Whittling Away

I’ve been tossing around the idea of this blog post for a while. I hesitated for a couple of reasons. 1. I do not post this in order to gain sympathy or anything of that nature. 2. I’m not sure how this will impact our actual business and I hope it won’t affect our business at all. I would hope that people purchase our items because they truly enjoy our items. One thing I do hope this blog post will do is to inspire others to keep working on becoming debt free. I’d also be quite happy if it encourages someone else to start on a path towards debt freedom. OK. On to the post…

John and I have been married for almost 20 years. In that time, we’ve managed to accumulate a lot of “stuff.” For a little over half the time we were married, we couldn’t even claim ownership of most of the stuff we’d accumulated because it was either bought on credit or put down as collateral for us to accumulate even more stuff. We tired quickly of that dizzying and endless cycle and we’ve been putting forth some serious effort to become debt free. In 2008, when John retired from the US Air Force, we had around $40-50,000 dollars in debt and we are now down to just over $10,000. There is definitely a light at the end of our debt-tunnel and we know for certain it is not a train. We started by calling a credit counseling service. Then we made our budget. When we sat down and took a good look at our grocery purchases, we quickly found items we could let go of in order to shop for healthier options. Eating healthier means less trips to the doctor’s office, too, so we even save money that way! We also have some really awesome friends who have stepped up in the face of dire circumstances and helped us through the extremely tight times. And now, we are managing to whittle down our debt, even though our income is in the poverty level. Now you’re probably asking how we’re able to do that.

You won’t see us wearing too many fine or name brand clothing items (unless we found them at Goodwill or on the clearance rack). It’s not only a matter of opting for less expensive clothing. It’s also figuring out what you truly need and what you can live without. None of us need name-brand clothing to show people we’re ‘good sorts’. Our actions will do that for us. And surprise of suprises! Guess what…we’re red-blooded humans!

We don’t have satellite TV (cable TV isn’t an option in our area). We opted for internet service instead, because we had to make a choice. This really wasn’t so much a choice, as it was a must. Use of the internet is necessary for school and our business. Satellite TV is not.

Our kids don’t participate in any functions or activities that charge a fee for them to simply be involved, because inevitably there are other costs on top of the initial fees, such as costumes, gear, or equipment. There is a measure of sadness involved here because there are so many wonderful classes I would love to see our kids participate in. But I will not (indeed, I refuse!) to lose sleep over this. If we had enough money to shower them with classes of extra-curricular activities, we’d do that. But when there is no money there to cover it, it’s a sad kind of insanity to dive further into debt for it. I really would be drowning in a pool of regret and despair, then, and as a result, the kids would see that and follow suit.

We chose to put aside our involvement in the SCA because we could live without it. (It was a lot of fun and I highly recommend you give it a try if you are able.) It does not cost to be involved in the SCA, but in order to attend events, we have to meet certain requirements in the order of attire and equipment. So for now, this is being set aside. We hope to return to active SCA involvement in the future.

We don’t go to concerts. We don’t go to the movies. We don’t go on family vacations. When we travel, it is usually to visit family and when we get there, we don’t usually do a whole lot. We have learned the value of being still and appreciating the lack of hustle and bustle. One day, though, I would really love to have the opportunity to take our kids on a cruise, preferably while they are still young. Time will tell, I suppose. I think it would be quite educational for them, besides all the fun of experiencing new things and meeting new people.

Our kids don’t have all the latest gadgets and gizmos. None of us will probably ever own an iPad. We have the gadgets we need for school and our business. And some of those gadgets were given to us. The others were bought straight out and not with credit. I can’t tell you how freeing that is! What an amazing sense of pride and accomplishment to know we were able to set aside money enough to cover those needs and buy them without creating more problems for ourselves.

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” ~ Edmund Hillary

And none of these “hardships” bothers me in the least, not when I can look back and see how far we have come. By doing things this way, we are still able to buy a few gifts for our loved ones and go out to eat from time to time. And we can still stop by our favorite cafe for yummy coffee periodically. There’s nothing like a drastic cut in pay to make you re-evaluate what’s truly important and what you and your family truly need to live. Sometimes, we eke by and sometimes things are extremely tight but we are getting there and all our hard work and effort is paying off. And we are doing it without federal aid now, though we did have some federal aid for about a year. I’m so happy we’ve worked our way out of having to accept federal aid. It is possible to work your way out of that particular aid that can sometimes seem like a different kind of vicious cycle.

So why did I choose to post this type of thing on a business blog when it seems to be more personal? Well, what happens in your personal life greatly affects what goes on in your business. And also of equal importance, how you learn to deal with personal difficulties strengthens you for difficult times in the life of your business. I can’t begin to tell you how many life lessons we are learning and how much better off we are mentally because of the choices we are making today. I hope this blog post will be an inspiration to others who may be struggling, trying to crawl out from under a mountain of debt. It can be done but sacrifices will have to be made. There is always a balance to things. John’s mom always says, “You can have everything you want, but not all at the same time.” It’s so true!

“The fall of dropping water wears away the stone.” ~ Lucretius

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