”

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