Prudent Joy

Daily Decisions Determine Destiny ~Gretchen K. Ulmer

Is it Really Possible??

the journey home

I am a fan of Dave Ramsey; I am also a fan of Mr. Money Mustache and several other early retirement blogs. I find these people or “things” very inspiring. I love hearing stories of people pulling themselves up out of the trenches and breaking those horrific shackles of debt; I love learning all the “crazy” things they did in order to reach a goal. I love perusing early retirement blogs and reading about people living out the dreams most of us hope to achieve in our 60’s…only these people are able to live exactly as they desire in their 30’s or 40’s.

I listen to and read the stories of these varied and vastly different individuals and I wonder, “Could we actually do that?” After listening to Dave Ramsey’s radio show, reading books and reading blogs I have noticed most of the truly successful people, most of the people who reach, or are headed toward, financial independence at a fairly early age appear to fall into one of the following categories:

Very young, single, little to no debt when starting.
Young, single/married, no children, little to no debt, good income.
Young/sort of young, single/married, children/no children, a lot of debt, great income.
Young/sort of young, married, children, not much debt or a ton of debt, fantastic income.

These demographics are somewhat disheartening for someone like me: Youngish (30, some early retirees were entering or eyeing retirement by my age!), no investments or retirement accounts, married, three small children (the youngest being 11 weeks at the time this is posted), a ton of debt…over $97,000.00 and that is after paying off over $20,000.00…we rent our home, and have a below average income…far below considering we are a family of five.

We put ourselves in this position, no denying that, and with the exception of the massive medical debt, we had some fun getting here…at least we thought we were having fun buying cars we could not realistically afford, getting fat by eating out non-stop, and just frivolously blowing through every penny that came our way. There is also no denying this is a really really tough place to start. Obviously our journey is going to be longer and harder than the “average” person who has the ultimate goal of financial independence.

The question is this: “Is it really possible given our circumstance?”

I believe it could be, if we use the correct approach, the correct mindset and the correct spirit. We have to completely alter our lifestyle, for us, this cannot be a temporary sacrifice. Oh sure, there are some things that can be temporary such as working a second job or taking every hour of over-time available; but, as a whole we need to make some permanent changes. We need to apply prudence to every part of our lives…and since it is LIFE we are discussing, we need to practice prudence joyfully…this is going to be a journey…a long journey. I want to live an active, vibrant life and I believe this can be achieved while practicing frugality.

I believe in the possibility.

photo by: paul bica

The Possibility of Something Different

The Mariposa Woods

Have you ever looked at your life and thought to yourself, “Really?”

I have spent the last eight years of my life looking around and thinking, “This really kind of sucks”, but not really knowing what was so terrible; as far as I could tell my life was fairly normal. I would look at my friends, my family, even strangers and wonder: “Do they feel like I do? They seem fine,or at least content.”

I eventually stopped looking and stopped wondering. I just assumed there was something wrong with me…maybe I was just a depressed miserable person. So, thinking I could be content doing what other people do, I fell in line and began behaving like a good soldier:

Get up, go to work, work over-time, come home.

Get up, go to work, come home, watch TV.

Get up, go to work, maybe workout, come home.

Get up, go to work, work over-time, come home.

Get up, go out to eat, spend all the money I spent all my time earning.


These were normal days and I thought it must be fine; afterall, everyone else I knew danced a similar dance.

I have since discovered this dreaded routine is, in fact, completely normal. Most people spend their lives on an endless treadmill….actually a better image is an endless uphill hike and everytime you think you have reached the top you discover it is actually further than you thought, so you push on, never quite reaching the top, always telling yourself, “Just a little more….just a little further”. One day you wake up and realize, “It’s over. I will never reach the top and I don’t have another day to try again.” You have spent all this time trying to get a little further and get a little more; you never looked around, you certainly did not stop and you missed it all.

This incredibly depressing image actually opened my eyes to the possibility of something different. What would happen if, while you were on your hike, you allowed your eyes to stray to the right or to the left? What would happen if you stepped off the trail to the right or to the left? What would happen if you turned and went a different direction entirely? What would happen if you stopped, lifted your head to the heavens, spread your arms open wide and breathed deeply…even if only for a moment?

I am tired of being normal. I want something more. I want to live a life I create. I don’t care if I am viewed as strange…or extreme…or ignorant…I want to LIVE! I have many changes that need to be made in order to get to the place I want to be, but the change is part of the fun. I will be writing about my family’s lifestyle changes, our goals, our set backs, and our victories. I am writing to hold myself accountable and, if I am lucky, maybe inspire someone to see the possibility of something different.

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