If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I’ve been focused on one goal: to retire early. But what you might not know is how I became laser-focused on reaching this goal. There was a time in my life when I spent a great deal of money on clothes, eating out, entertainment, etc. even though I was still saving. In fact, one time when we were still living in DC, I nearly booked a $600 dinner for two people for a tasting experience. $600 on ONE dinner. Crazy, I know.

So how did it all change? I figured out my life values. And it all happened after I had my son. Before having my son, I thought I would be like everyone else I saw around me in DC: my husband and I would continue to work and our child would be in daycare or home with a nanny. What I had never planned for was having a child with severe eczema and life threatening food allergies. Caring for my son took a tremendous amount of effort. When I was pregnant, I weighed about 135 lbs. Less than 9 months after having my son, I weighed just 87 lbs.—about as much as I had in high school. I seriously considered quitting my job, but money would have been really tight. My husband’s paycheck would have gone straight to our mortgage and we would have had to dip into what little savings we had. Fortunately, I had a supervisor who was understanding and allowed me to telework, so that took some stress off. Things worked out in the end, but as a mom, I always question whether I have my priorities in the right place. Did I want someone else to raise my son, and would I be able to live with myself if he accidentally consumed something and his caretaker did not take prompt action to get him the medical care that he needed? One thing that kept popping up over and over again was, I wish I didn’t have to worry about money. I regretted not saving more. How much easier it would be to care for a child with special needs if I were already retired, with enough money produced by my portfolio that I would never have to worry about having enough money again.

My son is turning three this year and in just another two years, he will be starting school. I want to have the option of homeschooling him in the event that we don’t have any schools nearby that can accommodate his multiple food allergies. And if he does attend a public school, I want to be able to make him breakfast in the morning and pack him lunch without feeling rushed. The simple pleasures in life that I don’t get to enjoy now because I’m juggling full-time work with being a mom.

Is it a need, a like, or a love?

To reach my goal of early retirement, I had to really work on increasing my savings. I have always been a good saver, but now I had to really crank it up. My spending generally fell into three categories: a need, a like, or a love. A need was something I had to spend money on to survive—things like food, water, my son’s medication and lotions, etc. A like was something that I wanted, but it wasn’t necessary. And a love was something that I wanted, it’s not necessary to survive, but it’s important to me and my life values. The problem is, the likes are a lot easier to attain than the loves, so people will often spend their money on the likes instead of saving it for the loves, which are harder to achieve. For example, spending money on a $600 dinner was a like, but what I really love is to travel, so I’m saving up the money that I would have spent on something like that dinner, for my family to be able to slowly and leisurely RV throughout the U.S. and Canada once we are retired.

The biggest love in my life? My son. I hate that I can’t be fully present when I’m with him because I’m always thinking and worrying about work. So instead of spending money on a bunch of likes, I’m saving for early retirement so I can spend more time with him (and also to pursue my passions).

Some people think saving money is about making a sacrifice or giving up life’s pleasures. It’s not at all. It’s about figuring out what you love and what you value in life, and spending your money on THAT. In other words, it’s about aligning your spending with your life values.

What are some of your “loves’s”?

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How I Became Laser-Focused On My Financial Goal