Well, if you have ever been single in the real world (like out of college and totally making your way on your own), and had to struggle through every hardship on your own, you will understand this: Life is easier when you have someone to share it with. I love the lyric from the Sara Groves’ song about marriage: “Life with you is half as hard, and twice as good.”
With that said, in my last blog I said I had paid off half of all I owed. And that amount exactly doubled when I got married. We came into our marriage with the same amount of debt. I was going back to that huge amount again, but together our take-home salaries were about 2 times the amount of our debt. I was being paid better for administrative work and my husband is a corporate CPA. Paying the debt together was definitely “half as hard”. We decided to use my entire salary to pay down our debts. Our goal was to pay off our consumer debt, and later we would have kids and I would quit my job and stay at home.
It took about a year and half, but we did it! It was an amazing feeling like we had “reset” our life in a way. It is worthy of celebration and pride! But we both knew that going forward was a new normal, with new challenges for living within our means.
We launched ourselves into one income living with a new baby and it was so difficult! Both of us had learned to live within our means for ourselves, as single people. Then, married without kids…we had enough money to pay our debts and live mostly as we wanted (within reason). But take out one salary, add a kid…then…here it is…we started wanting all the things that come with a family. And let me tell you…those are the big ticket items. Hmmm…we really need to fence in our yard. I think we need a playset. We need more storage space…maybe a bigger house. Our cars do not work for carseats and kids. We really need to finish our basement. Let’s put in a patio. And we need a nice grill, and a TV, new furniture, and a guest bed, not to mention all the baby gear! And what about when the hot water heater dies, and the furnace needs maintenance, and the toilet breaks, and need I say more…but medical bills!!!! Life happens.
I guess there is just so much more unforeseen things that happen in family life, and also so many more “nesting” things you “need” to set up house. You start to spend more on something that will last instead of the junk you had before. All those things take huge chunks out of our well thought out financial plans. This is all normal, but also can be a big trap and send you down the road of credit card debt.
So how do we do it? This is the part of the story that brings us back full circle. My story began with lessons from my parents in frugality and resourceful living. So as Aaron and I came upon a reset in our finances…living within our means with frugality and resourcefulness is the way we move forward. My parent’s example is a foundation for me that I can now draw from. Living within our means is now the challenge. And it is a challenge for me to make our money go as far as possible. I enjoy that. It has many facets: living within a budget (and being sure that the budget is attainable), shopping Craigslist and Ebay, using coupons, researching before impulse buying, etc. My husband likes to affectionately say that I negotiate like an Arab trader. If there is money to be saved in a purchase or trimmed out somewhere, I make it happen! We even now pay every possible purchase with our Hilton HHonors American Express Card, and pay off the entire balance each month, just to rack up tons of points toward Hilton hotels. Our vacation hotels are FREE! But we NEVER leave a balance on the credit card.
Life transitions in rapid succession when you have kids. Living within our means allowed for us to change with it…and not add the stress of bad finances to all the decisions we are making. Freedom. It is not like we have the money to do anything we want. But we don’t have the proverbial monkey on our backs of debt that screams to be noticed, or even takes the control away from us, whenever there are important decisions to be made.
Everyone’s situation is different. All I can tell you is to be faithful with what you are given in life. What we are all called to do is to live within the means we have. Opportunities may arise to change our means, but we should never look to those opportunities as the escape from our money problems. We have to make the changes to adjust to the situation we are in. None of us want to lower our lifestyle, but if your lifestyle exceeds your means, you will soon have some extreme freedom problems.
This was my financial journey success story. I love that about life. The sweetest success can only come from learning from failure.