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Personal Finance is About Freedom — What Will You Do With Yours?

Yesterday morning after checking the weather, I was faced with an uncomfortable choice. Either I could wait to catch the bus in a thunderstorm and then walk the rest of the way home through that thunderstorm or I could spend an extra 2 hours waiting at the library until Micah came to pick me up.

Those were my options since we only have one car. And the bus route requires a bit under a mile of walking (though I often stretch it to a mile and a half on good days). On rainy or snowy days, the shorter walk is particularly miserable since it goes by a fast-moving road and I often get sprayed with puddle water or slush from the passing cars.

But short of hitching a ride home with a coworker (and few coworkers work my half-day schedule) those were my two options.

I ended up waiting at the library because the rain was pretty heavy at that point. It wasn’t bad, I spent an hour on the internet (and being limited to exactly an hour is great for productivity!) and got a little reading done. I got picked up by my handsome husband and got to see him in his suit. Normally he changes right after getting home.

But as a rule I prefer the comfort of being able to go straight home from work, kick off my shoes, and start doing…well work but other work. Being somewhere other than the public library.

If we had a second car, I could have done that today. Or better yet, since we don’t need a second car 99% of the time, I could have gotten a cab. A cab when it’s really bad and the bus when it’s ok would be quite pleasant. I enjoy my walks on the sunny days and even get off the bus early.

And that’s what getting out of debt is about. That’s what all personal finance is about. It’s about freedom. You can be making $100,000k a year but if you have a personal debt of $250,000 you aren’t really free.

In the same way, it would have been financially irresponsible of me to call a cab when I didn’t have any reason to believe that getting home early could make up for the price of a cab and more. That’s not where we are in our spending right now.

Someday we may be debt free or richer and still have only one car. But my plan, my goal is that we’ll be in a situation where I can call a cab without worrying about the budget instead of walking home in the rain.

What do you want freedom for? Convenience? Buying a second home? Spending more time with your family?

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Pete May 9, 2008 at 11:09 am

I’d like the freedom of being completely debt free to be able to save most of my income for future retirement, and to travel!

Vered - MomGrind May 9, 2008 at 11:16 am

I completely agree that it’s about freedom. The freedom to choose whether you work or not, and where; the freedom to spend more time with your family and friends and doing leisure activities; the freedom to travel; and the freedom to enjoy life’s little luxuries.

devil May 9, 2008 at 12:05 pm

The irony is that when you have more financial freedom, often you still make frugal choices. But, then it’s a choice, not a mandate, so it’s easier to have a better attitude about it.

The freedom from worry is priceless. Even money can’t buy it, but money certainly helps. 🙂

hank May 9, 2008 at 12:21 pm

It’s a strange, and maybe too often had, thought that runs through my head. I think about how it might be if I had another few $ in the bank account. Part of me thinks I’d be putting it towards traveling ’round the world with the kids, but the other half says it’d be worth more if I hold it in an investment for 30 years and then I’d have MORE.

Either way, it’s hard to argue the ol’ saying – “the more you have, the more you want.”

It’s about finding a way to be happy at whatever level you’re at. A little more is nice, but don’t plan on it, plan on what you have now I’d say.

mrsmicah May 9, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Excellent point, Hank. There’s no reason to wait for the future to be happy. One can be happy even without being financially free…and having meaningful work is extraordinarily important to happiness anyway.

A.J. May 9, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Freedom for me means never having to feel insecure. Right out of school, I had virtually no savings and I experienced panic attacks when I started thinking about various ‘What if?’ scenarios.

Now that I’ve been working for a year I have a respectable emergency fund and I sleep so much better. The panic is milder and less frequent now. If I was fired today, yeah it would suck, but financially I’d be okay for a few months.

deepali May 9, 2008 at 2:03 pm

Personally, I don’t let my debt (or anything else, really) get in the way of my freedom.

cinzea May 9, 2008 at 4:20 pm

I’d would have done the same exact thing as you did. I would have waited for DH in the library. I would have used their computers, surfed the net, read a few magazines, rented a few free DVD’s.
If doing so would save me money from owing a 2nd car, I would be more than happy to do it.
I wish I had the same options you have! Good for you!

Christine May 9, 2008 at 5:54 pm

I would have walked home. In the rain. Alone.

It’s like I’m in a Hemingway novel or something.

Writer's Coin May 9, 2008 at 6:50 pm

That’s so funny, I just read an article in The New York Times about leisure and now I read this! You really should check it out because it’s pretty interesting, especially when they talk about prison inmates.

mrsmicah May 9, 2008 at 7:09 pm

@ WC, thanks for mentioning that article, I checked it out. Sometimes I almost wish I were in prison as long as I’d get a chance to use the time productively (but less pressure, I think…maybe).

Of course, I don’t really want to be in prison.

Anyway, good stuff. 🙂

Robert May 9, 2008 at 7:13 pm

I guess we’re sorta lucky living in the south. Total cost of living is low which allows for easier savings. Currently I sock away around 35% from my work at the nonprofit. With my online earnings I seeing us pay our house off in 7 years or less (my plan is 4 years).

Funny about Money May 9, 2008 at 7:19 pm

I’m with A.J., above: now that the bag lady syndrome has passed, I feel as though I pretty much have everything I need.

The other day it entered my mind that if I could save another $100,000 between now and the time I retire in three to seven years, I could either move to a smaller, quieter town where the weather’s cooler or afford to stay in my present home throughout retirement. Or move to a nicer neighborhood somewhere in the city.

So maybe that’s it: I’d like to be free to stay where I am when I retire or to move where _I_ want to live–and not to a retirement “community” (read “ghetto for the elderly”) because that’s all I can afford.

Heather May 10, 2008 at 7:14 am

We live in an area with poor public schools, but there is an excellent private school within a reasonable distance. When we knock out our debt, and we are making good progress, the cost of tuition will be manageable. We will still need to practice frugality, but doing it for our kids feels more rewarding than making up for a few poor decisions in the past.

fathersez May 10, 2008 at 7:29 am

For me, freedom would mean freedom to make a choice, at almost each and everytime.

Shall I spend today reading, or watching a movie, take the kids out..whatever.

Rather than having to go to work for the money to pay for the neccessities in life

My Daily Dollars May 10, 2008 at 8:46 am

You’re right, when you’re out of debt-reduction mode, extra money doesn’t HAVE to go to debt. However, if you’re like me, you’ll probably want it to go to savings. I’m starting to see that my current frugality needs to become permanent. The nice thing is that you’ll be free to use the savings for whatever you want!

Working Rachel May 11, 2008 at 2:15 am

Freedom to me means time…time to do what I want without being committed to a job. That’s a big one, but I’m working on it!

Millionaire Mommy Next Door May 12, 2008 at 10:21 am

I relish our freedom to have choices: whether or not to work, where I want to live, who I spend time with. Give me freedom of choice over fancy cars and McMansions any day!

I love being “stuck” at our public library for long stretches of time, but it’s probably because I have the freedom of time (and I’m not exhausted after a long day at work).

My hubby and I have been sharing one car for 20 years now. As you said, 99% of the time it works well – and the other 1% of the time it doesn’t is still worth the financial freedom!

David Carter May 16, 2008 at 11:41 pm

I agree, the main reason I go without on many things is to have the ability to choose on things that matter to me more. Like being ok if I lose my job, retiring early etc.
I think it is hard people to look long term and that is why so few people save for emergencies and retirement. Us pf bloggers are some of the few who don’t seem to mind for some reason to wait for what you really want, financial independence.

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