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April 01 , 2009

How to Live Well While Spending Less


We started out with very little. We had low paying jobs and one old used car, and rental house that had seen its better days. We were young, in love and all that mattered to us was being together. We spent summer afternoons at the lake. Our idea of a great Sunday was taking a long car ride. Life continued and we found better-paying jobs. Then we discovered credit. We soon had a nicer house, a couple of nice cars and two pretty cool kids. And we were struggling. We wanted to look successful, but we were barely paying the bills. Minor issues, like a sick child causing one of us to miss a day’s pay, were a catastrophe! Working as much as possible became our only focus. We used one credit card to pay the bill on another and it was an unending circle.
We looked at our friends and found most of them in the same situation. One couple we knew had an amazing house in the best of neighborhoods, but except for a couch and an air mattress, had no furniture. Another couple we knew drove very nice cars but each worked two jobs and they rarely saw each other.
We were miserable. However, we still didn’t know why. We thought we needed more “stuff”. We bought (financed) two ATV’s. We loved to ride. We began taking our children riding on our off days, which were rare. After a while it got to be too stressful, so we decided, we needed to go to the mountains to ride. So we invested in all new camping gear, which we bought with our new Sears credit card. (That we applied for in case of an emergency) We began camping and riding every chance we got, but the chances were fewer and fewer since we could not afford to turn down any extra hours to earn money.
As it always does, it began to crumble around us. We had everything we thought we needed to be happy, but we were miserable. We looked at our children and realized they were miserable too. They just wanted time with us. It didn’t matter how fine their rooms looked. We had put happiness behind possessions. We had ignored the look of sadness in their eyes when we waved at them on our way to work another “off day”.
The credit cards were to their limits. There was no more paying one with another. The house payment was due, the ATV payments were due. We had no more money. The interest and late fees were mounting.
We soon sold the nice house, the ATV’s and the other toys we had bought. We moved into a rental house that was in very poor condition so we could start paying down the mountain of debt we had accumulated. In that shabby little rental, we found ourselves. We discovered the fun of playing with our children. We found the rest of actually taking an off day. We rediscovered afternoons at the lake and long Sunday drives. We were broke, but somehow we were finding happiness. Our journey had begun.

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