Two things –
1. I will be going back to a twice-per-week update schedule! Since I will be writing so much about my debt free budget plans, I’m not going to bore you with ONLY my finances to read about once a week. So I’ll be going back to a twice weekly posting, once about my budget (because I love to talk about it, don’t judge me), and once about general minimalist stuff (the old “good stuff”!). Please feel free to click my suggestion box and tell me what you’d like to hear about!
2. I found the below post in my drafts from JANUARY. So I am sharing it now because I completely forgot to do it then. It is a little bit about debt but also about happiness and five-year plans. Enjoy!
When you announce to someone that you are a minimalist, there is a wide range of reactions from people. Some don’t get it at all, some think it would be such a relief to unload their stuff, some might think you’re a nomadic blogger without a car, and everything in between. Some minimalists quit their jobs to follow their passions, and that is fantastic. For them. Sometimes you can’t just up and quit your job, but if leaving your job in the corporate, retail, or other occupation-related world is a dream, you have the power to follow that dream.
My career (and debt) path
When I was very young, I wanted to be a farmer (please note that I have now successfully grown and harvested vegetables, bringing this dream full circle). Then I wanted to be a vet , and then a teacher. I fluctuated between those two until college, where I had a Life Science Education and Spanish double major. I wanted to teach Biology in High School. I changed my major twice and ended up a Psychology major, with the goal of being a high school guidance counselor. Over my three-year college career, I had no fewer than six student affairs jobs – Residence Life, First-Year Programs, Campus Ministry, Dean of Students Office, Tutoring, and Service Learning Programs, just for starters. I was in clubs up to my ears and found that I loved working with students. So I went to grad school and got a Master’s – and $40k of loans – in Higher Education Administration. Before starting graduate school, I got married and bought a car. We had a crappy interest rate (7.75%)! While working on my M.Ed., I rounded out my resume to include Career Services and Academic Services, with an assistantship and three internships. I embarked optimistically on a job search, submitting over 100 applications in a year.
I graduated from graduate school…and was my best friend’s nanny, taking care of her young son part-time while she went to school. Then I was a temp at a real estate office, my $60,000 of student loans in “underemployment” deferment. Then, after five applications per week as a condition of living with my mother while I was separated and then divorced, I got a full-time job.
I’m a Purchasing Manager at a chemical manufacturing plant. This has nothing to do with my intended career path. At all. It was just one of those things that fell together perfectly, I knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody, etc. The Universe opened up and said “Hey, take this!” So you bet I took it.
I started my job in March 2012 and spent the next three months paying off my credit card debt, refinancing my car (with a much better interest rate), and consolidating my student loans. I moved into my first all-by-myself apartment in June 2012, which is the precise moment I realized I had way too much stuff, found a minimalist blog, got rid of half my belongings, and started my own blog. That’s your basic minimalist life cycle right there.
Life is what happens…
In January of 2012 I also started freelance writing, making a bit of cash on the side. As the months went on, I got better at writing, and got more assignments, and made enough money to take a trip to Spain with my mom, with no debt accrued for that vacation. That was empowering! I just up and traveled around the world because I could.
My freelance topics included a home office blog, and I was writing a lot about work-at-home-moms. I was intrigued. I thought, “Hey. I want to be a work-at-home-mom!” (WITH A MASTER’S DEGREE, BECAUSE WHY NOT?) I’ve got a lot of opinions about child-rearing for someone who’s never had a child, and one of those opinions is that I would rather be at home raising my kids than putting them in daycare. No offense to daycares or people who send their kids to daycare – I was a child of daycare AND public school and I turned out fine. But I am pretty sure – at least right now – that I want to stay home with my kids after they are born and possibly home-school.
I found myself enjoying the freelance writing work more and more and wondering if I could make it my full-time career. Life is indeed what happens when you’re busy making other plans! All of a sudden, I found myself a writer.
In 2012, I made a little over $2,000 from writing. In 2013, I hope to increase those figures and continue to build a customer base until I can support myself wholly on the writing career. I realize this may take a while; I have a five-year plan…which is, of course, in constant flux. The goal is to settle down with a partner well before kids come along and supplement the partner’s income with my writing work from home. I remain convinced that it would be a better deal than if I was working but we had to pay for daycare.
The moral of the story
My main point, after that long and winding diatribe, is that if you have a dream or a goal – working from home with your kids, for example – you CAN make that happen! I am making my dreams happen right now. There’s no need to be stuck doing something that doesn’t make you happy.
For the record: I am not actively unhappy at my current job. I don’t like supporting the chemical industry because I am a crunchy granola hippie, but I’m good at my job and I like most of the people there most of the time. The most important thing that keeps me satisfied at work – even if I don’t always like “the work” – is that I feel appreciated and valued there. Job satisfaction is a very important thing. So if you’re unsatisfied, see if you can change your situation!
Small ways to gain financial freedom
Now that you’re pumped up to quit your job and live a happy, passionate life of writing or repairing toasters or whittling, I’ll bet reality is settling in a little bit for you. Then the questions come.
What about my house?
What about my car?
I have so many bills, how can I quit my job?
And so on and so forth.
I invite you to de-clutter your budget and see how much you can do with your money. I do it. Other people do it. And you can do it.
Start small – don’t try to change anything the first month, just keep track of every dollar you spend. If you go out for lunch, write it down. Groceries, write it down. Cable bill, car payment, new yoga pants, cat food – write it all down. Keep track of every dollar. Then take a look at where your money goes.
Make strategic cuts. If you spend a lot of money eating out at work all week, spend half that amount on groceries and pack your lunch instead. If you pay for cable but your family doesn’t watch all that much, consider canceling cable and get an $8 subscription to Netflix instead (all you really need in life is Doctor Who, anyway). Or get rid of your TV entirely! Carry a reusable thermos or cup with you wherever you go so that you’ve always got something to drink and you are not tempted to buy an expensive beverage from a vending machine or gas station. Eliminate food waste – keep track of how much you throw away and either buy less to begin with or take a week-long (or month-long) grocery-shopping “diet” so you eat what you have instead of buying more and letting the old go to waste. Refinance and/or consolidate loans for lower payments. Shop around for car insurance.
Saving is important. I set aside at least 10% of every paycheck for my savings account. I also have a baby-step emergency fund of $1,000 set aside while I restructure my financial priorities and hack away at my debt.
Budget. It’s boring but it’s helpful. Set a realistic and attainable budget for yourself or your family, and stick to it. Include all bills, “fun money” for entertainment and going out, and savings.
For the Really Serious, consider selling your house and downsizing to a condo, apartment, or even just a smaller house. This step usually comes after a Minimalist Epiphany and the throwing out of half your possessions (like I did!) but doesn’t have to. As you cut things from the budget, you may become more aware that you don’t need all these services and all these things to make your life happy. You (and your family, if applicable) make your life happy.
There are tons of blogs and articles available on the Internet to help you. Go read some and change your life.
Quitting your job is optional but encouraged if it would make you truly happy.