Two factors propelled my race for financial independence: increasing my income and living simply. One helped me earn and save money. The other helped me realize I didn’t need nearly as much as I thought I did.
Living Simply Requires Less Money
How much money do you need to save for retirement? How much do you need to live an enjoyable life? Have you ever thought about it? If I asked you that question, what would you say, and how would you come up with the number?
Would you choose your current salary, look at your monthly mortgage payments or review your credit card bills?
Many years ago, I sat down to calculate my yearly expenses. I added up every purchase and generated a total that felt safe and secure. The number was huge!
I needed a giant pile of money to live my best life, so I spent my twenties and early thirties racing to reach that amount.
I was incredibly proud of my career, earning six figures and seeing my bank accounts grow. The more money I added to my accounts, the better I felt.
But then a funny thing happened. I reached financial independence and realized I needed a fraction of that amount.
When I calculated the perfect number, I used the wrong frame of reference. Instead of looking at my current expenses, I should’ve asked myself what I needed to live a happy, healthy, well-adjusted life.
Last year, we bought a house, which motivated me to clean and declutter. Each time I bagged up our stuff, I felt lighter and less stressed. As I purged our possessions, I felt their weight disappearing from my shoulders.
How much money had we spent on unnecessary stuff? How little did we need to be happy?
Living Simply Without Obligations
I was a minimalist before the pandemic began, but as the days turned into weeks, months, and years, I realized that the rules of living simply shouldn’t be confined to our possessions.
I began to focus on the simplicity of our time, obligations, and schedules.
To live simply, I needed to figure out what I valued most in life. As you can imagine, the most valuable connections in life have nothing to do with money.
During the pandemic, our schedules widened. The obligations of everyday life dissolved, and I relished in the time freedom that allowed us to stop rushing from one place to another.
As we removed commitments, I let go of my expectations. With time apart, I also distanced myself from the drama of extended family members.
I didn’t need money to buy anything other than necessities. Plane tickets, hotel rooms, and amusement parks were off the list. If we wanted to entertain ourselves, we grabbed board games and played together.
We enjoyed getting into nature and relishing in the warm sunshine. Of course, none of our daily activities required money. When the world grew quiet, our expenses dropped dramatically. When we stripped down life to the basics, I realized I didn’t need that much.
In the quiet time, my creative juices flowed. Without overwhelming responsibilities, my mind cleared, and my thoughts came into focus.
Keeping Life Simple
For the first time in a long time, we didn’t need to plan our days. We could lounge around the house in pajama pants, reading, and coloring.
It felt incredible to seize the day without a plan. We played basketball, went to the beach, and took long walks and bike rides.
We put the to-do list aside and appreciated resting our minds and bodies. As a result, our relationships and connections strengthened.
Living a Simple Life With Little Money
In my youth, I didn’t understand that I was trading my energy for money. Back then, time seemed infinite, and I had plenty to spare.
So I worked hard and built a solid nest egg. I don’t regret that fact. It’s helped calm my financial anxieties and pays for my chronic health issues, but maybe I didn’t need to push so hard or save so much.
What I need isn’t more money. It’s fewer possessions, more mental space, and fewer time constraints.
Now, I feel a pressing need to make the most of my time. I’m willing to live in a smaller house with fewer obligations and less stuff to do that.
It’s not about deprivation or frugal living. It’s about realizing that I don’t need much to feel content and happy.
What about you? Are you focusing on money, living simply, or both?