I am not a big spender. I never have been. I never could be. I got a job when I was 16 and worked a 2nd job as a lifeguard every summer. I had to buy my own cars and put myself through college. I was not just another one of those 'poor students,' I was so poor that I qualified for food stamps and housing assistance. Even though it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, I think it taught me to spend money on the things that are needed, not wanted.
When I graduated from college in '96, I started teaching at $24,000. Isn't that sad? I lived with my parents (boy was that fun) that first year and saved all I could to buy a house. I did it too. It was a nice house, one year old, over 1800 square feet, perfect for a little family. I had a little more money since I was a working woman, but money was still tight. I was paying back student loans. Things continued to be tight as I furnished my house.
I moved back to College Station in 2003 to work on my Master's. One class cost over $1,000! That's just not worth it for a teacher who will only get $1500 more each year for a Master's. I also got married that year. We sold the house in Fort Worth and bought a house here but it wasn't 1800 square feet. Oh no, houses here cost much, MUCH more than in Fort Worth. Our house was a little more than 1600 sq ft AND it still cost more. We didn't pay for cable. We didn't run out and buy furniture and draperies for each room. We got the cheapest cell phone plans available. We continued living simply. We turn lights off when we leave a room- my mom used to charge my brother and me if we left lights on. If you know my mother, that doesn't surprise you. We keep the air on 78 as recommended by air specialists. We use our fans. We conserve fuel by not running several errands a week, we make lists and go run all our errands at once. We were eating "out" a few times a week, but mostly fast food. We buy our groceries at the best priced place in town and trust me, that's not fun. It is always crowded and most of the people are running around like a family of ants whose ant bed was just stomped on. Thankfully we only have to go there every 3-4 weeks because I can plan that far ahead. I buy about 10 lbs of ground meat at a time and divide it by the pound when we get home. I freeze a few pounds raw. I cook some with onion and freeze it. Then I cook the rest with taco seasoning and freeze that. Then I only have to clean the pan once. I mean Stephen only has to clean the pan once. I'm not a big dishes fan. You are ready for 10 meals like burgers, Taco soup, chili, enchiladas and more (recipes on my blog). We do the same thing with chicken. We buy a huge bag at Sam's and grill it, then either use it the rest of the week in pasta salad, garden salads, casseroles, enchiladas, etc... or we freeze it and have it ready for recipes that call for cooked chicken.
When our first was born, we went into debt. She was premature and it's a long story but, a lot was not covered by our insurance. The debt kept mounting. Then our 2nd was born prematurely too and while it didn't cost as much as our first, it still put us behind even more. We got some loans from family and we cut up all credit cards which we didn't abuse, but they were convenient for grabbing a bite out. Then our 3rd was born prematurely too! You guessed it, more medical bills. We were definitely struggling and could not cut back any more. We stopped eating out completely.
You know all the guests on Oprah and Dr. Phil like Suzy Orman? I never learn anything new from them because I had to cut back a long time ago. We don't have nice cars, but we won't have any more car payments after this summer. Clothes and shoes are cute but I don't buy trendy because next year they won't be so trendy. I think that's a waste.
Last May we bought a brand new house BUT our payments are hundreds less because it is outside city limits, taxes are lower, and it is bottom of the line cabinets, lighting fixtures, etc... We can change that out a little at a time. We want to save money now so we can buy bigger and better in the future, when all the kids are in school and we are both working full time.
Last summer, we finally payed off our last credit card and started paying back that family loan. We were told we didn't have to pay the loan back but we insisted! Things have been looking up. Stephen got another job and his video business has been growing. It's a little strange because while things are getting better for us, our economy is really hurting those around us.
With Stephen working nights Monday through Thursday since September, we have been going out to eat every Friday night and calling it Family Night. Woo Hoo, what an excuse to eat out. Last week our bill was $29 including tip but it hit me that Friday Night Family Night was costing about $120 a month and then we always grab McDonald's on the way home from church and that's $12/wk, $48/month so we're spending about $170 a month eating out. Let me grab my calculator, that's $2,040 a year. I told Stephen that we need to cut back. We need to compromise. Every other Friday we'll grab take out and save at least $8 in tips and drinks. And instead of McDonald's where we eat off of the dollar menu and the kids expect Happy Meals, we'll grab Sonic's $1 menu. We can all eat for $7.50 and get drinks at home.
So what about you? Have you had to find a unique way of saving money?
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