The Ultimate Why


“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver


A good financial plan would ideally have some immediate, short-term, and long-term goals. For a recovering spendaholic like myself, immediate is going day-to-day with not blowing any money on shopping. Short-term is making sure all my debt payments are made early each and every month, and long-term is getting out of all my consumer debt.

However behind the goals, there’s an over-arching “why” that keeps them all in motion. I think everyone has a why. For some, being out of the red and owing nothing to no one is enough of a why to keep them going. There’s also many like my mom, who’s why is to make sure she will never be vulnerable if there should ever be a downturn in her small business, her family life, or the economy.

My why may be a bit more whimsy, and admittedly not centered on responsibility. Simply put, I don’t want to live in one place and have one “life” there. I don’t want a house, I don’t want the kids, I don’t want the 9 to 5. I don’t want the car or the lawn or the cottage or the pool or the garage. I have zero negative feelings towards those who do (to be clear, I believe being a loving parent is bar none the most important job in the world), I’ve just had 31 years to get to know myself, and I realize it’s simply not for me.

What I do want is the freedom and mobility to get up and go somewhere else and be a part of the fabric of different communities instead of just one. I’m not sure where I got this from as I grew up very traditionally, but I always knew I wanted to just kind of float. I’ve always found peace in change, and a sense of home being a nomad.

Along with a nomadic free spirit, I’ve also been blessed (or cursed, depends how one looks at it) with an overarching sense of doing something “responsible” with my life. I’ve met people that have dropped off the grid to go work on a beach in Thailand. Just as much as I can’t see myself living a grounded life in my own home with some kiddos in hockey, I also feel I can’t turn my back on a “responsible” life path and head out to go live on the beach. By golly, I would love to, but it’s not in my nature to do it. I still want to keep trying my hand at finding a career path I love rather than loathe, and I very much want to help my mom retire early. I can’t do that by hawking margaritas on a Thai beach.

So how do I make this happen? I know what I want, and it’s a mix of both nomadic freedom and responsible steady income. I want nothing more than to marry the two.

I’ve decided that I will happily eschew the dream of home ownership here in Canada so I can funnel my money into destination homes that I can rent out on platforms like Air BnB. It’s a way I can marry my love of hosting people and enthusiastically sharing the things I love (helping people create great experiences is something I adore) with the ability to travel with the ability to earn income. The destinations I am hoping for also keep me close to family, thus tying in full circle all the things I love best.

To share some of my hopes/dreams, the first place I’m thinking of is here:



My partner’s family is from here and they own land and property on the island. We would have to be buy out portions of the land from other family members and the old home will need a complete overhaul, but we’re lucky the land is there. It’s about a 4 hour flight away from Toronto which makes it close and a great place to spend a few months per year. The thought of welcoming guests and sharing with them the best beaches to swim at, the best hole in the wall for a delicious meal, and where to hear great live calypso music fills me with joy.

However the dream doesn’t end there. I’d also love a rental place near where my family is from. My parents are from the same country, one from the mountains, and one from the islands. There is a place within just a couple hours from where the bulk of my family currently resides that marries both mountain and ocean, and it is here:



It may be a pipe dream to be thinking of this while I’m so deeply in debt, but this is what makes my heart sing. This is my why, and I have to keep that in the forefront of my mind whenever I’m tempted to spend on a short-term pleasure. Will that dinner out get me closer to renovating the old family house? Will those shoes get me closer to owning homes in places I adore, spending my life between the places I love most, with the people I love most? Absolutely not.

It’s actually preposterous when I phrase it that way. And it would be ridiculous if I kept on spending money, now that I am crystal clear on what it is directly taking me away from. I need to keep my why a real and present goal in the foreseeable future instead of letting it slip away, which it easily does with all the distractions we face on a day to day basis. It’s time I navigate over the little road bumps and start seeing out far into the horizon. That’s my happy place, and I want to do what it takes to get there.

So that’s my ‘why’. What’s yours?

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  1. I think it’s great to have a “why”! Even if you are a few years away from realizing those goals, it’s much needed motivation and no one really surpasses their own expectations without setting the bar high! I guess my reason “why” I am a very careful spender is 1) I abhor waste. Having too much stuff or realizing after the fact that I bought something impulsively makes me almost physically ill. Because then I think of all the resources used to make the product, ship it, market it, now I’ve bought it and don’t want it, will have to recycle or donate it or God forbid it will end up in a landfill. The sickening feeling ensures that I am very careful to really want and need anything I buy for myself. 2) I don’t think the world can support the consumerism we are now witnessing. I have 2 sons and I truly believe that, in their lifetimes, they will see some drastic changes in how things are done. I hope the changes are in a sustainable, earth friendly way and not just a chaotic, systemic collapse sort of way. At any rate, why wouldn’t I prepare them for whatever comes by discussing the resources used to make all the products we take for granted, teach them ways to grow or make their own and occasionally do without what they want. A third reason for striving to be debt free is so that the boys’ dad, my common-law spouse, doesn’t have to travel so far and wide working. We have a few payments to finish off before that can happen so I am very often a solo-parent. I know it would be much easier on him and the kids if we could afford for him to have a 9-5 job near home (although it would be less pay).

    I am very proud of women who know themselves well and are confident enough to choose not to have children. Why should it be something everyone is expected to do? It’s a job that is all-encompassing. It is not something to be entered into lightly. I wish society, and women in particular, could be more supportive of each other and celebrate the fact that someone is making the best decision for their own happy future. It’s not selfish. It’s living life on your own terms. Bravo!

    1. Oh Jill. Your insights always touch me to the core and stay with me all day. What incredible “whys.” Your strength of character is inspirational.

      I wish, truly, that my “whys” were similar to your 1 and 2 listed. Your thinking and desires are macro and not micro, we instead of me. If only we had more Jills, the planet wouldn’t be in the dire state it is now. Once upon a time when I was an idealistic university student learning about the geopolitics of environmentalism, I swore I would move to a beautiful place where I’d enjoy the weather (so I won’t have to consume fossil fuels to quench my wanderlust) and learn to live off and work with the land, as I truly did (and still do) also believe our planet will not continue on its current trajectory without a massive upheaval of ife as we know it. Except where I differed from you is I forgot about all I learned and squashed that passion only to live a generic city life entrenched with consumption, whereas you are actively aim to consume little, respect the earth, and are teaching the next generation to do so. My hat goes off to you, truly.
      Your comment has kept me in deep thought all day. I think I need to spend some time on what my “whys” are and take a cue from you. Less me, more we.
      I know with your dedication you’ll get to your goals quickly and you’ll have your partner home more often soon. A lot of my friends and family moved out to the priaries and I know there’s a lot of work there that is weeks on, weeks off away from home. It takes a lot of strength to take on the responsibilities on your own and keeping the long term goal and big picture in mind. I send you lots of strength for the winter ahead!
      Thank you for your support about the topic of children. I’ve been accused of being selfish many times for my stance, which is heartbreaking, as the decision comes from the exact opposite place. I respect the incredible importance associated bringing a new life into this world, and I agree it should never be entered into lightly. I think to have kids, one should want that more than anything else in the world (for those of us living in a place/culture where we can enter into motherhood by choice, of course) as every new life deserves that. If I’m on the fence about it, I think the selfish thing to do is to go ahead and have children. A child deserves someone that just can’t wait to show them around this great big world. Thank you for your understanding, Jill.

    1. Thank you, Pru!! That comment just made my day! I get so much inspiration and food for thought from your blog, it made me happy that this post is cause for a think! The great thing about you wanting to put a little more “wild” into your life is that everything else is in order so there’s no financial fallout. Just pure enjoyment, on your terms, and on your dollar. My wild times have so far been followed with a bit of dread and a tripled cost due to the fact they’ve been had via credit. Until I get out of it, no more wild times for now. As for you? I’m sure having fun is all that much more sweeter knowing you can go off and have it and knowing you have all your ducks in a row when you get back!

  2. Hi FD, you don’t need to publish this comment but you can if you like. I write a little frugal living column in my local paper and your discussion of the “why” you wish to step off the debt treadmill really got me thinking. It’s inspired me to write a column asking my readers that same question–what is your incentive or motivation to keep plugging away at your debt etc. I haven’t written it yet, so I hope it turns out ok! but I wanted to thank you for the thought provoking post and give credit where it is due! It’s such a great way to stay motivated. Also, are you familiar with the Frugalwoods blog? They do case studies that are super helpful, if that would interest you. Anyways, loving your blog. Good luck on your journey! Jill

    1. Jill! Oh wow, I’m thrilled this was a source of writing inspiration for such a talented and thoughtful writer like yourself. That is such a compliment! I trust your article will be wonderful; your writing has such a beautiful narrative style. I would love to hear the responses to your article. I find hearing the “whys” of others so inspiring; I love hearing about the individual forces that move and shake us which is so much more beautiful than the hegemonic pursuit of more things. Its funny, we buy things so we appear more unique or interesting and showcase who we are as individuals but the stuffed closets, cluttered homes and colossal debt makes us into dime-a-dozen clones. I just came to that realization writing this! I’ve blown so much money buying things to express my “individuality” and all it did was lump me into a group with millions of other people who are caught in this vicious cycle of owing more than they make. Ugh.

      I am indeed a reader of the Frugalwoods blog. It is one of the first PF blogs I started reading, and I’m thankful it provided me with alternative views on how money can/should be used when I was just starting to realize I needed a life change. Thank you for thinking of me by mentioning it!

      Thank you for stopping by, Jill 🙂

    2. Okay I have done a bit of thinking and my main why is having financial security, having less worries. Being self-reliant – not in the sense that Jill is but in the “I am here surviving nay thriving on my own.” But my why is also because I crave and have a strong need for flexibility in my life to do what I want and because there is this little Pru in me that can’t stand authority and that silently yells “stick it to the Man!” every.single.morning I have to go to work.

      I want to borrow hundreds of books from the library covering all sorts of topics and read to my heart’s delight into the early morning hours. I want to spend my days and afternoons at the gym (should I so choose), I want to meet someone for lunch and not have to worry about rushing back to an office where the manager watches the clock and notes your entrances and exits. I’d like to be able to better maintain my relationships and not swing back and forth between work and personal life. I want to sleep in and wake when my body is ready. I want to travel and see close friends and their wee ones and be fully present when I am with them. And extend my journey if I should choose so. I’d like to volunteer without having to ask permission to leave my office at 5 pm in order to be somewhere by 6:30. I’d like time to discover what else it is that I can and want to do in this world.

      Flexibility to live on my terms but with the knowledge that I can cover most of the costs on my own. Oh may the day come where this is my reality 🙂

      1. Pru, I am very pleasantly not surprised that your “why” entails you being the ultimate boss of you. You really exude such determination with how you handle your affairs and your plans/goals – and always follow through on them! – that it must be irksome to have to live by someone else’s expectations for your time and energy. I think that daily little streak of rebellion is a beautiful sign that working for the man hasn’t gotten you down/numb/hopeless like it does to many (or should I say, most); the things that you love and that make life special for you still burn brightly enough to give you a little kick every morning saying that’s what you’d rather be doing instead. That kick is good. Wanting to stick it to the man is good. It propels you that much further.

        That paragraph of sweet freedom sounds wonderful, just wonderful. You’ve already laid down the framework to get there and now it’s just a matter of time. Seriously, on top of speedily paying down a mortgage, you’re ALSO padding a very impressive investment portfolio. I mean, wow. Honestly Pru, you’re amazing. I think that self-made flexibility will be your reality sooner than you think 🙂

  3. The why is an interesting question. There is the “Parable of the Mexican Fisherman” that really set me to become FI. I did not need to be any more secure than I was, so I quit my job for the freedom FI allows.

    Look up the parable, it is a great 60 second read.

    1. Thank you so kindly for bringing up this parable. Since the time you wrote this comment, I’ve read it and sent it to many that are close to me, as it is simple yet so incredibly effective at reminding us what the root of it all is. It definitely does remind us to always think of our “ultimate why.” Thank you, NNL.

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