This page could just as easily have been called “How to Behave Like A Stupid, Entitled Moron For Most of Your Life Before Finally Realizing The Error of Your Ways in Your Early 40s, Subsequently Becoming Completely Obsessed With Saving Money In Order to Not Have to Work at a Job You Hate Until You Are 97-Years-Old.”
But that title was already taken.
In all seriousness, that is basically the short version of my story. So, if you’re in a hurry, feel free to stop reading now. But if you want to know more details (or, if you want more of my particular brand of sarcasm), read on…
I was born and raised a spoiled only child. I got everything I ever wanted without having to work for it. My parents bought me all the latest toys, expensive clothes (loved the Jordache look…), and took me on expensive vacations. We had nice houses, and fine furniture. I can’t really blame my parents- they both grew up in very poor (and in one case, VERY dysfunctional) families, and nobody ever taught them the importance of living beneath your means, or saving for retirement. They simply wanted their only daughter to have a more carefree childhood than they had. And I certainly did!
I was always told that I could have anything I wanted if I worked hard for it. So I did- I worked hard in school. I had excellent grades. And when I finished high school, I got into an excellent college.
Of course, my parents hadn’t saved any money for the seven years of post-secondary education that followed. Neither had I, even though I was making good money in high school by teaching piano lessons ($20/hour is a crap-ton of money for a high school student!). Nobody taught me about saving money or creating a financial plan, so I just spent every penny I earned on stupid crap that I can’t even remember now. Enter the $50 000 student loan.
I graduated in 1998, and started looking for a job in my chosen field- Respiratory Therapy. It was a bad time to be looking for jobs in healthcare, however, and the only job I was able to get was a casual position (read: a job where the employer keeps you on the hook, but is not obligated to give you any hours at all) in a city with living expenses that were considerably higher than what I had become accustomed to. I was optimistic and excited- my life was about to begin!!!
Well, needless to say, tough times ensued. I wasn’t getting many hours at work, and- by my standards, anyway- could barely afford to eat and pay the rent. I became incensed, and subsequently depressed over the fact that I couldn’t afford to buy a car, or take nice vacations. I fell behind on my student loan payments, and eventually got put into collection. I didn’t understand what went wrong- I worked hard in school! I got straight A’s! Dammit, I DESERVED to have everything that I wanted, right?
Well, eventually, I did get caught up on my student loan payments. But not through hard work- a shockingly good tax return helped a great deal, and the bank of mom and dad finished the job.
Shortly thereafter, I did manage to obtain a full-time job with benefits and a fantastic DB pension plan. I still had my student loans to pay off, but had no other debt. I made one good decision at this point- I moved to an apartment that was right across the street from work, thereby saving a bunch of money on gas and parking. I really hadn’t learned any hard lessons yet, however, so rather than using that money to pay down my student loans, the spending spree continued. I’m not even sure what I spent my money on during that time. I’m sure it was a bunch of super useful garbage that has since made it’s way to the landfill.
Anyway, I met the man who is now my husband in 2006. He was a full-time musician at the time. Financially, he was getting by and had no debt, but like me, had never really developed any discipline when it came to money. We fell in love and within months, had moved in together. He got a day job with a good government pension plan, and shortly thereafter, we purchased our first home. And we were actually smart about it- we spent half of what the bank said we could afford, and our mortgage was dirt cheap. Added bonus- I was still within walking distance of work. I finally managed to pay off that pesky student loan around this time, too. Now, you would think we would have taken advantage of the fact that our living expenses were well below what we could afford AND the fact that we had no debt at the time- and made some extra mortgage payments, or put more money into RRSPs… no, wait, you wouldn’t think that, given our past behaviour. And you would be right.
But we sure had some fun for a year or so.
Then, in 2007, we started trying to have a baby. You can read all about that on this page, but to summarize- it wasn’t as easy as it is for most people, and it certainly wasn’t a cheap endeavour. We shuttled much of our extra cash into the effort, and I gave birth to this little beauty (a girl!) in June of 2009…
It wasn’t long after that when we decided to get married. Again, we were rather smart about it- we didn’t spend tens of thousands on our wedding- we flew to Vegas with a handful of family and friends, tied the knot, and took a two and a half week ‘familymoon’ for under $10000. Sounds like we might finally be learning how to NOT spend a shit-ton of money, right?
The house we had purchased several years prior was starting to feel rather cramped under the staggering weight of all the baby crap we had acquired since having our daughter. So, we decided it was time to move. The housing market was on a major upswing at the time, and we couldn’t find a single house that suited our needs in the city in which we worked, so we moved out of town. That’s right folks- we doubled our mortgage, AND added a 30 minute commute in each direction for both of us. Now, this wouldn’t be a problem if we had been smart, and cut costs in other areas to make up for what we now had to spend on mortgage payments and gas. But, of course, we didn’t. We kept right on spending. I found myself dipping into our savings more and more frequently just to be able to buy groceries and pay the bills.
This went on for about three years. I was frustrated, wondering how two people with our salaries could possibly be living paycheque to paycheque. I started to worry about retirement. Neither hubby nor I work in tidy little desk jobs. Our jobs are extremely stressful, physically and/or mentally and emotionally, and I knew neither one of us would make it to 65. We NEEDED to retire early… but I just couldn’t see how it would be possible, given how little we were saving.
So last September, I started tracking our expenses. I was MORTIFIED to see how we were spending our money. Just as an example- one month, we spent $1200 on groceries, PLUS $650 on eating out. That same month, there was approximately $800 that I just couldn’t account for- spent in cash on heaven knows what stupid junk that we, undoubtedly, did not need.
So- FINALLY- in November 2015, hubby and I made a commitment to do whatever we had to in order to retire-debt free- by 58 for him (10 years to go!), and 57 for me (14 years to go!). The plan is ever-evolving, but you can read about our initial 6 month plan here. So far, we have been tremendously successful, despite a few challenges due to our VERY different personalities, and I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for us!
So I hope you choose to hang around and follow our journey. We are new to this whole frugal living thing, so if nothing else, it will be entertaining to watch us fumble around, trying to find our groove. And it will be super exciting to watch us succeed… because I’m absolutely certain that we will!