After the recession, downsizing became the hot topic in personal finance. Smaller homes, smaller cars, and less stuff in general. I have my weaknesses, but I’ve never been a huge shopper. I’m more likely to spend money on a few quality items than to buy a lot of junk. Over the past 10 years, even before it became fashionable to do so, I’ve found myself clearing more and more clutter out of my life.
That being said, I still had a lot of wants. Most of my wants revolved around the house: Remodeling the living room, kitchen, bathroom, etc. Pave the driveway. Extensive landscaping. In my mind, having a perfect little house equated to having a perfect little life. I’d be happier once it was all done, and I’d feel more content with life.
The problem was that those things cost money. Lots of money. I could cut costs dramatically with careful planning and doing most of the work myself, but it would still be expensive. And time-consuming. How’s a single girl supposed to accomplish all that with limited time and limited income? And how was I supposed to be saving for Financial Independence at the same time?
A few days ago I noticed a change. I was checking my bank account, and noticed that my savings account had very few categories. My bank has a wonderful online feature that enables me to set goals in my savings account, and then put money towards those goals. In the past, I’ve had so many projects I wanted to do around the house that the list became overwhelming, and I’d have to limit it to my top 10. Now? I have 3 things listed: Remodeling the bathroom, fixing the porch, and an emergency fund. I started with a smaller emergency fund goal, until I’m a little farther ahead financially. That goal is met. The porch and the bathroom are both musts. But I’ve brought my ideas for those projects down to a much more affordable level.
I feel a sense of calm now that most of my goals are being met. From there, I can start making real progress on paying off my student loan, and eventually towards saving for an early retirement. So, what changed? To put it simply: I’ve found happiness. Where I used to believe I could only find happiness with fancy tiles and coordinated curtains, I’m now finding myself happy spending time with the people I love, and enjoying the simple things in life. I love sitting on the patio with my BF, or having dinner with my parents. I enjoy spending time with my sisters, and I’ve found separating myself from their drama enables me to enjoy them even more.
I’m not saying I don’t have wants, or that I’m not spending money. I did more landscaping this year then I’ve done in most other years. But the money all came from my spending money. And I got more accomplished because I stopped having such grand plans. The perfectionist in me is learning to see the benefits in imperfection. So the towels may not match the shower curtain. That’s less I have to worry about fading, or having enough towels.
People talk all the time about the benefits of having less, and wanting less. I’m not saying that everyone should be a minimalist, or that people should get rid of all their belongings in order to be happy. Material goods will always have a place in my life. But I am finding contentment in letting go. And as an added bonus, it’s helping me in growing my worth!
– Cindy W.