March has brought me a lot of things to think about and, quite frankly, a lot of pain. WordPress reminded me at the beginning of the month that it has been one year since I started Modest Mandi. One year since I got my paycheck, spent it all by the next day and then spent the rest of the month broke and unhappy, wanting things I couldn’t afford. One year since I made my student loan payments, looked at the balance and cried, feeling like I would never be out of debt. One year since I discovered Anna at And Then We Saved. One year since Terry came home from work to find me crying and I told him ‘this has to stop.’ One year since we put our debt free plan into action and stopped living the life we thought we needed so that we could build the future we dreamed of for our family.
The thought of this evokes a mixture of emotions: happiness at all of the memories we made, pride at paying off £10,000 in seven months on our modest salaries and incredible sadness that things ended the way they did; that all of our amazing plans shattered one day in September of last year.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time this month reflecting on the past year and it’s only today that I have gathered the strength to write down these thoughts. So much has changed in this past year, much of it thanks to Terry and my decision to become debt free. So here, in a nutshell, are my thoughts on the matter:
1. My entire relationship with money has changed. I remember walking with Terry through Bicester Village in the early days, weeks after we decided to stop spending any money, and telling him how I couldn’t wait for this time next year so I could finally begin shopping again. I had assumed that my shopping habits and desires would remain unchanged and I would suppress them for a year until I could finally pick up where I left off. In truth, not buying things for a year has changed my desires. I no longer convince myself that I cannot live without those shoes, that dress. I know that I can live just fine without them. Sure, I would look awesome in that dress, but buying it once I am debt free would make me feel and look awesome, and that’s what I want. That right there is actually amazing.
2. I haven’t been broke in a year. Yep, that’s one whole year that I haven’t been broke at the end of the month. In fact, most months there is money left in my account at the end of the month, which is a HUGE change from my previous lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, there are months where I only have £10 in my bank account, but even when that’s true I don’t feel broke as I know I won’t spend it. I can remember what it’s like to be stressed, to not have enough money in my account to buy what I wanted until payday, but I don’t miss that. Instead, I know I have enough money to buy what I need and I feel contentment.
3. Because I buy so few things, I can buy what I want, when I want. I don’t have to deprive myself. Sure, I would love to go on a big holiday, or buy a nice new dress, but I know that those things will come when I am debt free (2019 is going to be my year – mark my words). Until then, if I want a Frappucino or the occasional item of clothing that’s on sale, I buy it. I stopped the year of no spending after Terry died and now I indulge myself when I feel like it. For example, I bought a few Clinique products the other day instead of their drugstore equivalents. By changing my spending habits, I can now afford to splurge every now and then (within reason) while still paying off my debt.
4. Having changed my overspending lifestyle I can now afford to live on my income without Terry’s. I hate to say it, but if I had been widowed in my previous lifestyle, money would be at the top of my list of problems. I actually can’t even bear to think of what would have happened. As a result of the year of no spending, when Terry died suddenly I knew our exact financial situation. There were no hidden surprises and I was as well prepared as wife could be. I knew exactly how much money we earned and how much we spent every month. This is how I knew that I couldn’t stay in our home in Bicester. I knew the day he died that our house was out of my budget and I began immediately planning to move to somewhere more affordable. It hurt to leave that house, but it would have hurt a lot more to have it taken from me when I could no longer pay the bills that amounted to more than I make in a month.
If you had asked me last year where I would be in March of 2015 I would have pictured Terry and I celebrating paying off our credit card debts with a weekend away. For whatever reason, or perhaps no reason at all, those dreams were taken from me. One year after deciding to stop spending money unnecessarily and to become debt free I am so proud of how far I’ve come financially. Paying off debt and continuing to work towards my dream of being debt free is now one of the many ways that I use my life to honor my husband.