When people talk about wanting financial freedom there’s often an inherent assumption that the way to get there is through earning more and accumulating more.
The definition of financial freedom that I love is this:
You are financially free to the extent that your passive or residual income (income that you earn over and over again for work done once) is greater than your living expenses.
In order to achieve this goal we have two choices: increase our passive or residual income or decrease our living expenses.
In 2010 I drew a line in the sand for myself that my 28th year was the year I was going to truly and officially be financially free (including zero debt.) I decided to tweak both sides of the above equation to gracefully jeté over that line. I radically simplified my life AND I increased my passive and residual income.
I’ll talk about increasing passive and residual income in a future post (so be sure you’re on my list so you get it directly in your inbox) but today I’m going to talk about simplification.
I am not the first person to bring this up. There are bazillions of other writers sharing the power of cutting back and living with less in order to experience more life.
The difference is that I’m not, nor have I ever been, a minimalist. And becoming a minimalist is not something I strive for.
What I’m talking about is the spaciousness that can be created through simplicity.
Up until about two years ago it had never occurred to me to spend less money than I made. I had this erroneous belief that having abundance meant making more money and then spending it. Seriously. That’s what I thought it was about.
I had read plenty of times that we should live within our means but honestly, that brought to mind images of women wearing orthopedic shoes and ugly corduroy jumpers.
It felt limiting. It felt like deprivation. It felt down right unsexy.
But the thing is I had all this credit card debt (to the tune of about $20,000). And I also knew that I wouldn’t consider myself truly financially free until my debt was paid off, even if I was making enough residual income to cover my living expenses.
So I decided to cut financial ties that were binding me, let go of the “stuff” (physical and energetic) that was no longer serving me, and hit the road on The Freedom Tour.
One of the beautiful side effects of taking off on the road in my Prius with just what I considered to be essential was that it decreased my living expenses significantly.
For the first time in my life I was living on less than I was making and the space in my finances felt life affirming.
Giving us extra wiggle room financially births all sorts of possibilities that wouldn’t have come about while living paycheck to paycheck.
Within a few months I paid off all of my debt and was able to dramatically increase my savings. (Not to mention the fact that creating all that space brought true love to my life and a book deal.)
I was finally experiencing what living below my means was really about.
It felt elegant. It felt exhilarating. It felt ripe with potential. It felt deliciously spacious.
I didn’t use the conventional financial wisdom of looking through my expenses to see what I could cut down on. Instead, I focused on what I truly valued and added more of it while eliminating anything that was no longer lighting my heart’s fire.
I moved toward and expanded freedom, adventure. space, connection, quality time with people I love, travel, and wide open sky.
I eliminated clothes I never wore, an apartment that I no longer needed, business relationships that were keeping my partners and I small, and beliefs about my worth that were preventing me from sharing my value with the world.
Now that I’m settled in my home in Maine and no longer living on the road, I continue to stay vigilant to my version of simplicity. Do I have way more pairs of shoes than I did when I was on the road? Yes. Yet I still remain true to spending time and money on only that which brings me true value and joy.
I’ve tasted the freedom and spaciousness of spending less than I make. And I will never go back to the cramped feeling of spending more but ultimately having less again.
When we simplify from a place of getting clear on what is critical to our fulfillment and enjoyment of life, it feels incredibly spacious and abundant. When we simplify from a place of cutting back it feels cramped and limited.
You don’t have to sell your home, get rid of all of your stuff, restructure your entire life, leave partnerships, and take off on the road to create simplicity. (Though I highly recommend it if it sounds like fun to you.)
Instead, ask yourself the following questions:
What do I truly love?
What do I crave?
What am I doing when I feel I’m at my best?
How can I bring more of the above into my life?
What is no longer serving me that I can release?