I just finished a book called “Walden on Wheels” by author Ken Ilgunas. For me it was a wonderful read of both adventure and the principles of frugality to take on debt. Of course I will not elaborate on the details as to ruin the plot of the story for those who have not read it.
What I took away from this is the deep seeding thoughts of my own situation. I have climbed tall mountain and swam long rivers to reach a point where I am just about a year away from paying off my final debt, my home. Thus, so far this journey has been moving in a positive direction for almost 7 years and includes many setbacks along the way.
When we made the decision of selling the house in New Jersey at a lose to seek a new home in Oregon 5 years ago we didn’t realize that because we were both over the age of 50 it would not be easy to find a job. Being both highly qualified in our respective fields we thought it would be a no brainer. We originally settled in a small City called Bend which we visited several times and fell in love with. We rented a small house and settled in with just a quarter of what we owned in New Jersey. Yes, we got rid of 3/4’s of our stuff before we moved. Anyway, this seemed like the dream spot where we could settle down into and become a part off. We started looking for work almost immediately. After sending out over 100 resumes attached to applications over the internet we quickly realized that something may be wrong as no answers were coming our way. The only company that was interesting in my job qualifications as a retired law enforcement officer were in the field of Security. I was offered 1 position for working a night shift from 12:00 AM – 4:00 AM for 3 nights per week at a salary of 12.00 per hour. Are you kidding me? My wife on the other hand who was a Nurse Practitioner learned that her position which is one of the most sought out positions in the country was pretty much eliminated from the area as many doctors moving from California were filling those spots.
After several months although we were taking in all of the natural attractions of the area and did much hiking, we decided that it just wasn’t working out for us. We packed a U-Haul truck and headed to the big city. We found a small apartment in Portland, settled in and resumed our job search. Again it took several months and much worry but eventually I found a job in the security industry and her a position with a local doctors office.
During these many months and months ahead we practiced a determined and aggressive habit of extreme frugality. Although I had half of my retirement check, (the other half going to an ex who I was married too for more than 10 years) a pay check from both our jobs we still felt compelled to keep a close eye on every single dollar we spent. We did this for another year until we could put together enough money for a down payment for a home. Even after purchasing the home we continued our scheme of frugality. I started making large payments to pay off both of the vehicles we still drive today, similar to what we did back in New Jersey to tackle all of small loans and credit card balances we had.
We are still living this way as I push forward towards paying of that final bill – The Beast, The mortgage. Once this final task is completed we can say that we are finally free of debt and begin to build what will be our financial future in retirement.
Over the last two years or so I have noticed that I have been falling into a comfort zone where the extreme frugality is turning more less extreme. I am still practicing most of the things that have fueled my desires to become debt free but have fallen short on several things that I question. I have a Netflix account for one and more often I like to make small purchases on Amazon for things that I really don’t need. I don’t always bring my own lunch to work and sometimes buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Where we always cooked at home we now find ourselves feeling a little more comfortable about going out eat on occasions. I continue to monitor every single dollar that comes into our lives and carefully place them where they need to go, but it seems like since I moved from the Security Industry into a position in local government where I doubled my income I feel more comfortable about spending money rather than targeting towards the mission of paying off debt.
So for me, reading Ken’s book was a real eye opener. I will have more time to think on this subject later in the day while I am tending to my raised bed gardens but I highly suspect that it will end up with thoughts of a new mission of recovering those same actions that fueled the fire to eliminate debt.