Over the last six months, I have had several articles published at Get Rich Slowly. However, I have never had the pleasure of formally introducing myself. My name is Holly Johnson, and I am a 32 year-old wife and mother of two young children. I work alongside my husband at a small family owned mortuary in the rural Midwest. I began my own journey out of debt a little over two years ago, and it has definitely been a whirlwind of a ride. Let's start from the beginning.
Our checkered money past
My husband and I got married in 2005. Soon after, we settled in a Midwestern town and began earning a middle class living. By 2010, we had just upgraded into a nicer, larger home and were pregnant with our second daughter. Things couldn't have been going better, and I thought that I had everything that I wanted and more. However, despite the fact that we were making plenty of money, we realized that we were not saving nearly enough of it. We had managed to do some things right. We had bought two rental properties by this point and we were aggressively saving for retirement. However, every additional penny we made practically disappeared into thin air. It was a hopeless feeling, knowing that many thousands of dollars per year were going unaccounted for.
After having a series of near nervous breakdowns, we sat down together to begin figuring out where all of our money was going. We began the arduous task of tracking our spending, and we soon discovered that we were literally eating up most of the extra money that we made. Taking a closer look at the way we were frittering away our paychecks was truly an eye-opening experience. In addition to spending over $1,000 per month on food for two adults and a baby, we were also paying car payments, credit card payments, and many other unnecessary expenses. The numbers were right there on the paper, and actually seeing where our money was going was a shocking jolt of reality. We knew that we could do much better and set out to improve our family's financial situation.
Over the past two years, we have worked extremely hard and have paid off all of our consumer debts and student loans. I'm not going to lie…it wasn't always easy. However, our quest for financial freedom is far from over. We are now within a few years of having our mortgage paid off and being completely debt free by the age of 35. You might be wondering why anyone in their right mind would worry about being debt free on the year of their 35th birthday. The answer is simple. We want our freedom.
Moving forward with our debt free dreams
As we saved, sacrificed, and planned our eventual path out of debt, we found ourselves searching for meaning in everything that we see and do. What we began to realize is that we had been working our lives away to buy stuff. We had been sprinting on a treadmill to nowhere and had been wasting all of the money that we had worked so hard to earn. Even as our incomes grew over the years, we had always been quick to upgrade our lifestyle to match.
When we started to grasp the magnitude of our own financial self-destruction, we became frustrated and angry that we had let our finances get so out of hand. Afterall, what is the point of working anyway? And, what were we truly working for? It was then that we realized that we both wanted so much more out of life than working to buy things. We found out that we wanted experiences. We wanted memories. Most of all we wanted time – time with our children, time to relax, and time to enjoy life itself.
What is it that you truly and deeply hope for and wish for? What are your dreams? Let me take a moment to tell you about mine.
I want to see “The Woman in Black” live on the stage in London. I want to marvel at the Terra Cotta warriors in China and see the expansive Great Wall with my own eyes. I want to travel to beautiful New Zealand and gleefully geek out on a “Lord of the Rings” tour of the countryside. And, one day, I want to lay on a beach in Thailand… sipping drinks with tiny umbrellas as I watch my children play in the surf.
Of course, my ultimate dream is early retirement. I aspire to reach early financial independence and retire as soon and as comfortably as I can – without sacrificing my love of travel or anything else. Being financially independent will also create new opportunities to be charitable with my money and time. I look forward to the day when I can afford to give generously to causes that inspire me.
Unfortunately, all of my dreams cost money. We all know that no one is going to knock on my door and hand over the keys to the castle. Becoming financially independent requires hard work, sacrifice, and creative thinking in order to get ahead. Therefore, my goal is to work as hard as I can and harness the power of my middle class income. Living below my means has helped put these dreams within reach, and I can't wait to start pursuing each and every one.
I am getting rich slowly
I'm not a financial professional. You won't find me talking about earning millions in the stock market overnight or opining on the investment strategies of the rich and famous. I won't be sharing stock tips or touting the newest financial product on the market. However, I will be writing about my own experiences and all of the unconventional ways that I choose to save money. Sharing my obsession with financial freedom is what I'm passionate about and there is nothing I would rather be doing.
Will you join me on this journey for a better life? I hope you'll follow along with me as I get rich slowly and determine my own financial destiny. It also is my hope that we can inspire and learn from each other along the way.
What are your dreams? What plans do you have in motion to achieve them?
Author: Holly Johnson
Holly Johnson is a credit card expert, award-winning writer, and mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel. In addition to serving as contributing editor for The Simple Dollar and writing for publications such as Bankrate, U.S. News and World Report Travel, and Travel Pulse, Johnson owns Club Thrifty and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love.