Monday, March 30, 2009

Voluntary Simplicity...Tracy & Kimberly's Journey!

(WARNING...this is a long post...sorry)
Books that changed our life!

Little did I know it when I purchased this book over 16 years ago that I was planting seeds that would help Tracy and accept and embrace
"voluntary simplicity".
What does that even mean? Stay tuned!
Well, 10 years ago Tracy and I unknowingly embarked on a journey that has forever changed our thinking and our lives!!

Without going into boring detail, I'll just say, Tracy and I are children of the eighties in terms of obsessing over "stuff" and materialism in general. Our relationship with "things" and money was much different 20 years ago than it is now. As a result, we've owned a LOT of stuff and spent a LOT of money on it over the years. We've owned motorcycles, boats, SUV's, stereo equipment, TVs, lots of pretty furniture, clothes, clothes, clothes, shoes, shoes, shoes... you get the picture!

Along the way we took a different path and had no idea how significantly this journey would change us and mold us into different people.
Thankfully, it is a journey Tracy and I took TOGETHER.
As Robert Frost would have said:
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and we took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference"
There is far more to this journey than I could really explain in a Blog but I'll hit some of the the high points because I want you fellow bloggers, friends, family and neighbors to have at least a cursory understanding of who I am and who I've become so you will have a better understanding of where I am coming from when I Blog about the things I Blog about.

I have a favorite T-shirt with the word "Different" in gold lettering on it. This shirt sums me up so well. I look around at how other people choose to spend money and time and realize how very differently Tracy and I think compared to most.
For some reason Tracy was really fascinated with lightweight and to some degree ultra-lightweight backpacking and about 10 years ago he started doing some serious research on this topic and even joined some Internet discussion groups devoted to lightweight backpacking.
Over time he learned a lot and even became of serious contributor of knowledge to newcomers. By employing these lightweight principles Tracy discovered it is easier to really "enjoy the journey" (of backpacking). Rather than slogging down the trail stumbling along in heavy boots, you can bounce along the trail in comfortable approach shoes with your head up taking in the beauty along the way.

It was fun and intriguing to him that you could significantly cut down on the weight of the pack without seriously affecting the comfort and safety of the backpacking trip (if you learned how to do it properly).
He also learned this type of backpacking represents the "road less traveled". Most backpackers out there have not discovered,the greatest luxury you can take with you, is a light backpack. They crave all of their "stuff".

A funny thing happened as this learning experience unfolded... Tracy began to realize many of these principles apply to LIFE itself! Being weighed down with stuff and bills and slaving away to earn more and more money to buy more and more stuff was NOT truly helping us "find joy in the journey".
At the heart of it, this change in thinking (some call it voluntary simplicity) is all about making the most of TIME.

Benjamin Franklin said it well:
“Dost thou love life?
Then do not squander time,
for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
One day while browsing one of Tracy's discussion groups he noticed a frequent contributor who went by the moniker "lessizmore". Tracy assumed his name was "Les Sizmore"....after Tracy kept referring to him as "Les" he finally explained it simply meant "Less is more"! During the ensuing conversations they had, Tracy started to wrap his mind around this "Less is more" concept. Like I said, there's a lot more to this life changing saga, but this post is merely an introduction to it.
we go to our jobs we exchange time for money so really money at the core represents our "life energy". This is a philosophy explained really well in The following book which Tracy and I highly recommend.
"Your Money or Your Life"
by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin

"Your Money or Your Life" was the first book we read after this new mindset we were having, but the following are some other books we highly recommend as complements to it.
"The Simple Living Guide"
by Janet Luhrs

It took us about 2 years to read these books and shortly after these books were finished we purchased and read the following books:
"Simplify your Life"
by Elaine St. James

"Living the Simple Life"
by Elaine St. James

"America's Cheapest Family
by Steve and Annette Economides

And then while on one of our weekly Friday night dates I purchased the following book:
"Frugal Living for Dummies"
by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Tracy and I LOVED everything that we were reading in these books and slowly, things started changing in our minds as far as the way that we were spending money and actually our attitude about money and "Stuff" in general.

We learned from these books to really evaluate the money that we are spending, because remember; when you spend money you are giving up a portion of your life and is it worth it?
You essentially have to give up part of your life to go and earn the money to buy that item, not to mention the hassles of taking care of the item and other associated obligations. When you buy an item you really have to ask the question....
"Will this simplify or complicate my life"?
We really think hard before purchasing things nowadays. And by the time we figure out how much of our life we have to work to make the money to pay for the item we most of the time decide it's not worth the price.
This has not been a passing fancy in Tracy's and my life. I'm not proud to admit it, but like many, we used the equity in our house like a "cash register" to stay afloat during "hard times" (serious medical bills, car repairs, etc...). Had we been more responsible with our money prior to these "minor financial emergencies" we wouldn't have needed to. So seeing our debt rise and rise and rise finally caused "alarm bells" to really go off in our minds and "BINGO" we decided serious changes were in order.
Several years have gone by now and we have learned to "Enjoy" living frugally...We LOVE it! It helps us be thankful for the things that REALLY matter in life and gives us a craving for the things we really want and to not be bothered that we aren't spending money "as the Joneses do".

It's a countdown for us. We've gone from debt that made our eyes pop out of our heads, (when we really admitted this is where we were), to watching our debt literally "Melt away". We don't make a lot of money, yet using these principles we've learned, we've been able to pay off a LARGE percentage of our debt and get "more joy out of life" by "embracing simplicity!
(Albeit, soaking beans and baking home made bread and things from scratch is something that I have always done from the start of our marriage)
This journey we have taken is making it possible for us to be FREE from debt in 4 years and 7 months (this includes our home).
What this means less than 5 years we will be able to live comfortably off my part-time income and put 100% of Tracy's full-time income into our "nest egg" so we can have endless amounts of TIME to give to the things that really matter most in life to us...Family and Friends and ourselves!
(for all of you who made it through this Post...
"Thank you", I appreciate your patience and friendship
and just know this is a once in Kimmie Blog post and you won't have to deal with another LONG post from me again. (wink)


CB said...

Kimmie I loved your long post.
I actually own the first book. I bought it probably 16-20 years ago and at one point even subscribed to their newsletter. I thought it was fascinating what they accomplished.
I am glad you have some other book suggestions. I would like to check them out.
You know this is a great post because the majority of people in this country think they need play the lottery, or leave their families to climb the ladder of success (workaholics), or work on making a million when the real truth is we all have the power to make ourselves happy and successful with the keys found in these books.
You guys did it!!!! So Fantastic :D
We have never been very materialistic either. I have to think long and hard before I spend money and check out all the options. I love my americana kitchen and wouldn't even know my countertops and cabinets are out of style if I didn't watch HGTV - ha ha. Still I don't care I love them. I prefer to make things for my home over buying them. I keep everything until they literally wear out and I love old stuff.
I can say that we are not the norm and I am glad.
I think when your priorities are are in the right place it is so much easier to live frugally and be happy and happy with what you have.
I love that you will be totally debt free including your home in less than 5 years - that is so awesome!
Your family is a tremendous example.
I am so glad you posted this - I know there are areas I can improve on.

Ann Marie said...

I missed this post.. Don't know how I did.. But I'm glad I came back and checked...

First of all.. I like long posts.
I am happy you and your husband have found your happy place, and I love to be outdoors so I of course love the backpacking your family does...

I am grateful I married my husband.. Without making a novel here in your comment box I will blog much of my story for another day... But I can say truthfully that I am a spender and my Chad is a saver. The only debt we have right now is our home. We are going to get a newer car soon so then we will have a small payment, but we (he) likes to pay cash for everything... We LOVE Dave Ramsey.
I'm not sure if you have heard him but his stuff and concept with money is amazing!

Ways I simplify..
Garage sales
hand me downs
We don't shop at the mall
shop sales

I don't coupon anymore. It was taking too much of my time and something had to go.. I may go back to it again oneday, but not at this time in my life.

I admit, I like to go out to eat.
Chad and I go once a week out for a date and I like it. Weekends are my out.. My window shopping days and my time for me.

I'm going on and on and rambling..
Sorry.. I do that.. ALOT!
I'll have to do a post of my own.
Have a good day... ~ Ann

Mrs. Petrie said...

Hi Kimmie, I was Cherie's Spring Swap partner too and I checked out you blog via her blog. I loved this post! My husband and I have been applying many of these principals to our lives for the past 10 years. I've read all those books, too. There really is freedom in not saddling your family down with debt. After several years of teaching I got pregnant. We decided that it was so important for me to stay home that we moved cities, both left our jobs, bought an inexpensive home with a low mortgage- I wouldn't change our life now for anything! Sometimes I miss the extra income, but I am so proud that we can live within our modest means. I'm looking forward to keeping up with your blog and how your family enjoys frugality. :)