When we started down the path of reducing our living expenses by selling our big house, I thought this might be the answer to our debt problem. What I’ve come to realize is that the problem isn’t with the bank, or the mortgage, or any other debt we have to repay.
The problem is us.
In the decision-making process that led up to putting our house on the market, we found we had a spending problem. We’ve spent every dollar we’ve ever made, plus an additional $200,000 of future wages when you take into account the debt that we carry. It was a sobering moment; this was all the further we’ve come in life. I struggle with the notion that somehow we’ve achieved something when we have nothing but debt to show for it.
Before I go any further, I will say this. In the short course of our lives, we’ve been to some amazing places, eaten unbelievably good food, enjoyed excellent wine, and met some of the most fascinating people! Countless memories dot our timeline. We are truly fortunate for what we’ve experienced. But something has to give.
The problem is still us!
Photo albums scattered around our home remind us of what matters most to us: experiences. There is much left in this world for us to experience, certainly more than can be reasonably achieved in one lifetime, but we’ll do our best to try and see it all. In order to make these globe-trotting adventures a regular occurrence, we decided to make some serious, life-altering, habit-breaking choices.
Our top three items we’re tackling now are the result of what we’ve learned from our virtual friends in both the personal finance, tiny living spaces and how to make live about the “needs” rather than the “want.”
1. Housing: buy what you need, sell or rent the extra stuff
We are two people with eight rooms in our home, including a second bedroom and a second bathroom–completely unnecessary.
Recently, we met our friend Rob at the property where we discussed the new layout for our small home. The justification for such a small, efficient plan is that we can only ever be in one room at any one time (two total between the two of us), so let’s cut the excess! Reducing the size of our home reduces the budget, as well as the maintenance for our new abode.
Notably, we put a deposit down less than a week ago on our new, four-room “tiny house,” which we hope will be move-in ready by the beginning of August.
2. Food: buy what you need, and stop throwing it out
Admit it. You throw food away. We did, too. It feels terrible coming clean about it, but I think we have to normalize conversations about money and waste to create real change. Sometimes I forget that we have something leftover from dinner the night before, and somehow it gets pushed to the back of the fridge to become waste.
Prioritizing meal planning rather than leaving until 5:30 p.m. to figure out would certainly help; if we knew exactly what we were having, made exactly what we needed and left nothing for the next day, there wouldn’t be any waste. Our goal for July is to make meal planning the focus so that it becomes habit. No more waste!
3. Clutter: throw it out (responsibly)
Collections of items that might be “worth something” someday? Sold.
Clothes that don’t quite fit anymore? Donated.
Home decor and furniture? Craigslist.
Stuff isn’t worth anything to us sitting if it’s sitting in a box in a closet. We’ve made good use of eBay, Craigslist and local charities so that we don’t end up with another expensive storage unit (a.k.a. house). The allure of some item being “worth something someday” is, IMHO, a myth, a sham and a complete lie we manufacture because we don’t know what to do with all of the excess stuff in our lives (as we buy more stuff to replace it).
How much furniture is wasting away in attics and antique shops I’ll never know, but suffice to say it is a lot, which says even more about our society and the “value” we place on stuff. Now, we think before we buy anything at all, and I mean anything–lengthening the decision-making and purchasing process saves us money and keeps us from impulse purchases. Win-win!
Conclusion? We’re a work-in-progress.
As a result of this self-reflection, we’ve uncovered a lot about ourselves, our value system, the things we need to change, as well as the things we want to change, which is why we’re becoming minimalists. Big changes usually don’t happen overnight, but rather, they are the consequence of many small changes over a long period of time–we’ll be much better off in another couple of months than we are today, and I look forward to it!
Related Post: What Have We Wasted/Spent Each Month?