I've spent far too much of my past dwelling upon the things I want and don't have. I spent a good part of my late teens and early 20's creating debts for myself over stupid things that didn't even withstand time. Clothes. Food. Vacations. As I now am in a place to pay back all my debts, I look back and question whether any of that was even worth it. I bought a new TV yesterday because for the first time in my life, I actually had money available when there was a sale. I wasn't looking for one. I wasn't shopping around. I was actually looking for something else, which I realized wasn't priced any better but the tv was a great deal and I took advantage of that thinking that my original purchase, since it wasn't priced any differently now than before, could wait another week or two when I have more money. I paid for my tv in cash. OK, debit card but withdrawn from available funds, not credit. My point is, I am one of those people who lived that fast paced life of buy buy buy compete with your peers, go out, get an over priced car you don't need, etc. etc. and it has had an affect on my life in a negative and positive way. The bad side is that some 7 years later, I'm still trying to pay off my ghosts of debts past. I was going to do bankruptcy, but realized if I'm paying a lawyer $100 a month, why not just spend that money on debts. Half the debts I owed offered settlements, which I am taking advantage of. I don't want to be some crumb bum who racked up all these debts when I was young and irresponsible and will let the gov't just deal with it and give me a clean slate. At one point, before I had my son, I seriously thought that bankruptcy was my only option. I thought that I would be working and paying for daycare and all these child-related expenses. Instead, I got laid off and saved money on not paying for daycare and not having to pay for formula and diapers by using cloth diapers till it financially balanced out to switch back to disposables and breastfed (still do some 9.5 months later) and make my own baby food. We used my unemployment funds to continue paying for our monthly expenses like rent, food, and so on and now we're living solely on Jesse's income and using my unemployment to pay back my debts. Ultimately, we're living below our means because with each debt paid, that means more money to our name. I started out with about $5228 in debts ranging from medical bills to old credit cards. So far, I've managed to pay back $1500 of it. I know that doesn't seem like much of a victory but it is. In fact, actually looking at bills, I've realized that just about every bill I have offers a settlement and one of them was actually a $145 bill for an urgent care visit that should only be billed my $15 copay! If I just forked out money to random debts, I'd be spending more than I need to. I know everyone has their own different ways of handling finances. Some people say pay off the high interest stuff first, some say stuff that hasn't gone to collections yet, others small bills. I guess I am just going a hybrid route. I paid off all the small bills first in order of things that were in collections. If it wasn't in collections yet, I put it back because it was still in good standing and could wait. Numerically, it looks like I've only paid back 1/5 of what I owe. But in terms of billing statements, I've actually paid off 1/2 of the people I owe. Now I'm getting to the relms of higher doller bills, but that's ok. That just means to me now that once the big guys get paid off, I will almost be done with it all.
So how do you know you've got it all? Wasn't that what this post was originally about?
I guess I had to do the financial preface to get to the point. I'm at a place in life now where I've grown out of the reckless spending sprees. Yes, I have an old (depending who you talk to) piece of crap car, but it's paid for. We have a small apartment, but the rent is cheap. I don't have designer purses or clothes, but I can get a new wardrobe per season for $60. I don't go out to eat all the time, and I'm 15 lbs lighter thanks to that. I haven't gone on a vacation anywhere fancy or fun, well, I'd like to save up and go on a really nice family vacation one day when we're situated. It took me years to realize this, but, I have everything I want. I have a place to live. I have clothes on my back and shoes on my feet. I have food in my stomach. I have my family, my friends. I have the ability to make ends meet with my means. I know how to live a frugal lifestyle so that one day when we have money, instead of blowing it away, we'll actually have some savings. And on that note, I am finally able to save money. When I deposit my unemployment check, instead of that money bringing me back out of overdraft land, it actually goes to other remaining funds. I'm not living frivelously, but I am living comfortably for sure. I know that in a matter of months, we will be moving to a bigger place but we will be able to afford it. One day we will have a house. Instead of rushing in and accepting whatever loan we might qualify for, I'd rather just wait it out till we can get a better interest rate and have our choice of houses so that we have something we really life and can spend our life in. But till then, I am definetely in a happier place and might even go as far as saying I'm happy with the way things are. Less is more.