Nothing lights a fire under my butt financially than spending time with Ernie Halter.
I talk about Ernie and his wonderful family a whole freaking lot. The Halters have changed my life in so many ways, and one of the ways Ernie has really influenced me the past few years is by encouraging me to be smart(er) with my money.
For the past few years he’s talked about managing your money and I’ve listened and thought about it, but it wasn’t until earlier this year when I was slowly sinking to rock bottom that I realized it was time to put into practice all that I’d been soaking up.
Here’s what happened, #longstoryshort version. I met a boy who owned a coffee shop. I loved the coffee shop and kinda had a crush on him. Then we dated for a little bit, and then he shut me out of his life in a really overdramatic, immature, and incredibly painful way. and then I had to drive past the exit to his coffee shop, the one I visited 3 or 4 times a week EVERY SINGLE DAY. and you know what I wanted to do? Keep driving. I wanted to drive and never stop and get as far the heck away from that exit, that coffee stand, and that human being as I possibly could.
But I couldn’t, because #carpayment. and #dentalcredit and #creditcard. I had roughly -$24,000 to my name. and that moment is when I realized what Ernie verbalized last week:
Money = freedom.
Saving money isn’t about being a hoarder or about having more money than the person next to you just to say you do. It’s about knowing that if your car broke down tomorrow, you’d have enough in a savings account to cover the repairs (or even buy a new one in cash). It’s knowing that you’ve been preparing for your future so that one day you’ll have the freedom to retire. Seeing the end of the light on your mortgage payment. Daring to quit your job to pursue your dreams because you’ve been responsible and have created a safety net.
It’s easy, in the moment, to feel like freedom means “I can buy this $30 scarf in two colors because I work hard and pay my bills on time,” but is freedom about doing what you want when you want, or is freedom what happens when you reach a point where something in your life needs to give and you can choose anything you want without the worry of finances and how you earn the money to live?
I’m not anywhere near perfect in the way I deal with money. As a matter of fact, my debt repayment journey has been experiencing radio silence because I’ve been struggling with it a lot. But each conversation I have about the heart behind repaying debt – each time I tell someone my secret dreams of being self-sufficient (my blog? ebooks? other? professional traveling dish washer/babysitter? any ideas?), I stir up the determination pool of my heart and I am quicker to hard pass on the dollar section at Target.
Buying two cute, polka dotted pens and a basket I don’t need and all the cute notebooks and pens and coffee mugs has a weird sense of freedom… like “hey I’m a grown up, I have a job and I do whatever the bleep I want,” but then every month I send 1/3 of my paycheck to Toyota Financial and I pay $20 in interest fees on my credit card each month and I don’t have much saved or invested. So how free am I, really?
As we enter the new year and you re-visit financial goals, remember that being able to freely spend $30 whenever you feel like it isn’t real freedom if you’re chained down to $800 in payments each month. And for what it’s worth, being free of those $800 monthly payments isn’t so that you can buy all the things at Target. That financial liberation should birth and give way to saving so that you will never have to be anyone’s slave. Prepare for that now so that you don’t go crazy later, because having money isn’t about money. Having money is about investing in freedom by saving it.