Lately, more by chance than anything else, I’ve been stumbling on new-to-me bloggers sharing about their lives as early-retired or almost-early-retired people. The already early-retired people share stories about awesome days where they can go where they want without having to report in to a boss (other than their spouse 🙂 ). They talk about spontaneous day trips and laying in the sun for no good reason other than they want to.
The almost-early-retired people aren’t quite there yet but they’ve got a complete vision of the dream. Their imaginations are already seeing themselves do these fun things. The faith of their victory is established firmly in their hearts even though they’re still technically working.
I don’t know about you, but those kinds of stories motivate the crap out of me. They convince me to do stuff like participate in “No Spend Month” challenges. I have visions of keeping the heat at 58 degrees like some of my crazy (rich) friends and feeding Rick and the kids nothing but rice and beans for a month.
While in reality I know I won’t go that far, I know that the challenges I’ve read and stories of success I’ve found will motivate me to step it up a few notches in terms of our financial goals. But one of the best ways to reach your financial goals faster is to figure out what they are and WHY you want them. In other words, what is your dream?
When we first started blogging four years ago, our dream was to be debt free. We’re not there yet but we’re moving toward that direction at a pretty fast pace. Due to getting some major criticism, gossip and grief from some IRL “friends” who have been far less than encouraging about our journey, we’ve chosen to stop sharing our debt progress reports here on the blog until we’ve crossed the debt-free finish line.
I cannot wait to share our victory story – along with all of its ups and downs – with you guys – our faithful readers – when it’s all said and done. It’s been quite a journey and it’s taken major-league perseverance to stay on course.
Debt freedom will be AWESOME, but now we want more. Like trading in a paycheck for doing work we love. The kids and I want Rick at home more, and he wants to be at home more.
The dream has grown from “debt freedom” to “financially independent.”
What about your dreams? What are they? Have you sat down and taken the time to think about how you really want to live your life?
If not, I encourage you to do so and to think BIG. Don’t settle for a job you hate when you have a dream in your heart to own your own business.
Don’t settle for “being able to make the payments” when what you really want is financial freedom.
Don’t settle for a j-o-b (just over broke) when what you really want is to spend your time helping others.
Don’t Be “Normal”
We live in a society where most people encourage us to fit in and to do what “everyone else” does. We’re okay with debt payments because that’s the norm. We’re okay with sacrificing our dreams to work a job because that’s the norm.
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We compare our lives with those less successful than us and figure we’re doing pretty good instead of comparing our lives with those more successful than us and facing up to the fact that we can do better.
We do this with money, with our health, with our jobs and with every other aspect of our lives. We settle for the status quo because that’s what everyone else does.
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But why not expect more? Why not explore what your dreams are and create a plan to achieve them? Is it because your dream seems impossible? Is it because you hate the idea of failing?
Trust me when I say we’ve visited failure more times than I can count, and guess what? It just doesn’t have to be the end of the story. You can get up again and continue on your journey.
When we first started paying off our debt we had “X” amount of debt. We did great for the first year and a half and then life happened and we took gargantuan steps backwards. By the end of it all our consumer debt load had more than doubled. We talked seriously about giving up and filing bankruptcy, but we just couldn’t do it without first trying really hard to pay off the debt the old-fashioned way: by hard work and sacrifice. For the last year and three months, we’ve been whittling away at our new higher debt load.
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We’re not done paying it off yet, but guess what? We’re succeeding and it feels GREAT. Way better than giving up would have. And our victories have prompted us to dream bigger and achieve more.
“Normal” might be “just fine”, but is that all you want out of life: just fine? Or do you have bigger dreams?
How to Get “There”
If you do have bigger dreams, I encourage you to make a plan to start working toward them. If you fail, you’ll still be better off than you were when you started – provided you do it smart. And if you succeed you’ll be living your dream!
Since most dreams require money, I’m going to share what you can do money-wise to start reaching your dreams.
1. Figure out the cost
What is your dream and what is it going to cost you? If it’s to pay off debt, your dream is going to cost you the amount of your debt load plus interest.
If your dream is to start a business, start calculating the start-up and operating costs.
If your dream is to buy a house with cash, start shopping for what kind of house you want and how much it’ll cost.
If your dream is to retire early, do some research and calculate how much you’ll have to have in savings and investments before you can retire early. Check out this list of best early retirement blogs and start educating yourself on how to get there.
Once you know the cost, don’t panic if it’s a big number. Knowing is half the battle, as they say. And knowing allows you to make a plan to reach your dream.
2. Align your budget with your dream
You are budgeting and spend-tracking, right? If not, start today. Write down every expense you’ll have for the month of January. Then go line-by-line through those expenses and decide how you can reduce or eliminate those expenses so that you’ve got more free cash to put toward your dream. Is your cable TV package worth giving up your dream? Is your entertainment budget worth giving up your dream? Have you shopped around for insurance quotes lately? Can you lower your utility bills?
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The more you trim from your budget, the more extra cash you’ll have each month to put toward your dream.
3. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged
Don’t worry if that extra cash is only $5 to $10 each month at the beginning. This is where most people get hooked up and give up on their dreams. It looks to them as if their dream won’t happen fast enough so instead of working at making “a little” progress they give up altogether.
Don’t allow yourself to fall into that trap. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that every dime adds up.
When we first started making a plan to pay off our debt, we were over $1,000 short every month not including my side hustle money and Rick’s overtime money. Our situation looked hopeless but we chose to try anyway. And guess what? We never, ever had a late payment on our bills. Oh sure, there were some months when the debt payoff amount was minimal, and some months when our debt levels actually went UP.
But we got up, brushed ourselves off, and counted every bit of progress – no matter how small – as a victory. We learned from our failures and then we let them go and focused on “today”.
You have to choose to do the same if you’re going to achieve your dream. Discouragement will come. Failures will happen. But you control how you will react to those failures and discouragements.
4. Keep looking for ways to improve/accelerate your plan
This has been vital to our success. I look over our budget at least once a week to see if there are any other ways we can trim costs. Rick takes advantage of overtime opportunities at work. I take freelancing jobs that seem daunting. We read and research things written by experts who have already achieved dreams similar to ours. We peruse Craigslist to see what’s selling to see if we have anything someone might need or if there are any freelance jobs that fit our skills. We scour up some spare change and make an extra debt payment. We analyze purchases to see if there’s any way we can avoid making them.
We are always improving our chances of reaching our dreams, even if that means just reading a debt success story on another site or scouring for change to put into our savings account. The point is to never stop looking for ways to accelerate your journey toward your goal or dream because every step adds up, no matter how small.
Okay: gotta go. I’m going to go make an extra $10 payment on our credit card. 🙂
What extra steps will you take in order to achieve your dreams in the coming year?