Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Living Below Your Means

I feel so liberated that I literally glow when I talk about how I've changed since finally embracing a cash system. If you have fights about money with your significant other (or yourself), let money get in the way of your dreams, or feel like money problems are drowning you, please read on. 

We live below our means. We do this very intentionally. We have financial goals, near and far, that require us to save. The near goal being our plan to travel as a family for at least one year. The far goal being that once we settle again, it will be on farm we buy in cash.

For ten years we have gone on and off the cash system, and I hated it every time.  I wanted to live a "normal" life, and not feel like I had to do without. Granted, I'm not a fancy gal, I don't buy shoes or electronics or new clothes (very often)...but the girl likes her coffee and Thai food. Part of my feelings of wanting to live a normal life came from being raised in the suburbs.  Buying Starbucks everyday is the norm, shopping at Target on your lunch hour is just a good way to spend your time, hanging out at the mall is just what you do.  For me, trying to live that life in the very materialistic suburbs was impossible. 

Thankfully we don't live in the suburbs anymore.  Those daily money wasters are mostly moot up here in Alaska...though not non-existent.  My issue here is that groceries are expensive...and I still don't like to not be able to buy things when I want/need them.  So, for the first 2 years I put every purchase on the credit card, and every month we went over our budget.  Part of the problem is that my very mild mannered husband (who happens to be the one that sees and pays the bills) didn't want to talk to me about it...because I on the other hand---ahem---am not so mild mannered.  I'm not a beast or anything, but talk of restricting money does not bring out my best side. 

Nonetheless, he finally bit the bullet (after stressing out for several months) and talked to me about it.  It was not a nice conversation...but it might have been the single most important conversation of my life.  And I realized four things...

1) He was right
2) We should never have to fight about money
3) The only way to keep from fighting is to stick to the budget
4) The only way to keep me from going over budget is to use cash

I'd like to say that I realized this all gracefully, and incorporated the changes with ease. 


The transition took about 2 months.  My transformation about 3 months.  Once I really got into it, I realized I had more freedom to buy the organic foods I wanted, I wasted almost nothing (no more Starbucks or $5 movies from Walmart), and for the first time in 6 months we were able to put our full amount of savings into our travel fund and into our retirement fund.  And here is the CRAZY part...I really enjoyed not wasting money.  It gave me a sense of power over the big corporations, and over my own life.  And when I had leftover funds at the end of the month (and every bill is already paid, and all the savings have already been put away) they are simply there to spend.  Because of that surplus I've been able to buy more things I've wanted to try (but felt like I couldn't afford), like organic foods, a Vitamix and guitar lessons. I have focused on what I want to spend my money on, which gives me more strength to say no to mindless spending. 

Once the bills are paid, the saving coffers are filled, the belly is filled with healthy food, money is spent on family experiences...what's left to spend on?  I have found that the answer is nothing.  So the surplus goes into a can to wait for a rainy day, or when the budget doesn't cover it, or just to take my family to the movies.  And my heart feels light.  And there are no fights about money. 


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