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?
Recommended Reading: Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century
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.
Recommended Reading: Screw ‘Em: Doing What’s Best For You in Your Debt Payoff Journey
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?
Looking forward to reading about when you become debt-free in the near future! Our primary financial goal this year is to increase our monthly mortgage payment by $200 to pay it off in 5 years instead of 7 years. The additional payments will allow us to save about $2,000 in additional interest charges.
Josh, that’s great!! I know you guys can do it. Keep up the great work!
I agree Laurie, the financially independent stories are super motivating. Although we want to retire early we have other short term goals of helping out three child fund college over the next 8 years. It’s all about having a plan for your money and staying focused. Looking forward to your debt freedom achievement!
So true! Having a plan and staying focused is VITAL. Thanks, Brian!
Oh man, I’m sorry that you can’t share your debt payoff plans publicly, but I completely understand. I was afraid to tell a lot of people who know me personally about the blog for fear that they’d get too comfortable critiquing our finances. And I find that funny, because most people handle money very poorly, so it’s like the pot calling the kettle black.
Our dream is to also achieve financial independence. We’re still in the getting-out-of-debt phase of our journey, so we have a ways to go, but it’s still been so much fun. We’ve already crushed $14,000 of credit card debt and eliminated a $10,000 car payment—while buying a house and paying cash for a renovation. Not too shabby!
We’re currently paying off $65,000 of student loans in about 18 months. I’m looking forward to the feeling of freedom once these are out of the way!
You can do it!!! Debt freedom will be SO nice, won’t it? Can’t wait to celebrate. 🙂
It’s amazing how many people set arbitrary financial goals (aka a certain dollar amount) without going through the exercise of picturing the goal and figuring out how much honestly that goal will cost. I suspect there are a lot of surprised people when they reach retirement – for either under, or over, saving.
I think you’re right, Brad!! Goals are nearly unobtainable without a step-by-step plan in place, and visualization is so powerful. As we pay off debt, we use a lot of scare tactics in our visualization, imagining what would happen if Rick got laid off (God forbid 🙂 ) or whatever. It really helps to motivate us.
Could you share some of the blogs that you mentioned? I would love to read them as well! It sounds like those IRL friends weren’t really friends. You deserve better ones. Truly good friends are a hard to find treasure. Of all things, I admire you for not choosing bankruptcy and gutting it out. It shows true character.
Hi Sheila! If you click on the “best early retirement blogs” link to Rockstar Finance it’ll have a great list of them. One of my personal favorites right now is http://www.mrcrazykicks.com/ . Thanks for the comment – I appreciate it!
Ooh there’s quite a few new-to-me blogs on that list!
Mrcrazykicks’ reverse Christmas is the best idea ever — thanks for posting his site!
Yay! Glad you like it!
Thanks for the mention, Laurie! I’m glad you enjoy the blog 🙂
Sure thing, Mr. CK. Keep writing awesome stuff. 🙂
I’m working on buying less “stuff” and saving more money. I recently watched a film called The Minimalists and realized how much stuff I had that I barely used, and how much money I could be saving if I stopped buying it all.
Good for you, Alexis!!! I’ll bet you’ll find yourself entering 2018 with a lot less stuff and a lot more cash in the bank.
GREAT post, Laurie! I feel so energized and motivated after reading it. You are SO right that every little bit of progress is still progress – it counts and it makes a difference! 2017 is going to be a fantastic year!!! 🙂
I’m sorry you have experienced some negativity IRL with your goals. It’s frustrating that people can’t be kind and supportive of your goals.
#4 is a favorite of mine! I love to challenge myself to make progress wherever I can. And I’m really excited to save more in January. Thanks for sharing the challenge. I’m inspired and excited that we’re all on a journey to accomplish great things in 2017!
Thanks, my friend! Yes, it is frustrating but we’re over it now. 🙂 We figure it’s really their problem and not ours. On to 2017 and AWESOME financial strides!
This year our focus will be to challenge ourselves and save more. We have a written planner we are using and a visual board to help us get motivate. We haven’t taken a family vacation and our goal is to have a fun one before my girl goes to college. Happy 2017 Laurie!
That’s awesome, Joyce! I’m so glad you are saving for a vacation. We took our first one in summer of 2015 and it was SO worth the time and money we spent.
Love this Laurie! It’s so easy to get sidetracked with what everyone else is doing, their thoughts, opinions…it sometimes makes you, or at least it does for me, question my desire to be so focused on FI. But it’s what I want and will make some sacrifices in the short term to get myself there. It’s MY dream!
Yes!! That’s where we’re at. OUR life, OUR dreams. Screw ya if you don’t want to support us. 🙂
I have to admit there are definitely times that I look at some of the amazing bloggers out there and the progress that they’ve made and I think what is wrong with me. But then it’s a nice kick in the pants to push myself even further.
Keep up the awesome work and I can’t wait to read the day that you pay off your debt!!!
Thanks, MSM! You have an awesome 2017!
Can’t wait to see that debt free post from you guys!
Our intention as we join our finances together is to really focus on the in-between stuff that keeps on falling through the cracks. We have gotten better at catching those big monthly payments and the small annoying everyday conveniences, but we always seem to spend a little too much on eating out or expanding or budget for one more thing. For me, it’s really about being patient with myself and not getting ahead of the game. There is only so much that I can do until the next set of payments come in. It is all taken care of and I shouldn’t be wishing the time away just to get to that next goal.
We have struggled with that in the past too, Amanda!! And with wishing away time till the next goal. We look far too eagerly sometimes toward the next payday. Good luck as you reach your goals – I know you can do it!
First of all what does IRL mean?
So glad you cited “Your Money or your life” as I have said before this is the book that really started us on our journey.
We started out to retirement by aiming to live on one income as Mr ‘Im-Indoors was ill and we were not sure if just that (my) one income would become the norm.
My “What-if” philosophy was unfounded but we found we were managing very well on the one income and it became the norm. Even though we have been retired a while now we still bank one set of retirement income and live off the other.
I recently spoke to a friend who is worried that she will need to work longer, not because of financial needs but as the Govt here in the UK is changing the ages at which folk can access their state pensions. I pointed out that she would have another 4 or 5 years of work but that would equate to all that extra salary. A positive way to look at the situation.
Another friend shared that she thought maybe I was spending a little too long sourcing good deals on groceries, making meals from scratch, checking and questioning the amounts we pay for utilities, insurances etc. I asked “Mr ‘Im-indoors if he felt that that was the case and should I cut back on my efforts. He said “No way – I am SO proud of what you are able to do!” He does “dine-out” on the tale of how I spotted a yellow reduced sticker on an item in a supermarket in China earlier this year!
Yes China we love to travel whilst we still can!
Hi my friend! “IRL” = “in real life”, as in non-Internet friends. 🙂
I really believe you guys are doing it right. Obviously, it’s working well for you and you aren’t having those financial struggles that so many others are. SO glad you are traveling. It’s important to save, but important to enjoy your retirement as well!! 🙂
Love this, Laurie! I cannot wait until the day you triumphantly share with us that you have conquered your debt! I know it’s been a roller coaster ride and I’m so glad you’re honest about it. Too many make it sound so simple, which it is and it isn’t. Some days you go back, some days you just want to quit and other days you take 10 leaps forward. I’m glad your hard work is really starting to pay off and you’re seeing your debt disappear faster and faster. I spent much of my adult life with the attitude of “later”. Later I will be happy. Later I can do what I want. And I want it now. Not in a YOLO kind of way, but life can and should be good now because this moment is what I know I have. And even when I am old and gray (or older and grayer), it’s still easy to say “Later” and never really live.
Awesome comment, Tanya!!! Yes, we all deserve to treat ourselves much better than we often do. Glad you’re jumping on that train!
“Don’t be normal” and “don’t get discouraged”–both such great pieces of advice! We dream of purchasing more land and having some type of farm with youth internships/mentoring. We’re not really in the planning phase yet but we have been laying the financial groundwork to do so with little to no debt.
Keep in prayer – God will guide you, Kalie!
“…we were over $1,000 short every month…” Laurie, this is the situation that too many people are in – and so few actually talk about it. You and Rick are FABULOUS role models! I’ll say it: You’re in a tougher fight than the vast majority of debt/ personal finance bloggers. But you’re winning! And that is super inspiring. God bless you in your efforts to be done with debt in 2017!
Thanks, friend!! I figure if we can get out of debt, just about anyone can.
Awesome post Laurie 🙂 Keep up the good work, my friend!
Our culture has mainstreamed debt-slavery. It’s so sad. But thankfully, thanks to bloggers like you, more and more people are questioning the merits of being “normal.” Very inspiring post, Laurie. And thanks for the reading suggestions. I’ve been meaning to read “Your Money or Your Life” for a while now. Perhaps 2017 is the year finally I do it.
Thanks, Mr. Groovy!! Yes, it’s definitely time for people to buck “normal”!
Setting goals are really important for financial success. But we must always remember to set a feasible goal, as sometimes failing to achieve our goals may demotivate us. The path to achieving the goals is surely very difficult, but we must not let the downs demoralize us or the ups make us arrogant. Being logical and practical is an important step towards success. This post sure has inspired us to strive towards making our dreams come true.
Hi Laurie, Nice to see that you are focused on paying off your debt. Keep it going and continue to stay laser focused on it.
I am writing my goals for 2016. As for the 2017 financial goal, I write it down on a piece of paper and keep it in my wallet where I can see it everyday as a reminder.
This method helps me stay focused in achieving my goal. I have done it for several years now.
That’s a great idea, Michael!! I know you guys will do a great job of reaching your goals for this year. Good luck!
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