A Debt-Free Life Finale + Custom Illustration Giveaway! [CLOSED]

moneystory-elephantEvicting the roommates was a swift affair once I called in the big guns. You’ll remember from last time that they had stopped paying rent and the situation was dire. M flew in from Seattle to “negotiate” (a punched hole in the wall was involved as I recall – the Czech girl’s boyfriend was the temperamental sort). I was cowering somewhere out of sight and didn’t witness the event. The couple left with a string of muttered Czech words trailing behind, cursing my name, I’m sure. Freed from thongs and mountainous cigarette ashes, I advertised for a new roommate, and a lovely woman who loved to clean moved in. Though we became friends and our apartment looked less destitute, by now, my whole experience in my beloved city seemed…wrong.

Yes, I loved my job working on the Pottery Barn catalog, and happily arranged photos of sofas and sconces into layouts. I sighed with contentment every morning as I entered the beautifully designed office space, and I delighted in pow-wowing about various shades of the hue du jour with the Color Manager (it’s true, there was actually someone with that job title and her main responsibility was to make sure the colors looked right in the catalog). But the pay left a lot to be desired, and the truth was that I really wasn’t the type to climb the corporate ladder.

As for my second job, I convinced myself that my moonlighting gig as a dispatcher for a community safety program was a good use of my time — it entailed recording activities in the downtown area while rovers/safety officers roamed the streets or “beats” to make sure that all was kosher. “Beat 1, report condition, over,” I would say authoritatively into a walkie talkie while sitting in a small office in downtown, and the walkie talkie would crackle, “All clear, over” or “Code 235, over” (translation: drunken homeless activity resulting in injury, call an ambulance asap). Etcetera. Food stamp dissemination days were raucous and dangerous. The pay, as you can imagine, was laughable.

All I seemed to do was work. And still, I was broke.


When faced with debt, there are only three rational steps to take:

1. Reduce spending

2. Increase incoming funds

3. Both of the above

But if humans were rational creatures, none of us would be in debt or overweight or anorexic or in unhealthy relationships. We would all live in clutter-free homes and crime wouldn’t exist. Procrastination would be a myth and therapists would be obsolete. We are irrational beings, filled with emotional compulsions, habitual impulses, family values absorbed or scorned, social influences, primal needs and wants, the propensity to find justification — all these factors are viewed through the various filters that are like fun house mirrors. They warp and twist and distort the simple equation of rationality. It’s what makes us wholly fallible and profoundly creative.

I was doing my best at being rational and taking all the correct steps: I’d cut all the non-essential spending I could, worked two jobs, nixed my social life. Yet, I could constantly feel the familiar and tantalizing tug of “maybe if I buy that [insert some shiny object], I’ll feel better. I deserve a little something for working so hard.” The more I resisted, the stronger the irrational pull. It was only because of M and the astronomical guilt I felt about his generosity that I didn’t succumb. Okay, I did succumb once in a while. But rarely. Despite my efforts, though, I wasn’t making fast enough progress on my debt-reduction plan.

I hadn’t fooled anyone and I knew that the San Francisco life I originally tried to create was like visiting the Hollywood studios. The artfully constructed sets look great from the front and on the surface, but a quick peek would show you that there was nothing behind them — just the backside of the cheap plywood structure hastily erected and a tangle of messy wires. I’d dismantled my little land of make believe and it didn’t feel liberating at all. Just empty and sad. I needed to learn how to build real things. Solid, immutable, deeply valuable things.

It was time to leave San Francisco. M and I had been discussing the possibility of my joining him in Seattle and I figured that if I was avoiding all social contact in SF, I might as well move to a more affordable place where I knew no one save M, and earnestly work on getting rid of my debt. So in March of 2002, I said a solemn and defeated good-bye to the city of lights and headed to Seattle.


I am going to fast forward here because I feel like I need to get to the point. The next phase was a lot of slogging through. So much happened, mostly bad, and M and I teetered on the edge of dissolution for many years. We lived together in one frightening apartment after another (I’ve since discovered that it’s his specialty to find scary living quarters, but they were cheap). With the dot com debacle, jobs were scarce and M had trouble finding work. I was lucky enough to interview at several good companies and worked an insane night shift position that paid the best out of my options. We had no car so I rode a bus across town at 11:30pm to basically babysit petulant workers unaccustomed to supervision, then I took two more buses after I slept a couple of hours to tutor rich high school kids in English literature. While working the night shift, I became friends with the grocery clerks at the Safeway down the street because I had nowhere else to go at 3am on my breaks. I was intrigued and inspired that my friends had saved up enough money to send their kids to college with their cashiering job, and seriously considered applying myself and punt the tutoring job. However, I was promoted to a daytime position after a year so I put the cashier idea to rest.

At this point, my income was over $60,000 and I was getting regular bonuses and raises each year. I covered all expenses as my repayment to M and that included rent, utilities, our phone bills, his gym membership and whatever he charged on his credit card. For two years, all I did was work and pay bills. By the middle of 2004, my student loans were paid off 5 years ahead of schedule. And in December of 2004, I opened my tracking notebook as I did every month, and I’d finally hit the magic number: $13,000. In one year and nine months, I paid M back in full — my $30,000 debt was gone. Two months later, M proposed.



I often wished for a magic bullet while I was in debt and in the back of my mind I thought that if I looked hard enough, I’d find it. I wanted to pay it all off without anyone knowing, while maintaining a stylish appearance. No magic bullet exists, of course. Yes, I was blessed by M’s magnanimous nature, and if it weren’t for him, I probably would have continued accruing more debt at the rate I was going. He’s the hero of this whole story. In accepting his money though, I’ve wondered if I ended up paying a greater price: M may never fully trust me with money. We’ve talked about this. And maybe he shouldn’t. Maybe it’s an important awareness for both of us to have — that I am prone to trying to keep up with the Joneses, that I tend to fill emptiness and insecurity with material acquisitions, that it’s easy for me to revel in the brief high of feeling like I belong because I have the right bag, the right pair of jeans, the right smart phone.

It’s now been 10 years since I paid that last bill, and we’ve remained debt-free. To get here, I’ve had to find ways to make more money, spend less, lather, rinse and repeat. But the two most important ingredients for me, I found, were accountability and removing myself from surroundings that triggered my spending. As long as I kept my debt shrouded in secret and continued to interact with people that I wanted to impress, I kept digging deeper holes for myself.

It’s been hard, this unmasking. I’ve spent many years thinking about how I let my spending get out of hand, and beyond the usual explanations of wanting to fit in or the lesson of learning how to accept myself, I needed to understand how to stay debt-free. To create practical new habits. We make conscious and sometimes embarrassing choices to this end. We rent a run-down townhouse that fits squarely in our budget and drive a jalopy that is a far cry from the Lexus I declared I’d cruise around in when I was fresh out of college. But we bought it with cash and it runs just fine. We don’t use credit cards. Ever. We have savings and never touch it. I choose my friends carefully. Most of all, I listen intently for that tantalizing call to pretend to be someone I’m not — it’s how I know I shouldn’t be in a particular situation or with a certain person.

I’ve realized over and over that whenever I act out of a need for external validation, my life starts to veer off in the wrong direction. It hasn’t been just the debt. My health suffered by staying in jobs that sounded impressive. There were many bad relationships based on dating guys who fit the “right” mold, the kind of boys other people would approve of that I didn’t actually connect with. I ardently believed I needed to be thin to be accepted, so I dieted like a maniac. And on and on and on. The debt, however, was one of my biggest lessons to date. It was easy to buy an image on credit, to borrow the illusion of happiness with the best of intentions to pay it back later when I hoped my projected image and happiness would have solidified into reality. Except it didn’t happen that way.

I have more to say, but my story is at its end. I think there are many, many ways to go about eliminating debt if that is something affecting your life. My way was unglamorous and filled with shame for many years, but only because I made it that way. I believe it can be done with dignity. I’m clearly not a personal finance expert so I don’t have answers, but I do know this: most of my possessions now are humble or secondhand or wonkily handmade, but I’ve never felt richer. I have my health. And my family. And good friends. And time to create. These, I believe, are the true currencies of a rich and happy life. One more thought: after ten debt-free years, I am finally learning how to build real things. Solid, immutable, deeply valuable things.



And now for the Giveaway!! With 2015 rapidly approaching, perhaps some of you have New Year’s goals or resolutions in mind? I have a piece of paper stuck above my sewing machine with the word “gratitude” — I’ve long stopped consciously noticing it, but I find it to be a helpful reminder when my eyes occasionally focus on it. I also like the word “perspective”. I wonder if you would like a customized illustrated word of your own? Or maybe a cute animal or a portrait of your child(ren) wearing an outfit? Amber brought up the custom illustration idea and I thought it sounded like loads of fun.

I would love to offer 10 custom 5 x 7″-ish illustrations. They will be original watercolors on coldpressed paper. To enter, it’s a bit interview-esque, but I liked this question that my editor asked me recently: “What would you like to be doing in five years?” For me, I’d like to be working on another book or two and have my own studio where I’m cranking out beautiful clothes and fun illustrations and much-improved photography!

I will keep the giveaway open until Christmas and will announce the winner shortly after. I don’t need to mention that international folks are more than welcome by now, right? Good luck!

Thank you for reading
My tale of money matters
Parts 1, 2, 3, 4

P.S. My mama is in town and ’tis the holiday season, so I will take next Monday and Wednesday off. Merry, merry!

53 thoughts on “A Debt-Free Life Finale + Custom Illustration Giveaway! [CLOSED]

  1. Oh I’ve loved this series ever so much! I’m so happy you managed to find some equilibrium, despite the trials to get there. I realized (clearly) when I was in NY this weekend that I haven’t quite shucked the shopping mania either. I ended up kind of mindlessly spending money on a rare trip to an actual retail store. It was almost like I entered a fugue state. And I remembered that part of the way I have avoided going into debt again is that I really can’ go into stores. Like, ever. That’s why making is such a blessing — you’re so much more mindful of purchases when it’s something you plan on actually sewing.

    A five year plan… oh vey. It’s hazy. I think my biggest dream would be just feeling secure, with lots of savings in the bank and on the way to a down payment. Nothing glamourous. Just grown up financial stability. The nice thing about this goal is that its completely possible if I just keep my head down. And that’s a nice feeling.

  2. Yay!! My happy ending! Welcome to the world where most of us live–never enough money, always watching pennies. Don’t feel badly, I know exactly that part of your mind that says “buying that one thing would make the difference.” But then it never does! It is a huge lie. Thank you for exposing this lie in your story. By the way, I think that your talent and work ethic will probably pay back big, in terms of lifetime satisfaction!! You are just now figuring out your direction. Say “hi” to your Mom for me–she is great, too.

  3. Wow. Thank you for sharing this. I’m 22, and just got my first credit card six months ago, and it’s a massive help to know about these pitfalls before I end up in them. It’s also reassuring to know that, once in debt, you can get out of it again.

  4. Sanae!!! What a nice story! It has put me to think a lot about what we all tend to accumulate and how little we pay attention or care about the most important things that are not material or superficial. Thank you for sharing with us your odyssey, I’m working on something similar, to spend less and to save more. In five years I hope I can have my own studio as well. We are now a little uncertain about where we will be living due to my husband’s type of job and us being Canadians, have to decide where we want to live for a longer period. This waiting sometimes creates a lot of stress in me and I really hope something good is waiting for us in the years ahead.
    Have a nice weekend,


  5. Your story resonates so much with me. My previous fiancé and my husbands previous marriage left us both with debt that for many years we’ve been financially unable to reduce, despite living a very quiet and frugal life. A change in my husband’s job this year has enabled us to reduce our debt load by about 40% and we have a plan in place to be debt free (other than the mortgage) by this time next year. It’s very exciting and a hard lesson well learned. As in your story, my husband is the hero of the piece. He works long and hard so I can stay home to raise our children and create a home filled with love and handmade goodies. We are blessed. I would love an illustration of our children…they are amazing little folk and they would love that as much as we would.
    Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family. Hoping next year is filled with all you wish for yourselves.

  6. I’ve followed your story so diligently. It’s very inspiring. In five years, I hope I will be able to have enough time to restart a career – possibly in clothing since that has become my passion. Most importantly, I’d like to have an income of my own and be debt-free!

  7. I loved reading this, and you kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time! I can’t say I’ve had experiences like yours but I’m glad you shared to put someone else’s perspective on image and debt.
    As for what I’ll be doing in 5 years, my aspirations are pretty boring – I’d like to have my professional engineers license and be a supervisor at work, and I’d like to own a house.

  8. I kept checking your blog to see when the next instalment would be up – REALLY enjoyed your series. Thank you for sharing:-) I suspect aspects of your story are familiar with everyone……..debt sucks and I would love to be debt free. One day…… As for five years from now, I want to be even more content with where I am. I want to KNOW that I am enough, I have enough, and life is so good as is. A constant journey, striving towards this:-) And I want to be hiking down the west coast of North America!!!!

  9. I have loved this series. We have always been not so great with money and in the last year we’ve started using You Need a Budget an are trying to be more responsible but the learning curve is steep.

    In five years I’d like to be living well within our means and maybe working from home on my sewing / knitting business in a rewarding and profitable way.

  10. Merry Christmas! Thank you for your essay– it cuts to the heart of a big issue in our culture– that fear of our true selves being seen by others, of being honest with our limitations. Of losing face. I so appreciate your sewing blog as a rare one that is reliably authentic, humble, and raw. In five years I’ll be looking down the barrel of 46. I would like to be available to my daughter after school hours. I would like to be making a fair income producing children’s dolls made from reused materials, and I would like to reconnect with other makers in my community.

  11. Thank you for sharing this, I have been hooked, it’s great to get to the happy ending! I love your illustrations and would be over the moon to win one. In five years time all three of my children will be at school and I would love to be earning some money in a job that works around school. My dream would be to earn from sewing if possible. I make a little from selling a few bits in a local shop and would love to expand on that.

  12. What a great story. Thanks for sharing it with all of us. It has inspired me to look at my debt/expenses/income. Hmm, in 5 years I would like to have more debts paid off, and have a position that is more challenging for work. Of course, by then my son will be almost 8 so I would like to be a great mom to him as well!

  13. Wow, thank you for sharing. I looked forward to each installment of this. It must have been difficult to be so honest in the telling of your tale. I myself am not so great at baring personal parts of my life and my past. So here goes: I’m more than a little ashamed to admit that my husband, with his well-paying job, has payed off my student and personal (family) loans. I feel so undeserving, and sometimes, even unappreciative.

    In five years, I want to have worked my way up to a better paying (and more fulfilling!) job. I’m also hoping for a baby #2, or at least to be an awesome and fun mom to #1. And, as I will be in my mid-30s, I hope I’ve reached (or am closer to) that magical “happy with who I am, at peace with my body” place that I have heard talk of 🙂

  14. Sanae, your bravery is great for sharing your story…. my hubby and I are much the same way with money. I am the spender (given the chance) and he is the saver. While it’s frustrating to me at times because of my nature, it’s so wonderful when we have the funds to build a house or adopt a child or just regularly pay all the bills!! In 5 years my kids will be ages 11, 13, and 15 so I hope to be still sewing for them, homeschooling at least some of them and loving their tween/teen years!

  15. Sanae, beautifully done. Writing, and living parts both. What resonates most for me is you say that debt has been your teacher. We learn nothing when things go well, at least I never have. I listened to something on NPR recently about inheritances, and the difficulties with those after someone dies. The person interviewed, a writer, made the point that only a small part of what we inherit from parents and those who go before us is material. The rest is memories, ways of looking at things, things we were taught when small, values. Love. The things that matter, and that comes out so clearly in your four essays. I really loved them.

  16. Wow. just . . . wow.
    You already know how much I enjoy reading your posts, whether they are about sewing for K, stories about your mom, or a fun recipe you tried. But this series, and today’s post especially, . . . I’m speechless. The honesty and clarity with which you write strike me as brave and wise. I re-read the paragraph that begins “But if humans were rational creatures…” twice to soak in its wisdom. So much in that paragraph resonates with me, but only you could write it so skillfully!
    I think it took much bravery to share your story, to make yourself vulnerable and show your human-ness. Your journey has clearly not been an easy one, and I’m so grateful that you shared it – along with your learnings – with us. I like to think that if we lived closer, you would find my presence as a friend to be positive and ours could be a friendship of mutual frugality:)
    Someday K will read this and be amazed by her mom’s strength and wisdom. We all certainly are.

    I need to ponder your 5 year goal question. More later:)

  17. This series of posts was so interesting to read. I’m only just starting out in life, really (graduated about a year ago and now working my first job) and even having loans to pay off seems like such a distant thing. I’m lucky to live in a place with affordable schooling and housing, so right now I have no debts at all. This will probably change once we decide to buy a house, or make larger purchases than groceries, books and concert tickets.

    In five years I’d love to see some more stability and clarity in my life. I’ve just heard they want to give me a non-temporary contract at my current parttime job (so I won’t be at risk of being out of a job every three months) and this has given me the breathing space to want to start a huge project, being a graphic novel about my great-grandfather. It’s going to require tons of research and work, but right now I’m looking forward to that!

  18. What a great story. Part of it parallels mine, complete with a very money smart hubby who educated me about the dangers of debt. Sharing your story could literally save others. Thank you!
    In 5 years I would like to be taking an annual trip to Europe (now that our kids are grown.) Our first trip to Paris is happening in April. I made it a goal to earn enough myself for this trip, and went back to work 7 months ago after staying home raising and home-educating my three boys for 20 years. I did it! I also would like to be rid of the majority of the clutter we have collected over the years…so much stuff!! I imagine living in a clean, open space that is easy to maintain, with only those things we love, and need. I picture a creative space, uncluttered and organized. I love your illustration idea! Having a word or phrase so constant it becomes part of us is a powerful way to internalize something beautiful.

  19. Oh what fun!!

    I can barely think about what I’ll be doing next summer, much less what I *want* to be doing in *five years*, but I’ll take a stab at it: I would love to have challenged myself with some sewing projects which will simultaneously cause me to use up a bit of my stash. I hope to have a little more time to consider looking outside the home for work, though I don’t know what I would do…Maybe that means I need to look at going back to school? I feel lucky that I can even have these thoughts 🙂

  20. I really enjoyed this series. It’s interesting to read your insights into human nature and what makes us tick. Change is so hard, and it’s awesome that you managed to make such a big one! I do also hope to win your give-away. Your art is so beautiful, and I just remembered that I never pre-ordered your book. I can’t wait to read it!

    1. oh dear- I never answered your question. I hope to be more focused on the moments instead of frantically thinking about the future. I think I’ll have more time to sew, since my kids will both be in school. It’d be awesome to be able to make some money doing that

  21. I can tell by the number of comments on here that this story really struck a chord. I looked forward to reading it every day, and I’m so glad you posted it. What really resonated with me was the idea that it’s more than just money – it’s learning how to build those solid, meaningful things that can’t be bought on credit. Thank you for sharing and inspiring!

  22. I’ve so been looking forward to the finale of this. Thank you for sharing. It was all very well-written, very thoughtful and engaging. Wiping out debt was a goal for us this year, speaking solely of a couple thousand dollars of credit card debt (with student loans and a no-interest furnace loan a bonus). We didn’t make it, in part because life got in the way, and in part because we didn’t adjust our behavior enough. I’m not too critical of myself. I think we’ve made great strides in changing our spending habits, both in the sense of understanding the best ways to budget (how we use our day care FSA for example) and how we can reign in spending. Your series has been a wonderful motivation to try again in 2015.

  23. Great ending to the series and so brave to share a bit about you for everyone to read. Within 5 years I would like to accomplish a few things but I think the most important is to have the finances to have 2 mortgages. Sounds weird but we’re currently living in a good area but need to move to a different neighborhood for the school system. We want the best for our kids but with the recent housing market, our current house value tanked. So we’ll be “stuck” living here for a bit before we can save up enough to buy another house and maybe rent out our current house.

    And on a personal level, I’d like to improve my sewing skills and share my creations to the world. I just the need the motivation to start sewing and blogging again.

  24. Whew! Thanks for sharing this crazy personal, emotional journey. Lots of good food for thought here. Building real things. That’s just beautiful.

    In five years I would like to be settled among people I love and able to pay my bills using my sewing skills in some way. Thank you for everything!

  25. thank you so much for sharing! I recently paid off the last if my debt and have a very similar story. I did it with the help of my amazing husband… but he was a lot like M. lived an incredibly frugal existence. I was so ashamed to tell him how much debt I had when we first met. but 10 yrs later it’s gone. I didn’t even realize what a burden it was until it was gone as I had been living with it for sooo long. I really wish that when we are handed our first credit card that it comes with a few stories like this.

    you are an inspiring talent. thank you.

  26. Wow!! What a finish to your story! Your strength and determination is outstanding!

    In my 5 year plan… I hope to have finished masters and be a registered architect 🙂 but I am also trying to focus on being excited about now, instead of always thinking to the next thing.

  27. Thank you so much, Sanae.
    My word would be “stop”. I sounds harsh, but this is what I need most right now. After that would come “sit and stay” to create a space where my life can happen, unfold, where I can just be. Sadly, I cannot tell you, where I want to be in five years. I need to stop running. One dream would be to visit the US again. In have such longing for that. I dream of the Oregon coast (Oh, Cannon Beach! I blame Posy gets cozy!) and a visit to Portland and of course Seattle. Maybe this will actually happen within the next five years?
    Enjoy the precious time with your mum and the days leading up to Christmas. What a beautiful gift you are giving to us with the give away!

    1. 🙂 Ute it sounds like you need a dog trainer as your life coach!
      Stop. Sit. Stay. thanks for the laugh.
      Actually maybe I do to. I need to do a lot more tail wagging and finding delight in just being alive.

  28. It was an amazing road that you travelled. The number of people who never see that by keeping up with the mythical Joneses they are actually perpetuating the cycle. We live in a rented place that accepts our shedding dog, still using the coffee table from my husband’s parent’s early wedded days (no, not a beautiful antique, more a dog chewed piece rather useful for propping feet). Its not trendy, but it works well for us. In 5 years I’d love to be able to craft full time – own a little store, surrounded by things I love, enjoying sharing that love with everyone who walks in. But for now, the motto is “work hard, dream big”.

  29. this series was awesomely amazing and eye-opening. i also love the happy ending. again, thank you so much for sharing with us. in 5 years, i want to wake up and enjoy what i’m going to do that day: spending all day with my family, homeschooling everyday, sewing, crafting, making things, learning new things, and close to being debt free.

  30. thank you for this series it has been really helpful as money is something we struggle with and something we are always trying t get on top of our debt/ overdraft. i think in five years i would like to have a clear idea of career as i am currently an at home mum and i would like to have what all mums want, a career that still means i can be the mum i need to be for my children.

  31. Thank you for generously sharing your story – I have followed with bated breath. So glad you reached the goal with your sanity and relationship intact. I’ve learned from what you’ve shared – I need to rein in my spending, it’s out of control – and strangely, I don’t have glamorous shoes and bags etc to show for it. It’s everyday things. I have some financial commitments, including a mortgage, and I think it’s prosaic things that I need to stop spending on, until some of the commitments are met and paid off.

    My goal is to have my mortgage paid off before I am 50, in 4.5 years! I had aimed to have it paid off by now (aged 45) but a few years of undisciplined spending (often to comfort myself in sadness), and here I am.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    Blessings for Christmas.

  32. Sanae,
    I have really enjoyed reading this insightful part of our life. Thank you for sharing it. In 5 years, I would love to have handle on my time and our schedule, so that we have time for art and learning and, for me, much more sewing. I’m stockpiling ideas and patterns, and a little bit of fabric. Also, I would love to be successfully selling vintage goods online or maybe in person. On a personal note, I would love to be more tranquil and patient with my kids. Live a slower life and spend more time reading to them and gardening with them.

  33. Wow, thank you for sharing your story! Its very timely for us as we might be heading into a large sum of debt because of the birth of our new Baby in may, but I do hope we will find a good way of paying it off 🙂

    Anyway, in 5 years I hope my kids will be in preschool/school which will give me the freedom to start teaching sewing again!

  34. In five years… I would like to be creating full seasonal collections for my clothing brand and offering them in multiple shops as well as online. I would love to have set work hours like a normal business owner too. 🙂

  35. Sanae, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I have never really had problem with money. I have always been quite reasonable with money. We do have quite an amount of debt, but that’s due to us building a house which somehow I always feel is different than if you make debt from buying clothes or whatever. Our debt payment is regularly and on an amount that still lets us lead a good life while at the same time seeing a light at the end of tunnel. Within 10 or 15 years we should be able to pay the money back so that’s ok for us (probably right in time for when our oldest leaves for collage *smile*).
    Anyways where do I want to be in 5 years? Actually I don#t see my life largely different from what it is today. I love my family, our house, our friends, our neighbours etc. Nothing wrong. The only thing that I’m really curious about is my work in 5 years. My contract as a scientist runs for another 6 years, so in about 5 years I will have to decide whether I want to continue having short time contracts in science or whether I want to do something else! We will see 😉
    Thanks by the way for the giveaway! I would so LOVE to have a painting from you over my desk to inspire me!

  36. Your story has been the story of so many people, but unlike you, they are not willing to live without to eliminate debt. We see it over and over – the most debt-ridden people are stressed to the max, but won’t do without an iphone 6, a leased car, eating out etc. And until you change those things and change the idea that you can’t survive without $30/month/phone data plan, full cable tv package, etc., it is almost impossible to get out of debt.

    In 5 years, I hope my husband will be retired, our daughter will be out of grad school, and we will live in the same city as her and our precious granddaughter. If I were lucky enough to be chosen for an illustration, I would love it of my granddaughter because she makes every day happy!

  37. I’m usually only here for the sewing, but I read your face cream, weird bread and debt sagas because you WRITE so well. Then I end up reading all the comments because you attract such an interesting crowd.
    I’m not a great budgetary planner, but I’ve always lived within my means and avoided credit card debt.
    When we were kids my brother and I received pocket money that was broken down into three parts: The majority was for our own clothes shopping, a portion to save towards special occasions and a portion that could be frittered away however we liked.
    We were paid fortnightly and since there was occasionally debate about whether it was a pay week or not, we had a ledger that we signed.
    I recall this started when I was about six and my brother nine.
    I guess it prepared us well!
    In five years? Well I’d like to be travelling with the family, or maybe living overseas, but I’ll probably still be here, hanging out with the kids and working with my buddies and loving my husband. Here’s hoping!
    I’ve always found the one word motivational picture a bit of a tricky one. Maybe it’s the photo of someone running up stairs that ruined it for me…
    Previously it would have been “freedom” and the image of a bike.
    Maybe now, “freedom” and a whole family out together on their bikes!

  38. In five years, I hope to be living by myself (no more room mates!) and to have opened my shop by then.. It’s crazy how a lot of things can happen / change in five years!

  39. Well, funny you should ask….in 5 years we are hoping to be debt free, ha. My husband and I both managed to pile on a pretty hefty debt load during school and are still carrying it around. We haven’t added to it for a long time, and have been steadily chipping away at it but both decided recently that it is time to be a bit more aggressive! And I have to say this series has definitely been an inspiration! I think the turning point for me came in reading about the sacrifices that you made to get it paid off- we haven’t been very willing to sacrifice, instead just sort of throwing any extra $$ towards it and hoping for the best. So now we have a plan, I have cancelled an upcoming trip that was going to be super expensive in exchange for one that is almost free, we are getting rid of one of our cars…with some fairly aggressive spending cuts I think 5 years or sooner is doable. And after that, it feels like a whole new world opens up, so many opportunities that aren’t available to us now because of our debt payments. Thanks for being so open and sharing your story!! And what an amazing giveaway, I would absolutely love to have an illustration of my girls-they make me so happy!

  40. Thanks for sharing your story. It is inspiring and encouraging. We have avoided car and credit card debt so far and hope to continue to! In five years, I think I’d like to be back in teaching in some part-time capacity. I’m a high school teacher-turned-stay-at-home-mom-and-wife, so I want to have time for domestic pursuits (and kids!) but I also want to be involved in teaching students as well. I don’t know how that will look, but we’ll see.

  41. Sanae,

    Thank you for sharing such a private matter, it’s comforting and inspiring to hear when someone has gone through a similar situation and come out on top. I shy away from self-reflection (so bad! head in the sand syndrome) but can see myself in your self assessment. And wow, loved the cliffhangers 🙂

    I don’t have a solid 5 year plan. It would be nice to have my own studio/workspace and if I could make money with my hobbies (or at least have them pay for themselves) that would be a big bonus.

    I hope to be more patient and calm. To look at the big picture instead of being so nit-picky about day-to-day things but also enjoy the moment more (both in regards to my son). Oh, and to control my habit of accumulating stuff! These should really be my everyday goals.

    Thank you for the giveaway opportunity. I would love an illustration of my son, he cracks me up and is the joy of my life. Wishing you a warm, happy and healthy holiday season with your family!

  42. These posts have brought comfort – we are all battling with the same things – if only we all talked about it a little more.

    In five years I hope that my brain is working really hard. I want to feel the cogs turning and sleep deeply because my brain is just plain worn out.

  43. First, let me say that I have loved this series! I love reading about other people’s money journeys. Your story is very inspiring, so thank you for sharing it. I have several of your posts bookmarked because they have inspired me so much. In regards to your question, in five years I hope to have a second child and have a work life that allows me time to spend with my kids and time to cook, keep house, and be creative! The way you manage to do all those things gives me hope. Introspection is tough for me, but I want to spend some quality time with myself soon and develop an actual five year plan. I can’t remember if you have talked about this before, but do you do goal setting or any type of manifestation? I would love to read more about that topic if you do!

  44. Thank you for this story – it must have been tough to say the least.. I also want to thank you for opening my eyes.. My husband and I are in debt (along with a mortgage) with our credit cards , but your story has made me realise how selfish I am.. I spend money like it is nobodys business. I need to stop, where he doesn’t.

    This is my goal for next year – to stop spending… To pay off our debts and in 5 years ? Have money to travel and to save money for that rainy day.

    thanks again.


  45. Great series Sanae. Perfect topic for the season of over indulgence.

    I have no idea where I want to be in 5 years (apart from the obvious happy, healthy family stuff). I know where I don’t want to be, working in an office for somebody else, disdaining my very existence. My youngest goest to kindergarten next year, and her mama is in need of a reinvention. I’m giving myself this year to find some direction.

  46. This was a wonderful series to read. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. It must have been difficult to be so raw.

    I am in my 40s, with a family, a mortgage, etc. A few years ago I realized how important it is for me to live a creative life, so I decided to get a degree in Advertising with a minor in graphic design. I’m almost there and will graduate in May 2016. It sounds far away, but the time has already flown by and now I think in terms of semesters vs. years. haha! So, in five years my goal is to be an Art Director at a local ad or creative agency. I spent 20+ years in the workforce never really knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up… now I know and it’s a great feeling! Can’t wait to get there.

  47. I found you through some gift tags you shared, and I clicked on your blog header to see what else you’ve done. Your writing voice is so pleasant and your story shared so well. Thank you.

    I have a chronic illness that restricts my mental and physical strength, and we still don’t know where it comes from…so in five years I hope to be living full of courage, finding hope and strength to live with whatever my life holds. I hope to find ways of adjusting my expectations and living with what I have rather than crying over what I’ve lost. Right now, I’m feeling bitter, selfish and pitiable. In five years I hope to hold a peaceful, quiet, steady outlook. And I hope to have written a book 🙂

  48. Thank you for sharing your story!
    I love the idea of illustration giveaways! I think some illustrated poppies would be lovely.
    In five years, my twin toddlers will be in school…i want to be training for a run, no longer renting, and living near water.

  49. I came here because you apparently have great posts about sewing, I was pleased to find this as your last post too! In five years – I want to have trained my mind to see patterns in my head in 3D so I can know what to alter to make a perfect fit. I’d love to be proficient at garment sewing by then!

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