I want to write about my grandfather, Pops, right now as my family gathers in Oregon to scatter his ashes, but I can’t find the right words. So I’m going to write about something that he appreciated: simplifying life and finding more happiness and freedom.
My husband and I started to a money-saving journey over a year ago. It began with my personal challenge and my husband’s New Year’s Resolution. In an effort to stop wasting money and start saving it, I made a decision to sell my car and go without one. My goal was to be car-less for a year, but to make myself less scared to walk into CarMax and hand over the keys, I told myself that I’d try for at least three months and if I didn’t like it, we’d get another car. We were living in beautiful, mild California weather, so my plan was to ride my bike or the bus when my husband was using the car to commute to work. And of course, I planned to mooch rides from my awesome family and friends. I went on craigslist and spent $180 for a great double stroller and $100 for a bike trailer for my two girls (then ages 1 and 2 ½). I did a few test runs with the bike and even went on the bus with the girls just to ease my fears. In December 2013, I sold my car.
People thought I was crazy. Some people even told me I was crazy. One of my neighbors laughed in my face. My family teased me a bit but offered lots of free rides. I was a little embarrassed but not offended. I think it’s a little tough in our society because cars and stuff equate with status and success. Once I got passed my ego and pride, I felt a lot more free though. I found that I appreciated the value of money more. And I realized that I didn’t need to have a car. Of course there were times that I wished I had a car and there were times I missed the bus and had to change plans and there were times that the girls cried in the bike trailer, but it didn’t outweigh the freedom and benefit of not paying for a car. And even if I did have a car, we’d still face difficulties of some other kind. Plus, there were benefits: it made me more adaptable and a little more patient. And I exercised more and got more outside time and sunshine with the girls. And I found that I had some lovely time for myself: I would download a podcast and put in my headphones and take a 45 minute walk to my parents’ house. The girls would sleep in the stroller and I would thoroughly enjoy myself.
At the same time, my husband made a New Year’s Resolution to NOT buy anything new for himself in 2014 (there were a few exceptions, like buying new stuff in order to fix the house or something like that). His resolution was a little too radical for me, so I didn’t join in. Devin got lots of responses that he was crazy too. His co-workers even asked what he would do if he needed underwear and socks. But I was proud of him for setting a goal that would make him change his mindset a bit and make sacrifices. He was pretty successful though, limiting his spending in general and then splurging on cool items like a coffee thermos at a thrift store and a jacket on eBay. Of course, it was also hard at times because it meant spending time trying to find something or not being able to find it. Overall, though, the benefits outweighed the difficulties: he became more adaptable, creative, patient, and thoughtful about his spending.
We both kept up our goals until September, when we moved to Alaska. At that point, there were some things that we purchased new because of transition and time issues. And I also got another used car too because I was not willing to bike the girls in the cold.
Despite not finishing our goals through to the end of the year, the nine months we spent working on those goals have made a (hopefully) lasting impression on us. We have a greater appreciation for the value of our money. And now that we have kids, I realize that when we spend frivolously, our family time suffers because there’s more pressure to work more hours or there’s just more stress at home. Money has become time. And time is much more important to me than driving an expensive car (or one at all…unless it’s -5 degrees out and then my main focus is warmth!).