I was 21. I had just graduated from college; Hanna and I were pumped.
We were excited for me to start my career and finally make some real money. With Hanna still in grad school, a full-time salary would be extremely helpful.
But just as soon as I started, the weight of “what you’re supposed to do” started setting in.
People asked us about when we were going to start having kids. People asked when we were going to buy a house. Friends started buying cars. Family members wanted to know if I was going back to school since I was so young – obviously, I should get it out of the way.
This doesn’t even begin to include all of the subconscious American dream marketing that’s been infiltrating our brains since birth.
We should be going out on weekends with friends. We should be taking nice vacations 2 times a year. And of course, we shouldn’t use our free time to try outside projects that could increase our income. Instead, we should watch Netflix every night.
We quickly fell into the trap. It started by looking at when we should get a car, and what car to get. Then we were looking for a home to buy and I even enrolled in an MBA program. We were trotting down the path of the American dream, happily going along.
Or were we?
Actually… We Were Stressing Out.
Money was tight. We couldn’t decide what to do next. And we had no idea how we were supposed to accomplish everything we felt like we had to do.
The weight of societal pressure was setting in and we felt it big time.
Until one day, when we didn’t anymore. And it was because we learned one simple thing.
We Don’t Have To Do It That Way
No one is standing there with a gun to our heads and forcing us to buy a home. Some stranger isn’t threatening my family unless I go back to graduate school.
But it certainly feels that way.
Finally, my wife and I realized we don’t have to do anything that we’re told to do. We are free to make our own decisions.
And honestly, that mindset has been the single most important thing so far in our 20s.
We’ve learned to question everything. We don’t buy anything now just because we’re supposed to. We don’t live in places just because that’s where we were always supposed to live. And we don’t let our previous plans dictate our current desires.
Let me share with you 3 ways questioning everything has helped us so far.
1. Questioning Where We Can Live
When we first got married we wanted to live in Cleveland TN. That’s where we had a community, it’s a cheap place to live, and it made sense. We thought we would probably always live there.
Then a year later, we wanted to live in another city 45 minutes away.
So we moved.
At first, it seemed odd and honestly it was a difficult decision to make. We had always felt that we would live in Cleveland. We never questioned it.
So when we started feeling like we didn’t want to live there, neither of us said anything to each other for awhile. Although we were only in our early 20s we had already decided to live there. We weren’t supposed to change.
And so many people fall into this trap.
You make a decision and think it will be forever. But then something changes and wish you could pivot. Yet you feel trapped by your previous decision.
It’s stupid right, yet we all do this.
Luckily Hanna and I finally allowed ourselves to question where we wanted to live. Once we did that, moving became a no brainer. We wanted to move, we had the ability to move, so just move.
Now we’re happily living in Chattanooga TN, but that may change. And if it does, then okay. We try not to get tunnel vision on this stuff.
2. Buying A House
We still haven’t bought a home and don’t plan to for the foreseeable future. The apartment is great right now and we don’t currently want the stress that comes with maintenance on a home.
Our monthly rent fits nicely into our budget. It just doesn’t make financial sense to get a house right now.
But society tells us that we NEED one. That’s what we’re fed from birth. However, it’s not always the wisest move. In fact, depending on what city you live in, renting could be cheaper even over the course of 15 years.
Buying a home today isn’t like it was in 1950. You need to evaluate your options. Here’s a great article that will help you think through renting vs. buying.
The important thing here is to question the built in assumption that you should buy a house. That’s just not always the case.
3. Buying A Dog
I’ll just start by telling you straight up. Then I’ll explain.
My wife and I recently bought a puppy for $1,000.
Here she is in all her beach outfit glory.
On top of that, we also pay for pet insurance ($27 per month). And we paid a $300 pet fee to our apartment complex.
Now’s the part where you might be asking why… Why in the world would we pay that much for a dog?!?
Well, we started by questioning the built-in assumptions around pet ownership.
Here are a few assumptions started questioning.
- It’s stupid to pay for a dog when you can get one for free from the shelter
- Dogs shed, you’re going to have to deal with hair everywhere – get used to it
- Some dogs can be trained, some can’t, good luck picking the right one
- Medical costs are extremely expensive so be prepared to have the dog put down if necessary
We questioned all of these and found that for us, none of these hold true.
After doing some research, there’s actually quite a few dog breeds that either don’t shed at all or have minimal shedding. On top of that, some breeds are naturally smarter than others and therefore are easier to train. We also ran some numbers on pet insurance and found that over the course of the dog’s life, pet insurance actually makes a lot of sense for us.
And lastly, if we can get a dog that has the traits we want, then paying $1,000 now for a dog who will live 13 – 17 years is a bargain.
Scout is a border-doodle. Part border collie part poodle. Both breeds are extremely smart and learn quickly. The poodle breed also gives her hypoallergenic hair with minimal shedding.
So it’s a win-win-win and worth the money every. single. day.
Just Start Asking Questions
It’s okay if you disagree with the decisions we’ve made. Your questions are probably different.
I’m just trying to get you to ask questions.
Don’t just assume that you have to do it that way because you always thought you would do it that way. And definitely don’t just do something because someone else thinks you should.
Starting to question assumptions and traditions has seriously been the most beneficial thing Hanna and I have learned with our money. It’s tough yes and difficult to go against the grain. But it will save you so much money and buy you much more happiness than simply going along because you’ve always planned it that way.
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