1. Go without a car
We only have one vehicle right now, but we could save thousands per year on parking, insurance, gas, and maintenance costs if we didn't own it and took public transport or rode bicycles instead. However, I really believe that doing so would lead to a downgrade in our quality of life. We live in a region with a real winter and are about to have two kids to cart around. Time is a valuable commodity for us at this point in our lives and it would take more time to get around if we didn't have our own car. I think we would also end up spending more money on conveniences (e.g. purchasing from more expensive grocery stores and restaurants nearby). I would like to bike more in the future, but that will have to wait another year and a half as our next kiddo needs to be at least one to be able to ride in a bicycle carrier.
2. Stop tithing
We are Christians who take the call to tithe seriously and actually do it. My husband is much more of a stickler about keeping to this than I am. In fact, he would prefer we give away a lot more than the 10-12% of our income that we currently give to our church and other charities or people in need. I, being the financial nerd, actually calculated out how much faster we could be financially independent if we stopped giving money away (about 5 months in our 5 year plan), but I don't think that is the right decision. Money cannot be an idol in our life and withholding our tithe in the name of "early retirement" sounds downright petty now that I type it out.
3. Cut our food budget to the bone
No pun intended, as we are vegetarian. I take good nutrition very seriously and see it as one of the most effective ways to keep my family healthy now and in the future. Two of my favorite nutrition books are Eat to Live and The China Study. We spend the bulk of our grocery money on unprocessed, plant-based food and buy organic when the prices and "Dirty Dozen" lists warrant (here's a link to the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen food lists, a measure of the most and least-pesticide heavy produce, that you can print or save for future reference). I still keep a tight food budget and avoid wasting food as much as possible, but you won't find ramen and tuna in my pantry.
4. Forgo all vacations
We did that when we were paying off our house (except for a camping trip that was spent in a tent during monsoon-like rains for a week - let's just say it was a marriage testing and strengthening experience). We aren't about to embark on a 3 week European tour, but we will take the time and money to enjoy rest and relaxation together as a family and do more than just "stay-cations".
5. Completely give up an entertainment budget
We don't do much in terms of "entertainment" but we do have a small budget for each of us to spend however we like. I know some people our age could easily spend hundreds of dollars a month on bars, music, books, and movies, but we've set our personal spending to about $50 a month each. That's not much given our income, but we have learned to appreciate small purchases and not place happiness in buying stuff or experiences we can create for ourselves (homemade cocktails and Redbox can be quite enjoyable!).
Are there any non-negotiables in your lifestyle that you insist on keeping at the expense of earlier retirement or financial independence?