*I am totally jinxing myself. 😉
Most of my life, I’ve been a prisoner of personal finance. My family worked hard as a whole, we didn’t live lavishly or get into deep credit card debt, yet we were always on the verge of financial ruin, and tomorrow always looked bleak.
It was a point of individual stress, familial strife, and interpersonal resentment. Each and everyday. Saving up and paying down debts and just trying to keep our heads above water was a daily struggle. Would we make rent this month? Would we have to be late with the car insurance payment? Would we be getting enough/proper nutrition? Would kids pick on us for being poor? Will someone call at 7am on a Sunday and yell at us to collect our late payments? Barely, sometimes, maybe, yes, and sometimes.
Anyone who knows me knows that I get on these obsessive kicks. I might obsess over writing a novel, or trying to make my best friend a scarf, or watching a new reality tv show. Right now, I’m obsessing over personal finances. Yeah, no kidding? Heh.
When I was younger, I was obsessed with becoming wealthy. Clearly, I was this way because I felt that it would remove all of our family problems. It’s not true, but that’s what I thought at the time. It’s like my every waking thought was about how not to be poor.
I grew out of that, of course. I don’t need to be rich. I wouldn’t say I’d mind it, but I don’t need it. Not anymore.
Anyway, for the first time in my life, I feel — and I know this will sound strange — financially free. And I don’t mean that we are financially independent; not by a long shot.
I guess it’s that I no longer feel burdened by money problems. Finances no longer equal a source of strife and fear. Our cash flow is positive, our retirement accounts are doing well, we are valued at our jobs, and we are making great progress on our debts. We have a good savings buffer for unexpected emergencies and it’s easy to budget for treats like gifts or the occasional vacation. The best thing was being able to pay for our wedding and honeymoon with cash, coming into our marriage without new burdens.
I look at the future projections, and I am no longer filled with fear. I don’t stay up at nights wondering if I’ll have to work until I get too frail to work, or if I’ll most likely be able to pay my medical expenses when I’m old, or if we’ll ever be able to have kids, or if we’ll be able to fix up the house. Not anymore. Because the answers are clear. They are all doable, and without causing too much financial strain.
We live “below our means”, however you want to interpret that, since we pretty much do whatever we want and get whatever we want, on a reasonable basis. We can budget for a vacation and not feel guilty about going — we just need to find the time! 🙂 We can splurge occasionally and get an XBox 360, an HD tv, whatever.
Our clothes are not expensive, but that’s a choice, not a necessity. Our Civic is old, but again, that’s a choice, not a necessity. We could get a nice fancy car. Or keep driving this guy until it dies, which we will. It’s cheap to insure and gets good gas mileage.
It’s so different to make frugal choices because they really are genuine choices I am making, rather than the only possibility. When it’s the only possibility, it feels crushing, demoralizing, like a little trapping box. When it’s a choice, it feels so great!
Because we live like we make much less, it’s easy to save. And it’s easier to absorb the impact if one of us were to lose our jobs. We wouldn’t have to change much to make it work. Being in the Bay Area and being able to say that is immense. And it’s an immense relief.
The house is great. Sure, it has holes. But I don’t mind them. Seriously. Not at all. We’ll have money in the spring to fix things up. It’ll be great. When we eventually sell it, many years from now, we could probably move into a smaller house for less cash than we sell this house for, given the improvements that have been made upon it (and improvements to come). We wouldn’t necessarily have to upgrade to a bigger or more expensive house. We won’t have to get into greater debt with each move. Having lived in a big house for years now, I think we both realize that this is more house and more yard than we know what to do with, so we don’t have a hunger for more. I mean, except Seppo’s desire for a solid gold toilet. But that can easily fit into a smaller house. 🙂
I don’t know. I feel great about life. We have so many choices open for us now. We can start to make our decisions based on what we want to do rather than what we must to in order to keep our heads above water. We’ve been able to do that for a long time now, but it’s just recently that I’ve been able to see the big picture enough to see it.