Friday, October 16, 2009

What's the payoff?

I've put a lot of thought into this. Right now, my mandatory expenses budget for my family (me, my wife, my newborn baby) is around $25,000/year. Most people would gasp at the thought of living on a mere $25k (and I fully admit that living in a cheap, rural area helps). But it can be done, and it's not even that tight of a budget.

This also includes $6,500 of minimum payments on a couple of debts that we thoroughly regret.

We've given up some things. We almost never eat out, we no longer have a TV or cable, we don't go on vacations that don't include trips to see (and stay with) family. But we haven't given up anything that we really miss. We live in a very small apartment. We have some extravagances, too, such as a high-speed internet connection and a rather pricey cell-phone plan.

But what do we get in a return for those losses? Peace of mind!

Less than two months after we restarted our lives in the minimalist fashion (not entirely by choice, another story for another time), we joined that select group of Americans that do *not* live paycheck to paycheck. The first time we realized we could go to the grocery store whenever we felt like, not just the day after payday, my wife cried with joy. I almost did a little dance the first time the car broke down and I realized I didn't have to call any family members to beg for money.

We both come from poor backgrounds, which isn't fun, but also helps us keep our goals in perspective. The idea of owning a home, any home, is one of our biggest dreams. I frequently daydream about the day I'll walk into a used car lot and pay cash for a cheap used car when my current one dies. As mentioned above, just being able to buy groceries is a relief.

It's worth it.

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