Leaving the Rat RaceLeaving the Rat Race – Money or Sanity?

Many people dream about leaving the rat race, but there’s just one little problem. You have to choose: it is going to be the money or your sanity? You can’t have both, you see. Or can you?

Today I am rethinking many of my decisions in recent years. I stayed home with my two children from a month before the first one was born until the day the second one started Kindergarten. And I realize I was blessed to have that experience. I am a teacher so I am home with my children for school breaks and holidays. Another blessing for sure.

However, I often feel exhausted both mentally and physically. I am the only daughter of two very sick parents which makes me part of the “sandwich generation”. Don’t know what that is? It is when you are “sandwiched” between your children and your parents, both of which need your care.

I know I am not alone. There are millions of websites out there which attempt to deal with the growing anxiety of adults who have responsibilities (and often debt) which are crushing. It is like having a rain cloud that follows you around, constantly raining on your parade….and everything else in your life. Can you say STRESSED OUT?

In this juggling act most people must maneuver jobs, kids, parents, debt, retirement concerns, saving for kids’ college, church, and everything else in life at the same time….without dropping any of them. And then you still have to run errands and fix dinner. (Oops! You forgot to buy groceries.)

At some point we all ask: Is this all there is? Will life ever be anything except work and an ever evolving series of responsibilities?

For some people the answer is a resounding, NO!

People are tired of stress. They no longer want to be slaves to debt and jobs they can’t stand. Ever watch any of the numerous television shows about people living in tiny houses? It is a trend in easier living and enjoying the simpler but better things in life. People are selling huge houses (or never buying one to begin with) and quitting high stress jobs.

Things sounds appealing, right?

So what do you do if you have a hankering to simpler your own life, but just don’t see how that can happen.

Well, let’s look at some of the ways that people live simpler.

  1. Live in a smaller home.
  2. Stop being a slave to consumerism.
  3. Stop trying to keep up with everyone else. (They are probably in debt too.)
  4. Follow your passion to find a meaningful job, even if it pays less.
  5. Have a “less is more” attitude.

Let’s say you already have a house which is your true home and you are attached to it. I get it. You don’t want to leave that house because you brought your babies home from the hospital there.

Or you have spent years and thousands of dollars to attain the education for your current career. It’s not so easy to walk away from that. Especially if you are still paying student loans for that education.

Personally, I am still trying to find ways to simplify my own life. My husband and I recently decided to trash the idea of building on a new master suite onto our house but instead reworked the footprint of the one we already had. That was a step in the right direction. In the coming years we will save tons of money on heating/cooling bills, maintenance, and taxes.

However, we still haven’t found a way to cut the cord when it comes to cable television. Everyone in our house has a couple of shows that we think we can’t live without. And even though I keep pushing for us to cut the wire, I also realize that all episodes of Mysteries at the Museum ARE NOT on Netflix. And what would my life be like without that?

Things Are Different Now

Back in the day, if you had filled a bottle up with water and sold it to our grandparents they would have laughed at you. What a silly concept! This is just one example of how things have changed over the years. How we spend our money has changed also and there is one thing that literally flushes our money down the drain: SERVICES. Services are something that most households didn’t have a long time ago.

Most of us pay for lots of them. Here is a list of a few common ones:

  • cable television
  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime
  • Cell phones
  • Home wifi
  • OnStar
  • Hot spots
  • Lawn care
  • Child care
  • HOA fees

Of course, there are many, many more. How many of these do you pay for? Too many, right? Just a little food for thought: Write down all the services you pay for and add them all up. Does that figure make you sick? Because at the end of the month there is nothing tangible in your hand that you own. That money just grew wings and flittered away. Never to be seen again.

I recently read an article about how the cable television market is dwindling and how much of it is due to millennials. Most of them have either cut the cord or were never tethered to one to begin with. Apparently, they can be quite frugal.

They spend their money much differently than some might think. You have to remember they are products of the “Great Recession”. Maybe they learned something the rest of us had trouble getting into our thick heads:

Less Debt = Less Stress

Okay, we all know this is a big issue. But where do we even start if we want to change our lives? I mean, we want to downsize but we don’t want to cut out EVERY luxury in life, right? Don’t want to do that living in a cave thing.

It’s All In the Attitude

So here is what I am thinking. It is all in our attitudes about life and the things that make up our lives. For instance, much of the rest of the world views Americans as gluttonous, spoiled, and arrogant. I am not going to say that is not true in a lot of ways. So my new thing is trying to adopt a more European attitude about things.

For example, most Europeans are not as attached to their vehicles as Americans. It is simply transportation for them. Our whole identity is tied to them. You know it’s true.

Americans tend to think their house emits their value as a person. I won’t lie here. I have caught myself comparing my house to another person’s. Luckily, I snapped out of that before I started spending unnecessary money to “keep up”.

So it really boils down to this: If you truly want to downsize your stressful life, there are tons of websites and books to five you practical advice on how to make that happen. It can’t happen overnight, but it CAN happen. A smart plan and determination are two things that can make it happen.

But along with that must come a change of attitude. We must learn to appreciate what we already have and ask ourselves about each thing we acquire in life, “Is this truly worth the work it took to get it?”

Maybe we don’t have to choose money or sanity after all. Maybe…..just maybe…..we can find a happy medium.