With my husband being a graduate student and me being a stay at home momma, money is tight. Very tight. Although, from the outside looking in, it doesn't appear that way. We live comfortably. Comfortably within our means, that is! It is all about prioritizing, saving, and being able to resist the urge to splurge. When you are used to spending more, it is hard to adjust to spending less. But when you see that you don't need certain thing as much as you once thought, it feels good to have more money in your pocket than to just be blowing it.
My husband and I have forced ourselves to spend wisely since the day we got married. At that time, we had moved across the country to BEAUTIFUL San Diego from a middle of nowhere Indiana town. We had our wedding money, and a little bit of savings. To start off our marriage, we didn't take a honey moon, which our wedding money would have definitely covered, but we knew we would need that as we got on our feet. Really, that is the purpose of wedding money, to help you as a new couple...not to blow on a luxurious vacation. That a little harsh....but let's be real, if you don't have well paying jobs and you take all of your wedding money to fund a fab vacay, then return to a not so fab financial situation, clearly your priorities are out of wack. Ok...I am getting a bit opinionated. Anyway....so we were in SD with wedding money, small savings, a mattress, computer desk, wedding shower gifts and one car. The car was my car from high school, and was paid for by my parents. We had found one of the least expensive 1 bedroom apartments in the area. $1,000 rent. That's cheap for San Diego. My hubby was a new graduate student and I luckily found a spa job quickly. With our combined income we were not making much. Sadly to say though, we were making the most in that year than we ever have in our 7 1/2 years of marriage. We look back to those days now....3 kids later, as the glory days. :) Through that year though, we were very frugal with our money. We furnished our apartment from IKEA with about $1,500. Our TV was purchased with a Best Buy gift card we received as a gift. Instead of buying the super new, super expensive flat screen, we bought a $350 dino TV. At the time flat screens were new on the market, and very expensive and still today, we have our old dino tv. (We haven't splurged on a flat screen yet.) We wisely grocery shopped. With only one car, we were saving on our fuel costs. My husband biked to school or took public transportation We didn't go shopping for clothing unless it was something we really needed. We had my beauty school loan payment, but that was only $50 a month and my husbands loans were deferred. Since we started our lives like that, we have continued to spend this way, and it has allowed us to buy a house and have 3 children. If more people knew what we make, they would think we were NUTS! Money doesn't buy happiness though. Our little family is our happiness.
Along the way, we continue to make changes to improve our spending. We have observed that with our cable and cell phone bills that we aren't using them as much as we should for what we pay. So, we thought about what channels we tend to watch the most. What channels are we willing to sacrifice and so on. When we thought about it, we realized we pretty much watch local channels, some sports (which are a distraction to my hubby's thesis progress), and Nick Jr./Disney (which our kids watch WAY too much of). So, we evaluated our tv options. We were paying $80 a month for cable. We found that if we buy an antenna (one time payment of $45) for local channels and pay for HULU Plus ($7.99 a month) and stream it through our Nintendo Wii, we eliminate an $80 a month bill. That's roughly $865 we save in one year. Gosh....why didn't we think of this sooner!
As for our cell phones, we are not like the average 28 and 29 year olds that have data plans and use our phones all the time. There are some months where I use my cell phone a total of 15 minutes, and it was talking to my husband, so we used mobile to mobile minutes. (SIDE NOTE: We communicate with each other and most of our family through our apple Ipad and Ipod's Imessage in wifi zones or our land line making our cell phones for emergency purposes only. Secondly, our Apple products were gifts/replacements for our old dead desktop computer...still no splurging!) We are currently paying about $80 for our family cell phone plan. I know that is nothing compared to some. My parents cell bill is over $150 a month with my brother tacked onto their plan. So I know we have about the cheapest plan possible with contract phones. For us, we knew this was an unnecessary expense. We are paying so much for something we use so little. So after looking into it, we found that through our current cell company, At&t, they were able to give us new sim cards for free to become pay as you go customers. The sim card option is awesome because that eliminates the need for new phones. The ones we have work fine, why replace them. So, once the sim card is in place, we are paying $10 per phone a month for pay as you go cards. 10 cents a minute, 20 cents per text, no data. Exactly what we need. So, we are saving $60 a month from cutting our cell phone bill. That's $720 a year. AMAZING! In total, between cutting cable and our cell plan, we are now saving $1,585 a year! Isn't that amazing.
When other graduate students that are single, living on the same income as our family of 5, complain about not having any money, I just want to say, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME"! I guess it's all about perspective and priorities. As a family of 5 with the small income that we have, we are considered a family in poverty according to our government. We are far from poverty. My children have full bellies, we have two vehicles, a very nice heated and cooled home, closets full of clothes, electronic devices, internet, a washer and dryer. We are far from poverty. Sadly people out there with the same income and same family size do seem more poverty like due to poor spending habits. Again, it's all about prioritizing and spending wisely.
Think about your spending habits and how you could make changes to save money. Separate your needs from your wants. Maybe sell a car if only one of you are working, car pool to work if you live near a co-worker, bike to work, cut your luxury costs from your home, shop at Good-will and other thrift stores, never buy full price, cloth diaper your kiddos, make your own cleaning products, downsize to a smaller place with lower rent. The list could go on.
I will admit I have my moments where I wish I had more money. I find myself saying occasionally, "If I only had $100 more, or if our yearly income was only $5,000 more. At the end of the day, that isn't what matters. We are doing ok right where we are!
"I don't care how poor a man is; if he has family, he's rich."
~Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford, "Identity Crisis," M*A*S*H