Fact: There was a time (yes, yes) when I wasn’t a saver at all, and super bad with keeping my expenses in check
Fact: When I had my second child, my husband was the only bread winner and we moved from one expensive city to another
Fact: I taught myself saving strategies that ensured we avoided dipping into our savings, all while continuing to have one main source of income (my husband’s)
Fun Fact (bonus!): I am good at imitating different accents
So, as you have already read it on this immersive post I wrote on how moving set us for financial success, you may have figured out how the idea and process of losing personal stuff made for an unexpected monetary benefit than the actual perceived loss. The absence of the need to want, was the understanding that I was missing all along. Not only was this a personal realization – it was also the explanation of a better way to live a life as a family.
When our first son was born, it was easy to make impulsive purchases on baby “stuff” because we had been saving for a while and could afford to make those expenses. Wipes warmer? Check! Scented poo poo bags? Check! Swing? Check! Bouncer? Check! Swinging bouncer? Check! Things collected in our 2 bedroom apartment, and it never occured to me that those expenses were actually collecting dust – not providing too much joy, to be honest, because our lil’ one decided that mom’s arms were the best place to exist!
However, we traveled less so that kept our major budget items in check. And, the other thing we learnt to do was keep our dependency on supersize retail giants like Costco or BJs to zero. Correct! We ordered diapers on Amazon, and bought milk and groceries at regular grocers in regular sizes – there was no wastage or food going bad.
Then came along our second son, and we saw ourselves in California. Another expensive city. We found an apartment to rent at $2300 in the best neighborhood in San Jose – close to great schools, parks and commute. We researched the apartment prior to moving and made reservations online. We kept one car for the longest time. And then a year into being in California, we bought a 2012 Honda Odyssey from this car shop in other part of a neighboring town for $7500 – all cash. This way we got a fully paid second vehicle with lower insurance (vans typically are). Husband was working at a startup and things were hectic, but with me being at home (and starting my business from home), we made it work.
Inspite of these visible constraints – constraints that if a stranger looked at from outside seemed stifling – our lil’ family was making it work! We were able to eat outside (not too often), take day trips, watch movies and participate in sports — all on one solid income. If we could make it work – then anyone can!
See, I understand every family is different, and it boasts of a unique lifestyle. But, there are strategies that we can all use to make sure we are benefitting from little upticks that can only let us sing songs of “enough” “happiness” and “abundance”.
I will preface that some of these strategies may sound a little out there, but when you are in it, and actually doing them, they don’t seem out there at all. Our family decisions were based on what made us feel good – not what others thought of or cared about.
It should never be about pleasing others- it’s about doing right by yourself and your family. Yes, as a mother, when you speak to fellow moms, the pressure seems immense, but the best thing to do is to smile and walk away. Your decisions and way of life do not require explanations to anyone.
So, with that in mind, here are 4 smart ways we managed our expenses, elevated our lifestyle one one single solid income.
1. SECOND HAND
We sold our entire furniture when we moved to the West coast because we realized that cost of shipping was wayyy more than the actual cost of the items summed together. So, when we arrived at our new apartment, we had only a crib. That same day, my husband went to IKEA to pick up a queen bed and two mattresses. That is it. Everything else we scoured for our house was either from a)Craiglist (pre-built, so win win) b)Salvation Army (found amazing art work and mid century accent chairs).
Still we kept the furniture to minimum – no overcrowding. Our layout was open and elegant. We made small area look big plus it gave kids more space to move around (especially my younger who had started to crawl)
2. DITCH CABLE OR HOME PHONE
We have, and continue to survive with absolutely no cable TV or home phone. These bundled prices are such a scam, and can save you hundred and hundred of dollars a year. We were lucky we got a good deal on just the internet – all it required was some repeated calls to Verizon to score a good internet connection deal. That’s it. That’s all we needed
3. GROCERY AND SHOPPING ON THE LOW
As I mentioned, we never joined the COSTCO club. For a family of four, it never makes sense. The sizes of items are just too big to make for any economical sense. Instead we shopped at regular grocers, including, Trader Joe’s as well as Indian grocers and kept our expenses to about $500/month.
For clothes, I ordered kid’s clothing off season for the next season and always bought like 15 items for about $30 + free shipping. For myself, I just had 4 formal items that I mixed and repeated for parties and such, and then one pair of jeans and one regular chinos with few tops that I scored at Marshall. Kept it very basic and simple. Oh, and I don’t like branded stuff! Husband had laid back work attire, so that worked great too — no silly suits and such. Our total monthly clothes expense (average) – $100
4. TRAVEL LIKE A GYPSY
Just because we were on one income, didn’t mean we didn’t expose our kids to cool places and such. We took our van and drove to beaches, state parks (and cook outs), hiking grounds. We also took annual trip to NY, which we booked wayy in advance and paid about $250 pp – round trip!!! Yeah baby. We also grouped up with other parents and took trips together to nearby attractions so enjoyed group discounts.
These are some of the very basic ways. Some of them may jump at you, like, duh, I already know that. But, while they may seem so obvious, in the hullaballoo and noise of “what we are expected to do as parents” we lose sight of focusing on only the important stuff.
Would love to hear from you – what are some of the amazing ways your are thriving as a family!