This is a guest post from Sheryl in Ontario, who is 40 years old with a grown daughter, and is trying to rebuild her retirement dream just 20 years too late for early retirement.
If you had told the “old” me that I would living on the budget I have now, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you had told me that by buying less things I would have greater pleasure in what I have, I would have dismissed you. If you told me that I would have the inner strength to tell myself no to spending, I would have laughed at you.
I have had head smarts about budgeting, personal finance, debt reduction and saving for a long time, but I never put anything into action. I’d talk about it, plan it, spread it on a work sheet, project outcomes based on what spending I would do in what category, but that’s where it ended, in the planning stage. I would “behave” with money for a few days, then something would happen to derail me, and I’d be back in planning mode again.
Now I act. Now I feel joy in frugality instead of deprivation. Now I can tell myself no, and listen.
This change didn’t happen over night. I didn’t have a sudden epiphany. It hurt when it started. When I first realized I had to sell some personal possessions to buy groceries, that had to be one of the most horrible feelings ever. One item I sold was my Coach handbag, to a co-worker, and every day I saw her with it, it was like a fresh stab at that wound that wouldn’t heal. I blamed everyone and everything I could think of. I blamed my boss for not paying me enough, I blamed life for not being fair, I blamed my car for costing money to run, I blamed manufacturers and farmers for wanting to make too much profit, I blamed rich people for creating a demand thus causing expectations and prices to rise, and I blamed my ex-husband for anything I could. It took me a long time to start blaming myself.
I started paying more attention to my finances, reading more books and blogs about the internal changes I needed to make. Simpler living became more desirable. Sometimes it feels like reducing spending is like trying to do the splits. If it happens suddenly, chances are it you have hurt yourself, but if you routinely stretch yourself out of your comfort zone, eventually you can do things you never imagined. I have come a long way, and humbly admit I still have a lot to learn, but I feel I’m on the right path now.
The more I saw my handbag, the more I realized I never liked it as much as I thought I did. The straps never stayed on my shoulder properly, it didn’t have enough pockets, things got lost in it even though it was a smallish size and I was paranoid of getting it dirty. I started to see the handbag as a part of a life that wasn’t for me. I had bought it on credit, so technically had never really “owned” it, much like most of my life up to that point. I didn’t own the handbag, the handbag had owned me. As time went on, I started to think that the handbag suited my co-worker much better than it ever had me. I started to feel happy at the pleasure she had using it.
Eventually I was able to not feel badly every time I saw my co-worker with her handbag. It is just a handbag.