This series explores my efforts and journey to break away from a typical American style of living, a living based on debt and the financing of a lifestyle.
In my last entry I presented the events and reasons that brought me to the decision to explore this philosophy and lifestyle and the decision to make major changes in our lives to help us move to a more flexible and satisfying life.
My wife and I had discussed our current circumstances, and what we wanted for our future and decided that since our goals had changed over recent years and our financial strategies had not, it was time to make some big changes.
We still had mortgages, we still has consumer credit debt, we still spent more than we should each month with too little to show for it.
I had a good job, I was well compensated for my work, but I also knew that all good gigs eventually come to an end. I don't think I have ever had the same job, or even worked for the same company for more than five years. I was at the three year mark with my employer at that time, and I knew the game clock was ticking down. Eventually I would have to find another job, and when it came time to find a new gig, my goal was to not be stressed or panicked about it. The job market has not been in what I would call a favorable condition for job seekers in recent years, and a good job might take some time to find, so what that meant for me was not having a heavy burden of debt, having an emergency fund of at least a couple of months expenses in reserve cash.
My wife's goal was simply to be able to retire at fiftyfive years of age, and have time to be with our grandchildren when she chooses, and go where and when she chooses. Simple goals, right? Shouldn't exactly be a bridge too far.
This will be a multistep process, and take at least several years to complete, God willing. We may not live a luxurious lifestyle, but it should allow us more flexibility in our lives and a bit more peace of mind if we are successful in our goals.
To pull this off, we will need to unburden ourselves of many things that will be unnecessary in the future.
Our plan was to rent a couple of rooms from our eldest son, who lives near our home, for a couple of years, until my wife is ready to retire from her job.
My job involves traveling around the country each week, so it doesn't matter for me during the week, but I do need a place to land during the weekend and holidays. Fortunately, my son was open to us sharing his house.
Our current home is on a few acres, it has fruit tree orchards and all the things that go to maintaining the property, tractors, tools and equipment, all of that would no longer be needed if we short sell the place.
Time to get busy with Craigslist. We stated selling everything we no longer would need, and only kept what would be worth keeping in storage for a year or two.
We sold so much stuff I really think the dogs were worried they would be next.
All the proceeds from the sale of the stuff we no longer needed went into a lock box and was not to be touched or spent.
It really is amazing how much unnecessary things we tend to collect and hang onto, even though we haven't used it lately and maybe not even looked at for years.
At the same time we focused on getting any consumer debt paid off. We knocked them down gradually, thankfully none were more than a few thousand dollars. It took a great amount of self discipline to resist using the charge accounts. My wife is especially tempted when the ' Use your XYZ Card and save XX%' offers show up in the mail. We reminded each other about our goals and the time table we were working under.
When you have 40+ years of undisciplined spending habits to reverse, cash control can be a challenge. You must embrace the virtue of delayed gratification, or you will fail.
We worked at this strategy for months, gaining encouragement from seeing our cash reserves in the lock box grow, and seeing our debt levels gradually shrink. At the same time we interviewed real estate agents and a CPA to prepare for the short sale of our home.
In my next installment I will discuss the short sale strategy and how we made the best use of this option.