You may have noticed it’s been a little quiet on Greener Pasture$ for a few weeks. That’s because we’re sucking… totally sucking… at reaching the lofty goals we set for ourselves, and I’ve been embarrassed to show my anonymous face here. Why would anyone want to read a personal finance blog by someone who can’t keep her own personal finance goals?
After a super awesome September, our October spending crept back up again to around 2016 spending levels. I had a few weeks of feeling defeated.
But… If you’ve been following along, you know that although I talk about money, this is primarily a happy living blog. Money is but one requirement on the path to happiness (it provides security, which allows you to pursue happiness). Since we’ve decided our too-demanding-and-not-fulfilling-enough jobs are keeping us from living our best lives, we’re trying to scale back our spending so we can (responsibly) do something else… but spending less is not the end game. Living our best life is.
And, while we work towards financial independence, we’re not interested in feeling deprived and miserable. A few days ago I listened to the Mad FIentist on the Afford Anything podcast describing some years he spent being too frugal and feeling unhappy. Some people may want to race towards financial freedom as quickly as possible, and are willing to white knuckle it through some pain during the years it takes to get there.
We don’t feel that way. For us, life is too fleeting and unpredictable to put off joy today. We have young kids! We’re not willing to miss their childhood working long hours so that we can be home more with them in 10 years!! Their childhood is NOW, and we won’t get another shot at it. And, we have our own creative goals we want to pursue. You never know what the future might hold, so we feel that we need to pursue those goals NOW.
So what we’re aiming for is making changes that save money but both feel good in the moment and will allow us more flexibility in the future.
It’s beginning to dawn on me that although we’ll continue whittling away at our variable expenses, the bigger changes are going to take time. Changing our childcare situation, for example, is going to take a little doing — we have to find a place that we’re happy sending our kids and is also convenient, less expensive, and more flexible. That will take time — finding the right place, getting a spot there, and waiting for the right time to make the transition. Moving into a less expensive home or paying off a mortgage takes time — we’re not ready to make a move yet and don’t know when it will make sense to do that.
And, perhaps most crucially, developing our creative and entrepreneurial ideas into finished (hopefully income-generating) products will take time. It will take a career transition to allow us the space and time to follow and develop those ideas, which itself is a multi-month process. And, once we have that space, it will take months or years for our new pursuits to start making us money. This is something I have not discussed on the blog before, and I expect will be the subject of many future posts.
In the meantime, we’ve established a baseline — we now know what we were spending without thinking much about it, and have seen great improvements from paying more attention day to day. And, we have an idea of places we can target in the long run as we come to big decision points.
Therefore, I’m shifting my focus away from obsessing over the variations in our month-to-month spending. Of course we’re not done working on it. I’m just ready to take a step back and trust that we’re on the right path, and that over time, we’ll continue to streamline the small expenses, and we’ll have opportunities to make the big changes that will speed us along on our journey.