Living Simpler

December 20, 2011

For a long time, no matter how much money Sam and I made, we struggled with our finances. Every month was simply buying things until we ran out of money.

We’ve made really terrible decisions with our money – buying cars we didn’t need, a home we couldn’t really afford, not having any kind of budget, and using the credit card as a “freebie” account. In the 9 years we’ve been together, we’ve had to face some tough wake up calls when the time came for us to pay up.

I think it was after the short sale of our home and living with only one car for a year that finally knocked some sense into us. We realized we could live on our one person income if we lived within our means. We needed to become better keepers of the money God had given us.

It was hard to wrap my head around not being able to have new things instantly. I was so used to just getting something and paying for it later. But to live like that is crazy; all it did was cause us to fight and wonder why we always struggled. We had to change our perspective on what was important.

We won’t buy a car again unless something major happens to the ones we have. We waited on getting our DSLR until Christmas so we could ask for money to put towards it. Any money I make on here goes to bills and extras. We don’t get to take big vacations and this year going home for the holidays was out of the question. We meal plan, cook at home, canceled tv and our (never used) home phone, and will rent a home until we have a down payment in savings and are done having kids. All things we would have never fathomed doing a few years ago.

We do fun things as a family locally, we can afford little luxuries in day to day life because we save up to splurge. Our definition of “fun” has changed.

We’re slowly recovering from our need to keep up with an image that never got us anywhere. Learning that being debt free is more satisfying than an impulse buy. We stop and ask ourselves, “Will we need it in a year? Is there a reason to have it other than we want it?” A lot of the time, the answer to both is no.

Living simply and frugally is a choice. It’s not always a fun one. But it makes us creative with our time, and appreciate the things that do come our way eventually. Working harder and longer for something you want makes it more worthwhile when you get it.

It took me almost 28 years to figure out something you hear all the time.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be a good steward of the money we are blessed with. To make choices that better us financially. To curb my spending without thinking.

::coughTargetcough::

Do you struggle with buying for image or on impulse? Or do you have a good handle on your debt and finances?

13 Comments

  • Jen

    December 23, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    I don’t really buy on impulse but Joey does and well there is nothing really that I can do about it. It is just the way he is. I am responsible for our finances so I just build it into our budget and then there are no surprises.

    We have our finances in check and every year we create a new budget and talk about what we want to spend money on (ie: vacations from our vacation fund, projects around the house from the house fund etc). The only debt we have is our mortgage and car loan. After Joe was out of work for 9 months we bulked up our emergency fund just in case something ever happened to both of our jobs.

  • Misty

    December 21, 2011 at 8:41 am

    I think we’re in the place where you were several years ago. We bought our house just over a year ago, and since then, bills have (obviously) gone up, we’re struggling to pay our credit cards each month, and we’ve maxed out the line of credit, which was supposed to be for “emergencies.” AND my husband still has student loans he’s paying off. I think we’re at the point where we need to take a huge step back, and question what the heck we’re spending our money on. Because as soon as I go on maternity leave (if we’re blessed with a pregnancy), then my income gets cut in half. I think 2012 will be a big change for us in terms of finances…thanks for sharing what you do to make it work.

  • molly

    December 20, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Oh yes. We struggled big time. It all came to a head after I came home from BlogHer. What no one knew then (and was a huge part of my anxiety while there) was that I kept getting emails saying we had overdrafted. By the time we got home we were hundreds of dollars in the hole.

    My husband and I finally wised up and went headfirst into Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. It has been LIFE CHANGING. I no longer feel the need to buy stuff. In fact, we don’t really buy much of anything aside from groceries and necessities for the kids. Most people would think that would be incredibly constricting. And it is . . . at first. But now, I feel FREE. Free from the constant drive to “keep up with the jones.” The truth is we’ve made really bad financial decisions up until a few months ago. But those days are behind us.

    This is HARD. But it is SO.WORTH.IT. We are doing this for our sons. They deserve better than a pile of debt and no college savings.

  • Branson

    December 20, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    You have described up perfectly… we are also working hard to change. It is such a hard lesson to learn, because it is not the popular way to live. Stewardship is not an easy concept in our society, but such an important one! Thanks for sharing!

  • Madonna

    December 20, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    We are dual income, but we still have bills (I went to an expensive college) and need to budget. Target and The Children’s Place are my weaknesses and it is my goal to limit my spending in the new year to pay down/off some bills. We want to try for baby #2 and adding another daycare expense will be tough. Usually I am budget conscious, but sometimes it is the additional night of eating out or that cute outfit for E gets in the way. Thanks to Pinterest, I plan to cook at home more and be more creative with the stuff We already own…

  • Teresa

    December 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    I was an impulsive spender before I had kids, when I had my own job. I used to get my nails done, and go out to eat all the time. It makes me sick to think of how much money I dumped down the drain back then. Now, if I get to the movies once a year, it is a special treat.

  • Jennifer @ Also Known As the Wife

    December 20, 2011 at 10:56 am

    We’ve always been pretty good with our money. Both of our parents were dirty poor when we were children (my parents faced foreclosure twice & filed for bankruptcy) so I think we both shouldered some of that stress as the oldest children.

    My goal for the new year is to get up cable free.

    My biggest impulses to spend definitely come at Target but having Sophia makes it more difficult to just run out to Target and spend, spend, spend.

  • Yoga Mama

    December 20, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Impulse buying is the worst for me. I want it all, now, no waiting. As a stay at home mom I’ve had to cut back in almost area. A big shock from making a nearly 6 figure salary.

    I’m really glad to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

  • Stacy

    December 20, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I am an impulse shopper, more so now with the baby. I used to come home with shoes (because my feet didn’t change sizes even if I gained/lost weight) but now it’s sleepers or cute outfits for her. But we’re on one income too, and Hank is worried about making it through until I go back to work. I racked up an ENORMOUS amount of debt in my first marriage (well, he started it and I got upset because he was spending all the money I was making, so I just started spending too…bad I know!) and I’m STILL paying it off today. My divorce was final in 2008. I will be DONE with it in about 2 years or so. A good chunk of my pay every month goes to pay off that debt. I am angry about it, but at the same time, it’s a valuable lesson that I’ve learned. Each time I see it as a withdrawal from my checking account, I get upset, but I see it as a reminder not to go there again. Thankfully Hank is a good money manager, and he is teaching me those skills. We are in the process of building a home, and there is a lot of stress about how to get out of the condo and where we’ll go and the timing of everything beyond the financials. The belt tightening has begun in our house, starting with eating in more and reducing the Christmas gift budget. It’s caused a couple of emotional discussions, but we both know why we’re doing it, we’ve got a common goal in mind. That matters! Good for you!

  • Alexia @ Babies & Bacon

    December 20, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Good for you guys!! It is something we struggle with constantly too. Michael and I are both really bad with money. Particularly with saving for the future. We have been forcing ourselves to buckle down and pay off our debt though after getting a rude awakening when we tried to apply for a mortgage. Like you we are trying to live within our means. The problem for us is not the keeping up with an image or status, cause all our friends and struggling right now, but rather impulse control. I have to keep reminding myself the Ella has more than enough clothes. We don’t need three different loaves of $5 bread at the bakery. We don’t need to eat out three times a week. It’s hard but so worth it. Like you said it makes us appreciate what we’ve been given!

  • Sol

    December 20, 2011 at 7:37 am

    With my husband’s help I am better with impulse shopping. Honestly I am good with not shopping for myself but for the kids? Awful BUT I know what it is like to have to pay off a lot of debt (Student loan, medical bills) and I never want to go through that again so we budget, keep below our means and live a much better simpler life.

    It can be hard sometimes living where we do-where even in this economy the moms still shell out A LOT for clothing, hair and make-up. Where living in a 2 bedroom townhouse w/3 kid & 2 adults borders on abuse to some. Then I see how wonderful it is to live within/below our means. It enables me to stay home and help raise our children. It has enabled me to work on MYSELF versus trying to keep up with the hustle. I like that my husband is home before 6 in the evening and home on the weekends. If we were trying to keep up with everyone around us? We’d never spend time with the kids or with one another.

    Has it been easy? No but I do know it is what is best for us. Sometimes I feel insecure about our simpler, smaller living by choice lifestyle…I worry our kids will feel weird/or left out/different from those around us. Worry they may feel like we don’t have enough.

    Then something happens that puts it all in perspective for me. The other day our oldest had a playdate at a local private community where the homes are 1 million +. Kids have$1000 tvs in their rooms,, walk-in closets, fancy everything. I wondered if my daughter would feel like we were lacking. She came home & I asked her about the playdate. She said “Well it’s so cool they have an indoor pool & I got to go swim in it. And their house is super nice but it is so big! They never spend anytime together. R is always in her room & she never plays with her brother.” Now not all families are like this but it made me appreciate our little living room where we spend 80% of our time together as a family. Here I was worried that my daughter would see the tvs, fancy toys, computers, huge house w/nice decor and feel like she was lacking? Just the opposite!

    1. Cindy Allcorn

      December 28, 2011 at 9:39 am

      Sounds like you are raising your children right. Your daughter will benefit from the “simpler living” and not struggle as much as her piers when she is out on her own.

  • Samantha

    December 20, 2011 at 7:32 am

    I too struggle with impulse buying. With another child on the way, I’d nearly convinced myself we needed a new home and car to be like my friends. We rent a 3 bedroom apartment. This just made me ask myself why I thought we needed that when we are doing really well here, and are able to have enough money to give our kids the little extras.

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