In My Minimalist Update I spoke of having paid down $15,000 in debt as one of my biggest minimalist lifestyle accomplishments. Before writing this article I went back to my credit card and bank statements for accurate details to share with you on how I did it and what I did. To my surprise I discovered that I had much more than $15,000 in debt. I had $12,929.63 with Visa, $4,227.08 with Carmax (my car note), and $1,946.71 with American Express, a total of $19,103.42 of money owed at the end of December 2009. I’m still completely shocked while writing this. So what did I do differently? And how in the hell did I do it?
You may be familiar with the theory of what you focus on becoming your reality more than your deepest desires. My husband just reminded me that in December 2009 I was completely freaked out about how much I owed and my stress levels were on their maximum high. Forgiving myself for having created these circumstances as well as thinking about how wonderful it would feel to be financially independent was the beginning of my emotional journey. It was my debt that turned me to minimalism. It was actually a blessing in disguise.
The first blog that I read was Man Vs. Debt. It was the first insight that I received that freeing myself of debt was actually a possibility. I didn’t want the weight of owing money to rule my life and I knew that I needed to make some serious lifestyle changes as soon as possible.
1. Make Financial Observations
I looked to see where I spent most of my money annually. I am sad to say that most of my money went towards beauty products, clothing, and eating out. I wish more of the money had been spent on my dance training and massages but I’d be lying. That was a very tough thing to admit, but it was the truth. By looking at how I was spending my money I decided to make some changes immediately. I was going to have to stop shopping excessively and also create a new form of beauty which is how Minimalist Beauty was born. I was now letting go of favorite cosmetic brands to begin my DIY beauty methods. I also stopped shopping at my favorite stores and revisited Crossroads and Goodwill if I needed something. In general I stopped constantly shopping all together. Did I want to continue paying the minimum on my credit cards and keep the balance at a stand still, or was I really ready to take some action? Paying the debt down became my top priority!
2. Stop Eating Out!
It’s so true that most of our income goes towards food. Even more of that income goes towards restaurants than groceries though. I love eating out! There is nothing more exciting that going to my favorite vegetarian restaurants like Real Food Daily, Vegan Express, Seed, Flore Vegan, M Cafe and so many others in Los Angeles. Always being on the go, I still haven’t been able to prepare all of my food ahead of time. My change here was that I’d pick up a lentil or hummus wrap with plantain chips from Trader Joe’s for around $5 versus my usual $15-$20 meals. I’d keep my water bottle full and skip the drink option all together.
3. Cut Back Miscellaneous Spending
Because I keep record of all my spending from receipts, I’m aware of all purchases that are not tax deductible or food related. Miscellaneous purchases were no longer an option. If someones birthday came around, and I was on my way to a party I opted for beautiful cards from the dollar store or special written notes on lovely stationary that I already owned. I also either brought flowers or a handmade gift from my Etsy store. Other random items that I may have usually picked up in stores like Target or CVS I was no longer interested in purchasing because I was in the process of major decluttering.
4. Declutter, Declutter, Declutter
There is something so intense about the process of decluttering that the idea of buying more stuff is almost repulsive. Once you begin to really see how much stuff that you have and are trying to get rid of most of it, you will no longer be interested in buying for buying sake. You will notice that your priorities with money and things will begin to shift, and more time will soon be focused on what brings you true joy in life. I’m beginning to feel like TV and shopping are numbing drugs that most of society partakes in much of the time. When you are numbing your stresses and hard days of work, you aren’t seeing the beauty in everyday life, counting your blessings, or putting time and energy towards your creativity, joy, and peace.
5. Income, Debt, and Bills
So finally I’m getting to the money part. One of the greatest ways to pay down your credit after you’ve made some serious spending changes is to pay your card with the highest balance multiple times during the month. Pay the minimum first then in a day or two put an extra $100 or more it you can. Once you stop eating out and shopping that extra $100 or more will be there. Being in a dual income relationship took away some of the financial stress. My husband and I agreed that since the debt was mine before we were married I would take complete responsibility to pay it off. Financially I paid for food, my car note which is no longer, my debt which will be paid off in less than two months, my dance classes, and other odds and ends that I may need during the week. Any extra money that I earned from dance or commercial gigs, Etsy sales, etc. always would go towards my debt. Whenever I taught extra dance classes, more than my usual schedule, that also went towards my debt.
I’ve also had three major windfalls of money that came to me from two different circumstances which went completely towards my debt. One was a Super Bowl commercial that I was in brought back from a previous year the beginning of 2010. That residual income of around $6000 all went to paying off my American Express and knocking of a chunk of my Visa balance in March 2010. My grandfather passed away last spring after a long battle with Alzheimer and other infections along the way. (My eyes are again welling up.) My mother graciously shared some of his insurance money with me last spring, and also a portion of selling his house this spring will me, another total of $6000.
With almost 20,000 in debt in December 2009, I have paid 8,000 of it will my current income and 12,000 of it came from unexpected sources from both joyful and sad occasions.
One affirmation card that I kept in my wallet reads “I am open and receptive to new avenues of income. I now receive my good from expected and unexpected sources. I am an unlimited being, accepting from an unlimited source, in an unlimited way. I am blessed beyond my fondest dreams.” Every time I was at a cash register to pay for anything I would give the cashier my money and read this affirmation while the transaction was being completed. Feeling abundant and paying with confidence and peace no matter what I was purchasing has helped me create a positive relationship with money.
Knowing that I deserve to be happy and at peace is part of my life journey. I am sure that this is only the beginning of it all as I have still so much to learn in life. I am very pleased with my new perspective towards things and how I spend my money. Becoming more minimalist has given me a freedom that I did not have before. I thought that after I paid off my debt I would treat myself to a Betsy Johnson dress. I’d been obsessing over her dresses for the past five years always secretly desiring one. Now with my new perspective, I don’t think that would really be the best treat after all. I still love her designs though.
Peace and Sunshine,
(Image by D Sharon Pruitt)