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Money is something that it seems all of us are thinking about more and more. How to save money, what is actually worth spending our money on, and how can I get more of it?
I’m so glad that I gained an understanding of the real value of money earlier than some people do. When I was 17 I moved out of my parents house to live with Jake and be engaged. To clarify, I graduated high school a semester early and was going straight into college 2 weeks later and moved in with him at that time (right before my 18th birthday). My parents didn’t agree that I was ready to be living with a boy and be so serious at that young of an age and wanted me to finish school and such before doing something as serious as getting married. They wanted me to either live in the dorm full time or be at home with them when I wasn’t. I was also told that if I chose to live with him I would not be receiving help paying for my college or the things I needed for it such as a laptop or car. At the time, I thought it was harsh and I have to admit that I did resent my parents for it a bit.
You know what though? I’m glad every day now that my parents made that choice because Jake and I having to pay for my college, along with the extras (required dorm, laptop, etc) and a car to get there (since it was 1 1/2 from where we lived) made us learn really quick to prioritize what we actually spent our money on. Here I was 17, engaged to me married, paying for school, a dorm and an apartment while also paying bills and 2 car payments. Don’t even mention the amount of gas spent getting back and forth to school and the food kept in our fridge. I worked a full time job at Jake’s dad’s restaurant around my school schedule and he worked full time.
I have to say that I hear of people really working themselves into a hole of debt. For some reason, that just baffles me. Then again I can see how your particular lifestyle choices can have a huge effect on your spending habits. I know that I’m only 22, so some of you may scoff at the idea that I can offer any real advice on money but last year we made less than 18,000 and lived extremely comfortable all year long. I hear of people making MUCH, MUCH more than that and still stressing about money and cutting it close every month. So here it is, the (maybe unwanted) advice of a (possibly naive) 22 year old mommy.
I think this is one I might relate a little bit more to lifestyle choice. You see, we eat pretty healthy around here. I don’t keep junk food or sweets in my house and the foods I buy are wholesome, organic foods for meals with the occasional healthy snacks. I think it’s funny to hear people talk about how expensive it is to eat healthy and organic. So you’re telling me it wasn’t expensive to stock up on soda because there was a sale, toss an extra package of Oreos or Doritos into the cart and hit a fast food place on the way home? Please tell me you’re kidding. Guess what, I spend not even $50 a week on organic groceries how much did that last shopping trip with all those junk foods cost? How about the $20 you just laid our for greasy burgers and fries for your family? Don’t get me wrong, we do eat out occasionally and I like Oreos, but I think we save so much money by simply not buying items that are purely junk snacks. Those foods are convenience foods and you are paying for the convenience of not having to make them yourselves but then sacrifice quality and health. I also use coupons if they happen to be in the weekly ad I pick up during my shopping trip, but I’m definitely not an extreme couponer by ANY means. So just think of how much money I could REALLY save then. =)
Something else we’ve chosen to do to save money is cloth diapering. I get that some people just “don’t think they could do it” but you what, I was one of them! I thought it was “icky” or too much effort or trying to convince myself that the extra laundry wasn’t saving money. It’s one of those things for me that I just can’t ever seem to make any cons outweigh the enormous pros though. When it comes right down to it you are buying one stash of diapers that ultimately last you until potty training and still have life in them for later children. (Okay, in reality you cloth diapering mamas know we just can’t resist new cute prints and constantly updating and rotating our stashes, but let’s talk from a basic standpoint.) I could really go on and on about the ways to save money with cloth diapers but this isn’t a cloth diaper post so if you’d like to read more, here’s a great post over at Tiny Tush. (Keep in mind they even did this research using the cost of the least expensive non-name brand bulk sizes and face it, most of you are actually paying more than that anyway.)
See above reasons for also using items such as cloth menstrual pads, cloth wipes, cloth “unpaper” towels, stainless steel water bottles, and reusable shopping bags. (You can save a few cents at most stores for using your own bag!)
I also make most things needed for our house on my own. I love to sew and craft so it only makes sense to save money by making and up cycling things yourself. Bonus that you then also get to create a custom look and style for you house. =)
How we value our money
For me this is a big one. The first things our money goes to is our high rent and bills associated with the townhouse as well as all other bills including vehicles, insurances, phones, internet. Then there’s gas and groceries. Guess what’s not on our list of things to run out and buy? You can bet it’s not the newest and greatest techy gear out there. Yeah, we don’t have fancy things like an iPad and my phone’s just mediocre but heck it’s mostly Talia’s toy anyways, hah.
I also refrain from buying things just because they are a “good deal”. You wouldn’t believe some of the crazy purchases people have made because it was a great deal only to be stuck with boxes and boxes and piles of junk stored in their homes. Then they forget what they’ve even purchased because there’s so much and they end up buying replacements because they already have too much stuff to go through.
Also, we have put so much effort into not acquiring loans for everything we wanted. The truck we owned was completely paid off before we even though of getting a second car and although we did get a loan for it, it’s a very low value loan that just build credit and will be paid in lump sum next month. We also made sure that we got a car that was good on gas mileage and would be reliable. It was also important that it have low miles so that we could get a lot of use out of it. You know what, we found a car in great condition for $3,000 with only 50,000 miles but was a 1999 model and swooped it up rather than having to have something nice and new and paying on it forever. We take really good care of them too so that we don’t feel like we “have” to get a new car when ours are perfectly fine and actually in better shape than most people’s.
I think one of the points here is to just learn to be content with what you have and not be worried about “Keepin’ Up with the Jones’s” or outdoing them just for some sort of personal validation. Like I said, what we have is nice, but we don’t have to have a lot.
How to get more of it
First and foremost, you have to work for it. If you don’t have the opportunity to really earn your money and then have to be frugal with it and make tough decisions about where it’s going to go then in the end you will find yourself in that hole of debt. I’m content knowing that my hubby works so hard to provide for our family and now he is able to pay someone else to do the labor aspect of his job and he can work harder to drum up more business and new clients. I also know that if for some reason our current work situation didn’t work out (which is not something that will ever happen) he would be right back out there getting a job or two as would I. After all, you can’t expect that there will be a fairy godmother swoop in to pay all your bills and hand you money the rest of your life because that’s just not reality my friends.
You can also capitalize off your hobbies. I really enjoy sewing and when I have free time I sew things to sell such as cloth diapers, wet bags, mama cloth, you name it. I also have degree in Photography and although I keep it more as a hobby I always have the opportunity to make money with it with some basic marketing. I would be stressed out if I had to make photography a job that had to really provide for me up here though. I swear so many people buy a fancy camera and think they can sell themselves as professional photographer… seriously? But people think about aspect #1 of wanting to save money and will sacrifice quality again for someone with skills no better than point and shoot.
Another great option is to look into stores that have a sell back program. There’s a local store here that accepts gently used children’s cloths and items. I don’t know about you but I’ve accumulated so much clothing for my little girl and I just don’t have the space to be saving every little things for a future child that’s not even guaranteed to be a girl.
All in all, I’m 22 and I can confidently say that we have no payments on vehicles, and will have set up a lifestyle for ourselves to continue living without unnecessary payments on things. We will have a greenhouse and grow most of our own foods and have alternative energy options for our home. I wouldn’t trade that future for a present time of having small nice “stuff” yet not have the important large items such as vehicles and a home. I guess we would just rather actually own something of our own and be able to provide for our family in other ways so that we won’t have anything to worry about if something terrible were to happen than to throw our money away on useless things that make us happy for the current 5 seconds before moving on to something we want more.