Talking money is not something we do here much. But, I’ve wanted to share a financial story with you all for a while. When I left my job in 2012 for this craziness that has become my career, we had no idea how it would go. We knew I had a few paying magazine jobs each month, but other than that, we weren’t sure. We knew that I needed to at least try to pursue my passions and that my mom was moving away so our childcare situation was changing.

We knew that we were feeling stretched very very thin between both of us working downtown and commuting for 10 plus hours a day and that having a family changed some things for us. We felt very out of whack. If a grandparent was sick, we didn’t really have a back-up plan. We couldn’t go on living life at such a fast pace much longer. Laundry wasn’t getting done. Our home was a mess. We weren’t eating well. We never had time for exercise and we spent our precious weekends doing all of these chores instead of enjoying our family.

With that, this blog had never made a penny at that point and while I thought it could go somewhere, I wasn’t completely sure. I didn’t have all of the support I do now in the blogging world either, so my knowledge base was low (Thanks to Sharon for seriously taking me under your wing and showing me SO much about this industry). You never are! I had a few regular photography clients, but my prices were so low, I’m not sure I even made $2/hour with editing time. I knew I could do some event planning too, but I hadn’t yet landed my first two clients (Thanks Ali and Lisa for trusting your events to me!). And lastly, I hadn’t started any of my consulting work. I didn’t know it would come shortly after. Had I known what I know now, I might have made the leap sooner, but hindsight is 20/20, right?

And we were used to my steady corporate gig and the perks that come with it: salary, health insurance, 401K etc… To prepare for the unknown before I lost that steady paycheck, we made some big changes to our lifestyle just in case things didn’t go well. It took a lot of pressure off of my little business. This is what we did:

  • Got a less expensive car thanks to a nice lease deal.
  • Refinanced our long-term car at a low interest rate (the vehicle I’m happy to drive until the day it won’t start).
  • Cut our cell phone bill down a notch.
  • Cut down on our cable bill (and later cut it off completely since we rarely watch tv).
  • Meal planned each week to save money (I use Pinterest).
  • Ate out less (including saving from my lunches and coffees downtown-I was spending more than $200/month on lunches and coffees which is easy to do when you’re in a downtown setting).
  • Temporarily stopped buying furniture etc… for our home.
  • Used coupons when we could. I’m not hardcore, but I now always check on coupons before doing any shopping.
  • Tried to be diligent about turning off lights, keeping heat and AC and a nice comfortable, but not extreme temp etc…
  • Stopped buying things without planning or thinking about them. You know the things, right? Candles at Target, impulse purchases that get worn once or maybe never, random little household items etc…

And you know what? We thought these changes would be hard, drastic, painful changes. Change can be tough no matter what, but cutting back? That was scary. In the end and actually almost right away, the changes were fine. We hardly noticed thanks to Apple TV and awesome at-home dinners.

Once we truly implemented the changes, we laughed and wished we would’ve done them all sooner to save money and to have the lifestyle and flexibility we now had with me working from home. It’s amazing how much money is wasted each month on things that are just not necessary and things that simply don’t add much value to life.

What was surprising for us is how much more in control and confident we felt in our finances even though we had less money for a while. We even took our annual anniversary trip, a big week-long family vacation, a trip to San Francisco and more only one year after I left my job. Cutting out expensive meals is a small price to pay for the return of feeling in control and getting to travel regularly with my husband and family, something we truly value.

Since we first made these changes, my husband and I sit down every six months or so to take a look at our finances, our budget etc… and see if we can do even more cutting. It’s been such a healthy change for us. And when we have extra money come in, say at tax time or my business has a stronger than average month, we are able to save even more or pay down things like student loans. It’s great to feel in control.

And when my work picked up and we started feeling secure in my income again, we were even able to add the cost of preschool (our top choice in preschool for Bodhi) in the mix without feeling it much. Later, I was able to let many parts of my little business go as I honed in on what I truly wanted to do and was able to make an income doing: blog writing, freelance magazine writing and consulting. I no longer had to accept any work that came my way. I had a choice because we were living within our means for the first time in a while.

The SunTrust Resource Center provides actionable information, tools, tips and calculators for anyone wanting to make a positive financial change or anyone who has to make a change soon. Whether you’re dealing with job change like I was, job loss like so many are now, wanting to simply save more or something else, the resource center has some amazing help for you.

Financial well being for us, means not wasting money on things that don’t matter. It means working less and maintaining an overall quality of life. It means remembering what really matters—time with family and friends, a clean safe home, a comfortable bed, ice cream on the porch in the evenings, vacations and travel. And remembering what doesn’t matter—dinner at amazing restaurants several times a month, Starbucks lattes and super fancy cars. Now, this isn’t the case for everyone. For some, a car might be something you care about a lot. And that’s totally fine. You may need to cut in other aspects of your life. My home matters to me more than almost any physical, material thing as it’s where I and we spend most of our time. It’s where our family laughs together, cries together, plays together and more.

SunTrust wants you to have the resources, tips, and tools you need to feel confident and in control of your finances like we finally do. Having some financial breathing room gives you that confidence and control so you can save for your goals and splurge knowingly on what matters most to you.

So, tell me. What matters to you? Have you made any big scary financial changes or decisions?

At SunTrust Bank their purpose is lighting the way to financial well being. They help you get organized, make a plan, and stay on track so you can get and stay in control of your finances. When you are confident about about your money, you can save for your goals and splurge knowingly on what matters most to you.

To get started visit suntrust.com/getorganized.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust Bank. The opinions and text are all mine. All photos by Melissa Oholendt Photography.