The First Step Toward Financial Freedom Is Deciding You Have Enough

Before I began my financial transformation, I was regularly living above my means.

This manifested itself in several ways including pricey vacations, sky-high restaurant bills, and fancy new furniture. The most financially devastating, however, was my designer clothing habit.

I thought very little of dropping $300 on a new handbag or splurging on a new pair of shoes. I justified my frequent indulgences by telling myself that I worked hard and deserved these nice things.

Eventually, I began to lament my lack of savings and slowly started trying to gain control of my finances. Instead a dropping large amounts of cash at the mall, I would hit up high-end consignment shops in the cities I was visiting for work.

I recall madly searching for a city's best second hand designer clothing stores via Yelp when my plane was taxiing. I often limited my time for food in order to visit the highest-rated shop. Nordstrom hadn't yet opened in Nashville, so our used clothing selection wasn't as strong.

While I was technically spending less, I wasn't addressing the underlying problem. So what if I had scored Prada heels for $150 or a brand new Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress for only $100?

There's something about snagging a great deal on an otherwise expensive item that can be incredibly addicting. I started realizing that it was becoming less about the item itself and more about the bragging rights associated with how “inexpensively” I was able to purchase it for.

The truth was, I didn't need any of it. I had already amassed a significant collection of clothing by that point, and most of what I was purchasing were impulsive pieces that never quite seemed to fit me as well as they should. I uncomfortably squeezed into shoes that were on sale and swam in dresses that were on clearance.

The more I purchased, the more I wanted, and I never felt like I had enough.

I never stopped to think about who I was trying so hard to impress. My friends? My colleagues? Did my expensive clothing have any real impact on my relationships or career?

It's been a couple of years since that phase of my life and I've barely purchased any clothing since. I now feel a much greater sense of satisfaction saving for my future.

Financial freedom is just as much a mindset as it is a number in your bank account. When you're satisfied with what you have, your desire to accumulate more diminishes, and you're able to live comfortably on significantly less.

Readers: When did you realize that you had enough? Has this perspective helped shape your journey toward financial freedom?

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Discussions — 18 Responses

  • Income Surfer October 15, 2014 on 5:29 am

    Haha, great post Kate. I couldn’t agree more. Amusingly enough, I have a post that goes live this evening that talks about contentment being our “frugal secrete weapon”. Anyway, I’ve been content from a materialism perspective since high school. My flaw is much more tied to deciding it’s ok to be intentional and take time….. where I’m not doing anything. Have a great week
    -Bryan

    Reply
  • Mrs. Frugalwoods October 15, 2014 on 5:50 am

    Well said. Mr. FW and I definitely feel like we have more than enough, which is why frugality is not a major sacrifice for us. I’m not buying any clothes in 2014 because I too came to the realization that I have plenty of clothes and just simply don’t need any more. Once I made the decision–and removed emotion from it–I was surprised at how simple the equation was. Plenty of clothes? Don’t buy more.

    Reply
  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach October 15, 2014 on 6:54 am

    I dont think it was the realization that I had enough stuff versus realizing I was spending more than I was making and hit a financial rock bottom. It wasn’t until much later when I embraced frugality that I started realizing that I didn’t need a bunch of fancy stuff to make me happy. It’s a good place to be. 🙂 (although I REALLY could use some more clothes-doesn’t even have to be designer). 🙂

    Reply
  • Retire Before Dad October 15, 2014 on 8:05 am

    Kate,
    I never had an ah ha moment. Frugality was mostly ingrained in me since I was a kid. Maybe because my parents weren’t big spenders (although my Mom is a champion shopper, just not on expensive items). After college and into my 30’s I probably spent too much on going out and eating out. But it was never excessive. Now that I have a family I don’t miss that.

    Your story of buying expensive stuff seems to be normal spending for a lot of people, especially for young professionals. Glad to hear you’ve kicked the habit! Maybe it’s all worth something on eBay?
    -RBD

    Reply
  • Roadmap2Retire October 15, 2014 on 10:13 am

    Thanks for sharing, Kate. It takes to lot to own up on the mistakes and work your way through correcting them. You painted quite a picture with that line of searching madly for deals while the plane was taxiing. haha.

    Good that you have that under control. Owning stuff has never made anyone happy. Best wishes with your journey.

    cheers
    R2R

    Reply
  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde October 15, 2014 on 10:32 am

    I came to this realization about two years ago when I realized I had a bunch of stuff, but I couldn’t make a career choice that I wanted to because I hadn’t saved enough. Removing the focus on stuff from our lives changed everything. We now realize that financial freedom is not as far away as we thought because our monthly upkeep is not something that is cost prohibitive for us.

    Reply
  • Erin @ Journey to Saving October 15, 2014 on 10:46 am

    While I’ve been pretty frugal over the years, this sort of realization hit me earlier this year. I realized I was perfectly happy with less. I didn’t need to keep buying things, filling my closet and my drawers to the brim. Material items just don’t matter that much. It also made me realize how much of an easier time it will be for me to reach FI, since I won’t need as much to be happy!

    Reply
  • Ms. Mintly @ MintlyBlog October 15, 2014 on 12:08 pm

    For me, it’s been more of a realization that we have tooooooo much stuff! I started going through our house (when I had an inkling we might move in the next six months) and pulled out things to give away and things to consign. I LOVE consigning (easier than a yard sale, for sure), and the whole process has made me more aware that my lifestyle of buying clothing when I wanted it because I thought it was pretty (not because it filled a gap in my clothing needs!) is no more! (Plus, I’ve finally managed to convince my mom not to give us so much STUFF for Christmas and birthdays.)

    Reply
  • Even Steven October 15, 2014 on 12:16 pm

    I will go to stores and look at a shirt or hoodie I like and see the price tag and immediately think people are crazy for spending $50 for something I can buy used for $3 or better yet already have in my closet. It’s a major change though, you are right.

    Reply
  • Aldo @ Million DollarNinja October 15, 2014 on 12:49 pm

    Well said. I was never one to buy too many things, but there was always “something” that I wanted or thought I needed. I know realize that I have enough and that realization helps me better understand that I really don’t need millions of dollars to be able to retire. I just need enough to be able to keep what I have… and maybe a little more.

    Reply
  • Lauren October 15, 2014 on 2:58 pm

    Great post. This used to be me in my early twenties, only I didn’t buy high-end stuff. I used to go to places like Ross and buy handbags and shoes almost every week! I came to realize that I was trying to fill a void in my life at that time because I was bored and unfulfilled. It all changed when I made the decision to go to Alaska. I haven’t looked back (or been bored) since!

    Reply
  • Myles Money October 15, 2014 on 4:28 pm

    So true! How often does spending become a habit rather than a conscious decision? Especially when you feel like you deserve a treat for some reason: you had a good week / you had a bad week / you lost weight / you gained weight…

    Breaking the cycle is difficult because it means changing the way you think about money and the way you use it.

    Reply
  • Dividend Mantra October 16, 2014 on 12:25 am

    Kate,

    Thanks for sharing!

    I agree that being content with what you already have is a key step toward financial independence. Takes perspective to break the chains, but it’s a huge step in the right direction once you do. I spend almost no time looking up at those that have more than me, and rather do spend time looking down at those that have much less. It’s my hope to one day lift others around me, instead of chasing what others have when I know it brings no happiness.

    Best wishes.

    Reply
  • Michelle October 16, 2014 on 8:35 pm

    I discovered that I had enough when I sat down and put all of my bills and loans into a spreadsheet and saw the number at the bottom. Terrifying!

    Reply
  • Kassandra October 17, 2014 on 11:01 am

    I figured out that I has serious spending problems when I calculated I had over $55K worth of consumer debt and most of my pay went to servicing it. I wrote about how I worked through this in one of my posts. It’s great to be on the other side of the spending mentality 🙂

    Reply
  • The DQYDJ Weekender 10/18/2014 - Don't Quit Your Day Job... October 18, 2014 on 3:15 pm

    […] Cashville Skyline also broached the topic, and argued that the first step towards independence is declaring to yourself you’ve got enough. […]

    Reply
  • LeisureFreak Tommy October 18, 2014 on 7:40 pm

    Knowing the difference between wants and needs is the first step to financial independence. I absolutely believe it is a unique mindset. The great thing is that most of us are reformed spenders and /or had poor financial knowledge so it is something that anyone who wants to can learn and become FI.

    Reply
  • No More Waffles October 19, 2014 on 7:27 am

    Great post, Kate! Thanks for sharing!

    Your story shows that it takes serious dedication and perseverence to reduce your spending. It also shows that you know yourself and what drives you really well.

    I never had an aha moment! That’s probably because I found the personal finance community right around when I received my first paycheck. As a college student it doesn’t make any sense to buy stuff anyway (party money!), so you guys kinda saved me of lifestyle inflation before I even had the chance to go down that road.

    Reply

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