As a Type A person, the world seems (to me) to be filled with rules: get straight As. Go to college. Get a job. Find a husband. Have a baby. Buy a house. Lose the baby weight.
When I got serious about my finances a few years ago, a whole new set of rules popped up: pay off debt. Build an emergency fund. Save for retirement. Save for a house. Don’t inflate your lifestyle. Don’t finance a car. Keep a budget.
But it occurred to me today that, actually, I don’t have to do anything.
I don’t have to get married. I don’t have to buy a house. I don’t have to lose the baby weight.
Similarly, I don’t have to save my money. I don’t have to have a retirement fund. I could finance a Mercedes if I want to. Or I could save my money for something totally different, like travel. Think of this: if I really wanted to, I could quit paying off debt and just stuff all my extra money into a travel fund every month, then take one or two really big trips every year.
To me, this was a revelation. I’m sure to the free spirits among us, this was just a normal Monday afternoon musing. And I’m not saying that I’m upending any of my plans, financial or otherwise. Yet.
But I think I really need to start questioning why I’m making the decisions that I am. Am I paying off debt because I’m following the rules? Or because I actually want to be debt free? Am I saving for a house because that’s what I’m supposed to do, or because I actually want to be a homeowner?
Also, there’s something very freeing about the idea that I can choose differently. That maybe there aren’t as many rules as I thought, that I can change my mind.
Do you follow the rules, or make your own?