I recently had one of the most stunning personal revelations I have had in years. Money has been an issue in our household for years. In January of this year, 2014, I can say our household hit rock bottom. When I wrote my first post 9 months ago, it was with the intention to get our financial life straightened out. We had thousands of dollars in medical bills, a law suit hanging over our heads, and a large amount of stress in our lives. We were paycheck to paycheck in a good month, and better bill jugglers than a circus performer in bad months.
I WAS TO BLAME. ME. I haven’t made it a secret here that when I become overwhelmed I stick my head in the sand and ignore problems until great things happen, you know, like a law suit. So, not as a New Year Resolution, but because I put my foot down, we started tackling debt.
I wrote frugal articles, I read tips, tricks, and ways to micro-manage our budget until I had every penny memorized in my head. I read more articles, books, and learned everything I think I could possibly learn about budgeting and tried to apply it to our lives. Pay cash, don’t buy a new car, save up for everything, make an emergency fund, make a budget that calculates every single penny of your check. Pay off debt, save save save, pay off debt wash, rinse, repeat. You follow me?
As the year progressed I found myself getting bitter and angry. I found myself listening to the Dave Ramsey show and yelling UGLY comments back at the “amazing” people who paid off $40,000 in a year on a $130,000 budget. I’m not even kidding. At least once a week I would yell back “I could be debt free too if I made $100,000 a year and had a wife who stayed at home clipping coupons all day”. “Oh, you paid off your new car debt? GOOD FOR YOU!!! Too bad you didn’t have to do it while waiting for your car to blow up!”
Guess what? With all of that work, all of that research and all of that micromanaging, I was still as stressed in July as I was in January. Oh, we were making progress at the pace of a snail. I kept saying one day at a time, one day at a time. It was a good day when my 14-year-old car started. It was a good day when the dishwasher didn’t leak into the kitchen floor. It was a great day when there was a little extra cash to do something “fun”.
Then a belt in my car started squealing. I made the decision, no matter what it took when it was time to replace the timing belt on my car, I was getting a newer car. At the end of the day with 1 car in the household we simply couldn’t afford to NOT have a decent vehicle. I was actually able to GIVE my old car to a friend who recently had hers stolen, and who has the time to slowly fix it back up.
THEN I had the revelation.
Half of the stress in my life was GONE. Yes, I had new debt, but I was also a hell of a lot less stressed. I had air conditioning in my car for the first time in years, talk about living all kinds of fancy again! Ha! Life was looking better. Then, I got a call for a job interview. As I have said several times recently, this was a HUGE raise for our family. Between an increase in benefits and an actual pay raise over $10k a year. Suddenly that new car payment I had was a lot less stressful.
My new job has great people in it. I’ve learned more in a month then I did in almost 3 years at my last job. All of a sudden I LOVED MY JOB. I haven’t been able to say that since I started in the insurance industry. In fact, had this job not worked out, I would have quit the industry completely.
My husband and I are happier together. We’ve both been able to spend more time together, and we recently started taking Wing Chun classes together. We can afford to do that now. We are also paying ALL of our bills ON TIME every month and easily stashing money into savings.
You see, I named this blog Mended Wheels as a tribute to Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life. The changes both my husband and I are making were supposed to be BALANCED. When your wheel has a flat tire, it simply doesn’t roll. What I forgot about while on this quest to save money and be frugal and financially savvy, was to make sure my life was balanced.
I spent too much time listening to the professionals out there tell me how to live. I spent too much time trying to live up to the expectations of other people and how they handled money. I spent so much time being focused on how to pay cash for a car, that I wasn’t living a balanced life.
I told my husband NO on too many chances for us to make memories. I told my friends NO because it wasn’t in the gas budget. I told myself NO because something wasn’t a necessity, but then I got my head out of the ledger and realized my dinner plates were chipped, towels haven’t been purchased new since 2000, and we still weren’t living a better life.
So, we took on some debt and I’ll be damned if our lives aren’t better for it. I have no regrets, no shame, and every reason to keep moving forward.by