The Secret to Achieving the American Dream

The American Dream of improving your life, of having the ability to own your own home and change your circumstances is alive and well.

It is hidden in plain sight, crouching among the waves of advertising and manufactured needs we have been indoctrinated with; one simple sentence that so many choose to ignore:

Spend less than you earn.

You cannot afford a champagne life on a Budweiser budget. You cannot afford a new iPhone each year making minimum wage. You cannot spend money you haven’t earned yet to keep up with your neighbors.

It just doesn’t work that way.

If you want to succeed you have to live beneath your means. Find some way to make the money you save earn more money. Hustle to make even more money if you don’t have enough because it’s not the government’s job to support you if you don’t want to work.

The only one responsible for you is you.

It’s not always fun to do without when everyone around you is spending like mad. I feel that pain every single time my coworkers waltz in with their takeout for lunch and I’m sitting in the corner eating crackers.

My mouth waters, my stomach growls but I have to face the cold, hard fact of my life:

I will never be able to improve my circumstances if I spend every penny on stupid shit.

It’s not fun to walk to work in the rain and the snow and the mud. It’s not fun to pass up the opportunity to go shopping with my friends.

But you know what is fun about my life?

Paying all of my bills in one fell swoop at the first of every month. Having money to spare when those bills are done. Going home each night knowing that the lights will be on and the water will be running hot. Knowing I’ve got food in the pantry, clothes on my back, and money in the bank for when I need it.

I can sleep at night knowing that I’ve got more than enough to meet my needs. I can smile in the morning because I know that there will be money left over each payday to add to my investments. Watching those investments earn dividends that increase my income even more.

I have achieved my version of the American Dream on a minimum wage income simply by accepting my current financial limitations and living within them.

And day by day, simply by changing my mindset from survival to growth I am actively improving my circumstances. The day will come when I no longer need to work a public job in order to survive. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again, only this time I’ll hedge my bets.

I am the daughter of an ex-con and a stripper. I barely have a high-school education. I had kids way too soon and ended up raising those kids on my own. I’ve got so many strikes against me I stopped counting but you know what? I’ve achieved what many believe to be impossible and I’m still moving forward.

If I can achieve the American Dream despite my challenges, you can do it too.

Now get to work.

One thought on “The Secret to Achieving the American Dream”

  1. I agree with you, living beneath your means is the secret, no matter what those means are. I am a low income, working single mom. I work 10 months a year as a para. Many people do not understand how I do it. I live in the suburbs and I own a house. But we do with out a LOT.

    My daughter (age 13) tells me all her friends have phones, she would love to have one. She is only going to get a trac phone, when I can afford it. I make dinner every night even though I come home very tired (I also have CFS and Fibromyalgia) and I cook dinner anyway. I usually try to cook enough for lunch the next day. I try and freeze meals (usually on the weekends I will cook a big batch of something like chili or meat sauce) ahead to have for later in the week when I am especially tired out. I bring lunch every day. I know that feeling of watching co workers who spend far more than I do. I have had to pull together a work wardrobe mostly from thrift shops, walmart and what things I can find very affordably. Still I look neat and presentable. My kids are taken care of. We have 3 dogs and they are all taken care of.

    A while back I fell into a trap of using my CC to make up the shortfall for a while, when I was off work last summer, but then I just got really honest, cut our budget to the bone, and am making great strides to pay that off pronto.

    My older son and his GF live with me and we split the housing costs. There are many times when living with just my daughter would be simpler, but this arrangement allows us to live here.

    Our entertainment has to be free or low cost. We use the library, we don’t have cable TV. We do a lot of crafts but when then we do not run to Joann’s or Michael’s every time we want to take up a new craft project, we work with what we have. Right now I am finishing up a hand quilted crazy quilt for DD.

    We have the occasional treat of getting our nails done or going out for dinner, but it’s something we pay cash for and its maybe once a month. Sometimes ( a few times a year) we go to the cheap night at the movie theater and stock up on Dollar Store treats before we go.

    I cut DDS hair, we get a lot of her clothing as hand me downs. I get my own hair cut at the cheap hair cut place for $10 a pop, and I try and stretch those out by trimming my own bangs. We utilize freecycle and we don’t say no when anyone offers us something free we can use. We say “Thank you!”.

    It’s hard always saying no to yourself and at times I am envious of 2 income families, or higher wage earners, but I tell myself “this is MY life” and I chose to be happy in it. We are very fortunate in many ways- like you said, we have heat, lights, a stocked pantry and freezer. We make the best of it! And we look at it as a creative challenge to have the best life we can with out going into debt or living beyond our means.

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