Vanessa works alongside her husband, Jacob, at Cash Cow Couple, a website dedicated to delivering research-driven financial planning content to help you build wealth and secure financial freedom. You can also connect with them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for a behind-the-scenes look at everyday life with Jacob and Vanessa.
1. In this day and age of materialistic things, such as big houses, fancy cars, and the latest electronic gadgets, you and your husband choose to live a minimalist lifestyle. What ultimately led you to this lifestyle change?
When we started our journey, we were newly married, just graduated from our undergraduate degrees and weren’t yet used to living extravagantly. We could see how lifestyle inflation was easy to fall into, and we wanted to try something different. Instead of following the traditional path of buying new cars or a new house, we decided to see what it would take to live on as little as possible so that in a few years we could experience complete lifestyle freedom. We made a goal to spend $1,000 per month in our first year of marriage so we could use our excess income to pay off student loans and save for other important financial goals. By delaying our consumption, in five years we not only paid off $25,000 in student loan debt, but we also grew our net worth to $1 million dollars. We did this through research-based financial planning techniques as well as continuing to increase our income each year.
There are multiple valuable life lessons we learned along the way, but the most important was that living well below our means, continuing to increase our income and invest wisely has bought something much more valuable than materialistic things, which is the freedom to work, live, and play whenever and wherever we choose.
2. What were some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in adopting this unconventional approach to living?
Once we decided to live on less for the purpose of reaching financial independence, our biggest challenge was figuring out how to choose to enjoy what we did have instead of focusing on the things we didn’t yet possess. It’s easy to long for things no matter how much you have, so learning this lesson early on when we had very little was challenging. However, once we got into our rhythm, we realized that many of the things society deems necessary are truly luxuries. We had shelter, high-quality food, a car that ran well, good jobs, and most importantly each other. Once we started practicing gratitude instead of desiring more, we realized how good we had it and then we were a thousand times more grateful when we did choose to enjoy some of the finer things in life.
Today, we live on about $20,000, and we think we live like absolute royalty. We’ve maintained our gratitude habit over the last 5 years of marriage, and we found out that what started as a challenge is now ingrained in our lifestyle. We’re proud of where we came from and are excited for where we’re headed. Financial success comes with many sets of challenges and sacrifices, but the freedom gained from financial security is well worth it.
3. You’ve managed to gain financial independence so early in your adult lives. What’s the most important advice you have for others looking to follow in your footsteps to financial freedom?
Practically speaking, it’s vital to know where your money is going each month. You can’t start saving, investing and using your finances to reach financial freedom if you don’t know where your money is going. Taking a hard look at your personal finances can be overwhelming, but the peace of mind that comes from being in control is irreplaceable. Luckily, we live in a time where any question you have about personal finance can be answered online or in endless well-written books on the subject.
From a motivational perspective, if you are interested in pursuing financial freedom, it’s powerful to know that it’s possible for everyday people to build a robust financial life. Jacob and I are not from wealthy families and we did not receive an inheritance. We built our income over time by working regular jobs and supplementing our income with side hustles and online businesses. We learned to cut out unnecessary expenses and to delay consumption. The bottom line is this; you don’t have to be an expert to start your journey to financial freedom. It’s never too late to make a change for the better, and financial freedom is yours for the taking.