By Tracy Freese, MA, Chartered Trust and Estate Planner
Not everyone has to quit a six-figure corporate job, sell off cars, auction jewelry, and donate half their wardrobe to charity like I have, but it sure would be cool if they did. Day in and day out I drove to my office and felt the air turn stale and the sun dim as I walked through the doors. Something was off in my life but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Why were the words “I quit” on my breath every time I was in my boss’ office? By social definition, I had it all, yet I was miserable. Something had to give.
Two days after I cut the corporate cord, I read a minimalist blog that said, “Sell off your possessions and live the way you want!” That was my epiphany. The realization that I was spending a ton of money on my empty lifestyle hit me like a sledgehammer. I was buying stuff, decorating stuff, cleaning stuff, and then insuring stuff. It was expensive and holding me back. So I resolved to remedy what I could and go forward in a responsible manner. These are now my priorities:
· Seek out beautiful free experiences. The image of my children running at the park laughing in the sun was my biggest motivation to leave the corporate soul-crushing behind. I was happiest in that scene and it was free and beautiful. I now seek out as many beautiful free experiences as I can and live in the moment. If family is at the top of your priority list, it’s time to assess exactly how much of your time is dedicated to being with them. I am talking real, tuned-in time, not piano lessons and plastic toys. Build something, take a walk, cook a meal, or simply talk with your loved ones. Nothing could be easier, more rewarding, or cheaper than time spent.
· Less in, more out. I mean it, stop buying – period. The largest purchase I make now is the weekly trip to the grocery store where I coupon and price-match. I buy as much as I can second hand and garage sale for my children’s clothing. Define needs vs. wants and then honestly answer this question: What do you need that you do not already have? 99.9% of the time the answer is, “Nothing!”
· Seek simple, timeless purchases over trends. When I do make a purchase, I avoid trends because they are flashes in the financial pan. Some trendy snake pits consumers should avoid are cosmetics, clothing, and shoes. As an example:
o I have four pairs of uncomfortable pointed-toe high heels that I spent $200 on ($50 each) and never wear. The pointy-toe trend is long gone and I should have listened to my gut instinct when I tried on a tasteful pair of comfortable $80 black leather pumps. Following trends is a dangerous financial pitfall that many women fall into daily.
The minimalist me tends to favor the color black, classic cuts, real metals, and sturdy construction that is going to last. If I am feeling especially frivolous (a rare occurrence) I might purchase an accessory to snazz up my black clothing. Favoring one high-quality, timeless item over many mediocre trends equates to smart financial planning over the long-term. The goal is to use something for years, not months.
No longer do we live in a world where forty years at IBM wearing a white shirt and black tie equates to fulfillment. I question if corporate institutionalization ever created fulfillment, but it was what we knew and had access to. Today, the game has changed. Time and space are no match for technology as a global village collides. A shift in social priorities appears to favor time and happiness over money. I encourage every woman to seriously analyze how her priorities align with her habits. If family is what you cherish, spend time – not money.