The phrase “a fishtailing joyride in the opposite direction” sums up how I feel about all life changes I make to live more frugally. It wasn’t always that way.
In April 2017, my partner and I made a pact to gain financial freedom—that is, freedom to choose how we live because the bulk of our waking lives isn’t dictated by the need for a paycheck. This quest started when my internet browsing brought me to a blog called Mr. Money Mustache: Financial Freedom Through Badassity. Within a week, I binge-read all MMM’s posts since the dawn of time. His basic idea is to live better by saving as much money as possible instead of spending wastefully. The approach clicked immediately for us: we wanted to do this.
We decided to start our road to financial freedom by getting out of debt on an aggressive timeline. We had $181k of debt at the time. This looming figure was a mix of our mortgage, a home equity line of credit we took out to avoid private mortgage insurance, a little left on a car loan, and a galling amount of student loans.
For each loan, we’d been complacently remitting the minimum monthly payments. The thing is, we thought ours was a decent debt scenario. Only $8k was consumer debt in the form of the car loan, and car loans are so common nobody bats an eye at those. The rest was “good debt.” We didn’t even have to work to convince ourselves it was fine that we’d spent well beyond our means.
We also thought our lifestyle was decently modest. Our only areas of obviously exorbitant spending were Amazon orders of stuff we didn’t really need, restaurants, coffee shops, and grocery delivery—all of this in spite of the debt I just described. We were doing a lot right: we had a small house, lived close to work, didn’t have a TV or cable, owned just one car, had no expensive hobbies, and spent the vast majority of our non-work time with family and friends.
The MMM blog woke me up, and then I proceeded to shake my partner awake as well (fortunately he was amenable to it). Servicing our debt sucked up loads of our take-home pay. It kept us tethered to jobs for the paycheck.* And when it came to spending, our life was an “exploding volcano of wastefulness,” as MMM puts it.
MMM didn’t stop there; he also showed me that turning our consumption habits around would yield immediate and deepening joy. This blog’s title comes from a sentence that resonated with me, buried deep within the MMM blog. Before MMM, I hated the thought of cutting back what I felt was already modest spending. I figured we had enough money so why not spend on nice-to-have stuff.
I now see frugality as an approach to life that has nothing but upsides. And I don’t anticipate ever turning back to our old ways, even after achieving financial freedom.
Off we go!
* We both love what we do, thankfully, but we’d enjoy our work far more if we didn’t need the pay.