Four years ago, I was stressed out about money. I was over $20,000 in debt at the time and had no money to my name. I had just bought a car that I couldn’t afford and, only having been working for a year post college, I wasn’t making a heck of a lot. October 2008 was a scary month as the stock market did a nose dive and many people panicked. People almost immediately tightened their belts and as a result, our company’s clients saw less and less revenue from consumers. A couple of our largest clients called and asked for price reductions. It forced us to react and let some people go. It was tough to watch and it scared me further. Again, I had almost no money in the bank. I was putting it all down on my car loan to try to lower its hefty $20,000 original balance.

Two Years of Commitment Got Me Out of Debt

Two years after that stressful time, I paid off my last bit of debt and became debt free. That sounds easy, huh? Well, it actually wasn’t real easy. Inside of that two year time frame, I did quite a bit of changing as a person to enable that hurdle to be cleared, such as:

  • Starting to track my finances with Mint.com
  • Cutting cable TV (high definition to be exact) from my life
  • Slashing every possible dollar I could from my monthly bills
  • Cutting my lifestyle – No more eating out, bar frequenting, traveling or shopping

After December 2010, I was out of debt. It felt great. Now the big question arose. What do I do now? Thankfully, I had been listening to Dave Ramsey and I knew what to do next. I needed to build a 3-6 month emergency fund. So, I did it. Check.

I Think I Want to Buy a House

Once my emergency fund was built up, I started thinking past that. What was next? Well, I guess I’d like to move out of this apartment eventually and buy myself a house, right? So, I then began a plan to save up for a down payment or as Dave Ramsey calls this, Baby Step 3b. During this step, if I was going along with Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover
plan, I’d be holding off on any retirement saving for just long enough to save a down payment for a house. And so I held off. Soon after, our company started offering a matching retirement plan of which, I was the only one in our company who didn’t participate. Sure, I looked stupid, but I was on a mission.

And then I hit the down payment amount. I had saved the 20% down payment. Now what?

Well, I was just too far down the road of hating debt to be comfortable taking out a mortgage, even if it met Dave Ramsey‘s recommendation of no more than a 15 year fixed rate loan where the payment is less than 25% of my take home pay. The thought of a mortgage scared and continues to scare me. So I thought bigger. What if I could buy a house in cash? The answer I told myself was….. YES, that is both possible and freaking cool!

And the mission was on to pile up more money and more money. And that was earlier this year. I kept saving.

Then There was the Change in Mindset

It hit me this summer sometime. I read the book, Rich Dad Poor Dad and wow, my mindset shifted. The book’s author Robert Kiyosaki made a point in the book about how a house is a liability and not an asset, which got me thinking. I decided that I agreed with him on that and I think I’d been thinking it all along. I decided that maybe I’d hold off on buying a house, at least until I thought some more about it.

And then I went to the 2012 Financial Blogger Conference in Denver in September. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. I felt independent and connected to a group of people that had incredible levels of passion, internal drive and excitement. I caught the bug of wanting to create something and do something I’m passionate about. So many people there had started their own gig and had made it work. They were self starters. They were entrepreneurs. I envied so many of them. It got me motivated to keep trucking at many of the things I’ve been working on in the past year or two.

So not only was I excited about what others were doing and in wanting to start something myself, but I also learned of this blogger called Mr. Money Mustache by talking to him a bit at the conference and hearing him speak and others talk about him. When I got home from the conference, I studied up on his blog and this whole new perspective started to connect with me.

Finally, Financial Independence Caught my Attention

Mr. Money Mustache and a select few niche bloggers out there have done/are doing some crazy things, even to a personal finance geek like me. I was in awe when I first heard of Mr. Money Mustache’s lifestyle. His strategy is all about changing yourself internally and developing a sense of contentment so you’re not needing or craving stuff anymore.

Once you don’t need “stuff” anymore, you don’t need to spend much money at all to be happy. So if you don’t value stuff anymore, what do you value? Freedom. Time. Opportunity.

After I took all this in, it really connected with me. See, ever since I was a little boy, I dreamed of retiring early. Not so I could sit around, but so I could be free! My number was always 45 or earlier. I didn’t want to have to go to work everyday if I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t want to ever feel trapped. I wanted to live a free live and be able to up and move if I felt like it. I wanted to travel a lot. The thought of working until I was 65 at a boring job made me cringe. But as I grew up, I started to believe less and less that it was possible.

Because of these bloggers out there talking and living out this crazy strategy of living on very little, saving a ton and achieving financial freedom ridiculously early in life, I’m pumped up again. This time it’s for more than just material things like a house. This time it’s for my time, my freedom and my future. I’m now thinking differently about my saving and am thinking about saving this money so that I can earn more money from it. I want to invest my savings with the goal of reaching financial independence early for real. No more dreaming. It’s time to get serious about making this goal happen.

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