In 2011, I was let go from my corporate job.
I had no idea it was coming. Or, maybe I thought it might but didn’t want to believe that I was one of “those” people. You know, the people who get let go. I know it wasn’t because of performance and was a corporate restructuring, but it hit my ego hard.
I was given a small severance, had a few minutes to pack up what few personal items I had in my cube and left the only post-college job I had ever had.
My fiance and I had just purchased our first house two months prior, and it was 4 months before our wedding. Not exactly the best timing, but it never is.
That experience changed my outlook on finances and gave me a stronger desire to get my financial life in order for the unexpected times. The times where you weren’t prepared for your car to break down or to have those emergency medical bills. Because “those” times will always come. There truly is always “something.”
How to become financially free
I’m a saver. I’m frugal. It’s hard for me to open my wallet for just anything. I like Dave Ramsey and have recently been into his Total Money Makeover. I listen to his podcast at work periodically. While I don’t agree with everything he says I think there is some merit to his baby steps. My husband and I are on “baby step #6.”
Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps:
- Step 1: Save a $1,000 emergency fund
- Step 2: Pay off debt (other than your mortgage) using the snowball method
- Step 3: Save 3-6 months’ worth of expenses
- Step 4: Invest 15% for retirement
- Step 5: Start a college fund for your children
- Step 6: Pay off home early
- Step 7: Build wealth and give
I feel good about our financial situation. We’ve made 2018 the year we get more intentional about paying off the mortgage. Our daughter is 2-1/2 and we aren’t sure if we are having any more kids. Another child would affect our ability to over-pay as much as we do each month on the mortgage, but for now, given no other child in sight, we’re making it our goal to pay our house off sooner than the 15-year mortgage we refinanced to a few years ago.
What I won’t stop buying to save money
On my path to financial freedom, there are a few things that I’m won’t stop buying to save money or to become debt-free faster. Recently I wrote about how to make more money in your current role, and how I’m now earning more as a result of asking for more. That increase is, for the most part, going toward retirement savings, and is not a license for me to spend more.
However, as much as I believe in tackling debt, the snowball method, and building momentum to become debt-free, I still have a life to live. Certain things fulfill me emotionally, spiritually or are simply things I enjoy too much and are not willing to sacrifice, even if it means paying off our house earlier.
1. My hobbies
Lately, my hobby has been blogging. It’s not a very expensive hobby but there was an initial investment. I had to get my Bluehost WordPress site up and running. I purchased a few pieces of training to get me up to speed with blogging. I’ve invested in a few Facebook ads. You can spend as much or as little as you want, but there is some initial expense.
I’m an avid runner. Not a marathon runner but do like to run a few miles in my neighborhood. That includes the need for running shoes, workout clothes, etc. I can be cost-effective when purchasing these items, but I’m not willing to give them up entirely.
I took up crochet a few years ago. I used to be big into scrapbooking. If it’s creative and filling my soul and doesn’t involve T.V. or my iPhone, I’m not willing to completely give it up in the name of savings.
2. My Daughter’s Activities
Okay, so she’s 2-1/2. She isn’t all that expensive. We don’t yet have her in many activities but try to expose her to things outside the house as much as possible. It’s a lot easier now that the weather is getting warmer.
Concerts in the park, the zoo, a children’s museum. She will likely become more expensive as she ages and we’ll have to adjust our budget accordingly. But when it comes to our daughter, I’m not willing to not invest in her to achieve our financial goals.
This summer we tried outdoor swimming lessons. She loved them so much I’m looking into indoor swimming for her over the colder months. She’s also expressed some interest in dance so we’ll likely start her in some type of dance class this fall. I may have to adjust my financial priorities so I can spend on her. Again, this is something that I won’t stop buying to save money.
Especially when it comes to education. We started a 529 for her when she was born. My husband and I each contribute to it monthly. I think she may have more in it now than I had when I was 18 and graduated from high school. If it takes longer for us to achieve financial freedom because of her education – so be it. Money well spent in my mind.
Our travel has been limited in the past few years since my daughter was born. Less due to finances and more due to the extra challenge that comes from flying or road tripping with a toddler. My husband and I took a trip in February to Punta Cana for 5 nights with another couple.
It was the first time we were away from our daughter for that long and it was amazing! I stocked up on a few summery clothes at the end of the season last fall (I bought this sun hat which was perfect for a beach and I highly recommend it – I’ve also recently been wearing it gardening).
Travel is something that is now included in our annual budget and an adults-only trip in the winter is something I want to make happen to keep my sanity. Plus grandma and grandpa love spending time with Winnie!
Travel doesn’t have to be far and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Our travels don’t always have to be without our daughter either. For example, we are currently spending a week in northern Wisconsin with my husband’s family. We are all staying in one large cabin with 4 bedrooms which apparently can accommodate us all (I’ll let you know how things turn out).
It’s going to be a week of family time with cell phones turned off and fishing poles and boats out. Not only is it cost-effective vacationing this way, but we also get to spend time with family; our daughter gets to spend time with her cousins. It truly is a win-win situation.
4. Certain Vices
My husband and I are social drinkers and are really into craft beer and alcohol. I would rather stay in debt longer and enjoy a few cocktails then not. I need them for my sanity.
Last summer we spent a week in Gatlinburg, TN. We took a road trip from IL with our daughter and rented a cabin in the Smoky Mountains. We had such a blast with all of the whiskey and moonshine tastings and brought quite a few bottles and jars back with us.
A year later we are still drinking some of that whiskey and moonshine (I highly recommend the Salted Caramel Whiskey from Ole Smoky). We’ll bring it out for a special treat after dinner on the weekends; we then inadvertently reminisce about the great time we had on our trip.
If you’re even remotely a whiskey drinker you will LOVE this on ice! I’m not one for traditional souvenirs so we find that alcohol is a favorite of ours to bring back.
5. Date Nights
This may be with or without our daughter. Workweeks sometimes seem to drag on forever. We’ve adopted a mid-week date night, usually on Wednesdays. We try to hit up a new restaurant or brewery. We don’t have family nearby so we more often than not take our toddler with us. It’s not that expensive, and something we certainly don’t need to do per se. But it helps with my sanity and breaking up the week.
We are all on our unique financial paths. Our priorities are all different. I would rather give up shopping for clothes or home decor than the items listed above. For you, it may be the opposite. Identify what makes you enjoy life to the fullest and don’t compromise on those things. It’s okay to continue to spend money on things that make you happy, even when you’re trying to save.
Take one small step today – to help your finances tomorrow,