I think it’s safe to say that not having enough money causes major stress in the average person. This is me, raising my hand and saying that I am absolutely one of these people.
It is in those moments when I thought my check would be bigger, my bills would be smaller, or that the unexpected expense that was so unlikely to happen happened, that my body mounts a full physical response. Skyrocketing heart rate, sweating all over, and a stomach tied up in knots, just to name a few.
Not having enough money is such a stressful and sad feeling. So, it would almost seem fair to say that if the opposite of sadness is happiness, then the opposite of having no money should be having lots of money, right?
Now I am not opposed to having lots of money. More money can mean more choices, and having choices is a wonderful thing. What I think is even more powerful than having money, however, is having peace.
Given my body’s extreme reaction to monetary uncertainties…creating peace for myself has a lot to do with money, but also with many other things that money simply can’t buy.
Let’s talk about the money piece for a minute.
In our house, we aren’t overly concerned with having a lot of money but more so with making choices with the money we do have that bring us more feelings of peace. It might sound a little contradictory, but I actually feel more at peace when we have less money because I know where our cash is going, and it isn’t going to expensive handbags or a new jet ski.
It eases my mind to know that we’re saving and investing for the future and paying more on our monthly mortgage payment in an effort to be fully debt-free sooner rather than later. Complete and total debt-freedom will be our happy place, and therefore, anything we do to get us closer to that goal is just inching us up on the happiness scale, and what a wonderful thing that is.
Living well below our means is another thing that brings me immense happiness, and not because I love wearing last year’s sandals, but because wearing those old sandals means I get to use the money that I would have otherwise spent on new ones and instead put it towards saving, investing, or paying off our mortgage even faster.
Now we’re not in the camp with so many other frugality bloggers who have managed to live on only a small fraction of their earnings while saving the rest. We’re a family of 4 earning above the national average but well under 6 figures. We invest at a rate of around 17% of our take home earnings and pay an additional $350 toward our mortgage principle each month.
Because we chose to go small on our home, and thus our mortgage, we were able to put down a larger down payment and do a 15-year loan term. One of the few good things that came out of the housing market boom for us was low mortgage interest rates…
Our focus now is paying our mortgage off early. We won’t kill ourselves trying to pay it off in 3 years, but it will be paid off by the time our kids are 10 and 12 years old. And let me tell you friends, I’m not mad about that.
I wholeheartedly believe that life is for living and when you have to live too lean for too long, I think the stress of that would trump the strides you’d be making toward quicker financial freedom; hence our tactic of taking it slow and steady. Now if we were bringing in $200,000 a year in income, that would be a whole different story…
The idea here is to work with what you have and to make the very best decisions that you can with it. And if you don’t like what you have – you’re not making enough money, you hate your job, or whatever it may be, you have the power to change that. Challenge yourself. See if you can figure out a way to make a little more money, save a little more money, or simply spend less. Because after all
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”-Benjamin Franklin
However, a well laid out plan on the path toward financial freedom is only part of the bigger picture.
I may be strange, but money just doesn’t drive me the way it does many others. Is it a key piece to living a life filled with choices? I think so. Does it buy all the happiness one could ever want and need? I’m not so sure. If that were the case, then I think it would be safe to say that celebrities and famous people would be the happiest people on earth. As beautiful and amazing as many of their lives look on tv and in magazines, I just don’t think we can come to that conclusion.
So, what contributes to our overall happiness and feeling of peace outside of our spending and saving habits? For me, it’s things like being around other happy, content people, experiencing new places, being out on water, enjoying a perfect meal in or out, and sunsets. All the sunsets.
I believe that finding peace is a mindset that you have to put energy into every day, and it will take continued effort to maintain once you’ve achieved it. There will be days, lots of them, when someone tries to steal your peace. It might be a total stranger, or it might just be your own kids… I wouldn’t know anything about this though because my two little wild beasts are about as peaceful as they come. So. Very. Peaceful.
Tantrum-throwing-toddlers aside… Having the right mindset is important but it’s got to be backed by something. I don’t know about you but telling myself every day that I’m at peace when my life is actually in shambles has never been something that’s worked for me. At least not longer than about the 5-10 minutes after I’ve attempted to convince myself. And personally, I’d rather use all that mental bandwidth in ways that might actually help me achieve my goals instead of using it to try and deceive myself into thinking that I’m achieving them.
This is where a solid financial plan comes into play as well as figuring out those other all-important things that money can’t buy and immersing yourself in them as much and as often as you can.
Speaking from experience, I will say that keeping your focus on the things that money can’t buy while you let your financial plan slowly and steadily do what it was implemented to do, will help take the sting out of not having that new jet ski parked on your driveway right now…your turn will come. Believe me.
And in the meantime, you can sunset-watch your way to financial freedom while eating backyard meals with the people you love being around the most. Not a bad way to go, in my opinion.
Besides, I’d rather enjoy my future wealth with a head and heart full of peace anyway. How about you?