the prosperous photographer

How we were able to move to France, part 1

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The two questions I get asked the most about our move are ‘why France?’ and the second is ‘how were you able to?’

To be honest I have long and short answers for both. 

In a previous post I have touched on the why so now I want to take a few minutes to discuss the how. 

It all started about 10 years ago. We wanted to spend one month each year somewhere outside of the US. Since we had school aged children, the summer worked best. So every July we made a concerted effort to pick a spot and immerse ourselves in the new locale.

Keith and I have both had a fondness for France – so our first month abroad with the kids was in Paris. Everyone cherished our time and we couldn’t wait for the next summer to pick a fresh location. 

This new tradition prompted us to create a dream board of sorts. Nothing pretty at first, just a big white piece of paper that had a few things on it, owning an apartment in Paris was at the top. 

But our financial reality at the time made that dream of living in Paris seem like a pipe dream. How would we ever be able to do that if we had to save for college, retirement and had a stack of debt.

I always liked to blame the fact that we were self employed, ‘we couldn’t plan’ like other people could. We didn’t have a steady income but we had a good income. So I hid behind us not having a traditional monthly income to ignore creating a budget and ignore some pretty basic financial principles that I had conveniently forgotten about. 

Our debt had climbed for whatever reason. I really don’t have a reason. But it became a number that was uncomfortable. When our stuff arrives from the US, I’m going to find that sheet we created that listed our debt and our monthly minimum payments. I believe, including car payments + minimum payments for consumer debt – our monthly payments were close to $3,000.  Minimum payments. So we had A LOT of unnecessary debt. And looking around our house we had a bunch of unnecessary purchases. But we were just doing what every other American household did, right? 

I don’t remember what clicked but something did. It was like a light switch. I woke up one day and just said to Keith – no more. Our debt payments are greater than what we are saving. That just didn’t make sense. How did this happen and more importantly, how were we going to change our current trajectory?

If memory serves, we are talking about $80,000 to pay off (not including our house). The number was jarring. But if we wanted to ever change our lifestyle and retire comfortably or buy that apartment in Paris we needed to make some radical changes.

So that’s what we did. [and Fortunately we were both on the same page.]

I started listening to Dave Ramsey daily. I really don’t love his political + religious views but I needed a consistent dose of people that were trying to do the same thing I was. It’s like having an accountability partner. If I showed up everyday and listened, the practices would sink in and our debt would slowly disappear.

The snow ball idea worked. It was so rewarding to watch the debts fall one by one. And then reapply that extra money from paying off one debt to start adding extra to paying off another. I was like a geek, just crunching numbers, estimating pay off dates and of course the ultimate goal of becoming debt free.

[I will do a blog post with my actual sheets and time frame and how we line by line managed to do this. But for now I’m talking more abstract.]

Once we were able to pay off our debt, swear off credit cards and never again get ourself in this mess, our financial lives changed.

And then I did some mindset work with my relationship to money. Why did I have these up and down cycles in my life? My old money stories always showed up and they always kept me back or kept me down. But guess who controlled this??? Me.

This was another revelation that changed my life. I get to decide. And I was now deciding to shed what I didn’t need, live within my means and save, save, save. That didn’t stop us as a family from having a great time or missing out on any experiences. But we were just more thoughtful about how we spent our money, which in turn offered us the opportunity to save more.

And then this remarkable thing happened. We kept attracting more and more money. Our business became more successful, we were saving more than ever and started dreaming again (but this time dreaming based in reality) of a future in France.

During Covid we had to put some plans on hold but as soon as we were able to travel to France the plan was back in motion. We decided on Montpellier during our trip to France last summer. Having our sights on a particular city allowed us to budget and really create a plan that worked for us personally and professionally.

Because we had the solid foundation of having no debt, savings and a goal we were working towards – we were able to move forward even sooner than we had originally planned.

At this point we are not financially independent but we are on that path. And there is no looking back. 

That is the current goal. Financial independence. Something that if you asked me ten years ago was a viable option for me, I would have laughed at you. Wasn’t my destiny to just work hard for the rest of my life? That’s what everyone else had done in my family. 

To have enough money saved that we could make any lifestyle decision we wanted to – to have that freedom, that was exactly what we wanted. 

Let’s do this together.

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