I feel so liberated that I literally glow when I talk about how I've changed since finally embracing a cash system. If you have fights about money with your significant other (or yourself), let money get in the way of your dreams, or feel like money problems are drowning you, please read on.
We live below our means. We do this very intentionally. We have financial goals, near and far, that require us to save. The near goal being our plan to travel as a family for at least one year. The far goal being that once we settle again, it will be on farm we buy in cash.
For ten years we have gone on and off the cash system, and I hated it every time. I wanted to live a "normal" life, and not feel like I had to do without. Granted, I'm not a fancy gal, I don't buy shoes or electronics or new clothes (very often)...but the girl likes her coffee and Thai food. Part of my feelings of wanting to live a normal life came from being raised in the suburbs. Buying Starbucks everyday is the norm, shopping at Target on your lunch hour is just a good way to spend your time, hanging out at the mall is just what you do. For me, trying to live that life in the very materialistic suburbs was impossible.
Thankfully we don't live in the suburbs anymore. Those daily money wasters are mostly moot up here in Alaska...though not non-existent. My issue here is that groceries are expensive...and I still don't like to not be able to buy things when I want/need them. So, for the first 2 years I put every purchase on the credit card, and every month we went over our budget. Part of the problem is that my very mild mannered husband (who happens to be the one that sees and pays the bills) didn't want to talk to me about it...because I on the other hand---ahem---am not so mild mannered. I'm not a beast or anything, but talk of restricting money does not bring out my best side.
Nonetheless, he finally bit the bullet (after stressing out for several months) and talked to me about it. It was not a nice conversation...but it might have been the single most important conversation of my life. And I realized four things...
1) He was right
2) We should never have to fight about money
3) The only way to keep from fighting is to stick to the budget
4) The only way to keep me from going over budget is to use cash
I'd like to say that I realized this all gracefully, and incorporated the changes with ease.
The transition took about 2 months. My transformation about 3 months. Once I really got into it, I realized I had more freedom to buy the organic foods I wanted, I wasted almost nothing (no more Starbucks or $5 movies from Walmart), and for the first time in 6 months we were able to put our full amount of savings into our travel fund and into our retirement fund. And here is the CRAZY part...I really enjoyed not wasting money. It gave me a sense of power over the big corporations, and over my own life. And when I had leftover funds at the end of the month (and every bill is already paid, and all the savings have already been put away) they are simply there to spend. Because of that surplus I've been able to buy more things I've wanted to try (but felt like I couldn't afford), like organic foods, a Vitamix and guitar lessons. I have focused on what I want to spend my money on, which gives me more strength to say no to mindless spending.
Once the bills are paid, the saving coffers are filled, the belly is filled with healthy food, money is spent on family experiences...what's left to spend on? I have found that the answer is nothing. So the surplus goes into a can to wait for a rainy day, or when the budget doesn't cover it, or just to take my family to the movies. And my heart feels light. And there are no fights about money.
As the new year approaches, I tend to look towards changes I want to make. But somehow this year is different. It use to be that I would want compartmentalized things; lose weight, run a 5k, learn something, do something...blah blah blah. Year after year I would end up with the same list, very rarely accomplishing it from the year before and then listing it again.
This year, I don't want that. I want to continue this transition that I've begun, and kick it up a notch. I see on Facebook and Pinterest everyone wanting to get organized in 100 days, transform their abs in 100 days, eat organic food for 100 days. But this year that just doesn't feel like enough for me....it feels like a bandaid...it's the opposite of what I want.
I want to live soulfully, conciously, authentically. I want changes in every aspect of my life, leading to the path that will help me be the best version of myself. (no matter what my abs look like)
I do want to eat heatlhier.
I do want to exercise more.
I want to feel more organized.
But I want MORE than that. I want to feel like myself, my true self. As a family we are going to work towards 100 days of improving ourselves as individuals by improving ourselves as a family. We will make real food a focus, as well as being more active. But more importantly we will incorporate and focus on being authentic; deepening our connections with each other, communing with nature, experiencing real joy and practicing gratitude.
Some things I will simply incorporate into our lives, others we will work on as a family, and some we will work on individually. As this process (and it's progress) unfolds I will share what we've done and how we've done it. But we couldn't be more ready. I feel like we've been setting the stage for this, and now it's time.
Through hike the AT
Travel slowly with my kids
Play guitar, well
Sing and play in a band
Write a book
Take beautiful photographs
Travel the world
Start a farm
Have a large garden
Know how to use plants medicinally
Learn to speak a language well, and use it in that country
Teach yoga to others
Help others with my talents
Make beautiful jewelry
Travel by bike...somewhere beautiful, and take my time
I want to be an artist...painting or drawing
Make beautiful pottery
Learn to surf
Scuba dive and see something cool (and a little scary)
Unschool my kids
I feel like I learn a little more with each passing Christmas. More so this year, since our focus has been so strongly on learning to live a simpler and more meaningful life.
Besides avoiding the usual pitfalls of mindless materialism, I have also simplified our own expectations. We all sat down and made a list of; the top crafts we wanted to make, the top movies we wanted to watch, the cookies we wanted to make, etc.
Most years I want to do a million things, sew, build, bake, etc, but in the end I get overwhelmed and accomplish almost nothing! I'm happy to say I successfully did everything on my list...partly due to the list, and partly due to the fact that I'm not a perfectionist. (as you will see)
For instance, I made our Christmas card, but then decided not to send them. I've never been good at actually getting things printed, put in envelopes and brought to the post office. So...instead I posted it on Facebook. Yes, I know it's not the same...but I've come to see my flaws (like not sending cards) as an extension of my personality (well meaning, but ultimately lazy)...and I'm ok with that.
Another of our projects was to make a gingerbread houseboat from scratch (that looked exactly like ours). But as I was standing in the store with $30 worth of KitKats (for the cedar siding) I realized in the end it was cheaper and simpler to buy two kits and let the kids have free reign over them. The kids were so overjoyed that they had their own (and no rules) that it truly could not have worked out better.
For friends and teachers we were going to make paper poinsettia bouquets for gifts, but the book we get from the library with the flower template was already checked out. So...we made these packages instead; a homemade Yelloweye rockfish ornament (our favorite local fish), and a paper holly garland (Pin-spired, of course). Wrapped up in brightly colored homemade envelopes, we were pretty happy with the outcome of these homemade gifts for teachers and friends. (The kids especially liked the Harry Potter-esque "wax" seal.)
(I kept one holly garland for myself!)
Somehow we also managed to build a loft bed for Laurel, a new shelf in the living room AND finish up some of the painting projects that were hanging over our heads. Plus we made a stop motion animation Christmas card for our families. And I had some leftover time to embroider some wrapping paper and play some chess.
Not only did simplifying Christmas make the holidays more enjoyable, and help me get all the projects done...I did MORE than I had planned. This is literally crazy. LITERALLY. Who is this family? I don't recognize them.
Jon and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary this summer.
We celebrated by getting married again. This time, the kids were invited.
(Why didn't we have them around last time...it was way more fun with them!)
Jon actually surprised me with the vow renewal (thankfully he gave me 2 days heads up), and Laurel and I decided to make it even more special by coordinating outfits, making paper flowers and setting up a friend to take pictures.
I wanted to do it on the boat, but salmon season being what it is...the docks are a bit crowded these days. So instead we picked a quiet spot in the nearby National Forest. (we are very blessed in Alaska to have available to us seemingly unlimited quiet spots)
Ten years later I have this to say...if we had stayed on the path we'd started on when we got married, I wouldn't know what it felt like to be amazingly unabashedly and wildly happy. Back in our old lives things that were important; work, granite counters, good schools, cable TV, air conditioning, neighborhoods. We would have travelled that path, and we would have been happy...the kind of happy that really means content...which really only means comfortable---but always looking forward to something better. (The kind of life where it feels like there is never enough time to relax and be with your family, and never enough money to do everything you want to.)
Things that are important to us now; family time, adventure, living life to the fullest, accomplishing our wildest dreams. The path we're on now allows us to do all the things we want to...all the ones we said we'd do someday, but probably wouldn't have. And we'll get to do it with our kids!
We did move to Alaska.
We did move onto an awesome houseboat.
We are planning to travel with our children and explore millions of things we'd never have seen.
We plan to start a farm from scratch, and hike the Appalachian Trail.
I can't tell you when each of these things will happen, but one by one, they will. And I know that the man I am married to is all set to do these things with me.
That couple ten years ago would have looked at our life and said, "man, that's awesome...I WISH we could live like that."
Becoming Maggie Blue is the journey to becoming the person I want to be. I live on a boat in Southeast Alaska with my husband, 2 kids, 1 dog and 4 fish. We are doing our best to live our lives right. We love nature (the ocean obviously), crafting, reading, homeschooling and having family adventures. This blog is where we share it all.