October 23, 2012

Budgets and paychecks and making ends meet

I've thought long and hard about budgets and living paycheck to paycheck and tips for cutting costs.  I can give you those tips and share what has worked for my family but I think I need to start somewhere else.  There's something that needs to be discussed first or none of the rest will matter.


What is the lifestyle that you want to live and how important to you is it?

Do you want to be a full-time stay at home mom?
Do you want family vacations to Disney? 
Do you want a smart phone so you can Instagram pics, tweet, Facebook, and surf wherever, whenever?
Do you want to be able to send your three-year-old to preschool? 
Do you want to have dinner out once a week?  Twice a week? 
Do you want to shop at Goodwill, Target, Kohl's, Macy's?  And how often do you want to shop there?
Do you want to do private or public shcool or do you want to homeschool? 
Do you want to buy Stouffer's lasagna or do you want to make your own? 
And when you make it do you want to use a jar of store-bought marinara, do you want to make your own red sauce from a $.69 can of store-brand tomato paste or do you want to puree and cook down tomatoes from your garden? 
And even if you don't want to do the garden thing are you willing to do so to save money?
Do you want to buy a new mini-van or a second-hand one?
Are you willing to limit the amount of driving you do so you're not spending a fortune filling up?
If you want to be a stay at home mom are you willing to pick up extra jobs here and there, like cleaning a house on Saturdays or coaching the local cheerleading squad?
Can you give up Starbucks or even playdates at McDonald's and settle for walks around the neighborhood?

Do you need two incomes to do these things or is one enough?

If you want family vacations in Disney World that's fine!  If you want to be able to shop at Target once a month and drop $200 that's fine!  Really - in case the tone of this post isn't clear, please know that I have nothing against having it all!  In fact, I think that's fantastic.

But to have it all, and to be financially responsible, you might not be able to afford being a full-time stay at home mom.  So if you want to pay for a nice phone and have a data plan then do it and know that the sacrifice is that you may have to work.  And I don't mean full time work.  Maybe 20 hours a week will get you what you want.  Maybe even five hours is all you need.

The fact of the matter is that some of us have hard-working husbands with nice paying jobs.  Those women can do whatever they want (vacations, new cars, nice clothes, babysitters, etc) and the family can be financially responsible and afford for the mom to stay home.  Some of us have hard-working husbands with jobs that don't pay as well.  Mine, for example.  Travis and I are trying to be financially responsible so we can afford for me to stay home but that means we cannot do whatever we want.

But we figured out a long time ago that the benefits and blessings of me staying home with our kids are (more than!) worth the sacrifices we make in our budget.  And we also figured out that comparing what we have with what other families have doesn't help.  We know what we want, what we need, and what is a priority for us.  Knowing those things has enabled us to make a budget that works for us, allowing us to sacrifice where we can and need to but also allowing us some wiggle room where we want.

So Lifestyle - what do you want?


  1. You've hit the nail on the head! Lots of nails, really. We are making sacrifices to live the lifestyle WE want - not the lifestyle our families or friends or acquaintances want. On a side note, I'm quite happy with my not-smart phone because it is one less distraction from my vocation!

    1. I totally agree about the dumb phone. I'm sure I'd ignore my kids much, much more if my cell phone was smart.

  2. A co-worker of mine would always said, "You'll spend as much as you make" whenever people would ask her how she was able to stay home with their three children while her husband drew a teacher's salary. Her point being that when they were a two income family, they had a lifestyle that cost more than the lifestyle they adopted when she quit work.

    1. That's true, but only if you can reign it in when you switch from 2 to 1 incomes. I've noticed in my life and in the lives of some friends that we tend to spend money we don't have because we think we should be able to. It's the whole "keeping up with the Jones" thing.

  3. I want all the expensive things. of course I do:) but with 7 kids its not possible. So I be happy with less. You have to choose. Its a lot of small sacrifices that all add up in the end. I don't love shopping at cheaper places and I don't love going without some things. But you just do it. I just can't see how even those with 2 or 3 kids can afford day care to have 2 incomes. Unless you have a friend watch your kids or a relative or work odd shifts with your husband taking turns etc...you have to pay more just to work once you have multiple kids.

    1. You are so right: It's a lot of small sacrifices that all add up in the end.

  4. Good post. Important points. A few things that come to mind:
    -I'm so glad we have always made due with one salary, and that we never had to move from two to one. I think that would be crazy hard.
    -We are not hurting, we are doing okay, but we still have to watch it and be careful. Sometimes we can't have things I want, and I will look around and feel like everyone else has it, I don't understand why we can't reach it. One thing that helps me is to realize that a lot of people are living beyond their means. Consumer debt is super high in the US, right? So chances are, even though I don't know anyone's personal financial business, a lot of the people that make me scratch my head are actually "affording it" by putting it on the ol' credit card. And that makes me feel a little better because even though we can't get everything we want, at least we're not putting ourselves in the hole (we don't use credit cards). I hope that makes sense and doesn't make me sound like a jerk.

    1. I feel the same way and I don't think you sound like a jerk at all. Part of the reason I wrote this is because I think it's silly that people I know keep acting like saving $5 at the grocery store is going to make a difference when they treat themselves to dinner and drinks out on a fairly regular basis. If you want to afford that then get a job. If you don't care if you can afford it great. Either way stop doing it if you can't pay for it! End vent.
      So maybe I'm the jerk!

  5. Yeah. Cost was one reason I stopped going to work. Between my commute and what we would have paid for daycare even the two days a week for one kid, it would have cost more for me to work than stay home. It was still an adjustment when we didn't have that income and my husband was still a graduate student, but it worked out so much better for our family in pretty much every way. We even slept better!

  6. Bonnie, love what you write here about having a healthy relationship with money. One author I enjoy for "something" like your perspective is Laura Vanderkam. Her book, "All the Money in the World" is excellent. Very much about not keeping up with the Joneses, not having "magical thinking" when it comes to money. She also focuses on being bold and creative with charitable giving, when most personal finance books leave giving out completely.

  7. Budget family vacations can give you and your loved ones perfect recreation and save your money at the same time. Ukraine is one of unknown destinations for cheap travelling, but there are a lot of places to go, look for these for example http://ukraine-vacation-guide.com/publ/budget_family_vacations/4 Moreover, citizens of the US, EU and lots of other countries don’t need a visa to go to Ukraine. You can just buy a ticket and go there. Prices are unbelievable cheap there, and girls are charming and wonderful :)