No one actually lives like that. It’s impossible to retire early. Sure, anyone can say those things, but you’re not actually doing that. The amount of vitriol at the bottom of significant savings or early retirement posts on sites like Yahoo Finance could give the Fashion Police on E! some serious trolling competition. It is easy to dismiss comments like that, but once the barbs are peeled pack, many of the caustic remarks veil a similar sentiment: It’s not that I can’t, I simply won’t make that commitment.
Ending the Can’t Mentality
For a long time, I doled out excuses like a prolific Pez dispenser: I’d like to save more money, but we have no furniture. Eventually, we will live on one paycheck once we get ourselves a little more established. People who save half of their incomes aren’t trying to gut a house.
In a lot of ways, those statements are true. Moving into a new home–especially if it is a first home and you don’t have things like a bed–is expensive. Tackling renovation projects make homeownership even more costly. I could very easily continue to make those statements to this day.
But I don’t. During one particularly frustrating phone call home, my mom asked me an unanswerable question: “What’s your rush?” A million thoughts clouded my mind, but nothing came out of my mouth. Why was I rushing? What did it matter if our guest bedrooms sat empty? Who would care if there weren’t wall hangings or end tables in every room?
Suddenly, I was given a chance to refine my mindset. Instead of trying to accomplish everything at once, I would prioritize. Not only would devising this plan of attack make the task of renovations less overwhelming, but it also gave Mr. P and I a chance to outline our values and decide what really mattered to us as homeowners. With slowing down our new reality, we were earning more than we were spending and started earmarking funds for long-term savings, a new porch, a new A/C system, and so on. Once I took the can’t option off the table, I found a way to make my savings goal happen.
Realizing and Accepting the Won’ts
There are lots of things that I am willing to do to live a more frugal lifestyle. Sometimes, I press right up against the cheap box, but there are some lines that I am simply unwilling to cross. Sharing floss, taking
napkins ketchup everything that isn’t nailed down from McDonald’s, showering together to use one another’s shampoo suds as body wash. Staged or not, I will never pretend to be an Extreme Cheapshake.
There are more reasonable things that I am unwilling to do as well. The heat setting never drops lower than 66 degrees when we are home. Organic produce stays on our grocery lists. I leave my hair highlighting up to the professionals.*
I could cut bigger corners and employ more cost-saving measures. But I won’t. As much as I relish the idea of financial independence in my future, I also value the present even more. Today is where our lives are currently playing out, so we have found a way to articulate our day-to-day living with our future hopes and dreams. By establishing what I am willing to sacrifice and what I value too dearly, I have made sure that the won’ts in my life are born of purpose, not habit.
Changing the Don’t Know
It is easy to be dismissive of what we do not understand. Early retirement and frugal living seem like alien concepts when juxtaposed with Black Friday advertisements and American consumer debt statistics. Understandably, people want to disregard those lifestyles as viable options. Once written off, they are no longer possibilities passing by or opportunities already missed. On a deeper level, those lifestyles really are not viable options without the knowledge that goes with them.** Perhaps even more important that identifying the won’ts of the world is targeting our personal gaps in knowledge. If you know where you do not feel surefooted, then you know where to place your focus.
The next time you hear yourself say that you can’t do something, take pause. Are you actually unable to do something, are you simply unwilling, or do you not know how? Unwillingness to do something could underscore your priorities. But if you are unwilling to do anything differently, you cannot expect much to change. Being unaware of something might point to a lack of knowledge. But that lack of knowledge is not permanent as long as you are willing to learn.
*Mostly because the blonde photograph on that grocery store hair dye box is not the same blonde that comes out of the bottle. I was the original Carrot Top, and my mom has school photos to prove it.
**Of course, this is when I start wringing my hands and gnashing my teeth at the commenters. If you don’t know how to do something, read the blog before bashing the blogger.
So Tell Me…Do you have any won’ts? How do you combat the don’t knows?