The American Dream tells us that if we work hard enough we can have it all. Companies tell us that if we buy their products that our lives will be easier and therefore better. We, as a society buy a lot and “need” a lot so we must work longer hours and second jobs to pay for it all. After all, we all want to live the Dream, right? But what if your dream is to spend more time with your family and your dog, more time working in your garden, actually doing some of the Pinterest projects you’ve pinned, and catching up with friends? It’s possible. You just have to stop buying everything someone else tells you you need.
The more you work, the more money you make. That really needs to be followed by an asterisk. When you make more money, you pay more income taxes. You also spend more money on convenience items because you don’t have the time. You spend more on child care. You may feel like you are hopping on and off a spinning merry-go-round, so when there’s no time for dinner you drive through and spend more money than if you’d planned a meal at home. The cost of working is real. If you’ve been on the fence about maybe cutting back or maybe you think getting a second job will solve all your financial issues, you should really do a lot of evaluation of how much it costs to work more and decide what works for you.
Everything you choose has a cost. You choose whether to buy a bag of coffee at the grocery store or idle in a drive thru line every morning. You choose if you go to the theater to see movies when they come out or if you rent them from Redbox a few months later. The beauty of this is you have the choice. I’m not going to criticize anyone for buying a coffee or going to the theater, we all are the authors of our own stories. I make choices everyday that many people have looked at me and scoffed, “Oh, I can’t be bothered to do that.” That’s fine, that’s my choice and I’m happy with it. I choose to do a lot of things for myself that many people pay others to do for them. I work less for a paycheck, but more for myself. I clip my dog’s toenails and believe me when I tell you it’s not a joy for either of us, but I’d rather spend 5 minutes doing that than packing him into the car to pay someone else to do it. I’ve taught myself how to do a lot by making the decision to try new things. I’ve made lots of birthday piñatas using balloons and shredded newspapers and filled them with clearance Easter candy for my daughter’s birthday parties and constructed lots of unique Halloween costumes from the recycling bin and scrap material. I’ve spray painted old brass light fixtures, door knobs, and drawer pulls because it’s so much less expensive than buying new ones. My family’s wardrobe comes from clearance racks and yard sales. I still carry around an iPhone 4 because it still does what I need it to do. I make my own laundry detergent and dishwasher tablets. I choose not to buy paper towels, but rather use old wash cloths for spills. I make meals from what was on sale at the grocery stores each week and search for coupons. Every time I save money by doing something myself, it’s my payment. It’s the definition of “A penny saved is a penny earned”. And every time I pay myself, I am not paying one cent in income taxes. This is my dream and I’m living it.