Part 1. Financial Rockstars:
When my husband and I met over 15 years ago we were both working jobs that paid only $12 per hour but were somehow able to save enough money in less than a year to move to Costa Rica and spend a year traveling, exploring, and experiencing another culture. People constantly asked us how we saved that money while earning so little.
As Paula Pant says, “you can afford anything, just not everything”. Dave and I really wanted to go to Central America and so we made it work. We prioritized. There was certainly sacrifice but it didn’t feel like deprivation because we had an exciting goal to work towards.
Part 2. Lifestyle creep:
Unfortunately, Dave and did not continue to be financial rock stars. A term I understand now but wish I had understood 10 years ago is lifestyle creep. Lifestyle creep is when your standard of living improves as your income rises. Which means that things that used to feel like luxuries, now feel like necessities. I had always been so good with my money, and so I didn’t even notice it happening! Suddenly Dave and I both had decent paying jobs and we were somehow spending everything we made. We justified it by saying: “hey – we have never made much money, we deserve to live like this for a while.” Then we had kids and we justified our spending with: “Parenting is expensive and stressful, we need all of these things to keep us happy.”
Part 3. Back on Course
And then one day, Dave stumbled upon one of our favorite blogs: Mister Money Mustache. We both binge-read his posts and slowly started re-connecting to our previous financially-conscious selves. During the lifestyle creep years of our lives, I told Dave (and myself) that I did not want to feel constrained by budgeting or saving. I wanted to live life to the fullest and if that meant spending all of our money – so be it. But a crazy thing happened: Spending all our money blindly, not knowing where it was going, and not feeling in-control of our financial lives actually ended up feeling awful. And when we began to take back control of our money, I began to feel this infectious type of freedom and excitement. There were so many small things we were able to do that improved our money situation and I did not feel in the least bit deprived by any of them. On the contrary, I felt a sense of control and pleasure as we found more ways to allow our money to work for us instead of against us. Holy cow – the amount of money I was spending at Target and Costco on random and completely unnecessary things was insane!
And so here we are, a few years later and we are Financial Rock Stars again! We spend our money on things that we value, which allows us to live a life that is full of joy and freedom.
While it would have been awesome if we have been Financial Rock Stars the entire time, I learned some very valuable lessons from my years of Lifestyle-Creep. Our transformation makes me so excited that now I want to share my knowledge, experience and passion with others.
Dave and I now live in Minneapolis, Minnesota with our two unique little girls (9-year-old Isabelle and 7-year-old Maddie) and our sweet old dog (Maya). We live an amazing life full of love, community, and adventure. We love to swim, bike, hike, camp, canoe, spend time on lakes, and spend time doing fun things with our friends and family.
I value family, community, love, health, friendships, nature, joy, and kindness. I have never really been into expensive or fancy things and I have always valued experiences over possessions. So, I spend and save money on and for the things that I value, things that bring me joy.
Whatever it is that you value – whatever it is that brings you joy and happiness – let’s figure it out together and make a financial plan that is aligned with those values!
While I do not believe that money can buy happiness or buy love or solve all of your problems, I do believe that being in control of your money can honestly increase feelings of happiness and fulfillment in your life. Money problems cause great amounts of stress and anxiety individually, and especially in couples or families. When struggling financially, people often report feeling overwhelmed, scared, worried, confused, intimidated, or embarrassed. It does not have to be this way!
With small changes to the way we view and manage our financial lives, we can make huge transformation and start living the lives we dream of living.