Financial freedom means something different to everyone. But for me, it’s having the ability to stay home with my toddler every single day. It’s being able to treat my nieces and nephews to whatever food or games they want at a carnival without having to think about our bank account. It’s deciding to meal prep for convenience instead of financial necessity.
Most recently, financial freedom meant being able to check out of my work completely to save 11 lives.
If not us, then who…
Our family recently answered a plea for help in our community that would teach us new lessons in perseverance and further motivate us to continue on our financial freedom journey.
We rescued and fostered a mama dog and her 10 puppies.
To put this in perspective, we’ve never fostered before. We’ve never even had a puppy. Yet, somehow we ended up with a huge family of furballs under our roof for several months.
We weren’t sure of what was needed. But we knew the chances of finding another home were slim to none. So, we said yes and dove in head first.
You think one dog is expensive, try 11
We found a local rescue to help network and pay for medical expenses. But there were so many other costs involved with caring for a litter of this size.
My husband built a whelping box, and we made alterations to our guest room to protect the carpet as best as we could. We needed a long list of supplies, everything from laundry detergent, paper towels, and Clorox wipes to puppy food and supplemental formula. Plus, items like puppy gates, crates, collars, bowls, and countless toys to help with chewing.
Some of our expenses were reimbursable. But for every dollar that’s reimbursed, that’s one less dollar going to other dogs that need medical care or to other fosters that need assistance to continue providing foster services. So, we limited our reimbursements and chose to take on a large chunk of the expenses.
We never in a million years planned to have all of these expenses, nor did we expect to provide around-the-clock care to a huge litter of puppies.
Fortunately, we put the foundation for this type of financial freedom into place years ago.
If the big picture is too overwhelming, use tunnel vision
The puppies were only supposed to be in our care until they reached six weeks old. That might not seem long on paper. But in puppy days, it feels like an eternity.
Six weeks quickly grew into seven, which then grew into eight. Thankfully, a couple of truly amazing fosters volunteered to take two pairs of puppies to relieve mama dog and us. Then we were crossing off weeks nine, 10, 11, 12, and more with the rest of the pack.
There were multiple instances where I broke down mentally. It was an emotional rollercoaster to say the least. At times, I felt completely overwhelmed because we went from having a designated timeline to flying by the seat of our pants.
We went from having small two-pound newborn puppies to having a pack of growing 25-pound toddler puppies. We had no idea when the remaining puppies and mama dog would get adopted. The big picture was just too much to think about.
So, I forced myself to have tunnel vision and only focus on smaller tasks to propel us forward. Post one puppy on social media each day. Check. Begin crate training. Check. Meet with potential adopters. Check.
It reminded me of when we first started getting serious about our finances. Looking at our total debt was too overwhelming. Yes, it was a wake-up call. But it was the opposite of motivating for me.
It just seemed like one endless marathon that we’d never finish. However, small financial milestones were totally achievable. Pick up extra shifts until the mattress is paid off. Check. Limit eating out to once a week. Check. Pay off the truck. Check.
For some, the big picture serves as motivation. For others like me, it’s the quickest route to giving up.
Financial freedom is more than just commas in your bank account
It’s really easy to get caught up in the numbers of your financial journey. We watch as others share their financial wins on social media and follow along as they increase their investments and cut back on their expenses. With so many spreadsheets and charts, we can sometimes forget the “why” behind it all.
Our fostering experience was a major reflection moment for our family. Several years ago, we wouldn’t have been financially able to take on this level of commitment. We simply wouldn’t have had the time due to traditional work schedules or the extra funds to pay for supplies.
It was an expensive endeavor that we were able to safely afford because our finances were in order. We aren’t high earners, and we don’t come from families with generational wealth. We weren’t taught how to manage our money or given tools to financially succeed. Everything we’ve ever learned about personal finances came from self-discovery and online financial communities.
So, if you’ve ever produced personal finance content… thank you. If you’re deep in the weeds of paying off debt… keep going. If you’ve reached varying levels of financial freedom… celebrate them. If you’re able to give back or take on passion projects… do it.
Take a moment to reflect on how far you’ve come and evaluate how you can find joy in your current financial state. Your definition of financial freedom doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.