No Regrets

When I was young, I dreamed about a lot of things. I wanted to be a writer, writing things that genuinely changed people’s lives. I wanted to have children and be a father to them like Ted Arroway without the collapse. I wanted to visit lots of different parts of the world and see how people actually lived, beyond the tourist areas.

When I got a little older, I had to make some choices. I could be “financially responsible” and start preparing for some big dreams … or I could take the easy path and bust out the credit cards. I looked down both paths… and then I started buying stuff. I filled my home with DVDs and books and electronic equipment and other stuff I didn’t really need – and that I already scarcely remember.

I started feeling the regrets before I was even twenty eight years old. I had a pile of debts that pretty much locked me into my current career path. I had almost no time to become a writer. I had a child, but I wasn’t spending the time with him that I wanted because the need for more money fueled my activities. I obsessed over work (even to the point of interrupting planned family events) and when work was done, I played hard, too.

Soon, I began to realize I was trading my dreams for a pile of stuff. I was swapping all of the things I truly wanted to do for some minor experiences that didn’t really stick with me. I was broke every week, but the reason I was broke wasn’t because I was chasing my dreams – it was because I was buying a mountain of scarcely-played DVDs and video games and spending my spare time dumping my money into sports cards and other ludicrously expensive “hobbies” such as stocking my home with the latest electronic goodies.

I gave these things up. I made some changes in my life. I stopped spending on the silly things and started “spending” on the big dreams. I spent my spare time practicing my writing and spending time with my children, and “spent” my money socking it away in savings so that it could help me during the lean times of chasing my dreams.

When I’m an old man, I won’t regret not buying that flat panel television or that Lexus. What I might regret is the thought that I spent my money on stuff instead of on opportunities – opportunities to follow my creative dreams, opportunities to spend time with my children when they’re young, and opportunities to stop and smell the roses instead of running forever and ever on a treadmill without end.

For me, it was really a simple choice.

No regrets.

What’s your choice?

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25 thoughts on “No Regrets

  1. Anthony says:

    Trent,

    Great post! It really hits home that all of the material possessions in the world mean nothing in the end. Rather, it is the experiences and memories in life that get carried with you.

    My Dad always had a saying when I was younger that quite sums up what you are talking about. When going to buy something, he would always ask, “Is it bread or butter”. You see, bread is something you need, while butter is not. That messages stays with me to this day, and I thought I would share it on your blog.

    Keep up the good work!

    Anthony

  2. GalinAZ says:

    When you WERE young? You’ve got a long way to go.

  3. Miguel says:

    Good post Trent.

    At first I started to save money, and act financially responsible, because I thought I needed to be. I now see that it’s because it’s all about freedom. A lot of people are virtually enslaving them selfs because they keep buying, and wasting money on useless crap.

    Living cheaply really is all about freedom.

  4. Excellent post! Reflecting what you want from life not all the stuff you buy is always a great way to get in touch with who you are and what fulfills you.

    I am trying to fund my future, cushion myself from life’s buffets and blows, and looking at short-term goals to move forward in life. I do not find it easy as I tend to look long-term (e.g., retirement) but short-term goals and self-reflection is helping me decide what I truly want and helping me get rid of stuff I no longer desire and is just cluttering my life.

  5. Saving Freak says:

    Why don’t they teach any of this in schools? True home economics should be a required high school course.

  6. AaronO says:

    I have been agressively paying down my debt for a while. Things have been going pretty well.

    The hardest part I find is being at work or with friends. None of them seem to care about paying debt or saving money. I know that we are all comparable in our salaries – and I have a lot less debt than they do. They spend like crazy, eat out 2-3 times a day, and have all of the latest technology toys. They tell me that I “will be 60 by the time I am debt free and by then I will be too old to enjoy the things they have now”.

    Sometimes, I feel like I am the odd ball. I really cannot understand how they can drop the money they do on expensive items like golf clubs, laptops, trips down south, and flat pannel TVs – without a second thought.

    I don’t know how I could afford the same items even though we make a similar amount of money.

    I guess this place is like my “Support Group”.

  7. Ryan S says:

    @ Aaron,

    Those friends of your are dummies. ;)

  8. Trent says:

    “When you WERE young? You’ve got a long way to go.”

    18 to 29 is more than a decade.

  9. Julie says:

    My husband and I are probably the most budget-wise of many of our friends and yet we are also the most free. We bought a home based on what we could afford to pay on one income, so I had the choice to stay home with my child without even really having to think about it (even though we were two incomes at the time, we were planning ahead for a family). We also budget so that we can go overseas every year to visit family, since family is a very high priority to us. This is an expensive priority, but manangeable because we plan for it and budget accordingly. We are still able to save for retirement and have a healthy emergency fund as well, which are also important to us. We don’t have flash cars (paid cash for used) or fancy gadgets and toys, but we do have our trip every year that is worth more than what we pay for it just in memories alone.

    It’s definately a process of reminding yourself what is important though. I just watched “The Pursuit of Happyness” last night and think it’s a great movie that we all need to watch from time to time to remind ourselves how fortunate and blessed that we are and that there is nothing wrong with hard work to get where you want to be in life. With so much talk about ‘passive income’ and ‘how to be rich’ books, etc I think many of us have lost sight of the fact that there is nothing wrong working hard (even at a normal 9-5 job, albeit not glamorous) to acheive your dreams.

  10. MoneyBlogga says:

    I have plenty of regrets about the way I have lived my life up until the beginning of 2008. I have a feeling that I won’t regret the changes I’m trying to make going forward, though. As with all addictions, I already know that it’s going to be a permanent test of character for me: the Ignorant/Reckless/Risky Person I Was vs. the Person I Want/Need/Have To Be.

  11. Be careful, doing the “right” thing can be just as alluring. I have always been frugal and shied away from debt, but my passion for success has often got in the way of what’s important in life.

    Best Wishes,
    D4L

  12. Kell@confessionsofachocolatelife says:

    This article really hits home with me. I am so fortunate that I have come to this realisation early, before I really sink myself into debt. I am 23, I have a car loan that I expect to be paid off at the end of the year, no credit card debt and a student loan that slowly pays itself off from my income which I don’t need to worry about (Australia’s system is a bit different, no interest, no time limit, only pay when you earn). I currently work in IT and I am making my way towards being a music teacher instead, where I always wanted to be, but almost got sucked in by ‘stuff’. By practicing frugality, I know it’s within reach. By the way, this site has made a huge difference.

  13. Andy says:

    Great post, Trent. I think that the most memorable parts of life are the journeys, not the instances. For example, I will look back and be very proud of myself for living below my means and paying off my student loan debt and I will remember that journey and its ups and downs…but if I were to give in to instant gratification, those short moments where I swipe a credit card aren’t going to be on my list of lifetime memorable achievements. Sure, I have temporary regrets but in the long run, the rewards are going to be OH…SO…SWEET.

  14. Empress Juju says:

    What’s my choice?

    I choose a life that feels good, rather than one that “looks” good.

    I choose to eat meals made from whole foods, at home in the company of people I love, rather than dining out on expensive plates of sodium- and cholesterol-laden delicacies that upset my stomach when the check arrives.

    I choose to spend my weekends with good people, learning new things and exploring the art and culture of my city, rather than forking over $60+ to stand in lines for engineered, artificial “experiences” and “adventures.”

    I choose to participate in like-minded communities, both here and in person, rather than watching people navigate contrived living arrangements designed to create maximum conflict to garner better TV ratings.

    I choose to be gratefully self-supporting through my own contributions, rather than suck up more than my fair share without being willing to work for it, and still complain that other people have more and better stuff than I do.

    I choose to share my time, money, and resources, however modest, with those less fortunate than I am rather than hoarding my blessings and complaining about the decline of civilization.

    Thank you, Trent, for supporting my choices.

  15. Bella says:

    @AaronO

    That is why it is useful to set up savings accounts for things that you feel like doing, while paying down your debt! You can contribute a little to it everytime you pay the debts (invest in future pleasure AS WELL as reimburse the past!) Then you can go down south or get the flat panel TV without feeling guilty. When all debt is repaid, you continue treating yourself with things that TRULY interest you, putting a little more on it. It’s just a matter of delays: when you pay with a credit card, you treat yourself then pay for it. With savings, you pay for it and then go for it. Eventually, when debt is cleared and the first treat is paid, you go for it and come back without the debt… Great feeling! almost priceless! (this technique doesn’t exclude savings for investings, emergencies, etc., it’s a matter of allocating the money wisely)

  16. Sebastian says:

    Thank you for this great post, Trent!

    Last weekend, I was just thinking about getting a new car. Now I realize I don’t really need it. I should rather go out and do something instead of buying something.

  17. I used to dream of multiple homes around the country and fancy cars. Now I have 6 kids, and a great circle of friends. I may not have a gazzillion dollars to show for myself, but I have invested in a lifetime of miracle moments and amazing stories. Now it’s time to clean up a mess of debt, and I don’t regret passing by expensive things to make that happen one bit.

    No regrets indeed!

  18. Frugal Dad says:

    I can relate to AaronO’s post because I am surrounded by people “living for the moment,” with no plans for their financial future. It is hard to be the only one in the group that stays back and eats peanut butter and jelly, or rarely goes out after work, or drives the ugliest car in the parking lot. My best advice is to remember who you are doing it for – and those are the people we are trying to please (whether it be yourself, your family, or both). What others think is of little importance in the grand scheme of things.

  19. clevelis says:

    Great post Trent!

    @Money Blogga: Much success to you as you turn things around.

    @AaronO: I like your “support group” idea; I agree. It is great to come to this site to read Trent’s great post as well as your comments. It’s nice to check out the diversity of perspectives.

    I am elated to say that as of Mar 18th my credit debt will be down to $0. Woohoo! And my emergency fund is still growing.

  20. Steven says:

    @Aron

    I never followed the heard. I retired debt free at 55 with no regrets. One of the many things I learned along the way is who my true friends are. It took me sometime to realize you want people in your life to support you, not bring you down.

    Always do what you think is best for Aron. If these people are your friends, they will be there for you no matter what your house looks like, what kind of a car you drive, or what toys you own.

  21. AaronO says:

    Thanks for the support!

  22. tarits says:

    hi trent!
    one of the things that i’m looking forward to this year is the summer leadership camp of my old school organization. i volunteered as a staff, and we’ll be handling 70 college delegates from all over the country and training them in campus ministry and missions. i’m trading 2 months’ worth of salary for an experience of a lifetime.of all my college expenses, the amount i spent attending these camps were definitely worth it.

    btw, i also took the plunge…my resignation is efefctive Wednesday. =)

  23. Bobbi says:

    Some of this we DO teach in school- it’s just that the students aren’t ready to really think about it applying to them.

    In the exact same week, I taught ninth graders and adult nursing students the same lesson on exponentials- about compound interest. It was amazing how different the discussion was in the two different settings. And no matter how much I tried to bring my experiences or the questions of the nursing students into it, the 9th graders simply weren’t there.

  24. Pete says:

    @Bobbi
    My daughter is an 8th grader. Since finances & debt free living goals loom large in my life, we talk about it a lot. She cheers me on as I get close to my goal of paying off my car 2 years ahead of schedule. As she gets more savvy about these topics, she volunteers her thoughts on paying the mortgage off early. We also apply it to decisions that she will have to make in a few years, like getting a car and community college vs. a local university or living away from home or mixtures of those choices. She’s a bright person and I think she has the capacity to make the right choices for herself as long as she understands there are choices to be made.

  25. laura k says:

    Wait…I thought that when you replaced your car, you were planning to buy a Lexus? Have you changed your mind?

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