A while ago my husband and I were discussing with my dad our plans to move to a less expensive town. He was talking about how many financial blows a person can withstand, and how increasing that number should be a primary goal. It resonated with me, and really made me think. It’s part of the reason why we decided that we’d rather sell our current house instead of renting it out. Two mortgages, one of which is covered by rent from tenants, is great as long as things are going smoothly. But things don’t always go smoothly, and having just one house and one mortgage is a lot easier to juggle if things get a little rocky.
My dad pointed out that it would take several financial blows to knock my parents down. They’ve already withstood a few, the biggest being the autoimmune disease that struck my dad without warning in 2001 and caused kidney failure. He had to retire at 55, several years ahead of schedule. Even with health insurance, his medical expenses eat up a huge chunk of money every year. It’s not an ideal situation, but it would be much worse if they had been in debt when he got sick. They’ve always planned carefully, and while they’ve never had a great deal of money, they stretch what they do have farther than anyone else I know.
My parents would never in a million years put in granite countertops or buy a big screen TV. They drive a Hyundai that they paid for with cash. They taught me everything I know about shopping in thrift stores and at yard sales. They are the king and queen of do-it-yourself, and make frugal into an art form. Years of living like that put them in a position where a pretty significant financial blow wasn’t able to topple them. And they could withstand several more if necessary.
That is our goal. My husband and I are working to get ourselves to that point. When we bought our house six years ago, we were far from it. Our mortgage was a stretch for us, and starting our own business at the same time made things even tougher. We worked our butts off, but we were also lucky. We had the various financial hiccups that go along with starting a business, but we didn’t have any major catastrophes. We’ve gotten ourselves to the point where we could withstand some financial difficulties without too much of a problem, but we still have a long way to go.
These days our income is more than it was when we bought our house. But we won’t be upgrading to a more expensive neighborhood, buying new cars, or abandoning the thrift stores where we do our shopping. Upgrades are fine, as long as your financial situation stays the same or gets better. But what if it gets worse?
I look at every month where our income exceeds our expenses as a gift that should not be squandered. It’s an opportunity for us to build up a wall around our family to shield us from whatever life might throw at us around the next bend. That’s why we’re so focused on saving and living frugally. A few years ago, we had to be frugal because there simply wasn’t enough money in our budget to live any other way. Now, we choose to be frugal because we don’t know what the future will bring. Our income isn’t huge, and it could easily be eaten up if we chose to upgrade a few aspects of our current lifestyle. But carefully considering every purchase means that we’re able to put money aside every month instead of spending it.
I hope that we’ll continue to have smooth sailing for many years to come. And we’ll be careful and do our best to make that happen. But sometimes life throws curve balls that are tough to anticipate. Insurance (life, health, liability, etc.) can help with some of those, but avoiding debt and building up savings will make it much easier for us to weather whatever storms might lie ahead. And to me, that brings more comfort than anything we could spend our money on right now.