Lately, I've been hearing more and more people spending money and taking money courses. I'm not knocking it. People are swearing by it. I just don't get it. Let's really talk money. I mean, nitty gritty, money. Husband is going to hate this post. He's a "don't discuss finances" sort of guy. However, I feel it needs to be out there. I feel that so many people are having money issues that maybe seeing how one family of 4 manages on a starting teacher salary, and no, I'm not exaggerating, people can understand they can live a comfortable life without breaking the bank.
I was probably 11 or 12 the concept of money really hit me. My parents were/are not rich, but good solid middle class for the time. I was an only child, so I did get a lot of stuff. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but I remember having a breakdown about how I wasted the money I had earned at a store called Little World. From that moment on, I got made a plan for my money and always followed it. My parents were great teachers as well. I knew how to balance a checkbook before I ever even had a checking account. I "understood" credit cards before ever having one. One extremely important thing my parents taught me was to never buy things you couldn't afford if you don't need them. I think that's the key thing that people forget. People want, want, want. They get so far into credit card debt that they can't see their way out. I don't carry a balance on my credit cards. I never have. I pay them off every single month, even when money is tight. With a credit card, it's easy to overspend. A friend's husband asked me a while back, trying to prove a point, which he blew, if I knew how much money was in my bank accounts. I do. At all times. Maybe not down to the penny, but pretty close. I know what I can afford and what I can't. Makes no difference if I pay cash or credit. It's all about how much money I have in the bank and how much is going to be coming in.
That was philosophy we took when buying a house. We were approved for a much larger home loan than what we took. We broke it down though and said we want to pay x amount per month. What does that get us? Let me tell you, the mortgage company was sad by that. They, and our real estate agent, kept pressing that we could afford to pay so much more a month. We stuck to our guns. We decided we wanted to not only have a house, but be able to eat as well. We're glad we did. That summer, I lost my job. It took me two years to find a full time job after that. Then, I got pregnant, Then, I was laid off from my new job. If we would have gone with a house that the banks said we could afford, we'd be bankrupt right now, which is not an exaggeration. The year I was pregnant with Monster, before I lost my full time job, in which I earned less than a starting teacher, Husband's place of employment was struggling. There were weeks he'd only work 10 hours. Because we never lived extravagantly we had a good savings built up, even with me being out of work for 2 years prior, that we were able to cover those months. Our money coming in for 3 months that year was around $500 less than our bills going out. We found ways to cut back even further than we had already done. Luckily, there wasn't a Starbucks in town at that point, so I had little temptation. I learned how to make meal plans around weekly ads. I learned how to cook in my crockpot that I had owned for 4 years but had never even taken out of the box before then. We prioritized. While other people were buying the latest gadgets and gizmos, we were saving all we could because we didn't know when we'd be in the down swing again.
I fully admit I'm a retail therapy person. I feel sad, I shop. I feel mad, I shop. I feel happy, I shop. I learned to use my retail therapy in a productive way. I started price shopping. When I shop now, I take into account, both money and time. How much is my time worth vs. what I would save going to a different store. I'll tell you, most instances, my time is worth more, but there are certain things I won't budge on and I will make special trips just for certain things. I save those trips up though so I'm not making a million of little trips all over Northeast Ohio. An example. Husband has a particular brand and style of jeans he likes for work. Only place I can get them is Walmart (aka Wallyworld). I despise going to Wallyworld, but, for the most part, their prices really are the lowest. It's one of those stores where I've weighed the pros and cons though and I don't shop there if I don't have to. When Husband needs new jeans though, I make a list. I figure out all of the things that are cheaper at Wallyworld than Target or the grocery store and I stock up. I don't mean I buy a ton of stuff so my house looks like Sam's Club, but I get enough of something that my next 2 or three trips to Target and the grocery store, I don't need to get whatever it is.
I admit, I am so extremely fortunate when it comes to children's clothing. In the past 3 years, I have probably only bought Sunshine a dozen or so articles of clothing. The rest are all hand me downs. Monster gets some hand me downs, but I do have to buy his clothes. Since I know this, I buy big on clearance. I get shirts, shorts, swim trunks, etc, when they go on clearance and buy up a size or two. Only things I don't buy big and hold onto are shoes. Those are much more difficult to gage because, at least my kids, sometimes skip a size. Best time to buy coats for next year is right now. I've gotten Monster several really nice coats at Kohls for over 75% off the original price. Again, I buy big. Now is also the time to stock up on gloves and hats. I just bought Monster new hats at Target for $1. That makes me feel better when he loses one at school.
As for me, since I'm an admitted shopaholic, you'd think my closet is bursting at the seams. You'd be wrong. Anyone who really knows me knows I have no clothes. The shirt I am currently wearing is as old as my babysitter. Literally. I have another shirt, which I love, that I got when I was 10. Yes, 10 (and it still fits!....even then I bought big, always planning ahead!) Since packing on the pounds, I've had to buy new jeans, but I refuse to spend a lot of money on them because I will not be in them forever. I won't buy new shirts because, well, honestly, it just makes me sad so I don't do it. I wear Husband's now. Since I'm a shopaholic, Husband does have a lot of clothes. He's got more clothes than nearly any other guy I've ever known. He's got 3 dressers and two closets worth of clothes. In all fairness though, these are mostly work clothes. With his job, he needs what we call "grubbies" . Grubbies are clothes that can get dirty and gross. He also needs good office clothes. Then he has weekend clothes. Great thing about Husband is that he's not picky with clothes. Sometime last year, he went out of town and forgot his suitcase in the garage. He needed to buy new clothes. Since his favorite jeans are at Wallyworld, that's where he headed. That was the first time in about a decade he bought his own clothes. I had to tell him what sizes he wore. Since he's not picky with what he wears, I can get him clearance clothes and he's perfectly happy. There have only been two shirts in the past 17 years that I've bought him that he wouldn't wear, and one was because it was too small (even though it was a Large, it really is small. It's mine now.)
My parents think my kids have way too many toys. I laugh at that because they really don't have many. I would love to take pictures of other people's toys. My kids just have toys with lots of parts, like wood blocks, Legos, and Trio Blocks. Megan has My Little Ponies, but all but 2 of them were mine when I was a child. She also has all my "vintage" Strawberry Shortcake. The toys they have are either hand me downs or gifts from other people. We get them toys twice a year, Christmas and birthdays. Even then, we don't get them many toys. We get more books, science kits, and art supplies.
My parents also think we have a lot of "toys". In a way we do. We have 5 computers, a Kindle Fire and 2 smartphones. One of the computer's is Husband's work computer, so it really doesn't count. One computer is the one he got when he was in college. The other 3 are ones he rebuilt that people were getting rid of because they didn't work. My phone is a Boost Mobile phone. I pay $45 a month for unlimited everything. Husband has a work phone. The Kindle was a family gift this year at Christmas that we paid for with money that Husband and I received as gifts. Our television is 12 years old. Still the "old fashion" kind. My parents have a newer television than we do. My car is a 2001. My van is a 2006. We have a 5 year old Wii. We have a stereo from the 80's. My ipod was a gift from my father in law, as was the ipod player. Other than our microwave, our appliances are all over 10 years old. None of our furniture matches. Monster's dresser was my father in laws when he was kid. Husband's one dresser was mine when I was a kid. My dresser was my grandparents. We got "night stands" (just end tables) from my mother in laws boyfriend's parents. We don't feel the need to have all matching furniture. It's not a priority. I don't understand how, if you're struggling financially, matching furniture could be a priority, but I know for some people it is. I'm not saying it's wrong, I'm just point out that if you really want to save money, you can survive perfectly well on "old" furniture.
I get the need for "keeping up" with society, but there are always choices. We chose to have me stay home and raise our family. We made that choice knowing we wouldn't be able to have things that other people have. We're OK with that because we actually spend time together. It's a crazy concept. We don't go out to the movies. We don't to amusement parks. We don't take vacations. We hike. We play. We have just as much fun as those people who are spending money. Would we like to be able to take our kids to an amusement park or take them on vacation to see new place and things? Yes. Most definitely. It's just not in budget. Will they resent us later? Maybe. But, maybe they will appreciate the time we spent more than be upset about the places they didn't get to go or the toys the didn't have or the fact they had to wear hand me down clothes or that their furniture doesn't match. Maybe they will learn that money is not everything. Maybe they will learn that you can be just as happy not spending money as you can spending it. Maybe they will see how much we have sacrificed so we can raise them ourselves.
This post took a different turn than what I had planned, but that's what happens when you spend 5 days writing. Money is such a touchy subject that I no matter what I write, I will be offending some people. I'm not saying my way is best. I'm not saying people who have more than I do are wasting money. I'm simply saying there are ways to save money if you really want to. There are ways you can be a stay at home mom if that's what you really want. I'm saying that you can make smart money choices for your level of income. I'm saying there are ways come out of debt if you budge correctly. I'm saying the life you want is about choices. if you choose to live outside your means, then you need to deal with the choices you've made. Decide what is truly important to you because it is only then you can get back on track and be where you want to be in your life, be that financially or other.