The most stressful feelings in my life, aside from getting my Bachelor’s of Science in graphic design, have almost always been related to money. Spending money. Not spending money. Not having any money. Not having any extra money. Having money but not having money available.
- Brian and I got married in 1999, the day after I turned 20 and he had just turned 21 and three months later we bought a house that we renovated from the ground up.
- In 2004, I took a large pay cut to get a job I wanted, and in 2005, I quit to start my own business while pregnant with my son.
In 2002, I graduated from college and in 2003, I had my daughter and we bought a bigger house with a much bigger mortgage.
We were young and we just went with it.
I went from living at home with my parents to being married with a mortgage in three months. The adjustment wasn’t easy. We didn’t party and spend money like crazy, and do irresponsible things in our 20s. We were remodeling a house, moving up in our careers, and having babies.
I wouldn’t change a thing, and overall, we did lead a pretty charmed life. But there was financial stress.
- Stress from the cost of getting through my design degree (the projects were insane and my Kinko’s bill was more than tuition).
- Stress from investing all of our money into our house.
- Stress from almost never taking a vacation and taking time to just enjoy the present because we were so focused on building for the future.
- Stress from taking a huge pay cut, then quitting my job all together to freelance, right after buying a new house with a bigger mortgage. We were house poor.
- Stress to hustle and build the business because if I wasn’t working I wasn’t getting paid.
Then the housing market crashed and the economy tanked.
Luckily Brian was working at the fire department and had a solid union job, and business owners, even in a bad economy, still needed design work done to market their products and services. Our business, Bourn Creative weathered the tough years okay. They were great, but they weren’t terrible either.
Money Stress Was Killing Us
Our mortgage was upside down, we had two car payments, we started to accumulate some debt, Brian’s union contract was renegotiated and he took a big pay cut, and I joined a crappy business mastermind program and lost $13K.
We began to argue and fight more about everything to do with money. Neither of us slept well, we weren’t as healthy, life wasn’t as fun or as peaceful as we wanted it to be. We always felt behind, like we were playing catch up.
We both knew that to regain control over our lives and to get rid of the financial stress, we needed to knuckle down and pay off all of our debt. We also were fortunate enough to get some great financial advice that helped us lay a strong foundation for financial success. We committed to becoming debt free and decided from that point forward, we would live a cash only lifestyle.
For a few years, we were both working hard and making good money, but all of it was being funneled into paying down our mortgage, paying off our cars, paying off our credit card debt, and paying off my business debt. We started with the highest interest rate item first, and when it was paid off, we moved on to the next highest, and repeated the process.
Living A Cash Only Lifestyle
It took us a few years, but we did it. We eliminated all debt but our mortgage, and still to this day continue to live a cash only lifestyle and operate our business without any debt or loans.
The premise is simple: Spend less than you make.
When we had debt, we had stress. That stress affected our attitudes, our sleep, our health, our marriage, and our happiness — and not in a good way.
Eliminating debt changed everything. Life was more peaceful and more fun. We were sleeping better, feeling better, and had better attitudes. Our marriage improved because we weren’t bickering anymore, and we were just happier.
And guess what? We didn’t miss the stuff we were impulse buying at Target on the weekend because we were bored. We didn’t miss eating out all the time and we didn’t miss shopping every weekend. We realized that we didn’t need the stuff, and we didn’t need things right away. Somethings could wait until the next payday, or the next month, or even longer.
Transitioning to a cash only lifestyle forced us to evaluate what is really important to us, to look closely at our priorities, and to make sure that we are aligned in our thinking.
Today we are fortunate enough to go on a lot of vacations and attend at lot of business conferences and events, and we have a lot of adventures with the kids — and they are all paid for in cash up front or we don’t do it. This allows us to truly relax on vacation and enjoy every minute of it without knowing that we’ll be paying it off for months after the trip.
Teaching Kids About Debt
Living a cash only lifestyle has had an overwhelmingly positive effect of every aspect of our lives. So much so, that we are teaching our kids to approach life the same way.
Even when they were little, we talked with them about our debt in simple terms they would understand. As they grew up, we talked to them about paying off our debt, making sacrifices to do that, and what it would mean for our family if we did.
And now we talk to our kids about money and about spending less than we make and why it is so important that every penny in doesn’t also equal every penny out. We get them involved in making financial decisions when we can, and we get them involved in things like our grocery budget — which is literally done in cash.
On payday, Brian gets $400 cash out of the bank and gives it to me. That is our family food budget for the next two weeks, including eating out and anything else food related. Each cycle, we plan what we want to buy with the leftover money, if there is money left at end.
Once we bought a new board game, once we spent it at the flea market searching for treasure, once went to the movies — and now if we talk about eating out, they’ll ask to stay home and pantry scrounge instead, so we have money leftover at the end of the grocery cycle.
My wish: I hope that through watching, experiencing, and being a part of our financial journey, our children learn to manage their own money in a way that allows them to create the type of life they want to live — without it taking them 15 years.
What About You?
Do you live a cash only lifestyle too? Are you currently working toward living a cash only life? Did you overcome debt? Any tips or insights to share to help others on this journey?
I’d love to hear from you!