You’d think my sister, Cynthia, had grown up during the depression. “Holly,” she’d say, “put money in a savings account every week, even if it’s just five dollars. Let it grow, and you’ll be able to buy your own home someday.” She always saved money and bought sale items by the case. My sister, the frugal queen, even had a cigar box under her bed with wads of cash in it.
I thought she was crazy. “How am I supposed to save any money”, I’d snap, “if everything I make goes to rent and food? You have a good job. I’m barely making ends meet.”
It took years to register the truth. In the meantime, I ate at restaurants often, preferred to shop at better department stores, and never saved a dime. I had fun first and paid bills last. I used credit cards to buy everything I wanted, but couldn’t afford. I’d take weekend trips to Vegas to win my way out of debt, and leave with barely enough gas money to get home. I built my own debtor’s prison one brick at a time.
The burden was too heavy. I finally faced the truth. I wasn’t going to hit the lottery, and I was living beyond my means.
I stopped gambling and relying on credit cards. Parting with cash was painful. I took my sister’s advice and started saving as much money as I could, even as I paid down debt. I realized shopping at WalMart and thrift stores wasn’t embarrassing. I had fun looking for deals. I was able to keep more money in my pocket.
Soon, I was able to buy my first home. I had grown so afraid of debt, that I bought one of the most inexpensive homes I could find. It wasn’t in the best area, but it wasn’t in the worst area either, and I loved it. I could afford to make the payments if I took a fifty percent pay cut.
After I got the keys, I went to the house to wait for the water to be turned on. I sat on the floor in the empty living room and cried. I never though I would be a homeowner. I took the bumpy road, but I finally was getting somewhere.
I believe that learning to live more simply gave me the freedom to get more of what I needed out of life: stability, peace of mind, and the ability to spend money on what I think is really important – without going back into debt.