This week I’m happy to introduce you to Leanne Le Cras as my guest blogger while I am traveling. Leanne is one of the bloggers I’ve met online who lives “down under” in Austrailia and I’ve been reading her blog Cresting The Hill for many years now. Leanne consistently writes great blog posts about staying happy and content while going through midlife. But I could tell that a big reason she was so happy is because she and her husband have rightsized their lives. Thank you, Leanne, for filling in for me and sharing some of your SMART and rightsized thoughts with all of us.
Kathy writes a lot about Re-Sizing your life and it resonates strongly with me because that’s how my husband and I have always lived. To begin with, it was from necessity. Then, as we became more stable financially it became a lifestyle choice. We choose every day to live as good stewards of all that we have been given, and I thought I’d share how that has looked over the years.
DRUMBEATS AND JOBS
My husband Ross is a man who marches to the beat of a completely different drum to mine. He is a deep thinker, he has a creative mind, and he doesn’t thrive in a 9-5 work environment. He isn’t cut out for an office job where he answers to the whims of those in the hierarchy above him – and because of that he tended to chop and change jobs on a fairly regular basis. When he hit 50 he took a redundancy and went back to study. He is now a Family Counsellor working from home and mixes seeing his clients with a bit of tutoring and mentoring for the organization he got his qualifications through. It works beautifully for him and I’m happy that he’s happy (and earning some money in the process!)
THE EARLY YEARS
All those career changes and the resultant fluctuation in our income in the early years of our marriage meant that I have always worked at least part-time to balance the load and to make sure we kept a roof over our heads. Not my ideal option (especially when our kids were young) but you do what you need to do to keep things on track. Our prime focus was to get the mortgage paid off as quickly as possible and to avoid taking on any additional debt. We avoided car purchases, credit cards, and any other loans. If we couldn’t afford to buy it, then we waited until we’d saved enough to pay for it up front – not via credit.
As time went on, and online bill paying became the norm, we signed up for our first credit card. I can proudly say that we have never paid a cent of interest on that card. We diligently pay it off during the month and enjoy the bonus Flybuy points that give us discounts on our shopping or fuel. I have no understanding of people who (like both my brothers) have credit card debt to the tune of thousands of dollars. What a load to carry with more debt hanging over your head.
THE MIDDLE YEARS
As we raised our family, we continued to live carefully – we home cooked our meals and takeout was a rare treat, we paid our bills on time, bought clothes when they were on sale, graciously accepted hand-me-downs for our kids’ clothes, and kept putting any extra funds into that mortgage account. We sent our kids to Christian schools – which meant we paid fees, but that was important to us and we budgeted for it.
We taught our kids to manage their money and encouraged them both to have after-school jobs as soon as they were old enough. They saved and bought their own cars (we made a contribution and paid for their first registration fee and insurance) then they paid the ongoing bills. They bought their own phones and pre-paid them giving us peace-of-mind with no surprise phone bills for us to worry about and argue over. They each also worked for a year between high school and university to qualify for study assistance. In addition, they worked in their uni breaks or tutored during their semesters to earn extra funds to pay their way while they were living away from home.
THE “NOW” YEARS
Because we lived frugally and focused on our mortgage payments, we owned our home by the time the children left to move to the city. We lived on two acres of land and decided it was time to downsize. Downsizing actually became “Right-Sizing” when we realized that we still wanted a home big enough for our kids to return to for visits, but far less land to care for. We found the perfect home that suited our needs and was located opposite river wetlands and open space. We managed to live in suburbia while still keeping our views and the sense of not living on top of people. This house felt like it was made for us and will be our home for at least another decade or two – until we’re too old to climb the stairs or to mow the lawn.
Our focus now is on saving for our retirement. Because neither of us are big spenders, we quietly put money aside into our superannuation and into other investments. We take small vacations but we plan to take bigger and longer ones down the track when we’re retired. The plan is to have enough spare money to fund some overseas travel that lasts longer than a few weeks (which is all we’ve been able to take while we’re both working).
THE FUTURE YEARS
We’ve always joked about living under a bridge when we retire because we’ve never had big incomes, but by making the right choices we know that a cardboard box under a bridge isn’t really in our future. Our friends and family who have known us for a long time often comment on how much we’ve achieved with so little – our accountant was particularly surprised at how well we’d done over the years when he did our tax returns.
What it all boils down to is simply living within our means, using our money wisely, not buying things we couldn’t afford and didn’t really need, and prioritizing what we need now and what can wait for later. I come from a family who splurges money willy-nilly and wonders why they are constantly in debt. I call myself the white sheep of the family – while they’re throwing their money to the wind. Meanwhile, we are quietly using ours in a responsible way that has reaped rewards and put us much further ahead financially than either of my brothers who have often earned much larger take-home salaries.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Are you a spender or a saver? Are you using what you’ve been blessed with wisely or are you hoping someone will come along and rescue you from the mess you’ve created? My late father always used to say that if you have to wait for someone to die and leave you an inheritance to bail you out of your financial woes, then you’ve lived a pretty poor life.
I like to think that we’re living a rich and full life – a Right-sized life – on a budget that we make work for us. Our money doesn’t control us – we control our money – and that’s what I think SMART living is all about.
Leanne lives in the beautiful SW of Western Australia and works part-time as a surgeon’s receptionist. Both kids have grown, flown, married, set up house, and produced one (soon to be two!) delightful granddaughters. She spends way too much of her spare time blogging about the highlights of Midlife at Cresting the Hill and shares the rest of her leisure time with her husband, Ross, and two cats.
Okay, your turn. As Leanne asks, “What about you?” Do you consider yourself a “rightsizer” or something else? Are you a spender or a saver? Whatever works for you, please share in the comments below.