Select Page

Have you experienced the new team sensation – The Escape Room?  People pay to be locked into a room with a group of people, working together to use clues to solve puzzles, open locks, and escape out of the room in one hour.

I went with a group of friends recently to try this out and we had a blast.  As we hurried to put together the different mysteries that unfolded before our eyes, I could not help thinking that most people actually live in a locked room and never apply the same enthusiasm, savvy and teamwork to try to get out.

It occurred to me that the actual locked room that we need to escape is … THE CUBICLE!

Instead of paying $25, You Can Win That Amount

Unfortunately, the Escape Room cost each of us $25, and considering there were 10 people, it set us back $250, not to mention the cost of dinner beforehand.

In the Financial Independence community, we are all about saving money rather than spending it.  Instead of forking out $25 of hard earned money, let’s play the game here, right now.

FI Ideas will award the first person to successfully “escape” the cubicle a $25 Amazon card.  Write your answers in the comment section to win!

Let’s Play

I have created a set of clues that you can use to solve the mystery and break yourself out of THE CUBICLE.  Join me for the adventure.

There are 10 puzzles to solve in order to escape.  Each of the clues is below.  Good luck challengers!

See the Writing on the Wall

As we entered our Escape Room, the first thing that caught our eyes was some odd parts of letters diagonally stretching across one of the walls.  Someone in the group quickly grabbed a post-it and started putting the pieces of letters together to spell out a word — a word that would open the first lock in the room.

Words are sometimes wall decorations.  In fact, this was popularized on the show Fixer Upper.  Question #1 is this:  What word was gathering dust on the bathroom wall of The Groovys at Freedom Is Groovy?

Have a Ball

We picked up one of the boxes on a table and a small ball with letters rolled out.  Most of the combination locks had numbers, but someone noticed that one of the locks had letters.  We used those letters to open that lock.  So the 2nd question is about finding letters and, of course, having a ball!  I personally don’t care for the word “retire”.  The RE (retire early) part of FIRE feels wrong.  Over at Slowly Sipping Coffee, they came up with a new 4 letter acronym to describe FIRE.  What is it?

Find the Trap Door

Another wooden box on the table looked like it might slide open.  Each of us pushed and pulled at the sides and handed it off to each other to give it a go.  Finally someone figured out a way to slide one of the sides and it opened up to reveal another clue.  Question #3 is this: There are ways to get more money saved in a tax-advantaged account.  The MAD FIentist has a method that uses a back door.  What is it called?

Go to the Head of the Class

Once we got the first two locks to open, we were able to get inside a treasure chest that contained puzzle pieces.  When we put the puzzle together, there was a message about Kings, Queens, and royalty.  It pointed us to the Jack on a playing card.  Question #4 is like that.  What 4 letters does President Jefferson have in the caption of the 2 Dollar Bill at Budgets Are Sexy?

Use Tools

As we proceeded to open more locks, we were able to get inside one of the cabinets in the room.  In the top drawer was a bent coat hanger.  Question #5 involves the use of tools.  What hand tool is used by Accidental FIRE to help you escape the cubicle early by whacking both of your knees?

Teach a Man to Fish

A fun part of the Escape Room experience involved that coat hanger.  One of my friends took one look at it and immediately put it into the fish tank and started scooping away at the rocky floor.  Then next thing we knew, she had snagged a key buried down there.  Question #6 is related to the idea of fish tanks and exotic pets.  During the 10 questions and pizza interview of Mr. 1500 Days, he reveals the uncomplicated pets he plans to stick with.  What type of pet is that?

Take the Bus

We were getting many of the locks open and mysteries solved, but time was ticking away.  One of our last boxes to open up contained a map of the city of Stockton.  And not just any map, but a map of all the bus stops.  We then found an encryption message to decipher it and count the stops along various routes.  It was so much fun.  Question #7 is all about taking the bus.  What city was Mr. Root of Good in with his family on the third stop of their nine week European family vacation?

Gaze Through the Looking Glass

When we finally opened the last box, we found a remote control.  As soon as we started pressing the buttons, we could hear a sound coming from the next room.  We hurried to the door and there was a peephole we could look through to see what was going on.  Question #8 is about looking ahead through the glass.  Amy over at Life Zemplified did an inspiring low-budget kitchen remodel that utilized what type of glass?

Put Your Life on Remote Control

The tallest member of our group took charge of the remote control once he could see what was going on through the looking glass.  Inside the next room was a remote controlled car and it was his job to drive it onto the big red square he could see across the room.  Once he did, the code to the door lit up for us to open.  Question #9 is about remote control of your life.  Steve and his wife at Think Save Retire have found a way to live remotely in their travel vehicle.  What is it and what did they name it?

Use Your Head

Darn!  Just as we entered the second part of the room, the clock struck the one hour point and we ran out of time.  Isn’t that the way life is?  Even though we didn’t make it out of the room, our gracious hosts showed us the remaining clues so we could enjoy a bit more of the experience.  The main clue we were missing was on a stick figure.  It was all about using your head (and hands, knees and feet).  Using your head is pretty important overall in personal finance.  That brings us to the last question.  What is the best investing book about personal finance, according to ESI Money?

Did You Escape?

I hope I’ve given you a sense of the fun involved in the Escape Room experience.  And saved you $25 too.  As you look at each of the clue headlines above, you will find there is wisdom on how to make your real escape — The ESCAPE FROM THE CUBICLE!

What have we learned that would help your real life escape?

  • See the Writing on the Wall – Pay attention and look for new possibilities around you.
  • Have a Ball — What makes you happy? Are you spending according to your values?  Or are you just trying to please other people?
  • Find the Trap Door – Look for life hacks to speed up your path to financial freedom.
  • Go to the Head of the Class – But remember: “If you’re always at the head of your class, you’re in the wrong class” – John C. Maxwell
  • Use Tools – Try out new apps like Digit or Qapital.
  • Take the Bus – Or better yet, walk or ride your bike.
  • Gaze Through the Looking Glass – While no one has a crystal ball, the history of the stock market and economy has many lessons to learn from.
  • Put Your Life on Remote Control – Automate your finances, especially your savings.
  • Use Your Head – Otherwise, you’ll be in over your head!

Now It’s Your Turn

It’s your turn to play.  For the first commenter that cracks the mystery, I’m giving out a $25 Amazon gift card.  Leave your answers below.  Enjoy and good luck!



  1. Mr. JumpStart

    Airstream Charlie
    The Boglehead’s Guide to Investing

    • Susan

      Hello Mr. Jumpstart! You are so, so close! I am thrilled that you are playing. I almost doubt my own reading since you are so good at this. But, go back and check Mr. Groovy. It’s on the bathroom wall and you’ll see that part of the word is in the picture.

  2. Kip Baumann

    African dwarf frogs
    Granada, Spain
    block glass
    Airstream – Charlie
    The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing

    • Susan

      Congratulations and Happy New Year Mr. Kip Baumann! You are the winner. You’ve escaped the Cubicle and hopefully you are on your way to a great 2018. I will be sending you the $25 Amazon card, as soon as I wake up in the morning!

  3. Accidental FIRE

    Susan, this is such a clever idea! And thanks for including one of my posts!

    Happy New Year to you!

    • Susan

      Thanks! I really enjoyed that post. Keep up the good laughs with your Turnip FIRE articles. They are a very entertaining way to get across FI Ideas.

  4. Mrs. Groovy

    I don’t even want to tell you how much relaxing he does in there. It’s embarrassing.

    Thanks for including us in the game! Congrats to Kip!

    • Susan

      That is so funny. I guess you’ll have to put those RELAX letters in your new bathroom at Groovy Ranch!

  5. Mr. SSC

    Thanks for including me in your escape room post. What a great idea! I knew some of them from reading but others not so much. Nice one!

    • Susan

      Thank you. I’m enjoying learning from some of the rock star bloggers like you. My goal is to help my family and friends get inspired and find good ideas out there such as yours. I love the FFLC name you’ve coined!

  6. Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early

    I’ve had no luck convincing my roommate to save more money, let alone retire early, but he absolutely loves escape rooms – maybe if I share this with him, he will finally be interested 😉

    • Susan

      That’s cool. Please do share it. It’s hard to spread this to friends and family who are not familiar. It can truly change someone’s life. If I can be any little part of that for someone — that would be really gratifying. Thank you so much for your words.


  1. This Car Took Me To The Moon ⋆ Camp FIRE Finance - […] My 1983 Mercedes 240 Diesel.  I personally put 500,000 miles on it over 22 years commuting to the cubicle as an…