We started our married life thinking that happiness and fulfillment could be found in successful careers and nice stuff. We were brought up to do well in life. You work hard, make your teachers/bosses proud, move up the ladder, buy a big house and nice cars, and then you start a family. That’s the way it works.
Only somewhere along the line, we found that it wasn’t all it was supposed to be. We found ourselves in debt, with more stuff than we could care for, and a baby on the way. When we realized that we both wanted our baby to have momma at home, we found that the things we were so proud to own, now owned us. We had financed ourselves into bondage. The life they all said was so grand lost it’s luster very quickly when our eyes were opened to the reality of the true cost.
So, we did something very drastic. We made a budget. We lived on the budget. We did without things we wanted. We scrimped and pinched every last penny in order to pay down our debts and free ourselves from that master. It was awful. It was hard. It was frustrating. It was worth every minute.
I stayed at home with Mary from the first. Eric took on side jobs, we dipped a little into our savings, spent a few months in the red, and somehow we made it. We are debt free, except for our house payment. It has changed our lives profoundly.
Looking back, I can see the strength that battling debt gave us. Our marriage is stronger, our lives are richer, our kids are blessed with a happy home. We have also learned to live our life in a new way. Once you fight so hard to be free from the bondage of debt, decisions are no longer so obvious. Bit by bit, we have learned to make our decisions on purpose, based on so much more than doing what we are “supposed” to do.
We’ve made decisions that others can’t or don’t want to understand. We drive older vehicles, paid for in cash (well by check, actually) at the time of purchase. We do without things we would like to have (a barn comes to mind) until we have enough money saved back to pay for them in full. We decided to do without a replacement for our broken heat pump/air conditioning unit. We shop for items we need at yard sales. We use cloth diapers. We garden and preserve food. We have a cow and 15 chickens in our yard. We tell our kids no if we can’t afford something. We limit our dining out and recreation costs. Our vacations consist of going camping instead of going to the ocean.
We’ve gained a lot, too. We eat great food, much of it locally grown and organic in the very best definition of the word. We know our neighbors and are becoming a part of our community. We are able to give our time and money to support our church and other local works. We are free to raise our own children at home, cherishing every single moment (yes, even the difficult moments). We are not spending all of our time and resources trying to pay for something we bought several years ago. We have a degree of freedom that most people do not get to enjoy.
I read an article about this new and trendy movement toward simplifying. The article used the term “neo-hippies” to describe folks like us who have decided to live life without all the amenities. I suppose it must look strange to do without “necessities” and to do some of our work the hard way. I know it is hard for some of our family and friends to understand why we do some of the things we do.
We are living life on purpose. We are making decisions intentionally, instead of going along with what is culturally expected. It’s not always easy, but we are happy doing things the best way we know how. We are striving to live our life in a way that will leave a legacy of love, strength, knowledge and compassion for our children. We are learning and growing as we go, doing the best we can. If that makes us “neo-hippies,” then I guess we are in good company.