Life My Way

Who doesn’t want to live their life, their way?
“Living the dream.” I see this phrase too often and, to be honest, it annoys me. What is “the dream”? Is it meant facetiously? “The dream” sounds too authoritarian, as if there is only one kind of dream. I reject that notion and call on everyone to live their own dream.

When I was a teenager, there is a particular teaching I took to heart: to not care what anyone else thinks of me. My father taught me this and, to this day, I believe deeply that not caring what anyone else thinks about you is important to living a happy life.

The other key is knowing what you want. This is your life, not anyone else’s, and it’s up to you to decide how you want to live it.

Many people tell me they want to stay home, rather than work a 9-to-5 to pay the bills, and I can’t say I blame them. There certainly are careers outside the home that call to a number of people, things they are passionate about and happy to make a living doing.

On the other side, you have the people who are absolutely miserable working outside the home, and then plenty of people somewhere in the middle. They aren’t super happy, but they aren’t miserable, either. They make a living and they’re fine where they are.

This post is for those who want to stay home and who want to know how to do it. This post is for those people who felt the way I did – emptied out by their work and who have recognized the pointlessness of it. These are the four steps I went through in deciding I would live my life, my way:

  1. Found something I loved to do that made me a living from home
  2. Paid off all debt and cultivated a frugal lifestyle
  3. Saved 3 months’ worth of expenses for emergencies/”What if?”
  4. Quit my job

This is super simplified, of course, so let’s take it one step at a time.

  1. Find something you love to do that makes you a living from home.

This might actually be the hardest or second hardest step, and step #2 might end up being what you do before this. But the sooner you can do this and start increasing your income, the better. There are many ways to do this and plenty of books and blogs with advice on creating a “side hustle” or being an entrepreneur, so I won’t get into this in depth, except to say do NOT go in for any sort of pyramid scheme. By that, I mean avoid anything that involves a buy-in and/or selling products.

Yes, I know, that leaves out Mary Kay and Avon, Scentsy and It Works!, and all the other products you see hyped on Facebook. But, trust me, being a distributor at a level that makes you a living wage is not going to work out.

Instead, look at what your talents are and what you actually love to do. Where those two intersect is your dream job and if you can get paid for it, bingo!

  1. Pay off all debt and cultivate a frugal lifestyle.

So we’ve been doing this for 3 years now. Why? When my husband got out of the military, we had to move overseas, find a place to live, find jobs, and do all of this with an infant. Our bank wouldn’t give us a mortgage, since my husband’s enlistment was ending and my freelance income was sporadic, which meant we had limited options as far as our living situation. But we bought a house pretty close to where we wanted to live, so our kids could attend the school district there, and then we figured out how to live on very little income for our first year.

I already have a disciplined mindset when it comes to finances, but my husband had to learn to live without getting the little luxuries and big toys he wanted. We also budgeted wisely for food. Our first winter, we had as little as $25 to $50 some weeks for food, which meant we learned to make rice and beans appetizing for the kids. We cook and eat at home the majority of the time. Back then, we couldn’t afford to eat out. Now, we weigh the cost – nearly $40 to get 4 meals at the nearest restaurant versus nearly $40 to buy 4 times as much food at the grocery store means the grocery store wins.

We also started growing quite a bit of our own food and found that our enjoyment of gardening brought it far beyond a matter of frugality. Thanks to building up a side income, we also paid off our debts, which we’d already intentionally and by necessity kept very minimal.

  1. Save 3 months’ worth of expenses for emergencies/”What if?”

This part can be difficult, but if you’ve been building up an extra income on the side, then once you pay off any debts, placing that money into savings is the next step. Because once you know you’re bringing in enough income on your own to quit working full time, it’s nice to have the cushion there in case something doesn’t work out or one month brings in a lower income than the others.

  1. Quit – it’s your life after all!

This is the scary one, because you realize once you do this, you’re 100% responsible for your income and taxes.

But it is also immensely freeing. When I wake up in the morning, it feels good to know I already have my income set for the next 3 months. Of course, if I want to keep it up, I have to keep working! So that’s what I do. I get up, work, take a break and get back to it. But it’s all about doing what I love and that is what makes it so rewarding.

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