Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's not just about the money

It turns out that getting out of debt isn't really about the money for us.  Obviously you need money to get out debt, but it has less to do with that and more about creating a total lifestyle change.  If you're in debt and you suddenly receive a windfall tomorrow to pay it off, will you stay that way long term?  Likely not.  Regardless of how much money you make you won't come close to making a dent in your debt if you don't change your habits.

Looking back on the lifestyle we lead five years ago it's honestly quite laughable.  We furnished our first home with entirely new furniture, paying a whopping $4000 just on furniture for our living room.  We routinely went out for expensive dinners and movies, purchased Starbucks every morning on the way to work, and went shopping to cure boredom on the weekends.  It's no wonder the bills kept rising!  And we really weren't happy anyway.

Our lifestyle now is more about moving towards sustainable living.  I don't step foot in a mall unless I absolutely have to (in fact I loathe shopping).  If I do have to shop I go out with a plan in place to get what we need and try to buy used wherever possible.  I grocery shop with more of a purpose of what we will actually be able to eat and I try to recognize that if we run out before the end of the week we can always go back (it's better than throwing wasted food in the garbage).  Our playroom isn't over run with toys - we try to encourage our families instead to contribute money towards our children's activities that won't cause clutter in our lives.  We don't just get in the car to drive somewhere to get out of the house, instead we treat our home as a sanctuary and we enjoy being here with each other.  My peaceful time away from my kids is an hour a week where I get together with girlfriends for tea at a local coffee shop, no big dinners out or shopping excursions any more.

The little things really do make us happy.  Every time we save money or decide against a purchase I feel a victory inside because we are moving towards the life that I truly want.  Every time we figure out how to do or make something for ourselves and we don't need to buy it, I do a little cheer.  I don't want a life that is dictated by impressing other people or about how much stuff we can acquire.... I want a life that is authentic and built around our values of family and the environment.

We are far from perfect, but the less I worry about money and the more I question my decisions based on, "Does this support the lifestyle we want?" - the better we become.  Slowly but surely we're getting there!

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