I awoke yesterday at 1:00 AM. I literally woke up the minute morning began. I have a lot on my mind…all good things, but the excitement keeps me awake when others are enjoying deep sleep.
I can’t share my secret yet, but I can talk about other things. Like how to live really well and even prosper off a small income.
I was watching all the little documentaries or interviews with FIRE movement people. Financially Independent Retire Early. Some of them had very lucrative jobs and it seemed rational and easy that they could save that million in ten years, such as Mr. Money Mustache. He and his wife made a combined income of $135K a year and saved 1.1 million in nine years. But some of these mini-interviews were with families just like ours. People with children and not a lot of money to work with.
Most of us that have been studying and practicing frugal living are not surprised by much. I search for new ideas and tricks that will thrill my thrifty soul. I’m often disappointed because there isn’t much new out there. But we can be reinspired often by others stories.
So, here it is in a nutshell (again). If you want to work to live and not live to work. If you want more family time, time for hobbies, fun, life, building a dream…this is what you do.
You live as cheaply as possible. This may mean downsizing big time or buying that ugly house for cash and working hard to fix it up for a few years. It may mean getting rid of the car and learning to ride your bike everywhere. It may mean renting a room or tiny apartment and giving up lattes at Starbucks. It may even mean hanging out with different friends who get the frugal life. Who knows, we all have different stories to arrange.
But what goes with all that is a change in mindset and perspective. To change your lifestyle means to change your thinking. It means you have to ‘let go’ of a lot of what you think serves you and your family but may be actually preventing real joy and freedom from financial bondage. You have to overcome the ego and all the subtle ways one gets brainwashed by advertisements and society. We must stay strong in the face of family and friends who think we have become boring, cheap and have lost our minds because we pass on expensive dinners out and have moved from that large five-bedroom to a working-class neighborhood and a cottage with peeling paint.
It takes time to find that more enriching pleasures come from baking your own bread on a summer day with the kitchen door open to feel the breeze and hear the birds chirping happily in your kitchen garden. That Friday night playing cards with your children is more rewarding emotionally than shopping at the mall. That giving up trips and purchased luxuries, nice cars, big houses…is far outweighed by being able to stay home with your children even in a small house that needs a new roof and some repairs.
We can’t afford to travel or Disney Land, nice restaurants, shopping sprees at the mall. I don’t get my monthly pedicures and manicures or have my hair done at a salon. There are sooooo many things we ‘don’t’ have. Our cars are old and the paint is peeling, but they are paid for and get great gas mileage. Our house is very small according to most people’s standards these days, but we usually spend most of our time in just two rooms anyway.
I do have the privilege of staying home with my boys and watching them grow. They don’t go to private schools…thank God, but they have an amazing homeschooling charter school that is magical and they love. Free. A free, magical school that feels like a second home. Not many kids have that.
My husband and the father doesn’t have to work long hours or drive long commutes. He doesn’t work in some corporation or business atmosphere that induces stress and worry continuously and then drives in awful traffic daily. He has a simple job managing a small gas station. He enjoys his work and can be home within minutes to enjoy a homecooked meal and play with his children.
This town was not my first choice to locate. Not my second either. However, it has been so very friendly and safe and cozy. I lean on the fence often to chat with neighbors as they walk by with their dogs, children or spouses. We gossip, laugh, exchange stories, books, sometimes baked goods or a jar of homemade sauce. We know our librarian by name and I have had some fun conversations in the produce section of Winco. This town has taken good care of us.
The simple life is a great life but it wasn’t until we settled into it deeply that I began to see all the hidden gems and gifts that go with it. I would never exchange it for a nicer home, newer cars, a bigger job with a huge salary. That sounds unhappy to me. I love our little patched together life with kitchen gardens and walks to the park.
I wish everyone could know this happiness.