The first thing I did when it became apparent my lifestyle of debt wasn’t going to work out (having my car and boat repossessed was my first clue) was cut up my charge cards. I really didn’t have to cut them up since the creditors cancelled my cards anyway. But the cutting of the cards was symbolic. The reality of what was happening to me became apparent when I wanted to buy a blouse. I had no money to buy the blouse. I also had no credit to buy the blouse. In other words, I could not buy that blouse. I just couldn’t believe that reality at first. I didn’t have the ability or the resources to buy myself a simple blouse.

Then come the questions. Why do you want that blouse? Do you need that blouse? You don’t have a job anymore nor a place to go wearing that blouse so why do you want to buy that blouse in the first place? If I truly wanted that blouse I’d have to, dare I say it, save for it! What? Save money? To buy a blouse? I never heard of such a thing.

And that’s how I started my journey of downshifting my life, getting my finances together, getting my money in order and learning to live within my available finances. Ouch. If anyone tells you it’s easy, they’re lying. When you’ve been used to having your own way, every day, with nary a thought of any repercussion inside your brain, the first time someone tells you ‘no’, (even if it’s yourself) it’s a tough pill to swallow. You’ve just taken the first step on the path of sacrifice and limitations. That’s a fairly difficult feat to accept when you’ve had your way for so long.

The best thing to do is to take it slow. Be kind and understanding to yourself. And stop blaming yourself! You did it. It happened. It’s your fault. It’s their fault. Why does that matter? You’re in a spot and you’ve got to get yourself out of it. Word of advice: if your money lesson in life is going to be a hard one it’s because you are going to need a stiff lesson in order to correct your past evil ways. The more difficult your recovery is, the more you will finally learn, once and for all, to successfully handle your financial life. So, if you are finding the road back home difficult, just know it’s all part of the learning curve.

You’re going to do things you didn’t think was possible. For me, that was saving money.

I started off with a $5 bill. At the end of the week, I managed to eek out a five dollar bill, unspent. I tucked said five dollar bill in to my underwear drawer. When I saved up five $5 dollar bills ($25) I went to my local bank and I bought a $50 savings bond (you bought savings bonds at half price face value). At the time (back in the 1990’s) I think the US Savings Bonds were paying out 8% or something that would now seem outrageous. $5 a week, increased to $10 a week, then $25 a week which resulted in my buying $100 bonds. During this time, my husband got a raise at work. No worries. I simply put his salary increase towards buying more bonds. At the end of the year, I had accumulated a little over $12,000 in savings. I had enough money saved (at face value) to buy our first car for cash!

My road to savings all started with a US Savings Bond. I guess that’s why they call it a ‘savings’ bond.

Saving money, following some form of a budget plan, sticking within the money I had, were all game changers. Instead of spending mindlessly, I was mindfully spending. I was taking care of my immediate needs and yet, planning for the future. BTW, I never did buy that blouse.

Money is power and what can be more powerful than having a savings account filled with money? That was a very important lesson for me to learn. Having ample money in the bank means that I can choose my own destiny. I’m not sitting at the mercy of others. And that became my goal: keep saving money and build up an emergency fund, a savings account, an investment account and prepare myself to face any obstacle that may pop up in my way. I didn’t need millions (Thank God) because I had downshifted my life to its lowest edge, but I did need enough money to see me through for many years to come.

Thanks to technology, I don’t have to stuff my underwear draw with five dollar bills. It did, however, take me years to figure out how to successfully manage my financial life. Lots of reading free library books, reading blogs, watching frugal YouTube channels. Some people were POS. Other’s were honest and realistic. Eventually you’ll learn how to tell the difference. You’ll also learn what works best for YOU. We are all different. I know how low I can go and I most certainly do NOT want a lifetime of deprivation and struggle. And why should we? Shifting to a lifestyle of less, is really about ‘your less’. Not someone else’s.

For more pointers on learning how to successfully live on less and get your financial house in order, click here.

“A self-sustaining lifestyle is really empowering. If you’re used to eating out five times a week and suddenly you can’t afford to do that and you realize how cheaply you can make a delicious meal that is better than something you eat at a restaurant — that, to me, is empowering.”

I learned how to make my own, inexpensive hot chocolate mix, in a Ball glass jar. Delish!

I make my own Mac & Cheese (it lasts me for a few days!). I also make my own rib rub and bake low-cost ribs to perfection. I use the backbone of a whole chicken to make fresh chicken & rice soup, filled with oodles of veggies (but no chicken pieces!). Super inexpensive but so so good (and healthy!) No restaurant can make food any better than I can.