2014-05-27-17-14-342Hello and welcome to The Provincial Table! I’m Kara, voice behind the blog that I originally started to write about finance and frugality, travel and exploration, growing food and preparing it.  What began as a fun hobby has become a lifeline for me; a tool for plotting course and keeping the destination clear toward simpler living.  It’s no longer just about those things, but the reasons why they’re so important.

I turned 40 last summer, which for many, is a common time to reevaluate life.  Not only did I find myself in that contemplative mood, I was also faced with an unexpected cancer diagnosis that shook me to the core.

An Honest Realization

One thing was certain; I didn’t want to continue living in the stressful, bursting-with-too-much-everything rat race I was in.  I began thinking deeply about who I was, who I would like to be and the kind of life I wanted to live.  If someone asked me 6 months before what I would do if money and time were no object, my answer would’ve been: nothing.  I was exhausted from striving most of my adult life, yet unfulfilled and no better off than when I’d begun.  How could I have let myself get so depleted? How could I prefer nothing?

The answer is the same as for most people.  Little by little, you trade freedom for credit cards, car payments, mortgages, and the black hole that always seems to swallow up more money than seems possible.  Add to that kids, spouse, work, school (for me) and other obligations.  And of course, there is the time wasted searching online, mindless TV watching,  shopping and feeling guilty about what I should/shouldn’t be.  I was nickel and diming myself just as badly with time as with money and I was so, so tired.

Beginning Again

Feeling the riskiness of our financial situation and the stress of our lifestyle, my husband and I had already made great strides toward getting out of debt, saving more money and scaling back on everything else.  Luckily, we were on the same page with our life planning goals and knew we needed a change.

Me and my main squeeze

Me and my main squeeze

I’d started reading everything I could find on the subject because there had to be a better way of eliminating financial stress than working 40 ground hog years, stocking up a 401k and retiring to the Lazy Boy.  There had to be something more than waking every morning as exhausted as the night before, over-caffeinating, and dragging through the day no more inspired than a mop. That didn’t seem like a fulfilling path.

Through articles and blog posts, I was introduced to the early retirement community.  I discovered Mr. Money Mustache, 1500 Days Mad Fientist , The Frugalwoods and so many more who were saving amazing amounts of money quickly and living their version of happy.  This group of people inspired me on the reasons why being frugal, saving money and simple living are so important.

Over the past year, we have donated, sold or trashed half our belongings.  We’ve payed off $25,000 in credit card debt and we’re learning creative ways to maximize savings.  Why do all this?  Because life isn’t about closets filled with fast fashion or sloppy spending on things that are forgettable.  We’re learning that, as a representation of our precious time and effort, money is important, but not in the ways we’ve been taught.  Money can be the facilitator of rich experiences, good memories and freedom to choose the lives we want, if handled properly. We should spend money in ways that reflect the value of our life moments it cost to earn it.

So, how do we remap our way, appreciate the joy of simple things, invest in what’s truly valuable and get to our happy place?

  • Save half of our income every year.

 This is an initial target.  I’ll have some healthcare costs that, at this point, are hard to predict.  Our hope is a savings rate above 50%.  We’ll have to assess progress and regroup in a year.

  •  Minimize extra stuff in our lives, the maintenance of which cost us valuable time and energy.

It was easy to get rid of most things.  The hard part was getting started instead of overwhelmed.  There were a few things that I struggled with, but I haven’t missed them a bit after all.  I sometimes feel like I could spin around and sing like Julie Andrews on her hillsides when walking through my house now.  Seriously, it’s open, organized and amazing.  I don’t have to transfer piles from here to there just to clean.  I have more time, more money and more peace of mind.  I truly enjoy having my favorite things to enjoy every day rather than a houseful of mediocre stuff.  We’re definitely continuing this trend.

  •  Pursue new experiences.

Travel tops the list here.  We are saving for big trips and in the meantime, enjoying some local travel. Also, part of this category is learning new skills: a second language, how to make cider, how to manage most commuting by bicycle to name a few. In other words, keep growing.

  • Seek new connections and contributions

Less stuff, less stress and less spending opens up a lot of free time.  Our goal is to meet new people and become more involved with our community,

  • Be kind to ourselves

This means giving ourselves time to rest and recharge by: reading an actual book (like a whole sentence at a time…or more!), listening to podcasts and doing research on topics we’re interested in (nerds!).

Thank you for stopping by.  I know that there are many ways to spend your time and many blogs talking about similar topics.  If you’re reading along, I hope my story and path provide some clarity and intention for you, and that we can walk together for a while.

 

Your friend,

Kara