If you are reading this blog, there is a good chance you have already heard of the Playing with FIRE documentary and accompanying book, but for those who have stumbled upon this page without prior knowledge of this film, here’s a quick summary:

The film follows the story of Scott and Taylor Rieckens, and their daughter Jovie, as they learn about the concept of ”Financial Independence, Retire Early” and put those practices into motion in their own lives. Scott quits his job, they move from expensive Coronado, California to Bend, Oregon, while stopping along the way a few times in other locations they’re scouting as a future home. They downsized from two leased vehicles, a Mazda 3 hatchback and a 3-series BMW, to a 2006 Honda CRV, to help drastically cut their transportation costs. Combined with their move away from the expensive San Diego area and more conscious spending on food/dining, they ratcheted up their Savings Rate to around 50%.

This is the first documentary about the FIRE movement, and Director Travis Shakespeare made sure it included interviews with some big names in the FIRE community. In the film, you’ll see the likes of Brandon from Mad Fientist, Brad and Jonathan from ChooseFI podcast, Paula Pant from Afford Anything, JD Roth from Get Rich Slowly, Kristy from Millennial Revolution, Vicki Robin from Your Money or Your Life, JL Collins from The Simple Path to Wealth, Julien and Kiersten Saunders from rich & Regular, Joshua Fields Millburn from The Minimalists, Chris Hutchins from Grove, Jocelyn Paonita Pearson from The Scholarship System, Tanja Hester from Our Next Life, Grant Sabatier from Millennial Money, Bianca from Miss Mazuma, and Ryan Holiday from The Daily Stoic.

After the film’s trailer was released at FinCon in Orlando last year, they started a short period for a Kickstarter campaign. I donated $50 ($100 would have gotten my name in the credits, womp womp), and received a link on April 13th to Vimeo to watch the final cut of the film. The only issue was that the link was only good for 72 hours after you clicked it, so you needed to strategize when you were going to watch it, if you wanted to host a watch party with friends or family. I happily watched the film almost immediately, then watched again the next day to look for all of my friends in the FI community that I could spot, such as Gwen from Fiery Millennials, Alyssa from Mixed Up Money and Noah and Becky from Money Meta Game, among others!

The 3rd and 4th times I watched it, before the link expired, I concentrated more on the seeing the story from Taylor’s perspective. Here was Scott, enthusiastic and raring to go, but Taylor was happy with her life and loved raising their daughter in such an amazing location. I think this echoes the story of a lot of couples, where one discovers Financial Independence, and drags the other one along into more of a frugal bent to allow them to save and invest for a future that seems so far away. As with anything, it can be difficult for two people to get on the same page, especially when it comes to the topic of money and how you will spend it or save it as a couple.

Screening tour – San Diego

After the buzz of the initial release started to wane, a new excitement grew as the Playing with FIRE crew announced there would be a movie premiere at the San Diego Repertory Theatre on Saturday, June 1st. I got involved with the FIRE community too late to have been at FinCon or the various CampFI/Camp Mustache events they showed in the film, but I knew I wanted to be a part of the excitement of this film, somehow!

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Breakdown of my trip to San Diego (minus food and drinks, because I have that expense at home):

Category Points & Type Cost in dollars
Flights (RSW-BWI-SAN-MDW-RSW) 27,428 Southwest Rapid Rewards $11.20
Hotel Night 1 – Westin San Diego Gaslamp Pre-paid rate $127.44
Hotel Night 2 – Hyatt Andaz San Diego Free night certificate (Hyatt brand explorer promotion)
Ticket to film VIP ticket included signed copy of book $39.50
Attractions USS Midway (including private tour by Military Dollar) $21
Parking at RSW airport $33
Ubers to/from SAN airport $32.53
Total 27,428 SW & a night certificate $264.67

Thanks to my stockpile of points/miles and a free night certificate, I was able to travel from coast to coast, spend two nights in very nice hotels, participate in the movie premiere, check out the USS Midway with my favorite member of the military, and return safely home, for only $264.67! It was an incredible time, meeting Wendy Juvenal Mays and her husband Curtis, meeting FrugaltoFI and FIconfessions from Twitter, grabbing brunch with Doug Nordman and his wife Marge, plus FIconfessions and Military Dollar, and finally meeting Scott and Taylor after the film. I had such a great time, and the experience watching the film with an audience was totally different than my 4 prior viewings at home by myself. There was a lot more laughter than I expected, Jovie and Taylor totally stole the show, and there was a great Q&A with some of the cast after the premiere.

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Atlanta

The 6th time I saw the movie, I drove to Midtown Atlanta to watch a showing hosting by cast members Julien and Kiersten, who live in the area. Scott and Taylor also flew in, and I was able to hang out with my CampFI SE Week 2 friends Lisa Duke, Stephen and David Baughier, and Mr. Refined by FIRE, plus meet a bunch more FI folks from around the SE like James and Emily from Rethink the Rat Race.

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Category Points & Type Cost in dollars
Flights – None
Hotel Night 1 – Hampton Inn Valdosta/Lake Park 20,000 Hilton Honors points
Hotel Night 2 – Twelve Midtown Atlanta Free night certificate (Marriott Bonvoy credit card annual perk)
Ticket to film $22.85
Attractions I looked at going to World of Coca-Cola, but the line was really long. I grabbed a Sprite from the vending machine and moved on $2
Parking at Atlantic Station $14
Fuel $76.25
Total 20,000 Hilton & a night certificate $115.10

Atlanta is a solid 8-hour drive away from where I live in Southwest Florida, but I broke up the northbound drive by starting after work on Friday, which left me with an easier 3.5-hour drive on Saturday morning before the film. After I arrived, I set out on foot to explore the Georgia Tech campus and walked to Olympic Centennial Park, but it was a gorgeous afternoon and the area was crowded. I meandered through the downtown area and got back to the hotel in time to check in, grab a quick dip in the pool, and got cleaned up to meet my friend Lisa Duke at a bar called Meehan’s Public House across the street from the movie theater.

After the showing, there was a Q&A with Julien, Kiersten, Scott and Taylor, where I got a chance to ask Scott and Taylor a question posed by The Fioneers regarding CoastFI and any changes they’ve made since progressing on their FIRE journey. Then we meandered back across the street to hang out at Meehan’s again until we closed the place down around midnight.

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The last 7 people in the bar. Photo courtesy of Mr. Refined by FIRE.

I drive a hybrid Camry, so this was a very reasonably-priced weekend road trip: $115.10 and some more points and a certificate that I earn by holding a credit card with a reasonable $95 annual fee (cash price of the hotel was nearly $300, so that saved me $205).

Tampa

Playing with FIRE rolled through Florida the week after Independence Day, which is kind of fitting because a lot of people move to Florida after they reach their Financial Independence number 😉. On Monday July 8th, the movie was shown in both Orlando and Hollywood (Miami-Fort Lauderdale area), and by Wednesday, it was shown in Tampa. I was able to drive up to Tampa after work and catch the film again with my Florida peeps. Lisa Duke had moved to the east coast of Florida during the week of the Atlanta showing, so she came to the Orlando and Tampa screenings.

This was my first (and only) experience with the TUGG system, so I was a bit anxious waiting for the minimum ticket threshold to be met before the screening could be confirmed. But eventually, the whole theater was sold out!

Costs: Negligible. Probably $15 in gas and less than $3 in tolls to cross the Sunshine Skyway (both Northbound on the way to the film and Southbound on my way home).

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Credit: https://www.dbiservices.com/news/dbi-services-begins-maintenance-sunshine-skyway-bridge

We had a well-attended happy hour before the movie, and then some people stuck around a bit after the movie to catch up. I was able to see my CampFI friend Don (who was 2 weeks away from his Early Retirement at that point), Lisa Duke, author MK Williams and her husband Jason who hosted the event, and Kevin Williams who drove down from the Gainesville area, whom I had chatted with previously on the CampFI Alumni Facebook group.

Richmond VA

Richmond is the Capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, but it is also home to the headquarters of the ChooseFI podcast. Founders and hosts, Jonathan Mendonsa and Brad Barrett record their popular podcast about twice a week from an incredible studio in Jonathan’s home.

Since Richmond is their home, and they’ve helped grow a vibrant FI community in their home area, they wanted to host a special screening at a historic near-downtown venue called The Byrd Theatre. It was gorgeous, and the event was attended by more than 500 people, some of whom were just being introduced to FI for the first time! Jonathan and Brad gave a brief presentation covering some of the pillars of FI, then welcomed Scott Rieckens to say a few words before the movie started.

Category Points & Type Cost in dollars
Flights (RSW-CLT-RIC-CLT-RSW) on American Airlines 28,130 Citi ThankYou points $1.38
Hotel Night 1 – Delta by Marriott Pre-paid rate $158.89 ($78.89)
Hotel Night 2 – Candlewood Suites Richmond Airport 10,000 IHG points
Ticket to film $10
Attractions Invited to Jonathan’s house for brunch, with a tour of the studio and a chance to sit in the Hot Seat FREE
Parking at RSW airport $32
Uber to Candlewood from downtown $18.72
Total 28,130 TY points and 10k IHG $205.99 ($125.99)

Another 3-day weekend, another awesome screening with Q&A and an after-party. I spent the majority of Friday with David Baughier from Fiology lessons, who drove over from his home in eastern Virginia. This saved me quite a bit on Ubers around town, and he ended up splitting the cost of the hotel room Friday night, so the room ended up costing me just $78.89. He also drove me to the brunch at Jonathan and Dani’s house, where I got to meet their 2-year old son and tour the new podcast studio. A few of us took turns tackling the rapid-fire questions in the Hot Seat, including Brad’s goal-oriented, savings minded daughter Anna, whom he often references on the show.

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New friends from this trip include Diana Pignato from the ChooseFI local group in Phoenix, and Allison Goddard who was featured on ChooseFI episode 86 with Physician on FIRE. In exchange for 38-ish-thousand points and $126, I got an unforgettable weekend in Richmond with people that I hear twice weekly on my commute to work.

Recap

All told, I traveled to 4 cities from coast to coast, stayed in hotels ranging from a Hampton Inn & Candlewood Suites, all the way up to lavish suites at the Twelve and Andaz. I took 8 flights and drove 1,400 miles, and I only spent $523.76 to make this all happen.

I had an incredible time hanging out with like-minded people and making new friends around the country. It was great to see so many familiar faces, share my story with others to help them along their path, and make connections that will last for years. The FIRE is spreading, my friends…

For details on a showing near you, please visit https://www.playingwithfire.co/events

Have you seen the movie? What did you think? If you haven’t seen it, are you interested in seeing it in theater or are you waiting for details on how to watch it on a streaming platform like Netflix or iTunes?

  1. I’ve only watched it on my computer (in Montreal!). The best part of watching it was DMing other people who had already seen it. I bet it is so so so so good to watch as a group! I love your dedication to this community of ours. You are such a pillar of the community <3

    1. You’re one of the few who have seen the film on foreign soil! 😁
      Thank you so much for the kind words. You da best!

  2. Totally fan-girling right now (as a fan of how big of a fan you are? I think that’s how it works:) Ha ha! Sounds like so many amazing experiencing for you. Congrats!

    1. It’s been kind of weird to become known as the guy who’s traveled to so many of these. But it’s been great to develop friendships with Scott and Taylor, and to meet so many other people in this FI space: Julien and Kiersten Saunders in Atlanta, MK Williams in Tampa area (although we met during the FL FI bloggers meetup on Cinco de Mayo), and Wendy and Curtis from House of FI podcast, among others!

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