I recently came across a relatively new blogger – Lynne Flagstad Holloman – and full-time RVer over at Family of Movers. Along with her husband and 3 kids they are on the open road living out of a 2011 Keystone Passport Ultra Light Grand Touring Travel Trailer pulled by a 2003 GMC Yukon. She blogs about a host of topics including life on the road, her journey with dreadlocks. being eco-friendly, her Christianity, and her financial tips. In fact, that is how I found her. She wrote a post Monday entitled Inspiration Monday ::: Unmoneying. And to keep with the program, it inspired me to write a little about our unmoneying adventure.
Let’s first define the word (or newly created word) Unmoney. Etymologically speaking UN- expresses negation. Money is, of course, any object that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a given country or socio-economic context. Therefore we can only assume that unmoney means to remove money as the sole way to pay for goods and services and a way to increase your personal collection of goods. In definition it doesn’t sound all that exciting. But in practice it has the ability to redefine individuals, families, and even societies.
When I was about 6 years old I lost my father. No, he didn’t die. In fact, he is still the healthiest mean I know. Rather I lost him to his work; a constant pursuance in order to “provide” for us what he never had. I watched as he became more and more absent each year choosing to make money and buy us things rather than spend time with us and invest in our lives. Sadly, this pattern of behavior lasted until I was almost mid-20s. Granted we had nice automobiles, an amply sized house with new appliances, central heat/air (a big deal in the late ’80s), a huge yard complete with playhouse and a batting cage, name brand shoes on our feet, etc. My folks even paid for our college educations and found a way to buy us automobiles when we were able to drive. It was an enchanted life with a single parent. Dad became quietly known as the bank.
Perhaps though his investment in my life was why I am writing this today. I saw his endless pursuit and ultimately decided it wasn’t for me. Yes, I like to purchase a $4 coffee drink when given the opportunity. But I will not work an extra hour – an hour I could spend with my wife or on our Tiny House or talking to my siblings on the phone – just to have a name brand drink in my hand. In essence, my fathers pursuit of financial freedom enslaved him but freed me!
As my new friend Lynne pointed out so well, unmoneying is a life based on living and not making a living. Anyone can unmoney. You just have to commit to unlearning what you know about American finance, financial security, investing, and the American Dream. You can have $2 to your name and unmoney or you can have a portfolio worth $1.2 million and still unmoney. Again, unmoneying takes the emphasis off of the almighty dollar and returns it to quality of life. Self-worth does not equal net-worth.
I challenge you to look into the mirror today and repeat a few times, “I am not how much money I have. My bank account makes me no less poor nor no less rich than the next guy. I am NOT my money.”
We are taught that our financial decisions will directly impact our quality of life. If I wear these shoes I will be more popular. If I go to this college I will marry this type of girl. If I wear this suit I will appear more successful. If I drive this car I will look more professional. And the list goes on. Having money doesn’t truly make life easier though. It simply makes buying things easier. But once you have purchased an item, does it really alter your very existence? Does your spouse genuinely love you more? Do your kids want to hang out with you more? Do your colleagues find you a more trustworthy friend? Probably not. We cannot buy our way out of humanity which is prone to bad decision and mistakes. Money cannot buy good sense.
So what can you do to umoney today?
- Use a budget planner. As you start to plan your monthly budget you may notice that you are spending money on things that are not necessary. Trim away the fat. Not only this, you might also realise that it could be cheaper to purchase a product or service elsewhere or cancel it altogether. Does cable TV make you have to work an hour or two more each week? If so, are the program offerings a solid investment into who you are?
- Freely discuss and offer bartering. Many of us have a trade skill or a talent that others want. For thousands of years currency was for the rich. Everyone else bartered. I take photographs. At one time I was a professional and can still take a pretty good family portrait. My buddy is an auto mechanic. I need to have the oil changed in our little truck as well as have the brakes inspected. I have learned that quite a few people are willing to trade their services for mine. An oil change for a good, family portrait sounds like a wise investment to me!
- Eliminate debt. So many of us have fallen prey at one time or another to unsecured credit. Instead of cash on the barrel we settle for what I call “Malcom X Financing” or purchasing power by any means necessary. NOT a good idea. It is no secret that through interest and finance fees we end up paying 3x the value of the item to get it now. Perhaps you can sacrifice a coffee drink a week, cable TV for the month, an extended cell phone package, and a night at the movies (all said about $75) and put that towards more on your credit card payment. As the minimum payment goes down faster now you can start to chip away at the premium faster. Mixed with a stop on credit card purchasing, you will have your card(s) paid off in no time!
- Save energy and live responsibly. With energy costs what they are today and the price of auto fuel what it is, we could all serve to examine our energy consumption on a regular basis. Drive less. If the convenient store is just down the block try walking to get that gallon of milk rather than driving. It may not seem like a huge savings but as we know from Finance 101, pennies add up. You may also turn off unused lights, unplug rarely used appliances, and take shorter showers. A penny saved is a penny earned!
- Log out! The most important tip to unmoneying is to start now. Start today! Reclaim your life. When the whistle blows at 5:30pm log out of your terminal and go home. And when you get there, don’t check your email multiple times. Don’t keep your phone strapped to your waist. Don’t entertain work calls. Be present. Be with your friends and family. Invest in them and invest in yourself!