“I don’t know much about you but it seems like you folks have plenty of money. Anyone know of a blog directed toward the working poor? Somebody making / surviving on $30K a year?”
Dave, you make a very good point, and one that I’ve thought about a lot as I write a blog focused on frugal living. But as as recently as 2004 we were indeed living on about $30K. That year, our savings amounted to $100/month into our IRAs and that was it. We were frugal out of necessity. When we found out that my husband would need $5000 worth of dental work that year, I took a second job at the library, shelving books for $8/hour to pay off the dental bill.
When I started this blog in 2006, we were still in debt and although our income had increased a little beyond $30K, it still wasn’t huge. Over the last couple years our income has increased further, but our lifestyle has stayed about the same. Yes, we could spend more money now. But we choose not to, because we’d rather save for the future than spend everything we have right now.
We’re actually earning a pretty typical income for two college-educated professionals in our 30s. But we’re still in the same modest house we bought six years ago (we plan to stay, and are paying off the mortgage as quickly as possible). We still drive cars that were made when nobody outside of Arkansas had ever heard of Bill Clinton. We buy all of our clothing in thrift stores (and rarely shop at all, even at thrift stores). I think the last time we went out to eat was in September when my in-laws were visiting. Yes, we have options – we could choose to drive new cars, upgrade our house, shop at the mall, and go to Starbucks. But instead we’d rather pretend that we still earn $30K and save the rest.
In order to make our goals happen next year, our family of three will have to keep our monthly expenses to about $2500, including the mortgage and health insurance, which amount to about $1500 together. I feel confident that we can do it, because we’re used to living frugally. Being forced to make do on very little money in the past taught us that we really don’t need a lot of money at all. Now that we have more money, we’re able to give to causes that matter to us and save for the future, since we’re still perfectly happy with our frugal life.
I remember when I started blogging, I read NCN’s blog and was amazed at how much money his yearly savings amounted to. I remember thinking that he was saving nearly as much as we were earning in a year. And that served as a huge motivator for me. The nice thing about being committed to living frugally is that if you work hard and focus on increasing your salary, chances are it will go up as the years go by. But although the cost of living will increase too, frugal habits will mean that your expenses won’t increase as much as those of the people around you. I’m sure that people see me pulling out of the thrift store parking lot in my 91 Civic and assume that I’m poor. And that’s fine with me.
I’ll open the rest of Dave’s comment up to my readers: what are your favorite blogs written by people who are working to stretch small incomes? And what about your own experiences – have you found that frugal habits you developed years ago have stayed with you even though your income might have grown to the point where you don’t have to be frugal anymore? Anyone finding that well-ingrained frugal habits are helping them weather the current recession? I think this is a great topic for discussion – are you frugal because you want to be, or because you have to be? For us it started out as a necessity, and then just became a way of life. My guess is that a lot of other people find the same thing – once they get used to living frugally, they notice that big TVs and shopping at the mall and cars and fancy houses no longer hold much appeal.