I’ve been fighting the urge to bring work and money into this blog, seeing BackyardLifeBlog.com as a respite from that world. It occurred to me that I’m really more interested in compete satisfaction in life and not just on my down time. It’s impossible to have that satisfaction without taking into account the 40 hours I spend at work. There are 168 hours in a week, so that’s almost a quarter of my time.
First, some background: Liz and I bought our modest home (~1100 square feet) at the height of the real estate bubble in 2006. We weren’t so glassy-eyed to know what we could and couldn’t afford, so we didn’t make the mistake of buying more than we could afford. We purchased from a flipper doing his first flip. He definitely made some mistakes, but he did take care of some bigger expenses like new siding and roofing. We’re put a lot of time and money into this place and there’s still more to do, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
At the time we bought the house, we had a few thousand dollars in the bank and owed about $17,000 in student loans. We paid the minimums for a couple of years and that dropped to $12-something. This was the end of 2007. We had been scraping by on our old pay and barely keeping up. We decided to get serious. I had been listening to Dave Ramsey‘s podcast for a year or so and read his books. I also had been listening to Dan Miller’s “48 Days to the Work you Love” podcast during that same time. We had a plan and we felt like we could actually execute it. We both started searching for new jobs and were lucky enough to have them fall into our laps within a couple of months. I say it was luck for me because I hadn’t really started using the 48 days plan. I was just browsing on Monster.com and came across something that sounded interesting and applied on the spot. I was interviewed within 2 days and hired a few days later. We ended up doubling our income, which allowed us to really start chipping away at the debt.
Since Liz graduated from college, we owed a total of $18,000 on student loans. In the first two and a half years, we paid down a little less than $6k of that. Now that we had increased our income (to about the national household average), we could make a push to get rid of the rest of it. We put every dollar we could toward that debt and paid off the last 12k in ONLY 9 MONTHS! We figured it was going to take about a year, but we kept gaining more and more traction. It’s amazing what it feels like to not have any consumer debt at all. Life gets really fun when you give yourself options and that’s what having money in the bank does.
We have always had a “car fund” to pay for repairs and to save up our insurance premiums so we could save a bit of money by paying in one lump rather than monthly. Since the student loans were gone, we could pay for both of those things straight out of cash flow. The money kept going into that car fund. We knew sooner or later we’d have to replace my car, a 1995 Chevy Cavalier 2-door. On January 1, 2009, we decided to go out car shopping since the Cavalier no longer liked to start in the winter. We ended up buying a new-to-us car and we donated the Cavalier to Goodwill, where they auctioned it off for about $800. Here’s the best part: We bought the new car with a debit card! It was surreal going from just keeping up to paying cash for a car in only a couple of years.
Where am I headed next? I’d really like to pursue free agency — starting my own business that would allow me to have even more control over how I spend my time and energy. I’d rather be paid on a project basis and let it take as long as it takes to get the work done. I’m tired of trading time for money. It’s inefficient and wasteful. It also doesn’t compensate for providing value.
Are you pursuing a life you are proud to call your own? Have you explored working for yourself? I’d really like to hear what your experiences have been and hopefully you can inspire me and others to pursue a more fulfilling life. Please leave your comments below.