Long before it was fashionable or before anyone even knew what it was all about, DH and I decided to downsize in 2001. We did it mainly because we were sick and tired of dealing with banks. Owe a bank any money, whether mortgage, car loan or charge card, and you will quickly come to realize that you don’t own anything. Not even your own life. We were living a rented lifestyle and we wanted out!
So we sold our marital home of 16 years in 2001 and finalized our downsizing in 2002. We went from a 8 room house with 3 bedrooms and a very large family room (1850 sq ft) sitting on 3/4 of an acre down to a 4 room house with one bedroom and a tiny den (1120 sq ft) sitting on 3.5 acres. We paid cash for everything out of the equity from our marital home. We relocated to a more rural setting where land was cheap. We bought the 3.5 acres for $51,000 and erected a custom-designed, modular home for only $60,000. To lay in the foundation, driveway, septic, electricity, plumbing etc. cost an additional $59,000 (DH did much of the work himself) and for $170,000 cash we were free and clear from mortgage banks.
We either traded back or paid off our two leased vehicles and drove fully paid-for cars instead. We quickly came to realize that by eliminating our debt there was no longer the dire need to work 60+ hour weeks anymore. We went from spending $5,600 a month (back in 2001 dollars) down to only $1,900 (give or take, in 2001 dollars) a month. We went from earning a back breaking $90,000 a year, down to about $25,000 a year. Less income meant less taxes due and a break in property taxes. It also meant: early retirement! Our kids were in collage and were grown up enough to be responsible for their own tuition. Ditto for their weddings.
Was it easy to go through such a drastic downsize? The answer is a resounding no! I went kicking and screaming for many, many years. It was the end goal of having no debt whatsoever that kept us focused and on track. DH and I gave up a lot of things over the years: new clothes, decent furniture, gourmet foods, vacations, entertainment. In its place were Goodwill finds, hand-me-downs, lots of rice and pasta meals, camping, entertainment freebies and lots and lots of DIYing. Our current living footprint is very small. That means smaller appliances, less stuff and less living space. We went from a beach town to a mountain town. Very, very often DH and I will long for our days at the beach to come back. They won’t however. So, we learned to love and enjoy our fresh, clean mountain-style living. And visit the beach, any beach, whenever and where ever we can.
Our income since our original downsizing in 2002 has increased but not by much. We live a little bit better on about $35,000 a year. We’ve been able to buy (on sale) better quality furniture, enjoy better quality foods, enjoy better entertainment choices (concerts & theater) take a few vacations (RVing) and we’ve been to Europe twice (France & Italy). We’ve fixed up our property, erected a modular steel barn, invested in better landscaping and we drive more recent (2013/2015) vehicles (one of which is a luxury SUV!) We do carry a small bit of debt (zero interest charge cards) when we purchased new replacement appliances, an Apple Computer iMac and some other necessary equipment. Said debt amounts can be covered instantaneously by our savings account should we ever falter. I’m using the banks money now rather than the other way around!
Our voluntary downsizing in 2001-2002 has made our slippage into retirement an easy one. We’re used to living on less now so that means less working, less saving and a better quality of life as far as DH and I are still concerned. DH works part time every once in a while when the mood feels right for him. Me? I’ll never work again nor will I ever get into debt ever again. I have control over my own life now and I am never giving that control over to any bank, credit card company or car loan dealership!
Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.