Why I wouldn’t change a thing

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Today, I turn 35. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking of the past as I set goals for the future. Thinking back to some wonderful memories and some not so wonderful ones, I often think if there is anything I would have changed along the way.

There have been times along this journey where I have questioned my decisions and cursed myself for some of them. I have been frustrated with things that have happened in my life and tried to wish them away. As I turn 35, I realize that all of those things have made me the person I am today.

Every decision, every trial has shaped me, has put me in the spot I am at this moment. Even my cancer diagnosis eight years ago threw me on a new course in life. It made me realize how much I loved the man I married. It opened up a new career path which I truly love. It put me on a course to start my business, to teach people all over the world through my YouTube videos, to mentor students and change lives, to start this blog.

Most people would think, at the very least, I would wish to erase cancer from my history. But even that is so tightly woven into the person I am today that, even though it haunts me, I would not erase it from my life.

I would not erase our debt either. I’m not sure who I would be if we had not had to dig ourselves out of the massive debt we created. Has the journey been less than pleasant at times? Oh hell yeah, but it has also been an amazing experience.

Over the past 17 years, I’ve learned that I am stronger than I ever thought possible.

I quit a good paying job when we had mountains of debt because I put my health first.

I held my bald head high in a room full of business people as I started my accounting firm.

I stood in front of a classroom, scared to death, to share my knowledge and experience with students, some of whom older than I was.

Together, my husband and I have paid off over $155,000 in debt when it would have been easier to just give up and declare bankruptcy.

We stayed together and fought together when many times it would have been easier to just walk away.

As I sit back and reflect on all those moments and wonder how things would be different, I realize that it’s not worth the chance. Even changing one small thing might make everything else completely unrecognizable. It’s just not a chance I would be willing to take.

I am a product of ALL of life’s experiences: the good, the bad, the amazing, and the pretty damn crappy. Here’s to looking back in another 35 years and still being at peace with all those life experiences.



Time vs. Money

Life is a balancing act, just like your budget. Most of us have to make a choice between time and money at some point in our lives. I was forced to make that choice a few years ago.

In July of 2006, my husband and I were just getting back on our feet after  he changed career paths. He was making good money again after nine months of living mostly off of my income. I was working a lot of hours plus I had just finished my master of science in accounting and taxation two months earlier. I am a whirlwind kind of person. Ask my friends; I’m always moving in 800 different directions. I was starting to contemplate what I would start next. I had been feeling kinda crappy but pushed through most of it to finish my degree. At one point, I was working full-time plus taking classes full-time. I was never home and missed my husband tremendously. We spent a lot of money on groceries and eating out because we always needed a quick dinner solution every night. I was burnt out and I was miserable.

Then I got a kick in the pants, telling me to slow down. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I went from speed of light to complete stop in one afternoon. I started treatment immediately and stopped working. I was lucky to have a disability plan at work, even if it wasn’t much for the first 13 weeks. It was enough to pay for our health insurance with a little left over. We got into some serious debt during this whole thing. We tried to sell out house but couldn’t. I sat at home, sick and worried about money.

Then, I started to do something. I started clipping coupons again, something I hadn’t done since we bought the house.  I started planning meals. I started to enjoy cooking again. I looked for other ways to cut our budget. When my treatment was over, my husband and I sat down to discuss what was next. My doctor really did not want me going back to work as a full-time tax accountant. It was too stressful for my Type A personality. He was concerned about the risk of reoccurance. Jeff and I looked at our budget. I knew I could start up a small tax and consulting practice, but doing so would mean a serious cut in pay. We decided that we could make it. My husband works for the state now and we have great health insurance.

I work more than I planned when I first started this venture. I have my accounting practice, plus I teach a few classes a semester at a local college. I’m doing the blog. While I still whirlwind around, I now have time to get dinner on the table almost every night. I have time to do little errands during the day so that Jeff and I have more time together. I also have more time to help us save money. We still have approximately the same lifestyle while I make a lot less money and have a lot less stress. I really enjoy what I’m doing now and I think our marriage is better than it’s ever been.

In the last few years, the frugality debate has been about my time and my health. I chose time over money. Being frugal gives me more “me” time and more “us” time. It allows me to pursue things that I never thought possible, like teaching. Getting cancer really opened my eyes to what is important.

My husband worked with a man who worked so hard his entire life. He worked long hours and sacrificed his family life to make a living and build retirement savings so he and his wife could have the time of their lives. He was planning to retire when he was 55. That would give them plenty of time to make up for all those lost years. A week before he was scheduled to retire, his wife died unexpectedly. He spent all those years building a wonderful life for them and never got to enjoy it with her.

You never think it could happen to you. I hope it never does. I hope it doesn’t take an illness or some other catastrophe to get you to start thinking about the possibilities in your life. One of my favorite quotes is from a paper weight my sister gave me when I graduated from college. It states “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” I started my own business, cut back my hours, started doing something I love, got a little more frugal and spend more time with Jeff and the cats.

What would you do? Are you balancing time and money right now? How is it going for you? Do you find yourself stressed with all the daily obligations of your life? How can you change things? Have you already made the change? Tell us about your story.