First let me start by saying I am not expert at this. In fact, I have had to follow my husband's lead in this season of our life all while kicking and screaming along the way. It is so hard to not have what other's have or to not be able to do what other's are doing but the difference in us and other's is that we choose to live very simple. Don't get me wrong, I totally want to go on a very ridiculous elaborate vacation or some awesome shopping trips or to have this big house that I can be proud of but the reality is that we are holding back now with great hopes of being able to do all those things both guilt and debt free in the future.
We don't have a fancy house. To be honest, I am embarrassed of my home sometimes. Once about 3 years ago a little girl came to spend the night with my daughter and her mom dropped her off. I could tell that she was hesitant to leave her daughter b/c she was judging a book by its cover. My house is clean(some days:), not falling apart, safe, full of love and PAID FOR! It isn't huge and perfect like their house apparently is b/c that mom has seen me out several times and has never spoken to me since. Now when people come to my house I have this need to say this home is paid for and we don't plan to live here forever and then I want to ask them how much debt do they have (but I don't). I want to clarify again that there is nothing wrong with my home and it is so much more than what other people have but it isn't a two story cape cod on a full basement and for that reason I am lower on the food chain than others and a little less safer from tornadoes.
We don't have brand new cars. I drive a 03 Ford Explorer. My husband drives a small little Toyota truck that is so old I'm not even sure what year it is. We have an older 3rd vehicle just in case b/c both kids don't fit in the tiny truck with my husband. I love my vehicle and the best thing about it is that we paid it off 4 years ago which was only a year and a half after purchasing it used!!! We have bought both of the other vehicles in the past couple of years and just paid cash money for them.
We don't have all the crazy extras like most people do like smart phones, ipads, Disney trips etc... But for now, that is OK and I can see all of those things in my very near future.
The point is that we are living well below our means today so that we aren't still paying for living beyond our means 30 years from now. We sold stuff we wanted to keep. We haven't bought things that we really wanted. We made hard decisions to get out of debt and now that we are here we plan to stay! We have no mortgage, no car payment, no credit card debt....nothing but a rental property that pays for its self. I struggle with not going out to eat all the time like we did before b/c let's face it, cooking falls on me and creates lots more work for me. But we have cut back so much (only falling off the wagon every now and then like this past weekend when we ate out 5 times) and have found that we save a large amount of money by just having a whatever you want night at home for supper and everyone cleans their own mess. I also struggle with my kids not having the same items as the other kids at school. Yes, we can buy those things for them or put them on a credit card but we choose to give them what they need and be more cautious with giving them their wants. I can promise that our kids aren't hurting for anything.
I think that is the hardest thing about trying to be debt free....separating your wants from your needs. Yes you need to enjoy life. Eating out and splurging on a new pair of shoes makes us all happy temporarily but every month when you write out bills that are just your regular household bills and nothing more, it feels good to know that there is money left over for those extras that I wanted a week or two ago.
We have followed the Dave Ramsey program to a certain extent. Now that we are out of debt we are saving up a very good emergency fund before moving forward with our wants but even then our wants will be simple and nothing outrageous.
I am going to be the first to admit that letting go of the image that I wanted to uphold is hard. Everyone wants to look like they have a lot but really some of those people are drowning in debt. I have always said "how do they afford that house or that car" and later I will find out that they aren't affording it but have them telling me that they are struggling to keep it. It is sad to be in that place and at the mercy of a house payment or credit card bill.
I love my husband with all my heart. He has to remind me daily to trust him in this process and that it won't always be this way. He has lead us through the debt and out the other side. I have gotten mad and bitter at him at times but he deserves every ounce of the credit. We have recently been reminded of how awesome and stress free it is to be in this place that we are in right now and it is leaving me saying a whole lot of you were rights to my husband:)