How a Guy Selling Hot Dogs Retired Early

Rockstar Finance
For those who do not live in Chicago or did not make your way out of the museums, downtown area, or lake front on your last Chicago vacation may have missed out on one of the truly great food experiences Chicago has to offer. Hot Doug’s The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium offered some of and if not the best hot dog’s and sausages in Chicago and it’s probably safe to say in the world.  Like anything great expected in life you must wait.  If you have ever been to Hot Doug’s it was not rare to wait in line for 30 minutes to 2 hours(since the announcement of his closing the lines have doubled and tripled), but you will not have to worry about waiting in line any more because Hot Doug has officially retired.

You read that right, the guy selling hot dogs and sausages is retiring early, he officially closed up shop on October 3rd, although I’m sure he still receives some money from his book.  I happened to be searching around the MMM forum, mostly because I was curious what was Mustachianism Around the Web and came across this Hot Dog mention, which led me to this Chicago Tribune Article and interview.  I’m going to highlight the financial questions and answers and any talk about retiring early and get into it.  I mean Hot Dog, I’m excited!  To corn dog for you?  I’ll stop I promise, let the interview begin.

Q: The most frequent comment I’ve seen on social media regarding your closure is, “People are waiting six hours-plus for a hot dog? They’re crazy.” Are people crazy?

A: No. People spend $60,000 for a car. I think that’s insane, when I have a 1995 Toyota Corolla that gets me where I want to go. I mean, it’s not like they’re waiting in your living room. If you don’t want to wait for hot dogs, I’m not sending you a summons. Are people crazy to spend $500 on a meal? Someone binge watching “The Good Wife” for six hours is a good thing, but waiting for food isn’t? I don’t judge.

Even Steven Money(ESM):  Like the Millionaire Next Door we have found out that those who are millionaires or in this case ready to retire are driving around older vehicles not the $60,000 sports car, they instead are driving around a car from 20 years ago because it simply doesn’t make financial sense to do anything else.  I bet Hot Doug follows the 10% Rule on car buying!  He goes on to mention the over consumption that most of America does on a daily basis:  eating out at fancy restaurants and watching way too much TV.  The hidden message in all of this is go ahead wait in line, it’s free to do so and probably better than what most people are doing while you stand in line for some hot dogs.

Q: You wouldn’t close up shop if you’re not financially set, right?

A: I don’t live above my means. I’ve always put money away.

ESM:  Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses, instead put that money in savings, you never know when you are going to want to retire.

Q: Someone once offered you seven figures to franchise the restaurant. That would be hard for most people to turn down.

A: Any decision I’ve made that was purely for the money, I’ve always regretted.

ESM:  Spoken from experience it sounds like, which I find interesting as I start to use affiliate links and market items that I use and believe in, like Republic Wireless and Amazon.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

A: My grandfather said if you make $100 and you spend $101, you’re in trouble. You know, I remember reading this interview once with the president of Sony from 30 years ago. They were asking about the Walkman and how much market research was done. He said, “We didn’t do market research. We created this product, made it at the right price and told people they need it.” People would say, “You sell sausages?” “Yeah, but we sell good sausages.”

ESM:  It sounds so simple but it’s a topic money experts and your grandfather talk about as one of their commandments, don’t spend more than you earn.  He talks a little about his business strategy, which really says if you are going to sell anything make sure it’s a good product that people will need and like, once again sounds simple right?

Q: What would you have told your 22-year-old self?

A: I don’t know. And this is where studying philosophy in college helped: I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all the decisions, good or bad, some that worked out and some didn’t, all of which that lead to this point. I’m very content now. There were no wrong decisions. There were decisions. I get the “what will you do next” question a lot, and honestly I don’t know. That’s exciting. I have the luxury of not having kids who have to go to college or need braces.

ESM:  This really explains why I am passionate about money and personal finance.  I have made good and bad decisions, which have lead me to where I am today and that’s on my way to financial independence.  If things had gone differently maybe I would be selling financial products in Miami, trying to drive that expensive car and buy that big house, no matter what the cost.

Q: Visiting Hot Doug’s before it closes is on the bucket list of a lot of people.

A: It’s flattering. But the idea of a bucket list makes no sense to me. Because you’re trying to accomplish something purely for the sake of accomplishing it. The goal is to the journey. Some of my greatest memories are things that happened that I didn’t set out to do. “Oh, this restaurant is close, so we detoured here instead and that was extraordinary.”

ESM:  The goal is the journey.  This is one of my fears that I look to avoid on my path to FI.

Q: You’re 52. Are you retiring?

A: No, no. From the restaurant business? Yes.

ESM:  When I sat down with Mr. 1500 days, this was something we specifically talked about.  Would we retire from our day to day jobs?  Yes.  We talked about a cool beer finding app and traveling to golf with my Dad for a month and play bring your friend to work day with one of my best friends growing up, but eventually work on something we care about and have a passion for.

Q: When will you get back to work?

A: I can’t imagine anything happening until spring. I want to travel a bit. In October I’ll be renting an RV for two weeks with my girlfriend — we’re heading down the bourbon trail in Kentucky, the Carolinas, Nashville and Dollywood, because you’re obligated to visit Dollywood if you rent an RV.

ESM:  I would do almost exactly what Doug has plans for.  I’d want to take a little break, kind of let things sink in, then I’d like to travel go to places I would love to see, maybe a nice West Coastline drive, backpack parts of Europe, or I hear Canada is nice this time of year!

Q: What’s your next job going to be?

A: I’ve got a bunch of ideas. I get the feeling it’ll be multiple things. The two things I do know: It won’t be a restaurant and it won’t be a food truck. I’d like to gear toward giving back in some capacity, maybe a charity or non-profit.

ESM:  Is this what everyone wants to do?  Nobody wants to do the same job, but if they can help and make a difference with their new found time and energy it would be a beautiful way to live, don’t you agree?

If you are interested in reading more about Hot Doug, check out his book(affiliate link).

26 Responses to “How a Guy Selling Hot Dogs Retired Early

  • OH man, I love a Chicago style hot dog, but never had a chance to make it to Hot Doug’s. Sh*t!! I’ll have to settle for Portillo’s. But I digress.

    I had no idea this guy was money savvy too. I love that the guy is probably loaded, but has a 1995 Toyota.

    From reading about the business previously, one other thing that stuck out was his work ethic. I’m pretty sure he was there working the window every single day.

    Even Steven, I have a question for you: I’ll be back in Chicago in November with the family. Now that Hot Doug’s is closed, where should I go for a great hot dog?
    Mr. 1500 recently posted…Soylent Update #2: The Mrs. Strikes BackMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      You are exactly right, he was working the cashier and taking orders every day that we stopped in. He also used to take off 2 or 3 weeks for Holidays, definitely respect the guy.

      I’m not a hot dog aficionado by any means, but Superdawg’s is pretty good, has the old school dinner look and drive up, plus of course a great hot dog, kids would probably like the place to. It’s on the NW side, closer to O’Hare, like Milwaukee and Nagle I think.

  • Great interview…I really liked his answer about the bucket list. When I turned 30…I found myself wanting to make a list of things to do before 30…and then considered one for when I turn 40, etc. But he’s right, it seemed like the satisfaction was just the fact that I get to cross off something I deemed worthy of being on the list. The journey and the memories we make are much more important.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…Embracing MinimalismMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      I agree with you on the bucket list. Sure there are things I want to do in life, but if I don’t cross them off the list I think my life and the memories I make will be just fine.

  • Excellent interview. Generally, it is about managing your money more than making a lot of it. Many people run into trouble because the more they earn the more they start to spend. Buying cars is another example of how can waste your money. If you keep buying the latest model every other year you will be losing out tons of money on automobile value depreciation.
    Carla recently posted…How to Find the Best Cars for TeenagersMy Profile

  • Sounds like he’s a pretty good example of the living below your means ethos. I like his comments about cars–so true. And, I love that he drives a Corolla–my grandmother drove the same 1989 Corolla for almost 20 years. Thanks for sharing this, ESM!
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted…Beyond The Allowance: Raising a Frugal KidMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      Grandma’s know best right?! And guys who sell hotdogs.

  • That’s pretty interesting! Never heard of that place before but the guy seems to know how to do things right in life. Great post – kept my attention the whole time 🙂

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      Kept your attention the whole time like you were thinking about how good the hotdogs are or kept your attention like man Even Steven finally writes a good article? Haha

  • Darn it, I wanted to go to his place when I am in Chicago next month! I have heard it is great, an institution like Gino’s East (which I went too last year for the first time, even though I have been to Chicago over a dozen times). I love his philosophy though. And the golf and beer app sounds like a great way to spend time when reaching FI!

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      When I reach FI I want to be doing something I really enjoy and I think that’s such an important part, even though you have to figure out what that is for you.

  • Great interview that truly shows what living below your means can do. I really liked his reply about driving a $60,000 car.

    Thanks for sharing, Steven!
    No More Waffles recently posted…Net Worth Update: €45,361 (+0.59%)My Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      Thanks NMW, I’m glad you liked it, shows that just a few changes in lifestyle and living below your means can have a huge affect on your money and your life.

  • What an inspiring story. I hope to do the same. Retire early, I mean.
    Mike Huiwitz recently posted…The Revelation EffectMy Profile

  • I hope to retire early as well, but who doesn’t? I really enjoy my job so I think I’d like working part time while enjoying the retirement benefits.

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      You bring up a great point, what if I like my job? I think it then becomes having the option to work part time or retire early or work from Bora Bora.

  • Awesome interview and story! Lived in Chicago for a few months back in the day, but never heard of this place. Maybe I missed out?
    Anton Ivanov recently posted…Real People, Real Problems – Saving Money in High SchoolMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      If you like encased meat, I would say yes sir you missed out, but not on Hot Doug’s story.

  • I believe living below your means is the basis for financial independence. Driving an a old (and efficient, I must add) working car also helps with saving money. Many times we like conspicuous consumption just to keep up with the Joneses.

    • EvenStevenMoney
      3 years ago

      Living below your means is the basis for FI……Couldn’t agree more.

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