As the New Year is starting, are you thinking about what road you want to be on?
What are your priorities, what do you want your life to look like in in 1, 5, or 10 years from now?
It’s Rebecca here on the blog today, and Connor and I have been thinking about this a lot as we start the New Year. We’re trying to plan when to have kids, when to move, when to start the next stage of our life together. With that has come a lot of talk about priorities.
It is very easy to live in a way that contradicts what we say our priorities are.
Seriously, we can say one thing, and then do the complete opposite! So Connor and I have been working through what our actions need to be for us to reach our goals.
Connor and I have decided that our ultimate dream is to have the freedom to spend tons of time with family and homeschool our kids (when we eventually have some!).
That means that we will need to:
- Find a way for Connor to have something other than the typical 9-5 job
- Grow my career working online from home so we can afford to have Connor work less (his job is less flexible than mine)
- Learn to live on less so that we can afford to spend more time as a family
- Save up a ton of money over the next few years so that Connor can go back to school without us incurring any debt.
Logically, our life plan has changed quite a bit since realizing our goal. In order to reach our goal, we won’t be able to:
- Buy a nice, expensive house in Ottawa. We’ll likely live in a condo instead for many years so we can live on a lower income!
- Have multiple vehicles, or new vehicles. We’ll own one used car at any given time and then use public transit when both of us are out doing different things.
- Pursue my PhD for a long time (if ever!). My dream was originally to go into Clinical Psychology, but my career simply isn’t important enough to me to sacrifice the next 10 years on my PhD and starting a private practice. Instead, I have an online career that pays less but I can do from home.
- Spend a lot of money on our kids or on ourselves. My kids are going to thrift shop like bosses–and you know what? Having a second-hand crib, playpen, and stroller really won’t kill them. I speak from experience! 🙂
I have a lot of people in my life who have told us that we (a) need to have a house before we have kids, (b) need to have two cars so we don’t have to use public transit anymore (since it’s seen as a rite of passage to not have to use the bus), and (c) are a little crazy for aiming for having Connor work part-time eventually. The truth is, our plans don’t fit a lot of people’s idea of what an ideal grown-up life looks like.
But that’s alright with me, because my priority is to be able to have an involved home life more than it is to have a nice house, new clothes, or the convenience of two cars.
It’s taken a lot of very purposeful discussion to figure out what our goals should be based on our priorities, but I don’t think a lot of people have those talks. I think instead, we get stuck into this “Keeping Up with the Joneses” mentality that traps us into lives that actually create a lot of stress, and aren’t in line with our priorities at all.
People say all the time that their marriage is their priority, but then they work opposite shifts so they can keep their jobs that help them afford their house with a $400,000 mortgage because “that’s just being a grown-up.” I speak from experience–you can live quite happily in a small apartment on a very low income if you’re willing to scrimp and save because it means you get to spend so much time together. But if you’re sacrificing time with your husband to be able to afford an expensive house, then you are living like your priority is really your standard of living, not your marriage.
I know, that sounds harsh, but think about it–it’s your actions that make you who you are, not your intentions. A bank robber who intends to be an honest person is still a bank robber if he continues to rob banks. He will only be an honest person when he stops the behavior that is making him dishonest.
Likewise, if you want to put your family first but you’re spending all your time shuttling kids back and forth from sports 5 nights a week (and sometimes weekends when there are tournaments), then your priority isn’t actually your family–it’s giving your kids a fun high school experience. Your family becomes your priority when you stop putting your time, money, and energy into all the extra-curricular activities and start having family dinners, spending time together, going camping, or having family games nights again.
Now, not everyone is in a position to change their circumstances that much.
If you’re taking care of a sick elderly relative who can’t be moved because they need specialized care, for instance, you likely can’t move to a more affordable city very easily (if at all). Sometimes life truly does just get in the way. Sometimes you’ve got 3 kids under 4, your husband has gone back to school, and you have to work. Life gets overwhelming, and there are periods where it does seem a bit hopeless.
But it’s in these times that it’s really important to have a plan–you need to know that this is temporary. What can you do so that in 5 years things are better? What is the ultimate goal, and what’s something small you can do today to get there (even if it means having oatmeal for breakfast again instead of grabbing drive-thru which would taste way better)?
But if the only thing holding you back is that you don’t want to feel like you’re taking a step backwards, understand that it truly is a choice.
Connor and I are currently living on less than half of the average family income in Canada. It is possible to live a good life on a small income if you’re willing to sacrifice. Down-sizing really can be worth it.
So now it’s your turn. Take some time and figure out where you want to be in life, and if what you’re doing now is helping you get there. Ask yourself:
1. What do I want my life to look like?
Do you need a certain standard of living to feel comfortable? Or can you make do with less? What do you need to feel “at home”?
What would your ideal evening look like? Who are you spending time with? What are you doing? What are you not doing?
2. What things am I doing now that are making my goals difficult or impossible?
What has gotten in the way of living out your ideal evening the last few weeks, months, or even years? Do you want to spend more time as a family, but no one is home at the same time? Do you want to stop stressing about finances and just go away for a weekend, but you and your husband are working yourselves to the bone to pay off your mortgage? Is there simply too much work to be done around the house for you to sit in the tub for a soak? Figure out what’s getting in your way.
3. What do I need to do to get there?
This is the difficult part that requires some honesty with yourself. I had to deal with the fact that I needed to give up 2 big dreams of mine if we were going to have the life we wanted–that was hard. And it was humbling. But I am so much happier now.
If work is getting in the way of making your marriage a priority, maybe you need to sell your house and downsize to a condo or smaller home so you can afford to work lower-paying jobs with better hours.
If you want to have a good relationship with your kids when they are teenagers, it’s going to be difficult to do that if they’re spending 6 nights a week at sports in Jr. High. If you want to be able to afford a big house in the country and two vehicles, you need to stop spending all your money on clothes or eating out or on the kids.
Here are 5 things to consider that may help you and your husband achieve your goals:
- Trade in expensive cars for cheaper used models (potentially even go down to one vehicle)
- Move from an expensive city to a cheap town, even if it means a pay cut. Check out these lists of the 10 most expensive and the 10 least expensive cities in the US–where does yours fall? And imagine how much cheaper it could be to move out of cities entirely and into a small town or even a smaller city than the ones in these lists. We grew up in a city of 50,000 and it was a really affordable city to live in.
- Downsize your home from a large house to a smaller place or even a condo/apartment if that’s what you can afford
- Figure out how many extra-curricular activities are realistic for your family’s budget and family time (my sister and I were homeschooled and only ever had 1 music and 1 activity, which happened during school hours! If we had gym at school we likely would have only had time for music in our family, but I never felt like I was missing out).
- Seriously consider your choice of career. Because for many people, it honestly is a choice. Could you work for less money but have more time? Could you go to school for 1 year to get a diploma that would enable you to work better hours for better pay? I have a friend whose dad was a successful businessman who quit his job to become a shop teacher because he was on the road too much and simply didn’t have enough time with his family. For them, the pay cut was more than worth it.
The truth is, it’s often quite simple. Start doing things that are helping you get where you want to be, and stop doing things that are holding you back.
And it really is that simple. Yes, it’s OK to have kids before you have a house. Yes, it’s OK to tell your kids they can’t be in sports anymore, even if they get mad. Yes, it’s OK to limit your friendships to only the ones that are building you up and making you a better person. You don’t have to live according to what other people think is “right” or what’s expected.
Pursuing others’ approval and keeping up appearances simply won’t give you the fulfilling life that family and relationships can. So let’s make sure that all of us are pursuing what truly matters this year.
What are some of your goals as a couple? What are you doing to get there? Share your tips in the comments and let’s chat!
I applaud your foresight into what you want your life to look like! My husband and I just celebrated our 10th anniversary this past year and it doesn’t look anything like I thought it would when we got married at 21! I honestly didn’t think at that age that I wanted to stay home with my kids, when I had them. But, then I had them and felt totally different! I wished someone would’ve told me when I was going to school that my masters wouldn’t be used because I’d want to stay home with my kids! Fortunately, my husband is a physician so we have the means for me to stay home since day 1. Some people aren’t so fortunate!
I think my point here is that not everyone is so clear about their goals at your age, when it is a critical time for their careers/family. Yes, they can make a change but it will be very difficult and painful! They will only do it if staying the same is more painful than changing. Which, I think to many, it won’t be.
I also have to say that your goals are admirable and I’m sure you’ve thought about this, but God may throw a wrench in your plans. What if you have, unexpectedly, someone in your immediate family who gets sick or injured and needs your help? What if you have a child you has serious medical needs? I suppose in Canada you don’t have to pay for that(?) but in the states that would be a huge burden to pay for (and therefore WORK).
My husband and I had a great plan for our careers but one week before our wedding, he changed his mind! Which has been the most incredible journey and culminating in him finishing his training this coming June. We have moved so much, he’s spent countless hours studying, but I feel like he is the man God planned for him to be! If I had said no, we have to stick to our original goals, then I feel like he wouldn’t be fulfilling God’s plan for him and wouldn’t be the great man he is today. Has it been cheap? No. Do we have huge student loans? Yes. But student loan debt isn’t “bad” debt and the states have a 10 year forgiveness plan.
I suppose my question for you is, do you have room for change in your goals, should situations arise? Do you have your ear attuned to what God’s plans are for you, because they could change at any time?
Great point! Yes, there obviously always has to be room for God to move 🙂 But with using our money wisely, choosing careers that allow us to have more free time (I don’t really care what career exactly it is that Connor chooses, we’ve just decided it needs to be flexible), and keeping our expenses down to a minimum while our family is our #1 priority, if God chooses to move in a huge way in our lives we’ll be even more prepared!
Life definitely isn’t predictable–I guess our perspective is that if you do the absolute best you can to be responsible with what God has given you, you will be much more equipped to handle whatever comes your way 🙂 But often we get into this rut where we feel we “have” to do something because everyone else is doing it, and then life is spent playing catch up instead of actually enjoying the gifts God has given.
Thanks for commenting!
That’s a great point, and I want to second this, because this is what I have really drummed into my girls. One thing you don’t want to do early in your life is get deeply in debt, because once you do, you aren’t flexible anymore. You don’t know what’s coming your way, so the more you can live on less and build up a nest egg, the more room you have to maneuver later. I see so many people who have no ability to cut back on work or move or anything because of financial obligations, and when crisis hits (or a call of God) they’re stuck. So I’ve always encouraged the kids to be flexible!
Laura, I never thought I’d stay at home either! I tell that story here. I like to think in some way my master’s degrees have been helpful. 🙂
What a refreshing set of goals to have, especially when you look at the rat-race lifestyle that we call the American Dream (sounds like it’s pretty similar in Canada, too! haha). My husband and I have been married for about a year and a half, so we’re at a similar life stage; we also want to be able to homeschool our kids whenever we have them, so it’s so important to be able to start with a good foundation to enable us to build that life. Thanks for an encouraging post!
So glad you enjoyed it, Greta! Best of luck with your goals!
It is a rat race, isn’t it? So let’s not get caught up in it! I always encourage people to move to smaller towns, too. That can be so much easier! And it’s a nice place to raise kids, too.
Hi Becca – I really love your values and your plans. This is wonderful stuff I wish I had a clue about and had the ability to apply so many years ago. Of course Grace and I had plans..it didn’t work out…but yet it did. I am with your summary of Laura’s comment.
If you do the absolute best you can to be responsible with what God has given you, you will be much more equipped to handle whatever comes your way.
For me/us We had to go into cleanup mode from all the wreckage I caused along the way. So we are doing it backwards. Regardless it is good. I will add this – From what I know there is never a good or bad time to have kids in marriage. So I did chuckle inside at planning kids….it is responsible and I get it..we tried to plan that too. Some of it worked out…I guess…we had 2 kids. Then a 3rd lol. None of my children came at a good time – Financially or when we were ready..cuz honestly I would still be waiting! It just seems to me from what I have experienced and witnessed with others that it just doesn’t work out on the plan the kid thing. I suppose the plan can help you get close if you are responsible…. I just think that having kids is more God’s business than ours. Of course that is just my opinion. I do pray for you and Conner that all your dreams and desires come true. Sounds like an awesome plan. I hope some folks who are reading this will yield to the idea of being responsible with what God has given them. I speak from experience from the other side. I venture a guess it is much easier to take the suggested path.
What are we doing?
Grace and I have implemented date night as part of our goal as couple. Wednesday nights we are now going together to drops kids at Church for Youth and then we have an hour and a half to ourselves to be together. Tonight is only the second evening we are doing this but we decided last night that this can be our weekly date night. Anything on top of that will be bonus….but I am so thrilled. We have a weekly date night now. I never thought that would happen until the kids were like 80…. Its kind of funny because it has been our goal and neither of us really did any work on it except it just happened last week because I wanted some time with Grace so she made the suggestion and now we are going to implement it long term….I am sure there will be adjustments along the way…but hey..now its in our line of site!
Thanks. Have fun!
Haha DEFINITELY hear you on the whole “planning kids” part! 🙂 We are currently working on just getting to the point where if we had a “surprise baby,” we’d know we’d be fine even if it means I couldn’t work because I get really sick or something.
I love your date night goal! It’s so easy to get so caught up with life that we don’t get any real time with our spouses, eh?
Best of luck with your goals, and have a great date night! 🙂
I think you’re hoping for a surprise baby so that you avoid the stress of having to make a decision. 🙂 Or is that TMI I shouldn’t share publicly? 🙂
I think the date night idea is awesome to start in the new year! I hope it works well for you.
We’ve started playing a board game together every night before we watch a show (which is my knitting time!). That’s been a lot of fun.
And, yes, there never is a good time to have children… but they’re wonderful just the same!
Sometimes I feel like the only person who’s glad that my husband has an 8-5 job away from home. I love him and having him home (I’m a SAHM ), but I think he would go nuts if he didn’t have a full time job keeping him busy, and if he worked from home he would never be able to leave it alone because he’s so hard-working. It seems to me that “traditional” jobs are getting a bad rap, and everybody now wants to be an entrepreneur or work from home or work part-time. Which is great for them (seriously, go you!), but is not our cup of tea. Just want to throw this out there to say, Hey! It’s ok to like your/your husband’s 9-5 job if that’s what works for you guys! A job and the ability to do it are gifts from God 🙂
EXACTLY! That’s the point! Figure out what God has equipped you for, and then do what works for you! 🙂 I married a super laid-back guy who just isn’t really made for the traditional 9-5 work-week (he gets very burnt out) and so what works for him isn’t going to be what works for a super career-driven person who seriously enjoys that structure to his life.
I definitely don’t think you’re the only person in that boat, though 🙂 The majority of the people in our friend group think the same way!
We had always hoped for me to stay home once we had kids, and decided to live as frugally as possible in order to allow that to happen. We also were motivated to pay off our mortgage as aggressively as we could, and are so very thankful now that God led us on that path!! The plans that we had took an abrupt turn when my health deteriorated quickly and significantly and could no longer take care of our three very young children on my own. We had to hire full-time help to be home with me and the littles, and my husband became the go-to parent every moment that he was home. Four years ago, after much prayer, he decided to leave his job and start his own business from home. This allowed us to not need a nanny anymore, and also to have him around a lot more and have the flexibility that we need due to my medical needs. I’m so very glad that we embraced frugality and simple living far before we “had” to, as it made for a much easier transition when things were really tough. We are so very thankful that we get to spend as much time together as a family as we do!!
That’s so wonderful, Kari! I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with health problems, but what a blessing that you had already set yourself up for success without even knowing what you were saving for! That’s exactly why we’re living the way we are, too–because you never know what’s coming, but it helps to be prepared.
It was always my husbands and mine plan for me to quit my job and stay home when we were blessed with a baby, I’m now 28 weeks pregnant and on my second week staying home in preparation for the arrival of our child. We began living off of his income alone and saving my paychecks about 2 years ago so we could see if anything needed to be changed before a surprise like we are now living came along. It was a great relief to know that we were going to make it despite choosing to live by our convictions and have me stay home with our blessing. I think this post was very realistic but I encourage anyone to stay open to God’s work in your life and be willing to have Him change your plan whenever He chooses. His is always best! Thank you for this insightful and encouraging post!
What a great post!
My husband and I (5 years married) have always said we “don’t want to be like everyone else” (ie 9-5 jobs, buy a house and live in it for the rest of our lives…), and since we got married we have had different jobs (some part time, some casual, some shift, some full time).
Right now we have a 1 year old daughter and since she was born hubby was the only one working. This year he’s working Mon-Thurs and I start a job which will be Thurs and Fri… so yes, all combine do our work will be 9-5… but we are actually excited because it means he’ll get a day with our daughter, and I get 2 days at work (i can’t wait to make friends! And work has always been a mission field for me, so I’m excited for that aspect too).
That’s our story, but back to our goals…
We say we don’t want to be like everyone else, but now that we have our daughter the 9-5 thing sounds easy and having a forever home doesn’t sound too bad. Either way, we don’t have long term goals and a plan to get there. Think, $5k debt and hubby putting a new phone and Apple Watch on a plan, and wanting to go on overseas holidays… this stresses me out so much just typing it. We have scheduled for this week a budget chat (yes, we need to schedule these because we need a bit of mental preparation time) so I’m hoping we can talk about some of these things too.
It sounds like your work schedules are just ideal! That’s wonderful.
And I hear you about the budget. Yes, I pray that that talk will go well with your husband (just said a prayer for you!). I find these talks often go better if you have a goal in mind. Like, why be frugal for no reason? You need a WHY. But when you have that, it’s easier to see that the budget has to balance!
In our marriage, it has been easy to see God making most of our big decisions for us. After 3 yrs of marriage, we found ourselves pregnant and both working f/t in jobs that weren’t satisfying. We moved home, and my husband pursued grad school, but we lost the baby at 11 wks. A few months later, we realized grad school wasn’t what we wanted to pursue anymore. Family was. All the grad school ‘doors’ kept shutting. The day after we had a serious discussion about our plan, an old employer called my husband out of the blue to offer him a promotion from his previous job with them. He took it and we relocated again 3 months later. The weekend we moved we found out we were expecting! I worked p/t, and planned to return to work after a maternity leave of 4 weeks, however, our little one arrived early at 31weeks. She was in the nicu for… exactly 4 weeks. We brought her home on a Sunday, and I would have had to return to work the next day and leave her with a sitter. We’ve had to do a lot of trusting God with our finances, but I haven’t returned to work since, and am now home with 2 littles! Also, had we not trusted God and jumped right into that new job and transfer, we would have been living far from a hospital with a nicu and the sort of specialized ob we didn’t even know we needed! Instead, we were ten minutes away.
We have had so many plans, and very good ones, but going on God’s journey and seeing His details play out has been amazing!
I love that!
When Keith was applying to where he wanted to do residencies for his pediatrics program, we really wanted Ottawa. Really, really badly. But we got Toronto (where I grew up). We were so heartbroken. I had wanted to be in Ottawa near my grandparents, and it’s a beautiful city, and the program in Toronto was much more intense and you got much less sleep.
Three years later our son was born with a huge heart defect. The only place in Canada where they did surgeries like that was in–you guessed it–Toronto. Had we been in Ottawa, I don’t know how we would have managed with our 18-month-old daughter being near the hospital with Christopher. As it was, we lived just a few blocks away, and my mom was right there to baby-sit our daughter.
God’s provision is amazing, and our plans don’t always turn out.
But I still think there’s value in being wise. That’s what God wants us to do. And when He wants us to change direction–He can show us! 🙂