It might be a strong habit of humans, to surrender oneself to the conduct of Western society, but no one is forcing you. You do have a choice in most aspects of living. It simply requires thinking outside the box, stretching your mind and heart, and making counter cultural decisions that may tick a lot of people off...Ok so it is not so simple, but living free of the conduct of typical society is an option and it can be rewarding in certain cases. For instance; Finances.
This time of year most people feel the time crunch of money. Not only is it the Christmas season when expectations on self and others are high, but it's also the end of the year for many businesses that collect their money. It doesn't seem like the season to talk about money and maybe I should wait until after christmas but my husband and I decided to get out of debt AT christmas a few years ago. The "season of Joy" required us to re assess what we are living for. It may actually be the perfect season, because of desperation, to get a jump start on taking back your life.
Currently, we have gone into slight debt to finish renos on our house. It is not something that will get us into huge trouble but it has us living pay check to pay check once again. A concept that is eerily familiar to us because we spent over a decade of our marriage pay check to pay check or barely getting by. This had it's benefits but the downsides cost dearly. Money can get in between souls. It can blight lovely moments. YET, as human souls, we also have the power to take a bit of our autonomy back. Money does not have a soul but we do! This fact can keep us on the winning side.
Today, I was re- reading some articles that helped us in our money journey years ago. I needed a refresher because it is time to slowly take back our time, resources and autonomy. When I say "slowly" it is because I do not want to give the illusion that getting out of debt is easy or quick. However, I have been on both sides and can honestly say that suddenly what feels like forever is 5 years later of plugging along on the scrimping plan and one day, you wake up free! Five years may seem long but on the flip side, it is really worth it!
Paying bills is part of life in our current society, but there are ways to lessen the load and to live freely within those payments. Sometimes, if it's done right, paying those bills can be a privilege in exchange for a service that is wanted (if used appropriately and you are not being ripped off.) We have options. We can choose to enjoy christmas without so much giving or receiving...and focus on what we have. We can choose to opt out of many service conditions or job requirements or being part of organizations that take our time and money and that our culture conditions us to believe adds worth to us. There are many ways we can cut back to take back what is ours- a LIFE of beauty, peace and grace. When we get to that point we are free to give money, that is not debt money, to others in gifts we choose because we WANT to and not because we believe it is required.
*On a side note, it is important to enjoy your life and sometimes give of time or beauty in other ways while you are in debt- life is only lived once, but try to apply that theory in other ways if possible!*
Here are some articles and a few highlights from each to start you on your journey:
"Walking a new financial path isn’t easy. It’s like a diet–it’s a new set of routines and it can be difficult to get used to a new walk. The best way to make it easier is to ask for help, and the best place to ask is your spouse. Work cooperatively with your spouse to cut spending and get in a better financial routine."
And this is a surprisingly comprehensive how to guide to get started:
"Cut unnecessary expenses. You will need to adjust to living off the smaller budget that you have set and, whenever possible, even less than that. This means cutting out unnecessary daily spending: fewer lattés at the café, more homemade coffee; fewer lunches out, more bagged lunches from home.
I don't have all the answers because each household has unique needs and challenges, but some of these concepts are universal. Some ideas you will have to tweak for your own household. When we originally cut our debt we made huge drastic changes. We put all money that was not on groceries or bills to debt for two full years and used christmas and birthdays as the only time to spend on something we want. We did not do anything or buy anything and we gifted out of our own household stalk. We also cut our gas bill and power by consuming way less than was comfortable at times. Currently, our house is filled with stuff and this fact would be hard to believe, but it was not always like this. A lot of our stuff has come from saving from birthdays and holidays, exchanging with others, gifts and also from the year of financial freedom when we allowed ourselves to fill in a few things we didn't get to enjoy before. We didn't go crazy but since we don't own vehicles that have payments, or expensive jewellery or go on vacations we DID add that money up and buy fun things for our home. It was our celebratory achievement pay day:) However, it is not a habit we enjoy and currently we are cutting back again because we started to believe we could afford that lifestyle regularly (we can't.)
This time in our financial goals we are starting a bit more slow because we are not in as much trouble as last time. We will be dividing our money between trying to build a savings account and the debt we do have on a year long plan. It's what we can afford to do. Last time we were not so lucky and had to make drastic, life changing cuts and huge sacrifices to sustain our home and our life. It CAN get better but it takes willpower, support, guts, thinking outside the box, and grace. Grace is the biggest factor. Life is more than money. Money IS important but it's like health.
Speaking from a place of chronic illness I now know that health isn't everything either. I can still live a wonderful life in pain or ill health. I can feel my value and cherish my life even with hair falling out or my skin breakouts of hives or the pain that sends me into spirals. It's not all bad and in fact some of it teaches me my value in a different way. It's possible. Would I prefer to have health? Yes! But wasting time on envy of others who have that health, wishing my moments away with "if only's" or idealizing health as the only possible way to have a valuable existence, is a precious waste of ME. The same applies to money. Like health, it is important. As in health, it is crucial to make some necessary adjustments, do the research on your current condition, accept or grieve the changes of life ahead, but then apply grace to the fact that life may always be a tad different for you and those changes can bring some freedom and joy in a different way.
If you are in pain this holiday season, I am sorry. I know what that is like. We almost felt suicidal one christmas due to finances and having NOTHING. I understand. If you are in that place DO NOT give up. It CAN get better. We saw a financial advisor at christmas and he told us to go bankrupt. We didn't. (We would have if we had to.) Despite him saying that we could never sustain what we had, we proved him wrong. We took a few of his suggestions and made some of our own adjustments. We did what was necessary and we still have our home. This was a financial advisor who told us we could not have what we now have. Defy the odds. It CAN be done. It can look dire but there are ways to make life worth living. Remind yourself of what you do have and make steps towards what you want: freedom. There is hope. Latch on to it and while you are at it, find someone who can help you through this time. Life is still worth living, even in crushing debt. In fact, I had some of my most beautiful moments during this time too. Yours WILL happen. You can help yourself too.
I wish you a season of freedom. I wish you bravery to make the changes that some will condemn you for, others will view as selfish and some may shake their heads in wonder. Don't explain because they can not possibly know all of your life...just make the changes that are needed one small step at a time. Most of all I wish you grace. First for yourself and then for others as you transition onward.
Walking this journey with you. "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow, So have yourself a merry little christmas now..." (from the lovely melancholy christmas song below).