Known as always being on the frugal side (I'm the girl who collected and folded all the tissue paper at my niece's birthday party to reuse later and totally got made fun of. Smile.), I've usually always been really good at making my dollar stretch. There have been periods of laziness or just extreme seasons of busyness (i.e. - a new baby) in which I was willing to pay a little more for the sake of convenience, but all-in-all, I've always been pretty good at spending minimally.
Now, my dear husband, is even more of a saver than I am! He is always looking for ways to save and live more frugally. I think it comes from him being the sole bread-winner in the family (although, in all honesty, God is the sole bread-provider.) So he's always been even more conscious of where the dollars go.
When Brad and I got married, we were both making minimum wage, and I still had a year left of nursing school. We lived in a basement apartment in my parents' house, and so we had very minimal financial responsibility. We had one very small car payment and two car insurances payments, two school loans which we hadn't started paying on yet, our cell phone bills, and groceries. That was it. My parents were extremely gracious and let us live in their basement (which is fully equipped with a full kitchen, living area, sleeping area, and full bathroom) for free.
We lived there for two years. The second year of our marriage, Brad and I both got jobs and we saved and scrimped like mad. We saved up enough in a year's time to put a down payment on our home, which we built and moved into by the end of 2002. Two years after getting married.
During that year of scrimping and saving before building our home, Brad's wage was fairly low and I was making a new nurse's wage. So we weren't bringing in a large income by any means. But not having to pay for rent was a huge blessing, as we were able to put all of our extra money back towards our home that we wanted to build.
During that year, we did not spend even one dime unless it was absolutely necessary.
And we did the same for a year's time about five years ago when we were following the Dave Ramsey debt-payoff plan. In one year and on one income, we were able to pay off our car loans and Brad's school loans. We do not carry credit card debt; we do however have a mortgage still which we are working on paying off early.
We try desperately not to make saving a penny our "god". Some people can get so wrapped up in frugality and saving that they lose sight of the good stuff of life (which is not "stuff" by chance.) We make it a point to do things as a family, but often that looks like a picnic and a long bike ride. Very infrequently we will go out to a restaurant to eat or go see a movie. And we usually try to go to the zoo every year. We also take an annual family vacation to the beach most summers. (But we found a new beach that is closer and where the houses are much more affordable to rent.) This year, I've saved up two free nights on my Marriott rewards card and we're planning to use those nights to visit Washington, D.C.
I tell you this so that you don't get the impression that we're a bunch of cheap stick-in-the-muds. We do have fun. Economically as much as is possible.
We look for ways to have fun without spending a ton of money, or without even spending any money (other than the gas to get where we're going.) It can be a challenge at time, but the challenge can be fun!
My sister and brother-in-law recently took a very big leap of faith. My sister resigned from her position as a social worker, and, at the end of this month, she will become a full-time stay-at-home mommy.
Having just had her second child in January, she began to feel that tug while on her maternity leave. I knew the tug she spoke of; I'd had it once too. And for four years.
That feeling of being pulled in two directions. Of not being able to give her all to either her job or her family. Gosh. I thought I had been the only one to feel that way. I remember looking at my working friends back when I worked too, and thinking about how they seemed to just go with the flow. Working and raising families didn't seem to conflict in their minds. And then there was me: feeling torn and feeling like I wasn't doing my best in either arena.
And I've already shared my "I quite my job to be a stay-at-home mommy" story.
So, my sister came to me for counsel back before she made the final decision to quit. And I offered her my counsel: Pray about it and then do whatever you feel the Lord is telling you to do. And do it in faith. And trust Him to provide.
And she told me that she and her husband were feeling led for her to come home, but she was scared. And I told her that was normal. And I told her that God would do great things, more than she or her husband could ever imagine when she took that step of faith in obedience to His calling. He's so good that way, you know.
As I began talking to her about the things I do to stretch the dollar and save money, I began to realize that I knew more than I thought I did. I guess these money-saving practices have just become routine, second-nature to me. I never knew that others didn't know them or practice them.
But she didn't know all of them. So that got me thinking about other families out there that maybe haven't had the time to really read up on living frugally.
So I want to share what we do.
So, Lord-willing, I plan on devoting next week's blog posts to living frugally and living on one income. I pray that you would all have patience with me as I juggle blog posts and real life (real life always trumps the blog), and if I don't get all my writing done during next week, I'll continue the series on into the next week, the week after that, and until I've exhausted what I've had to say. Smile.
I do want to conclude with one thing:
God always provides for His children. Always. As I said earlier, He is the sole bread-provider. Your name may be on the paycheck, but that job comes straight as a gift from His hands.
And when we, as His children, step out in obedience to His calling on our hearts to come home and raise our families, to fore go the extra money and the luxuries, He will reward that step of faith and obedience.
Oh, and why do we live frugally? Because there's really not a need not to! We live a full, blessed life without living an extravagant one!