One common belief, especially in America, is that you can’t have as much fun in life when you’re focused on getting out of debt. Killing your debt is often believed to kill enjoying life. Sure, we would argue you shouldn’t fly first class to Europe while you’re getting out of debt, but there are many things you can do that cost very little, and even better, bring you and your family closer together. Let’s explore some ideas in this week’s blog post.
A few weekends ago we took our girls who are four and three on their first camping trip. We were a little worried that they might be too young to camp, especially in a tent with few amenities. Should we bring toys along? How about the iPads loaded up with movies? Will they find things to keep themselves entertained for three days? What we uncovered is we adults have much to learn from our kids when it comes to finding joy in the simple things in life.
As the weekend began, we really put a test to the limits of our patience, particularly when it came to using the bathroom! Who knew using a campground restroom could be so frightening?!?! However, as the weekend progressed, they became engrossed in nature and found endless entertainment playing with dirt and sticks, capturing bugs, and swinging at the playground.
Another great thing about getting out into nature is there’s no electricity to keep the electronic things controlling our lives charged up. Believe it or not, it‘s possible to live without your phone or even a watch to know what time it is for a short time. A few days in Scott’s iWatch quit working and he lost track of time and just let his body and the sun and moon give him hints as to what time it was.
One week later we double downed on a second weekend of camping, and the results were even better as the girls complained about almost nothing and picked up right where they left off the following weekend playing in the dirt and collecting rocks.
Jana even made up some camping shirts for the girls that say “Simpler Times”, which is a lesson to learn as you’re getting out of debt. In some ways the debt many people have represents complexity in their lives that isn’t necessary. We can truly attest that being debt-free leads to a less complicated, simpler life.
The great thing about camping is that no matter where you live there are options to get out and enjoy nature. Even if you live in a remote area of the country and don’t have a campground nearby you can also look at creating one in your own backyard. Pitch a tent and enjoy sleeping out under the stars to take a break from life, your debt, and all the complexities that come with being a physician.
We were amazed at how clear our minds became after just a short while in nature. We’re in the process of selling a house, packing, purchasing a new home, and our oldest daughter starting kindergarten, but not once did we think about any of those things during our weekends away camping.
Pick up a book.
Reading is another low-cost way to enjoy life while getting out of debt. If you find books at your local library, it can be a zero-cost way to relax. The research on millionaires also shows that most read at least one non-fiction book each month. We don’t suggest reading books just on bettering your finances. Instead try to mix it up a little. Read one book on growing yourself (i.e. finance, health, well-being) and another on a hobby you enjoy or just a great fictional story that keeps you engrossed in the story instead of fretting about the stress in your life.
What you’ll find is when you read something that really captures your mind you’ll lose track of time and before you know it hours will pass and it will feel like it’s only been minutes since you started turning the pages. This is something psychologists call being in a state of “flow”. When you experience flow all time seems to fade away. The great thing is not only are you putting your financial challenges to the side for a few moments you’re also growing yourself to become a debt-free millionaire doctor.
Have a picnic.
Don’t have time to pack up and get away for a weekend of camping? Maybe you don’t already have camping equipment that can be somewhat expensive. No worries. Grab a blanket, pack some food to eat, and head to a local park to enjoy nature and rest your mind.
One of the most therapeutic things we’ve found to deal with stress is watching our girls play. There’s just something about watching children play so freely without a care in the world that gets you thinking, “Why can’t I be that free?” Sure, the kids have no bills to pay, patients to deal with, thoughts of the future beyond what there next snack should be, but they have the care-free mindset we need to embrace occasionally to escape the rat-race of adulthood.
Take a walk and / or go on a hike.
One of Scott’s favorite ways to have fun is walking. The great thing about walking is it requires no special equipment and can be done virtually anywhere in the world. Getting out for a walk takes almost no time and is a great thing to do each day. With all the gadgets we now have it can also be fun to track the number of steps you walk each day and challenge yourself to meet a step goal. Walking is also a great way to engage in conversation with your spouse. If you’re like us, it’s hard to find any quiet time with the kids around, and a walk is a great way to talk about life and the bright future ahead of you.
Listen to a podcast.
There is no shortage of great podcast listening that can be used to fill the empty time you spend in traffic or waiting in line throughout your week. It amazes us how many hours each week most people, including us, spend doing things that are necessary, such as driving to work, that aren’t capitalized on as time that could be spent growing yourself or someone else. Use these empty hours to grow yourself and your family by finding some podcasts that speak to the season of life you’re in or just make you laugh.
Start a debt-free journey journal or blog.
A final way to have some frugal “fun” is to start a journal to document your debt-free journey. Writing is a great way to get what’s in your mind out so you can meditate on it and motivate yourself to keep going. You might even consider starting a blog to share your story with others to help them find freedom from their debt.
Write your own frugal fun prescription.
These are just six of hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to have some frugal fun while getting out of debt. The key is to find something that you can connect with that also fuels you in your journey to become debt-free. You’ll notice we didn’t prescribe several things that could also be added to this list such as watching TV or social media. Arguably, both are free, but they have a hidden cost and tend to work against, not for, getting out of debt. We don’t suggest completely unplugging, but less screen time will lead to less temptation to buy what you don’t need and to get caught in the comparison trap found all over social media.
What we hope you end up discovering, as we have, is that once you become debt-free you will continue to find enjoyment in these types of frugal activities. There’s nothing wrong with splurging every once in a while for a first class trip to a tropical destination, but even doing this every weekend would get old at some point. We would argue that the fun things in life are truly free. Love, family, friendship, laughter, doing something nice for someone else, sunshine, clean air, freedoms of all kinds living in America; the list goes on-and-on of so many possibilities.
Spend some time experimenting with a few of our ideas here or those you find on your own, and don’t be surprised if once you’ve become debt-free they continue to bring joy to your life. What we’ve found is the strange thing about having wealth is that once you have it you realize it may bring you some peace and enjoyment, but it’s the simple thing in life that can bring you longer lasting joy and happiness.