My, oh my, how my life has changed in the past two years.
Anyone who has read this blog long enough knows about my transformation with finances and my relationship with “stuff”. Along the way, I have (hopefully) helped others as well with this notion. But I never would have guessed that it would all lead to where I am today.
For those of you new to the blog… a reader’s digest version of the story:
I was up to my eyeballs in debt a few years ago. I made good money, and I also enjoyed my work. Society had helped to reinforce my belief that I could “afford” everything I consumed, since I was able to make the monthly payments on all of my debts. I was able to write a check for $800 a month for a car, so I could afford it, right?
Between car loans, student loans, and credit cards I had around $150,000 in debt. Disgusted (and a little scared), I sold everything I owned that I did not “need”; I threw out and gave away the rest. I traded in my cars for beaters, and my wife and I put every cent we made toward debt payments for the foreseeable future.
I went on to read every blog and book on the face of the Earth about finance and simplicity. I listened to podcasts and did anything to fill my brain with thoughts and stories of debt freedom. I stayed as far away from TVs and malls as well…
Last year, my financial life was completely different. My expenses were lower than they were in at least 7 years, and my income was higher. It was incredible! My home was less cluttered, and our monthly budget always looked the same. Paying cash for everything became routine. Life was simpler.
I began looking at my life very differently. Sure, I liked my job…but did I love it? I could go on making a lot of money and save it, or perhaps I could work less and only do things that I adored. I began asking myself questions that never popped in my head before. Questions about spending my valuable life energy, what my time was really worth, and what my priorities really were.
Why did these questions come up? Because I cleared space for them…Literally and figuratively.
Getting rid of material items I was once attached to cleared space in my brain for productive thoughts about how much is enough.
Getting rid of debt, car payments, and other monthly bills allowed me to look at how I was “trading life energy for salary” with discerning eyes.
Having the attitude that I only need enough (and then some) to be happy gave me a feeling of incredible freedom. That is what freedom is about. The alternative is slavery to debt and work. And so things changed…
My wife and I looked at our balance sheet and saw that I could quit my primary job for one year and just do my side hustles (which I love dearly): trombone playing, trombone teaching, running our summer camp, and consulting. So I quit my job. I did it.
And then something incredible happened…
The phone rang one afternoon, and it was a job offer. I was offered a job that combined all of my talents into one place. It included teaching, playing, administrating…the whole nine yards! I said “yes” immediately.
You can believe in destiny, kismet, luck, or whatever. That job would never have come to me in my debt ridden, consumerist driven, broke state. No way.
Paying down debt and simplifying gives you options. It makes you think clearly. No longer are you going to work to pay bills for stuff that you are financing to the hilt…even if you love your job. Instead, love your job and save money so that you can always look in the mirror and ask yourself the meaningful questions like, “would I be spending my life energy working this job if I didn’t have to?”. If the answer is “yes”…you are in for an awesome day at work.
Either way, I have woken up each morning raring to go to work with a smile on my face. We should all experience that feeling…and we can. The first step is admitting you have a problem with “needs vs. wants” and unrestrained consumption. Then comes the piece of mind knowing that you can live on less, after you ditch all of your “stuff” and payment on the “stuff”. The rest is just sticking to the game plan. Without debt controlling your life, you can make life and career decisions that really make you happy. You have nothing hanging over your head nor do you have student loan, credit card, and car loan bills piling up to pay.
You aren’t trapped. Plan your work around your life, not your life around your work. Spend less than you earn (a lot less). Defy materialism and keep your life as uncluttered and simple as possible; the rest will take care of itself.
A huge “thank you” goes out to all the blogs and bloggers I have read daily during the past two years. They are all like-minded folks who have incredible ideas and who are always helpful (sorry if I forget a few!):