I’m a gal known for living large. It never ceases to amaze me how many people look at me with wonder when I talk about buying a one-way ticket to Australia, living in Asia for nine years, moving across three different states and still manage to keep my money stuff together.
I can honestly say it sounds like a glamorous life, and I’ve lived a great life so far filled with adventure. Definitely no regrets here.
Perhaps my biggest adventure to date is not only giving birth, but taking care of a rowdy infant while working at home in a small rural town in the US. I’m sure it sounds totally mundane to you, but for someone who is used to sprawling urban areas and interacting with lots of people on a daily basis, this past year was a real challenge for me.
What was the most surprising to me was the money lessons I learned in the past 12 months. At the risk of making this blog post becoming too focused on me, I’ll try to distill the lessons I’ve learned into stories you can take and try to apply it in your own life.
Isolation Is Real, Dangerous and Will Cause You to Overspend
Even though I’m an introvert, I love meeting new people. Heck, I traveled all around the globe for years, obviously I like people!
Tried as I may to meet mothers and other people with similar interests, I realized very quickly that I didn’t fit in. I don’t want to get political here (and please don’t start anything in the comments), but I was largely ignored because of who I am, and sometimes the color of my skin. I stopped trying to meet people around town and focused on more urban areas, which was at least a 40 min drive away.
Needless to say, driving 40 minutes each way for a cup of coffee was very wasteful in my opinion, so I stayed to myself a lot. I hung out with my husband’s coworkers and had some very wonderful Skype conversations with friends, but the lack of human interaction drove me nuts.
How did this cause me to overspend? I went out every chance I got. As in, Wal-Mart and grocery shopping became my best friend. I obsessed over things like where to save on a gallon of milk or figuring out items I could use to organize my things (I’m still getting rid of more after purging 90% of my stuff, I’ll leave that story for another time).
The biggest vice I had was dining out. It was an excuse to get out of the house. At places I soon realized I didn’t even like. The servers were rude, the food bland and I grew to resent that too.
As soon as I realized why I was so dissatisfied, I found other ways to channel my frustration. I started more money experiments. I read a lot more and participated in online book clubs. In time I felt a lot better and knew that if I ever felt isolated, friends and family were a phone call away.
Frugality Will Surprise You
Yes, there is online shopping, but not having anything other than grocery stores and small restaurants around means you have to drive far distances to go shopping. I realized very quickly that I could either drive 45 minutes to the nearest mall to buy presents, shop online or not at all. Yeah, I snuck online on Amazon more times that I care to imagine, but when it came to buying clothes, I like doing so in person. It became so much easier to not buy something than to lug the kiddo, drive through horrendous traffic, fight to get a parking spot, walk through the mall and drive right back home.
In fact, the last time I’ve been in a mall was 6 months ago. I am surprised at how much I hate shopping now. Not that I’ve enjoyed it before, but I realized that before I moved to this town, how much I would go buy things (often unnecessary) because the store was right across the street.
I’m naturally a frugal person but the past twelve months has made me even more frugal. I haven’t bought clothes, toiletries, or other things I used to buy on a regular basis (like books and yoga stuff). Going into clothing stores makes me gag. I learned to cut my own hair. I make most meals from scratch (poor family is subjected to my many experiments).
And not spending money has surprised me in more ways that I could have imagined. It makes me appreciate more of what I have (I look pretty dang good in the dresses I do own). I look at new purchases with a skeptical eye. I decluttered all of my unnecessary possessions. I learned that I was still using things to definite who I was as a person.
Frugality forced me to strip that all away and led me to discover what it meant to be happy. It also taught me that all I really need is my family, my laptop (I need to make money!), clothes and a way to cook food. Oh yeah, and a library down the street, because books make my heart sing.
People Will Never Understand Your Journey
I won’t lie, it used to really bother me when people think I’m involved with network marketing (aka an Avon lady) when I tell people I work from home. Even more so when people invite me to shopping parties and I’d politely decline.
I get that people have no clue that you can make decent money online without selling your soul. I get that there are a lot of stay at home moms around where I live and cannot for the life of them understand why I want to work. Even more people don’t understand why I do not enjoy eating out every week.
When I started decluttering my physical possessions, I let go of trying to convince people what I was doing was not network marketing and I actually contribute to household finances. I also let go of talking to people about what I did and let people make assumptions about my life. In fact, when people talk about living in a one income household, I did not try to contribute to the conversation.
The cold hard truth is, I don’t care anymore what people think about my financial situation. I don’t care if people think I make pennies a month working from home. I don’t care that people know I cut my own hair or think that it’s weird. I don’t care if people don’t understand my life choices or how I spend my money (yes, I get unsolicited advice on how to save money from strangers).
My financial journey is my own. The only people who should be concerned about it are me, my husband and eventually my son (once he can understand a bit more). It also means that I won’t judge people on theirs. I may not enjoy clothes shopping anymore, but if you do, by all means go ahead.
I am moving out of this small town, but I’m so thankful for my time here. If it wasn’t for the isolation and being so far from everything, I would have never learned so much about my financial habits and what is truly important in my life. Even though I’m moving to a more urban location, I’m definitely keeping the lessons and habits I’ve picked up.
I’m interested in hearing any money lessons you’ve learned that have surprised you. What were they? Let me know!