I was reading my cousin's post over at Wife Mommy Me this morning about how she'd like to start a budget and stick to it when I realized I had began to write her an entire blog post as a comment about ways that we have learned to budget and really live on less.
I don't know why talking about how much money one makes seems like such a taboo. I don't know if it's our insecurity in thinking that if someone realizes how much (or how little) money you make, they'll think less of you, or what. But I don't have a problem with it so let me get real personal with you for a moment.
Jeremy works as a mechanic in a small (very small) shop in Troy. It's a historic building with many years of history and this is how the place works: one man owns it, one man works for this man, and then when the owner retires, he passes it down to his worker. My husband is in line to own this shop one day and I couldn't be more proud of him. They have a great reputation in the area for being kind, honest, and professional and are voted number one in the county every year. You just don't find a shop that is like that anymore. The one downfall is that if my husband went elsewhere, he'd make close to double of what he's making now. He brings home about $400 a week which is our main income.
I work at Lowe's part-time. I have a very easy, laid-back job which allows me to come home and just forget it. I don't have to stress about what's going on at work so I can focus completely on my family. I love that. It also allows either Jeremy and I to be home with Henry at all times. That is very, very important to us. My checks are usually between $350-$400 every two weeks. Combined, we make about $32,000 a year, that's not much, I know, but we live and we live well.
So how do we do it? One word: priorities.
We have also established a real difference between needs and wants.
Things that you need are simple: food, water, shelter, basic clothing and shoes, transportation, medical needs, and savings. Everything else is pretty much a want.
Notice I put savings in there. Jeremy and I strive every week to put 1/3 of our income into our savings. That's $200 a week for us. When it goes in the savings, it stays in the savings until we really need it. Typically we take out of our savings 4 times a year: twice for vacations and twice for 'big' projects or purchases. We've drained our savings twice: once to buy our home and then again to side it. That's a scary place for us, but under the circumstances, we found it necessary.
We also do not owe money. The first year we were married, we paid off all credit cards and outstanding bills. Now the only bills we have are your typical monthly bills and a couple of medical bills. We cut out the cable so now our bills are down to electric, water, gas, internet and the cell phone bill. They equal to about $500 a month. Also, our cell phone bill is a family plan that is split four ways between the two of us and my in-laws. It's cheaper that way!
I spend between $50-$75 a week on groceries and I only go ONCE a week. I cut coupons as well as using my stores virtual coupons on their app. I also do not buy junk food or anything that I don't have a plan for. I don't 'meal plan' exactly, but I have about 5-6 meals that I can cook in the house at all times, plus about 3 others that are simple and easy for nights that I work. Once we have that meal, I buy the things to replace it. Henry eats what we eat except for a couple of breakfast and lunch items for him. He doesn't drink juice or eat sugary snacks unless someone else buys them for him. One night a week we get pizza for dinner and one day during the week we have lunch together. Otherwise we pack our lunches for work and during the week, I typically eat the night before's leftovers for my lunch. We typically do not throw food away.
Our only other main cost during the week is gas. Which we have no control over so we just go with the flow there although both of our vehicles are pretty gas-efficient.
If we have a day off together, we dedicate $50 to that day. That includes eating out or spending money at the flea market or going to the zoo. You can do a LOT with $50 if you just try. We typically only have 2 days off together a month, so it's really not that expensive. During the week we find things to do at home together as a family, or something free like a park or festival.
If there's an item one of us really want, we save for it. If one of us need something (like clothes or new shoes) we talk about it before we just go out and buy it and we try to be sensible about it. We usually only buy these type of items when they're on sale or clearance as well. Henry's clothes are typically 2nd-hand except for a couple of outfits a year for special occasions. We keep each other accountable for ALL money that we spend. Say I need new foundation and it's been an expensive week, I wait until the next week - and I NEVER buy make-up without it being on sale and I having a coupon. Every little bit helps!
Pretty much all of our furniture was found on craigslist or at a garage sale or bought extremely cheap on sale or clearance. We also love hand-me-downs!
We don't have much money, but we also don't stress about it. If there's something one of us really want, we eventually get it. It's just determining how badly you want it BEFORE purchasing it that's the key. We also enjoy to travel so by not spending money on this and that, we can usually afford to take a couple decent vacations a year. Spending time as a family is the most important thing to us, so by cutting things out like the cable and not having stuff all over the place that doesn't really entertain us, we find entertainment in one another. And to us, family the most important thing that money can't buy.