Those of us who have been trying to teach and train ourselves to be more frugal and wise with our money aspire to be like Heather. She’s one of those seemingly rare people to which thrift and living frugally seem to come naturally. Lucky for us, she’s willing to reveal her secrets.
Heather’s blog, Want What You Have, came to fruition in 2008 after she and her husband paid off every single last cent of the debt that he had accumulated (Heather was debt-free when they got married) while owning several properties, a boat, a snowmobile, motorcycle, car, and collectibles. It took them seven years to repay the half-a-million dollars that was owed, but they haven’t looked back. The philosophy, money saving tips, and systems of organization that Heather attributes to their debt freedom are detailed throughout the pages of her heart-warming and inspiring blog.
“I felt that by sharing our story and the skills and knowledge we gained on our path to debt freedom, perhaps I could help others find the same kind of peace and happiness we found when we got off the debt rollercoaster, and realized what was really important in life,” Heather explains.
mother-of-three says that the way to debt freedom is re-evaluating what’s
really important in life, and clearing out the stuff that clutters our lives
and enslaves us to credit cards and lenders. With the arrival of their first
child, Heather and her husband decided to make a change and got rid of the
stuff that added no value to their lives, but only took up space.
“It was as if this enormous burden had been lifted from our shoulders,” Heather recalls. “We were no longer scrambling to pay for, maintain, store, and insure all of our stuff. We were free. Our life was calmer, simpler, and happier because now, instead of working to pay creditors, we were working to buy more of the only real, valuable commodity any of us has on this earth – time.”
A blurring of needs and wants, a growing sense of entitlement, and a lack of real knowledge regarding money, debt, and savings, are what Heather attributes in large part to the current debt crisis. Somewhere along the way, people decided that the number of possessions they had, or how they stacked up against their friends and neighbours, defined them. Heather’s blog entries prove otherwise, and show that she’s found happiness in things other than excess stuff.
“I named my blog Want What You Have because I sincerely believe that true happiness is found when you learn to be content, right where you are,” Heather explains. “You can’t have everything, and the more you have, the more you must sacrifice to pay for it. Personally, I would much rather hang out with my kids, or watch a movie with my husband, than work a second job to pay for more stuff. Time is fleeting. Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.”
Heather also attributes dangerously high levels of debt to a growing lack of personal responsibility in our society. Blaming others for one’s own financial mistakes or relying on social safety nets for bailouts creates a careless attitude toward debt.
“People rack up thousands of dollars in consumer debt, and then blame everyone else when they can’t pay it back,” she says. “It’s the credit card company’s fault, or the bank’s fault, or the car dealer’s fault...I seldom hear anyone say, ‘It’s MY fault, because I made poor choices.’”
Heather hopes to instil her thrifty attitude and practices in her children and, despite their young age, she has already started to educate them about good money management. For example, at Christmas and birthdays, Heather and her husband have asked family members not to buy their children toys that lose their lustre quickly and clutter bedrooms. Instead, the children receive books, tickets to fun places, clothing, or contributions to their college fund. Encouraging their children to sort through and donate or consign their old clothes and toys each year and saving money earned through allowance or received as gifts, are ways in which Heather and her husband also teach their children the value of a dollar.
These views--and her ideas about how to reverse the debt-accumulating, mass consumption trends--are evident in the tips and stories that you will find on Heather’s blog. She has found some truly amazing ways to do more with less. For parents who are seeking a little inspiration and want to know how they can save more money, Heather includes her recipes for frugal cooking from scratch (check out her Economical Eats recipe blog), how to make your own baby wipes and food, how to stick to a thrifty food plan, stock a frugal pantry, and start a savings notebook to organize store flyers and coupons. Household and financial organization are two other areas that Heather says have aided in her debt freedom. She describes frugality and organization as a ‘perfect partnership:’
“It’s difficult to make and live by a budget if you don’t know where your money goes every month,” she explains, “but when you keep your personal paperwork in order, you can track and monitor your income and expenditures. If you keep your pantry and storage areas neat and organized, you can easily see and use what you already have, rather than wasting money on unnecessary things. I’m also a big believer in schedules, because having a basic plan for my day helps me manage my time so that I can pursue frugal activities like scratch cooking, cloth diapering, and garage saling.”
Heather says that getting organized is also the first step when paying back debt. Organizing bills and creating filing systems will allow you to more easily monitor your spending. You can then identify where to cut back and make a clear plan to repay every cent. Heather also recommends sorting through the clutter and selling any excess stuff online or at garage sales, and putting this money towards your debt. Heather and her husband actually supported themselves for over a year, and paid back some of the money they owed, with the proceeds they made from selling their excess stuff online.
There’s no doubt about it, paying back debt is daunting. It can even seem impossible. But Heather’s story proves that a little grit and perseverance really pays off. As she says, “knowledge is power,” and her blog is a good place to start to get the facts, ideas, and inspiration one needs to live on less and to stay debt free.
“...In order to achieve debt freedom, a person must let go of the idea that money can buy happiness, or alleviate boredom, or fill a void in a person’s life,” Heather explains. “It’s not a miracle cure for all your problems - it’s only money. And when you owe it to someone else, you are a slave to that person until it’s paid. No one likes to hear that, but it’s the truth.”