Living Below Your Means
In Reply To:
Glimpses of a Wasted Life

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By uwalum
July 29, 2003

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"I am interested in hearing some of your stories on this board. Those of you who have, at one point or another, taken the leap. Those of you who have downshifted your lives to accomplish more meaningful goals.

I am interested in how you did it? How did you balance your family life with your pursuit of your dream? What kinds of things did you have to change? How did you prepare? Was there schooling involved?

I divorced and became a single Mom at 25. I luckily already had a college degree, but it was a basic humanities degree that got me a job as a secretary. I was the working poor, and it got old. I had student loans, car payment and credit card debt totaling around $20,000 in the mid-80's. I started out working as secretary making $25,000 a year and I worked hard which lead to promotions. I managed to pay off all my debt and buy a home within 5 years. I worked hard because there was no one to rely upon but myself for my daughter.

Here's what I did. I evaluated all my debts and looked at where I was spending money. I took my lunch, sold items, quit buying clothes, cooked from scratch, pumped my own gas and paid cash, quit smoking, transferred my checking to a bank that had no fees, cancelled the newspaper and cable, didn't subscribe to magazines, used half the soap for everything (dishwasher, toothpaste, clothes, shampoo), washed clothes in cold water, wore a sweater and turned down the heat. I said "no" to myself everyday. Every cent went to paying debts. If I had an extra car - I would have sold it. If I had teenagers at that time, they would have a part-time job and a reality check which would include not having a car (unless they paid insurance, gas, etc). I did not add to my debt. In other words, I would sweat the small stuff, which adds up in the long run.

In summary, I sacrificed.

After everything was paid off, I would put the same amount of money I used to pay debt in the bank every month. I bought a simple home, stayed out of debt and continued to sweat the small stuff.

We have since moved and have an apartment attached to our home for my Mother. Today, I have a year's worth of living expenses in the bank and will have my home paid in 15 years (just refinanced) when we are 55. I can't believe how many people are in debt up to their eyebrows and although they make 2-3 times what I do, they spend every penny and then some. No savings, but vacation several times a year, drive expensive cars, eat fast food often and live on credit. Makes no sense.

My husband averaged 50-60 hour workweeks until we had more kids. The money and job just aren't worth it, and he works regular hours now.

I was able to quit my job, start a small business and go back to school for an advanced degree. We live comfortably, vacation every year, have a lovely home and furnishings. Everything has been accomplished due to a commitment to our family, marriage and frugal living. I never could have quit my job to start a business or go back to school without the continued support of my husband.

We work for a life, not live for work.


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