Tapping into The “Why?” of Our Greater Financial Freedom

  • DH = Dear husband
  • DD3 = Dear third daughter 

Our debt-payoff progress to date

For a quick re-cap, my husband and I began our journey out of debt just about 5 years ago – in June of 2012. After years of maxing out, followed by years of job uncertainty and financial distress, we were in a good place income-wise – and we didn’t want to blow it again. Enter Dave Ramsey and his book The Total Money Makeover. The rest is history:

  • A grand total of $257,400 in debt in June of 2012
  • $21,000 in consumer debt – GONE by the end of 2012.
  • $80,800 in business debt – GONE by the middle of 2015.
  • $155,400 mortgage – down to $77,200 as of this month.
  • Emergency fund (to see us through 3-6 months) – SAVED

Our financial reality has radically changed. We’re in much, much better shape than  we were five years ago.

What is the “Why?”

The only way to keep up a long-term effort is to have a compelling reason for it. At first, it was compelling enough for us to imagine an absence of debt stress. Just the thought of removing that weight from our lives was beautiful! A negative “Why?” is not enough though. Sure we didn’t want debt stress, but what did we want?

“Freedom” has always been my answer. The freedom to work or not work. The freedom to travel, to give generously, to develop talents and interests, to support great causes and movements … To tap into abundant living. It takes more than financial health to reach that level of freedom, but I’m convinced that financial health is an essential building block for it.

Self-published children’s books

One of the things I’d like to pursue more is writing. I’ve always written – from the time I received my first diary at age 10. When our first two daughters were young, I wrote and self-published a children’s book for each of them. One was published in 1998. The second was published in 2002 – at which time our youngest (DD3) was 3 years-old. “In another couple of years, I’ll write one for her too,” I thought.

But in 2003, DH’s six years of under/unemployment began, and after years of working part-time, I was launched into full-time work. No time to write. No energy to write. And not enough money for the costs of self-publication.

Last year, DD3 – aged 17 – asked me, “Are you going to write a book for me before I die?” Ugh! I HAD to make it happen. I decided not to teach summer school last summer, as I had been doing the 4 summers since our journey out of debt had begun. I didn’t know how I would manage with the costs, but I had an idea for a theme, and it was percolating …

Trump’s “wall” talk

In the spring of 2016, the American election dominated the news, and Trump’s “wall” talk was all over the place. I found myself latching onto the concept of walls as the foundation for my story. I shared my idea with DD3, and she liked it.

Walls are complicated. There are times to build walls, and there are times to bring walls down. It takes a finely tuned level of discernment to navigate the walls we encounter. I wanted to write a story about one child’s development of this discernment. I’d use a school yard bully, karate lessons, a mentor, and a friend. I’d call it Ella Builds A Wall.

What about the money?

But how could I justify the expense of self-publication? How could I convince DH that now was the time to spend thousands for a children’s book?

Last summer, we approached a very significant milestone in our debt-reduction. The consumer and business debts were gone. We had adopted a steady pace of savings and ramped-up mortgage payments. And we were nearing the $100,000 mark.

It was DH who suggested it: “Why don’t we give ourselves something awesome for getting out of 6-figures of debt? Is there something you really, really want?” I knew what he wanted. DH wanted the dream guitar he’d recently discovered (a Taylor 810 CE). It took a while for it to dawn upon me that this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for. This was my ticket to the money I needed to self-publish!

Almost ready

August to May is enough time for a baby to be born. And it’s been enough time for my story idea to become a children’s book. The illustrator for Ella Builds A Wall is a young woman who graduated 3 years ago from the high school where I teach. I love the work she has done.

The printed pages will be in my hands within the next week or two. I don’t know if I’ll manage to sell the thousand copies I’ve ordered, but I do know that I feel great about this book. Its message is important to me. The fulfilled promise to my daughter that it represents is even more important. And the fact that it was made possible because of our efforts towards healthier personal finances – well, it speaks volumes about that freedom, that “Why?”, that tapping into abundant living that debt-freedom promises.

If you have a minute and 20 seconds, please check out this book trailer for Ella Builds A Wall.

Have you had a taste of the “why?” behind your efforts towards debt-freedom/financial freedom? Your comments are welcome.


24 comments on “Tapping into The “Why?” of Our Greater Financial Freedom

    1. I think it will have a particular appeal for people with experience in martial arts. I just do cardio-kickboxing, but when I see the kids at my gym doing karate, I think it is such a great thing for them. Thank you, Amanda!

  1. Looks like a fun book and congratulations on becoming a published author. Deciding to invest in self-publishing can get real expensive real quick but it looks like you have done a lot of things right. And, it’s a great idea for meeting your debt milestone.

    1. Thank you, Josh. It was definitely what I wanted to do more than anything else. The fact that the debt milestone played into it was a blessing (as was the fact DH really wanted that guitar and wanted to make a deal : )

    1. Thanks Gary. So many good things have come together with the writing of this book. It’s a big blessing all around : )

  2. Congrats on hitting that debt payoff milestone and getting freedom enough to pursue the book passion. I hope it turns out great for you, that’s exciting to follow and see how it goes. I love the idea for the book. Sidenote, did your husband get his Taylor? Those and Martin’s are some amazing sounding guitars. 🙂

    I’d love to have that much passion to throw towards something, but alas, I’m still in the day to day rut of life. Kudos to you for breaking out of it while still dealing with life. 🙂 That’s impressive.

    1. My husband did get the Taylor. He was actually playing it as I wrote this post : ) He did try out a couple of Martins as well, but this particular Taylor just did it for him. The “day-to-day” that you are now living is probably the most important of your life. Raising young children is no small deal. My youngest is now 18, so although I’m still “dealing with life”, it’s nothing like what you are dealing with. I find a lot of encouragement in your saying that you love the idea behind the book. Thanks, Mr. SSC : )

  3. That’s so awesome, I loved the trailer, and can’t wait to share it with Little Bit when she gets home from school. She talks a lot about bullying and having to stand up for her friends.

    1. Thanks, Emily! I’m sorry to hear that your daughter is witnessing bullying at school – but it is so prevalent! Good for her, standing up for her friends! When bystanders confront in a constructive way, bullying loses so much of its power.

  4. Congrats on making the book happen before DD3 turned 18 🙂 Did you sell all your copies of the earlier books?

    Our why payoff has been JuggerBaby and our vastly improved home life of the past several years. Our future why is the ability to choose to add to our family if we can handle it and spend real quality time with them as they get older and discover the world.

    1. Good question about my other books. I sold 5,000 copies, but then my marketing of the books came to an abrupt halt when I had to return to work full time. I was left with another 2,000 books or so – most of which I eventually gave away. There’s definitely a risk involved in self-publication. You’ve got a fabulous Why? Revanche! It’s exciting to think of adding to your family : )

  5. What a cool story that you’re using your increasing freedom to reach the goal and do something for yourself and your daughter! I love the idea of enjoying the freedom that less debt brings along the way, rather than waiting till mathematical “FI” is reached.

    1. Thank you, Kalie. I suppose it happens that some people never actually exercise the financial freedom they’ve set up for themselves. I don’t think that will be a problem for us : ) Just hope we always use it wisely. I feel completely confident that this was a good use of that freedom.

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