I am going to be 31 years old own my home outright.
On the outside, i’m feeling like Beyonce.
But on the inside…
…i’m feeling alone.
But seriously. I am feeling alone here.
One year ago I decided that it was time to get serious about my money. I lost count of how many times I told myself that I would eventually get out of debt, but I blamed not being able to do it on not making enough money.
That’s the problem, right?
If I landed a job with a higher salary, i’d have tons of cash and all my money problems would disappear. I’d have enough to have the house and cars I want. Vacations, too. Plus I would have a few thousand dollars sitting on a savings account. I just had to find the job willing to pay me.
So. I did.
I loved where I worked, and I think we both knew that I was worth a nice penny to the company, but we both were also aware that the reality of making the salary that I wanted in the position I was in was never going to happen.
After many months of consideration, I had a hard conversation with myself, I updated my resume and hit the job market.
I went after companies and positions that would offer the salaries that I expected. Even if this meant applying for gigs that I wasn’t conventionally experienced or qualified for, I still gave it a try.
I used my finance skills and a genuine smile to interview for a few different roles such as auditing for the government and purchasing used cars at auction for a car dealership. Quicker than I ever thought, one company saw something in me and made me a job offer…
Like a lightening bolt, I felt a rush of heat and an overwhelming spark inside me when I saw the salary they offered. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was well beyond what I thought I’d get at this age.
I meditated, thought to myself, asked others, and talked to my husband.
Monday morning, I called this company back and told them…
We scheduled my first day of orientation, and I began thinking about all the things that I can finally do:
- Buy my husband a new car.
- Do some serious home improvement.
- Visit my family overseas.
…and then, like a ton of bricks…it HIT ME.
If I did ANY of these things, i’d be no better than I already am.
Have you heard of Lifestyle Inflation? Here’s the definition.
‘Lifestyle Inflation‘ is increasing your spending when your income goes up. Lifestyle inflation tends to continue each time someone gets a raise, making it perpetually difficult to get out of debt, save for retirement or meet other big-picture financial goals.
My husband grew up in deep poverty and it’s my silent mission to make sure he becomes a millionaire one day.
However, if I bought that new car, those new cabinets, or that overseas vacation… I would be setting both of us up for failure. It wouldn’t take long before I had entirely new and higher payments to manage, while looking at myself all over again saying “if I made more money, i’d have tons of cash and all my money problems would disappear.”
Before my first day at the new job arrived, I decided to change my thinking about money from the ground up by asking myself some serious adult questions:
- What can I do to take full advantage of my new salary, since I have a history of not managing my smaller salary too well?
- What happens if I get to this job, and hate it?
- What if they don’t like me?
- What if I never quite get the hang of this new role?
- What happens if there are layoffs?
- What’s my plan?
Moral of this story, I needed a plan to avoid becoming dependent on a salary that wasn’t dependent on me.
I got out a pen and decided to do something that sounds drastic:
- Live on my old salary
- Make EVERY extra dollar from my new salary work for me.
What this means is that my day-to-day life wasn’t changing. No new cars, projects, or stuff. As far as my checking account was concerned, I didn’t get a pay bump.
I would eat out just as often as I already did. Nights with friends would occur just as frequently as it always had. There would be just as many gifts at holidays and the same amount of vacations as before.
But in the background, I would have thousands of dollars working for me 24/7 by investing, 401k contributing, paying off debt, and building a nest egg.
It sounded too good to be true, so I did the math…
The math worked.
The only thing that had to work was me.
The part they don’t tell you about changing the way you think about money is that the world doesn’t change with you.
There is a burning desire inside me to talk about the little money victories and realizations that I keep experiencing, but I don’t have many people to share it with, because so few people around me are doing the same. The weirdest part are the friends who praise me, and state that they’d love to do the same, but don’t decide to make similar changes themselves.
I often find myself with this feeling of financial euphoria, and nobody to relate to.
This is all one big lie.
I watch people I know buy huge houses for only a couple of people to live in (or worse, because they “outgrew” their last place although their family isn’t any bigger), finance new cars when their old one was still great, or blow their cash in dozens of small ways that add up quickly without them realizing it.
So many people are living in the same manner that I was when I was working 50+ hours a week but feeling like I couldn’t get ahead. We all aspire to being debt free “one day”, and I have a concrete date on my calendar when I will go from $150,000 in debt to $0, but so many have no clue when their day will come.
Society tells us that we need things to be happy. But we don’t.
We live in a world of consumerism. We love stuff, and we constantly feel like the next “thing” will finally make us happy. This unscratched itch is what can easily lead us to bankruptcy, hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, and even divorce.
Did you know that money stress has been the leading cause for divorce for over 50 years? Seriously.
Every day, I bring up that I am going to pay off my car early, and they tell me that they’re excited for me…because I will be able to trade it in for an even more expensive one.
I mention that I am living on almost half of my salary, and they tell me that I should “enjoy” my money, or even more selfish… that I should “stop being stingy“.
I find myself telling someone that I have paid off a debt, and being told that I can finally buy that Lexus I used to talk about.
Standing in these shoes gets lonely because I have been forced to acknowledge that the world still spins, even if I’m in my own orbit.
Don’t get me wrong. I still fight the temptation to go to the Lexus dealership, drive off the car lot and past every one of my friend’s houses like…
But I don’t. And I’m choosing not to.
September 2016 was my breaking point.
The moment I decided that if I wanted to reach my goals, I had to consider changing my entire approach from the ground up.
And this new method of thinking has accomplished more in half a year than I ever accomplished in the past 5 years. In the last seven months, I have been able to:
- Take my $1,400 student loan balance to $0
- Increase my 401k savings from $40 a paycheck to $230 a paycheck.
- Build an actual emergency fund that I don’t need to dip into every other week.
By the end of this year, I will:
- Take my furniture loan to $0
- Take my $5,000 credit card debt to $0
- Bring my husband’s car loan to nearly $0.
This new way of thinking has set the countdown clock to the exact month and year that I am no longer a slave to my salary.
If I lose my job, it’s fine, because my entire life won’t crumble around me. I get to keep the house, the cars, the marriage, the credit score, and my happiness.
Do I want to take an impromptu long vacation? Make a substancial donation to charity? Start my own business or company?
In six years…
And I plan to grind away at my liabilities every day until all I have left are assets.
Have you truly reached your breaking point?
That moment when you’re officially tired of doing the same thing but wishing for different results? If you haven’t… hopefully you will find the inspiration.
No matter where you are in your financial journey… if you’re feeling any kind of way about your money… keep going. If you’re struggling to keep a budget going, feeling like your loans are far from being paid off, or if you’re grinding every day to get a little closer to your goals… keep going. Don’t quit.
One final note…
If reaching your financial goals means cutting back or making sacrifices, do it.
The people who care about you will understand that you’re taking care of yourself, and your loved ones.
Find love in the people, opportunities, and things that you already surround yourself with. You don’t need “more stuff” or “more money” to be happy, you need “happiness” to be happy.
Avoid the pressures to “give in” to keep other people content, and skip the pressure to spend more than you planned to, or doing things with the benefit of impressing people.
Let’s stop acting like we have it together, and let’s actually get it together.
When it comes to money, if the math doesn’t make sense… then the decision doesn’t make sense.
And if your friends can’t understand that, that’s their problem, not yours.Either way, at the end of the day….