How to Live on Less – NSC Series

How to Live on Less 

And so it begins! Good morning, readers. Today is officially DAY TWO of our No Spend Challenge and I am still in shock that it is even 2016 (I haven’t caught up on sleep yet either). Already, my wife and I are learning how to live on less and are surprised to find out how much we were wasting before.

I’ve been thinking about our debt and how it is holding us back in so many areas. First off, I want to preface this post by explaining why I am writing it because it does seem a little depressing. But I want you all to understand a few things:

  • First, I am human and though it may seem like my wife and I are always excited to pay off our debt, there are times where it is unbelievably hard and where we simply want to give up.
  • Second, there is hope, even if you are in a crappy situation. There is hope to get out and experience what life is like from the other side and to live your life to the fullest if you work hard at it.
  • Third, debt is not everything. Debt comes and goes, but your experiences are what matters. Remember to keep working on living life to the fullest and not having any regrets – you only get to do this once. Learning how to live on less doesn’t mean giving up on everything.

With that being said, here goes. Sometimes I wish that we could go back to the way it was before we calculated our debt and began to learn how to live on less. Back before our wedding when we were living life the way we wanted to and enjoying every day. I can’t imagine the money we were wasting, but what I do know is that we weren’t focused on debt.

Sure, we paid the minimum balances for our loans out of deferment, but other than that we sort of ignored the rest of them. We knew they were there. We knew that we had them. We knew we would eventually have to pay them off, but we also had made the decision (whether consciously or not) that we would just pay the minimum until they were gone. It started only a few years ago, but the reality of our debt has been ingrained for many years before that. Let me explain.

How to Live on Less - No Spend Challenge

If you are new to our NSC Series, start here!
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As some of you may know, we are preparing for our first every No Spend Challenge (NSC), starting January 1, and holy cow, it is approaching quickly.

The short story is that my wife and I racked up a ton of debt (read how HERE) and want to pay it off as quickly as possible so that we can live our dream lives (read about our goals HERE). This challenge will help us learn about living frugal, saving money, and paying off our debt faster.

Visit our post, Frugal Living at its Finest: the No Spend Challenge, to view why we are doing the challenge, what the challenge entails, and the rules.

The hardest thing about budgeting and frugal living is doing it alone and that’s why we want to invite you all to join us on our NSC. Sign up below to opt-in to our email community, filled with exclusive tips and tricks for saving money to survive living frugal during your NSC month.

Follow our rules or make your own! Join for one week or the entire month! We know that not everyone is in the same situation we are in. Stick with the No Spend Challenge for as much or as little as you are able in your situation and don’t be afraid to hop on after the starting date (it’s never too late to join in on the fun!).

We’ll be taking the challenge right alongside you – with daily blog posts, encouragements, and exclusive email information and communication: this will be the single, greatest choice you make to jump start the New Year.

How to Live on Less

As a child, we didn’t have a lot of money. I was helping to pay bills when I could by the time I was 14. It wasn’t a lot, but I contributed when I was able. When I turned 16, I was working three jobs to make my own money for my car, gas, insurance, cell phone, etc. For two years after graduating high school, I put off college and worked as hard as I could.

Unfortunately, because times were tight, there wasn’t much for savings (or any) and I didn’t exactly know much about money management. I simply knew what my mom’s favorite saying was: “At least we’ll be broke with stuff” – and for the longest time, that was enough for me. I knew how to live on less money, but only because we were okay with buying things. I know my parents did the best they could, but it was hard to understand why money was important and what it truly meant.

After my two years of working I received a letter from Luther College asking me to attend (I had never applied, but had dreamed of attending a college like Luther). I called and we worked out the finances and I decided to go – two weeks before classes began. I quit my jobs, said goodbye to the city I knew, loved, and called home, and went away to college.

Again, I knew very little about finances and money management or how to live on less. So, when the financial aid office offered me thousands of dollars in loans to make Luther “affordable” for someone like me (from a very poor background), I accepted them. All of them. An unfortunate incident happened and I was stuck with even less money two weeks after classes began (and maxed out yearly loans). I took on some private loans at an extremely high interest rate so that I could keep going to school.

I will be honest with you: I have never regretted attending Luther College. While there, I learned more about the world than I will ever be able to describe in words. I made lifelong friends, I met my wife, I received my degree, and I grew as a person. After attending Luther, I have gotten a job that I never dreamed of getting and networked with more people than I ever expected.

That being said, leaving college meant facing the mountains of debt that were ahead of me. When my deferment ended for my Luther loans, I made the minimum payments for a few months and then realized I wanted to get my Masters as well. I took out loans again and started my two year trek to receiving another degree. My wife and I still didn’t truly think about what these loans would mean for our finances in the future.

Again, I will tell you that I do not, in any way, regret getting my Masters. I still have two semesters left, but I know that it will help to further my career and increase my pay. It will pay off in the long run.

How to Live on Less

Here’s the problem though: we now understand how money management works and we know how important it is to learn how to live on less. We realize that all of those loans that we both took out innocently added up to a large expense and, while we don’t regret the education we received, we do regret not working on paying some of them off while in school. When we calculated the expense, we are gaining almost $17,000 in interest every year – imagine how that has compounded all of those years that we made zero or minimum payments!

So, as I said before, sometimes I truly wish that I could go back to the way it was before my wife and I made this realization and began learning how to live on less. The knowledge of the debt is all-encompassing. No matter what we do, we feel stuck because even paying $10,000 a month will lead to at least two more years of payments (and we all know that we can’t afford that).

The sad truth is that, if we continue to pay our $1,000 a month – we will be lucky if we pay it off before 15 years from now. We hope to have our debt paid off before we have children, before we buy a home, before we start our family – but 15 years is a long time and it is hard to stay inspired sometimes (even 3 months in to our aggressive payback).

However, ultimately, the debt repayment will be worth it and we know it. We also know that we will continue to increase our debt payments each and every month until they are gone because we simply do not want to live our lives in debt. We want to live our lives to the fullest – even if that means working a little harder now.

So, instead of being “broke with stuff” like I was in my childhood – I have decided I would rather break even without all the stuff. If I don’t have stuff, I’ll manage (that’s what holidays and fun money gifts are for, right?).

And the thing is: when we finally pay off our debt, all these years of learning how to live on less will be worth it. We will get to feel like we truly made the choice to live life to the fullest. We will understand the true value of money. We are learning more and more every step of the way and we won’t stop until we have become completely debt free.

I know this post may seem a little depressing, but I want you to realize that there is hope. My wife and I are human and while we haven’t had a ton of advantages, we are able to work hard to pay off our debt. Even though it’s a slow process, it’s worth it and we will continue to pay it off until we live a debt free life.

We know that it’s hard, but each and every day we are working toward the life we want to lead by doing things such as the No Spend Challenge and working to earn an extra income online. Our work will pay off and we know that, so until then it is one step at a time as we learn how to live on less.

Also, I didn’t forget, here’s the quote for today from one of my favorite author’s, Anne Lamott. Pin it, like it, tweet it, whatever you like, but I would love, love, LOVE it if you would share it with the world.

Quote - Day 2 - How to Live on Less - Anne Lamott

“Oh my God. What if you wake up some day and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; and you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big, juicy, creative life of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.” – Anne Lamott

Life is about living in the here and now because we only get one shot. You can never live this life again – once it’s done, it’s done. And living life to the fullest means ensuring you won’t have regrets – but remember, that doesn’t have to mean that you should go out and buy everything you want. Instead, make memories, laugh, eat that brownie, and learn to love yourself while you build your life and grow.

What are you working on today that will help you
to live your life to the fullest?

Let us know in the comments below!

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5 Replies to “How to Live on Less – NSC Series”

  1. Love the Ann Lamont quote and this entire post! Working on bills today and thinking practically about debt! These posts give a positive grip on this challenge
    , thank you!

  2. about several years I am in same direction: to live with less. I am in the moment with ended depths and now I am starting a mortgage for the house (ok, in 2 months will be this). I have no car, no tv, several clothes, a wonderful child and a healthy life. Life teach me that the best value is in my head: a bike and the house I can loose in one earthquake but the knowledge is what I will still have it.

    Small remark: take credit by credit, read the contract and see if you can re-negotiate with the bank. Sometimes the refinancing with a new type of credit can be a good economy.

    1. You’re absolutely right. You have to take each thing as it comes and knowledge is truly the best thing you can get. Like you said, everything else can be easily lost, but what is in your mind you can keep forever. It sounds like you are certainly doing this the right way!

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