The following is a guest post from Harmony at Creating my Kaleidoscope. Enjoy!
What seems blasphemous now, felt perfectly normal back then.
We married young and bought a small house; so far, so good. It wasn’t long, however, until we succumbed to the pressures of being “normal.” The new house needed furniture and appliances. We went out and bought a brand-new stainless steel fridge, stove, and dishwasher, and a big screen TV.
We didn’t have the money to purchase those appliances, but there was a payment plan available. That’s what adults do, isn’t it, use financing and credit cards? With both of us working, we just assumed that the payments were within our budget.
To be honest, the word “budget” was simply not part of our vocabulary back then. We spent money on “normal” expenses, the things that were “necessary” to live an average lifestyle.
We went out to eat a lot, not to fancy dinners, but more for the convenience of not having to prepare our own meals.
It felt like I needed to buy nice, new clothing in order to have that professional look for my grown-up job. We adopted pets, spent money on hobbies, and paid to drink at bars with our friends. I enjoyed it when my husband purchased things like the occasional piece of jewelry or bouquet of flowers for me.
We both always worked at least one job, but I was in graduate school for several years. We also continued to spend, counting on big paychecks that were coming and that it would be easy to pay off our credit card balances in the future.
The beginning of our story is likely a pretty common one: a young American couple who gets in over their heads with credit cards. They work and pay the minimum amounts due, but the balances keep rising . . . and there’s also a mortgage, a car loan, and student loans. You’re already deep in debt when you finally secure a good-paying job, and then you add children to the mix. The dire state of your finances becomes clear in a sudden, painful realization. At that point, you are faced with the choice to start the strenuous climb uphill or live in the proverbial hole for the rest of your life.
I think that one of the most frustrating things about our current debt is the fact that we were never completely irresponsible with money. We always worked and it seemed like our money was spent on average things. Yet, it built up so quickly and before we knew it, the monthly interest amounts were more than our mortgage payments. In our society, sadly, this type of debt is considered “normal.”
Who knows where we would be today if not for our discovery that you can achieve financial independence with frugal living and side hustles?
We live in a world with constant encouragement to spend money. There is no limit to those seemingly “normal” expenses.
The standard routine is based on earning to spend, or to pay back the money you’ve already spent. It has been enormously refreshing to escape from the mentality of the majority and to understand that you can work for something better than purchasing more stuff. You can trade your time for the capital necessary to enable freedom. It is possible to change your attitude about money and reverse the financial damage of the past.
We’re making significant progress in defeating our debt and creating our own definition of success. However, the first, most-important step was to change your priorities. Because if you never dream beyond a basic life, why even worry about living in debt?
Harmony Smith is a working mom of three who is on a mission to get out of debt. She and her husband are working towards achieving financial semi-independence in 2022. Her blog, Creating my Kaleidoscope, documents their journey, with posts about frugal living, DIY projects, recipes, family life, and earning extra money with side hustles.