The time has indeed come.
I could wax philosophical about the time I’ve spent away from discussing finances, financial goals, and financial freedom, and how it has been symbolic of the general chaos that has befallen much of our lives since the last time I posted in our Facebook group Common Cents, which was mid-February, but that would be dishonest.
As I shared even before March 2020, I felt I had fallen off a path of chosen frugality and financial goals. Some of it was mindless, as we as humans tend to become from time to time, and some was intentional. Along the way though, doesn’t it all become intentionally mindless?
Charles and I worked SO HARD from 2014-2017 to pay off debt, live radically frugal lives, and to purchase a home in a good financial situation. We weren’t completely debt free, but we WERE consumer debt free (including no car debt).
Today we are consumer debt free (no credit cards or payments owed to random places) EXCEPT for cars. In 2019 we BOTH purchased new-to-us cars because our other vehicles were literally driven into the ground. For the time being I am still okay with this debt, though I want to pay it off quickly. My car payment is CHEAPER than the money and TIME we spent tinkering around with our debt-free van PER MONTH. Further, with Charles’ electric vehicle, the money he saves in gas is equivalent or greater than the car payment, so at its worst month it breaks even. We’re net zero on the cars, mostly, so I’m okay with that.
But there’s a lot I’m not okay with. I’m guilty of spending as entertainment, or to feel better, or, most frequently, without much thought or planning. It’s never huge purchases but you can still nickel-and-dime yourself into a cell of your own making.
Of course, some of our monthly expenses are higher than they were in the years of extreme frugality and debt reduction, because owning a house does come with more month-to-month and “crap-what-broke” expenses, but our overall income is higher. Yet, YET, we are putting NOTHING extra toward debt reduction at this point and saving even less.
We took our foot off the gas somewhere in mid-2018 and have been coasting on fumes ever since. Our grocery bill has crept up, not just because the kids are older and eating more, but because I’m purchasing more name-brand things out of convenience (instead of store-hopping) and buying more convenience foods (especially in the snack arena for the kids), for instance. Little purchases here and there on amazon, for essential oils, the hardware store, or farming supplies (because we have an ultimate goal of being more self-sufficient on our tiny piece of land) all add up and leave us in a place where we are spending exactly what we make, and adjusting our lifestyle as the incomes increase.
To be sure, we’ve had some income decreases since COVID hit, but they were all minor side gig things I did, the losses of which are far outpaced by the drastic cut in spending a stay-at-home order should return.
I asked Charles last weekend if we could sit down and, afresh, examine our goals, our spending, and our willingness to be extreme again. Because goals can look great on paper, but if all the parties involved are unwilling to do what it takes to get there, then all you’ve done is busywork. When we had the goal of buying a house, we so desperately wanted the 6 of us OUT OF the 1,000 sqft townhouse that it was a joy to make every choice IN SERVICE of that goal.
Can we find such an intrinsicly motivating goal again? Is “financial freedom” enough?
We need to still sit down for this discussion that I’m desperate to have, so stay tuned.