Sunday, December 18, 2011

One Year Into Our New Lifestyle and Here's What I Have Learned

It just dawned on me that in a couple of weeks it will be exactly one year since I quit working (actually I am still doing some freelance stuff but on December 31st of last year I "fired" my biggest client which basically left me jobless).  Here's what I have learned:
  • You can drop from an income of $6000-$8000 a month to $2000 a month (for two people!) and still be extremely happy.  We are at least.
  • The biggest change you need to make is in your attitude.  I am a bit embarrassed to say that around five years ago I was one of those snooty people who would look down on people who took the bus, drove clattering cars, and wore last season anything.  Now I take the bus, drive a car that is more than ten years old, and wear clothes from the Goodwill.  What a difference a few years (and a growth in maturity) makes!
  • If you look at a financial challenge like a shot to your ego and try to get things back "to the way they used to be" then you will miss the lesson (and the adventure) that comes from massive change.  Instead, if you look at a financial challenge like a riddle or a game, you can be creative and audacious and turn the problem into a fun experiment then come out on the other end with something really amazing that in your "old life" would have never even been a possibility.
  • There are only a few things that you really NEED to have a happy life (and none of these needs have a designer label on them).  Prior to our year of travel, I thought that I NEEDED a big house, a nice car, designer clothes/shoes/purses, lots of cash to give gifts to people with, shopping and lunching with the girls, etc.  During our year of travel, the only things that we really NEEDED were: a clean, dry, safe place to sleep (thanks to generous friends and relatives we got this FREE for an entire year); a few changes of clothes (we wore the same clothes--and only what would fit in our backpacks--for a year and no one even noticed that we only had about five changes of clothes each); food (yes, you can survive on $1 tacos and burgers for an extended period but I don't recommend it.  When it comes to food, the 99 cents store rocks!); and a bit of socialization (the hubby and the internet--you guys who comment on this blog--and friends on FaceBook and Twitter took care of that).  Everything else is free--sunshine, fresh air, a nice walk, the library, etc.
  • There is always a cheaper way to do things.  Again, a few years back, I thought that having a lifestyle where we would spend nearly $8000 a month (!) on everything from big house and car payments to 150+ cable channels, the highest speed internet, restaurant meals a couple of times a day, magazine al. was how everyone lived.  I've since learned that it's not.  Cell phone--$30 prepaid plan. Transportation--$50 a month bus pass.  TV--$20 for a one time purchase of a TV antenna.  Car insurance--liability only because the car is so old.  You get the idea...
  • And the very best thing: once you set yourself on a changing path, people from your past who were part of "that other" lifestyle kind of disappear and new people, amazing people, people who are on the same journey as you start to appear.  Like you all who are reading this.  Again, it suddenly dawned on me that the people who filled my life a few short years ago (the ones who got together to talk about their new cars and their latest purchases) have all but disappeared.  Now most of our friends are kind of like us.  Many are retired or working only part time so they have a lot of free time to have potlucks and volunteer and meet for coffee.  When we get together we talk about how to save money on various things and where the best deals are to be found.  It doesn't matter what a persons' job title is or what kind of car they drive because they are there for you when you need them and they are genuinely nice people.
Overall I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.  Now I get to sleep in as late as I want, there is absolutely no stress in my life, the is no office politics in my life (truly a welcome relief), we won't be having a fancy restaurant meal any time soon but cooking at home is so enjoyable that I don't care, finding a super bargain (like my J Jill jeans!) at the Goodwill is cause for celebration, saying hi to the regulars at the library where I do all of my online work is one of the highlights of my day, and spending a lot of time with the hubby is wonderful (because he is my best friend and who doesn't want to spend time with their best friend?).  Yes, we have to be careful with every dollar we spend and yes there are occasions when I wish we had a lot of money coming in (like now around Christmas time) but overall, having a life of freedom instead of debt payments and a job reminiscent of indentured servitude is sooooo much better.


  1. What a fabulous post this is! Reaffirms why I enjoy reading your blog & really like you as a person! :) Loved it!

  2. I just added up our debt from last Dec and compared it to this Dec and we paid off 10K in debt this year. It's a good feeling to see the numbers go down instead of up. I admit that living out of a backpack would be hard for me, but I have definitely unloaded a lot of possessions and clothes and, the emptier my closets get, the happier I feel. You have been an inspiration to me and no doubt to many others. I'm looking forward to what the new year will bring, not in possessions, but in enlightenment. Hopefully more people will stop "drinking the kool-ade" of consumption. Our government needs a better engine to run on instead of us buying more stuff we really don't need to keep it going. Thanks for the great post and I hope you and hubby have a great holiday together in your new home!

  3. Thank you both for such nice comments! I love reading both of your blogs and when I read about your accomplishments I send out a little cheer for the amazing things both of you ladies do!