When Paying Down Debt, Downsizing, Decluttering and Simplifying Allows Your Universe to Open Up


b223678279“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” ~H.D. Thoreau, 1817-1862 

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!):

1500 Days to Freedom

365 Less Things

Be More With Less

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

Budgets Are Sexy

Canadian Budget Binder

Club Thrifty

Enemy of Debt

Eyes on the Dollar

Financial Samurai

Frugal Rules

Modest Money

Mr. Money Mustache

Monster Piggy Bank

Reach Financial Independece

Retire By 40

Savvy Scot

Self Stairway

The Frugal Farmer

Frugal Toad

The Great JollyHoombah

The Heavy Purse

The Money Principle

Outlier Model




  1. Thanks so much for the mention! Have a great weekend!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…Best Buy SucksMy Profile

  2. Great story! I’m so happy for you!! I’m a big proponent of living with less, and I plan do continue to live with less and not buy into the culture even when we have our kiddos!

  3. I am so happy for you, Tony! You deserve to live the life you want! I wake up with a smile and raring to go too – it feels amazing, doesn’t it? Thank you for the mention, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about new, exciting gig!
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted…Blog Round-Up: Week of August 19, 2013My Profile

  4. Wow, what a story! I am actually super sorry I have not tuned in much before. I’ll be a regular now. :-) Congrats on finding the job you love! I’ll work on our materialism, lol.
    Crystal recently posted…Murder Mystery Dinner for the WIN!!!My Profile

  5. I have loved hearing about your story, Tony. It was one of the first we came upon when we found out what a blog was just a little less than a year ago. Your story always amazes me because you are living in an expensive area that I’m sure can be very Keep Up with the Jonesish, and you and your wife chose to live with less so you could all have more – time together, freedom, and happiness. I look forward to hearing more, and I’m so glad we’ve been along for the ride!
    Tammy R recently posted…The Nickname Game, its Perils, and PleasuresMy Profile

    • It has been fun (sometimes) along the way! The process has been interesting, and writing about it has certainly been fun. Thanks for continuing to read, Tammy….I will do the same :)

  6. Tony! You’re living it right, man and it’s contagious! Great Thoreau quote at the opening. Tammy and I are reading Walden together. We’ll make a book club out of it. When we are done, we’ll have a few pints and go over the finer points of the book. Can hardly wait for that!!

    Thank you for listing the Hoombah and the feeling is mutual. You add value to our lives through your writing. Carry on, young man!!!
    cj recently posted…The Nickname Game, its Perils, and PleasuresMy Profile

  7. Your guest post on my blog is very popular and the fans enjoy reading about your story. Congratulations on all your success and hard work with the debt. Cheers mate
    Canadian Budget Binder recently posted…How to lose a guy in one dateMy Profile

  8. Congratulations on making it back from the dark side. Life is much better without debt and all the stuff that caused the debt. Thanks for including me in that great list.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted…Friday Rant-Don’t Get a Boob Job if You’re on Welfare!My Profile

  9. Glad that we’ve been one of your regular reads during your journey! Debt really is scary and good on you for recognizing that before you were not in a position to do anything about it.
    Brian recently posted…Dollar Value Averaging – Where have you been all my life?My Profile

    • Thanks, Brian. Your site has helped tremendously. Every day I needed motivation, at least a few on this list had an amazing post to read.

  10. Thanks for including my post this week. I personally can’t wait to be debt free, I imagine it must be the best feeling.
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted…Top Personal Finance Articles #27My Profile

  11. Happiness is such an amazing thing, hey? Decluttering can do so much for a person. I also couldn’t agree more with the statement that you should plan your work around your life, not the other way around.
    Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter recently posted…How to Make your Life Better by Setting GoalsMy Profile

  12. Great attitude Tony and congratulations for paying down all that debt! It is quite liberating isn’t it? I personally hate clutter and look for any opportunity to simplify my life. Thanks for the mention and enjoy your week Tony!
    Paul @ The Frugal Toad recently posted…5 Things You Should be Doing to Lower Credit Card DebtMy Profile

  13. I greatly enjoyed this post Tony! I have been living this way for the past twenty years or so and I have realized that the more you give up, the more you get back. When you are ready to receive, the Universe delivers :)

    Take care and all the best.

    Lyle @ The Joy of Simple recently posted…When Enough Becomes ENOUGH, Hit The Delete Key!!!My Profile

  14. This is a great story. Congrats on finding the right balance between money and minimalism. What was the job offer that combined all of your passions?
    Phuong recently posted…Practicing financial minimalism frees up time to focus on what mattersMy Profile

    • Ha! Congrats on being the first to ask! I am now the Associate Director for a school of music at a University. I am also the Professor of Trombone. All combined!

  15. You are correct that many Americans have a love affair with stuff: pursuing it, getting it, and keeping it. We are the largest consumers in the world, you know.

    I have found that consumption of things is not so pervasive in other countries. I ave relatives in Norway. You should see how sparse their houses are. They are frugal when it comes to consumption. They spend their money on travel and doing things with other people. They like to acquire lasting memories. Perhaps we should take a lesson.
    Bryce @ Save and Conquer recently posted…Carnival of Financial Planning B – School’s in SessionMy Profile

  16. I am so ready to simplify my life and really start living!


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