Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Getting What You Want (Is Not Always What You Think You Want)

When my husband and I were looking for a house, we made a list.

I believe there is power in writing things down. It's not magic exactly, but something happens when we take our thoughts and our ideas and bring them from the ethereal into the tangible world, where they can be read and re-read and where we can decide if they make sense or not. And others can potentially see them, and maybe even get behind them too.

I thought the best way we could assure that we get exactly what we're looking for was to write down our ideas about what we both wanted, make sure we were on the same page, and then know what to look for in a house. To focus our energies on the real deal instead of wasting time on things that didn't fit our list.

Our plan at the time was to fix up an old house as a bed and breakfast, so our list went something like this:
- 4 to 5 bedrooms
- 3 to 4 bathrooms
- a mud room
- a laundry room
- a library

You know, something that (after a little work - or a lot) would look like this:

That was about 6 years ago, but I was thinking about it recently and came to a new and revelatory understanding about this list.

Our house ended up being less than 900 square feet, an open floor plan with one sleeping loft and one bathroom. No distinguished library, no mud room, no laundry room. Or, at least, that's what one might see if you looked at the tax rolls.

But, in reality, we asked for 4 to 5 bedroom; we got beds for 5. We asked for 3 to 4 bathrooms; we got a bathroom that fits 3 people at a time (yes, we've all been in there together! With a potty training toddler, it's inevitable!). We asked for a mud room; we have a space near the door to hang our coats and dry our boots. We asked for a laundry room; we have a washer and a place to do our laundry. We asked for a library; we got a beautiful bookshelf made out of reclaimed lumber, hung over our couch where we can comfortably read. We wanted a bed and breakfast; we got a post and beam shed we plan to convert into a rustic guest house.

We made a list and thought we knew what that meant. Life brought us exactly what we asked for - it just didn't look like what we expected it to.

Sometimes, success is all in your perspective.

"It's not only moving that creates new starting points. Sometimes all it takes is a subtle shift in perspective, an opening of the mind, an intentional pause and reset, or a new route to start to see new options and new possibilities." - Kristin Armstrong

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Financial Dieting

In my last post, I briefly mentioned my desire to get out of debt. To me, living small means more than just living in a small house. It also means spending small. And that runs in my genes! The women in my family have made this our family motto: Numquam pretium persolvere - "Never pay full price"!

When I would come home from a shopping trip, my husband John and I used to play this game (okay, I used to make him play this game!). I would hold up the item, and John had to guess how much I paid. A sweater in April with a red clearance tag? "$15?" "Nope!" "$8?" "Nope! $6.95!" (After awhile, he got smart and started seriously underbidding, like $2 for anything... but we all know that's not how you play the game!)

I also get seriously excited when I see our accounts making money. Last year we switched our investments and retirement savings from a "big box" company to a small, family-run investment advisory in Goshen, NY (10-15 Associates - whom I highly recommend). I had no idea just how much more we could be growing our assets with a good advisor! And my experience is you don't have to have a ton of capital to start, but you do have to start.

My point is, I'm passionate about being financially free.

I think I'm on my way. Our old house - also, my biggest debt - is on the market. We didn't plan to get out of debt this way, but... well, here we are! (You can read more about that shift in my last blog post.)

I'm not an economist or a financial advisor by any means, but I see financial freedom as a balance between saving more and spending less. To me, it's like losing weight. There are lots of ways to do it, but it basically comes down to either exercising more or eating less. And I'm ready to lose some financial weight!

Before I expound upon some highly developed financial plan that's probably already out there, let me point you to this blog post I found that hit close to home for me, with practical methods in just a few words. Check out The Minimalists post on Financial Freedom. I love a lot of the things these dudes have to share, and there's nothing like a little inspiration on a Tuesday night (or anytime)!

And when you're done reading, let me know what you think. What works for you? What doesn't? What tools have you used to increase your financial independence? What's the most money you ever saved on something: in a day or a week or a lifetime? What weighs you down? And, most importantly, what lifts you up?

Thanks for reading, and may we all find more financial freedom this week.