I confess that I’d put it off for far too long; I had a feeling the news would not be good once we went. Finally, just a few weeks after moving into our new home, I took both of my kids to the dentist. I got the news I’d been avoiding: my 12-year-old son needs braces.
Hearing the dentist say the words “orthodontist” and “as soon as possible” in the same sentence put a damper on my day. Having the receptionist request more than double what I’d budgeted for the visit (no, we don’t have dental insurance) solidified my bad mood and sent me into a momentary panic.
We can’t afford braces!
We’re never going to do anything or go anywhere ever again!
I need to cancel that upcoming trip!
We won’t be able to go home for Christmas!
Yoga is out of the question!
Should I apply for food stamps? How quickly can I pick up a waitress job? Could I live without lunch? MY CHILDREN ARE GOING TO STARVE! WE ARE GOING TO BE HOMELESS!
That’s just a glimpse of the mental death spiral I endure every single time an unexpected expense pops up. Fortunately, my husband is accustomed to my financial freak outs and so his response to my harried texts was a simple “Stop it. We’ll figure it out.”
As it turns out, braces are probably not the budgetary disaster I instinctively assumed they would be, although we’ll definitely be making a few extra sacrifices, but that pothole in the road forced me to stop and take a closer look at where I was investing myself. In contemplating our potential demise - and how I might be able to avoid it - I realized that I’ve been carrying around a lot of unnecessary stuff in my life, stuff that’s interfering with my financial success. Stuff for which I don’t want to make sacrifices.
This may be surprising to anyone who knows me since I’ve been practicing my own brand of minimalism for over a year now. We’ve already eliminated most of our major expenses and sold most of our possessions. We have one car, secondhand furniture and no mortgage.
It’s not just tangible stuff that can weigh us down.
There are ventures that I’ve started that never took off, but that I never quite quit because I was afraid to admit defeat. There are hobbies that are no longer fulfilling but that I still spend money and time on out of a sense of nostalgia for how much I used to love it. There are subscriptions I haven’t canceled because I might get around to using them and associations that I’ve hung onto just in case. In case of what, I’m not sure.
There’s just a lot of stuff that I haven’t wanted to admit isn’t working.
The thing is, while none of those things individually take a big toll on my bottom line, collectively they drain me of my most valuable resources: creativity and time. They add to my to-do list and the sense of feeling overwhelmed before I even get into my day. They make it harder to see the big picture and are just as much of an obstacle to my definitions of freedom and success than any debt or clutter I might accumulate; more so even.
It’s time to let go of the things that are no longer working in my life. It’s time to move on.
And it’s probably time to open a flexible spending account.
Have you ever held on too long? How did you know it was time to let go?